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Ireland Trip Journal: 26 June - 10 July 2004

In the summer of 2004 Lynn and I took a trip to Ireland for our 30th wedding anniversary. We were there for 2 weeks visiting relatives and sight-seeing, and we invited my sister Joanne and her husband Dave to join us. This is my journal of the trip.

Click here to download and view a multimedia audio/video slideshow presentation of the trip (204 MB WMV file, 16 minutes playing time)

Click on any thumbnail photo on this page to see a larger image

Day Zero - Saturday, June 26, 2004
Prior to Departure

We’re leaving for Ireland this afternoon. I spent the early part of the day like any other Saturday; I mowed the lawn in between raindrops, and did some email and last minute preparations. Then it was time to go. Audrey’s friend Kate came with us to help Audrey find her way home from the airport after dropping us off.

I was able to get Lynn and myself upgraded on the return flight from Philly to Boston on 10 July, but that was all that was available for now. I’ll check again at Shannon airport on the return flight check-in. There was a Legal Seafoods restaurant at the gate there so we had some early dinner to tide us over. The flight to Philadelphia was simple enough. The walk from the arrival gate to the departure gate was quite a hike (terminal C to terminal A1) but we had plenty of time so it wasn’t a problem.

We met Jo and Dave at the departure gate about a half hour after we arrived there. We boarded the plane on-time, but were delayed at the gate for about 45 minutes for some passengers who were arriving on connecting flights who were late.

The flight over was uneventful, we slept a bit in between meals, and the sun rose in front of us about 90 minutes before we landed.

Jo & Dave at the airport


Day One - Sunday, June 27, 2004
Arrival; Visit with Pats & Cathy; Banna Strand; Dinner; Cathedral Sunsets

First day in Ireland. We worked hard at staying awake all day. The drive down from Shannon airport west of Limerick took about 2 ½ hours, plus a stop for tea and a quick bite along the way at Headley’s Bridge near Knocknagoshel. Jo and Dave were quite unsettled with traveling on the left side of the road and having the driver’s side of the car be on the right. It took me about a half-hour to get comfortable with it again, but it’s fine now.

After finding Cathy & Pats' house in Ardfert and visiting there for a while, we unpacked at the cottage that was to be our home for two weeks, and went back to Cathy and Pats' to meet their son John and to have some lunch (roast lamb - wonderful!). We visited some more, and talked about where cousins were and what they were doing, none of which I wrote down so none of which I remembered. We gave Cathy and Pats a picture-book of Boston, a plotter-printed (~12 feet long) family history chart, and a blue & yellow table runner that Lynn had quilted as Thank-You gifts for hosting us during our stay.

After lunch we headed off to Banna Strand (beach) for an invigorating walk in the gale-force winds coming from off-shore. In spite of the wind and the relative chilliness, there were people swimming, and some paragliding surfers (paraglider in the wind drags you along on the board). The beach was littered with jellyfish of all sizes and shapes – so many that you had to watch where you were stepping.

After dinner at Kate Browne's Pub in Ardfert, Lynn and Dave declared victory in the quest to stay awake all day (the only way to beat jet-lag), and went to bed (~9:30 pm local time), but Jo and I headed out to the ruins of the Ardfert Cathedral just outside of the village center and took pictures in the sunset light (the sun sets around 10:30 pm here these days).

Cathy's Kitchen
Banna Strand
Entering the pub
Ardfert Cathedral at Sunset


Day Two - Monday, June 28, 2004
Killarney Shopping and Sight-Seeing

Today we went off to Killarney to wander around, after a very slow morning getting started. Folks are sleeping late, which makes it hard to get going.

On the way in to Killarney we stopped in front of the Aghadoe Heights Hotel on a hill overlooking the lakes to snap some pictures, then we continued in to Killarney and poked and shopped and shopped and poked. Gene bought an Aran pullover sweater, and we ate lunch (at Mulligan’s Chop House) and dinner there in Killarney, rode on a Ferris wheel (German fest rides were there for the Killarney Festival which is running this week), and had some Guinness! We had planned on stopping in to see Mickey at the old family homestead in Knockbrack on the way back, but we didn't get back until 10:00 pm or so, so we stopped into one of the pubs in Ardfert for a pint instead!

Lower Killarney Lake, as seen from the Aghadoe Heights Hotel
Mulligan's Chop House, Killarney
A colorful street in Killarney

Day Three - Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Visit Mickey at Knockbrack; Ballyheigue; Dinner with Cathy & Pats and family in Kate Browne’s Pub

Folks are still getting a slow start in the morning. We stopped over at Pats and Cathy’s before heading out, but they weren’t there, only the housekeeper, so we said hello and went on our way. First destination was to find Mickey’s house in Knockbrack. I took a wrong turn and ended up on the Ballyheigue road, but we were able to turn back east and find our way using the ordnance map.

