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Published: September 3rd 2007
It has been a while since we graced these pages but after a brief jaunt across the Irish Sea, we couldn't resist the chance to fill you in on our lovely holiday (even those bah humbugging, who have been at work for the past two weeks). So, it has to be sure been a lovely holiday in the Emerald Isle, one which we have largely spent enjoying beautiful scenery and large meals, interspersed by pints of Guinness and Bulmers (Alex got told off by a waitress for calling it Magners).
Our trip began, as most do, with a brief delay at the airport, however it then continued with a taxi down the runway during which Simon proudly pointed out the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow and his portacabin next door (Alex feigned interest but appreciated his enthusiasm). We arrived into Dublin at around 8pm and headed straight to our hotel after picking up the silver fiat punto that was to be our mode of transport for the duration of the holiday. Ok, so not a patch on Max, but very handy nevertheless.
The next morning was spent wandering around Dublin and checking out the main tourist hotspots around the
Temple Bar, castle (including some impressive sand sculptures) and university, as well as browsing the shops on Grafton Street. The city is quite compact and easy to get around in a day or so and it was pleasant to see that the place wasn't overrun with hen and stag do participants, as had been rumoured. Late in the afternoon we drove down to Kilkenny and checked into probably the most luxurious of our B & Bs. Following a recommendation from the proprietor we cruised into the town for a three course dinner at the award-winning pub "Langton's", which was well worth a visit!
Still yet to experience any rain or even drizzle, we awoke to another bright morning and after an enormous Irish breakfast (which we discovered to be basically the same as the English variety) set off around Kilkenny by daylight, finding it to be a charming little place with its castle, cathedral and abbey, the latter complete with a 25m tower, which we could climb for a bird's eye view over the town. After a good look around we continued in the direction of Killarney in the South West, stopping by in the little village of Cashel
on the way to take a look at the famous "Rock of Cashel", which is a castle perched on top of a large outcrop of stone. We eventually found our next B & B, this time a more rustic little farmhouse to the south of the town, and relaxed for a while before going into the very lively tourist mecca of Killarney for some dinner and to watch the Ireland v France rugby game. Although there was a degree of interest in the match, most of the town was bedecked in its colours of green and yellow and was gearing up for a much more important battle between Dublin and Kerry in the gaelic football. The excitement was quite infectious, with houses displaying flags and people driving about with those minature versions that clip onto car windows.
Basing ourselves around Killarney for the following few days, we were free to explore Kerry at our leisure and decided to spend Saturday driving the famous "Ring of Kerry" which circumnavigates the Iveragh Peninsula. Our first stop was Muckross House, a famous stately home set in very picturesque surroundings: overlooking Lough Leane across towards "Macgillycuddy's Reeks", the highest mountains in Ireland. From
here we continued on to the lovely little village of Sneem, where we stopped for an obligatory beverage at Dan Murphy's bar and enjoyed some sunshine. The Ring of Kerry then pushed on to the coast until Ballinskelligs Bay, before making its way north to Killorglin and then back to Killarney. We ended up having dinner in the same pub as the night before and were shocked to find out that a pint of cider cost less than a pint of coke - talk about encouraging drinking!
For our second day in Kerry we tackled the smaller but more northerly Dingle Peninsula, with the pretty town of the same name at its heart containing a wealth of little craft shops and of course more pubs! From here we continued to Slea Head - which is pretty much the most westlerly point of the mainland - and looks out onto the Blasket Islands, with the hills cascading down into the sea. For the remainder of the day we made a few further stops around the peninsula, but had to beat a hasty retreat to the car from one beach, piled as it was with incredibly pungent seaweed.
start on Monday as our hostess needed to be elsewhere during the reasonable hours of full cooked breakfast consumption, and we made our way northwards towards Limerick nursing once again very full bellies. Limerick itself was nothing special (although Alex caved in to her pearl addiction in a pretty little jewellery shop and bought yet more earrings) and so we cruised out alongside the Shannon to take a look at the famous Bunratty castle. Feeling that we had done rather a lot of just "looking around the outside" of places, we decided that we ought to put our hands in our wallets (for once) and pay to take a look around the extensive grounds and folk park. These things don't come cheap at nearly 20 Euros, but we enjoyed looking around the many nooks and crannies of the castle and the adjoining historical village, which wasn't too busy with other tourists. For dinner we stopped in yet another quaint village at Quin, which had the ruins of an abbey at its centre. We then returned to Limerick for the night.
From Limerick we made our way back into County Clare and across to the coast to see the spectacular,
but somewhat commercialised Cliffs of Moher, which are steep limestone cliffs that have been pumelled into interesting formations by the sea. Along with a good few coach-loads of tourists, we took a walk up to the 19th century viewing tower and back, although we decided to skip the additional walk which could be made across private land - possibly more due to our nervousness about the 200 metre drop just inches away rather than our sense of propriety in respect of the signs requesting visitors to stop at the end of the protective walls. The cliffs mark the start of further limestone features in the countryside, with caves and an extensive area of land known as "the Burren", which is a moonscape of eroded limestone, reminiscent of the limestone pavements to be found in the Peak District. We drove north on the edges of the Burren, skirting Galway Bay and stopping in the town for a good wander around, noting the extensive development taking place - Galway is apparently the fastest growing city in Europe and some of the houses were enormous, but still came with a hefty price tag, even considering London prices! Yet more picturesque scenery beckoned, and
One of Simon's many pints of Guinness
...after which, Alex would normally take over the driving!
we concluded our day with a drive through Lar Connaght and Joyce's Country, complete with our first bit of rain, but still incredibly beautiful despite the cloud and mist shrouding the Maumturk Mountains and various loughs. We stopped for the night at our final B & B just outside Westport. Simon's disappointment at a slightly measly evening meal in the town was soon rectified by a plate of 2 scones and some biscuits provided by our hostess, which he quickly polished off.
For the final few days of our stay we left Eire, passing through Sligo and the pretty town of Enniskillen just after the Northern Irish border, which was only marked by the innocuous change in road signs, although the ubiquitous union jacks and red hand of Ulster flags were soon apparent on going through a particularly loyalist village. We made our way across to Scarva in County Armagh to stay with some of Alex's family in the area. Unfortunately our luck with the weather had deserted us and we didn't see too much sun for our final two days, but we enjoyed visits to Lisburn and Newcastle on the coast, with pleasant views over the cloud-topped Mourne
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