The Psychology of Quality and More
Summer Holiday 2007: Ireland
So here we are again, Eleri and David off on our summer holidays in the Z3. After our European jaunt last year, this year we're going to southern Ireland. Here's the blog and links to photo pages. Note: (W) means 'Wikipedia entry for place'. (M) means Wikimapia aerial photograph.
Lovely open-topped drive to Tooraneena. Billed as the best B&B in Ireland by former guests, Sliabh gCua is a pristine farmhouse run by Breeda and Jim. (Five days later, we had concluded that their reputation was very well deserved.) Nice big room with views to rear and over lovely side gardens.
Lovely weather with sun and scudding clouds. Threatened rain but didn't.
Then via Dromana Gate (originally built of wood and papier mache), down to Blackwater Quay (W) at Villierstown. Another peaceful place with delightful views. Had a cup of tea and scone, very kindly provided by Breeda.
Then to sleepy Ardmore (W, M) where St. Declan's rock (W) on the beach reputedly came from Wales with the saint. Splendid and not too difficult 5km walk around heather-strewn cliffs (watch out for muddy bits) and past curious 12th century tower in sailor's cemetery.
Then to Dungarvan (W, M) with its wonderful harbour, spectacular with stormy clouds above, and good-sized town centre. Unlike Britain, there seems to be few chains and small local shops thrive. Large number of pharmacies, for some strange reason. Also neat twist to sign that indicated Castle and Visitor Centre was somewhere out to sea. Had Italian dinner and pootled back to B&B (10 min drive).
Later headed down to Dungarvan (W, M) and had wonderful straight-from-the-boat fish and chips in The Moorings on the harbour front. Then went to see latest Harry Potter film (very good). Back at Sliabh gCua, Jim very kindly delivered us to Hanrahan's Bar in the next village where there was gloriously alive local music.
Good weather! With another of Breeda's brilliant hand-drawn maps we drove around the back roads past mountain rocks and trees to Mahon Falls (M), set in a stunning mountain corrie. Easy walk there, hazardous climb of falls if you're daft enough to try (we were).
Then on to Waterford Crystal (W) factory via mountain panorama. Something of a tourist destination with huge displays and showrooms that are worth a good browse by themselves. 'Not available in USA' signs everywhere with high prices in euros and dollars.
Didn't stop in Waterford (W, M) (big, Sunday closed) but came back along coast road. Watch preparations for sailing event at Dunmore East (W, M). Wandered around local gallery with cute business hours sign. Didn't stop in Tramore (W) (funfair and arcades town). Carried along coast to Dungarvan with wonderful cliff views along the way. Found chippie in the square and joined locals sitting out along the quay.
Went to another local bar in the evening that was the size and decor of my grandparents' front room into which squeezed seven musicians, a couple of dozen audience and, remarkably, another dozen dancers (including the 87-year-old landlady), who whirled at speed without hitting anyone else. Authentic, unfettered and one of the absolute highlights of the holiday.
Another blue day with scudding ice-cream clouds. Drove up to Kilkenny (W, M) (about an hour) where we made South Park jokes. Interesting 12th century tower by the cathedral with great view over the city. Imposing castle (W) owned by English Dukes of Devonshire until 1967.
Getting here was a relaxed drive with warm, blue skies and rolling, bumpy roads (the Z3 has a firm suspension so we got tossed around a bit).
Stopped in Fermoy (W, M) for coffee by the river bridge, then ever westward to Killarney (W, M), which is a bustling town, with buskers and tourist attractions. Drove on, stopping to admire lake view. Dreadful traffic on road to Kenmare (W, M), just before great scenery at Lady's View (W) -- it's barely two cars wide with rock and wall either side of the winding route, making it a bus nightmare. Otherwise driving the ring of Kerry was glorious, with blurring hedges and beautiful scenes.
Arrived at Tahilla Cove which was more amazing than the pictures, nestled in sheltered, sub-tropical landscape in peaceful cove. We got a great ground-floor room with lovely view across lawns that go down to sea.
Cloudy most of the day, so took day off from touring to relax and do a whole bunch of nothing. We needed a rest anyway. Went for a walk over bridge to nearby island, with distant views of hotel. Finished Harry Potter book (W). Not the world's greatest literature, but good stuff anyway. Nice evening and view across bay. Rather nice dinner at hotel then good chats and drinks with other guests.
