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Our trip to Graigue / Dunquin
on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
April 11-20, 2008

The spectacular view from our cottage:



This travelogue is long and some people are not able to view the whole thing so I have broken it up into 8 pages. I left the original page intact because that is the way I prefer to view it, but here are links to the shorter pages for those who need them (they are repeated at the end of each page as well).

Page 0: Preparing for the trip.
Page 1: Graigue Cottage.
Page 2: Connor Pass / An Droichead Beag.
Page 3: Sybil Head.
Page 4: The Blasket Islands / An Droichead Beag.
Page 5: Cork.
Page 6: Inch Beach / The South Pole Inn.
Page 7: Shopping / Brandon Mt. / John Benny Moriarty’s.
Page 8: Return Home.
Original, all-on-one-page version.

Press here to return to personal picture menu.

My incredibly smart,
incredibly talented,
incredibly sweet
and incredibly sexy husband, KC,
turned 50 in March.
This was his birthday trip.


This was our second trip to Dingle in two years
and not much has changed since our first trip
so I will focus on those things which were different.
Press here for 2007 travelogue


This year we were with friends:
KC’s college buddy, Rick, and his wife, Colleen, who live in Florida.
(The pictures with the red timestamp in the lower right corner are Rick’s)

Rick and Colleen (composite of two pix taken in car):


Disclaimer

I apologize for the length of this log and for the minutia that most people will find irrelevant; but, because we use these logs to plan our future trips, I wanted to record everything that might come in handy later. Believe it or not, this is a shorter version of my original page!

We came home with 585 pictures of which 196 made it into the travelogue (the 2007 log has only 122). I will add more of Rick and Colleen’s pictures as soon as we’re able to get them off KC’s laptop. Once the page has been finalized I will break it into smaller chunks for those people who cannot see the whole thing.

I’m SURE there are grammatical and spelling errors all over the place! I will correct them as I find them. If YOU find any, please let me know!

I have received many notes from strangers who have read our logs and used them to plan their own trips. If you are one of these people, please know that we really love hearing from you and are gratified that you enjoy these as much as we do. Thank you! Please keep your comments and suggestions coming!

Background


We had been talking about taking a trip for KC’s 50th for some time but when my mother lost her ability to drive this February, and I assumed responsibility for her safety (my sister works full time and has two active children whose care falls primarily on her shoulders), it looked like we would have to postpone any travel plans as there was a good possibility that Mom would move in with us. After months of research, planning, and trial-and-error I found a solution that would allow Mom to stay in her condo, which was her preference, but not be stuck there alone all day long. She relinquished control of all her finances, so it would be very difficult for someone to take advantage of her diminished mental facilities, and I felt like I could leave her alone for short periods.

I told KC that it was now possible for us to travel. However, Mom’s condition is going to deteriorate and if/when she moves in with us our freedom will be severely restricted. We have no idea how long we will be able to maintain the status quo; so, if we wanted to take a vacation, we needed to do it sooner rather than later. I looked at him expectantly, waiting for his reaction, and was ecstatic when he said, “Let’s go back to Dingle!” He wanted to climb Brandon Mountain!

Dingle in relation to Dublin:



Close-up of Dingle Peninsula:




We decided to go in mid-April again, our favorite time of year in Ireland, so we needed to move quickly. The cottage we’d stayed in last year WAS available but, out of curiosity, I did some additional searching to see what else there was, hoping to find something a little closer to Dingle, and stumbled on what appeared to be a larger version of the place we had last year. It looked like the perfect place for a family vacation so I mentioned it to KC and he agreed that we should check it out. KC invited his college buddy, Rick, and Rick’s wife, Colleen, to come along. They were interested in joining us, and were able to travel at that time of year, so we choose the dates based on everyone’s work schedules and booked the cottage.

This year’s cottage with respect to last year’s:




There were no awards flights available for the dates we wanted to travel so we bought coach class tickets and used KC’s VIP upgrades to bump up to business class. It was cheaper to fly into Dublin than Shannon -- $300 apiece cheaper – so we rented a car and drove in from there. Because our outbound flight left early in the morning we decided to stay one extra day (the cottage is rented from Saturday to Saturday) and spend Saturday night in Dublin to facilitate the drive to the airport Sunday morning.

We couldn’t agree on a hotel. We wanted to stay in the Temple Bar area again, to be close to the music scene, but not in The Clarence which has become prohibitively expensive, so I researched several hotels in the vicinity. Colleen suggested that we stay in the Hilton, Dublin Airport and cab it into the city for the evening. KC liked the idea that we could use points and stay for ‘free’ so he suggested that we drive to Dublin through Athlone, instead of the shorter route through Limerick, and visit Ireland’s oldest pub. I agreed, so we booked our last night in the Hilton.

We rented a larger car this time because we knew that four adults and their baggage would never fit in the little Rio we had last year. Even with a bigger car, we limited ourselves to one bag apiece to insure we’d have enough room. After much research, we chose a rental company, Irish Car Rentals , and a credit card that would give us free Collision Damage Reduction (CDR) insurance.

We both went to the dentist and I went to the doctor to make sure that nothing would plague us while we were away. I have eliminated most of my migraines by purging MSG and artificial flavorings from my diet but I knew I might not be able to control what I ate while travelling so I stocked up on my migraine meds and made sure I brought healthy snacks with me. I always carry all our medications in my carry-on luggage, including back plasters, in case KC throws his back out, which he has done on more than one trip.

I ordered a pair of telescoping walking sticks small enough to fit into our bigger suitcase because I knew KC wanted to climb Mount Brandon and I suspected I would need them. I also ordered laminated copies of the #70 and #71 Discovery Series Ordnance Survey Maps we had used last year, that were so good, and that I knew we’d need when we arrived. I gave them to KC to put in his carryon since mine was full!

FINALLY, Friday the 11 was here!


Travel to Dingle

Friday, April 11

Snow was forecast for the weekend but it only drizzled the day we left. When we got to O’Hare it was practically empty: American had taken over 1000 MD80s out of service the day before to comply with the new FAA maintenance rules! We breezed through security and paid the Flagship Lounge a brief visit before boarding.

Our seats were the two in the middle and were the new configuration which was infinitely adjustable. We departed on time at 7:15pm and were on the ground at 8:30am the following morning, on time. We were, however, a mile from the baggage claim! In spite of the long walk, there were only a few bags on the carrousel and the rest were coming out slowly. We waited and waited, hoping they hadn’t been misdirected, until we finally saw one of them and then the other. Thank goodness.

We grabbed a cart and made our way to the rental car counter. While KC waited in line I went looking for an ATM. The one around the corner had an “out of service” sign on it and the guy servicing it told me there was another one by the currency exchange upstairs, and one at the other end of the terminal. When I rejoined KC he was finalizing the rental car agreement and I overheard him agree to a 15 euro per day charge for insurance even though I knew we had requested the CDR insurance that the credit card company would cover.

When we left the counter I asked him to explain and he told me that the CDR had an 1800 euro deductable and, having been burned by that before, when someone backed into his car in a parking lot, he was OK with the 15 euro per day insurance that would cover the deductible. However, he was dismayed to see that they had converted the Euros to dollars at a usurious rate. He was also irritated by the full tank of gas they charged us for, also at a usurious rate, requesting that the car be returned empty. “Oh,” he said, “we’ll return it so empty they’ll have to push it to the filling station!” He fumed over both those things while we went to the ATM on the upper floor.

The car we rented, a Zaphira:




KC was still fuming about the “exchange rate” the rental place had used so I suggested we go back and ask them to run it through again, in Euros. We did, mentioning to the agent that our bank gave us a much better rate, and were told that it was just an estimate. The bill WOULD go through in Euros. The conversion was done as a courtesy, using the current exchange rates, to give you an idea of what the charge would be. We heaved a sigh of relief and went off to wait for Rick and Colleen. Within minutes, they called to let us know they were off the plane and at the baggage carrousel.

While we were waiting, KC asked me to get out the maps. Huh? I’d given HIM the maps to pack because my carryon was already full. He didn’t remember me giving him any maps, even though he’d packed the Scrabble game that had been underneath them. So, after listening to me wail about the $40 laminated map I’d managed to score before we left, he trundled off to find a replacement.

While he was gone, Rick and Colleen came out of baggage claim, in time to see KC return with “the best map ever”. For the rest of the trip, every time he looked at that map it was, “the best map ever” and I cracked up. Thank goodness he has a sense of humor.

We made one last trip to the ATM, hit the washrooms, and picked up the car. There was plenty of room in the rear for all our bags although we were wise to have limited ourselves to one bag apiece. The back seat looked comfortable and Rick and Colleen offered to sit there letting me have the front. KC was the only person on the rental agreement – adding another driver would have added 7 euro per day.

We were on the road at 10:50 a.m. Rick was our designated navigator (I have trouble reading in a moving car) and he chose a route using “the best map ever.” We made one wrong turn coming off of M7 but quickly recovered and were on our way! The weather vacillated between overcast and drizzly, and partly sunny, sometime within minutes.

Colleen had a cold which was plugging up her ears and messing with her equilibrium. She couldn’t stomach KC’s exuberant driving style on the twisty turning roads so KC did his best to slow down before each curve. It was a challenge for him and he frequently forgot although he truly was trying hard to be ‘good’. He was motivated though -- Colleen was sitting behind him and he really didn’t want her throwing up on his head!

Around 1 pm. we started looking for a place to eat but didn’t see anything that offered ‘food all day’ until we got to Adare. We had driven through there last year and remembered it as a really beautiful place so we turned off at the first sign that read ‘food all day’ and ended up at Timmy Macs in the Woodland House Hotel, a wonderful little restaurant with a huge fireplace in which they were burning logs that looked like they’d taken a whole tree trunk and sliced it into rounds:



Colleen ordered a chicken curry and the rest of us had bangers and mash. Rick and KC inhaled theirs but the sausages weren’t “real” bangers, flavored with nutmeg and allspice, and they were huge so I only ate one. Colleen enjoyed her curry and shared it with Rick. We skipped dessert and were back on the road within the hour. Until this point, we had been on a highway, originally a 3-lane, then a 2-lane, and finally a one lane road. After Adare the roads became narrower and the scenery more rural.

