IRELAND   Aug 1-17, 2014                      (pictures will be added later)

Aug 1
Joseph drove us to the SB airport where we boarded a USAir flight to Phoenix. Then Phoenix to Philadelphia, then Philadelphia to Shannon. All connections went well and the flights were smooth.

We arrived in Shannon at 8:15 am In Aug 2.

Aug 2
Our bags arrived pretty .quickly and picking up the Enterprise car was a delight. 'Neeve " checked us in then walked us to the car and explained all the levers, etc. she gave us her card with the admonition to call her if anything needed attention, then off- on the left side of the road- towards the north in sunshine but with plenty of clouds on the horizon.

We passed through Shannon and by Ennis and Galway on the motorway, a smooth four lane divided highway. It turned into a smaller road with two-way traffic and stone walls on either side of the road (a “N” road) and we meandered north until we turned west onto a “R” road and and followed it through small towns and fields to Castlebar. Arriving at the Rocksberry B&B at about 12:30 (a two hour drive through sporadic rain showers) we fund no one at home so we drove into Castlebury, parked, and had lunch in a cute place called "the Pantry.

Returning to the B&B we checked in with John, the proprietor (although he says his wife is "the boss") and took a 90 min nap- we had been up for nearly 24 hours. Upon awakening we dressed and went for a walk along a lane through the nearby fields. Then into Castlebar to a restaurant recommended by John for an early meal. We were so tired that we nearly fell asleep at the table.  Back to the B&B and an attempt to say awake for a while longer.. then to sleep.

Aug 3
The evening before we had filled out a breakfast order form so at nine we sat in the dining room and enjoyed our first meal. It was raining out so we decided to do an inside activity- go to the National Museum of Ireland on Country Life. It’s located in Turlough just outside Castlebar, a ten minute drive.

During the rain the day before one of the car’s windshield wipers was not 'doing its job' so when the car rental company sent an e-mail as a follow-up Jon replied telling them about the wiper blade. They replied that we should have it fixed, since they did not have a garage in the area, and they would reimburse the cost. Since it is Sunday we will have it done tomorrow.

Although we watched the rain all through breakfast as we were leaving the B&B the skies lightened and we spent the rest of the day in just intermittent showers. We drove the 8km.  Across town to the museum and found to our delight a midieval some tower and church ruin on the hill next to the museum. It is the remains of a Cathloic church that was built on the site of a small church attributed to St. Patrick and is surrounded by a still-active graveyard full of Celtic cross gravestones. We found a middle -aged man inside with his rosary beads. After walking through the ruin and the cemetery in a light rain we drove down the hill and to the museum.

The museum consists of an 18th century "Big House" and its grounds, on which a modern museum building stands. After driving up a beautiful, curving, narrow two- way road into the car park we walked some of the grounds looking at the meticulous gardens. Then to the museum only to find that it did not open for another 2 1/2 hours so we walked around the grounds visiting a small thatched hut that was a 'teaching hut that showed how such buildings were constructed), drove into the very small town of Turlough ( two blocks long) and then returned to the museum in time to have a spot of tea and cake- the museum shop and restaurant opened before the museum itself. There was a tent with Co. Mayo craftspeople showing their wares and we spent time looking and talking with the artists- one was from Colombia (Victoria) and another from a small town near Albany, NY!

We enjoyed a bowl of soup and Irish brown bread. Before entering the museum. It is a modern building that presents the traditions and way of life throughout Ireland from 1850-1950 and is the home of the National Folklife Collection. Everything is signed in both Irish (which is the national language- it’s a form of Gaelic- and in English) and there are four floors of exhibits. After leaving the museum we stopped into the Big House which was owned by the Fitzgerald family. The remains of the original medieval house (1722) was still visible near the front entrance and it turned out the nearby destroyed church we had visited held the burial crypt of the family.

Then to the B&B for a nap before going into Castlebar for dinner. We went back into the old town area of Castlebar and Decided to have  a Chinese meal. The food was good (except that it contained MSG)and we chatted with the waitress and the owner/chef.

Aug 4th

After breakfast we drove into Westport, a tourist town right in the coast 18 km from the B&B. We arrived at about 10:30 am and the city was just starting to awaken- it seems that this Monday was a "bank holiday" so many stores as well as banks and government buildings were closed.  We walked some of the streets watching people and window shopping. We moved the car to the Quay area of town by the waterfront. It's a pretty place that is still being developed. We passed by a crafts store and it was the one Victoria was part of. She was just outside opening up the store. She shsowed us around the store and told about all of the member artists. It was lunchtime and she suggested a restaurant in one of the hotels and gave us a discount card to use. The lunch was delicious and, at 12 noon we were the first customers.

