Tuesday, July 5
Again were driving through a very stony countryside, in fact I think all of Ireland is basically rock with many smaller rocks on the surface is interesting to look at all the fences than eight out of rocks stacked on each other, absolutely magnificent fences, and people are fenced off plots of land, perhaps one or 200 years ago, and looking at them today, it seems they have just fenced off their own collection of rocks. In fact looking at one mountain which was one large piece of rock, with little bits of grass growing on it, there was a fence running right up the mountain, and not quite a straight line, fencing off one piece of rock from another, perhaps it was an Irish joke, if so I could not see the sense in it.
Although villagers were driving through a quite old, and the shops are an equal age, the shops no verandas like we have in New Zealand and with all the rain they get it must be wet and miserable job shopping in the middle of winter, so I guess the shopping centres when they arrive will become extremely popular.
It was getting close to lunchtime so we took a turn towards the sea and I guess the location was called Tracht, or that is what it appeared to be, we turned into what appeared to be a caravan park, with no organisation or control, right beside the sea, with a row of caravans right on the edge of the beach, the beach parking itself had a height restriction barrier on it, so we drove into the campground, part had lunch and were on our way again.
And the thing we noticed about England and Ireland, that a lot of towns have height restrictions on their car parks, this means if you're driving a motorhome, you don't bother to stop, but you drive on to the next town, this is about contrast with France in Germany they cater to the motorhomes, and I guess the towns and their shops would reap the reward. But then of course England has always been different!
We drove out of our way to visit the Aillwee Cave which evidently had a sort of zoo on the same location, we looked at the views of the caves in the photographs, and as we have had to wait over an hour for the next tour, and there was nothing in the cave photographs they got us excited we drove on.
We drove to the town of Doolin which evidently is known for the its collection of Irish music, we however drove out to the beach, parked beside the motor camp, used their WiFi, cleared our e-mails, updated the GPS settings on Ludas photographs, backed them up and then we were on our way further south to the “Cliffs of Moher”, this important part of Irish tourism was surprisingly extremely badly signposted, and fact we are almost at the site before we saw the signposts and there was nothing to direct us to the spot.
We paid the fee went into the car park, and here we are parked for the night, after doing the trek to the cliffs and doing a series of photographs, without the rain, but heavy dark clouds, so the rain is not too far away as it never is in Ireland. About nine o'clock the sky cleared a little bit so we went to another walk and got her beautiful series of photographs of the sun setting with nice light on the cliffs.
Wednesday, July 6
We left the“Cliffs of Moher”, and carried on our drive south around the coast to Kilkee and then on another 12 km to Kilrush where we had a look at a small exhibition of the potato famine, it was almost information about the plantation that the exhibition was on and what happened there, and it did not come up to my expectation as to what it could be.
While we were in Kilrush we lucked upon a parking place in the Main Street for the motorhome, so we parked and in the rain went for a walk through the Main Street was all of that old shops and about six drinking establishment (bars or hotels) for a population of 2800, certainly a different type of drinking to New Zealand, we decided to have a lunch at the bar that was opposite where we parked the motorhome, and I'd been told I had to try the Guinness beer in Ireland, well I did, and not being a beer drinker I just found it had its potential to change the state from sober if you drink enough.
We carried on around the Shannon Peninsula towards Ennis driving the coast road, we saw a signpost towards a pier with the suggestion of fishing, so we figured there would be parking there, so here we are at the finish of very wet day looking at the muddy water from I presume the Shannon River.
Thursday, July 7
Well it was back to the main road and on towards Ennis, which we bypassed and headed directly towards Limerick where we did a little bit of shopping before driving on towards our next destination which was the picturesque little town of Adare with all of its thatched roofed cottages and lots of tourists. We stopped there long enough to walk through the Main Street, see what we wanted to see and get a few photographs before we moved on back to the coast and towards Foynes, the port from which flying boats flew between the United States and Europe in the late 1930s.
