Ireland

After Scotland, we were thinking, ‘What could be better?’ Well, it could be Ireland. We flew into Dublin and spent a quick night before departing in the am for a bus ride all across the country. While a bus ride sounds boring, it was through beautiful countryside with stacked stone fences and ruins of old buildings, churches and castles seemingly everywhere.

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It was a shame that we couldn’t stop and explore some of the ruins. These shots were taken from a moving bus, but they give you the idea of what we saw for hours while driving.

Finally we arrived at the castle where we would spend the next few days. Ashford Castle is situated on the shore of Louch Corrib, the second largest lake in Ireland. The lake is famous for its fabled 365 islands or as they say, ‘One for every day of the year!’ In actuality, the lake has over a thousand islands and it’s bottom holds many archeological treasures. From its depths has been removed boats (dugouts) dating back to the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Also, a 10th Century ship containing 3 Viking battle axes has also been found. The main attraction, however, is the castle itself. A portion of the castle dates back to the 1200’s but most of it is more modern construction. In fact, the castle has recently undergone a $50 million renovation.

IMG_3762The oldest part of the castle (from 1220) is the archway and bottom portion of the turret on the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the castle and the grounds are spectacular, the amenities and optional activities are phenomenal.

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Jimmie Kay riding English style at Ashford

There is a nine hole golf course, tennis, fly fishing in the river, trap shooting, horseback riding, kayaking and falconry. Way too much to do in the two days we were there. Jimmie Kay and I set off in different directions so we could each do our own thing. She chose horseback riding and I went to the golf course.

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One of the wonderful things about the castle were the Irish Wolfhounds that lived there. Apparently, the wolfhound was on the coat of arms of one of the castle’s previous owners, so they have been adopted as the official hosts of the castle. These two live on the grounds and they greet guests every morning at 10 AM. These are 18 months old with the larger one weighing in at 150 pounds. For scale, the gentleman in the photo is 6 ft. 6 inches.

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We had a delightful lunch at Cullen’s at the Cottage. It is a thatch roofed building just a brief stroll across the moat from the castle.

Club with Fries

Club with Fries

JK's salad

JK’s salad

As we were finishing our meal. Jimmie Kay heard the sound of bagpipes coming from the boat dock. She rushed out of the restaurant, forgetting her purse under the table.

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If you stroll through the grounds of the 350 acre estate and out the back gate, you will find yourself in the middle of the town of Cong. The village is probably bet known for being the location for the filming of the John Ford move, The Quiet Man. The movie starred John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. There are many references to the movie found in the town, including a statue of John Wayne carrying Maureen O’Hara, as he did in the movie. The cottage where the movie was set is still adorned with props from the movie, such as their bicycles that they rode through the Irish countryside.

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After several hours, when we finally wandered back to our room, Jimmie Kay realized she had left her purse. We called the restaurant and our waitress said, ‘Yes Mum. I knew you’d be back for it and I have it here for you.’ And she did, totally intact, with nothing missing. Try that in the USA!

Eventually, it was time to leave Ashford for our next castle, Dromoland. On our way, we stopped by one of the most scenic places in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher.

The cliffs stretch for 5 miles along the western coast of Ireland with heights reaching 700 feet. They are probably familiar to you from seeing them in the movies. Among their list of credits are appearances in The Princess Bride, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Ryan’s Daughter and one of my all time favorites, The Guns of Navarone.

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Upon arrival at Dromoland, we were asked if we minded stairs. Our room was in the original part of the castle and the heritage foundation would not allow elevators in that part of the castle. We said no, and 57 steps later, we arrived at our room. Although it was a trek, it was worth it. We were in the turret of the castle and consequently, had one of the larger rooms. The steps were exciting! they were nowhere large enough for my big feet. But, the view from our room made it worthwhile.

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Like Ashford Castle, Dromoland had many activities for everyone. Again, I opted for golf since they had a beautiful 18 hole course. Jimmie Kay took a cab ride to the nearby town of Ennis for some sightseeing.IMG_3864 IMG_3853

The second golf picture above is significant, because two days after we left, Jimmy Buffet posted a selfie of himself from the same spot. The castle might have been there for hundreds and even thousands of years but I doubt it would’ve survived him and us being there at the same time!

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Jimmy Buffet

 

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On our way to Dromoland, I received word that a cousin of mine had been killed in a car wreck as she was returning to Houston after visiting family in Austin. Although we were ticketed from Ireland to Jackson, we were able to rearrange our flights and make it to Houston for the funeral. Although we were all saddened by our sudden loss, the funeral was a celebration of her wonderful life. Plus, it gave us a chance to eat at one of our favorite deli’s down south. Kenny & Ziggy’s is known for their large sandwiches and their New York style decor and attitudeI went traditional with my usual pastrami sandwich while my brother Ricki had the ONE POUND BLT.

Pastrami

Pastrami

BLT with plenty of B!

BLT with plenty of B!

All things considered, it was a wonderful trip but after 9 plane flights in 12 days, we were really ready to get back to our RV.

Next stop…

Wedding in Birmingham!