After lunch Victoria suggested a walk through a park to one of big houses-Westport House. We walked along a road into a park when, suddenly, our cell phone rand- it was Ed Goosmann in Albany who wanted to give us some news- the last thing we expected to happen. When we reached the middle of the park there were people everywhere because it was also an Adventure Park for kids and adults (paintball). So we walked back into the Quay and drove north along the coastal route - narrow road with NO shoulders. We drove as far as Mulrany where we stopped to look at the sea. Talked with a charming woman in the local Tourist Shop (who is visiting her hometown, she currently lives in Manhattan!) who directed us to a small coffee shop where we enjoyed a chat with the owners over tea and scones.

Then a return trip as far as Newport where we took a back road as a shortcut to Castlebar.  An hour's nap at the B&B and into town for dinner. Because this Monday was a Bank Holiday the restaurants we had located on Yelp were closed or not serving food and we ended up at a very busy Italian restaurant. Back to the B&B to get ready to leave tomorrow morning.

Aug 5

We had decided to drive the Atlantic Coast as we headed south towards Bunratty. After leaving the B&B we stopped briefly at a VW dealer and purchased thenew windshield wipers. We drove back into Westport and south along the coast with beautiful views of the coastline, sea and islands. We drove down to one of the beaches and walked for a while picking up shells and enjoying the nice day. As we returned to the car it began to sprinkle- the weather in Ireland can change so quickly.

The road was alternating from comfortably narrow to uncomfortably small. There were places where two cars meeting (not to mention the lorries and tour busses!) had to slow to nearly a crawl and pass with the outer wheels in the grass, barely missing the stone walls. The landscape was very picturesque with houses and farms, often with horses, cows or sheep in the front yard. Acres and acres of green land segmented by stone walls.

We stopped in Louisburgh to visit the Granuaile & Famine Exhibition Centre, a museum located in the town's library. It tells the story of Grace O'Mally- the pirate queen who controlled the area around Clew Bay in the 1700's. The museum also told the story of the great potato famine of the mid to late 1800's and its impact on this northern region. We enjoyed fish & chips at a local pub/restaurant.

'Moving on down the road' and following the signs pointing out the coastal scenic drive we stopped for tea and a piece of cake in a small town. While chatting with one of the locals he mentioned that the road up ahead was blocked by a  lorry that had crashed and suggested that, since we were heading towards Galway, we should use a back road- so we did. It turned out to be a picturesque drive through the middle of the peninsula with small farms, rolling hills, craggy mountains, lots and lots of lakes. It also was the way that people walked during the famine years to try to reach a harbor where rumor aid food was being brought in… many, many dying on route. We also drove through large areas of peat and we could see where the ground had been dug out over the many years with people harvesting the peat for home use.

We came out of the mountains and into Galway just at rush hour, so we sat in traffic for quite a while before getting onto the motorway. We followed the motorway past Shannon, getting off at Bunratty. Following the road through the town we stopped to ask where the B&B was located and received directions to the "low road" where we found Ashgrove House. Checking in we met Sheila, unloaded the car and drove back into Bunratty to The Creamery for a light dinner.

Aug 6

At breakfast we met several of our tour mates who, also, had arrived early. We drove north up the motorway towards Galway turning towards the coast just before reaching the city. The roads were narrow, twisting, turning and zig-zagging. There were many times we had to drive so the outside wheels were on the pavement edge so a lorry or a coach could pass. We stopped to visit Dunguaire Castle which dates from 1520 and was inhabited by various families until the mid-1950's when it became part of the Republic of Ireland's trust properties, so it is in excellent shape. The fort gets its name from Guaire, a 7th century King of Connaught whose earthworks are located nearby.

Continuing south along the Wild Atlantic Way we detoured into The Burren, a protected area of the peninsula. Remarkable mountains of limestone, here and there dotted with fields where the rocks had been removed and made into stone walls. Stone walls everywhere in Ireland, and here they even ran across the barren slopes of the mountains. The rocks were worn by wind and weather and, in some places, presented unusual shapes. And the views out over the bays, ocean and coastal farmlands was spectacular. We came across a chocolatier so we stopped, looked around and purchased a bar of delicious chocolate with raspberries. While driving towards the ocean we pulled into a dirt road, parked and went walking for 30 minutes or so.

