Monday, July 27, 2009

Time to move out

This is the last entry before our return to Australia arriving at home on Thursday. I do have some more photographs of Dublin to put up to the albums but I will do that from home. See most of you soon.

Ireland - Friday 24 July

Friday was actually the last day of our tour and on the way to Dublin, we visited the site of the ancient St Kevin's Monastry at Glendalough. It's quite a large tract of land and contained many monastries. The first photograph shows one of the very tall monastry towers which were first belled and used as tolling landmarks for pilgrims and later as a persons and treasure refuge against the vikings who used to row up the nearby building. The towers were accessed by rope ladders to high entrances and these would be pulled up after the monks. The building in the foreground is very unusual as its roof is fully of mortared stones rather than tiles, thatch or timber. The second photo is of a grove of trees on the grounds.
We also visited the village of Avoca which has achieved fame as "Ballykissangel" in the TV series about three priests. They have a woollen weaving mill there which still does some hand-loom weaving bot as a tourist attraction and for goods to sell to the visiting tourists.

Ireland - Thursday 23 July

Ah, suure the Blarney was flowing freely this day for we visited Blarney Castle and some of us (not we two) went through the assisted routine to kiss the famed Blarney stone. Vija reckoned that she did not need to do so. It is situated in a fairly large estate with attractions and the nearby shops are supposed to be some of the less expensive in Ireland (still expensive relative to Australia, of course). Side view of castle shown here

The rain came and went again as usual and the other photgraph gives some idea as to how dark it can get.

Ireland - Wednesday 22 July

The major activity this day was a trip around the "Ring of Kerry" (previously the Great Atlantic Road) which begins and ends in Killarney. The road mainly travels around a mountain range known as the MacGillicuddy Reeks. Most of the countryside is very rugged but the population has been increasing because of weekenders cottages and those with a lust for a rugged rural home. Sheep farming and fishing from some of the small villages constitutes most of the miniscule economic activity. It was wonderful scenary somewhat spoilt by continuing rain but there were some successful photographs so please check the albums.
The roads is fairly narrow so tourist buses have an unwritten rule that the ring is always driven counter-clockwise but really, the roads are wider than many we drove on in England. These two photos were taken towards the end of the range of mountains as we were nearing Killarney again.
On return to Killarney, we went with the Jarvies and their 'jaunting cars' and you can meet Charlie, the Irish draught horse, who took us on a great tour of the large local park.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ireland - Tuesday 21 July

We left Galway travelling south along the west coast of Ireland with this farmland picture taken not far south of Galway. Then on through part of the Burren which is quite rugged in parts and with lots of varied vegetation in some areas. Very different but with all the rain there, many areas had plenty of grass for livestock. We did an unplanned side trip to the Cliffs of Moher (part pictured). The weather was windy and rainy at both areas so photography was usually difficult.
Then it was on to the Bunratty folk park which features Bunratty Castle and many buildings re-erected or built in the older traditional styles e.g. farmhouses, water-driven mills, workers cottages, stables, shops, doctor's home and surgery and a manor house etc. Very interesting even if a bit too forced. Had a few farm animals and deers too.
Then we did a far-too-quick flit through Limerick and Adare finally stopping in Killarney.

Ireland - Monday 20 July

We set out on the tour early in the morning with a full busload of tourists (39) mainly from USA and Australia but also including a couple from Wales. a mother and daughter from Singapore, a widow from Sri Lanka, a couple from New Zealand and an Englishwoman. On the first day we crossed Ireland from east (Dublin) to west (Galway) stopping at the picturesque village of Moate in central Ireland for a break; later crossing the Shannon River at Athlone. We saw lots of farms and bog country. There was some peat mining in central Ireland and turf mining nearer to Galway (both used for heating). At Galway we wandered the old town to do some shopping and to have lunch. That evening most of us attended at Dungaire Castle (actually a fully restored tower)(pictured) south of Galway where we had a good meal and were very well entertained by two singer/actors accompanied by an excellent harpist (pictured).

Ireland - Sunday 19 July

After having a bit of a wander in Dublin in the morning, we met up with the Insight Tour Guide and fellow travellers and went for a bit of a tour of Dublin highlights in the mid-afternoon. We were a bit disappointed because we understood that this drive included a visit to the Guinness Brewery and Trinity College but we simply went past them. Stops included St Patricks Cathedral (pictured) and Phoenix Park, a huge enclosed park of over 1700 acres featuring a zoo, cricket, rugby, soccer, hurling, polo and gaelic football grounds. There are also lots of grassland and parks which support a considerable herd of wild red deer.
This second photograph is from the park looking over Dublin to the Wicklow Mountains.