We visited with Mickey for over two hours. He’s in good health for 85 years old. The house is showing signs of its age. Mickey was in fine form though, telling stories and expounding on all sorts of subjects. He told us that Radio Kerry had interviewed him twice for a “Kerry Heritage” series they do. We have a borrowed cassette of the first broadcast from Cathy and Pats, but the second broadcast hasn’t aired yet. We videotaped about 90 minutes of our visit with him so we could capture the audio from his storytelling. We also gave Mickey a copy of the 12 foot family chart.

We also stepped outside into the better light to get photos of him and the visitors, and of the house and yard. We promised to return for another visit before we left.

By now it was 3 pm and we needed lunch so we drove up to Ballyheigue to find a place to eat. We picked Jimmie Browne’s Pub in the White Sands Hotel there (later found out it was owned by the same person who owned Kate Browne’s Pub in Ardfert – he names his pubs after his children), and had soup and toasted sandwiches. The wind was blowing gale-force off the water, so much so it was hard to stand still to be able to take pictures.

While there I noticed I had a phone message on the Irish cell phone I rented for the trip – it was Cathy suggesting that we all meet up at Kate Browne’s Pub restaurant in Ardfert for dinner, as their daughter Siobhán (pronounced Shuh-VON) was on from Dublin and it would be our only chance to meet her. So we headed back to the cottage, but before getting there we stopped at the Kilmoyley Chapel to look around. We found Fr. Jim’s tomb and took some pictures.

Dinner at Kate Browne’s Pub was great. Pats, Cathy, Siobhán, son John, and Cathy’s sister Mary were there. We ate and talked until eleven pm. I made early arrangements with the waitress to pay the bill myself; Pats was not happy about it, but I convinced him to let me pay as a partial thank-you for his and Cathy’s hospitality.

Mickey's Parlor
Gene, Mickey, and Jo outside Mickey's house
Three Frozen Tourists
Kilmoyley Chapel
Cathy and Pats' Family


Day Four - Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Lunch with Sr. Cecilia; At Helen’s; To Tralee for Dinner and Music

Folks got up late again. I called the Balloonagh Convent to try to connect with Sr. Cecilia for lunch, but had the wrong number, so I called Helen to see if a) she had Sr. Cecilia’s number (she did), and b) she wanted to meet us and Sr. Cecilia for lunch (she did). Using the number Helen gave me, I called the convent but Sr. Cecilia was not available, so a message was sent to her to see if she wanted to go out for lunch, and she did. We all met at the convent at noon and drove in two cars to Ballyroe Heights Hotel on the Ardfert road out of Tralee for lunch. We had a great lunch, and talked a lot about many things. We gave Sr. Cecilia a lap blanket Lynn had made, and one of the 12-foot family charts.

After lunch we drove to Helen’s and had tea and talked more. I called Helen's sister Juliana from Helen’s to try to arrange a time to get together, tentatively set for next Thursday.

From Helen’s we drove down to Tralee and walked around to find a restaurant for dinner, then spent time in the Tralee Rose Garden by the museum. After that we walked to Kirby’s Brogue Pub to listen to music and have some more Guinness, then home for the night.

Dave, Sr. Cecilia, Lynn, Jo
Jo, Dave, & Lynn in the Tralee Rose Garden
In the Tralee Rose Garden
The band in Kirby's Brogue Pub


Day Five - Thursday, July 1, 2004
Around the Ring of Kerry

Tourists in Killorglin
Tourists on the Ring
Coomakesta Pass
Staigue Fort

We got up earlier than usual and headed out for our trip around the Ring of Kerry. We drove counter-clockwise (so that the National Park would be the last thing on the loop). Not long out of Killarney we saw a sign for Kerry Woolen Mills so we detoured off the Ring road and headed for Beaufort where the woolen mills were. Kerry Woolen Mills was on a farm that was also a working mill that I remembered visiting with my mother and aunt back in 1965. I bought another sweater (an everyday sweater to use during the trip since it was chilly most of the time) and Lynn bought two sweaters (a nice regular one and an traditional white Aran one).

From there we got back on the Ring road and drove until Killorglin, home of the famous Puck Fair. We walked the bridge and took pictures of the King Puck statue. Near Glenbeigh we caught our first glimpse of the ocean so we stopped and snapped pictures of the cliffs and the sheep and the scenery.

Further on we stopped in Cahersiveen for lunch, and ate at QC’s Seafood Restaurant – great food. We then drove on to Waterville and stopped to find a phone book and look up cousin Cáité (Kate), but she was not home so I left a phone message.

We stopped again at Coomakesta Pass just before Caherdaniel to enjoy the view. It was too windy for Jo to even get out of the car (she was cold all day), so David and I snapped photos for everyone.

In Caherdaniel we first turned right and drove down to the museum-house for Daniel O’CONNELL (“The Liberator”) at Derrynane, then went looking for bathrooms (found funny ones in the woods by the parking lot). Then we crossed the Ring road and headed into the countryside to try to find Farranatee house where Cáité lives. I had stayed there for most of my three-week visit in 1965 when I was eleven and came over with my mother and aunt. The turn I thought should be it had new houses on it so it didn’t look right, but after talking to a neighbor who was walking her dogs, we determined it was indeed correct so we went back and took the road all the way and came to the right place. No-one was home.