Inchiquin valley (M) is wonderful, though with a one-track road with few passing places and around eight miles long, we were glad it is known to relatively few. Nice view from standing stones across lake to waterfall, which was ok but no roaring torrent.
Great views across the lough to stormy Kerry from coast road after Tuosist (M) (here's the panorama stitch). Wrong-slotted in Bunaw (M) and went up very narrow, bumpy back road. Never mind, we ended up seeing more great sights along montbretia-bordered roads.
Final loop after Eyeries (W) was worth the extra miles, with stunning views, (and panorama) albeit on narrower roads. After a Guinness in Allihies (W, M) there were more great views around to Castletown Berehaven (W, M), including interesting rock in mountain and cove.
We then turned up to cross the peninsula via the Healy Pass (M) (see also panorama). Watched mad cyclist puff up the final stretch, past cross on top. Dinner in Velvet, in Kenmare (W, M) (good, but not great) then back to Tahilla to blog and dream.
Flemingstown House (M) is set out in the countryside not a long way from Tipperary. We got there with roof open all the way, starting by driving through Kerry clouds and then a delightful bowl across the sunny Irish countryside. Having time we diverted via Limerick, but it was full of heavy traffic, unexciting shops and no character, so we didn't stop.
Finding Flemingstown house was easy enough. It's a huge and beautiful farmhouse out in the countryside south of Kilmallock (W, M), with impressive churches both old and new. Views from room are delightful. Lovely welcome with tea and scones from Imelda.
Went to Bruff (W, M), up the road for dinner. There was a local carnival on, with marching bands floats and so on, so we got some chips and munched on the main street as we joined in the fun. No camera! So used phone gadget. I thought Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone should have won.
Came back to chats with young people who are doing adventure racing tomorrow -- which is likely to last 28 hours with orienteering, running, mountain biking, kayaking, shooting and who knows what else. Sounds mad but they looked like they were enjoying the idea.
Lovely morning. Went first to Blarney Castle (W, M). Very nice place and not over-done. Only 8 euros entry fee, including kissing the Blarney Stone (W), which is a bit scary and rather high. Marvellous old wood ('Rock Close') well worth visit whilst there, with trees melding into rocks.
From there to Cork (W, M), which felt friendly and relaxed, with lots of interesting back streets. Spent ages photographing young group doing break dancing, including amazing feats of strength and balance.
Then down to Cobh (W, M) (pronounced 'Cove') famed as last port of call of Titanic (W) and Lusitania (W). Interesting pattern of houses. Huge Victorian Gothic Cathedral that dominates the town (W). Quite reasonable local band playing to negligible audience in JFK Park. Ah.
Started out raining, for a change. Went to Limerick (W, M) and wandered around an empty Sunday city for a bit then went on to Bunratty Castle (W, M), an old tower along with a really good set of old buildings that have been moved there one stone at a time. Cockerels crowing everywhere. Nice deer too. Strangely-named pub outside.
Back to Flemingstown House to another wonderful welcome from Imelda and glorious sunset over distant church.
Dolphin Beach House (M) is a small hotel in a secluded Atlantic cove at the far west of Ireland. With a beautiful blue and cotton wool sky, we had a delightful drive up to Galway, including along scarily empty dual carriageways.
We liked Galway city (W, M) a lot, much better than Limerick and even bustling Cork. Roadside parking was easy and ticket machines more tourist-friendly than the disc parking in other places. Despite being a bank holiday, the town was busy with buskers and local characters in the old streets, and a bright, open new-feeling area.
I've never known a country with such changeable weather. Today it has alternated between blue skies and rain countless times. Never mind, it was mostly blue and we got a nice rainbow over the fuscia and montbretia in the low evening sun, followed by a rather nice sunset (here's the panorama).
Another beautiful day so headed off north around coast and through mountains for perhaps the best day of the holidays so far with tons of roof-down, wind-in-your-hair bowling along winding roads amongst glorious scenery. Sigh.
Started with loop around Sky Road above Clifden taking in breathtaking panoramas of coast and islands (M). Then up N59, pausing for coffee at roadside craft store (buy more stuff!) with great view of Twelve Pins. On past Kylemore Abbey (W, M) (a beautiful convent/school), through glorious mountain-ringed moorland panorama where peat-cutters still work to Killary Harbour (W, M), Ireland's only fiord. Though less spectacular than Norway, it is still beautiful. We sat on the wall at end of lough and grinned, inanely.
