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Ireland

Part One

Thursday, July 27, 2017, Dublin

First nighttime in a week

ASS had us in its treacherous grip once again. Yes, Julia and I fell victim to this dreaded ailment: Arrival Shock Syndrome (ASS). We landed in the wee small hours of the morning and departed our dreaded and delayed, WOW flight from hell. We left the airport in the dead of night, which we hadn't experienced for over a week. Drove our rental car on the left-hand side of the road. Went around traffic circles in a counter-clockwise direction. All under the direction of a wayward GPS, which kept dropping its connection and got us lost in the rabbit-warren that is the complex one-way streets of Dublin.

We were glad to arrive alive at our sweltering hot hotel, and soon fell into a comatose sleep in the wonderful dark of nighttime.

Up later that morning we decided to switch hotels and took our rental car onto the complicated streets of Dublin again. Once more we pitted our wayward GPS and nerves against the labyrinth of Dublin's streets and, this time, its early morning traffic. We made it intact to our new hotel relieved that we could now walk, rather than drive to any place we desired in the next few days.

The River Liffey

Dublin is a party city. It reminds me very much of Prague in the Czech Republic. It doesn't have the same architecture as Prague, but it sure has the same throng of tourists and their accompanying urge for revelry.

In amongst the sightseers, as they dart and dodge city traffic moving in every direction all at once, is the peaceful and serene Trinity College. The college was founded in 1592 as the "mother" of a new university. It was modelled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and Cambridge, but unlike these only one college was ever established. It is Ireland's oldest university.

Trinity College

Dublin castle was our next stop. This impressive structure was, until 1922, the seat of the United Kingdom government's administration in Ireland. It is now a major Irish government complex. Most of it dates from the 18th century, though a castle has stood on the site since the days of King John, the first English Lord of Ireland. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, the complex was ceremonially handed over to the newly formed Provisional Government led by Michael Collins.

We wish Robyn well

Dodging the constant rain showers, we visited the Dublin Writers Museum to stay dry. But, the weather was worth enduring as this museum is worthy. It was opened in November 1991 at No 18, Parnell Square, Dublin, Ireland. The museum occupies an original 18th century house, which accommodates the museum rooms, library, gallery, and administration area. It pulls together the strands of all Irish literature and complements the smaller, more detailed museums devoted to individuals like James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats and Patrick Pearse. It is a place where people can come to experience the phenomenon of Irish writing. The audio tour is one of the best I've experienced.

That evening we went to Robyn Richardson's recital at St. Ann's Church. The singing was wonderful, the piano was melodic, and the whole event was warm and inviting. We wish Robyn well as she goes to England to further her studies in opera singing.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Christ Church Cathedral

Today took us to the Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. This was a typical Cathedral experience, huge pipe organ, lots of gold and wood, and the normal religious stories depicted in every art form possible. The most interesting part, by far, of this Cathedral are its ancient catacombs.

Next on our tour was the Guinness Storehouse, the home factory for this delicious brew. At first thought a visit to the Guinness Storehouse does not seem that interesting, but in fact our visit their turned out to be great fun. The only way to explain the place is to think of Disneyland merged with an Irish pub. It's very odd, but the cold creamy Guinness we drank at the end smoothed out all the oddities.

Disney-Guinness

We return to our hotel beat from a long day of walking and sightseeing. The Spire of Dublin reliably guided us back to our hotel on every one of our excursions. The Spire, alternatively titled the Monument of Light, is a large, stainless steel, pin-like monument 120 meters (390 feet) in height, so it's hard to miss. It's located on the site of the former Nelson's Pillar on O'Connell Street in Dublin, Ireland.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Tyrrellspass Castle

We left Dublin behind and headed westward toward Galway. A long our route we encountered many castles and tower houses. The first of these impressive stone fortresses was Tyrrellspass Castle, next was Athlone Castle, and finally Athenry Castle.

We arrived at Galway exhausted, but impressed by the very green countryside and the many castles we'd seen.

