September 25, 2019 (by Jimmy) – We are back home now after three weeks of travel in Europe. Angela and I visited Ireland, England, and Scotland. I’ll take the next three posts to cover each leg of the trip.
RV to Dublin – We parked the RV at Hartselle, Alabama for our trip. After setting the air temp to come on when it got hot, the fridge to both gas or electric, and turning the water off, Angela and I headed to the Birmingham airport. The planning for the Ireland part of this trip had gone on for about a year because we were meeting Susan and Craig Cheek to travel with us. Susan is a consultant that works with me. Angela says that we banter with each other so that you would think we are siblings. After a few delays and a flight change, we arrived in Dublin ahead of Craig and Susan. When they arrived, the four of us got a rental van and climbed in to head to our first stop, a B&B in New Ross. I was to drive, so when we got in the van, I promptly got in the passenger’s side and Craig got behind the wheel. Realizing we were not in Kansas anymore, he and I switched, so I could drive on the “wrong side” of the road. We promptly got lost in Dublin because south is still south, but our GPS didn’t understand that concept. Finally, we got going in the right direction and found our B&B.
Loftus Hall, Hook Head, and Waterford Crystal – The next morning the four of us decided to go to Hook Head, a peninsula to the south where we were told there was a light house. On the way, we passed a large building that was very interesting; the sign said it was Loftus Hall. It was decided to pull in and check it out. That’s how we learned that Loftus Hall is the most haunted house in Ireland. There was a tour starting, so we took it. The tour guide was hilarious, and we had a wonderful time. We learned about the owner having a floor laid that was so beautiful that he had the hands cut off the floor guys, so they could not make another so grand. The guide also talked about the night Satan visited and played poker until the daughter noticed his cloven hoof. Satan left through the ceiling, and the daughter was insane for the rest of her life. After Loftus Hall, we went to Hook Head and saw the lighthouse. Afterwards, we pointed the van west to Waterford. After arriving there, we went to the Waterford Crystal Company and toured the plant. We learned about and saw how crystal is made. Some of the processes require eight years of training to master. Blowing the glass, cutting and etching all require specialists to achieve the beauty that is Waterford Crystal. It was a wonderful tour.
Jameson Whisky, and the Blarney Stone – Craig, Susan, Angela and I stayed in Fermoy that night, and the next day drove to Cork to visit the Jameson Whiskey Plant. They had a nice tour that showed how Irish Whisky is made but did not let us into the actual plant where they produce it. There was a tasting center where we tasted the Jameson compared to American and Scotch whisky. Jameson was smooth; the American was tolerable (it was not Jack Daniels), and the Scotch was horrid. We then received a mixed drink before our departure (I quite enjoyed the Jameson and Ginger Ale). After going through the gift shop, the four of us headed to Blarney Castle just north of Cork. The Blarney Stone is located at Blarney Castle, and the legend is that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you will be endowed with the gift of gab, great eloquence, and skill at flattery. Although Angela knows I am already heavy in these areas, we climbed the six stories to the top of the castle to kiss the stone. To do it, you must lay on your back and tilt your head down to reach it (kind of like laying upside down in the bed and tilting your head to touch the floor). It’s kind of scary, though, because if you slide off, you have a six-story drop. There are folks there to help you and take pictures, which are sold at the gift shop when you leave. It was fun and the castle itself was beautiful, well not the castle but the surrounding area. The area around the castle was a flower garden with vibrant colors all around. If you ever go to Ireland, this is one stop, you do not want to miss.
Ring of Kerry and Sheep Herding – After our second night in Fermoy, we left for County Kerry the next morning. At Killarney, we planned to join a bus trip around what is known as the Ring of Kerry. This area has beautiful landscapes and shorelines to see and quaint little towns to visit. Since it started raining that morning, taking the bus was a much better option than driving ourselves. One of the first towns we visited was Killorglin, known for King Puck. Legend has it that in the 1600s Oliver Cromwell and his English raiders were sneaking up on Killorglin when they spooked a herd of goats. One of the goats hoofed it into Killorglin, and the community, seeing a goat in town, knew something was up. They fortified the town and were able to turn Cromwell back. The goat was elected mayor for three days. Now each year a goat is selected to be mayor for three days (I don’t think any have had impeachment investigations so far.) The trip around Kerry was wonderful even though we had rain. It always seemed to clear out for us to take pictures. The most interesting stop of the tour was a stop at a shepherd’s ranch where he put his dogs through their paces herding sheep. Through voice and whistle commands, he had two dogs doing different things to bring the sheep down the hillside, separate them, hold them in place, etc. Those dogs did everything but start a fire and have a barbecue. It was amazing! We were also given some history about the types of sheep and herding in Ireland. They paint the sheep to identify them to a farm (like branding a cow) and let them loose on the mountain. The sheep graze up there, and when it’s time to bring them home, the owner knows his “brand” and only brings his sheep home. I never thought I would find sheep interesting.
Ballyseede Castle and Dingle Peninsula – Once the tour was over, the four of us travelled to Tralee and Ballyseede Castle. This Castle has been turned into a quaint hotel. One of the things that Craig and Susan had as a must-do for the trip was to be able to spend a night in a castle. Ballyseede did not disappoint. This place was beautiful, from the suits of armor near the staircase to the statues in the courtyard, to the two English wolfhounds that we treasured to pet. Ballyseede was a luxury we all enjoyed. After leaving Ballyseede, we drove out to the Dingle Peninsula, visiting one of the few sand beaches in Ireland, Inch Beach. I thought that was a rather small beach, but it turned out to be a little larger. It was really chilly, but I made sure Susan got to touch the water.
Doolin, Castles, and the Cliffs of Moher – After a wonderful night in Tralee, we headed north to Doolin. Doolin is a small town near the Cliffs of Moher. It is said to be the unofficial music capital of Ireland. With a population of about 500, Doolin has several bars that have traditional Irish music. I’m not talking about just on the weekends, but every night these pubs have bands that play. We stayed here two nights and enjoyed the music at the pubs each night. Since we stayed at a B&B just up the road, it was an easy commute. Doolin is 15 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher, so the day after we arrived, we headed there to see the cliffs. It rained on and off that day, but while we were at the Cliffs it was either off or a light drizzle. The wind blew constantly, however. There were some gusts that made walking on the paths around the cliffs very difficult. We did get some great pictures before heading inland to find some castles. During our castle search, we saw one called Knappogue Castle. When we got to the open gate, a sign said it was closed. Angela and Susan said we should drive in anyway. Susan’s comment was, “What are they going to do? Make us leave?” So, in we went to storm the castle. We drove up, got a few pictures, and drove back out. It was a lot of fun. Bunratty Castle near Limerick was our next stop. Bunratty almost had a theme park type feel to it. The castle was a decent size, but we got there right after a bus load of Italians tourists, and maneuvering through the small stairwells with so many people dampened the visit quite a bit. It was still a nice castle. I just didn’t get to learn as much as I would have liked.
Back to Dublin – After our final night in Doolin, listening to another band at the pub, the next morning, we made our way back to Dublin. Once in Dublin Angela and I parted from Craig and Susan. They planned a few more days in Ireland. Angela and I had a flight scheduled the next day to Bristol, England. That will be my next post. Ireland was great. Spending a week on the road with Craig and Susan made the trip that much more fun (we’d love to travel with the Cheeks again). Having to split-up from them was bitter-sweet. We wanted to share more with them, but they needed a few days alone. Angela and I were looking forward to exploring on our own as well, so off we were to England.