Chasing Grandmom and Fred in Ireland

4 Jun

Over the Summer half-term holiday, we joined Leora and Fred in Ireland. Instead of flying and renting a car, we drove our car through Bristol and southern Wales to take a ferry out of Fishguard to Rosslare Harbour. We stayed our first night in Wexford. Wexford is a town which goes back to Viking days. Its name is Viking in origin (Waes Fjord) meaning muddy inlet. It was quite hilly and the map of the twon with its oneway streets was terrible.  However, the hostel (Kirwin House) was great. The rooms were clean and spacious, the staff were friendly and helpful, and the guests ranged from backpackers to other families. All-in-all a great place to start our adventure after a long day of driving and ferryboat crossing.

On our next day, we were supposed to meet up with Leora and Fred near Kilkenny.  So, we did some sight seeing along the way. We checked out, near Wexford, the local Irish National Heritage Park. It was a great introduction into what Ireland from neolithic to Viking times. Much of the center was similar to places we’ve seen in Scotland. It had working examples of a Ringfort, Crannog, Mills, Viking longboats, burial mounds, standing circles, ancient breed animals, and even a replica of early Christian monastery. We continued our exploration of Irish history with a stop in New Ross at the Dunbrody Famine Ship. It was a replica of the original Dunbrody ship which carried imigrants from Ireland to America. The museum had an audio visual presentation and then we got to tour the ship with period actors explaining how life on the ship was like (depending on if you were first class or sterage). On our way through Kilkenny, we stopped at the riding estate that Leora and Fred were staying at. Boy was it impressive. I think they’re bathroom was bigger than our hostel room. We met some friends of their’s from California. As we were leaving, it started to rain. We stayed outside Kilkenny at the Foulksrath Castle. The kitchen and common rooms were at ground level and the bedrooms/ dorm rooms were on the top two floors. Unfortunately, the bathrooms/ toilets were in an outside addition. So, getting up to pee in the middle of the night meant climbing down a steep spiral staircase and going to an outside building and then coming back. Outside of that one inconvenience, it was very cool.

On our second day, we checked out Kilkenny and then drove to Cork.  We joined Leora and Fred for dinner. We joined them the next day to see the Blarney Castle. The gardens were awesome and climbing up the castle was a fun experience. All of us except Gabriel, kissed the Blarney stone. They sell pictures at the bottom of you kissing the stone. We carried onto Kenmare and walked with Leora, Fred, and their friends to a small standing stone circle. After a late lunch, we drove up to Killarney where we stayed at the Black Valley Hostel in the Dunloe Gap. We were planning to join Leora and Fred for dinner, but getting down to the Hostel proved to be more a challenge than we expected. The gap contains a single lane road lined with stones, steep drops, and small lakes. Needless to say, we decided to stay put and rest up for the evening. Dinner was a toss-up of Irish potatoes, canned meat, and sliced vegetables. Not very exciting, but we didn’t go hungry.

We spent the next day going horseback riding in Killarney National Park. Outside of Wexford, this was our first day of significant rainfall. Even so, we put on our waterproofs and went riding. Pearl’s horse didn’t cooperate. So, she was led by one of the guides. Gabriel did well and Susie’s bottom did not enjoy trotting at all. I expect next time we see Killarney, they’ll veto horseback riding. Heck they might veto horseback riding anywhere. We checked out the town of Killarney next. If it didn’t have so many tourists, it would be a great town to see/ experience. Nevertheless, we had a hot meal, saw some sights, and listen to American, English, German, and Portuguese accents. In the evening we tried our hand at fishing, but I think the trout didn’t like our American fishing rods or bait. Fortunately, we had prepared for the worse with a better meal than canned meat :-).

We drove up to County Clare the next day to see Leora and Fred before they left for the states. On our way, we stopped in Tralee, a ruined abbey (destroyed around Cromwell’s reign), and the Foynes Flying Boat Museum. Of which, the ruined abbey was the coolest. It had headstones throughout, was surrounded by pasture (with horses and sheep), and was free for the roaming. The Flying Boat Museum was interesting, but was way over priced for such a dinky exhibit. We drove through Limerick Reciting Limericks. I greatly enjoyed Gabriel’s:

There once was a man from Madras,
Whose balls were made out of brass.
When they clanged together,
They played “Stormy Weather”,
And sparks flew out of his ass.

We then finished our drive to the Jamaica Inn Hostel in Six Mile Bridge. This is the nearest hostel to Shannon airport. So most of the folks were either just arriving for touring Ireland or were just leaving. We met up with some nice Kiwis and Aussies. It turned out, while talking over tea, that one of them had worked on the kibbutz my mom is from (Givat Haim). The kids thought the hostel was great. It had a TV room which even had cable.

We joined Fred and Leora the next day in Ennis and toured a Friary. We had a nice meal and then dropped them off at their hotel next to the airport. We then drove through Tipperary back to Rosslare Harbour for our return ferry ride to the UK. It was a great holiday with on and off family visiting. Next time, I think we’ll pick one spot and stay in that area (maybe Kenmare area or the Dingle Peninsula).

Viking boat at Irish National Heritage Park Pearl and Grandmom at Standing Stones in Kenmare Lake in the Dunloe Gap All of us at a Friary in Ennis