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‘Everybody needs a break,
Climb a mountain or jump in a lake.
Sean Doherty goes to the Rose of Tralee,
Oliver J Flanagan goes swimming in the Holy Sea.
But I like the music and the open air,
So every Summer I go to Clare.
Coz Woodstock, Knock nor the Feast of Cana,
Can hold a match to Lisdoonvarna.’
Celebrated Irish singer and songwriter CHRISTY MOORE’s famous song about the annual music festival at Lisdoonvarna. Moore was born in Newbridge, County Kildare, in 1945.
We woke up on Thursday in Dublin feeling very sleepy. It was hard to wake up. Chris opened the window shades and clear bright light came into the room. It was definitely morning. We set our alarm for around 6:30 or 7:00 each morning of our trip. We got up around 7am on this morning and hobbled around the room getting dressed and packing our stuff up-very sore from all the walking the day before. We both took some ibuprofen. We wish we had been able to stay another night in Dublin; but I will say that about every place.
We decided to go and get that full Irish breakfast and walked out onto the streets of Dublin. It felt much more natural now and we had a bit of a skip in our step as we walked down to the restaurant. It was about a 15 minute walk but it went by quickly as there were so many things to see and the fresh air felt so wonderful. I was feeling so good I said to Chris ‘Let’s step aside here and get a photo with Dublin behind us’. This became a great tradition for us and I hope that on every trip we get an only somewhat in focus selfie shot of the both us in all the places we think are especially incredible. These are my favorite souvenirs from the trip.
We were the first people in O’Neill’s and we went to the same table we had the day before. We ordered our breakfasts at the bar and I took advantage of so few people and snapped some photographs of the inside. Chris got the full Irish breakfast and I got the vegetarian breakfast. I couldn’t quite stomach the ‘bacon’ anywhere in Europe. Our food was delicious and extremely flavorful! Even the tomatoes had a delicious spice on them. (This is the same place that put mint in their mushy peas). I was delighted with the whole breakfast set up – In Ireland and the rest of the UK- each morning they bring you a whole tea set and little bowls of butter and jams. It is a real experience. At this pub the potato portion of the breakfast was actually a well-seasoned mashed potato rolled up and then fried. Chris did eat the black pudding and said it was very good. He especially liked it with fried egg on top.
Chris got into the habit of taking his leftover bread with him in his pocket. 🙂
We went back up to the room to grab our luggage and turned in our key. The same man who checked us in the day before took the key and offered to get us a taxi. He said “an hour, yeah?” in his Irish accent. I was about to say ‘No, not in an hour, now’ But Chris understood him and said ‘Yes thank you’. The man had actually said ‘now, yeah?’. I tried to say it back the Irish way to Chris all day. We waited in a small lounge room until the taxi driver rang the doorbell of the B&B. This taxi was a van and we sat together watching the outer parts of Dublin go by. There were lots of apartments and I noticed many windows open – no air conditioning!
It took us about 20 minutes to get to Dublin Airport where we would be picking up our rental car. We rented a car from Doolin Car Rentals. We did lots of research on renting a car in Ireland and ended up at this company and paid for their full insurance package. I would rent a car from this place again. It is easy to get overwhelmed looking at all the coverage options and thinking about driving in such a strange place so I’ve written a post on driving in Ireland if you’d like to find out more (check for that up on the blog soon).
When we got up to the counter a very nice young woman signed us in and went over all of the existing damage to the car. In retrospect, we should have known at that point that driving in Ireland wasn’t going to be easy. She handed us our key with kind of a little nod and grin that most Irish people seem to have and told us to have a good time. Chris and I looked at each other with wide eyes and walked out to find our car. It was a small red Skoda; a car made by Volkswagen.
We were slightly worried about driving on the left but mostly worried about the continuous roundabouts in Ireland. We only knew about them ahead of time because of my obsession with Google maps Street View. We tried to follow our route in the comfort of our own office a few times and going the opposite way around two or three roundabouts in a row is an interesting challenge.
