Archive for July, 2012

Cobh and Kinsail.

Posted: July 31, 2012 in Ireland

 

 

 

 

From Killarney we headed to our next stop down towards Cork staying at a B & B in Blarney.  Scoring another great, friendly little place to stay we checked in then just had a bit of a look around Cork in the city itself, at the little English Market and pretty much just took it easy today.

After a rest day yesterday we set of to a couple of highly recommended towns in Cobh and Kinsale.  Cohb was the last port of call for the Titanic before it sank on April 15th back in 1912.  There was a Titanic information center and lot of tourist shops selling all sorts of Titanic propaganda.  A large cruise ship was in port also.

Cobh waterfront street.

Large cruise ship in port.

We had a look around the town it was another very nice little spot.  There was a huge church that dominated the skyline of the town so we went to check that out.

Nor a great day for being on the water.

Cobh church.

Cobh church.

We had heard that you could catch a ferry across the river, which would save about an hour of driving to Kinsale.  So we got on it for only 5 euros and a couple of minutes later we were across and on our way.

Kinsale turned out to be a really great little town also.  It is another fishing village and has 2 big forts (in ruins) each side of the river mouth leading out to sea.  It also has a nice little beach for swimming.  The streets are also great to walk around.  It is almost like a maze sometimes.

 

Kindsale harbour.

Not a great day for the beach – but a nice place either way.

We went to have a look at both forts.  The first is James Fort, it is pretty overgrown around the outside walls and center buildings have another wall around them, which was locked.  So we had a look around for a while before moving on.  We also visited the beach, not much of a day for it but there were still a couple of families there making the most of an afternoon without rain.

 

Looking through the walls into James Fort.

Inside James Fort.

Charles Fort from across the water.

Looking back at Kinsale from James Fort.

Shaun was almost too tall to park in here….

The next fort is called Charles Fort.  This is much larger and you have to pay to get in.  There were a few tourist buses there and heaps of cars so we thought we’d give it a miss and just have a walk around the outside.

 

The gate to Charles Fort.

Outside Charles Fort.

Outside Charles Fort.

From here we drove back to Blarney.

The Ring of Kerry.

Posted: July 31, 2012 in Ireland

We had another day of touring around a different part of the coast line today, this tour was about a day trip around the Ring of Kerry, also visiting more costal towns, cliffs and beaches.

Beginning of our coastal drive.

We took our doing the same routine as the Dingle peninsular – just driving around taking in the scenery and stopping for photos or drinks and food breaks as we feet like it.

Mmmm soft serve.

Temptation became too much.

We came across some old forts.  It has been difficult to say exactly how old they are, but estimations put them somewhere between 400 B.C and 600 A.D.   The forts were large; round stonewalls with a narrow entrance.  The inside of the walls were terraced so you could climb to the top and see over – used for defending against attackers.  In the center was a large open area where there would have been a few houses.  Someone of wealth and importance would have lived with in forts like these.

A fort positioned on top of a hill.

Exploring the inside of the fort.

Tina only just fits under the door of the fort.

From the top of the forts we could see the ruins of a large castle out on the coast.  We went to have a look.  When we got there we found it was on private property but had a track leading up to it and people were in there looking around so we jumped the fence and had a look too.

The ruins of another castle.

All that is left from the rear of the castle.

There was an information board that told the story of the castle.  A family had built it hundreds of years ago and it had been attacked and damaged then rebuilt a couple of times.  Then a large barn had been built off the back of it by the farmers in later years.  The barn had since burned down and all that was left was the front section of the original castle.  It was interesting to have a look around, you could climb right up through it.

The remains of an old staircase.

Not sure what is down here….

The 2nd level.

After visiting a couple of nice, little coastal towns we got to the Cliffs of Kerry.  These were another impressive stretch of cliffs about 300m high.  Years ago monks who had come from Africa lived on these cliffs in little igloo type houses built from rocks.  There were 3 of these houses that had been rebuilt to show how they lived.

The Monks houses.

Cliffs of Kerry.

Looking out to sea from the cliffs.

Some more of the spectacular Irish coastline.

We continued on to check out the cliffs for a little while before moving on around to see the rest of the Ring of Kerry, then back to Killarney.

Old boats rested on dry ground.

Getting ready for fishing.

Tina enjoying the view.

A small waterfall.

A nice colourful fishing village.

A nice day of fishing.

Another great view.