Periodically we would see a sign that read “Traffic Calming” which, KC explained, meant that the road would narrow, forcing you to slow down. Theoretically. Eventually we got down to a half-lane road. One lane for both directions! As you can see in the shots below, there are wider areas every now and then to allow two cars to pass. Everyone is courteous and always waves as you pass.

Half lane road and two cars passing (taken through car window):










As you can see, the foliage is just starting to turn green at this time of year.

When we got to Dingle, we stopped in Garvey’s supermarket to pick up provisions. We’d forgotten that the carts in Ireland are not free – you put in a one euro coin to get the cart and you get your one euro back when you return the cart. Fortunately, we had change! (There is an ATM in Garvey’s)

Entrance to Garvey’s:



Locks on the grocery carts:





We didn’t know what would be provided at the cottage so we bought the minimum to get us through the night. I did, however, get some of that linseed bread that I’d enjoyed so much last year – thank goodness they still had it! We also picked up a number 70 map to replace the one KC had left behind. I noted that, unlike US grocery stores, the cashiers in Garvey’s are sitting down.

When we left Dingle, I called Philomena (pronounced phil-o-mee’na) and told her we were on our way. We had no trouble finding the cottage. We had located it on Google Earth before we left and, using Philomena’s directions and the photo on her website of the view from the living room, we triangulated its location almost exactly. We pulled up at around 5:30 p.m. 6.5 hours after leaving Dublin.

Close-up location of the cottage in Graigue (pronounced groig):



This year’s cottage with respect to last year’s
Although it was a little farther from the coastline, the view was more spectacular:


Stone Cottage in Graigue / Dunquin


Wow! The cottage was Philomenal!
(This is an intentional misspelling because the cottage, and its owner Philomena, were both
PHENOMENAL!.)





The stone cottage we stayed in this year had some big shoes to fill (given how much we loved last year’s cottage) and we all agreed that it EXCEEDED OUR EXPECTATIONS! It had all the comfort, conveniences, and charm that we’d had last year, but more of it, and was perfect in every respect. The cottage was one of the BEST parts of this trip!

First of all, it was huge! There are four bedrooms and they ALL HAVE AN ATTACHED (en-suite) BATH with a toilet, sink, shower and a heated towel bar (with two big, soft, thirsty towels)! Any one who knows me knows how crucial a private bath is to me and for that reason alone this cottage was a rare find!

The master bedroom had a queen bed with a VERY comfortable mattress, a spectacular view of the coastline, and a large sitting area. (I mention this first – can you tell what’s important to me?) Two of the other bedrooms have a double bed, and the forth bedroom has two twin beds. In addition to the en-suite bathrooms, there was a powder room on the ground floor. The master bath had a large tub, which we did not use, and a hair dryer which we did.

The kitchen was very big and modern with a full-size refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher and was well stocked with pots, pans, utensils, knives, cutting boards, bowls, dishes, glasses, silverware, and linens. There was a 12-cup electric coffee machine and a toaster.

The living-dining area had TWO HUGE PICTURE WINDOWS LOOKING OUT ON SYBIL HEAD AND THE THREE SISTERS! This, I think, was the cottage’s most unique and spectacular feature. The furniture was very comfortable – the guys spent many afternoons napping in the living room which is testament to that – and the coffee table was large enough for all the maps and books we were constantly referencing.

Off the living-dining area was a large patio, also with a view of the shoreline, and with a picnic table that will seat 8. The house was surrounded by pastures and there were sheep grazing there almost every day.

In a room under the patio were a full size washer and dryer. Having a washer and dryer meant we could pack light and do laundry half way through the week. The previous occupants had left us some salt and pepper, dish soap, sponges, paper towels, cling wrap, toilet paper and detergent all of which we really appreciated – it’s rough having to buy a whole box of detergent to do two loads.

Although we did not use them, there was a radio/CD player, TV, DVD player, bicycle, and charcoal grill.

The cottage looked EXACTLY like the photos on the website and was immaculate. There were windows everywhere and tons of skylights so it was bright and cheery. The parking area was also huge and would have held 4 cars if we’d had them, a boon when you cannot park on the side of the road. Also, because every bedroom has an attached (en-suite) bathroom, three adult couples can share the cottage!

When we went inside, the sun was streaming in through the large picture windows overlooking Sybil Head and Irish folk music wafted from the CD player in the living room. It couldn’t have been a more inviting welcome. So, I ordered everyone to stand back while I took pictures to record the moment for posterity:

Press here for more pictures of the cottage than are shown below (a new window will open).


The exterior (taken at 5:30 p.m.) was all stone, a requirement for us:




The first thing we saw – the foyer (with a slate floor!):




On the right was the living room (the furniture was very comfortable):




The SPECTACULAR view from the living dining area:






The dining room with seating for 8:




The fireplace, visible from both the living and dining rooms:




The kitchen was huge:




Another view of the living-dining with view of the fireplace and entry to kitchen:




The powder room, to the left of the front door:




The master bedroom, upstairs:




The master bathroom (the shower was wonderful!):




Press here for even more pictures of the cottage (a new window will open).


Press here for link to the cottage website (a new window will open).


Colleen and Rick chose the bedroom on the ground floor. We took the master bedroom above the living/dining area. KC and I are night owls so we thought that would work out best.

About an hour after we arrived, Phil’s daughter Sharon popped in to welcome us (Phil’s son had her car). She lives around the corner from the cottage and gave us advice on things to do in the area, like having a coffee at Sammy’s Café on Inch beach. KC asked her about climbing Brandon Mountain and she assured him it was possible. Sharon has 4 brothers and two sisters! Two of her brothers now run Krueger’s Pub , and one of her brothers owns sheep but they were not the ones in the pasture behind the house.

The rent for the cottage does not include oil and electricity. Those utilities are extra and payable on departure, so we found the meters and tried to figure out how fast they were running. We got them mixed up and thought that the oil meter – billed at 2 Euros per unit -- was running at 4 units per hour so we turned the registers as low as we could and practically froze our butts off! We turned them back up and, the next day, we realized that we’d been looking at the electric meter – billed at 20 CENTS per unit – and that we could afford to keep the cottage at a comfortable temperature, and the water heater and the heated towels bars (both of which have their own switch) on. The utilities for the entire week were under 100 Euros, VERY reasonable.

Dinner that night was cheese and crackers while we browsed the many books in the cottage and figured out what we wanted to see and do. KC really wanted to climb Brandon Mountain and found a book that described both trails, the harder but more scenic western one, and the easier eastern one. Rick is a member of www.geocashing.com a group of people who place “caches” all over the world and post the coordinates on the website. The members have GPS units that read a set of coordinates and tell you how far away you are and they use them to find the caches left by the other members, sort of like a global treasure hunt. Rick’s goal this trip was to find the caches on the summit of the Great Blasket Island and in the gardens at Blarney Castle in Cork, and to leave one of his own somewhere. He and Colleen also wanted to visit the Jameson Distillery in Middleton. My goal? Music. As much as possible! I also wanted to spend some time in Dingle visiting the people we’d met last year and checking out the shops.

Since Cork (Blarney Castle and Jamison’s) was a 3-hour drive away we decided to do that on Wednesday, midway between the drive out of and into Dublin. We left Brandon Mountain for the end of the week to give KC a chance to determine which route he wanted to take. We didn’t know whether the Blasket Island ferry was running – Sharon thought it had been too cold -- so I called them and left a message. We hoped to do that on Tuesday, if possible. For tomorrow, we decided to drive up to Corralougha Strand, via Connor Pass. Rick and Colleen are scuba divers and KC had seen an ad for a dive shop on Scraggane Bay. On our return we would attempt to find the eastern access to Brandon Mountain.

The places we wanted to visit this trip (excluding Cork):




After dinner, Rick and KC played poker until KC ran out of “money”, I updated my journal, and we went to bed around 10:30 pm.

Sunday: Connor Pass

Sunday, April 13.

We slept well – the bed was very comfortable – and got up around 8. Rick saw a rainbow so we all trouped outside to take pictures. It was cool but not cold and the morning’s clouds had blown away.

Rainbow!:






This morning there were sheep in the pasture closest to the house and some of them had wandered over the fence into the cottage’s yard. Rick got this great shot of a lamb and its mother checking us out before they ran back over the fence:

Awww, baby lamb:




KC and Rick made a delicious breakfast for us – scrambled eggs, sautéed potatoes, sausage and toast. Sue, the woman from the ferry, had returned my call so I called her back and was told that, yes, the ferry would be running on Tuesday so I made a tentative reservation for 3 people. Only 3 as I was planning to spend that day in Dingle, having been to the Blaskets last year.


Corralougha Strand on Brandon Bay:


After breakfast we showered (wonderful strong hot showers) bundled up (it was very windy) and piled in the car for our drive to Corralougha Strand. Connor Pass is a very narrow half-lane road that snakes along the side of a mountain with gorgeous views of the valley below. Because you have the mountain on one side, and a precipitous drop on the other, passing is difficult and dangerous. It was Sunday and there were quite a few people on the road on our way out.

Negotiating the road, and the cars, on Connor Pass:




We got out of the car at the lookout point at Connor Pass but it was so windy we didn’t stay long. There is supposed to be a waterfall there but we couldn’t see it. The landscape was almost surreal.

Lookout Point on Connor Pass:




This shot looks like a painting, doesn’t it:




From here, we drove out to Scraggane Bay, looking for the dive shop, but found nothing, so we backtracked and found a pathway down to the beach. It was still windy here, though not as bad as it had been on the pass, so KC walked down to the beach alone while I took pictures. The shoes he was wearing were new and he didn’t know whether they were waterproof which resulted in some amusing shots of him trying to avoid the waves:

Corralougha Strand:




KC trying to avoid getting his shoes wet:









On our way back we saw a sign for a dive shop. The woman in the shop told us that they sold dive clothing but did not operate dive trips. She directed us up the road a bit to Waterworld, a fairly large inn. We found Waterworld easily and, yes, they DID have a diving operation, a large one, so Rick and Colleen chatted with Sandra at the front desk about all the places they’d been while KC and I wandered into the bar and listened to the owner, Ronnie, regale us with fascinating stories about the area, about diving, and about his life.