They had a replica of one of the early Pan Am Clippers there that had been built by some artists and model makers in Ireland, it certainly gives you a little bit to reflect on their seating arrangements and today's seating arrangements on a jumbo jet. They also had some of the airline radios and it is certainly a wake-up call on just how much things have progressed in the last 70 years.
We then carried on around the coast towards Ballybunnion and when we arrived at the ruins of Carrigafoyle Castle and found a large empty car park we found our resting spot for the night.
Friday July 8
Peaceful night by the old castle, no ghosts, there back on the road south towards Tralee, down the normal (for Ireland) one-way roads and as they are quite religious in this country, the holy roads!
We're still passing lots and lots of new houses, most of the houses are big, big by New Zealand standards, probably four or five bedrooms or more, and they seem to be scattered right through Ireland with no thought of where the shops are or anything else, they all seemed to work on the principle that you have at least one car so you can live anywhere.
Ignoring the houses in the towns or cities which are small or terrace house housing, all of the houses we are seeing are new I feel that over 50% of all the houses we are seeing throughout Ireland have been built probably in the last 5 to 10 years, the percentage could be for a much higher.
As we are passing through Ardfert we stopped for a few minutes to have a look at the ruins of Ardfert Cathedral which dated back to the 12th century and was part of a complex of churches linked to the cult of St Brendan the navigator, the guidebook tells us were also close to the location of the filming of Ryan's daughter (1970) for all the good that bit of information will do us.
As it was time to freshen everything on the motorhome we pulled into a motor camp for the night and fortunately it also had WiFi.
Friday, July 9
We left Tralee and did a left turn to go out onto the Dingle Peninsula, the first stop was the town of Dingle, a picturesque little Irish town with all of the old shops brightly painted, set up to cater for all the tourists that get bussed in everyday. We did walk around the town lost count of the number of drinking establishments, all advertising genuine Irish folk music for tonight, and one of the bars I noticed the music started at 10 PM, I guess you'd be ready for it by that time.
On out onto the drive around the Peninsula, many spots you could stop to take photographs, and many more were required, of course was a Saturday and one must expect large crowds on Saturday, and apart from the narrow roads has a very enjoyable drive.
Coming back we decided to go over that Connor Pass, 100 m after the turn off we discovered the signs told us that the pass was limited to the calls of 7.2 m, good, 2 tonnes, bad, 1.8 m wide, bad.
So we had to turn around on the narrow road using an entrance to one of the many bed and breakfasts and we had to go back the way we came.
After little bit we reset the GPS for Killorglin which is more or less the start of the Ring of Kerry, and we are busy driving along looking for somewhere to stop for the night and we saw a signpost which said “ Camp ” ! Now on the road out to Dingle we did pass a village by that name, but now I thought were well and truly pass that on to a different part of Ireland so I thought this looks interesting, obviously it's a motor camp! Well obviously it wasn't on the road we took was cutting us across the Peninsula to the village of Camp and putting us back on the road we had already been on.
We realise this just before we reached the village when we were at a Y junction and saw that the roote was going round the block and bring his back to this point. So was time to stop to look where we are going and realised what was happening so at this Y junction there was little old stone cottage with a little bit of parking area, big enough for the motorhome so here we are the night and in the morning we drive back the way we came.
Sunday, July 10 a.m.
We left our overnight Camp, close to the town of Camp and drove back the way we came on the one we rode through the mountains with magnificent scenery.
At Killorglin we reached the beginning of the Ring of Kerry and for the rest of the day carried on our drive around this tourist route are accompanied most of the way by at least six buses, sometimes in front of us, sometimes behind us.
We visited the Cahergall Stone Fort thought to be dated in the vicinity of 300 to 400AD, these are mostly found on the west coast of Ireland and are often thought to be the dwelling of somebody important, of course they have got no idea.
Within sight of the Stone Fort we found the ruins of a castle dated about 1200AD, situated in a sheltered part of the Cove, it would have certainly looked grand when it was first built!
