A Travellerspoint blog

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What a load of Blarney!

The original plan was to visit Waterford Crystal while we were in Waterford and buy a really nice wine decanter, we thought we would be able to get them to ship it back home for us instead of risking it in our luggage. Alas, like a lot of well laid plans.......
We slept late and just made it down in time for breakfast before rushing out to the crystal showroom. It was raining (again) and after driving round and round looking for somewhere to park, we gave up and decided to just head off in the general direction of Killarney in County Kerry, which was our home for the next two nights.
We took the coastal road and made out first stop a really lovely town called Cobh (pronounced Cove) It was at Cove that ill fated passengers boarded the Titanic from the White Star Line offices (which are still here)and from here that she made her final port of call before heading off across the Atlantic to a rendezvous with an iceberg. (just think Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, in this very spot...sigh)
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It was also just off the coast here that a German U-boat sank the Lusitania in 1915 killing 1,198 of the 1,959 people on board. The locals at Cobh helped to rescue the survivors and bring in and bury the bodies of the dead. There is a memorial in the centre of the town commemorating those involved.
The town is filled with colourful houses and shops while the harbour is filled with fishing boats.
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Back in the car and on to Cork. We didn't stay in Cork, just had a quick look round and continued onto Blarney.
The castle here is now a ruin, but that doesn't stop the visitors.
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The reason for that is what's at the top of the castle - the famous Blarney Stone.
Legend says if you kiss the Blarney Stone you will be gifted with the power of eloquent speech and flattery (in other words, full of bull shit) The term "Blarney" as it's used today is said to have originated with Queen Elizabeth I when after continued requests for an oath of loyalty to her from Cormac McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney she receives yet another "diplomatic" reply. Her response is said to have been that he was giving her "a lot of blarney" Thus the saying.
In order to kiss the stone you have to climb to the top of the castle. This is no easy task! The stairs are many and steep. They are also very, very and let me stress very narrow. It's a good job I went on a diet before this holiday or I might still be wedged somewhere between the ladies room and the parapet. Once at the top the view was amazing. After 3 hours of catching my breath I headed straight for the stone. Now you can't just kiss the stone and be done with it, no you have to lay down, hang over the edge, bend over backward and kiss it whilst you are upside down. In the past people have been seriously injured and some even fell to their death, however in this day of heath and safety regulations there is now steel bars to hold onto and a steel cage to catch you if you fall (pfft wus!) Anyway, knowing how much I needed this gift of eloquence I quickly jumped to the floor (well as quickly as one my age and size can) grabbed the bars, bent back as far as I could and snogged away. Like many a kiss it was over too soon and left one a little disappointed. However it was done - world watch out, here I come!!

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Next it was Susan's turn. I saw the look of fear on her face - for those who don't know Susan has a very chronic fear of heights.
After some cajoling and encouragement from others she screamed "I can't, I can't, you don't understand, I just can't" It was actually the first time I had seen Susan really look and sound terrified. Much to her credit though she eventually got down and with some help from one of the guides she kissed the blarney stone. She received a very rigorous round of applause from all those there. I think t was probably the quickest kiss in history, but still she did it!!

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After all the excitement we headed straight to Killarney from there, grabbed some dinner in a really nice restaurant and booked into our hotel. Well I say hotel but it was really a country house B 'n' B. It was really gorgeous. The house and the owner were lovely.
It was another tiring day and we tumbled into bed, exhausted but we spoke very eloquently in our sleep.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 12:53 Comments (1)

The long and Winding road

Hi all,
Sorry the blogs are getting infrequent since we left London.
This is because London was the only place we had wiFi in the apartment, actually that's a lie, we also had it in Paris as well but have I mentioned Paris was hectic?
Anyway I will try to catch you up with Ireland.
So after arriving in Killarney and booking into our lovely B 'n ' B we got a good nights sleep, a more healthy breakfast this time and headed of to 'do' the Ring of Kerry (no jokes please, I've already made more than you could imagine - sorry Kerry) However, just like our own Kerry, it was breathtakingly beautiful. I will put some photo's here for you, but they don't do it any justice.
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We travelled through some really pretty little villages, although Susan found the narrow, winding roads a bit trickier to handle compared to Australia's wide, tarmacked highways.
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As we were driving along one of these particularly narrow roads we encounted a couple of the locals walking along the roadside wall.
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And also standing on roof tops
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Just outside Dingle was a 6th century church called the Gallarus Oratory, which literally means "church of the place of the foreigners"
The only window is a very small one on the rear wall and legend says anyone who climbs out of the oratory via the window will have their soul cleansed. I was tempted but but after a quick mental calculation of the dimensions, thought it was wise not attempt it.
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The drive took all of the day and by the time we got back to Killarney we grabbed some dinner in one of the local pubs.
They had some "traditional" music playing. Which consisted of a guy on an accordion and another on guitar who gave us, lets just say not the most rousing version of Danny Boy and The Fields of Athenrye (no I'd never heard of it either)
Sitting on the table next to us was two women and a guy. As we eavesdropped - I mean as we accidentally overheard their conversation, it became apparent that one of the women and the guy were from Ireland and had moved to America many years previous. They were back home for a holiday and were somehow related to the accordion player and were clapping and singing along very enthusiastically. In between songs they reminisced and caught up on what everyone from the "old days" were now doing. Here's a little snippet of the conversation....