We headed back out and continued along the Ring road, but stopped by some phone booths where I left one last message for Cáité. A bit outside of Caherdaniel we stopped for some more seaside photo opportunities, and then headed up to Staigue Fort to visit.

From the plaque at Staigue Fort:

This is one of the largest and finest stone forts in Ireland and was probably built in the early centuries AD before Christianity came to Ireland. It must have been the home of a very wealthy landowner or chieftain who had a great need for security.

A wall up to six metres high and four metres thick - built entirely without mortar - encloses an area thirty metres in diameter. Several near-vertical masonry joints are visible in the wall, and these may indicate that the fort was built in stages rather than in one contiguous operation. The fort was entered through a narrow, lintel-covered passage in the wall.

The fort was the home of the chieftain's family, guards, and servants, and would have been full of houses, out-buildings, and possibly tents or other temporary structures. No buildings survive today, though two small chambers are contained within the wall. The top of the wall was reached by a series of steps which criss-cross against the inside of the wall. An earthen bank and ditch around the fort gave further protection.

Staigue - from An Stéig (the portion of land)

After walking around Staigue Fort for a while and investigating all we could find, we stopped for “take-away” coffee at the Staigue Fort coffee shop, and headed back out on the road. It was getting late in the day, so the next stop was Kenmare to visit Uncle Jerry (Canon Right Reverend Jeremiah Aloysius)’s tomb and to find some supper. The tomb as not weathered the years well in my opinion, and looks much older than the 38 years it is. We ate dinner in the Wander Inn Pub – great steak – and bought some CDs for the car at Quills, including the new live Planxty 2004 CD.

In the Lakes of Killarney National Park we stopped at Ladies View (disrupted some amorous couple in a car in doing so) and snapped some late low-light photos, then hopped back in the car to head for Killarney. In Killarney we called another cousin Brian to touch base and make arrangements to get together later next week, then drove back to Ardfert around eleven PM to end our day.

Uncle Jerry's church in Kenmare
Uncle Jerry's tomb
Ladies' View

Day Six - Friday, July 2, 2004
Visiting Ellen (“Doll”); Dinner at Helen's

Sr. Cecilia had given us Ellen (a.k.a. “Doll”)’s address and phone number in Ballyheigue to contact. Ellen is a sister to Julia and an aunt to US cousins Carol and Tom. She lives alone and is 86 years old. Ellen called us herself because the phone number Sr. Cecilia had given us was for a completely different Ellen in Ballyheigue.

After a leisurely breakfast, we drove to Ballyheigue to visit with Ellen. She is an amazing lady, full of vim and vigor, with a quick, dry wit. She does all her baking and gardening herself, even painted the outside of the cottage (pink) herself. She made us tea and rhubarb tart, and brown bread, and we spent most of the visit talking about family and going through her massive collection of old mass (funeral) cards. She even had mass cards for Michael COLLINS and JFK.

After visiting with Ellen for a few hours, we drove back to the cottage. The evening was scheduled for a dinner at Helen and Tony’s house, the Knockbrack B&B in the Oakpark section of Tralee, on the Listowel road. All the family was there (eventually, Colm arrived late), and Helen's sister Mary too. We had a great time eating and drinking and talking family and genealogy well into the night.

Looking at Mass Cards
Gene, Ellen, and Jo looking at photos
Michael Collins' Mass Card
Tony and Helen's family

Day Seven - Saturday, July 3, 2004
Drive to Dingle; Walking Dingle Town; Concert; Pubs

Saturday morning we got a reasonable start on the road to Dingle, but we stopped in Tralee to get cash at an ATM and to do some shopping, particularly at a shop called Ireland Designs. Lynn convinced me to spiff up my wardrobe by getting a flannel grandfather (collarless) shirt and a black tweed vest. I also picked up a tie and some ceramic cottages as souvenirs. Lynn was tempted by the scarves but decided to wait and return to the shop later.

Once we finished in Tralee we drove out on the Blennerville road, past the white windmill, and headed out to Dingle. We took the Connor Pass road because the weather looked like it was breaking, and indeed it was. The peak of the Connor pass was a bit clouded over but not bad, with breaks of blue sky here and there. We drove straight to the B&B which was on the Slea Head road in Ventry, called An Towerín Trá – The Tall Beach – and checked in and picked up the key as Helen had told us that the proprietress wanted to go out as soon as we checked in.

We spent the afternoon exploring Dingle town, walking all over the place and shopping in various stores. We saw a poster for a concert that night at 7:30 pm at St. James’ Anglican church on Main street in Dingle, so we scouted down the closest place that was selling tickets and bought 4 (€10 each). We found a place to eat dinner, and then headed over to the church, figuring that the church concert would finish up around 9:30, giving us time to hit the pubs for more music afterwards.