Just past Leenaun (W, M) is Aasleagh Falls (M), where I spent ages trying to get a horse to pose. Then up Doo Lough Pass (M), stopping for sandwich lunch by lough (another great panorama!). On through Louisburgh (W, M), pausing at the delightful Old Head (M), with hidden family-friendly beaches and Croagh Patrick (W, M), big mountain with church on top. Coffee and stroll in nice Westport (W, M) before heading back.
Avoiding slow driver cut down R44 past Lough Inagh (M) (with panorama, of course). Wonderful swooping drive amongst 20more glorious scenery. Passed breakdown truck that had slipped into ditch, complete with car on back. Drove a bit slower after that.
Following chip dinner in Clifden, went looking for another sunset but got nice photo of evening light over islands instead (here's a panorama). Had a hilarious time with Eleri as we watched a whole row of blokes (including me) eyeing up everyone else's camera and kit. There were chaps with tripods, filters and all sorts. I think I had the poshest camera, but then we left first and were laughing, so clearly weren't serious. I'm going to do a longer blog about the psychology of this.
Cloudy but dry. Decided to walk the four miles into Clifden (W, M). Left camera behind but took phone (= mobile photo quality alert!). Wandered past gorgeous fuschia hedges and non-stop views, including picturesque ruin of Clifden Castle (on private land - rats). We wished we could buy a cottage for sale (but these are typically around 500,000 euros!!). Passed other walkers and donkeys. Said hello to them all.
Got to Clifden with wonderfully over-named 'Abbey Glen Castle' hotel (wow: history, religion, scenery and power, all in one name!). Headed for pub where we immediately had a Guinness, which refreshed parts a coffee wouldn't reach.
Wandered around Clifden casing out the restaurants (many are 20 plus euros for main course). Had coffee in famous Two Dog Cafe. Then strolled back to hotel, passing cute mummy and baby donkey along the way. Oh and did I mention the gorgeous views. Got back and put feet up, which were by now feeling rather numb.
Then drove back into Clifden for dinner at award-winning 'G' Restaurant. I had pan-seared mackerel fillets. Very yummy. And not that expensive, either.
Afterwards, we drove up to Sky Road car park to watch the setting sun. The photo brigade weren't there, so we just sat on the wall and enjoyed the show.
Churchtown House is an old country house in Tagoat (M), just outside Rosslare (W, M), and the opposite side of the country to Clifden! After breakfast in Dolphin Beach House dining room with glorious views, we set out. The weather was cloudy and we had some rain, but we still did a lot of the 260 miles with the roof down.
We stopped first in Ennis (W, M), a pleasant town in Galway that needs pedestrianisation, then headed eastwards, via Tipperary (W, M) (yes, it was a long way). As the rain was holding off we diverted via the Rock of Cashel (W, M), a huge ruined church on a fortified hill dating back to the 12th century, with dark celtic crosses and ancient Christian frieze carvings. Very strange sign on road to it.
Got to elegant Churchtown House early evening. Went to Castle View Restaurant for very filling 'bangers and mash'!
After long drive yesterday decided to stay local. Went for lovely long barefoot walk on largely-empty Rosslare beach (W, M) where Eleri found my photographic antics rather amusing followed by coffee and pastries in Le Petit Plaisirs.
Then around to Wexford (W, M), which has a very long high street, with lots of interesting shops and a interesting name on a bar. A tacit admission of Irish rain levels was an umbrella park just inside a shop. There's a friary round the back at one end.
Diverted to the curious Johnstown Castle (M) on the way back, with its mock-gothic elevations and prim environs (including an agricultural museum). The castle isn't open, but the gardens are worth the six euros per carload entry fee. Nice walk around the lake with vistas to the house and swans negotiating the weed-choked lake.
Dinner at the Lobster Pot. Delicious! I had trout fillet.
We drove around the 'Ring of Hook' (W, M), stopping first at Tintern Abbey (W, M), a Cisterian Abbey turned private house in a beautiful cove setting. The next port of call was Hook Lighthouse (W, M), founded by a mad monk in the 6th century and perched on fragmenting cliffs. Finally to Duncannon (W, M), which could have been a nice seaside town but has been spoiled by over-building of sea-view accommodation. Interesting Napoleonic fort, also spoiled (this time by World War 2 'reconstruction').
Beautiful day. Shame to have to leave. Glorious crossing but good to see Welsh coast, including lighthouse and Pembroke fort. Well at least the crossing was calm and we had another roof-down wind-in-your-hair blast back to Berkshire (W) and home in Crowthorne (W, M).
And the big