"What happened to Michael O'Reilly?"
"Oh he spent 9 months in prison for shooting Paddy O'Shea in the leg, after Paddy and Seamus Murphy both had it away with Mickey's bride at the wedding reception."

We thought an early night was probably in order.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 11:08 Comments (3)

'Tis the truth, to be sure.

Last day in Killarney today before heading off to Galway. So after checking out of our B 'n' B we decided to start the day pretending to be Amish.
We took a horse and cart ride through the town to the lower lake.
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Killarney has three lakes that make up the National Park. We didn't have time to visit all 3 so settled for a guided trip with knowledgeable local, Mr Sean O'Shaughnessy. He regaled us with some local history and stories about some of the more colourful characters, such as Kate Kearney who used to supply the locals with her home-made poitin (moonshine). She died (God bless her immortal soul) at the grand old age of 108, during child birth. It's said her parents mourned for over a week. Mr Sean O'Shaughnessy also pointed out a wishing well, where leprechauns can often be seen bungee jumping.
The lakes were beautiful, with a ruined castle on the shore. Apparently many films have used this as a location, one of Mr Sean O'Shaughnessy's many bits of information. This one is easy to believe though.

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Once back in Killarney we got back in the car and headed north towards Galway.
First stop though was the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, which means "the cliffs of ruin"
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At their highest they're 390 ft above the Atlantic. There is a tower built just south of the highest point called O'Briens Tower.
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The cliffs are home to over 300,000 birds including perregrine falcons and Atlantic puffins. I was excited about seeing puffins and searched and searched the cliff face to no avail. Then I heard someone say "there's one, on that rock" well that's all very well and good, but the whole thing is rock, so it didn't really help. Susan and I searched for a few minutes and finally Susan thought she saw them and eventually got me looking in the right direction (and who's the one who needs to wear glasses?)
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Although it isn't advertised anywhere, I discovered that the Cliffs of Moher are also home to Bilbo Baggins. Yes it's true, Bilbo and Frodo are actually leprechauns not Hobbits. I have proof!

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Officially it is an environmentally friendly visitor centre which uses renewable energy systems including geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and grey water recycling. However, I know the truth!!

After leaving Middle Earth we continued northward and travelled through a national park known as the Burren (pronounced Burn)
After the beauty of The Shire in Middle Earth, I mean the Cliffs of Moher, we didn't think we would be surprised by any more scenery - how wrong could we be! The Burren is stunning. Very different to everything else we had seen 'till now. The landscape is comprised mostly of rock formations and dramatic cliffs.
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It was getting late in the day by this time so from here we drove on to Galway, our home for the next two nights.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 14:47 Comments (0)

Claddagh

We spent two days in Galway, or I should really say two nights, we really only spent one full day there.
We took a drive to Thoor Ballylee. This was a sixteeneth century norman castle built by the family de Burgo and bought and restored by Yeats in 1919. Yeats lived there until 1929. It doesn't look like a castle, more like a thatched cottage attached to a tower. It was restored again in 1965 and is now used as a Yeats museum. The day we went there was a sign posted on the door to say that the building had been damaged by flooding and was closed for repairs until further notice. This actually turned out to be a good thing. For although we didn't have access to the inside of the house we could wander around outside and we had the place to ourselves, no coach loads of tourists to contend with (can you tell we're still bitter about Versailles??)It was so peaceful, it was the first time on this holiday that we've experienced the total quiet that exists in the middle of the countryside. No sounds of traffic or people, just the trickle of the stream and the birds.
There is a plaque on the building, placed there by Yeats when he restored the Tower, it reads -

"I the poet William Yeats
With old millboards and sea-green slates
And smithy work from the Gort forge
Restored this tower for my wife, George
And may these characters remain
When all is ruin, once again."

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We spent the morning here then drove into Galway to take a wander around the town centre.
Like many of the towns we've seen, it was full of winding, twisting narrow streets, quaint shops and cafes.

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Susan wanted a Claddagh ring. You can buy them everywhere but the original was designed at a jewels in Galway called T Dillon & Sons. Although any jeweller can sell Claddagh rings, only Dillon &Sons can sell the original design and they are the only ones that have the official Irish stamp on the inside. Of course this meant I had to buy her one from here.