Sunday, July 30, 2017, Galway

Cong

In the deep dark countryside of Galway lives Cong! No, not King Kong, but Cong the very cute and well preserved medieval village. Cong does have something in common, other than the sound of its name, with King Kong. They both have a connection to Hollywood movies. The village of Cong was the location for the John Ford film: The Quiet Man. It is a 1952 romantic-comedy drama film starring John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond and Victor McLaglen. We ate a great lunch in Cong and walked the well treed river walk. We never once saw an oversized gorilla.

Killary Fjord

Killary Fjord, near the very tiny hamlet of Leenaun, was our next stop on this day of visiting the remote countryside of Galway. Killary Fjord is the only fjord in Ireland. Just having arrived here from Iceland the place looked very familiar to us. Very remote, stark, and beautiful.

As we kept moving westward our next stop was the extremely remote Kylemore Abby. It is a Benedictine nunnery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The abbey was founded for Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium in World War I.

Kylemore Castle

Kylemore Castle was built as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from London whose family was involved in textile manufacturing in Manchester, England. He moved to Ireland when he and his wife Margaret purchased the land around the now Abbey site. There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room, and various offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper and other servants. Other buildings include a Gothic cathedral and family mausoleum containing the bodies of Margaret Henry, Mitchell Henry and a great grand-nephew.

Kylemore Abby Victorian Walled Garden

The most impressive part of Kylemore Abby today is its Victorian Walled Garden. This garden is well maintained and was in full bloom when we walked its grassy green paths.

We return to Galway via the impressive Twelve Pins. The Twelve Pins, or Twelve Bens, is a mountain range of sharp-peaked quartzite ranges, located northeast of Roundstone in Connemara in the west of Ireland.

The Twelve Pins

It turns out that one of the pastimes of dedicated fell runners is to attempt to hike all twelve peaks in a single day. Given how massive these granite peaks are, that's an impressive task.

The highest point in the Twelve Bens is Benbaun at 729 meters (2,392 feet). They provide excellent walking and climbing opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts like Julia and I. But, we had both run out of steam this time. Perhaps we'll come back to this marvelous place one day and tackle these beauties.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Gorumna Island

I asked an Irish friend back in the USA what would be a good time of year to visit Ireland. He said, “Any time really, it's always bloody raining there.” He was not wrong. It is mid-summer here and it rains on and off constantly. It's not cold, when the wind's not blowing, but it sure is wet.

We did not let the chance of getting wet stop us from hiking on Gorumna Island. This is one in a chain of many islands located west of Galway. The granite strewn, treeless, boggy countryside is set against the vast cold Atlantic Ocean. It doesn't sound attractive, but believe me it was spectacular.

On our way back to our car we were adopted by a car chasing dog. He had an insatiable habit of stalking and then chasing any and every car that went by. This is a habit that I'm sure will shorten his time on Earth. But, then we all have our problems.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Dunguaire Castle

We left Galway today and arrived first thing at Dunguaire Castle. This impressive 16th century tower house sits on the southeastern shore of Galway Bay in County Galway, Ireland, near Kinvara. Its name derives from the Dun of King Guaire, the legendary king of Connacht. The castle's 75-foot (23 meter) tower and its defensive wall have been restored, and the grounds are open to tourists during the summer.

Ballyvaughan in Clare

Next on our journey through this emerald isle was to eat lunch. There is no better place in the world to eat your cheese sandwich than at the seaside in Ballyvaughan in Clare. The sun peeked out from behind its on again off again stormy skies to lift our sprits and turn the Atlantic Ocean blue.

We followed the beach road with the ocean to our right and granite covered hills to our left for miles and miles. Drawn by a lovely sandy beach we stopped and watched the hardy Irish surfers in the frosty waters.

Cliffs of Moher

Just before our day ended we visited the glorious Cliffs of Moher. The place was overflowing with tourists, but it was worth battling the throng to experience this wonderful place.


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