Once back down on the coast road we stopped in a town and had lunch at a "deli." We then continued driving towards The Cliffs of Moher. Lots of cars and coaches in the parking lots. The visitor's center and several shops were built into the side of the hill and paved pathways allowed us to walk along the cliff top looking out into the sea and down at the cliffs and the waves. Spectacular.

We spent several hours on the cliffs before driving back through Ennis, onto the motorway and back to Bunratty. Dinner at one of the local restaurants (very nice) and while eating Linda commented on how nice the stainless steel water pitcher was. So we asked and the maitre'd told us it was from a supply company in Limerick. Since we plan to be there tomorrow he gave us instructions on how to find the office... hopefully we will be able to find it and buy a couple.

Aug 7

A leisurely breakfast waiting for Howie and Pat to arrive. They showed up at about 10 and decided to join us in a drive to Chashel to visit the Rock of Cashel. We stopped in Limerick- a bustling city- and found the restaurant supply store that was recommended to us by the restaurant last night. Unfortunately, they no longer carried the water pitcher we wanted to purchase; the man in the store suggested to Linda that she go back to the restaurant with "a large handbag."  We found a Vodophone store so Pat and Howie could purchase a "sim card" for their phones that worked in Europe. It seems that, whenever they travel abroad, something happens with Pat's horses and she spends a lot of time. (and money) on overseas phone calls.

We then drove towards Tipparary on our way to Cashel stopping along the road to visit a tower ruin that we spotted. It was the gateway to a Lord's castle, so we were told by the farmer who has lived next to it for the past 50 years. Tipparary is a busy place. We enjoyed seeing the banners hung across the road saying "It's a Long Way to Tipparary Festival” and we stopped for lunch in a small, out-of-the-way bistro.

It's easy to see why The Rock of Cashel was chosen by the king as his seat of power. It is a high hill that dominates the surrounding area. The ruin is the remains of an abbey that was built on the castle ruins. Nearby is a smaller abbey (in ruins). This is one of the most historic sights of Ireland since it is believed that St. Patrick built the first church on this spot. It is an interesting ruin surrounded by a cemetery.

On our way back to Bunratty we were slowed due to a four day bicycle ride that was taking place. What with the narrowness of the road cars would pile up behind the clumps of riders. We must have seen, eventually, close to 100 bicyclists.

We arrived at the B&B in time to join the Irish Coffee meeting of the people who are going on the trip. Afterwards we carpooled into Bunratty to Gallagher's, a fish restaurant- partnered with J.P. Clark's where we were the night before.  A very nice dinner with the group-we spoke with the manager and told her the story of the water pitcher and offered to buy one from the restaurant. She listened and then said "take one with you" and refused payment. She said “think of Rita and Gallagher's when you use it.”

We packed up ready to head out after breakfast the next morning.

Aug 8

The coach arrived at about 9:30 and our luggage loaded in. Once everyone w aboard we were on our way. Driving through the outskirts of Limerick and the south towards Cork. We stopped in Adare, a small Irish village, for a group orientation.  Then on to Cork where we had lunch after wandering on our own-with Howie and Pat- in a pub, chicken noodle soup that was laced with curry with brown bread along with a half of Murphys, the local brew. We then wandered the streets and into the English Market one of the world's oldest municipal markets. We chatted with a young man in a park that was created in 1735.

Back to the bus and a drive west to Skibereen and the West Cork Hotel. We, by the luck of the draw, ended up on the fourth floor (walk up!) with a beautiful view out over the River Ilene. E enjoyed a three course, quite delicious dinner as a group, David sang a song as welcome, and then we retired to the bar where some local musicians were going to play. During dimmer we went into a hallway and called our grandson Josh (in Minnesota) to wish him a happy birthday-Pat happened to come by and joined the singing.

The Irish singers were very good (bacon & Cabbage). We enjoyed listening and singing along, except for the songs done in Irish (Gaelic). They invited us to come up and sing. But no one was moving so Jon went up and led the group in Gilgary Mountain. He was joined by Howie and another and that got it going. Several of the group are professional musicians so we were treated to all sorts of music. To bed after midnight.

Aug 9

After a breakout at the hotel we walked into the town a couple of blocks to the local farmers' market. Then to the Skibereen Heritage Center where the curator gave a talk about the potato famine of the mid 1800's and how it affected the Skibereen area. We then drove over to the old cemetery where the famine victims were buried in mass graves. It's a by touching place where we walked around, then David gathered the group in the remains of the old church and played his gear while we all sand Amazing Grace.

Next into the  coach and a ride to the town of Glandore where we had lunch before driving down very narrow roads (with one very close call) to the Drombeg Stone Circle of Neolithic origin.

