Travel to Ireland, Dublin and the Irish Countryside - May 2000
Ireland - May 2000
Best viewed with a screen resolution of 800x600.
We left Chicago for London on the 8:10PM flight on Wednesday, May 1, 2000. We were traveling with our friends, Ed and Leslie --- (that's them with us on the right). We changed planes at Heathrow in London and flew Air Lingus to Dublin. At Heathrow we had to go from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1 by bus and then walk forever to the gates they had allocated to Air Lingus. We had booked through British Airways to get the frequent flyer miles. We did not fill out landing cards as we were "in transit" and did not plan on leaving the airport in London. We were surprised during our walk to the gate to find that we had to fill out a landing card to get by a security checkpoint. I imagine that the English government does this to keep track of people going to Ireland because it is so simple to get in Northern Ireland from the Republic.
While we were waiting we struck up a conversation with two Irish girls who were returning home after a year traveling the globe. They were listening to the four of us talk about a book that I had read in preparation for the trip to Ireland. The title is "Around Ireland With a Fridge" and tells the story of Tony Hawks bet that he could hitchhike around Ireland in less than 30 days while carrying a fridge. I believe it is a must read for anyone planning a trip to the Irish Countryside. We booked two nights in Dublin and and a car for 11 days and then had a travel plan to go around Ireland, along the coast, in a counterclockwise direction. We planned to stop in B&Bs but did not book any in advance. B&Bs are everywhere and we never had a problem. Here is a small map of Ireland with our route.
One question I often get is how much did we pay for airplane tickets and I usually say that if you are happy with your ticket, then you got a good price. It depends a lot on when you buy the ticket and how flexible you are and then, later, how many other people decide to go. We paid $720 each roundtrip from Chicago to Heathrow to Dublin. We bought several months before leaving to not only lock in the fare but to guarantee a seat on the days we wanted to travel. The fares dropped later on and we probably paid about $100 more than we would have if we had waited and booked on Virgin or Air Lingus or American. The flight was not full and we all had 2 seats, which gave us a little room for some sleep on the transatlantic flight. The trip cost around $3500 per couple and so the difference in airfare was only 6 per cent of the total cost. Not worth worrying about. We purchased £100 in Irish money per couple and Christine and I had $500US in backup traveler's checks which we did not use. ATM machines are everywhere and we never had a problem getting Irish money.
We landed at the Dublin airport at around 2:30PM. We waited in the taxi queue and took a nice ride into the city. My advance research indicated it should cost £13 and it cost £14. The driver was nice and pointed out places to us on the drive. We had booked through the Internet at the Merrion Manor Hotel overlooking Merrion Square on the south side of the river and only a 5-10 minute walk to Trinity College. It was £90 per couple per night and that was, by far, the most we ever paid. It was close to the action but overpriced and a lot of street noise. Big rooms, nice shower, high ceilings. I always carry earplugs and they were very handy. On arrival the deskclerk said she had two rooms ready and asked if we minded stairs, Leslie said, "No, we love them." and the clerk gave her the keys for the room on the third floor. Christine and I had a room on the first floor (the second floor as we say in the USA). That was the last time Leslie joked with a deskclerk. The breakfast was excellent and there was usually someone at the front desk. There was a parking lot (small) in the back. Merrion Square was a great place to walk but it closed early in the evening.
We never paid more than £20 per person for a B&B for the rest of the trip.
The weather was very warm and it was like that throughout our trip except for one rainy day and one foggy day. We had great weather and never used the Gortex jackets or umbrellas we packed. It did get cool at night but the days were always warm and a couple of days were hot.
As is our policy to overcome jetlag, we immediately freshened up and walked into the city. We always try and stay up until 9:30-10:00PM the first day and then the next day we feel great. Get out in the sunshine to overcome jetlag and do not take a nap.
We walked around to familiarize ourselves with the city and then came back to clean up and went out to eat. Like most tourists, we headed for the Temple Bar area, found a pub and had a Guinness. We started out with snacks but we were hungry and they served food so we ate and then some young people came and sat down next to us and started playing Irish Music. They had a guitar, squeeze box and a small drum. I had a bucket of mussels as a starter and then some Irish Stew. The place was called the Left Bank Pub and the building had previously been a bank. As it happened, this was the last time I ate meat on this trip as the seafood we found was great. Here's a nice picture Ed took of Leslie looking for a postcard.