Dingle Peninsular

Posted: July 31, 2012 in Ireland

Today we planned to do a scenic drive around the ‘Dingle Peninsular’.  This was another highly recommended drive that would take us through some really nice little coastal towns and very photographic landscapes.

An Ireland beach.

We just cruised stopping along the way to take photos or a quick walk on a beach here and there.  It was a really nice drive.  We stopped for lunch at a place called Tralee.  The guy looking after us there got talking to us about our trip, asking what we were up to etc.  He had been out to Australia and loved it.  His name was Garry.  Before we left he told us that when we got to Dingle we could not pass through with out dropping into Dick Mack’s – a traditional Irish pub and one of the best that we would find in the whole country…big call.  Garry told us to ask for Oliver and say that ‘Garry’ had sent us there.  Ok this should be interesting – but stopping off for a quick Guinness can’t hurt right?

Crossing the mountains.

Sheep.

We kept moving around the peninsular seeing some great parts of the Irish coastline; it is a really beautiful country.

The coast from the mountains.

Tina at a small water that ran out to from the mountains to the coast.

Arriving in Dingle we found a park then followed Garry’s instructions that were – find the Church in town and Dick Macks is across the road.  We tracked it down no worries and walked in.  Immediately it looked like we had stepped back 100 years in time.  A small room with a nice timber bar along the right hand side with shelves behind it crammed with assorted bottles and numerous other things people had sat down and forgotten about.  A booth at each end, with a window to the bar.

Dick Mack’s Bar.

Along the left hand side was a Cobbler’s bench.  He was standing there with all his tools out, a pint of Guinness in front of him making a new leather belt.  There were shelves behind him with all the shoes and other things he was either making or repairing.  A couple of guys sitting at the bar having a drink and a laugh.  Nobody was behind the bar.

The Cobbler’s work bench.

There were 2 doors at the far end of the room, we walked through 1 that led into another area with more rooms coming off it.  One room had a piano and a guitar leaning against the wall with an old fireplace in one wall and a small round table with 3 chairs in the middle.  Another room had an old wood fire oven in one wall and a long timber table with benches setup.

1 of the rooms from off the bar.

Then there was a door that led out to a beer garden – which was pretty much the lane way between Dick Macks and the next building.  The whole place was just an old residential build converted into a pub.

We went back into the bar to grab a drink, the Cobbler looked and said, “I’ll call Oliver for you, I think his changing a barrel over”.

Next minute an older man with a suit and hat on walks in behind the bar.  He says hi and asks what we’d like.  We order our drinks and with shaking hands and total concentration begins to pour our drinks – think he may enjoy quite a few himself.  He then asks us if we are enjoying our travels and warns us that we may enjoy this place so much we won’t leave.  After handing us our drinks he sorts the rest of the bar out with drinks then walks out again.  He seems friendly enough and has one of those infectious smiles – just a nice old man who has probably spent most of his life behind the bar and drank almost as many as he has handed over.

Oliver behind his bar.

We move out to the other rooms to have a look around.  Then Tina and Lea decide to go for a quick walk around the town to see what else is about.  Neil and I go back to the bar and grab a stool and another drink.  Oliver walks in and out a few times and then another younger guy moves in behind the bar to look after us.  We have been there for a few minutes when a large group walk in and order drinks.  They have obviously been drinking somewhere else and were having a good time.

Shaun and Neil enjoying a Guinness.

Next minute one of the older guys in the group decides to tell a joke to the whole bar.  Then another guy does the same.  Then the first guy sings a song, after him one of the women sings.  As they are singing the rest join in for the chorus or whatever else they know of it.  Tina and Lea are back by now and we are beginning to realize how drunk the ringleader is.  Despite his thick Irish accent, he is slurring his words but is damn funny.  They keep singing and drinking and we keep watching the entertainment.

As it goes on it gets funnier and funnier.  They end up getting us involved and another couple from New York too– we all had to sing a song and they would all join in with us.  The old guy was right off the planet by now he would forget the words and then remember them again, they had dribble coming out their mouths and tears running down their faces.  At one point Tina was crying she was laughing that hard.

The singing Irishman in full flight!

Then I looked over to one of the booths and here’s good old Oliver just sitting there with his beer smiling away, enjoying the songs.  It was really good fun, they were all really drunk but just having the time of their lives.  The old guy stood up at one point and gave us his thoughts on Ireland – he was very passionate about the history and what must be done in the future to make it a better place for the Irish.