For instance, the trailer parks we’d seen on the way in are summer homes and must be well maintained or they will be shut down. Most farmers used to own a pig that they fed their table scraps to, but that is now illegal (since they might be eating pork) so most pigs are raised on specialized farms, out of view. The Irish used to go to the US and return after 60 as though they’d never left. Now, they go for 4 weeks and return with an American accent. They’re called “yanks” as are all Americans.

Ronnie also told us that the eastern access up Brandon Mountain is easier, unless it’s windy, and is nice because you can look back on the bay. The western access is normally harder but is better on windy days. When KC asked him how difficult the climb was, trying to determine whether I’d be able to manage it, Ronnie told us that *I* would definitely make it to the top but that KC might have trouble (wink, wink)!

Ronnie Fitzgibbon, of Waterworld:




Rick and Colleen joined us and the talk turned to diving. Ronnie started the dive business in 1963 and moved to the present building in 1994. In addition to the hotel they have an indoor dive pool, a gym, and a sauna. In the summer they have 12 instructors, from all over the world, and 5 at all other times. His daughter, Sandy, was one of the instructors. If you dive with seals, they will play with you! They have seen several basking sharks in the area and an occasional orca.






We spent about an hour at Waterworld, used the facilites (they were nice and warm, unlike the ones at Timmy Macs), and left to see if we could find the entrance to the eastern path up Brandon mountain. As we were getting into our car we noticed some horses in the adjacent field. They were ‘relaxing’ and I’d never seen horses in that position so I snapped a picture:




After driving around for quite some time, in some incredibly beautiful areas, we realized that we were VERY low on gas, and headed back to Dingle. The information display on the car was set to German and we couldn’t figure out how to change it. Fortunately, KC speaks German, and was able to tell us that “reichweite” mean range and that we had fuel for 45 km. The route back was mostly downhill and we made it but from then on we kept a closer eye on the fuel tank.

Mount Brandon, KC’s holy grail for this trip:




Gorgeous country roads:




The return route through Connor Pass:




Precipitous drop on the right:




After fueling up in Dingle, we had dinner in Murphy’s Pub. KC, Colleen and I had fish and chips (breaded), and Rick had a chicken wrap. For dessert I had sticky toffee pudding and it was as good as I remembered it.

Murphy’s Pub:



The world’s best sticky toffee pudding:




Press here for more pictures of the food on this trip (a new window will open).


When we got back to the cottage KC and Rick walked up to Clogher Head to share a nip of Paddy’s whiskey from KC’s flask. I would have gone along but they wanted to be alone and referred to this as a “man walk”.

Rick’s shot of KC at Clogher Head
this is one of the best pictures of KC I’ve seen:




The view from Clogher Head:




Drop to the sea from Clogher Head:




The sun setting over Clogher Head (and view of the Blaskets):




Sharon, Phil’s daughter, had told us that while Krueger’s Pub was open again (now managed by two of her brothers) they did not have music this early in the year so KC agreed to drive me into Dingle to An Droichead Beag. I had written to both Sean and Michael, telling them we were coming back, and was anxious to see them. Colleen and Rick decided to stay at the cottage.

KC and I left at 8:30 and took the route through Ballyferriter. KC was in heaven, whipping around the curves as fast as the car would let him! Having a bigger car did limit what he was able to do but it was fun anyway. We got there early enough to snag my favorite table, right in front. John Brown came in first, followed by Michael and then Eric. None of them recognized us – it was dark and my hair was now dark brown whereas last year it had been blonde -- so I cornered Michael on his break and re-introduced myself. On a bathroom break I ran into Sean at the back bar (he did recognize me) and arranged to meet him after the music ended.

The music finally started at around 9:45 and was as good as I’d remembered it! They played several songs I’d never heard before so I made a mental list of what I needed to get. There was a Scotsman there (I think he was Scotch) playing the ukulele.

Eric, Michael:



Press here for clip of music in An Droichead Beag (a new window will open).


When the music stopped, KC and I went back to hook up with Sean. We found him, but the bar was closing, so we told him we’d meet him in his store, Dingle Crystal, the next day. We hoped to arrange a time to get together with him in the evening. Michael came over and we told him we’d stop by his store, Siopa Ceoil an Daingin, the next day as well.

When we got home Rick and Colleen were already in bed. We had a small snack and KC tried to call his daughter, Leah, but didn’t get through. Around 12:30, we went to bed.


Monday: Sybil Head and Dingle

Monday, April 14.

Sybil Head




We slept late this morning, until almost 10 a.m.! When we went downstairs we were surprised that Rick and Colleen weren’t up. We brewed coffee and Rick appeared followed shortly by Colleen. While we were lazing around, picking at toast and oatmeal, Philomena stopped by!

I think she was surprised that we were all still in our PJs but we were obviously glad to meet her and she stayed for about ½ an hour. She told us that her husband’s pony, Leah, who had been with foal and 26 days overdue, had given birth that morning! We promised we’d stop by to see it as well as her dog Sadie.

KC, who had been asking everyone he met about climbing Brandon Mountain, asked for Phil’s input as well and was told that the eastern access is very doable, they climbed it every Easter. She also recommended the walk up to Sybil Head but advised us not to walk along the edge of the cliff.

The weather was perfect today – cool and sunny with a slight breeze so, after Phil left, we decided to give Sybil Head a try and then go into Dingle for lunch. I wanted to make good on our promises to see Sean and Michael and, since Colleen had offered to make a stew for dinner, we needed to get the ingredients.

We decided not to shower before our climb and got to the base at around 12:30. It was cool but Rick recommended that we not dress too warmly as the exertion would soon have us sweating. I insisted on wearing my jacket but agreed to leave my sweatshirt in the car.

Our goal – the fort at the top of this hill:





The hill was moderately steep until right before the top where it was almost perpendicular! Even with my new walking sticks, I still lagged far behind everyone else but I never fell or stepped in a bog and I did eventually make it to the top.

This is how steep it was (and how far behind I lagged):



I had stripped down to my tank top within 5 minutes and was glad I’d left my sweatshirt in the car:



Finally! I made it!




It was hard work but it was worth it – the view from the top was beautiful. There is an old fort at the top and Rick decided to leave his geo cache there.

KC and Colleen inside the fort (you can see how it was constructed):




View from inside the fort (taken by the Canon EOS):




View from inside the fort (taken by the Lumix):






Barb making KC nervous by standing too close to the edge:



Rick jumping? I love this shot!:



View from the ridge Rick was leaning over:




The ledge at the top was quite narrow with several precipitous crevices right down to the water. KC has a fear of heights (but never lets it prevent him from doing something) and it surprised me that he got such good pictures.
Precipitous drop :




At the edge of the drop pictured above:



Another precipitous drop:



Looking back on the peninsula, where the cottage is located:



KC hamming it up as we started our descent:




It took us 50 minutes to climb to the top but only 20 minutes to get back down. When we got to the bottom KC insisted he needed a shower and refused to stop at Philomena’s. After KC showered we drove into Dingle. Our first stop was Dingle Crystal on Green Street where we met Sean’s wife, Liz Daly – what a sweetheart she is! We had a cappuccino in their new coffee bar (which is a VERY nice space – bright and cheery and comfortable!) and shared a delicious bread and butter pudding (with toffee sauce and clotted cream).

The coffee bar in Dingle Crystal:



Bread and Butter pudding:




Sean came in and spent some time talking motorcycles with Rick and Colleen who go to Bikefest every year. He invited us to see his workshop the next morning so we agreed to meet at 10:00 a.m. and got directions. We also agreed to meet him at An Droichead Beag Tuesday evening around 10:00 p.m. Before we left, Colleen bought a crystal beehive hut which Sean signed for her. I asked him to put aside the bowl I was coveting; we took some pictures, and then went on to Siopa Ceoil an Daingin .

Rick, Liz, Barb, Sean and Colleen in front of Dingle Crystal
(I’m hoping the shot in Rick’s camera will be in focus and will add it as soon as possible)




No one was there when we arrived at Siopa Ceoil an Daingin but Caitriona (pronounced Katrina) came in shortly, followed by Michael. Caitriona recognized us instantly! Michael shared some Bushmill’s with Rick and KC. He also told them that buying liqueur in an “off license” store would be cheaper than the grocery. We asked them for restaurant recommendations and were directed to A Global Village for a good inexpensive meal and The Apple Tree for a good bowl for soup. We told them we’d see them at An Droichead Beag the following night, and then we went off to The Apple Tree. It was warm enough in the sun so we sat outside.

Soup at The Apple Tree:




KC and Rick had the cream of vegetable soup with smoked bacon and Colleen had the seafood chowder. The vegetable soup got a unanimous vote of delicious but the chowder was bland so Rick went in search of salt which seemed to solve the problem. I was full from the coffee we’d had at Sean’s and was reluctant to order soup in a restaurant because most prepared soup has MSG in it so I looked at the scenery and noticed that there was a butcher next door. Since we needed meat for tonight’s stew we decided to get it there. We picked up some sausages for breakfast as well. I asked the butcher if they had MSG in them and he admitted that they buy their spice mixture already mixed and that he couldn’t guarantee that it was MSG-free.

The butcher:




We went over to Garvey’s for the rest of the stew ingredients and KC went into an “off license” store to replenish the half-bottle of Paddy’s he bought the first night. When he compared the price to the one in Garvey’s he realized he’d saved one whole euro – Garvey’s is off license too!

We drove home via Slea Head Drive and stopped at the cross to take a few pictures.

Rick’s (great) shot of Slea Head Drive:






The view from Slea Head:




Another precipitous drop to the water:




Looking at Slea Head drive snaking along the edge of the cliff (through car window):




We got back to the cottage at around 6:00 p.m. and while the guys had their “man walk” down to Clogher Beach, Colleen and I made the stew. Or, more accurately, I chopped and diced while Colleen cooked.

Rick at Clogher Beach:




The rocks at Clogher Beach (apparently, the rough winter weather had washed away all the sand):




When the guys got back, we opened the wine that we’d found on the dining room table (it was wonderful – thank you to whoever left it for us) and poured a bit into the stew. We ate dinner at around 8pm and it was really delicious! Thank you, Colleen!

After dinner we watched the sun go down, hoping to see a green flash. We didn’t see the flash but the sunset was gorgeous. KC “did” the dishes, and then I updated my journal while everyone else played poker. We went to bed around 11:00 p.m. but couldn’t sleep until KC opened a window. That’s the nice thing about this time of year: if I get a hot flash, I just need to open a window!

