Hello again. I thought I might as well go for it and post about the rest of our holiday before it is too 'old news'. I think the photos for this week are even better than those from the first week. See if you agree.
We left Cork on the Monday morning and drove straight across the country and on to the Dingle Peninsular. It was a very wet morning so our first view of Inch beach was less than inspiring. However, this area is known for its beauty so we remained hopeful, and gradually the weather did improve. There is a designated "Tourist route" around the peninsular that takes in many of the places of particular historical interest, and some superb views.
We decided that we didn't have time to do it all but we would try to get around most of it, but first we called in to meet another cousin - Joe's sister Philomena and her husband. They have a working farm and also run a small bakery attached to the house where they make bread and scones to sell locally. They made us very welcome and we had a great time catching up on news of the family. We then did our drive around the peninsular and returned to their house for a lovely meal. They then took us to their son's house where they had arranged for us sleep.
The next morning we were off again, this time driving through Tralee and Listowel to board the Tarbert ferry. This cut quite a bit off our journey and we were soon arriving in our next stop - Galway. Here we had booked into a bar near the town centre, so we dropped off our bags and set out on foot to explore. It was a pretty town with a fast flowing river and a canal running through it. We walked to the Spanish Arch which led on to an open area spread on both sides of the River Carrib. It was very fast running water, but several folk were sitting on the wall and danging their feet over as they took in some gentle autumn sunshine.
We walked around the mouth of the river and on to the Claddagh; a wide expanse of grass used partly as a practice field for a local school football club. We watched them play for a while. Irish football is quite different from Soccer. We then kept walking across the Claddagh, which ran along the coast for a long way, and when we got to the end, as in the words of the song, "We watched the sun go down on Galway Bay". It was a long walk but we enjoyed the sun and there was no rush to get back.
After a very nice meal where we were staying, we went back down the road to Taffes bar to listen to some traditional music. Before we left the next morning, Chris bought me a necklace that I had seen the previous evening. It is a celtic cross with a piece of Connamara marble in the centre.
From Galway we headed up towards Sligo, but I wanted to stop just before there to visit a waterfall I had seen in one of the Tourist leaflets we collected everywhere we went. While we were looking out for it, we saw a sign for Knock Sanctuary and Chris said he would like to go there, so we did another detour but it wasn't far out of our way. Although I am not very interested in all things catholic, this was a lovely place and it was very interesting to read all the signs around the place. It was built to commemorate a Vision of Mary with St Joseph and St John, seen there in 1879, and apparently witnessed by fifteen people. It is now a place of pilgrimage, and in 1979 the Pope visited it 'as part of his pilgrim journey to Ireland'.
We were soon on the road again and we found the village of Collooney and parked up, and then we set off to ask the way to the falls. It was cold and we decided to have a cup of tea first but we couldn't see a cafe, so we went into a bar. There was a nice fire burning in there and several men drinking Guiness at the bar. But Chris asked if we could have tea and the barman told us to go and get comfy and soon he appeared with a big pot full of tea and profuse apologies that he had no biscuits to offer us. We managed to squeeze nearly three mug-fulls each out of the pot and when we got up to leave, the barman gave us directions to the falls and refused to take any payment for the tea! That doesn't happen very often.
The falls were lovely with a backdrop of grey stone buildings that were the old mill, and bright trees in their autumn attire all around it. I love the sound of falling water, and this was fed by a fast flowing river. Just above the falls there was a rock with big heron perched on it. I crept closer and it stayed so still that I wasn't sure whether it was real. But then it suddenly took to its wings and disappeared.
We travelled on through Sligo and before long we reached our Guest House in Donegal. It was a lovely place run by a very kind and helpful couple. Chris was looking forward to coming here as his dad, Sam, came from Donegal. He knows Sam took him there once but he was very small and doesn't remember anything about the visit. He knew our guest house was in the right area so he asked the proprietor if she knew anyone in the region called Perry and she did. Her neighbour and friend was a John Perry. She rang him up and he came down to see us, and he turned out to be a cousin, the son of one Sam's brothers. He also brought his brother Ozzie, and later John's son David arrived. He was keen to meet us as he, like Chris, is trying to trace the family history. He had our names on his list but didn't expect to be meeting us. He exchanged information with Chris, and showed us some old family photos.
