Day 1 – arrived in rainy Dublin where we hoped on a city tour bus and made our way around the city. That night we went to a Comedy show near our hotel, called the International Comedy show, not because there were international acts, but because that was the name of the pub!
The compere was an Aussie from Perth and aside from that the acts were all Irish. We were the only Australians there – though a couple of people in an effort to be included, clearly not happy being Irish, attempted to point out they were half/quarter Australian by parental default etc (wannabes!! – you either are or you aren’t).
They were quite funny, but some of it was just too Irish and we didn’t get it. One of the acts is on TV over there as the host of “The Panel”. We had a chat to him as one of the TV stations in Ireland brought the rights to our show “The Panel” from Working Dog Productions. He was quite excited and pointed out that he too had been to Adelaide, and on the tram and all that. Quite funny.
Day 2 – still in Dublin , we decided to do a bit of touristy things, though difficult when nothing opens till noon on Sunday and some places not till 2pm (you thought us Aussies were backwards).
Our first stop was the Kilmainham Gaol. This is a 16th Century gaol , which has a very harsh history. We had to do a tour and they tell all about the early days where there was no segregation of prisoners, then about during the famine where people were dragged in for minor offences (one man was in because he was caught eating grass and that was considered stealing as it was the Kings property – they were starving for goodness sake). The tour also covered the execution of the leaders of the Easter 1916 rising, whose harsh treatment ended up with them being heros. The movies in the “In the name of the Father” and “Michael Collins” were filmed there too.
A bit thirsty after that we wandered back around to the Guinness Brewery where on our self guided tour we learnt about the wonders of Arthur Guinness’s “Black Soup”. It’s quite interesting and not too time consuming, plus you learn a little too. The 360 degree view of Dublin from the top of the pint glass shaped building (well the inside was designed that way) is definitely worth seeing too. We ended up having lunch in the restaurant there and both tried a pint of Guinness – it’s now my new favourite drink.
Next stop…. The Book of Kells at Trinity College. This was an express visit, as they closed at 4:30pm, we arrived at oh around 4.25pm. The bonus was – it was a free visit, saved 16 euro there! The Book of Kells is a bound four volume 9th century, and very famous, “illuminate manuscript created by the St. Columba’s monks. It’s obviously very old, but the drawings are very ornate and you only get to see 4 pages of it because it’s so old. Stepping out of there you come up into what is called the Long Room of the Trinity Library, it is just beautiful. Books, books and more books, line shelves about 4 storeys high in a gorgeous dark red timber. You just have to visit it – it was the most lovely room I have ever been in.
Before winding up for the night we went for a wander around St Stephen’s green, and had a look at some Georgian doors and art work for sale along the way.
Day 3 – Finally on our way out of the city we picked up our car around lunch time before driving South down to Powerscourt House. The house itself has more been converted to shopping, but the gardens overlooking Sugar Loaf mountain are really lovely. So after doing a lap of the gardens, which include a Japanese garden and even a pet cemetery, we continued our drive South.
The lovely sunny morning became a bit greyer as we approached Glendalough, in the Wicklow mountains. Though we were fortunate enough that Ireland seems to have lots of intermittent sunny, then cloudy and sunny again spells (which are nice cause it makes everything sparkly and yep, green sparkly). The park itself has a few walking trails around 2 lakes, we did a shorter walk around and along the way there are ruins of 2 churches dating back to the 12th century and a 30 metre round tower.
From there we drove down to Kilkenny via Carlow, through the lovely Wicklow mountains. It was evening by the time we reached Kilkenny, but we got into a nice pub B&B and had the best steak ever (note we do live in the UK where even expensive steak sucks – bring on Hogs Breath in November!!) since we have been over here too. Its not a big town but nice enough to wander around in.
Day 4 – Bright and sunny so we went for a wander around the lovely 13th century town as we were up earlyish and Kilkenny Castle was not open until 10:30am. The castle itself can only be explored by tour, which is good as then people tell you stuff rather then having to read lots of little plaques about this, that and the other. It was originally build in 1172 as a wooden castle and rebuilt in stone later, it was bought by the Earl of Ormond in 1391 and they had in right till 1935. Thus very well preserved in, now full Victorian display. The best room is the Long Gallery which has a huge fully beamed roof (looks like a Viking ship) with lots of paintings all the way along.
Next we were back off in the car driving a short way down to Waterford, which is actually on the Rive Suir (you know it never occurred to me that it would be on the water!) and it’s quite a busy place too. However, there was no time to wander its warren of shops - we were going to Waterford Crystal.
The tacky factory tour (you take a little bus to the factory, the guides wear headsets, which they plug in at points along the tour and there is a “please buy our products” video in a large auditorium) is extremely popular. It scares me to think that it’s the 5th most popular tourist destination in Ireland. The glass work is quite amazing though and the skills the men have to acquire for the impressive detail on some of the pieces is just incredible. We picked up a nice piece and it’s on its way home to Australia as we speak.
We drove along the coast road from there passing through lush rolling countryside and some cows being put to bed (well I guess that’s why they move them around along the roads). We had dinner in a little town called Youghal (pro. Yawl). It’s actually tiny, steep and right on the water – its claim to fame is that Moby Dick was filmed there in 1954.
From there we were spending the night in Cobh. This town was the last stop for the Titanic where the last 123 people boarded (Cobh at that time was called Queenstown). Its also where around 40,000 convicts passed through on their way to Australia way back in the late 1700’s. We also ended up staying in one of the oldest hotels there - the Commodore - and it was right on the sea front. I have an amazing photo of the sunrise from our window there.
Day 5 – Again lovely and sunny so we wander around for a bit, the town again is right on the water and very steep. However no time to waste – off to Blarney Castle via Cork.
Blarney castle is very good, it’s a shell of a 15th century castle but all the rooms (and there are lots) are still well intact. Though it’s obviously semi crumbling, damp and the rooms resemble nothing of the rooms the guide sheet tells you of. We climbed up to the roof and I kissed the Blarney stone, which is said to give you the gift of the gab. It stems back from Elizabeth 1 – though why, who knows.
The castle has some very pretty gardens and we saw such sweet little birds, but they eluded my camera – or as Mark points out, I was just too slow. We had lunch in the pretty village pub on the square, which was a nice roast lunch. Apparently the town is full to bursting in summer, but I think we were there at a good time of year. Oh and the Guinness quality inspector (yes bizarre) came by when we were there in his official Guinness testing car!
Our journey continued back down again towards the coast where we were to visit Bantry House. It’s again set on the waters edge, near Bantry town, but the pink house has amazing views and its extremely well preserved as the family who own it have done so since 1739.
The Earls of Bantry (the White family) were quite wealthy and have some beautiful treasures, including tapestries once made for Marie Antoinette. They allowed pictures, very unusual so I took loads. They had a display about the Armada in the old stables – quite extensive though, but we really didn’t have time to have a good look.
After a quick dinner in yet another town pub, the weather was turning so we headed off to go around the Ring of Beare prior to our overnight stay in Kenmare.
The Ring, just means a ring road around the peninsula, was quite beautiful. Very rustic with lots of rocky landscapes, the valleys there, to me, looked like grassy windy oceans with all the rocks peaking out like the caps on the waves. Very scenic – in fact I actually preferred this more barren landscape than that of the Ring of Kerry.
More to come am just too slow at getting this all out of my head and onto the PC..........