The concert was great – six performers (harp - Steve Coulter [an American], hammered dulcimer – Harris Moore [another American], uilleann pipes & low whistle - Eoin Duignan, guitar & vocals - Tommy O'Sullivan, accordion & vocals - Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich, voice & whistle - Éilís Kennedy) in various combinations and solo, all great.

After the concert we hit a few pubs and listened to some music (The Dingle Pub, An Droichead Beag - The Small Bridge, O’Flaherty’s, Murphy’s, etc.) but they were all crowded with nowhere to sit. We finally ended up down in a small place on the waterfront that had some seats in the back. Three young guys (~18-20 years old or so) and an older guy were sitting in one of the booths playing, so we took a seat in a back booth and listened and drank Guinness and ate banoffee pie for the rest of the night.

Connor Pass Road
The view from our B&B room
A Dingle street
The concert
An Droichead Beag The Small Bridge

Day Eight - Sunday, July 4, 2004
Driving the Slea Head Road; Dinner at The Old Pier

Happy 30th anniversary to Lynn and Gene!

Today started sunny with some clouds, cool (low 60s). We started the day with a traditional Irish Breakfast at the B&B, consisting of Irish bacon (rashers - more like strips of lean ham than what we’re used to as bacon), Irish sausages, “Black and White Pudding” (two kinds of sausage-like patties – one whitish, one blackish – with whole grain in it), grilled tomato halves, and a poached egg.

We headed out after our leisurely breakfast and tea/coffee to drive the Slea Head road. First stop along the trek was not too far along, at the Irish Antiquities Museum just on the other side of Ventry village. Turns out, the owner/operator of the museum was the hammered dulcimer player from last night – Harris Moore! We talked with him for a while and he said he had been collecting antiquities for many years, but decided to focus on Irish pre-history so he sold off all his unrelated (Egyptian, American Indian, etc.) specimens to generate cash so he could expand the more focused collection he has now. He bought the residence that houses the museum about six years ago. Lots of interesting stuff in the museum, and lots of eclectic items for sale in the gift shop.

From there we slid down the road just a short distance to the Irish Famine House, in Fahan, Ventry. This place was a bit of a stretch. They took an old farmhouse and added period furniture and utensils, and charged €3 admission. The attached building had a sign saying that things from shipwrecks were stored in there, but unless used double-hung windows were a common shipwreck item, I’m inclined not to believe them. The house and grounds offered up a few interesting photo opportunities.

From there we continued our drive along Slea Head road, stopping at countless little pull-offs and car parks to soak up the unbelievable view and snap hundreds of photos. Soon after we sighted water we could see the Blasket Islands off the coast, and they figured prominently in many photos. We even had a visit from an overly curious seagull who came right up to the car to see what Lynn was taking a picture of – him, of course!

Just past Slea Head point itself, in Couminole heading towards Dunquin, we found a pull-off by the side of the road with a spectacular view of the cliffs and the coastline and the Blasket Islands. We had just passed a collection of very old houses, some abandoned and dilapidated, that were crying out to me for photographs, so while the rest admired the coastal view, I scooted back up the road on foot to snap photos of the houses on the cliffs with missing roofs and such.

When I got back to the car, the rest of the crew had voted without me and decided they wanted tea and scones at the tea “room” across the road from the pull-off. So we took a break and sipped tea and munched scones at an outdoor table with one of the most spectacular views in the known universe!

Antiquities Museum
Irish Famine House
Slea Head seagull and Blaskett Islands
Cliffs near Couminole
Abandoned cottage in Couminole


We continued on from there to find Carrignaparka Strand (beach) with the amazing road down the side of the cliffs to the beach. Part of the film Ryan’s Daughter was filmed on this road and this beach. The angled black cliffs and the crashing waves make for an awe-inspiring panoramic view. I took a lot of photos here, trying to make sure I snapped just the right one with the right splash of waves and spray.

From there we drove to Ballyferriter, where I mailed the last batch of postcards and we found a pub that served food all day so we had a late (~3 pm) lunch.

After lunch we drove some more, and hunted down the Reask Monastic site. The Monastery was probably founded in the 6th century AD. The site consists of foundations and low walls marking the location of the former buildings, and a great ogham stone with spiral designs etched in it.

From the Reask marker plaque:

Little is known of the history of the site. The enclosing wall is roughly circular and its interior is divided by a curving wall into two parts. In the eastern part is the oratory (a small church) which was made – like all other buildings on the site – with dry-stone walls with a corbelled roof; no mortar was used to hold the walls together.

Beside and under the oratory is an earlier cemetery of forty-two graves arranged in two rows; in front is a small sunken area of paving which may have been the base of a shrine for relics. The area around the oratory was used as a ceallúnach – a children’s burial ground – after the monastery was abandoned.

Large circular clocháns (beehive shaped stone buildings which were the homes of the monks), arranged in pairs in two cases, and one small rectangular clochán are incorporated into the enclosing wall of the monastery.