Tipping, you don't tip in the pubs even when you eat there although I will admit, Ed tried to tip at a few places. They take it but you can tell they didn't expect it. Even in the restaurants you don't have to tip and we even saw it on the menu once. It said: "Our staff is adequately compensated so please don't tip."
Two nights and one full day were more than enough to see what we wanted to see in Dublin. We took a city tour bus (£7 each), one where you could jump on and off whenever and we visited Trinity College. the Book of Kells, the Guinness Hopstore at the Brewery, Grafton Street and then just walked around. The ladies liked the Guinness at the Guinness Hopstore. I took a trip on the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) to Howth, a seaside resort while Christine and Leslie did some shopping and visited the National Art Museum which did not impress them one bit. We were not impressed with the architecture at Trinity College. The older buildings were nice but it looked like they wanted to expand so they had a contest to design tacky buildings and then built them out of poured concrete. We ate dinner at a very nice Pakistani restaurant.
We all got into Guinness and here are a few pointers. Order a "Guinness" and you get a pint, order a "glass" and you get a half-pint. The bartender will fill the glass or pint and put it on a small metal platform next to the bar. Don't grab it. After the bubbles slow he or she will fill it a little more and then give it to you, this may take 5 minutes. Don't wait until you're real thirsty to order. A real good bartender will make a shamrock in the foam, look for it. I don't know if Guinness is better in Ireland but it sure tastes good. I did notice a lot of locals drinking American Budweiser and I found out it's brewed in Dublin. They claimed in the Guinness tour that Guinness is good for you and that it contains vitamins and minerals so I gave it chance and had 2-3 pints every day we were in Ireland. Another thing, a bartender or waitress will ask you "are you ok?" or "are you all right?" to inquire whether you want to order something and they don't tell you their name like they do the States. Murphy's Irish Stout is also good but Christine thinks it's too weak.
After two nights we walked to the Budget Car Rental place and we picked up our car. The glove box door was broken but the latch and screw were inside so I got out my trusty Swiss Army Knife and fixed it. We drove back to the hotel and then on our way. We had planned to drive northwest through Northern Ireland, to Donegal and then counterclockwise around the coast. On the way we stopped at the Cavan Crystal Factory and I wish I had bought the two wine glasses I saw there. The Cavan Crystal was lighter than the Waterford Crystal we saw later and cost one-third the price. I had stopped at the Automobile Association (AA) store in Dublin and purchased a very good Road Atlas for £7. It helped on the small roads but the Budget map gave a better perspective. The AA book was 3 miles to the inch so you were constantly turning pages and it was difficult to plan a long route. The roads in Ireland are small but not nearly as small as in the West Country and the Cotswalds of England. The roads are not as smooth as in England and I believe a good investment for the Republic of Ireland would be to buy a good paving machine. I have never seen so many bumps and dips. We must have seen only two or three smooth roads on the entire trip and it was really noticeable when you got on one.
I've driven in London a lot so I drove out of Dublin and then to the Cavan Crystal Factory and then Ed drove for most of the rest of our 2 week trip. At the restaurant in the Cavan Crystal Showroom I asked if they served sandwiches and they said yes and showed me a menu with sandwiches. We got a table for lunch. When we tried to order, however, it turned out that they did serve sandwiches, but only after 3PM so we all just had soup. I guess I should have been more specific.
We covered around 1350 miles in the 12 days and Ed probably drove about 1200 miles. It was nice looking out the window for a change. We took all the collision insurance available. One important note, I found out Visa Gold does not provide Collision Damage (CDW) coverage in Ireland.
Leslie had gotten a B&B book from the Irish Tourist Bureau and it helped out a lot. We had made no reservations except for the first two nights in Dublin and we never had a problem. We could have gotten along without the book but it was like a security blanket. We also had the B&B Farm Stay book. B&Bs are everywhere and they are well posted as shown here, look for the brown signs. Most all were ensuite and most all were in newer buildings. Ireland is not quaint, John Wayne (the Quiet Man) wouldn't recognize it. The B&B owners were all very nice and friendly and everyone offered advice on where to go and where to eat and drink. We had no plans and stayed one or two nights at most in each place. Sometimes we would like a place and stay two nights or we would want to go somewhere like the Aran Islands and have a place to come back to. We paid £19 per person most nights, one night we paid £17 right on the water across from Dingle. We never paid more than £20 per person and most nights we took the first place we looked at. Of course we read the book first so we usually knew about the place before we stopped. The Irish Countryside has many more B&Bs than they have in England and they are much better signposted. I can't imagine having any problem in this area. We had a good breakfast every morning. An Irish breakfast is just like an English breakfast, cereal, juice, grapefruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and coffee or tea. I usually had cereal, two eggs and toast, no meat. We were always asked what time we wanted to eat and we usually said 8:30AM.