The car company is very nice and they put lots of stickers on the car to help you remember that you are to stay on the left. Chris did a fantastic job with this and with the roundabouts- I still felt like we were on an amusement park ride. The hardest part for us were the narrow roads. In the US we drive on the left side of the car and try to stay towards the outer line. In Ireland, where the cars seem bigger than the road itself, there is a different philosophy of driving. Basically you and I share the road in Ireland. We both drive close to the center line and when we need to pass each other we ‘slow down’ and move over to the edge of the road a bit more. This worked well most of the time- but sometimes we had to pass a giant tour bus. (When we were actually the ones on the tour bus one day in Scotland the driver said about passing other vehicles, ‘Ye have to look them in th’ eye. That way ye can tell which way they’re going to go’). Also, the Irish drivers were very speedy. They drive very fast down those tiny narrow windy roads and most of the time what we think of as the shoulder of the road was covered in stone walls and grown up hedges and green stuff. It was just like in the movie The Holiday when Cameron Diaz’s character is in driving in England to get all the carbs.
(I really love how in this view you tell how narrow the roads are. And the raindrops on the camera! Just looking at it makes me want to go back!)
Of course, we didn’t know all of this on our first day driving. It wasn’t until breakfast the next morning when we had our first real conversation with other travelers that we learned this. For now, we used a very accurate method of me screeching “Too close! Too close!” when we were about to run off my side (the left) of the road. Or more accurately, run into whatever was on the very edge of the road.
At the last minute we decided to take the northern route through Galway to get to County Clare where we would be staying for the next two nights.
The drive through the middle of Ireland looked pretty much exactly like driving through Tennessee except every few miles we saw a ruin off in the distance. We took an exit off the interstate for a little break and stopped at a McDonalds. It was really nice- super clean and fun to see all the red haired Irish people working there and what was different about the menu. We got some water and ate a snack out of the car and then Chris got back onto the interstate. After a while we realized that there were no billboards on the roads anywhere. There were also very few exits and very little fast food. And it was super clean. It was a nice interstate drive until we were just outside of Galway and turned south onto a country road. It took us two hours to get to that point and about another two hours to go the rest of the way.
This was really where taking a car instead of a train or bus paid off. We were very obviously somewhere different after we got off the interstate and I loved being able to ask Chris to pull over anywhere we saw something I wanted to photograph. Our route was just like driving in the US- the interstate is just kind of the interstate and then when you take the back roads you start to see the good stuff. It started out as little streams of water and the grass started turning different shades of green and then we started seeing some lakes and castles and little villages and then huge vistas of green and blue came into view with this very large hill/bald mountain kind of thing that just kept going and going.
You can see here that things are starting to get seriously beautiful.
Shortly after leaving the interstate we saw Dunguaire Castle on the side of the road and decided to stop and check it out. Dunguaire is a 16th century tower house built by the O’Hynes clan on Galway Bay. They lived in the area between The Burren (where we were headed) and Galway Bay. In 1924 the castle was bought by Oliver St. John Gogarty a surgeon who loved literature. Many cool people like W.B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw met in Dunguaire. In case you don’t know Yeats was really into the Celtic Bardic Tradition- Celtic mythology and bringing back Irish folk epics in an attempt to unify the Irish through their own history and literature. I think it is very interesting how writers over time have influenced society and from there influenced politics. Yeats is one of those people and someone very cool to research if you are into that kind of thing. The house is open from April to October at 6 euros for each adult.
There were only a few other people walking around so it was very pleasant to stroll through the yard. On the side of the house facing the village of Kinvara on Galway Bay were a few people enjoying a picnic up against the castle wall. They had bread and cheese and looked to be having a grand time. Truly this was an incredibly beautiful spot and I could spend a week in Kinvara sketching the surrounding area. After looking about the castle for a while and searching for a restroom in the village we headed on N67 leaving Co. Galway Co and entering Co. Clare.
Because we took the northern route to get to Co. Clare we got to drive through The Burren. We had no idea what it was when we saw it; Chris looked it up on his phone and then later at our B&B that we learned about it from the books in the lounge room. It turned out that we were driving through one of Ireland’s national parks. The Irish word for it is Boireann and means a rocky place. There is no soil cover on the Burren just limestone pavement and various floral species. It was incredibly beautiful and there were so many bikers and hikers enjoying this area. Our fellow B&B mates were there for a week just to hike The Burren. There are seven walking trails in the Burren National Park and I would love to go back and hike them all. Whenever we looked out into a field and saw people walking I felt like we were there looking at the scenery but they were really ‘in it’.