At least ten cross-inscribed slabs (ogham stones) are known from the site, including the famous Reask Stone which is decorated with spiral designs and carved with the letters DNE (which stands for Domine; Latin for O Lord)

From the Reask site we drove to the Gallarus Oratory near Caherdorgan. Built in the seventh century, the oratory is possibly the only remaining perfectly preserved example of an early Christian church in Ireland. It too is made of dry-stone (no mortar) and looks mostly like an overturned boat made of stones.

Information about Gallarus Oratory:

Gallarus Oratory is one of the finest examples of an early Christian Church to be found in Ireland.

As early as the 6th century monastic settlements were built in remote areas of Ireland. This small oratory, dating from 800 AD, and built without mortar, uses corbel vaulting (a technique developed by Neolithic tomb-makers). It is dimly lit, with only a tiny window opposite the entrance door. Shaped like an upturned boat, this miniature church overlooks the harbour at Smerwick on the Dingle Peninsula. It is built with the stones being laid at a slight angle, lower on the outside than on the inside allowing rainwater to run off.

Lynn and I have been to the Gallarus Oratory before (most recently in 1994 with Sr. Cecilia) and it is far more commercialized now. The area is fenced off, there’s a paved parking lot, they charge admission (we found out later they’re not supposed to charge, just request that you pay the admission fee, as it is a national Irish heritage site and people cannot be prevented from visiting national Irish heritage sites), and there’s even a gift shop and theater. Time marches on. On the site is also another ogham stone with a cross.

While we were there at least 4 busses full of tourists came in, making it very hard to snap photos without any people in them, but I managed.

Tea with a view!
Cliffs at Carrignaparka Strand
Reask Monastic Site
Gallarus Oratory


From there we hunted down Kilmalkedar church near Cloghaneduff, site of an ancient ruin and another ogham stone with an unusual twist. This stone has a hole in it, and its called the Bargaining Stone. Instead of shaking hands to seal an agreement, people would touch fingers through the hole in the stone, thereby agreeing in the sight of God (the church is right there) to the bargain. I snapped a photo of Lynn and Jo making a bargain of some kind or other!

Also in Kilmalkedar church is a window which it is said if you can squeeze through it, you would be welcomed into heaven when you die. Lynn and Jo are all set, Dave and I may have some problems.

Information about Kilmalkedar Church:

The ancient monastery of Kilmalkedar, founded in the seventh century by St Maolcathair, is one of the foremost Early Christian sites of the Dingle Peninsula. The existing church is a twelfth-century building consisting of a nave to which a chancel was added at a later date, as was the usual practice. Many of the features which typify Irish Romanesque architecture are present. The bold antae with animal-head decoration are well preserved, as is the round-headed doorway with blank tympanum. The high pitched gables (one with finial) survive intact, but of the original barrel-vaulted roof only the merest fragments remain. In the nave is a good example of blind colonnading, recalling Cormac's Chapel at Cashel, with which it is often compared. late-Romanesque geometric motifs adorn the columns of the chancel arch.

A number of interesting objects stand outside the church. These include a tall slender Ogham stone perforated with a circular hole near the top, a large ringless cross devoid of any decoration and therefore possibly unfinished and a beautiful sundial stone marked in segments corresponding to the divisions of the monastic day.

By the time we finished at Kilmalkedar church, it was time to start looking for our dinner restaurant. Mary had made reservations for us at a restaurant in Fheothanach, The Old Pier. Unfortunately, the driver (me!) got spun around a bit, and we ended up back in Dingle before I realized I was not going the right way. Dave figured it out sooner than I because of the position of the sun in the sky. Luckily, the accidental shortcut we took across Dingle peninsula (rather than around it) was a shortcut back as well, and we made it in time for our reservations.

The restaurant is run by an old friend of Mary’s from Dublin and she promised us a spectacular meal and an entertaining time… true on both counts! The food was superb, the view was awesome, and the maitre’d friend of Mary was off-the-wall interesting. Lynn convinced me to wear the black tweed vest and a grandfather’s shirt I had bought the day before in Tralee, so I changed in the car and wore that to our anniversary dinner.

After dinner we finished the loop around the peninsula, and found Brandon Creek, alleged site of the departure of St. Brendan when he sailed to Newfoundland many y The cove there is interestingly sharp and steep, and there’s a very nice sculpture and monument to St. Brendan there that we initially misinterpreted to represent little children lost at sea.

Information about Brandon Creek:

Brandon Creek, Cuas an Bhodaigh, or Coosavuddig, is the place from which St. Brendan is said to have set sail for the "Heavenly Isles" and perhaps for America. In 1977, in a successful attempt to establish the feasibility of such a voyage, a craft made of hides with a crew captained by Tim Severin set out for North America from Brandon Creek.

The account of the voyage of Brendan, the Navigatio, attained enormous fame in medieval Europe and is one of the classic adventure stories of all time, with rich elements of magic and fantasy. Whether the tale was mainly an imaginative creation or not, its physical details correspond quite well to what would be encountered on a sea route to North America. The modern explorer and navigator, Tim Severin, has certainly given added credibility in his book, The Brendan Voyage, to the notion that St. Brendan did, in fact, discover America.