We wanted to go to a couple other locations, but they were for cars only so we ended up in the town of Kenmare which was open and doing a roaring business, I guess with lots of tourists. Beautiful little town with quaint little shops all brightly painted, of course the car park had a height restriction, but being a Sunday we are able to park outside the car park and were able to spend money, that during the week would have stayed in our pocket as we drove on.
As we left Kenmare we discovered we were on another drive called the Beara Ring that took us round the Beara Peninsula. After about 15 km we found a motor camp and decided that was sufficient driving for us for the day.
Monday, July 11
We left the campground and carried on round Beara Ring hoping to get good scenic views, what we got was a tree/bush-lined road with us travelling through a green tunnel most of the way, of course it was a narrow road, of course when we saw the landscape it consisted mainly of rock with little bits of grass growing here and there.
We headed on around Bantry Bay until we reached the town of Bantry where we stopped briefly to look at Bantry house a Georgian stately home with impressive gardens and wonderful bay views.
There is then on the road at onto the Mizen head Peninsula Ireland's most South-Westerly point and then we were able to see the 52 m suspension Bridge that links the outcropping of rock to the mainland and access to the Mizen head signal station. There's also an exhibition on the history and the building of a Fastnet Rock Lighthouse which has about 9 km away on the Fastnet Rock.
There was also a description of Ireland's geographical history over the last 600 million years and how the sediment turned to rock, how the plate movement created upheavals, and Hart Island became the shape it is today and why there is so much rock!
Then a beautiful large car park so we decided to stay there for the night.
Tuesday, July 12
Is back on the long drive from the Peninsula, through the winding roads, the villages, the new housing developments with houses that all look the same, you certainly would not want to come home drunk as finding which one of the 50 houses that look the same as yours would be probably enough to keep you sober! I can just imagine the conversation, now was this house 3 row 5 or house 5 row 3?
We stopped briefly at Courtmacsherry to have a look at the Timoleague Abbey was founded in the 13th century and ransacked by the English in the 17th century.
On these narrow Irish roads will always slow down and pull over as far as we can to the left when we see a van or car coming towards us, unfortunately they do not always do the same and today a van sped past us at high speed, is mirror striking our mirror, fortunately our mirror had a lot of duct tape all around it holding it together from the three other collisions we have had with it, hopefully he learned his lesson, as his mirror was totally smashed and I was just required a couple of more pieces of tape!
We moved onto the beautiful little town of Kinsale where we want to stop and wander through the streets, but being a beautiful fine day, one with clear blue skies and warm sunshine, the first with had for many days, the little village was packed, with no parking to be found anywhere so we just had to drive on.
The next spot we want to visit was the island town of Cobh, but when we arrived at the ferry and saw that we would probably lose most of our overhang at the rear if we went onto the ferry we decided that there was another way to visit the island and that was afterward been to Cork so again we are on our way.
The next spot on our tour is Blarney Castle, but to get there we had to drive through Cork city and I think the GPS deliberately found the most complex way but eventually we ended up at the castle, Luda went off to kiss the Blarney Stone, some say that I already had so I was not going to go anywhere near that piece of unhygienic rock, and that was Ludas decision once she had a look at the people lined up to go through the ritual. It was a nice large parking area, perfect for the night!
Wednesday, July 13
We left the Blarney Castle car park and headed towards the island town of Cobh, unfortunately the GPS had another address in it as we left and 3 km later we asked it for the correct destination, and gave us the correct destination, but to the jolly car ferry again, so we turned around, then in a destination beyond where we wanted, that took us in the right direction, and when we were getting close replaced it with Cobh and finally we got there, than a parking place outside the big cathedral that was built in the 19th century with lots of donations from America and Australia.
I let Luda walk-through the village which was at the bottom of a really steep hill, she made it back to the motor home safely with the photographs she wanted and then we moved on to the next destination of Ballycotton a little fishing village at the end of the Peninsula with a lighthouse on a small island a couple hundred metres out from the shore.