For the most part we slept every well except for the last night north of Dublin some Americans from New York had arrived in country that day, didn't follow the rule, took a nap and then couldn't sleep so they went out, returned late and made a lot of noise with some Canadians that also arrived late. If you stay at B&Bs, remember there are other guests. Americans tend to be loud.
We found a nice B&B just a few blocks west of the town of Killybegs which is about 10 miles west of the town of Donegal and stayed there two nights. The owner also ran the town ambulance service as the nearest hospital is 60 miles away. We explored the area and walked the cliffs. We ate in Killybegs at the Pier Bar both nights even though we stopped other places to drink. The Pier Bar also doubled as the gas station and it was funny to see the waiter pumping gas as we left. Don't ask me what Ed is doing sneaking up to the gas station in the last photo, I don't know. By the way, gasoline cost 70 pence a liter, about $3.40US per US gallon. Here is a picture of us asking some locals where to eat, they didn't know.
We were going to eat at another place the second night but the bartender said the cook went home since the bar wasn't busy enough to stay.
We drove out to Teelin Point and walked up to the highest spot and got out first taste of the high cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There are no real guardrails to make sure you don't drive over the cliffs. Leslie thought she could see New York. We were to see a lot more cliffs in the next two weeks. There were lambs everywhere and they weren't yet afraid of humans. On our walk we met a young girl named Sabrene from Holland who worked in Dublin, see was exploring the country every chance she got. We offered to take her picture and she, in turn, took ours,. Actually, she took it twice as we walked down the hill with us. We also saw our first peat fire in a local shop fireplace. You could see the countryside where they carved the peat from the ground and let it dry. We stopped for tea and the lady said it cost £1.10 for the two teas and then said, "Oh, just give me a pound." Near Killybegs is St. John's Point with some B&Bs, it's not far from the town and it looked nice. We drove out to the lighthouse and viewed the sea. Ed took our picture standing in the wind. In the hot weather, the wind felt good. The sea views were really something. We were very lucky with the weather, only one day of a light rain in two weeks.
After Killybegs we headed towards Donegal and then stopped at the grave of W.B. Yeats (north of Sligo) under a large butte like mountain called Benbulbin. Then south to Cong, the town where John Ford filmed the Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. The main street was torn up and it really didn't have the ambience I had hoped it would have. Christine took my picture in front of Cohan's Bar which is really a gift shop. I did get to walk a little around the town before they decided to leave and took this picture. The other three didn't want to stop anywhere for pint. Rather than staying in Galway, we selected a B&B on the water in Barna, a little bit west of Galway. The owner was out but her son (Cormack) showed us the rooms and made us some tea, this is the traditional Irish Welcome you will read about in the B&B books, tea and cookies. The B&B had a three-legged calico cat that was quite friendly. There were several pubs nearby (Here's Donnelly's) but it was Saturday night and we had not booked. If you stop in a place on a Saturday night, have the B&B proprietor call and book a table or you may have trouble finding a place to eat. We were lucky, there was a hotel nearby on the main road named the Twelve Pins and we had no trouble eating in the bar, they had great seafood chowder, probably the best we had in Ireland and we had it almost twice a day (so we consider ourselves experts on seafood chowder), every meal we ate, except breakfast. On the way back to our room we saw some horses so we went to the local store and bought some apples. The next night we stopped and bought some carrots. They liked them both.
On the trip between Sligo and Cong, we stopped for lunch in a town called Knock. In this town, on August 21, 1879, the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist appeared to 15 local townspeople for about two hours, they only made the one appearance. The town is now devoted to this shrine. We didn't even stay two hours. We asked our waiter what the shrine was for (there were a lot of tour buses and many people) and he looked at us like we had come from outer space. Every place sold religious souvenirs. A week or so later in Kilkenny we saw signs that advertised pilgrimages to Knock on a regular basis. We had never heard of Our Lady of Knock but the Pope and Mother Theresa visited the town and it ranks up there with Fatima and Lourdes with the Catholic Church. Knock has a big area where you can get free holy water and holy water was big in Ireland. Almost every B&B had a holy water font by the door.