From there we headed for the B&B in Ventry, but along the way the cell phone beeped and we got a voicemail from my sister Gerry wishing us a happy anniversary, so we pulled over while the signal was good (it usually wasn’t - Meteor stinks as a cell-phone company as far as coverage goes) and called her back to say hello and thanks.


Kilmalkedar Church
Bargaining Stone at Kilmalkedar
The crew at the Old Pier Restaurant
Brandon Creek Cove
Memorial to St. Brendan


Day Nine - Monday, July 5, 2004
Driving the Slea Head Road Again; Mulcahy’s Pottery; Back to Tralee for Dinner with Sr. Cecilia

We started the day again with another traditional Irish Breakfast at the B&B, then packed up our things and checked out, heading back around the Slea Head road. First we came to a car pull-off by the side of the road near Dunquin that we had somehow missed the day before. The view was spectacular, and the car park was right next to the top of the towering cliff that fell a couple of hundred feet straight down to the rocks and ocean below…. No fence, no railing. We crept up to the edge on our bellies to peer over (chicken-hearts that we were). There was a most amazing road on the other side of a cove that wound its way down the cliff to a pier at the foot of the cliffs. I’ve never seen such a steep road – you’d need a tank just to drive it!

From there we drove to Louis Mulcahy's Pottery shop in Clogher, Ballyferriter on the Slea Head Road. We wandered around the rambling shop looking at the giant vases and other pottery. Impressive, but we didn’t buy anything.

Once we got back to the car, Jo realized that she had left her battery charger at the B&B, so we drove back along Slea Head to the B&B, and it was like being a salmon swimming upstream! All the traffic was coming the other way, and the narrow little roads on the cliff-edges meant we had to pull over to squeeze by oncoming traffic a lot. Once we even met a bus on a curve and we had to back up 50 feet or more to find a spot in the road where I could skootch the car in so the bus could get by!

By now it was time to drive back to the cottage in Ardfert, so we headed back over the Connor Pass. At the top of the pass itself, we bumped into Steve Coulter (the harpist from the concert Saturday night), playing his harp and selling CDs.

We got home to the cottage and just had time to change and freshen up for dinner at the Balloonagh convent with Sr. Cecilia and Helen. Before dinner Sr. Cecilia gave us a tour of the convent and chapel and the gardens and grounds. We also stopped by Sr. Aloysius’ gravesite in the private cemetery for the Sisters of Mercy on the convent grounds. For dinner we had a fine cold plate of salad and meat with tea and apple tart for dessert. After dinner we went back to the sitting room and we talked about family and friends again for a while before leaving to go back to the cottage.

After arriving at the cottage, we stopped over to visit with Pats and Cathy at their house and sat and talked about what we had done in Dingle and what was planned for the rest of the trip. Dave and Pats talked intensely about a new method of crushing stone for aggregate that was looking promising.

Belly-crawling on the cliffs near Dunquin
Jo, Sr. Cecilia, Dave, Helen, and Lynn at Balloonagh


Day Ten - Tuesday, July 6, 2004
Helicopter Rides; Ballyheigue; Ardfert Friary in the Rain; Dinner at Bert & Joan’s; Visit With Brian

Inspired by the great breakfasts we had at the B&B in Dingle, we went out shopping the day before and bought breakfast fixing’s – rashers and sausages and tomatoes and eggs (no black and white pudding). Dave cooked an Irish breakfast for everyone and we gobbled it up.

After breakfast, we had a 10 am appointment to meet Pats at the cottage for a helicopter ride! He showed up promptly, and the plan was that Dave and I would go with him to help flight-check and prep the helicopter at the quarry, then we two would go for a ride with Pats, then he would land in his backyard and swap passengers for Lynn and Jo.

Pats has all the accoutrements for the helicopter; a hanger, a power sled-platform to drive the helicopter in and out of the hanger, portable fuel tank for refueling, water-based dust suppression system to keep the dust down. We prepped and checked (Pats did, we watched and listened), then we hopped in and flew off! What a ride! We flew over Knockbrack - the family homestead - and Ballyhemiken - where Pats grew up, then out to the coast, up to Ballybunion (famous golf course), and down to Tralee – about 30 minutes or more in all. I got some great aerial photos. Then we landed in Pats’ back yard and Lynn and Jo went up for a similar ride. They loved it too!

Pre-flight check
Lynn climbing in
Up and away!
The family homestead from the sky
North Kerry coastline

After the excitement of the ride, we drove up to Ballyheigue to look for a place to grab some lunch. We ended up eating at a little place by the beach called Gigi’s Restaurant, and it was the worst meal we had in all of Ireland. This meal wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t great like all the rest. The seafood chowder was an instant mix from an envelope or something (Knorr?) – no seafood in it at all unless it had been pureed in and then freeze-dried.

After lunch, Lynn went to the cottage for a nap, and Jo, Dave and I went to the Ardfert Friary down the street from where we are staying to wander around and take pictures. We met a professor there from Washington DC who was over to give a lecture somewhere and was sightseeing. Then it started raining and wouldn’t stop, so we got soaked in the rain going back to the car (Jo and Dave rode with the professor, I walked, we all got wet the same amount). Dave drove home from the Friary – his first REAL time driving on the right side of the car and the left side of the road!