It was then on towards Ardmore (another name that stolen from New Zealand) a pleasant little village right on the ocean and again with a fine day and lots of sunshine no parking available anywhere near the village and lots of white skinned people of all shapes and sizes crammed together on the beach. Again there was a ruined church with the place of refuge remaining in good condition a tall (30m) round Tower where the monks hid, taking their valuable possessions with them during Viking raids etc.
On the road again towards Waterford and a little seaside town called Dungarvan, there we found a nice car park, right on the estuary, so again were ready for the night!
Thursday, July 14
This morning we set off towards the city of Cashel, or that's what we try to do, programming that city into the GPS, we found we had 50 km to go, and at this stage of being 10 km from our destination we tried again, and found it was another 50 km away for our trouble, but we got there, found the car park, and went from walk to look at the fourth century castle called Rock of Cashel, another building whose demise can be laid at the feet of Cromwell's army in the 17th century. It is quite a tourist destination and they show a film about the castle in many different languages, of course you have to wait until it is your turn with your language.
From there we drove to Kilkenny, another castle town, but this time the castle was in the centre of the town, with no parking, well no parking we could find, so we did a photograph of the castle from the bridge as we drove past and tried to get out of the town. We stopped and reprogrammed the GPS to take us back to the sea and found we had to go back through the city to get where we were going, so we had a second look at the city and its parking problem, and it's narrow roads.
We found ourselves on a new motorway called the M9 and that took us right through to Waterford at a high speed, which was quite a change from the narrow roads and the slower speeds.
Our destination was Dunmore East, a village known for its thatched roofed houses, and after today with us for its no parking, or I should say no parking available. So we drove on round the Peninsula towards Tramore and when we saw a sign pointing towards the beach and fishing at Tramore Bay we took the 2 km drive to the beach, a large parking area which will do us for the night.
Friday, July 15
This morning we set off back to Dunmore East, this time there was almost nobody parking anywhere so we got photographs of part of the village, the other half we didn't know about until we were leaving, but that's life.
We then programmed the GPS for Kilmore Quay and then as we passed a sign to the ferry, and realised the Garmin did not warn us about ferry crossings, so we pulled out the tom-tom, yes there was a ferry crossing, so was another 30 km to get to our destination going through Waterford.
It was a delightful little fishing village, and we found a good location to spend the night, but it was too early to stop, so we drove on to Lady's Island Lake, a salt water lake that is closed off from the sea and is the home of a lot of wildlife. It is also the home for more height restriction barriers that we have seen for a long time, everything is restricted to vehicles under 2 m high so that is why tonight we are in a campground, getting our batteries recharged and freshwater.
We are still seeing lots of new houses, and a lot of the houses are tremendously big in size, and this is not in what I would call a richer area but just in the countryside. It almost appears as if the whole island has been watching the English show “ A Move to the Country " as that's where we are seeing a lot of the new houses in what I would call the real countryside.
We left the motorcamp and drove a roundabout way to Wexford city, passing through that quickly on our way to Blackwater and then on to Riverchapel before heading inland towards Laragh and (Glendalough) the location of a peaked Tower and an old monastery beside a beautiful lake with a walking track all the way around.
As within driving today we have seen very few new houses the majority seem to have been built on the West Coast of this country and I'd say we saw much less than 10% of the houses being new today.
We carried on the back road towards Dublin and finally we been able to go over a mountain pass in this country that hasn't been hazardous for motor homes, as past called Sallygap is that the magnificent height of 440 m with a beautiful waterfall as you start climbing over the gap, though it is just as well we were not driving a horse pulled caravan as there was a notice saying that this road was unsuitable.
We entered a part, going through this gap, where there had been some forestry logging and we found a medium-size parking spot which were pulled into for the night. Incidentally we are at 410 m elevation and a little bit over 30 km from Dublin.