Back To the hotel for some rest before heading out into the town for dinner. H & P. joined us and we went into the Church Rest., located in a church that had been burned down and converted into a nice restaurant. We found Alan and Sara (DC) there and joined them for a nice meal in beautiful surroundings. We thought to stop at The Corner Bar to hear some traditional music but arrived 20 min before it was to start, so to the hotel where we enjoyed a father and son who sang songs from English-speaking countries (Pat & Ricky Kelleher).

Aug 10

Into the bus at10 and we drove for two hours out to Mizen Head. It is the southwesterly most point in Ireland and there has been a lighthouse there since the 19th century. Absolutely amazing scenery- cliffs with waves breaking on them, promontories of rock wave washed, and a 200 degree expanse of ocean. The wind was blowing in gusts of 40 + mph. The lighthouse is located in the very end of the promontory and reachable by a concrete bridge over a magnificent rock cleft.

We drove to a seaside town, Crookhaven, a fishing village for lunch in a local pub. Afterwards we stopped at nearby Barley Cove Beach for a walk. Unfortunately Linda had taken a tumble on an uneven part of the walkway at Mizen Head and hurt her ankle. We had put ice on it after eating but she stayed with the us while the rest went over to the beach_ Jon stayed and played David's new graphite guitar; Howie did too when he came back. Back to the hotel where Linda rested her ankle (everyone in the group was concerned and offered help of one form or another) until dinner. Dinner in the hotel bar and then a private concert with a local musician, John Spillane- he was unusual with an almost deadpan delivery singing both very softly then with greater force. We packed our bags ready to travel into Co. Kerry the next morning.

Aug 11

We drove north out of Co. Cork passing into the mountains along a narrow road. Beautiful green everywhere. We stopped at Molly Gallivan's cottage and were given a guided tour of the building and farm by Steve, the owner. He was most entertaining and very knowledgeable. The farm is an original dating back to the early part of the 19th century and is located in the middle of a mountain pass. Molly was a "moonshiner" making ‘poteen’ and we were given a demonstration and tasting. Then lunch in Kenmare where we were rained upon.

We drove through the edge of Killarney National Park enjoying the lush scenery, coming out of the forest at the Lakes of Killarney and onto the Dingle Peninsula. We pulled in at Inch Beach and watched and listened to the waves breaking on the beach and rocks, a truly exhilarating sight. Then we drove through Dingle and on to the town of Ballyferriter where we settled into the Ostan Cean Sibhe'al Hotel. Very nice room in a hotel with an elevator to the second floor.

We enjoyed a group dinner (the hotels continue to have excellent chefs) before going into Dingle for a night of ' pub crawling' listening to local musicians.

Aug 12

The morning saw us headed to a nearby archaeological site, the Gallarus Oratory- an early Christian church built in the "beehive" style of 1000 year old buildings- the only one left extant in the country. Then on to the nearby Kilmkedar Church, one of the best preserved ruins of early Christian pilgrimage churches. There was a standing stone in the church that has early Irish writing and Roman writing leading scholars to believe that it may have been a teaching stone. In the cemetery surrounding the church was another standing stone carved with a sundial and a second standing stone. All in the midst of an Irish downpour! We drove to a sacred circle, a community where church and secular lived inside a stone enclosure. All of this was done with an archaeologist informing us of what we were seeing.

We then drove out along the Dingle Peninsula's Sea Head drive, one of Ireland's most scenic stretches, stopping for lunch and to look around the Blasket Island Heritage Center. Then back to the hotel where we had our second group dinner before a couple of local musicians gave us a concert (Pauline Scanlon & Donough Hennesey) of vocal music. Afterwards we went into Dingle where we visited the John Denny Moriarity pub and listened to Irish music.

Aug 13

Today is a lazy day with most of it to ourselves.  We took a short walk around the town (15 minutes including a stop in the local church) and caught the bus to Dingle- Paddy was making several scheduled runs between Ballyferriter and Dingle during the day. We walked about the town for a while and Linda some souvenir shopping while Jon rambled back alleys in the town.

We ate lunch in a beer garden and chatted with a couple of Scottish women, then back to Balleyferriter with Paddy.  At 4pm we again joined Paddy for a ride back to Dingle to O'Sullivan's Court House Pub where we were treated to a private concert by Tommy O'Sullivan, the guitarist we had seen the previous evening and Maty Grisson playing the banjo.

During the concert the performer turned his guitar over to Dave and he sang a song and then invited some of our group members to join him... Howie and Jon included... while everyone sang along. The Tommy took over this time with his wife Sandra joining in. We were sitting next to a family from Denmark who thoroughly enjoyed both Tommy's singing and our performances.