After their visit we set off to see a nearby lake called Lake Eske. It was raining lightly, but we could still see that it was very beautiful. At one end there was a castle and we wandered in to look at it, but then we discovered we were in the grounds of a luxury, 5 star hotel, built to incorporate the old castle. No-one seemed to mind us being there and we wandered freely through the grounds looking at a large collection of black sculptures that were dotted around.
Then we drove around the coast to Slieve League Cliffs, some of the highest in Ireland. The last bit was a steep, narrow road so we were glad we were able to drive up it. The wind at the top was so strong we could hardly stand against it, and I had difficulty holding the camera still, but the views were amazing. The steep red rock cliffs dropped straight into the sea, and the Atlantic ocean beat tirelessly at their feet.
On the way back down we stopped to take more photos at a pretty little river. We stood on a bridge looking at it, but when we turned around, the other side of the river was a rushing, churning bowl of white water.
On the way home we stopped off at Donegal Craft village, which was a group of small studio shops where we could both see things being made, and buy them if we wanted to. There was an artist studio, a jewelry maker, a baker/tea shop, a weaver, but the one that caught our eye was a sculptor who took pieces of bog wood, that had been preserved in a peat bog for up to 2000 years, and carved them into whatever the wood suggested to him. Of course, they were rather expensive, but having walked round stroking all of them, we decided to buy a piece between us as a memento of our holiday, and this is what we chose. It is made of bog-pine and mounted onto a piece of rock so it is quite heavy, but I wrapped it up well and put it in my hand luggage, and it survived the journey. I love the smooth feel of it, and will probably go on stroking it every time I pass it!
That evening some more members of the family came to visit us. Aunty Mary was in her eighties and she was the widow of one of Sam's brothers. Later her son Tom joined us. She also brought cousin Muriel with her, who was married to the son of another of Sam's brothers! Both Peggy and Sam came from such huge families,and they tend to have names that are used in each generation, so it is no wonder Chris has had such trouble sorting them all out. Muriel is also very interested in family history and she had an album of old photos which were facinating to look at.
Our final main destination was just over the border into Northern Ireland. This was the Giant's Causeway, which I have often seen on television, and was keen to see for myself. It lived up to our expectation being both interestingly different, and rather beautiful. We spent a long time there, but I think the photos in my gallery speak for themselves, so I won't say any more about it here.
Just beyond the Causeway there is a little place called Carrick-a-rede, famous for its hanging rope bridge that the not so faint-hearted can cross to a small island. We were not up for that, but we stopped off there to meet one more cousin. John and Ozzie have an older brother called Ron who works for the national trust at the site. He was very surprised to see us, but we had a cup of tea with him in the cafe there, before heading off south down around Belfast to Downpatrick where we had booked in for our final night. We drove the long way round on the road that hugged the coast most of the way. It was a bit bendy for me but I just about survived.
We were up and packed early the next morning and set off for our last day of driving. We had plenty of time to get to Dublin as our flight wasn't until tea time, so we headed first for a town called Newcastle. This is famous as it is the place where "The mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea." Another favourite Irish song of ours. Along the promenade we saw a large sheet of metal engraved with the words of the song, and with a picture of the poet who wrote it, lazer cut in the centre so that you could see the mountains through and around him. We had to drive through the mountains which took us through some lovely countryside, but we realised that we were still a bit early for the airport so we stopped off at a little village called Swords. We found a nice tea shop, and then wandered down the high street. Then we filled up the hired car and returned it to the depot, and headed into the departure lounge. We were relieved when the case went through as we knew it might be over weight, but we were just under by a few grams!
Well I am sorry this is such a long post. There is so much more I could tell you, so believe me, this is greatly edited. There are some lovely photos in my new folder, "Touring Ireland; Week two" so do click on it and have a quick look if you can.