After drying off at the cottage, we all headed off to Ballyhemiken for dinner at Bert & Joan’s house. Bert’s sister Mary arrived a short time after us. Joan made a wonderful dinner of roast lamb and vegetables and potatoes, with gobs of apple and rhubarb tart with cream for dessert. We talked about family and dug out old photographs and papers, and I brought out my genealogy notebook with all the certificates and photographs and the scribbled-on copy of the family chart.

At just about 8 pm we had to scoot out quickly from Bert’s (almost killing ourselves twice on the roads because I was driving so fast!) to get back to the cottage to meet with another cousin, Brian who lives in Killarney. He was waiting for us when we arrived a minute or two after eight.

We chatted with Brian and compared family memories and had coffee. He stayed for about an hour and a half, and then headed off home to Killarney, telling us to stop by any time.

After Brian’s visit, Dave & Jo went out for a drive and Lynn and I went for a short walk but it started raining again, so we scurried back to the cottage.

Ardfert Friary
Storm's a Brewin'!
Joan, Grainne, and Bert


Day Eleven - Wednesday, July 7, 2004
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park; Dinner at Juliana’s

Today’s schedule started out last night being pretty open, but by mutual consent we all decided we needed to do more sight-seeing, so we chose to drive the 2½ hours up to Bunratty Castle and Folk Heritage Park near Shannon airport in county Clare for a visit there. The drive up was fine, if long, with intermittent rain and sun, but that has been the pattern since we got here.

At the Folk Heritage Park (after almost getting hit by a Guinness truck at the entrance!) we headed first for the bathrooms (what else is new?) and then to the castle itself for a self-guided tour. The ground floor room is a display of photos and information about the restoration of the once-abandoned castle (restored 1955 - 1960 and re-opened by Viscount Lord Gort). Up a massive set of wooden stairs that look like a draw-bridge (probably intentional) is the main entrance to the rooms of the castle, including the great hall where they serve medieval banquets (2 seatings nightly, €48.50 per adult, we didn’t go).

We spent about three hours wandering around and taking pictures in the castle and visiting the other buildings in the park (mostly thatched-roof cottages of different areas and periods). We also took a break for some tea and scones in the tea-room, and then headed back home to freshen up for our evening schedule.

After driving back to the cottage in Ardfert and freshening up, we stopped over Pats and Cathy’s to say goodbye as they were leaving for a wedding in Bulgaria early in the morning and would not be back until after we left.

Then we drove to Ballyheigue, met Mary at the Garda (police) station and we followed her up the hill to Mary’s sister Juliana’s house, overlooking the Ballyheigue golf course, the ruins of the castle, and the ocean in the distance. She has a spectacular view from her back yard. We spend time in the back yard sipping drinks and talking. Bert and Joan arrived a little after us, and joined the chatty group.

Dinner was prepared by Juliana’s friend Jane. It was a seafood pasta primavera sort of thing, delicious. Multiple desserts appeared after dinner, including fruit tarts, pavlova, and fruit and cheese. We all enjoyed the meal immensely.

After dinner the genealogy stuff came out (again!) and we passed around photos and documents and stories about folks from the past and present.

Bunratty Castle
A guest room in the castle
Farmhouse at Bunratty Folk Heritage Park
Inside the farmhouse
The crew at Ballyheigue; Jane, Lynn, Joan, Mary, Jo, Juliana, (sitting) Bert, Dave


Day Twelve - Thursday, July 8, 2004
Tour of North Kerry with Juliana and Mary (Kilmoyley Cemetery, Rattoo Round Tower, Ballybunion Cliff Walk); Siamsa Tire

Gene cooked the Irish breakfast for everyone this morning. No-one died.

Mickey at 2nd family tomb
Mickey & Juliana
Rattoo Round Tower
Amber waves of... Barley for Guinness!
Virgin Rock, Ballybunion


Mary met us at the cottage and we drove to Kilmoyley’s old cemetery, where Juliana had picked Mickey up and met us there, and we got a tour of the old cemetery from Mickey and Juliana, hearing about both family tombs.

After the tour we said our goodbyes to Mickey (he gave me his autographed copy of Kilmoyley to the Rescue), Juliana drove him back home and then met up with us at the Kilmoyley chapel, where we dropped down to two cars and stopped at a house that Bert was helping renovate (for a bathroom stop and to touch base with Bert again). Then we headed off to the Rattoo Round Tower (a very well-preserved tower dating from the 10th or 11th century).

From the Rattoo Round Tower plaque:

Little is known of the history of this monastery which is said to have been founded by Bishop Lughach, one of the first Christian evangelists in Kerry. The Round Tower, built about 1100, is exceptionally well-preserved, although its roof has been restored. Its doorway has a round arch, and is surrounded by a plain flat carved moulding, capped with an unusual curvilinear design.