Check out this website about The Burren – there is a great little video you can watch.
We drove like this for a long time sometimes on wide open roads with huge views and sometimes going up switchback type tiny roads that were basically one lane. By the time we arrived at our B&B we were exhausted from the drive, in awe of the landscape and in love with the Irish people. Moher Lodge in Liscannor was the first that I researched and booked way back in January. I had looked for a place that was within walking distance of the Cliffs of Moher. This one came up right away and I knew the second I saw it that we needed to stay there. We didn’t have an international calling option on our phones at that time so I emailed Mary and asked if she had a room available for the dates we would be there. She said she did and it would only be 160 euros for two nights and breakfast both days. It is even more lovely than their website shows and we still talk about Mary on an almost daily basis. We stayed in the room that is featured on their front page. (We even forgot to lock our door the first night we were there. It felt so much like being at home).
I was so excited when we pulled into their driveway. It felt like stepping into a postcard. Staying with Mary and Patsy really was just like staying with your grandparents – if you really like your grandparents. She asked which way we had come and we told her through Galway and by the Burren and she exclaimed ‘Oh the hard way! Through Limerick is much easier’. We were relieved to know that it actually was the hard way and hopeful that the return back to Dublin through Limerick would be more relaxing.
We settled into our room, not surprised this time by the open windows and no air conditioning. The air was cool and clean with a slight breeze.
Mary suggested we drive to Vaughn’s Anchor Bar for dinner. It was about five minutes down the road. Anytime you can smell the ocean when you eat seafood is a good thing.
I had the Scampi and Chips and Chris had the Irish Cod. This meal, and the next night’s, were two of the most delicious meals of our trip. I’m going to add in the menu here for you. We found that Irish and Scottish food is some of the most amazing seafood we’ve ever had. This was the lunch menu and since we tend to eat with the over 60 crowd we got lower prices as well.
Afterwards we drove down further along the road to a dock and explored the water’s edge looking at the boats and the houses across the water. Writing this now my eyes are tearing up wishing we were back in Co Clare.
It was still bright outside when we got back to Moher Lodge and we hung out in the living room on their sofa for a bit looking through their books. Patsy came in and started up a little fire for us. And then a bit later Mary came in and asked if she could treat us to an Irish coffee. She said the next night she’d be in Limerick for a funeral and there was no telling when she’d be back and Lord knows Patsy can’t make an Irish coffee. We happily said yes. The Irish coffee was delicious and warm and it didn’t take long before I was feeling very relaxed and ready for bed despite the fact that it looked like it was about four pm outside.
We took our showers, went over our schedule for the next day and around 10 pm I fell asleep very quickly. I only woke up once to go to the restroom and I remember that it was still light outside. I was sure it must be morning but it wasn’t. As I fell back asleep my thoughts were already on our boat tour scheduled for the next morning!!
Note: When we visit Mary and Patsy and the cliffs again we will fly into Shannon and rent a car there. Shannon is much smaller than Dublin (easier to drive in) and much closer to the cliffs. We would love to spend a week driving/backpacking the western coast of Ireland from Galway to the Ring of Kerry- taking photographs, eating, drawing sketches of the landscape, eating and walking everywhere. We would then take the train from Shannon to Dublin for a couple of days. Chris would like to sit in a pub through the evening hours listening to people talk and drinking pints and Emily would like to picnic in St. Stephen’s Green and shop for books and maps.
This is The Pioneer Woman’s Irish coffee recipe. I picked this one because her finished product looks the most like Mary’s. *We are going to try making it soon and I will add in an update!!*
1 cup Heavy Cream
3 Tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Crème
½ cup Irish Whiskey
4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
4 cups Strong Hot Coffee
With an electric mixer, whip cream and Bailey’s together until stiff. Set aside.
Into each of the four large coffee mugs, add 2 tablespoons whiskey, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 1 cup of coffee. Top with a very generous layer of the Baily’s whipped cream. (Almost a third of the cup should be taken up by the whipped cream.)
Drink the coffee through the cream!