We wanted to go to the Aran Islands so we left early and caught the ferry at Rossaveel, they have a new boat and the trip was quite pleasant. The cost was £15 per person round trip. Arriving in the town of Kilronan on the big island of Inishmore we were met by many people touting tours by vans and horsecarts. Christine had wanted to take a horsecart so we went with this man who seemed nice. It cost £10 each for 3 hours. He and his horse, Molly (and Christine), took us for a 45 minute ride down some country roads to the center of the island where he told us to walk up to the cliffs facing the Cliffs of Moher, then walk down and have some tea. On the trip he just talked about the people and the Aran Islands. It seems they just got electricity from the mainland on an undersea cable two years ago. Before that generators produced it. Our driver was very interesting and he had lived on the island all his life. He said he would meet us at a certain time but he told us not to hurry, a few minutes wouldn't matter. I asked if I could leave my backpack in the cart as it was hot and he said he was going for a cup of tea but he was sure no one would bother it. I did and no one bothered it. I think all the drivers who got a "fare" go have some tea and talk while everyone walks up the hill. We paid £1 each and walked up the trail. We were amazed that the trail stopped at the edge of the cliff where I looked straight down to the water several hundred feet below. A nice woman took our picture, she said it would be one we would want to keep. We took some more pictures of each other as we got closer to the edge: Picture-1; Picture-2; Picture-3; Picture-4;; and Picture-5. On the way down saw a man playing an accordion (I gave him £1) and another man making baskets (Christine bought one for £10) and then we stopped for some seafood chowder and some tea before meeting our driver and Molly. We took the leisurely trip back to town, , the roads were narrow and if you passed anyone there was a traffic jam. Back in town we walked around before meeting Ed and Leslie and stopping for a pint of Guinness and then catching the 5PM ferry back to Rossaveel. If a driver didn't find a fare from the boat then he would just wait for the next boat.
The drive back to Barna was through a landscape that was just rocks. We had asked the lady at the B&B to book us a table at a restaurant near the pier so we were assured of a place on the water to eat. The food was good but we found that most pubs had good food and it was much cheaper than the restaurants. Outside of Dublin we normally paid about £25-30 per couple per night for food at a pub and we had good seafood. The restaurant food cost much more and was not that much better.
The Aran Islands might be worth a night but they now import all the wool to make the famous Aran Fisherman's Sweaters.
The next day we drove to Galway and walked around, it was a nice town and looked like it might be worth a night, we didn't stay. We saw a castle on the side of the road (Dongory Castle) so we stopped at the next town (Kinvar), bought some cheese and crackers and came back to a picnic in front of the castle. Having a picnic is a good way to slow down and smell the flowers when you are traveling. We drove west to Black Head and then south along the coast to Doolin but it looked like a dirty small town, no trees, so we continued along the coast. I know, everyone told us later that this is where the great Irish music is, but we didn't stop. Driving along the coast on the R477 we stopped at a wayside just before Doolin in what is called The Burren (the ground looks like someone put down a hugh patio of stone) and walked about 100 meters to the edge of the cliffs and looked down on the sea several hundred feet below. I understand much of the area around here looks like a patio of flagstones. There were no guards or fences and it was straight down, we were on our own. This was 4-5 miles north of Doolin on the R477 and, in my opinion, it was better than the actual Cliffs of Moher. The actual Cliffs of Moher was a mess of tourists, tour buses and vendors. Later we got to the Cliffs of Moher and it was full of tour buses and people and you couldn't even get close to the edge. We were able to take some nice photos at the roadside where we stopped. Here are some more: Picture-1; and Picture-2. Since we didn't like Doolin we proceeded to Lehinch and found a nice B&B south of town run by a French woman who had lived in Ireland for 20 years. She told us she had been trying for years to grow a tree but couldn't because of the wind. There were literally no trees in this part of County Clare. As is customary in Ireland, they just show you the room, if you like it and the price, they give you a key for the room and the front door and never ask your name. They always offer tea and coffee and we usually accepted. The French lady had to go out so she left us alone and went. She had a great view from her dining room. She had an even better view from her patio. We cleaned up and went into town, stopped at a pub and later found another pub where we ate. We left to watch the sunset and came back to the Irish music. Seafood again and a nice night overlooking the beach. The woman who owned the pub had been a nurse in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the USA. A lot of people we met in Ireland had been to the USA to visit or work.