Afterwards we went into the high street to find a pub for dinner and, choosing one found the Danish family again. Excellent meal -pub food is really good - and as we were finishing we received a phone call from Eric and family on the road to the Black Hills. We attempted a Skype and actually made contact but only for a few minutes before it was lost.  Then back to meet the bus by the harbor and home.

Aug 14

Into the bus at 9:30 to begin our drive into Co. Clare. We rode north and. Crossed the River Shannon on the Tarbert Car Ferry. As we drove north we passed “Horney  … Last Erection”, and stopped at the Shrine of St. Brigitte's Holy Well where people come with representative articles of loved ones to pray for their health.

Lunch in Lahinch, a seaside town just by the Cliffs of Moher. Since we had been there the previous week we walked up the cliff path in the direction we did not take before. Still a most spectacular sight, with lots of wind.

Into nearby Doolin and settled in at the B&B before walking down the road to Mc'Dermotts Pub for dinner and music.

Aug 15

We loaded into the bus and Paddy drove us into The Burren, the unique limestone landscape that covers most of this peninsula. We stopped at Cassidy’s Public House (formerly the headquarters of the Irish Constabulary for the district) where we enjoyed a meal and then a lecture on the instruments used in Irish music by the chairperson of the Department of Music of The University of Dublin- really quite interesting. The scenery surrounding the pub was beautiful and we admired the rock walls and the giant fuscia that stood across the road (we saw the bush everywhere, and in full bloom- it was wonderful),

After lunch we drove through The Burren and stopped at a megalith, the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a roofed tomb 3000 years old. As we drove across the area we saw other megalithic sites from the bus- round forts, standing stones.. the Burren is populated by ancient burial places, stone forts, old churches and graveyards.

Reaching the coast we drove the spectacular Black Head Drive which hugs the coastline of Galway Bay and then the Atlantic Ocean, stopping at one point to walk across the barren rock towards the shore.

That evening we again walked to a local pub for dinner and music. As the music began we deiced to leave because the music was not quite to our taste, the banjo player had a tendency to bang on the strings with a ‘crash’ that was disturbing. We went back into the pub we frequented the previous night (just down the road) and enjoyed some more Irish tunes more to our liking. Because we left, we came to understand, we missed an unusual episode- Dave was invited to come up and perform a song, to much applause, during which the banjo player was heard to mumble (the mike was on) “feck you” and gave him the finger. A lot of fun was made within the group the next day, at his expense.


Aug 16

Today we went to one of the Aran Islands, three inhabited islands (barely!) just off the mainland. We loaded onto a ferry in Doolin to Inisheer, the nearest of the islands. It was a wild and wooly ride, with people hanging onto whatever one could find. Upon reaching the island we were put into horse-drawn carts and given a tour of part of the island. It was really fun, some of us has to get out whenever we reached a steeper part of a hill so the horse would not be overburdened. Many small stone wall lined plots of land and a beached and rusting freighter washed up by storms. All the while our carriaige drive was relating stories of the island and the people. The walls were of a different kind of construction, created in such a way that the wind could blow through the holes so the wall would not be blown over!

Lunch at one of the local pubs and then back to Doolin with the Cliffs of Moher in the distance. When we reached the Doolin harbor the tide had dropped and the ferry could not pull alongside the pier so everyone was loaded into small boats, over the side and down a couple of steps, for a ride to the pier- another wild and woolly experience, but fun.

We had a group dinner that evening in a local hotel while a young woman played the Ullean Pipes for us. She is 20 years of age and an acknowledged ‘master’ if the instrument. She was going to the All-Ireland Festival the next day to compete.. she came in second, beaten by her teacher. After dinner we retired to a small room in the hotel to say our goodbyes and talk about the trip. We talked but then we began singing… the hotel had to ask us, finally, to leave over two hours later.

Aug 17

At 7:45 we loaded ourselves and luggage into the bust for the one hour drive to Shannon Airport. Several of our group were going to Dublin and John McDonnald had arranged a bust for them. At the airport we said our farewells and checked in. We were able to do so with minimum effort, Shannon is a small airport and easy to negotiate- we even were able to pass through American Customs in the Shannon airport.

The flights home were unremarkable, except when we got to Phoenix where we were transfer to our plane to Santa Barbara, the flights were delayed due to surrounding thunder storms. Matt was waiting for us and we were back home just before midnight.

Ireland is quite a place- friendly people, excellent food, interesting historical sights, magnificent scenery and, of course, terrific music. It was a good trip.