Sunday, July 17
We carried on over to the hills and moors winding our way across the bleak countryside, in the rain, driving over an elevation of 526 m before going down to the plains just on the outskirts of Dublin. It is quite interesting that they've got such a large expanse of bleak there is a bit landscape so close to the largest city, we see a few sheep grazing but quite frankly I don't think the land is much good for anything else.
An interesting comment, In New Zealand the roadkill that we see on the roads are basically possums and rabbits, in Ireland it is Fox's!
Today we took a drive through the Valley of the Kings, no not the Egyptian series but the Irish! We went to the Hill of Tara, a site of mythical importance, with lots of tourists visiting, who is the centre of Celtic Ireland the seat of the high Kings until the 11th century until the spread of Christianity which eroded importance of Tara.
We then passed through Trim an interesting little market town on the location of the 12th century Trim Castle which evidently was used as a backdrop for Mel Gibson's film Braveheart.
It was then on to Kells which was a Christian settlement from the earliest years in Ireland and is famous for the book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript produced by the monks of Kells monastery.
Was it then on to the Battle of the Boyne site, the site of the Battle that created all the problems in the last 400 years of Irish history.
We visited the first Cistercian Mellifont Abbey, has founded in the 12th century and introduced the formal style of architecture used in Europe and Mellifont became a model for other Cistercian centres in Ireland. It had a nice large car park so we reserved ourselves a place for the night.
Monday, July 18
We left the Abbey and drove a few kilometres to the fifth century ruins of a mediaeval monastery in a soup to did spot north of Drogheda, it is quite an interesting site with a round tower in the West High cross and a lot of holy inscriptions.
From here we headed north to get out of the country that Luda had no visa to enter, in fact it is a rather ridiculous situation, last year we tried to get her a visa and was going to take at least four weeks, this year we tried again with a little bit more time, and again we ran out of time, so then we thought we'd try in London, they said no because they needed to check out all the information and our bank accounts and they could not do that from London. So we came to Northern Ireland with out a visa for the South for Luda, and then we found there were no manned border crossings, and of course when you apply a little bit of logic no government in the world could afford to place manned border crossings and all of the locations you would need. So I'm not sure why they made it harder to get a visa then the Americans or the Brits, or for that matter the Schengen visa which now get you into about 22 countries. Perhaps it is an Irish joke, and the joke was on us.
Touching on the houses again, compared to New Zealand houses, their very large and very substantial, usually made out of brick or stone, and usually with perhaps a slate roof. It is very obvious why when people come to New Zealand and see our houses they think of them as being flimsy, but as we all know and Christchurch, these substantial houses that I've been seeing, would be just a pile of rubble after one of our earthquakes, so perhaps the New Zealand houses are not as flimsy after all.
Our first town across the border was Newry, at that point we started seeing English flags flying everywhere throughout the village, across the streets, attached to street lamps and power poles, it made you very much aware that these people were part of Great Britain, and probably more important to them, Protestants. Then we come to villages that had no flags flying so we assume that we had reached a Catholic area. We were told this flag flying is to do with the marching season around 11 July when the Orange Lodge parades right through any area they wished to march.
All this is a result of William of Orange winning the Battle of the Boyne, and then dispossessing the Catholic land owners, bringing in English Protestant landowners to farm and to run businesses and in doing all this probably knocking over any church they felt like knocking over, and after 300 years of this is probably no wonder Southern Ireland feels the way they do about England.
Wandering through Ireland one can't help noticing some enormous large houses, built by the English, with lots of land around them and usually a beautiful stone fence 2 m high running all round the property, that alone would take ages to build, and magnificent large trees right throughout the property and of course the gate that is the entrance to the property is absolutely magnificent and one can't help but wonder what Ireland would have been like today if the British never set foot on their soil!
And from there we drove on north to Bangor, we wanted to visit a folk Museum a little bit north of that city, but was closed Mondays, and know we were not allowed to use the car park to overnight to go tomorrow. So we drove about 20 km out towards the sea and ended up close to Ballywalter were we found a car park with a height restriction open so here we are between a busy road and the sea.