The gorgeous sunset:




Tuesday: Crystal workshop and Blasket Islands

Tuesday, April 15.


Sean’s workshop:

Wow! What a beautiful day! It was warm and sunny with almost no wind! The PERFECT day to go to the Blaskets! We left the cottage at 9:30 and found Sean’s workshop easily. We went inside and were treated to an amazing show of the master’s skill.

On a table were several blank glasses marked with grids in what appeared to be magic marker. Sean put on a pair of protective glasses and an apron, picked up a glass, and went over to one of the four cutting wheels that lined the inside wall. Within minutes he had cut a series of curved lines, using the grid as a guide. The lines were surprisingly deep, yet didn’t go through the thick base of the glass, and were perfectly spaced.

Sean cutting a Dingle Flame roly poly glass:



Close up shot:



The first cuts – look how deep they are –
this glass is over ½ inch deep at the base:




He then went over to another, wider, wheel and cut the flat dots that make the Dingle Flame pattern so easy for me to hold (Dingle Flame is my favorite of all Sean’s patterns). Personally, I thought the glass was perfect just as it was but Sean told us that at this point the glass would then be polished with a strong acid solution which was fairly dangerous and that he didn’t want to expose us to it (thank you, Sean).

Adding the round dot in the center:



Ta-dah! (is that how it’s spelled?)


While Sean was cutting the glass he gave us a running commentary on how Waterford was outsourcing much of their production and had let many of their master craftsmen go. Some of the blowers started their own company, in Waterford City, and produce the blanks that Sean then cuts. When we got back home I found several articles confirming what Sean had told us. While there is some doubt now that Waterford’s products are still hand cut, we know that Sean’s definitely are!

Press here for link to write-up on Waterford’s outsourcing (a new window will open).


Sean’s workshop is in this building:



Press here for link to Dingle Crystal website (a new window will open).


We drove back to the cottage to use the bathroom and then went down to the ferry dock. I had originally intended to spend the afternoon in Dingle but when Caitriona told us that there was a nice picnic spot on the path up to the Great Blasket summit I decided to go along. We’d packed a couple of sandwiches, a bottle of wine, and four small glasses.

Great Blasket Island:




Martine, our captain on last year’s trip to the Blaskets, had been given the job of manning the booth today but he remembered us from last year and told us that Pedro was still doing the “tour”. He also said that there would be more ferries running this summer and that there might even be one at night with local musicians on board! We paid our 30 Euros apiece (wow! It had gone up from last year’s 20), walked down to the pier, and got on the ferry via the dinghy. The tide was out. At the other end, we again rode the dinghy to the pier.

The ferry is diesel powered. Colleen, who is sensitive to diesel fumes and spends a lot of time on dive boats, which are also diesel powered, didn’t find the fumes to be offensive at all. I also didn’t notice them.

The ferry:




Pedro:




We didn’t see any dolphins, whales or sharks this time but there were about one hundred sea lions on the beach! Pedro cautioned us that if we went down to the beach and tried to get close to them they would disappear into the water and no one else would have the pleasure of seeing them. However, when we got into the dinghy he brought us as close to the shore as he could so that we could see the two pups.

Riding the dinghy to the island:




Sea lion pups:



Sea lion pups – notice that the one in the middle is rolling over:



Sea lion pup close up:



Rick and Colleen near the remains of the village:



KC near the remains of the village:




When Pedro dropped us off he told us that the next boat would be there at 2:00 p.m. After that, they would normally come every hour but if they had an Eco-tour they wouldn’t be back again until 5:00 p.m. It was now after noon and we weren’t sure we’d be able to make it to the summit and back by 2:00 but decided to walk until 1:00 and see how far we got. The track was not steep but it was very close to the edge and there were several wet, and therefore slippery, places which caused us to slow down. It’s a wonderful walk, though, with several gorgeous drops down to the water. We were rushing and didn’t have time to take pix but, I assure you, it is worth doing.

The track to the summit which can be seen in the distance:



KC walking as far from the edge as possible:



The reason why:




When we made it to the base of the summit, where the track we had taken met up with the track on the other side of the island (KC calls this the saddle), it was after 1:00 and we should have turned back if we wanted to make the 2:00 ferry but, we were so close to the top, that I urged Rick to go on without me (I knew I wasn’t able to race to the top) and Colleen agreed. KC was reluctant to leave me behind but I insisted.

The saddle, the base of the track up to the summit
you can see where the track we took meets the track that goes around the other side of the island:




Another view from the saddle:




Rick and Colleen on their way up the track leading to the summit
This was taken looking up at the summit from the point where the two tracks around the island converge:




When we made the decision to go for the summit, we gave up the opportunity to picnic at its base (and you can see that other people had already stopped to do so). I debated whether I should wait there – the views were gorgeous -- but decided to press on. I followed at my own pace and got to the top as they were uncovering the cache. I was so proud of myself – I’d made it! In the shot below you can see that there is another hill behind me – a goal for a future trip perhaps? We took a couple of photos and then started down, hoping we’d get back to the dock by 2:00.

Barb at the summit:




Barb at the highest point of the summit (there is a precipitous drop behind me):



Rick and Colleen, triumphant, at the cache:



Looking back at the route we’d taken, it really is beautiful up here:



Another view:



KC at the summit:



Taken on the way down:




When we got back to the saddle we decided to take the track on the other side of the island back to the dock. Not only did it look shorter, it would give us a different perspective. In retrospect, it seemed to me that I spent more time walking uphill on this track, even though were theoretically going “down”, than I did walking downhill. I was walking as fast as I could but didn’t appear to making much progress. It was also a much less exciting route.

Barb on the track back to the dock:




When we rounded the corner to the ruins, the sea lions were still on the beach! You can see the beach at the far left of the photo, and another perspective of the area with Sybil Head and The Three Sisters in the distance.

Sea lions on the beach (far left of photo):




Close up of seals on the beach and, in lower right corner, two inconsiderate jerks about to scare them into the water:




It was almost 2:30 when we got back to the dock and we were afraid we’d be stuck there until 5:00 but some of the other climbers told us that there was a ferry on its way that should be there at 2:30 so we sat down and ate our picnic lunch while we waited. There was a lot of sheep poop around the village so the area near the summit would have been a better place to picnic. If you remember the photos of the summit, there was next to no grass up there and, consequently, no sheep or donkeys.

Waiting for the ferry to pick us up in the area just above the dock:




The dock on the Great Blasket is in a gorgeous peaceful cove:




When we saw the ferry approaching we all went down to the dock, all thirty-some of us. We knew the dinghy would have to make several trips but also knew the ferry was big enough for all of us. However, when the dinghy pulled up it was not driven by Pedro and, whoever it was, he refused to take us back! He told us that another boat would be along to get us but we were again afraid we’d be stuck there until 5:00. While we waited we talked to some of the other people on the dock and discovered that one of them lived in Graigue and knew Phil! Suddenly, someone saw another ferry leave the dock at Dunquin! It took 20 minutes for it to reach us but, thank goodness, it was Pedro and we were going home!

It was now almost 3:30 and, in retrospect, we should have originally made the decision to shoot for the 5:00 ferry and taken our time, stopping to eat at the ‘crossroads’ and enjoying the scenery rather than rushing to make the 2:00. The walk is gorgeous and not strenuous at all. If I can do it, anyone can!

On the ferry back to Dunquin:




Halfway to Dunquin, Pedro opened a tin of scones baked by Sue, the woman who lives on the island during the summer, and some raspberry jam. The scones were delicious and Colleen liked the jam so much she picked some up at the gas station on our way home from Cork the next day.

Scones (baked by Sue who lives on the island in the summer) and jam:




The walk from the dock up to the car was as bad this year as it was last year but I did make it. At the top we talked to Sue for a little bit and then went back to the cottage. Fortunately, none of us had felt any motion sickness.

On the way home we passed the ruins of Rathanane Castle at the end of a line of flowering gorse so I snapped a picture. The gorse is so pretty with its bright yellow flowers against the brown branches. It’s too bad it’s covered with thorns. We wondered if the flowers could be used for anything – perfume or paint – there was so much of it.

Gorse and Rathanane Castle:




When we got back to the cottage KC lay down on the sofa and was asleep in 2 minutes. I updated my journal. We let KC nap (at least, I think we did). We’d decided to drive into Dingle for dinner before meeting Sean at An Droichead Beag and figured we needed to be there at 7:30 so we wouldn’t have to rush. KC chose The Old Smokehouse, across from the pub, the place where last year I’d had the “best salmon ever”.

We left the cottage at 7:00 and got a parking spot right in front of the pub. For dinner, Collen and I had the salmon, KC had cod, and Rick had a chicken breast. I don’t think KC liked his fish although he ate most of it. It looked perfectly cooked to me (and tasted delicious) but KC likes his fish dry and this was moist and juicy. My salmon was good but not as good as the one I’d had last year. Colleen liked her salmon but thought that Rick’s chicken, in some kind of cream sauce, was better. With dinner we shared a delicious Spanish rose.

At 9:00 I ran over to the pub and got a table, the last one, right in front of the music. I suspected the others would have preferred a table against a wall, with a back that you could lean on, but they were all taken. Rick, Colleen and KC finally came in at 9:20 and the music started at 9:30. It was, again, John Brown, Michael, Eric and the ukulele.

Michael, John, ukulele:




While the musicians were setting up I asked John if he knew the song “Dingle Bay”. He did. Colleen asked for Wild Rover. They played them both, and Black Velvet Band, and lots of polkas which are my favorites. Sean came in around 10:00 p.m. and talked to Rick, Colleen and KC (I was engrossed in the music) for about an hour. On one of the band’s breaks I asked Eric if he had a CD. He did and thought that Murphy’s Pub would have it for sale. When the music ended at 11:30 Michael came over and recommended we visit Skellig Island. He said the best way to get there was by ferry but didn’t think the weather for the rest of the week would cooperate. I was disappointed – it sounded like a wonderful place. But what did he mean about the weather? It had been beautiful until now….

When we got back to the cottage KC had a sandwich while I updated my journal and we went to bed. Tomorrow would be an early day.