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We popped into a little cafe and Susan tried some traditional Irish food (other than her normal black pudding) Boiled bacon and cabbage, it actually looked surprisingly appetising!

We walked back through he town and came across one of the local men having a very intense conversation with Oscar Wilde.

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After lunch it was over the border to County Mayo and Cong Abbey. Originally founded in the early 7th century the abbey was destroyed by fire in the early 12th century and rebuilt in 1203. Cong is a small town with a few shops and houses and (or so it seemed) about two pubs for every resident.

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We headed back to the hotel for some dinner and an early night before setting of to Athlone the next day.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 13:40 Comments (0)

Blood is thicker than Guinness

After breakfast we booked out of our hotel and set off for Athlone.
Athlone is the place where Susan's Grandmother came from, before immigrating to Australia sometime before 1920.
Susan's Grandfather came from Drumraney, which is very close to Athlone, however her grandparents did not meet until they had both moved to Australia.
We knew this might be an emotional day for Susan, but little did we know.....
When we arrived in Athlone we soon found the street where Susan's grandmother had lived. Part of the street has now been demolished and a shopping centre built, but there are still a few houses. We found some details in the 1911 census but not enough to determine if one of the remaining houses had been hers.

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We went up to the church, thinking there would be a graveyard attached, where we could look for some connection. When we got there there was no graveyard, which we though was unusual, but we did get to see the church where Susan's ancestors would have gone to worship every week.

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We did have a chat to the priest but he was unable to help us any further so we got back into the car and drove to Drumraney. Again we went straight to the church. Susan went inside to speak to the priest and I took a walk around the graveyard, looking for the name Kerrigan. (There was a little episode with Susan forgetting to put the handbrake on the car and it running into the back of a parked van, but I promised her I wouldn't mention it, so I wont)
I found a couple of Kerrigan headstones but had no idea if they might be related so I headed to the church to see how Susan was getting on. That day the church had a new sound system installed and the priest had asked a couple of guys to come over and see if it sounded ok. One of them, Peter O'Donnall said he would show us the graves that belonged to Susan's family. As we walked around the graveyard he pointed out the graves of Susan's Grandfather's, (Joe Kerrigan) brothers Paddy, Thomas and Kevin plus Thomas's son Joe. He then said he could take us to see the old family homestead, which was last lived in by Kevin Kerrigan (Susan's Grandfathers brother) He led us through some very winding, narrow dirt roads until we came across an old derelict farm house. Peter told us it is the same as it was when Kevin moved out to live with a local woman Mary Bourne. Even his old curtains were still up at the windows and you could see his bed headboard in the upstairs window.

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Susan took a little walk round by herself and shed a few tears.

We got back into the car and as we were heading back, Peter told us to pull over outside another house. This was the house of a family that had always lived in the village and would have known the Kerrigans. They invited us into their living room and began to recall stories, mainly of Kevin, who had apparently not been a big lover of hard work, but had been a fan of spending time in the pub and riding his bicycle home. As previously mentioned Kevin was the last person to live in the family home before moving in with Mary Bourne. Much discussion and debate was had about the nature of their relationship. It was certainly some kind of "unwedded union, God have mercy on their souls" A storey also came out that before he left for Australia, Joe had asked another woman to marry him and go with him, but she turned him down. Good job really or Susan would not be here now!

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Whilst we were here, Peter had called his wife and got a number for Paddy Kerrigan's son Peter. Paddy was also Joe's brother. He then gave him a call and explained that he'd met two women from Australia, one was related to him and would he like to meet her? We arranged to meet Peter in the bar of our hotel at 9pm.

We dropped Peter back at the church and headed back to the hotel. Reeling from everything we'd seen and heard.

We had a quick dinner and waited in the bar, wondering if Peter would come alone or bring his wife (if he had one) come 9pm in walked Peter Kerrigan, his wife Beryl, son Colin, brother Pat and his daughter Rebecca. We sat, drank and chatted 'till about 1:30am. They had brought photo's and photocopies of certificates for Susan, including her Grandfather, Joe's inoculation certificate from 1899. More stories were swapped and more coincidences emerged, Beryl also works for the Tax Office and her Great Aunt had dated susan's Grandfather! They were really lovely and Susan met family she didn't even know existed. Email addresses were given and promises to keep in touch.

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We stumbled into bed that night, drained but I think Susan was elated and stunned at how the day had gone. We really didn't expect anything other than maybe finding a name or two on a headstone. Instead we had stories, photos, seen the family home and met family Susan didn't know existed.

Posted by RUMissingUsYet 14:32 Comments (0)

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