Oliver in the booth.

We stayed as long as we could but still had a far drive to our next B & B, in Killarney so in the end we had to leave them all to it.  I’d love to see how that night ended up.

Shaun in 1 of the side rooms.

Roscommon and Limerick

Posted: July 28, 2012 in Ireland

The idea of passing through Roscommon was to do a little more family research.  Neil’s farther Frank had his parents pass away when he was very young.  As a result we do not have a lot of info on how the family ended up in Australia, or how many generations ago they arrived.  We do know that the Hannan families which are of Irish background were quite wide spread from Roscommon to Sligo, Galway and down to Limerick.  We have only done minimal research so far but thought it would be worth calling through this area to see if there was any interesting facts about the history of the name.

We asked the people we were staying with if they knew the name and they did.  They told us there were many Hannan’s and Hannon’s around the area and we should probably start by going to the Hannon Hotel in town that is still owned by Hannons.  We did this and the lady we spoke to said there is a lot of info at the local library.

It was still early in the morning and the library didn’t open until 1:00pm.  We had planned to stay at Limerick next and had a couple of things to see on the way.  So confident that we were now in the heart of Hannan territory we decided to skip that library and keep on the move, asking talking to people along the way.  We visited the Roscommon castle ruins on our way out then hit the road.

Roscommon Castle.

Roscommon Castle.

Inside the ruins of Roscommon Castle.

We were heading for Limerick.  On our way was yet another castle called Dunguaire.  We stopped again for photos but did not go in.  Each castle seems to charge between 10 and 20 Euros per person and if we entered each one we came across, we would be all broke and back in Australia by the end of the week.

Dunguaire Castle.

Dunguaire Castle from another view.

While we had stopped we grabbed a bite to eat for lunch in the town.  It was a nice little fishing village, and we all enjoyed a bit of a walk around before continuing on toward Limerick.

Lunch at the hanging table.

Crab Claws and Guinness – ummmm!

We arrived at our B & B in Limerick all pretty excited because tonight we had booked into a Medieval Banquet at Bunratty Castle.  So we checked in, had showers and got ready, then headed off.  Arriving at the castle we made our through the grounds and went in.  We were told to go up stairs first where we were greeted at the door by the hosts all in full costume.  They handed us each a mug of Mead – a honey wine.  There was a harp player and violinist in the center of the room just playing away while all the guests arrived.

Bunratty Castle.

Once everyone was there, we were greeted by the staff of the castle who would be entertaining us tonight.  They gave us some history on the castle and what a typical banquet would have been like in medieval times.   They then picked a king and queen out of the audience and we all moved down stairs to begin dinning.

Pre dinner entertainment.

The tables were all setup – long timber benches with white wine, red wine and water in large jugs, plates and 1 knife each.  They explained that we would be eating with our fingers tonight and using our ‘daggers’ to assist in dividing up the meat.  They then explained that as the evening progressed, there would be lots of entertainment and if we liked anything at all we could clap, cheer and bang as loud as we could on the tables.

Then the food came out.  First soup, which we drank straight from the bowl.  Next, huge plates of spare ribs, which we ripped up with our fingers and ‘daggers’.  Next chickens and vegetables. Then desert of some berry tart thing.  They did give us spoons for this but we had to feed the person beside us – hahaha it was all very good fun.

Soups up.

Nothing but daggers and fingers.

As we were dinning they regularly consulted the King and Queen – usually to make sure they approved the food for each course they bought out.  There was constant entertainment such as singing traditional Irish songs.  Then while they were serving a course the guy who was running the show came over to our table and asked us how we were enjoying ourselves.  He then turned his attention to Shaun and said I need a scoundrel tonight and you look perfect for what I need.

Looking for a scoundrel.

Mmmmm ribs.

During one of the courses the main man stood up and announced that there was an intruder amongst us, someone who had been playing up with the women of the castle – a scoundrel.  The King was then given some information and told to read out the name of the scoundrel, of course, Shaun Hannan.  I was he told to stand up and marched to the dungeons, slamming the door behind me.  After giving a run down of the charges, I had to scream from the depths of the dungeons a couple of times; I was bought back up to face the king and the crowd and made to sing for my innocence.  I sang Waltz Sing Matilda, and everyone joined in.  It was all very funny.

 

Shaun facing the audience after being released from the dungeons.

Singing for his forgiveness.

Enjoying the food and entertainment.