Wednesday: Blarney Castle and Jamison Distillery

Wednesday, April 16.

Cork:




We woke up at 9:00 a.m. today. The sky was overcast and the wind was howling. Michael had been right! The wind whistling over the chimney reverberated inside the house making it sound much worse than it was. I loved the sound – it made me feel like I was ‘safe from a storm’.

Right after KC and I came downstairs, Rick noticed that the sheep in the field below were running madly from one field to the next as though something had terrified them. I jumped up and saw a dog herding them! As soon as all the sheep were moved, it ran back to the farmhouse across the road. We found out later that the farmer who lives there trains sheep dogs! Next year, we plan to pay him a visit. (Thank goodness Rick spent so much time looking out the window or we would have missed the rainbow, the sheepdog, and the sunset!)

We left the cottage around 10:45. The drive down to Cork was uneventful except for the occasional “Mario!” from the back seat. Rick and Colleen had started calling KC “Mario”, as in Mario Andretti the race car driver, and would use that every time he forgot to slow down before a curve!

We hadn’t eaten much breakfast and the drive took almost 3 hours so we were pretty hungry when we got there but decided to do the castle first, rather than take time for lunch, even though KC said he was so hungry he could “eat a horse”.

Blarney Castle:




The entrance fee for the castle was 10 Euros. The castle was built in 1446 and was last occupied in 1739 when a more modern residence was built against its east wall. Once inside I was surprised at how well preserved the castle was although I suspect that the cement floors were a recent addition to improve their strength given the number of people standing on them every day.

One of the most interesting parts was the dungeon which was reached by crawling through a low cave-like passage. KC and I really wanted to explore it but we were wearing the wrong clothes so we decided to save that for a future trip.

The dungeon – a goal for a future trip:




Another thing that surprised me was the disclaimer posted by the door to the castle relieving the government of any liability for injuries sustained while inside. I doubt that would fly in the US and was SO glad they had left the castle as authentic as possible, especially the narrow winding stone staircases at either side. I never realized that the narrowness was intentional, to prevent more than one person at a time from coming up them, in the event the castle was invaded.

I was glad, however, that the castle’s other defenses – the Oubliette and the Murder Hole (holes in the floor through which, respectively, an unwelcome visitor could be dropped to his death or had boiling oil poured on his head) – had been cemented over.

The disclaimer by the door to the castle:




There weren’t that many people around so I was able to get some good people-free shots. In the one below you can see the what-I’m-sure-is-a-new-floor next to the original stone walls. The holes at the top of the walls were used to hold the wood beams for the floor that used to be there but has since deteriorated.

The castle walls – I didn’t notice the mold on them until I saw the pictures:




The picture below was taken looking UP into the chimney over the kitchen! The kitchen was located on an upper floor to reduce the chance of the castle burning down due to fire. I don’t know why there isn’t more soot – maybe it just didn’t show up because of the flash.

The chimney over the room that was the kitchen:




There were several smaller rooms on either side of the central ‘great rooms’ – the main hall on the second floor which was used for entertaining, and the ‘family room’ on the third floor where the family would gather -- but we didn’t get any pictures of them. Colleen and Rick wanted to kiss the Blarney stone so we made our way to the top.

I didn’t realize that the stone was part of the crenulated wall at the top of the castle and that to kiss it, you had to lay on your back over a precipitous drop to the ground, and then bend your head backwards to kiss the wall. There were two men by the stone, one to hold you firmly and make sure you didn’t slip through the hole, and the other to take pictures which you could then purchase when you left.

There are apparently hundreds of people kissing the stone every day and the area that most people were able to reach was so shiny it looked wet. Although I am less germ-conscious than most people, for some reason the thought of touching that area where millions of other people had placed their lips grossed me out! I watched as Colleen, Rick and KC all did the deed but still couldn’t bring myself to do it and, even now, I’m not sorry I missed it.

I was VERY impressed that KC was able to manage it, given his fear of heights. Although the pictures below don’t show it, he was in and out so quickly it made your head spin! Yes, we did buy the pictures they took of him. I scanned them in – they are below with the ones I took.

KC as he leans back towards the stone:



KC kissing the stone:






KC getting away from the opening as fast as possible:





The drop from the Blarney Stone, if you would happen to fall through:




The stone is rumored to have been given to Cormak McCarthy, king of Munster, by Robert the Bruce in gratitude for McCarthy’s support at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It is also rumored to be a portion of the Stone of Scone, the pillow stone said to have been used by the biblical Jacob. According to one legend, it was the Coronation Stone of the early Dal Riata Gaels when they lived in Ireland, which they brought with them when settling Caledonia. Certainly, since the time of Kenneth Mac Alpin, the first King of Scots, at around 847, Scottish monarchs were seated upon the stone during their coronation ceremony. At this time the stone was situated at Scone, a few miles north of Perth. In 1296 the Stone was captured by Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into a wooden chair, known as St. Edward's Chair, on which all subsequent English sovereigns except Queen Mary II have been crowned. I could find no reference to the magical properties the stone is supposed to possess….

After kissing the stone, and buying the photos, we walked back to the gardens so Rick could find the geo cache there. In this shot you can see them using his GPS to find the general location in what was called the Rock Close.

Male bonding:




Although it was early in the year and not much was in bloom it was still beautiful. It must be stunning in the summer but then there would be so many people it would be overly crowded for me. The photos below were two of my favorite areas, the druid ring and the fairy glen.

The Druid Ring:



The Fairy Glen :



Press here for link to Blarney Castle website (a new window will open).


Rick finally located the cache (I think Colleen actually found it) and we left to find something to eat. Right outside the castle walls was a small restaurant, The Lemon Tree, in the Blarney Castle Hotel . Although it was now after 3:00 p.m. they advertised ‘food all day’ so we went in. KC and Rick had a burger, Colleen had chicken breast in a wine sauce, and I had a tuna melt on homemade brown soda bread. The soda bread was so good I asked if they sold it separately and was told that they do, if they have extras, but today had been a busy day and there were none. Colleen raved about her chicken.

We paid our bill, used the facilities, and went back to car to plan the trip to the Jameson Distillery . We didn’t know how late they were open and Rick didn’t want to call from the restaurant in case they’d been about to close and we would have felt pressured to rush through our meal. So, in the car, Rick pulled out the certificates of authenticity (COAs) he had saved from the bottles they’d consumed and, after calling several numbers, we finally managed to get through.

Yes, we were told, they were open until 6:00 p.m. but the last guided tour left at 5:00. It was 4:40 now and the distillery was about 20 minutes away so we decided to go for it! Rick navigated and we were encouraged by the signs along the road that we were going in the right direction. When we got to Middleton, though, the signs mysteriously disappeared and our map didn’t have directions!

When we got to the roundabout in the middle of town KC made a split second decision to go left but after driving for several miles into the country we realized that we’d gone the wrong way so, at the first available opportunity, KC turned around and we headed back in the other direction. Just past the center of town we saw the sign for the distillery on the OTHER side of the street!

So, again, at the first available opportunity, KC turned around and we finally pulled into the property but, by now, it was after 5 o’clock! We hurried into the building (a mile from the parking lot, of course) and when we saw no one at the front desk, assumed we’d missed out, so Colleen and I wandered into the showroom/store. KC suddenly motioned to me to come quickly – a woman had appeared at the front desk and was going to let us join the tour even though it had already started!

Apparently, those COA’s that Rick had brought along were taken seriously by the distillery and Rick was being treated as a VIP! Not only did they let us into the already departed tour but they waived the fee. Although we’d missed the video at the beginning, of the origin of the term “Uisce Beatha”, or the water of life, the tour was very interesting. I was surprised to discover that the distillery is no longer used. There is a newer facility, directly behind the one we were in, where the spirits are currently distilled but we were not allowed in there.

The granary below was used to store the 1250 tones of grain the distillery bought every fall. The black dots on the walls are actually steel bars used to support the weight of it and the windows were used to keep the grain cool and reduce the possibility of spontaneous combustion. The courtyard where we were standing was where the farmers would come to sell their grain.

The granary:




This huge 22-foot cast iron water wheel powered five sets of millstones which converted the dried barley and malt (sprouted barley) into the grist (coarse flour) used to make the wort (slurry) which was then fermented. There was an electric generator inside which was used when the wheel wasn’t able to keep up (low water pressure).
The waterwheel:




After fermenting, the liquid was distilled using this, the largest (32,000 gallon) pot still in the world! A coal fire was built under the copper still which heated the liquid inside. Since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, the fumes that rose were funneled off, condensed, and then distilled two additional times before being barreled for aging. American whiskey is distilled once and Scotch is distilled twice. Only Irish whiskey is distilled tree times making it a very smooth libation.

The largest pot still in the world:




An interesting look at the liquid inside the barrel after 1, 2, 5, 12 and 18 years of aging. You can see the liquid condense and darken in color. The color comes from the tannins in the oak barrels. All of Jamison’s barrels are imported from America, Spain and Portugal and were previously used to mature bourbon, sherry and port. The quantity of the whiskey which is lost to evaporation during the aging process is called “The Angels Share”.

A look inside the 1yr, 2yr, 5yr, 12yr, and 18yr old barrels:




When the tour was over we were invited into the bar for our complimentary glass and the guide asked for four volunteers. Only two people raised their hands so I rushed over to KC and told him to raise his, too! He didn’t know what he was volunteering for – the guide hadn’t said – but he listened (he’s a good boy) and was delighted to discover that he’d volunteered for a five-shot tasting! Rick tried for the forth spot but someone else beat him to it. Since KC was our designated driver, Colleen suggested that Rick replace KC, but KC assured her that the shots were small, that he had no intention of drinking them all, and that Rick could have what was left!

The tour guide giving the volunteers instructions:



KC comparing the color of two of the shots:




The five shots were: Paddys, Jamisons, and Powers, all produced by the Jameson distillery. These were compared to a Scotch (one of the less expensive brands, I can’t remember which) and Jack Daniels. Because KC did not consume all of the shots, when the tasting was over Rick finished them for him! The picture below just cracks me up – it makes it look like Rick couldn’t drink them fast enough!

Rick tasting the remnants of KC’s shots:




The certificate they gave KC:




The distillery store sells a 12-year special reserve whiskey that is not available anywhere else. The bottles can also be personalized so we bought one, of course, with KC’s name on it, and an engraved shot glass to serve it from.