For the next few days we kept meeting people who were either coming from or going to Doolin to hear the "Irish Music" so maybe we missed something.
Also staying there were two Americans from Arlington Heights, Illinois,(here are the six of us on the ferry-I'm taking the picture) who left early to catch the ferry across the Shannon River, the ferry saves a lot of driving and we decided to take it too. Ed took another picture of of me, Christine and Leslie on the ferry. We were running late so I found some small roads which we took and we got to the ferry long before the Americans. The ferry cost £8 per car one way and £12 return. It was a nice trip through the fog. You catch the ferry in Killimer and it takes you to Tarbert where we headed southwest towards Dingle. The road to Dingle was rough, not smooth, rough. We walked around Dingle, it was full of tour buses. We drove west and found a B&B across the river where we had a great view of Dingle. This was the cheapest B&B, £17 per person. When we went back into town the tour buses had left and it was real nice. In Dingle, we stopped in a combination Hardware Store and Pub for a drink. The owner told me many men come there looking for something to get a job done only to spend the day in the pub. He said, many jobs get started but don't get finished. I asked him when the hardware store closed and the pub opened and he said it didn't matter. This was Ed and me in the front of the store. We talked to several locals and one lady volunteered to take our picture in the Hardware Store Pub. One thing about the Irish, they are friendly and they were always ready to take a picture of the four of us.
Later, in Dingle, we went to Murphy's Pub and had dinner and stayed very late as they had some great Irish Music. We met some people from Christchurch, New Zealand, they're to the left of the band. I met this one man because he was having trouble buying cigarettes from the machine. It alternately showed the price and the time in 24 hour format and since it was 8:50PM (20.50 hours), he was confused. He thought the price was £20.50, it was £3.75. Regarding smoking, a lot of people smoke in Ireland but I will say I never saw anyone under the age of three smoking. It was very quiet at our B&B Dingle.
Just about everywhere from Donegal south to the Ring of Kerry there were places to walk along the cliffs and look down at the sea. Everyone told us that America was just out there somewhere. No fences between you and the sea except at the Cliffs of Moher, they don't trust the tourists who come on tour buses. Sometimes, we just stopped along the road when we saw something interesting. Here is a celtic cross and Christine at a scenic stop. You will see many old homes with no roofs along the roads. Some of these are right next to newer homes. I guess they don't tear them down because they don't need the stones. Here's another one.
After Dingle we drove east to Castlemaine where the Wild Colonial Boy (an Irish folk song) was supposedly born. The roads are very bumpy. A word about Irish Songs. If you plan on visiting pubs to hear Irish music you may want to try to learn the words of some songs before you leave. Here are two web sites that have the words to Irish Folk Songs: Page-1 and Page-2. We were lucky, Ed is really Irish and he knew a lot of the words and it helped. We drove the Ring of Kerry counterclockwise (backwards) but we were lucky. All the tour buses have to drive the Ring of Kerry counterclockwise so that two tour buses don't meet on a small road. The cars are encouraged to make the "ring" clockwise so they don't have to follow the tour buses. There are just too many places to stop a take a photo. If you're not bored yet, here's another. The roads are well marked for the Ring of Kerry and Ed saw one sign that also directed him to where the fairies were. Before Castlemaine, we stopped at a very large beach. It was called Inch Beach, Ed and I decided to go wading. I have never been in water that cold that didn't have ice in it.
Along the way we stopped at a market in Cahersiveen and bought some food for a picnic, Ed and Leslie even bought some small wine bottles and surprised us. I saw a sign for somecastle ruins and we found it just north of town. The road was marked in town and the road just stopped at the edge of the shore. We had to drive on the tidal basin (mud flats) to get there, we parked on the basin too, the tide was out. We crawled under some barbed where others had gone before us and had a great picnic under some really nice castle ruins. We were able to explore the castle and take some nice photos. Here are the photos of the Ballyconberg Castle ruins by the sea: Picture-1; Picture-2; Picture-3;; Picture-4 and Picture-5 where you can see Ed for a perspective. The castle can be seen from the road just west of Cahersiveen, look north. You have to drive north from the street east of the Cathedral in Cahersiveen on the N70, only one street goes north. The castle is named Ballyconberg and it was big but it was not on any of our maps. Well worth a visit during low tide. A word about the tides, high tide happens every 12.5 hours, usually twice a day. The difference between high and low tides on the west coast is 6 meters (18 feet). It always appears as if the tide is "out". Just as we finished eating and we thought we were alone in the world, two more cars pulled up, parked and came to our castle for a picnic too! This castle ruins was one of the best I have visited and it was free.
