Killarney, Blarney, Cobh and Irish Whiskey

One afternoon during our stay at a delightful Bed and Breakfast in Killarney, we took a jaunting car tour through parts of Killarney National Park. Our guide Mark and his horse Susie took us through the forest, beside the lakes, and we had our first view of Ross Castle.

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Killarney National Park, Ireland
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Red Deer in Killarney National Park, Ireland
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Ross Castle on Killarney’s lower lake

On our way to our next destination near Cork, we drove to Ross Castle for a close up view. I was fascinated by all the fishermen unloading their fishing gear in the parking lot so I looked around to see where they were going. Boats were lined up on the banks of a stream which led to the lake on the other side of the stone bridge.

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Fishing Boats in Killarney National Park, County Kerry, Ireland

Ross Castle is in a beautiful setting on the banks of Killarney’s lower lake inside Killarney National Park. We wandered around the castle before driving to County Cork,

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Ross Castle, Killarney National Park, Ireland

At the end of the day we arrived at our next bed and breakfast near Blarney. The gardens and views from the B&B were stunning.

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View from our B&B in Tower, Ireland

On Herny’s birthday we visited Blarney Castle to join the millions of others who have climbed the steps to the top of the tower to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift of eloquence.

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Blarney Castle

Kissing the stone sounds easy. However, actually doing it isn’t so easy. First you must get in line and then go up a series of steps before arriving at the parapet walk at the top of the tower. Once it’s your turn to kiss the stone, you must lie on your back, hold onto an iron railing, lean backwards over a crevice, and hope you can reach the stone to kiss it! I needed help, but I did it!

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At the top of the Blarney Tower
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Me kissing the Blarney Stone
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After kissing the stone it’s time to go back down the stairs
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Do you see the person who is leaned back to kiss the Blarney Stone at the top of the tower?

Our next stop on Henry’s birthday was the pretty seaside town of Cobh which was the last place the Titanic picked up passengers before beginning it’s maiden (and only) voyage in April, 1912. We enjoyed a tour of The Titanic Experience Cobh before wandering around the waterfront and watching the activity in the harbor from a waterfront park.

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Annie Moore and her brothers sailed from Cobh to the United States in December, 1892. She was the first Immigrant to enter the United States at Ellis Island
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Titanic Experience Cobh at the original ticket office and dock where passengers were picked up
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Waterside Park in Cobh, Ireland

Next up was a tour of the Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery in Midleton.

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Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery, Midleton, Ireland
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Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery, Midleton, Ireland
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Sláinte! Toasting to Henry’s birthday after the Jameson Distillery Tour.

To top off a fun filled day we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a nearby pub.

Next up, two train rides and Northern Ireland.

 

 

Wandering on the Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way is a scenic coastal road along Ireland’s Atlantic Coast from the Northern Headlands all the way down to the southern coast. We spent three days exploring along the southern part of the route.

On our day trip from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher we were on the Wild Atlantic Way most of the day. We stopped at Dunguaire Castle on our way to the cliffs.

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Dunguaire Castle

Most of the way we were on a steep, narrow road.

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Driving on the Wild Atlantic Way

The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction and probably the most popular stop on the Wild Atlantic Way.  These majestic cliffs tower high above the ocean with several trails offering spectacular views. The day was  perfect with sunny skies and calm seas.

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Cliffs of Moher
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A different view of Cliffs of Moher
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Cliffs of Moher

After wandering around the cliffs we returned to Galway for another night before driving through the middle of the Dingle Peninsula on our way to the town of Dingle, our next destination. We stopped at an overlook to take in the spectacular scenery.

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Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

We loved our night in Dingle Town with it’s colorful buildings, fun pubs, great seafood, and beautiful Dingle Boat Harbour.

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Dingle Town, Ireland
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Dingle Boat Harbour, Dingle, Ireland

The next day we drove the Slea Head Drive on the Dingle Peninsula. Much of the drive is high above the ocean where there were more spectacular cliffs, ancient Fairy Forts, Beehive Huts, beaches, and some Star Wars filming locations.

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Cliffs on the Slea Head Drive
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Fairy Fort
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Ancient Bee Hive Huts from about 2000 BC
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Beach on the Slea Head Drive
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“The Last Jedi” of the Star Wars series was filmed in the area of Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula
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Inch Beach on the Wild Atlantic Way

We opted to let someone else do the driving and took a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry from Killarney. Most of the tour was along the Wild Atlantic Way. We passed by an ancient castle, watched a sheep dog demonstration, walked on the beach in Waterville where Charlie Chaplin liked to go on holiday, saw the Eightercua Stone Row, enjoyed lunch with a view, and were near another Star Wars filming location.

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Wynn’s Castle, Kerry, Ireland
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Sheep Dog Demonstration, Ring of Kerry, Ireland
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Charlie Chaplin was a visitor to Waterville, Ireland, Ring of Kerry
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Eightercua Stone Row, Ring of Kerry, Wild Atlantic Way
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Wild Atlantic Way, Ring of Kerry, Ireland
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Sign  points to the ferry to Skellig Michael, filming location from “The Last Jedi”, Wild Atlantic Way, Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The tour left the Wild Atlantic Way and went through Killarney National Park on our return to Killarney. Our last stop was at Lady’s View.