Press here for link to Jameson website (a new window will open).


We left the distillery just before 6:00. Colleen asked us to find her a cup of coffee so after making our way out of Cork we stopped at a gas station where she picked up a bag of scones and some of the raspberry jam we’d had on the ferry in addition to her cup of joe.

The trip back again took 3 hours and we arrived just as it was getting dark. When we got in we broke out the cheese and crackers again (boy, those Jacobs Cream Crackers are good, as is the local oak smoked cheese with the black rind!).

At 10:00 Rick and Colleen went off to bed. KC read and he did some laundry and I worked on a crossword and updated my journal. We hit the hay at 12:30.

Thursday: Inch Beach and South Pole Inn

Thursday, April 17.

Inch Beach and Annascaul:



Today was a lazy day! We slept until 10:30 and Rick and Colleen were up when we came downstairs. There was a truck on the field behind the cottage today, there were no sheep, and two men were putting up fences around the grazing areas. Rick and Colleen were doing their laundry and we were still waiting for ours to dry. Apparently, if you overfill the dryer it doesn’t work and we had obviously over filled it! By the time the laundry was done and we’d all showered and dressed, it was 2 pm.

I should have gone into Dingle today but by the time we got going it would have been too late – I wanted more than 3 hours there – so KC talked me into going with them to Inch Beach. Inch Beach is renowned for having the perfect weather for parasailing. It also has some interesting dunes at one end. KC really wanted to go and Rick and Colleen were game so I agreed to go along. We parked by Sammy’s Café, bundled up, and walked down to the water.

It was cold again today and VERY windy, and the wind was blowing the sand into our eyes, so I lasted maybe 5 minutes. Since KC had someone else to walk with him (Rick), having a coffee in the café and WATCHING the wind blow sounded infinitely more interesting to me than strolling along the beach; Colleen agreed and we went back to Sammy’s.

There was a small store connected to Sammy’s so we went in and I bought two cookbooks, an Irish-English dictionary, and some shortbread. There was a dog there who kept Colleen busy while I shopped. About a half and hour later we went into the café and ordered two cappuccinos and an apple tart.

Colleen and Barb bundled up on Inch beach:




KC and Rick went on without us. I didn’t expect to see them again for several hours as KC loves being out in inclement weather and rarely gets the chance to walk along a beach.

Rick on Inch Beach:



The dunes:



Another shot of the dunes:



What is this:




Rick and KC walked as far as the dunes and then turned around. They got back to Sammy’s just as our cappuccinos were being served. Although it surprised me to see them back so soon, I was happy to share my apple tart with KC – it was homemade and delicious!

Coffee and apple tart in Sammy’s Café:




We left Sammy’s around 3:30 and drove to The South Pole Inn in Annascaul for a late lunch. The Inn was opened in 1927 by Tom Crean, a local boy, who by several weird twists of fate had been to the Antarctic with Scott and Shackleton and returned to tell the tale. He retired in his home town of Annascaul and opened the South Pole Inn.

KC and Colleen ordered a burger, Rick a vegetable soup and a ham sandwich, and I a toasted cheese sandwich with onions and tomatoes on brown bread. My sandwich was delicious! KC and Colleen ate all of their burgers so I assume they were good, too, although Colleen tasted Rick’s soup and declared that the Irish really know how to cook vegetable soup.

Inside The South Pole Inn :




Press here for more pictures of the food on this trip (a new window will open).


From the Inn we drove to Garvey’s to replenish the bread, butter, beer and turf we’d used up. We got back to the cottage around 5:30, Rick and KC shared some Jamison’s and some Killarney Cream (lighter than stout), and then KC stuck his nose in his book I stuck mine in my journal.

Rick built us a great fire and then watched KC read through binoculars, much to KC’s chagrin and my amusement. I plugged into my earphones and worked on a crossword. We opened the bottle of wine we’d bought, a 2005 Coronas tempranillo (delightful, for the price), and had the leftover stew.

After dinner we played Bu**wipe, a very funny card game, until 11:30. For each round, whoever goes out first becomes “the president” and can order the other players around (as in, “Colleen, get me a beer”) and/or make rules, such as ‘twos are wild’ or ‘no verbs allowed’. As you can see, KC’s request for a beer had an unusual result and although KC generally likes celery he discovered that in beer it becomes very bitter!

KC enjoying (not!) the celery in his beer:




Friday: Dingle and John Benny Moriarty

Friday, April 18.

Brandon Mountain:




Dingle and John Benny Moriarty:


It was cold and windy again today but KC had not yet been up Brandon Mountain so, weather notwithstanding, that was the plan for the day. Although I would have gone with them (I would have preferred the trek up Brandon to the trek along Inch Beach) because I had not yet had an opportunity to spend time in Dingle, KC dropped me off at Dingle Crystal on Green street and then the other three went off to climb Brandon Mountain promising to call when they started, when they turned back, and when they reached the bottom. They left me at 11:00 a.m. and I got a call that they were starting up about 20 minutes later. Five minutes after that, I got another call that they were turning back because it was too cold and windy! They said they would look for another place to climb. That was the last I heard from them….

Meanwhile, I had a cappuccino and a scone in the coffee shop at the back of Dingle Crystal, and planned out my day. I needed to have my hair washed but Liz said that it would be very difficult to get an appointment at such short notice. She called two salons for me and they were both booked. She recommended a third, near the butcher, and suggested that I go down there and see if they would take a walk-in.

I gave Sean my crystal order – the GORGEOUS oval bowl I’d had my eye on since our first visit, 2 shot glasses for KC, and two cordial glasses – asked Sean to ship them for us, and left to explore Dingle.

Press here for link to Dingle Crystal website (a new window will open).


Sean had recommended John Benny Moriarty’s for music that night so I first walked down there to see whether Éilis Kennedy, the owner’s wife, would be performing. On the way, I stopped in at Murphy’s Pub to see if they had a copy of Eric’s CD (they didn’t). At John Benny’s I got the details on the night’s performance - music at 9:30, get there at 8:30 for a good seat.

Heading back in the direction of Green Street I stopped in a bookstore where I spent almost two hours looking through their cookbooks, Irish knot books, calendars, cards, and maps. I came away with a recipe for beef filet in a turf crust (!), several fascinating books on how to draw Celtic knots, including one with an elaborate alphabet, a 2009 calendar, and a surveyors map of Brandon Mountain (for KC). As I was checking out, I saw a small ceramic mountain goat in the window that was the perfect size for a 1:6 scale doll! It was heavy but I was willing to hand carry it home for my next Celtic Priestess.

Turning back onto Green Street and, several stores down from Dingle Crystal, I nipped into Lisbeth Mulcahy to buy a sweater I’d seen on their website. I also bought two gorgeous cards with hand painted fairies on the front.

I looked in the window of every jewelry store on Green Street, and there are several, hoping to find a small charm to add to my bracelet. I saw some gorgeous pendants and earrings but the pendants were too large and I didn’t think they’d sell me just one earring so I resisted the urge to go in. There was one store selling pendants with your name written in Ogham – the 4th century Celtic Tree Alphabet – but they were fairly expensive and I’d promised KC I would go easy this trip so I filed that away for next year.

Press here for link to description of Ogham (a new window will open).


When I passed Dingle Crystal I made a short pit-stop to report on my day. Sean offered me another coffee but, although I was hungry, I declined because I was afraid I was running out of time! I promised to stop by later. I walked on up to lower Main Street and to Holden Leathergoods. I was tempted to go in – the bags in their window were gorgeous – but they appeared to be alligator and ostrich and, therefore, out of my price range so I passed them by. I peeked into the antique store and debated whether I should look for a Celtic charm in there, but Siopa Ceoil an Daingin was across the street and was loudly calling my name….

Both Michael and Caitriona were there and helped me choose a selection of CDs. Some were the songs I’d heard at An Droichead Beag earlier in the week, like Steve Earl’s Galway Girl, others were new releases from some of my favorite groups, like Solas, and others came out of the conversation, like Kate Bush singing Mna na hEireann (The Women of Ireland) and the CD The Women of Ireland produced by Michael’s ex sister in law, Gael Linn. I’d promised KC I would limit it to 10 this year and managed to do that if you don’t count the book-and-CD that I purchased for him on Brendan’s voyage to Newfoundland. I knew KC would enjoy the book and I really wanted the CD – the only recoding of Uilleann pipes with an orchestra behind them!

When I mentioned that we would be returning to Dublin through Athlone and “the world’s oldest pub” Michael and Caitriona recommended some interesting pubs closer to home: Morrissey’s Pub in Abbeyleix, Ashes Bar in Camp, and Johnny Fox’s Pub in Dublin. I thanked them and filed the recommendations in case the trip to Athlone was shelved.

I asked Michael about the music that night at John Benny’s and he told me that there was a big party planned there for a local musician, Donagh Hennessy, former guitarist of LUNASA, and that some of the country’s best talent would all be there. It would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I should not miss it. I didn’t intend to! I knew that KC knew how important the music was to me in this area and was sure he would be willing to drive me in.

Speaking of KC, I hadn’t heard from him since 11:00 that morning and was starting to worry. I tried to call several times but kept getting his voice mail so I suspected, and hoped, that he was on the mountain and out of range. I assumed that since the eastern access to Brandon was too windy, they had gone to the western side which would have been, presumably, out of the wind. KC is extremely good about keeping me informed and I knew that if he could call, he would.

I told Caitriona that I needed to have my hair washed and she, too, recommended the salon by the butcher as the only one that might take a walk-in so I left all my bags with her and went over to ask. YES! They would take me, at 4pm! It was 3:15 and I had run out of money so I raced back to Garvey’s to get some cash. I thought about nipping into Murphy’s for a sticky toffee pudding but didn’t have time. When I got back to the salon it was almost 4:00 so I went in and waited my turn.

While I was waiting, my phone rang. It was KC! They were on their way into town, and starving. I explained that I was about to have my hair done and would meet them as soon as I could – I was starving too. He agreed to call once they were in the restaurant. The phone rang again, in between my wash and my dry. They were in Murphy’s. I asked him to order me a sticky toffee pudding but he wanted to wait until I got there. I could tell he was tired and impatient. Did this mean I wouldn’t get to hear music tonight?

