A Day in the Scottish Highlands

Our small tour bus with Rabbie’s Tours departed Inverness early on a Saturday morning for a 12 hour tour across the Scottish Highlands. As we rode from place to place our guide Colin filled us in on Scottish history and folklore.

Soon after leaving Inverness we were riding along with views of Loch Ness to our left. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one on the bus who was searching for Nessie, more commonly known as the Loch Ness Monster.  We didn’t stop at Nessieland, a small theme park.

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Nessieland was just up the road, Lock Ness, Scotland

Our only stop on Loch Ness was at historic Urquhart Castle. The castle is undergoing some restoration and we did not tour it. It was our last chance to see Nessie and she wasn’t cooperating.

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Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland

We had plenty of time to tour Eilean Donan Castle and enjoy the gorgeous setting.

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland near Kyle of Lochalsh
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View from the bridge at Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland
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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Most of the day was spent on the spectacular Isle of Skye. There are dramatic mountains and cliffs, charming seaside villages, and gorgeous scenery all around the island.

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Dramatic Cliffs, Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Henry was glad he wasn’t driving! Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Curvy roads around the Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Wow! We’re really here! Isle of Skye, Scotland

We stopped in the town of Portree for lunch and a view of the harbor.

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Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Town of Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland

A few people on the bus brought back some beer from the Isle of Skye Brewery.

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Isle of Skye Brewery, Scotland

Our last stop on the Isle of Skye was the town of Kyleakin. It was raining as we walked around the waterfront with a nice view of the the Skye Bridge and the Kyleakin Lighthouse.

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Skye Bridge, Scotland
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Kyleakin Lighthouse, Isle of Skye, Scotland

It rained most of the way back to Inverness. When we arrived in Inverness that Saturday night the restaurants and pubs were hopping with young people out on the town. We found a restaurant with no wait, had a quick supper and called it a night after a long but fantastic day.

 

Northern Ireland

After we returned our rental car in Cork, we set out on foot for the train station carrying and rolling all our luggage with us. The ride was relaxing and I enjoyed watching the scenery go by.

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Train from Cork to Dublin

The next day we arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland after another enjoyable train ride. After we were settled in our hotel we spent the afternoon visiting the Titanic Belfast. The Titanic was built and launched from Belfast. As we walked through the self guided tour we learned about the history of the boat industry in Belfast and about how the Titanic was constructed and built. In 1912 the Titanic left Belfast for what turned out to be a doomed first voyage.

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Titanic Experience Belfast, Northern Ireland
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Titanic Experience Belfast, Northern Ireland

After a big Irish breakfast the next morning we met our guide Emily and boarded a tour bus for an 8 hour tour. For most of the day we would be traveling beside the water on the scenic Causeway Coastal Route. Our first destination was the Giants Causeway.

Before arriving at the Giants Causeway our guide Emily told us two different theories about how the Giants Causeway was created. The first was scientific. The other was a tale about an Irish giant named Finn McCool and a Scottish giant named Benandonner. I like to think it was the giants who caused these unusual rock formations.

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Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland
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Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland
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Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

The bus made a quick stop at Dunluce Castle for a photo op. For you Game of Thrones fans the castle is one of the film locations from the series.

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Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

The Bushmills Irish Whiskey Distillery was just down the road. There wasn’t enough time to take a tour but we did have time for a tasting.

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Bushmills Distillery, Northern Ireland
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That’s a lot of Irish Whiskey!

The scenery was stunning all along the Causeway Coastal Route.

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Coastal Causeway Route, Northern Ireland
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Fields of sheep were a common sight as we traveled each day. These are on the Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

For those with no fear of heights and a taste for adventure, the Rope Bridge at Carrick-a-Rede is must do attraction. With my fear of heights I can’t walk on swinging bridges but I enjoyed the scenery from the trail and had fun watching everyone else walk across the bridge.

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The trail to the rope bridge was along these coastal cliffs
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Stunning cliffs at Carrick-a-Rede on the Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland
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Henry on the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede on the Causeway Coastal Route

We discovered palm trees grow in Northern Ireland.

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Palm trees along the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland

There was a quick stop at CarrickFergus Castle before returning to Belfast.

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Carrickfergus Castle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland
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Boat harbor near Carrickfergus Castle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Our guide Emily was awesome. She was a wonderful storyteller and kept us entertained as she told us some magical tales and a bit of Irish history. She even sang for us.

Next up, we say goodbye to Ireland and hello to Scotland.

 

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 Henry’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.

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…