Hello Scotland

It was really sad leaving beautiful Ireland but the time had come to move on to Scotland. We boarded the Stena SuperFast VII Ferry in Belfast for our 2 1/2 hour voyage to Cairnryan, Scotland. The ferry was huge with lounges, restaurants, and even free WiFi. The seas were calm and the sky was clear for the entire trip.

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On the Stena Superfast Ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan, Scotland

As the ferry was passing by our first sighting of Scotland, we saw the Corsewall Lighthouse.

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We saw the Corsewall Lighthouse from the ferry

We picked up our rental car at the ferry dock and were soon traveling on Scotland’s roads on our way to Glasgow, our first destination.

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Another country, another rental car, more curvy roads. We have arrived in Scotland
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Scenic drive from the ferry to Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow is a huge city, much bigger than I thought it would be and we only had one full day to explore. After a good night’s rest we enjoyed our first Full Scottish Breakfast before starting our sightseeing. Henry tried the haggis with eggs, I passed on the haggis. We set out on foot to explore the area around the hotel. Our wandering took us to the Museum of Modern Art, George Square and the Glasgow City Council Building.

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Wellington Statue at Museum of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland
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George Square with Glasgow City Council City Chambers Building in the background, Glasgow, Scotland
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Ceiling in Glasgow City Council Building

We decided the best way to see the highlights of Glasgow would be to take the Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour. The tour was about two hours around the city, making a few stops along the way. If you got off, you could get on another bus to continue the tour. The top deck of the red double decker buses were open and a guide pointed out places of interest as we went. The city is an interesting mix of old and new.

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Mural in Glasgow, Scotland
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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland
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Italian Shopping District, Glasgow, Scotland
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Glasgow SSE Hydro concert, sporting, and special events arena
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The old and the new in Glasgow, Scotland

The next day our adventure was a ride from Glasgow to Inverness in our rental car. After a few wrong turns and a ride through the Glasgow suburbs the scenery got better and better as the day went on.

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On the road to Inverness, Scotland
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Snow in the Highlands, Scotland

Inverness is a much smaller city with the River Ness running right through the center of town and a castle at the top of a hill. The name Inverness means “mouth of the Ness”. We arrived early enough to take a walk beside the river.

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Inverness Castle, Scotland
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Faith, Hope and Charity statue in Inverness, Scotland
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River Ness, Inverness, Scotland
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River Ness, Inverness

Next up, a full day bus tour through the Scottish Highlands.

 

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 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.