We did the "ring" and then stopped at Sneem, a very colorful town. Now here is a good reason not to take a bus tour. I took a picture of the town sometime between 2-4PM when the tour buses stop and then later after they left, the town was really nice. the tours never saw this. The locals came out when the tour buses left and the pubs were full of local people. We found a nice old B&B one block from the center of town behind the church (The Old Convent House)that used to be a convent before the nuns went off to Australia in the 1890's to teach. We stayed here two nights, Sneem is worth a visit as is the Blue Bull Pub and Dan Murphy's Pub in the town. Make sure you see the big rock in front of Dan Murphy's Pub. We spent the day in the area and drove to an old stone fort (Staigue Stone Fort, Chris and I and Ed and Leslie) where we had to pay 50 pence compensation to a farmer for trespassing on his property. Ed decided to take a "pyramid" shot of me, Leslie and Christine and then another one. I took a shot of Ed and Leslie at the fort. Then we drove on to the home of Daniel O'Connell, the Irish Liberator. Here's Ed by some wierd tree carving. Later, we stopped in the Blue Bull Pub in Sneem where we met some locals, John O'Connor told us how good it was we going on the Ring of Kerry but when I asked him if he had done it, he said "oh, no!" John had been a fisherman all his life and was now retired. I made the mistake of asking John how old he was and he made the sign of the cross and took a quick drink of his pint. The bartender told me that the Irish believe you should never tell your age for fear that your time may have come and that death forgot about you, no sense reminding death of his mistake. Later, after a few drinks, John told me he was 73. We ate at the Blue Bull Pub both nights, more chowder and salmon, they were good. Here I am in the Blue Bull Pub having another pint of Guinness. You probably won't believe that I don't drink much. Here is another picture of Ed and I at the Blue Bull Pub. It rained during the night, first time since we arrived in Ireland. Here is the view from the convent patio.
On the way east from Sneem, we stopped in Kenmare to shop. This town was real nice, many pubs, shops and many B&Bs. It would be worth a stop. The lady at the Convent B&B in Sneem told us to drive south to Castletownsend, Union Hall and Glandon and we did, though fog so thick is was even in the tunnels. In Castletownsend we drove down to the harbor, the fog was in and no one was around. As usual, there were lobster pots everywhere. You can buy a very big lobster most places for £20-25. Christine took a scenic photo at the harbor We had lunch in a nice pub called Maryann's in Castletownsend. Here are Ed and Leslie in Maryann's, remember to wipe the foam from your mustache after drinking a Guinness. Driving along the coast we stopped at Kinsale but we weren't going to stop, it looked sort of touristy. We decided to stop, we were tired, found a nice B&B and had a great time in the town. We first stopped for a drink at the White House Hotel for a drink where we met a very nice couple from Texas. Most couples traveling alone, will be very happy to talk you, they get tired of talking to each other. Later we ate at a nice pub where we never saw the waitress who took our order a second time. When a new waitress only bought 2 seafood chowders and one soup, (we had ordered 3 seafood chowders) I asked her where the third was? She came back with some paper (our order) and said there were only 2 seafood chowders written down. I looked at her and said that I had not written anything down and didn't know who had. I think she realized how stupid it sounded and she started to laugh. She then brought another chowder. Later we stopped in a hotel where three woman were singing to a complete banquet hall where all the tables were set for dinner except there were no people. When they finished we clapped and left! We met Ed and Leslie who had found a nice Wine Bar and we stopped in for coffee and then some wine as they had music, the owner also sang and we met some nice people from Exeter, Devon in the UK and some people from New York. It turned into a great evening. The wine bar was named Mary Lane's Steak and Seafood Bistro. As I said, we met Ian and Nina from Exeter, Devon, and they said the set price menu £13 per person, was great. Ian and Nina also took our photo. The owner was very pleasant and welcomed us even though we said we only wanted coffee. We did order wine as we ended up staying quite late. Christine said it was a fun place, the cook was Moroccan.
