We've just returned from a (mostly) wonderful week in Ireland. I have to fly to Seattle tomorrow for a few days and then we have a holiday (3-day weekend) coming up so I thought I'd try to get a post out there. It might be a little rough around the edges (less editing) so bear with me.
We flew from Birmingham to Shannon, Ireland which is on the western coast of the Republic of Ireland (not part of the UK, uses Euros, distances in kilometers, but they also drive on the left and use a UK plug adapter). We drove to Killarney (3 nights), Dingle (2 nights) and Galway (3 nights) before returning home (on our 17th wedding anniversary, no less).
Note: this was Alex's 10th country in his 9 years -- rough life. Nicole will surpass her age in countries in October. We hope that the kids will some day appreciate all of this (if not now). The world is a big place and we are fortunate to experience some of it and appreciate the differences and what we have.
This was a unique trip in that it was essentially semi-rural/rural with an emphasis on scenery and culture. It wasn't a big city trip like Paris, London or Edinburgh nor was it a National Park only trip like we've done in the US. It's hard to compare and in the end I'm not sure how it stacks up. Perhaps not as high as some but we are certainly glad we did it. The Irish were great and very proud. The famine from the 1840's still plays heavily in their makeup (the country's population hasn't recovered) and there is quite an American bond with all the emigration. Note, I'm not aware of any Irish connection for our family.
We had a handful of car days and everyone did great. I'd heard horror stories about the roads, but they really weren't any worse than some of the English ones (and generally less crowded).
Our favorite activity was a musical/dance performance called Trad on Prom -- fabulous talent in a smaller venue and we were only 4 rows away. We could see the feet dancing and fingers playing. I don't have any pictures of that so I thought I would mention it now.
Ireland is very green, primarily because it rains a lot. We were somewhat prepared but more so for the UK rain (cloudy with off/on rain); however, on 2 days we had complete washouts -- 50F, windy and cold, horizontal rain. Not much fun to be outside. One or two days were mixed and the rest were spectacular (sunny, 65-70F). The washouts were unfortunate and had we had more of those we probably would have ranked the vacation considerably lower.
Enough rambling -- I'll try to explain via photos the rest of the way. I've cut the 300+ photos down to <140. Hope it's not too many -- no time to parse further. Remember to click on the photo if you want to view a bigger version with more detail.
Killarney -- Days 1 & 2
Irish Quarter Pounder Deluxe
Killarney Lodge, our first B&B of the trip. Nice, large family room. She served us tea at 10 pm when we finally showed up.
Inside Killarney National Park on the Muckross estate
Muckross Abbey. Kids had fun finding old/new gravestones. Dates back to mid-1400s.
hanging out with a dead guy
old yew tree (there's usually one in/near the abbey)
wood/peat shed -- they used peat as fuel
dramatic view inside the park -- this was one of the off/on weather days (not too bad)
kids got to make butter balls (after the butter was churned) -- Alex had a knack for it
on to the barnyard -- animals are always a hit with this crowd
very cute Border Collie pups
rounding out the farm animals . . .
there was also a small playground and this photo op
dramatic sky (and some blue!)
Muckross House (we did not go in)
next stop was Kissane Sheep Farm (outside of the NP)--Nicole got to quickly feed a youngin. The farm essentially isn't viable any longer with the price of wool and lamb and has opened up to tours, etc. to try to keep things going (and to keep the mountain sheep in the area). You can also adopt a sheep if interested.
post herding, ready to enter pen
a more distant shot so you can see the farmer (rancher?) and the distance covered
one of the dogs -- the sheep did not care for them, that's for sure (wolf, wolf)
they had some cute pups too
Family shot at Ladies View (used in header at top)
and Torc waterfall
guided walk through the National Park with a born/raised local. The starting point was outside St. Mary's Cathedral.
our guide, Richard, and his dog, Rao -- Nicole was all smiles
amazing weather and views
the kids again with Rao
the hike took us off the grid and we walked through the marsh to the edge of the lake
a buck towards the end of the hike
Ross Castle, also in Killarney NP. Late 15th century (nice guided tour inside as well).
Before going inside we took a quick, outboard motorboat trip to Inisfallen Island
view back at Ross Castle
climbing the ruins
deer on the island (hmm -- I wonder how they got there, it's not very big)
inside the church next to the abbey
another yew tree near the abbey
coming back to the castle
kids, including ours in the middle, climbing outside Ross Castle
Dingle -- Days 3 & 4
more Inch -- you can see it has potential with nice views, etc.
jellyfish on the beach (in the rain)
another view back from the castle
Large sea turtle in this tank (sharks and manta also, but those photos didn't turn out)
sting ray tank
spider crab "petting" -- this guy must have been a poor fighter since he's lost most of his legs
had a hard time getting Alex away from the ray tank -- he loved petting them
Coastline Guesthouse -- our home in Dingle. Wonderful stay.
resident dog at Dunbeg Fort museum
entrance to Dunbeg Fort
view up the coast from Dunbeg Fort
my goof ball
on mound at fort
at beehive hut farther along Slea Head drive
Kuk taking in the scene at the beehive hut
old time Irish subdivisions (rock walls)
one of my favorite views of the trip -- we had a nice rest/snack here
Louis Mulcahy pottery and purchased a souvenier. The kids also got to have a go on the pottery wheel and enjoyed it. Of course, we bought theirs too.
next stop along the drive was the Gallarus Oratory (church from 700's)
Dingle's famous resident dolphin, Fungie. We didn't see him in the bay -- the bronze replica had to suffice.
another bay shot-- note the palm trees (in Ireland where 70F is hot)
Day 5 -- Drivin, drivin, drivin (eventually to Galway)
pretty view on way from Dingle to Tralee
near Bridges of Ross
that's Kuk getting a better look with the binoc's
Bridges of Ross (actually there's only 1)
Nicole on top of the world
different vantage point -- also notice the large, hairy seaweed (the water deadheaded back here)
[small] family shot
view looking back from Bridges
the official road less traveled (single track) from Bridges to Loop Head
Loop Head Lighthouse
coastline view from Lighthouse
end of Loop Head
looking back towards lighthouse (though out of sight)
looking down at the churning ocean at Loop Head
amazing coastline (still near Loop Head)
jumping on the spongy bog
more Loop Head
back in the car (for awhile) and then to The Burren and the Caherconnel stone fort in particular
Poulabrone Dolmen (remains of 25 or so bodies found here when excavated)
kids walking the Burren landscape
Day 6 -- Galway base -- visit to Aran Islands (Inishmore)
another beautiful view from Inishmore back to the "mainland"
The prize on the opposite end of the island is the very impressive Dun Aenghus fort.
fort from inside the outer walls
and down the sheer cliff (no worry of an attack from this side)
down the coast from the fort
local basket maker on island (Alex always likes these sort of things)
view of fort from a vantage point that we didnt' have
stone walls and distant lands
Day 7 -- Connemara (from Galway base)
The rest of the day was filled with soggy drive by's and grumpy parents. Here is Kylemore Abbey.
a famine memorial near Doo Lough Valley
an eery up close shot
We stopped in Galway for dinner. The lone street performer and his didgeridoo entertained us.
We wish the trip could have ended on a better note (i.e. with better weather). The Connemara area had a lot of potential. Oh well, I think we fared pretty well and still had a good time all around.