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Ladie’s View, Killarney National Park

It was nice to let someone else do the driving. Our driver and guide Dennis was great and we learned a few things we wouldn’t have known if we had driven ourselves.

Next up, more adventures in Ireland.

Two Irish Cities

Like many other travelers to Ireland, our introduction to the country began in Dublin. As we approached the city center on our ride from the airport to the hotel there were pedestrians everywhere and they were not afraid to step out in front of traffic. Our driver told us “In Dublin, jaywalking is a hobby.”

After a good night’s sleep and a full Irish breakfast we were ready to to explore Dublin. Our first stop was Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room of the Old Library.

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Book of Kells, Trinity College, Dublin

The Book of Kells is a beautifully handwritten and elaborately decorated book of the four Gospels. The work was done by monks and it is estimated to have been done around the year 800. There are interesting displays describing  how it was made and samples of the many illustrations. The book itself is kept under glass in a special room with no photography allowed.

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Decorated words from the Book of Kells, Trinity College, Dublin

Upstairs from the Book of Kells is the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen.  I could have spent all day in the Long Room of the Old Library surrounded by all the old books.

I heard one story that there was a scene in one of the Star Wars movies inspired by this room. I also heard it was the inspiration for the library in Harry Potter.

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Long Room of Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin

As we strolled through the Trinity College campus we stopped to listen to singers perform. Our wandering continued to the River Liffey where we walked across the Ha’Penny Bridge and back before strolling through the Temple Bar District. Later we toured the Guinness Brewery and enjoyed a pint at their Gravity Bar.

Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and Ireland’s largest city. We enjoyed our time there but were anxious to see other parts of Ireland.

After picking up our rental car on the outskirts of town we got lost (the first of several times) before finding the right road to Galway, our home for the next 3 nights. Galway is bigger than I thought it would be but much smaller than Dublin. Our hotel in Galway was located on Eyre Square in the center of town within walking distance of Quay Street and the Latin Quarter. There were many shops, pubs, restaurants, a waterfront, and the Spanish Arch to explore.

Next up, scenic drives along Ireland’s Atlantic Coast.

Three Weeks in Ireland and Scotland

Three days after returning home from a three week trip to Ireland and Scotland I’m still a little jet lagged, haven’t finished unpacking, and just started going through the 3,000 photos I took.

Ireland has always been at the top of our bucket list. Henry and I both have Irish ancestors and I have ancestors from Scotland so we planned our trip to see both countries.

I loved everything – the people, the jaw dropping scenery, the green fields and mountains, the sheep and cows, the castles, the churches and cathedrals, everything! And yes, Ireland really is that green! Here are a few photos from our first days in Ireland.

We traveled by planes, trains, automobiles, a ferry, and even a horse drawn jaunting car. We rented a car to get around and took a few bus tours along the way. We walked along spectacular cliffs, drove on narrow winding roads, stopped at castles and even did laundry at a gas station in a Scottish village. We watched a sheep dog demonstration, petted some sheep, and fed a Highland Cow. We stayed in hotels in city centers, bed and breakfasts away from town, and a castle. We sampled local beers and whiskeys in the pubs. For three weeks we ate a huge full breakfast every day and dined on delicious seafood and beef dishes at night.

A few photos from Scotland.

More to follow…

 

 

 

 

Savannah Scottish Games and Celtic Festival

Celebrating Scottish culture and history, the  42nd Annual Savannah Scottish Games and Celtic Festival took place this year on a warm and sunny May 5.

The festival was held on the beautiful grounds of historic Bethesda Academy. Ancient live oak trees dripping with Spanish Moss surrounded the event field. The salt marsh was a perfect backdrop for Highland Dancers. Scottish clans, societies and organizations had their tents set up under the trees. And of course there were food trucks and vendors.

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Beautiful location for the Savannah Games

With so many events going on at the same time, we had plenty to keep us entertained. Pipes and Drums music, Border Collie demonstrations, Highland Dancing competition, and Celtic music performances were all taking place at the same time as the Heavy Athletics. In addition, there were tents with information about genealogy and many different Clans.

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Border Collie Demonstration
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Border Collie Demonstration
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Highland Dancers
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Highland Dancers
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Opening Ceremony
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Pipes and Drums

The Heavy Athletics competition included several fun events to watch. The Caber Toss is a fan favorite. In this event the athlete lifts a twenty foot caber weighing over one hundred pounds, runs a few steps holding it upright, and then tosses it. The object is to have the caber flip once and land straight in front of the athlete at the 12 o’clock position. We also enjoyed watching the Clachneart (Stone Put) and the Sheaf Toss. We didn’t get to see the Throwing of the Weights or the Hammer Throw.

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Stone Put
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Stone Put
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Sheaf Toss
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Women’s Caber Toss
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Caber Toss
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Caber Toss
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Caber Toss

The Pipes and Drums were beautiful to hear.

I have Scottish ancestors on both sides of my family. I enjoyed stopping at a couple of tents to see if I could learn anything about my families. I found out a little about my father’s side of the family but didn’t discover anything new about my Scottish roots on my mothers side. And I still don’t know what our Tartan is. A little more research is in my future.

After the games we stopped to check out the roses at the Savannah Botanical Gardens. Stay tuned for more coming up about that in my next post.