From Kinsale we drove north to Cork and the Blarney Castle where Christine and I kissed the Blarney Stone. You pay £3.50 to enter the grounds which includes kissing the Blarney Stone. Blarney Castle was one of the best castles I have ever visited. You can see where the rooms must have been, no ceilings or floors and many stairs you can walk, we had a great time. There were only a few people waiting to kiss the stone. Don't forget to tip the man who holds you £1. It's customary to tip him lest he drops you. You lay on your back and lean out as he holds you and then you can hold on to two metal bars with your hands as you kiss the stone. Your head is upside down and you are on your back. One room was labeled as the room of the princess and the room above, the priest. I have an idea the priest may have had a hole in the floor to view his princess. We walked around the gardens, it was nice and quiet.
Driving east we stopped at Waterford and took the crystal tour. It was interesting but the crystal was very expensive. The tour cost £3.50.
We wanted to stay on the coast so we drove south to Dunmore East where we found a nice B&B. The lady offered us her 4 bedroom, two bath, summerhouse and we took it. We had a kitchen and a television room and walked over to the main house for breakfast, £19 per person. We walked around town in the fog and came across this Edward VII English mailbox. It appears that when the Irish kicked out the English they kept the mailbox keys and just painted them green rather than red. The lady at the B&B told us we could not eat at the best place in town (The Ship) because it was Saturday and you had to book. We stopped there (The Ship) anyway for a drink and talked to the people until they finally gave us a table that someone had failed to claim. The food was very good but expensive, we had two expensive meals out in the country, around $60US per couple, both at upscale pubs. Most were $20-35US per couple. Later we walked up to one of the big hotels (The Haven) on the hill and drank a little more, I had my first shot of Irish Whiskey in Ireland. On the way back we stopped at a pub that had music but it was too smoky and we were pretty tired so we went back to our rental house.
We drove north to Kilkeeny and toured the castle, worth the money. Book it early as it fills up fast and you must be on a tour. The castle was owned by the Butler family that moved to Chicago, no we don't know them. When we first got there a special VIP tour was going into one of the doors and we thought that was the entrance. We went with them for about 10 minutes, walking around before someone noticed we were not dressed in suits and asked what we were doing there. We had to leave. After the tour we went across the street to the old stables and had some lunch, very reasonable. We wanted to stay near the Dublin airport but not in Dublin so we drove north of Dublin to Skerries, on the coast. We found a place on the coast and went into town to find a place for dinner. We stopped at the Stoop Your Head Pub out by the Quay and sat at the bar as all the tables were full. The name of the place is derived from the short door between the two bar areas. The owner asked if we were planning to eat as they stopped serving at 8:00Pm and it was 8:05. We ordered our usual seafood chowder and fish. I saw a table open up so we moved over from the bar. As the waitress cleared the table she took my half-finished glass of Guinness. Christine mentioned it to her and she came out with a full pint to replace it. I told here I only had a glass but she said, "I bet you won't have any trouble drinking it, will you?" People were very nice.
Skerries was only 20-30 minutes from the airport, an easy drive the next morning where we dropped off the Budget Rental car and walked the few feet to the departure lounge. I would highly recommend the town for a first or last night in Ireland, close to the airport and a country setting on the sea.
One thing we learned on this trip is to buy a local calling card to call the USA. We usually use AT&T Direct and we have even used it in Europe to call from country to country. Over the past few trips I have noticed that is cost around $6.00 to call the USA just for a couple of minutes. The day we took the ferry we were waiting at the gift shop when I saw some calling cards on the wall. They were in various amounts starting at £5. I asked the man at the counter how much it cost to call the USA using the cards and he gave me a small brochure that indicated it cost 39 pence per minute. Not a great price but I had used calling cards in the USA and decided to give it a try since we wanted to call our mothers on Mother's Day. Well, to say the least, the brochure was wrong and they must have lowered the prices because we made around 8-9 calls, some for 10-15 minutes and the quality was great. We still had almost £2 on the card when I gave it to the man at the car rental counter. We would call a toll free number and enter our code from the back of the card and a voice would tell you how much was left on the card. I bought a similar card in Greece but only used it for local calls. Most of these calling cards expire within one year so only buy what you can use and give it to someone as you leave the country if there is any money left. We made one in country call and many calls to the USA and I'm sure the total of all our calls using AT&T Direct would have been $50 US as compared with the £5 ($6 US) I paid.