The date is August 2000 and you are awake far too early and walking down Spencer rd, Acton…
The plan was to walk to the minicab at Crown St and get a 5 min cab ride to Northfields Tube to catch the first tube to Heathrow for our 6.50 flight. This would have worked fine, unfortunately there were no minicabs available at 5am. We walked to Acton Town to find there were none there either. We ended up catching the 5.30 tube from Acton Town and everything worked out ok.
After the brief 1 hr flight we picked up our car (unfortunately an Opel Corsa rather than a Peugeot) and somehow found our way to our B&B at Clontarf. It was as I was attempting a u-turn on the busy road outside our B&B that I discovered I couldn’t put the car in reverse. It took much cursing before I discovered you have to pull up a little lever on the stick.
We dropped our bags off before heading into the city.
My first impressions of Dublin weren’t that great, and they didn’t improve much. We searched in vain for somewhere nice to have a snack and settled for a very poor danish. We were both a bit fed up and Kathryn was delighted when I said I wanted to go to Trinity College to see a book. Unfortunately this is what everyone in Dublin goes to see. I am referring to the Book of Kells which is over 1000 years old and is filled with beautiful illuminations. The book itself is stunning, it’s just that it was in a case in the centre of a small room and when lots of people are peering at it you can guess how much you can see. The book is housed in the Old Library. Upstairs is the Long Room. This is how I always envisioned my library would look. It is 65 metres long and two stories high. It holds about 200,000 of the library’s oldest volumes. Row after row of books stretch the length of this awesome hall. It was almost worth the £4.50 just for that. Kath was thrilled.
We went to Dublin Castle – which isn’t really a castle – but after looking at its faintly ugly Royal Chapel, decided not to pay to see the rest. We walked to Christchurch Cathedral, which was ok. But after the likes of Bath, Salisbury and Venice it takes a lot to impress me. We decided to get out of Dublin and head for the hills.
We decided this at about 12pm. We bought sandwiches to take and then headed off in the direction I thought was South(ish). We were aiming for Glendalough, supposedly an hour’s drive in County Wicklow. However, due to a combination of me not having an adequate Dublin map and the fact that there are no signposts in Dublin, it was several hours before we left the main urban centre and began climbing into the Wicklow Mountains.
The scenery was beautiful and the stormy sky added drama. We finally arrived in Glendalough at about 5pm, cunningly missing the tourist buses.
Glendalough is an ancient monastic settlement sitting beside 2 lakes. The scenery is lovely and the buildings themselves, very interesting. By the lower lake is a 33m tall round tower dating from the 10th Century. There are remains of the Cathedral of SS Peter & Paul and some other remains but the best building (& the most intact) is St Kevin’s Church or Kitchen. No-one knows why it is called a Kitchen. It has a steep stone roof and a little tower-like belfry sticking out of one end. It was used as a church until 1850.
We took the less scenic but far quicker route back to Howth – a little town on the northern end of Dublin Bay – where we had fish & chips as the setting sun painted the clouds beautiful colours.
Today we drove across the country to Galway. On the way we stopped at Clonmacnoise. To get there we passed the Bog of Allen, supposedly Ireland’s best-known bog.
Clonmacnoise is a monastic site situated on a hill overlooking the River Shannon. It is a beautiful location with the remains of a 12th Century cathedral, a number of small temples and one of those round towers no monastic site would be complete without.
We arrived in Galway about midday and found our B&B at Salthill which turned out to be much better than the one in Dublin. After a stop in the good tourist information centre on the beach front we headed for the airstrip to fly to the Aran Islands. Unfortunately there were no seats available and after driving to the ferry terminal, discovered we wouldn’t be visiting the islands that day. On the way back to town we bought a bodhran and bought our food for the rest of the trip.
This morning we had a nice change from the usual fry-up. We chose pancakes with maple syrup, before driving out to the Connemara airfield. We boarded our little plane for the short trip to the largest of the Aran Islands: Inishmor. A minibus took us up the road into the town of Kilronan. We hired a couple of bikes and headed up the road to Dun Aengus. This is a large stone fort on the edge of a sheer cliff. It is about 4000 years old and is very impressive. The ride back was easier than the ride up and half an hour later we were in the sweater shop buying authentic Aran knitwear. Our few hours on the island were over far too soon and before we knew it we were on our way back to the mainland, after a stop at the smaller island of Inisheer.
It took about 2.5 hours to reach the spectacular Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare. We watched as a rainstorm moved quickly towards us from out at sea.
After crossing the mouth of the Shannon by car ferry we drove into Tralee at about 7.45. Our B&B turned out to be another good choice with a big room, ensuite and TV.
The fire alarm has just gone off. We are staying in the Ballintaggart Hostel; a new experience for us. It is a huge old house on top of a hill just outside of the lovely little town of Dingle. The hippie Aussie in charge has assured us that there is no danger.
Today we toured the Dingle Peninsula. We drove along the Slea Head Drive and visited ancient forts and religious sites. To get to Dingle we drove through the Sliene Mish Mountains from Tralee, through the spectacular Connor Pass. The views were superb, as was the scenery on the Dingle Peninsula. We saw amazing ‘beehive’ huts that are totally waterproof yet made only from dry-stone. But for pure perfection the Gallarus Oratory was the best. It is 1300 years old and hasn’t been rebuilt in any way. Unfortunately we arrived at the same time as a bus load of noisy Americans, but they left soon after they arrived.
After a car picnic at the 12th-century Kilmalkedar Church we decided to head back into town as we hadn’t had much of a chance to by some tourist crap. Unfortunately this was crappier than usual so we only got a few postcards.
Before returning to the hostel we thought we would check out 15th-century Castle Minard I had spotted on the map. This took some finding as it was not very well signposted. The main reason for this is that it is not that interesting. You can’t even walk around the ruins as they are unsafe.
After paying for our room we had a meal at a pub in Dingle called Geany’s. I had a beef and Guinness pie (which I don’t think was better than the Brecknock) and a Guinness (which I think was).
Kathryn’s public toilet experience at galway (by kathryn)
Following our blustery evening meal on the seafront at Salthill I decided to pay the exorbitant price of 10p for the priviledge of using a seafront public toilet. This toilet was unlike any I had seen. After inserting the coinage the green ‘vacant’ light went off and the red ‘occupied’ light winked on as the door slid open, star trek style. Once inside I was greeted with an amazing array of flashing lights and buttons: ‘open door’, ‘close door’, ‘press for paper’ an alarmingly titled ‘SOS’ button and another large one with an orange light which read ‘if toilet is still occupied after 2 mins door will slide open regardless of whatever state of release you may be in’ or something to that effect. I was in and out of that toilet in about 30 seconds as I didn’t relish the prospect of having my toileting techniques showcased for the residents of Salthill.
Today we drove accross the country. We left the hostel early and made our first stop in the town of Mallow for breakfast at McDonalds. After such a nutritous meal we drove on the Cahir. They have a castle here which we had a look around. It is well preserved but not quite as interesting as the Welsh castles.
Next stop was the Rock of Cashel. On a large hill at the edge of town is a huge ruin. It is the remains of a large abbey, a round tower and an interesting little chapel. It is very impressive.
We stopped in Dublin to have something to eat before getting to the airport at about 7pm. This gave us plenty of time to browse the souvineer shop before boarding.