Happy days.

Feed your partner for desert.

Song time.

The evening went on with endless entertainment and food and wine.  Everyone had a great night – it was well worth doing.

We had been doing a little more research on the Hannan family.  Not far from Limerick is a small town called Adare, it has a heritage center there where you can do a search in their database for your family name.  They have information on what areas the name had been recorded in and details of family crests, coat of arms and what it all means.

We also found that just out the road from Limerick was a castle built by the Hannan’s.  It was in an area called Ballyhannon.  From what we could find out it was now owned by another family who had renovated it into a guesthouse.  We drove out to have a look.  When we got there, we found no one around, Neil went to the neighbors and they said that there was no one there at the moment and the owners did not live there either.  The gates were open and they said just go in and take any photos you like.

 Ballyhannon Castle.

It was mainly a large tower with a couple of other buildings around the base.  There was originally about 500 acres but was now down to just a few.  The old stone walls and fences still stood around the original property acting as live stock fencing for the surrounding farms.  It was pretty cool to see.  We had lunch in the town and saw evidence of Hannon’s everywhere.

 The gate to the castle.

Neil sitting outside the castle entrance.

Ballyhannon Castle.

After lunch we moved on, going to the coast, to the cliffs of Moher.  This was again a huge tourist attraction but well worth seeing.  The cliffs rise up high above the ocean; there is a walking track along the top with a large stone tower called O’Brians look out.  We walked around for about an hour from 1 end of the cliffs to the other taking heaps of photos along the way.

Shaun playing the harp at the Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher.

Tina at the cliffs entrance.

It was a good day – interesting to find a bit of information of where our distant relations may have come from…

Ireland

Posted: July 26, 2012 in Ireland

We only had the 1 night in Belfast and our plan was to head north along the coast to a place called Giants Causeway that everybody had told us not to miss, then continue down to Roscommon in the center of Ireland.  So with a big day of driving ahead of us we had an early breakfast and made a move.

On our way to the Giants Causeway we called into Kilbane Head.  This was an area of the coast that had some large cliffs with a lookout on top, then steps down to a path over to the old Kilbane Castle ruins.

 

Kilbane Cliffs

Kilbane Cliffs and Castle.

Kilbane Castle.

Ruins of an old house the fisherman would use.

After having a look around here we kept moving towards Giants Causeway.  When we arrived there were people everywhere, a few bus tour loads and lots of other tourists – it is obviously a popular spot.  We had to walk about 5 mins down a path to the ocean where we found a large rocky headland.  At closer inspection the formation of the rocks was amazing.  The earth had pushed up and broken into millions of hexagonal pier like shapes.  They had risen up side by side at different heights all over the place.  It was really interesting to see.

 

Rock formations at Giants Causeway.

Giants Causeway.

Looks like paving.

Exploring the Causeway.

More rocks that have been pushed up.  You would swear someone had stacked them.

We spent a while looking around and exploring the rocks until it was time to move on.  After a long afternoon of driving we made it to Roscommon late and all just went to bed.

After breakfast today we were all packed up ready for the ferry to Ireland.  We had about 3 hours to get there and it was only an hour down the road so the couple who owned the B & B we stayed at told us about a little road that led down to a beach that we could walk along to a castle.  From the beach we could walk about 10 minutes along the sand to Culzean Castle.  Once we reached it we could then get up into the castle from the beach without having to pay entry at the car park.  Sneaky eh.

Off to the castle via the sand / rock.

Culzean Castle sitting up on the cliffs.

Don’t stress Shaun it’s not that far to go….

So we had a look around the castle for a little bit before continuing on to catch the ferry.

The gardens of the castle.

Tina hanging out on the walls of the castle.

The front of Culzean Castle.

It took us about 2.5hrs on the ferry to reach Belfast.  We found some seats, had a drink and snack while we cruised.  We hit Belfast at about 5:30pm and went straight to our next B & B.  The rain had stopped and there was even glimpses of blue sky so we went for a walk to a little café for dinner.  After dinner we continued our walk around a few of the streets near where we were staying the night before calling it a day.

On the ferry Ireland bound.

Our first look at Ireland.

Goodbye Scotland – what a beautiful, friendly country with – ‘Hands down the best Salmon’ any of us have tasted…… the whiskey wasn’t bad either, beer was good too, kilts were pretty, great mountains, lochs and coast line….! Damn nice place – but your weather sucks.