It took longer than expected to dry my hair so I ran up to Siopa Ceoil an Daingin to collect my bags. Michael offered to walk me down to Murphy’s, and I agreed, but he then got waylaid by a customer. While I waited, Eric came into the store and, on hearing that I was having trouble finding his CD, offered to walk me to the store on Green Street that might have one. I started to leave with him, seeing that Michael was tied up, but Michael extracted himself and insisted on driving me. We got to Murphy’s just as KC and crew were leaving. They’d ordered me a sticky toffee pudding to go. In retrospect, it was fortunate that Michael had dropped me off because it gave him an opportunity to explain to KC how important tonight’s performance at John Benny’s was.




The pictures below are from KC, Rick and Colleen’s trek up Brandon Mountain. KC gave me a synopsis but I didn’t write it down and now I can’t remember it all so I’ll do the best I can and make corrections when he finds the time to read it.

Taken from the link above, Brandon Mountain is 3,127 feet (953 m) high. The mountains of the western part of the peninsula are formed of rock strata known to geologists as the Dingle beds, and north of the town of Dingle they form the Brandon range -- a high craggy ridge, of which Brandon Mountain is the highest point – which ends in cliffs at Brandon Head.

They started on the eastern side and turned back because the wind was right in their faces and bitterly cold. They then tried the western side which was much better although the trail at the base was very steep. Once they passed that it became easier but the wind was still both strong and cold.

About two thirds of the way up Rick and Colleen stopped to rest and KC went on without them to see whether he could get a glimpse of all the lakes and whether it was worth continuing. He discovered that the wind was much less severe around the bend and tried to call Rick to ask if they wanted to join him and press on but he couldn’t get through so he went back. He would have gone on alone except that he couldn’t see where the trail was leading and didn’t know whether it would have been worth it.

He returned to the place where he had left Rick and Colleen and they all made their way back to the bottom.

You can faintly see ??? in the background:



The rocky path :



The lakes :



The yellow arrow on this stone is, I believe, the way the path was marked.
It was, therefore, sometime hard to follow :



The descent:




Back at Murphy’s pub, after saying goodbye to Michael, we went to Garvey’s to get cash to pay Philomena and then went home. KC and Rick glommed onto the map of Brandon Mountain that I’d just bought for them, and figured out where they’d been, while I inhaled the sticky toffee pudding they’d bought for me. Colleen soaked her finger in warm water to force out the splinter she’d picked up.

I went up to pack and KC, of course, lay down on the sofa for a nap. I came down to collect the things I wanted to put in the suitcases and tiptoed around, to avoid waking KC up, as I filled my arms. As luck would have it, just as I passed the sofa, a tube of hand cream fell to the floor with a loud CRASH! Everyone looked at KC, who jerked awake, irritated that he’d been woken up AGAIN, as I sheepishly picked up the tube and apologized profusely. Had I ruined my chances of being driven to John Benny’s?

No! I hadn’t! At 8pm KC offered to drive me into Dingle for one last night of music (he IS the perfect husband, isn’t he?) but made me promise that we could leave at 11:00 since they were so tired. I reluctantly agreed, figuring that 1.5 hours of music were better than none. We left at 8:30, too late to snag a good table, and were given a table in the bar behind the restaurant. I thought it offered a good view of the musicians but, in retrospect, I was mistaken.

We ordered dinner: fish and chips for KC and I (battered cod with no skin), sirloin for Colleen, and sea bass for Rick; cider for me and Guinness for everyone else. KC and I loved our fish (I prefer battered to breaded) and Colleen enjoyed her steak but Rick was disappointed in his sea bass. It had skin on both sides, which none of us like, and when he removed it there was little flavor left in the fish. Colleen offered him some of the garlic butter that came with her steak but he declined it. My starter – smoked salmon with rocket oil – was heavenly!

The menu at John Benny’s.:




Press here for more pictures of the food on this trip (a new window will open).


While we were eating, people were streaming past us into the bar and some of them were carrying instruments so I was really looking forward to the night’s music but was concerned because they seemed to be more interested in partying than playing. Eventually the guest of honor came in and I overheard the proprietor telling his wife that they should start the music shortly. She agreed but getting that many people organized took some time and they didn’t ‘get their act together’ until almost 10:30. I was panicking! Every minute they delayed was a minute lost to me but there was nothing I could do about it.

While we waited, a distinguished looking gentleman and his wife asked us if they could use the stool we’d been saving for Michael and when we said yes, thinking Michael had changed his mind about joining us, they sat down at our table. They were from Switzerland and we had a lively conversation with them –KC brought out his German and got kudos for it -- but most of the conversation was in English. I was focusing more on what was going on with the music but was glad the others had something to distract them. I knew they were anxious to get home but I just COULDN’T leave!

Finally, the musicians struck up a lively tune (with the two women playing the flute, not singing) and I was in heaven! But, no sooner did they start playing than the people at the table in front of us stood up and totally blocked my view! I contemplated conking them on the head with my empty cider bottle but KC grabbed my arm so I got up and forced my way through the throng to a place where I could see the musicians. It was a dangerous spot – everyone who passed me had at least one beer or coffee in their hands and there was very little room to get by -- but I was willing to wear their drinks in order to get a better view. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

When the first tune ended, instead of going directly into another one, they chatted a bit before starting up again. Eilis got another round of drinks. I was tempted to chivvy them but figured that would be counter productive so I held my tongue and prayed. It was now close to 11:00 and I was desperate.

After another instrumental tune, during the lull between songs, Michael finally arrived and stood next to me. Several of the musicians recognized him and said hello. He gave me some background which I promptly forgot as I didn’t have anything to write it down with. Suddenly, the two women started singing and it was so beautiful I got all choked up! KC couldn’t ask me to leave now, he just couldn’t! But, he did. He came over in the middle of the song to tell me that we’d be leaving after one more tune.

It was after 11:00, I had to admit, but I had no control over the fact that they’d been so slow to get started, or over the fact that they wasted so much time in between playing. I knew KC knew that but he didn’t seem to care. Where was the perfect guy I’d married?

The second song was just as beautiful as the first but KC, Rick and Colleen were making their way towards me with their coats (and mine) in hand. KC had a pained look on his face – he knew how much I wanted to stay – and offered to drive Rick and Colleen to the cottage and come back for me. I appreciated his offer but I couldn’t ask him to do that, no matter how badly I wanted to stay. So we left.

When we got back to the cottage I went right upstairs and finished packing. KC kept reminding me that he’d been willing to come back for me. Next time, he promised, if we came with anyone else, we would rent two cars. Lying in bed next to KC that night I realized once again what a perfect person he is. It embarrasses him to be told this but I want to shout it to the world: he truly is a Perfect Specimen Of a Man. My PSOM!

Poster advertising the night’s entertainment:



Not your normal group of musicians performing in John Benny’s.:





Éilis Kennedy (right) and friends performing at John Benny’s.:



Press here for link to John Benny’s website (a new window will open).


I’ve been listening to Éilis’ CD Time To Sail since we got back and while I’m so glad I picked it up earlier in the day, it is only reminiscent of the music we heard that night. Hopefully, Michael and Caitriona will be able to provide the names of the people who were playing so I can give them credit here.

Thank you, Caitriona, for sending me the following the morning after I published the log! I have added your comments verbatim:

I arrived in minutes after you left and the place was just starting to warm up with all of those fantastic musicians:

Sean Smyth - the fiddle player from LúNASA was there with his sister Cora Smyth( another famous fiddler).

Johnny Spillane arrived!!!! I recommended his CD to you earlier in the day and you bought it -- The Wells of the World -- he was in NOMOS also . He joined in, sang tunes with Éilis and Pauline Scanlon. Johnny lives in Cork.

The party was for Donogh Hennessy ( former guitarist with LúNASA ) , and partner of Pauline Scanlon . There were many other well known musicians present, so once things got under way there was no stopping at all.

We only lasted until about 2pm and, yes, the party continued until 5am. We were visited by many of the tired musicians on the Saturday, which was great. It was such a pity you couldn’t have been there that night Barb, but next year we will concentrate on overdosing you in the music. Promise.

In addition to Johnny’s CD I also have 2 CDs from NOMOS and 1 from LúNASA. LúNASA have 7 CDs to their credit and are described by Amazon.com as “arguably the greatest instrumental group ever to exist in Irish music.” I need to add Pauline and Donagh to my collection. I may not be able to wait until next year….

Press here for link to Éilis Kennedy (a new window will open).

Press here for link to Lúnasa (a new window will open).

Press here for link to Pauline Scanlon (a new window will open).

Press here for link to Johnny Spillane (a new window will open).


I will add links to the other artists as soon as I find them.

Saturday: Return home.

Saturday, April 19.

Our last day! We got up around 8:30, had a quick cup of coffee and some toast, and started tidying up the cottage. There is a 50 Euro charge if it’s left in a disorderly state and we didn’t want to pay it so KC did the dishes while the rest of us stripped the beds and emptied the trash.

At 10:00 Rick, Colleen, and I walked down to Philomena’s to meet her pets. Sadie, the dog, is adorable and super friendly, begging for petting every time you stop. She scarfed up Colleen’s leftover sirloin and rolled over for belly rubs from both of us.

We rang Phil’s bell and she came right out and took us to the pasture next to their house to check out the new foal. We kept our distance as the mother was still protective. It’s a beautiful foal and huge – I can’t believe that a week ago it was inside that tiny pony!

Philomena’s house, up the road from the cottage:



Philomena’s dog, Sadie, in heaven:



Philomena’s new foal (6 days old) and her mother, Leah:



It was getting late now and we had a long drive ahead of us so we reluctantly said goodbye and made our way back to the cottage. Given the time, we decided to give Athlone a miss. We intended to drive the car to the hotel and unload our baggage before returning it which meant we could bring along a box full of the leftover food, beverages and other miscellanea and do our final packing at the hotel.

We got on the road around 11am. I was getting a headache so I nibbled on some mixed nuts and took two Advil. We dropped by Dingle Crystal on the way out so that I could say goodbye since I hadn’t had a chance to do that Friday. Sean asked me whether I’d made it to the pub the night before and when I told him that I had, but had been forced to leave early, another woman in the store informed me that shortly after we left two other musicians had arrived and that the group had then played non stop until 6:30 A.M.!!!! If I’d known that, I would have sent KC home and asked him to pick me up in the morning.

KC appeared, realizing that he hadn’t said goodbye either, and after hugs all around, we piled back in the car. I was sitting in the front again and took some pictures of a few other things I didn’t want to forget. The different colors of the houses, and of the doors in particular, are important as they are used to describe where something is, as in, “the second yellow house from the corner, with the blue door.” Some of the houses are very brightly colored – red, purple, calendula, and blue -- but we didn’t see any after I realized I wanted a shot of them.

GARDA are the police
In this shot you can also see the way each house is painted a different color:




Remember the charge for a full tank of fuel, at a jacked-up rate, that had been on the rental car agreement? Well, KC really was determined to return the car with no gas in it and was closely monitoring the fuel gauge. Using the car’s reichweite (range) display and comparing it to Rick’s estimate of the remaining distance, he refused to stop for fuel until the car was almost empty. The first time we stopped, they rang up what they thought was 10 liters but when KC went in to pay for it, he discovered that they’d only put in 10 EUROS worth. At 5 euro per liter (about $7!) that was about one gallon!

The next time we stopped, they put in another 10 liters, and the time after that, 4.5. So in total we filled the car up once after our trip through the Connor Pass, once after the trip to Cork, and then put in about another quarter tank on the way home. The car was getting about 30 mpg which was pretty good given the fact that it would seat 6 people or 4 people and luggage.

We stopped for lunch at the Devon Inn in Templegalantine, just past Newcastlewest. KC and I ordered the toasted sandwich (mine without ham on brown bread, his with ham on white), Rick ordered a BLT, and Colleen ordered a chicken wrap. The toasted sandwiches were very good although the one in The South Pole Inn was better, Colleen adored her chicken wrap served with pesto, brie and roasted red peppers, and we think Rick liked his BLT although he was surprised to discover that “bacon” in Ireland is more like the thick Canadian bacon we get in the US, not the thin crispy slices we’re used to.

KC, fed up with my constant picture taking while he was eating:




Press here for more pictures of the food on this trip (a new window will open).


Lunch was quick and we were back on the road in no time. As we got closer to Dublin, the fuel reichweite was getting perilously close to ZERO but KC refused to stop for gas. We all suspected that this would be KC’s “Look Ma” – the black diamond run in Vail where Colleen was sure she was not going to get out alive – and Rick, not wanting another Look Ma on his record, refused to hang with KC. He knew that he’d be walking with KC to the nearest station if we ran out – and it was a cold day, 9 degrees Celsius -- but he kept repeating that the driver was responsible for managing the fuel!

I trust KC completely, and if this had been his car, and familiar, I wouldn’t have worried, but when the reichweite read ZERO and KC didn’t stop, I have to admit that I WAS concerned and pointed out every fuel station we passed! KC wasn’t watching the reichweite readout, though, he was looking at the gauge and it still showed 1/8 of a tank. If he’d seen it fall suddenly he would have stopped but it never did so he kept going.

KC started joking about the possibility that the people who rented us the car were monitoring our fuel consumption remotely, intent on screwing us out of half a tank of gas by forcing the reichweite to display zero when there was still plenty of fuel, and saying things like, “zey vill NOT get avay vit ziz” (in a German accent to match the display on the car) -- he had me in stitches! My PSOM…

Reichweite is German for range – how many kilometers left in the fuel tank:




As we got closer to the airport, with the low-fuel light now glowing bright red, we realized that we didn’t know where the hotel was! KC was confident we had enough fuel to get to the hotel but we surely didn’t have enough to drive around looking for it so, after passing the Radisson and several others, but not the Hilton, when we pulled into the airport and saw the sign for the rental car return, we decided to drop the car off and take the shuttle. The fuel gauge read 1/16th of a tank!

Another car was being returned right before ours and KC overheard them giving him a refund for the fuel he still had in his tank so, in retrospect, it might have been cheaper to return the car full! The car passed the return inspection in spite of the beating it had taken driving against the brambles on the sides of the roads. We loaded our stuff onto 2 carts, including the box of food and the bags of stuff we didn’t have time to cram into a suitcase, and went to wait for the shuttle.

The gas gauge when we returned the car – 1/16 of a tank:



Off to the shuttle – this was the baggage we took for the entire week:



Waiting for the shuttle to arrive:




It was a good thing we decided to take the shuttle as we NEVER would have found the hotel. We had actually passed the exit for it long before we started looking. It only took the shuttle 10 minutes to get there and the drive was a nice one through the back roads. We checked in and went to our rooms. My headache had turned into a migraine so I took a Zomig. Ten minutes later we convened in Rick and Colleen’s room to consume the rest of the cider and Guinness and make plans for the evening.

Our room at the Hilton, Dublin Airport :








No one was enthusiastic over the 20 minute / 20 euro cab ride into the city, even though Colleen was willing to do it since she “felt bad that I’d missed the music in Dingle the night before”. I explained that nothing could ever make up for that so we decided to have dinner in the hotel and make it an early night. We had to be up for a 7:45 shuttle in the morning and wanted to have time for breakfast before we left.

For dinner, KC ordered a ribeye, I ordered the baked salmon (I had hoped to get the sweet potato and spinach curry on the room service menu but it wasn’t available), Rick ordered Toulouse sausage (similar to a frankfurter, we were told) and Colleen ordered the chicken. My salmon was delicious – the Irish really know how to cook fish – and Rick enjoyed his sausages, but Colleen thought her chicken was bland – she hadn’t noticed that the description read “poached” -- and KC was less than enthusiastic about his steak. He still prefers corn fed beef to grass fed.

We’d ordered a bottle of Cotes du Rhone with the meal (it was very nice) and for dessert KC and I shared a passion fruit Bavarian cream and Rick and Colleen shared a fruit tart, both of which were very good. We went back to our rooms and agreed to meet for breakfast at 7am.

KC, blinded by the flash when I took one last picture in the hotel dining room:




Back in the room we took out our travel clothes for the next day and packed the ones we were wearing. We snuggled into bed and KC watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix while I updated my journal. At midnight, we turned out the lights but I had trouble sleeping because the room was so warm (are you seeing a pattern here?). I turned down the heat and did eventually fall asleep but slept fitfully and woke up tired.

Sunday, April 20.


We showered (after KC figured out how to get the water to come out of it) and went down for breakfast. Breakfast was a buffet so KC loaded up his plate with meat and I loaded mine with mushrooms! I also had a croissant with brie that was delicious. I passed on the coffee because there was no cream (I’d forgotten that if you want cream with your coffee you have to ask for it).

Somehow, the time slipped away and suddenly we had to rush! We brought our bags down and KC went to settle the bill while I supervised loading the bags in the shuttle. The shuttle driver was itching to leave – he had two other passengers – so we said goodbye quickly and were on our way.

At the airport we breezed through check-in (they didn’t charge us for the 1.5 kilos our bigger bag was overweight) and security, picked up a few boxes of chocolate, and looked for the Aer Lingus lounge . We found it eventually, on the second floor. The elevator up is located off the main drag next to the Old Clock bar. The lounge was comfortable and we were able to find a large table on which to fill out the VAT forms.

Half an hour before the flight was supposed to board we went down to the gate, stopping at the VAT refund counter on the way. We had expected it to take longer than the 5 minutes it did so we sat at the gate and waited to board. I was surprised that there was no immigration and asked where it had gone. They told us that they had eliminated it the previous May.

We had the same seats on the return flight that we’d had on the way in – the two in the center. I had several glasses of wine with dinner and my migraine started to return (too much wine?) so I took another Zomig and lay down. I did manage to sleep and the pill had done its work when I woke up several hours later.

We landed on time and sprinted to immigration, quite a feat as we were at the farthest gate in the terminal! We whizzed through and were pleased to see that the bags were already spilling onto the carrousel. We located ours and went through customs.

Since we told them we’d both been hiking where sheep had been grazing they ushered us over to the Agriculture area where we were asked to remove our shoes so that they could sanitize them. Ten minutes later they were handed back to us, scrubbed clean. We wondered how many people lie about where they’ve been to avoid being singled out by customs but neither of us wanted to be responsible for bringing in something that would wipe out the US sheep population and were more than willing to spend the extra 10 minutes required to insure we didn’t.

The soles of our shoes, cleaned by the agriculture department on our return:




We called the car as soon as we were outside, there was hardly any traffic all the way home, and we were there at 2:00 p.m., 1.5 hours after we’d landed! While it had been cold and dreary when we left, a week ago, it had been warm and sunny while we were gone and now the grass was green and the trees were starting to leaf out. I was pleased to see that the magnolia tree in our front yard was still in bloom and that we hadn’t missed it.

Our magnolia tree in bloom when we returned:




One of the first things I did after we unloaded the car was go up to KC’s office to see whether the maps I’d given him to put in his carryon were still there. Low and behold, there they were, right where he’d packed his carryon!

Maps:




Although we’ve only been home for 3 days we’re already planning our next trip! KC still wants to get to the top of Brandon Mountain and the end of Inch Beach, and I did not get my fill of the music. We’ll be going in April again because we LIKE the brisk weather. And – KC just made the decision -- we’ll be staying in this cottage!
Press here for 2009 travelogue.


Added on October 14, 2009:
I started this page shortly after we got home while everything was still fresh in my mind. I worked on it literally every waking minute until Wednesday evening -- it took me 3 solid days to complete, much longer than the one from the previous year -- and I continued to update it for nearly a month after that. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to send me your comments, corrections, and suggestions. You can email me by pressing the button at the bottom of this page.

Page 0: Preparing for the trip.
Page 1: Graigue Cottage.
Page 2: Connor Pass / An Droichead Beag.
Page 3: Sybil Head.
Page 4: The Blasket Islands / An Droichead Beag.
Page 5: Cork.
Page 6: Inch Beach / The South Pole Inn.
Page 7: Shopping / Brandon Mt. / John Benny Moriarty’s.
Page 8: Return Home.
Original, all-on-one-page version.

Press here for 2007 travelogue.
Press here for 2009 travelogue.
Press here to return to personal picture menu.


Note to self: bring the following next time: knife sharpener, speakers for MP3 player, charger and larger SD card for Lumix.

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