A sheela-na-gig is carved on the north window, facing into the inside of the tower. These were ugly, explicit carvings of females which were often placed on the walls of churches and castles as protective symbols. This is the only example of a sheela-na-gig to be found in an Irish Round Tower.

The small ruined church in the cemetery may date to the 15th century and is partly built with stones from a more ancient church. Nearby Rattoo Abbey (which can be seen from the base of the round tower) was founded in 1200 as a Hospital and later became a monastery of Canons Regular of St. Augustine - priests living in a community according to a monastic rule.

Rattoo - from Ráth Tuaidh (northern ring-fort)

From there we drove to Ballybunion (saw the statue of Bill Clinton playing golf) to have lunch in the hotel, then we took the Cliff Walk from Men’s Beach over to Virgin Rock and back (lots of scenic photo opportunities). From there we drove to Women’s Beach, then to Ballybunion Golf Club, and then back to the house Bert was renovating, where we said our goodbyes to Mary and Juliana, and followed Bert back to his house to get some genealogy photos and papers to take back to the states for copying. We said goodbye to Bert at his house and headed back to the cottage to freshen up.

Dinner at Kate Browne’s Pub in Ardfert again, then off to the Siamsa Tíre (the National Folk Theatre of Ireland) in Tralee for Oiléan, an interpretive music and dance presentation commemorating the Blasket Island culture, which was abandoned back in 1953 when the last surviving residents of the stark and harsh location left for the mainland.

From there we checked out a few pubs in Tralee (too crowded) and headed back to an Ardfert pub for a Guinness, then home to bed.


Day Thirteen - Friday, July 9, 2004
Early Morning Photos; Lunch with Helen; ShoppingIn Tralee ; Another Visit To Ellen

Our last full day in Ireland. I got up at 6 am to go out and take pictures around Ardfert in the early morning light. I snapped photos of the cathedral, sunrise light on meadows and fences, the road from Ballyheigue leading into Ardfert, and the Friary back near the cottage. I was back at the cottage around 7:30 am.

Information about the Ardfert Friary:

The Ardfert Friary was founded circa 1253 for Conventional Franciscans by Thomas Fitzmaurice, first Lord of Kerry. After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, the Friary was taken over by Captain Zouche and his men of the Elizabethan Army and turned into a barracks. On Zouche's departure it was occupied by the first two Protestant bishops of the See of Ardfert.

It has remained in its present state for over 300 years. Up to 40 years ago it nestled comfortably, Ivy-clad, barely visible except for its tower, in a densely wooded area. Today all trees have been felled and it has been denuded of its ivy appearance. It is accessible by a right-of-way and is under the control of the Board of Works.

We all had a leisurely morning, began the packing process, then we went off to meet Helen for lunch at a hotel down the street from her B&B. We talked a lot, and she helped Jo and Dave make reservations for their extra days in Ireland down in Cork near our grandmother’s birthplace (Bandon, County Cork). Tony couldn’t join us so we had our leftovers wrapped up and bought him an extra dessert (apple cake/tart) to go. We dropped Helen off at her house and said our goodbye’s, then we headed off into Tralee for one last round of shopping. We stopped back to Ireland Designs for more shirts and a tie and more ceramic cottages, then we all went looking for a Celtic pendant in jewelry stores for Lynn. Finally found one – a Claddah.

After shopping we headed off to Ballyheigue one last time to visit again with Ellen (aka "Doll"). She had called the previous day saying she had an apple tart for us. We thought we were just stopping by to pick up the tart and say thank you, but she had tea and tart and bread all ready for us, so we stayed and visited for another hour or so. We finally said our goodbyes to Doll and headed back to Ardfert to buy some Guinness at the off-license (liquor) store and groceries at the market, then back to the cottage to finish packing.

Cows in the meadow
Leading into Ardfert town from the Ballyheigue road
Gate in the sunrise light
Sunrise in the Burial Ground
The Ardfert Cathedral through the gate
The Friary through the wall
Peaceful meadow


Day Fourteen - Saturday, July 10, 2004
Going Home

Up early, and hit the road around 8:30 am to drive through Limerick to Shannon Airport. The drive up was uneventful but long (~2½ hours). Jo and Dave dropped us off at the airport and said goodbye (they were staying until Tuesday), and we trudged into the airport to check in and get going. I was able to sweet-talk our way into first class for both legs of the flight to Boston, seeing as it was our 30th anniversary and all! Thank you, US Airways!

The flight to Philadelphia was very pleasant in 1st class, long (7+ hours) but uneventful. The first phase of customs inspections – filling out the card and listing what you were bringing back – was actually set up in Shannon Airport, so we were able to skip that part (checking passports etc.) in Philly. But when we got to Philly we missed our connecting flight to Boston. The lay-over time was only an hour and fifteen minutes on paper, but our plane was a bit late getting in, and because of customs and immigration we had to claim our bags (took forever to get the bags off the plane), pass through customs with them, then stand in line to put the bags back into the handling system for the next flight, then walk about a mile to terminal C (from terminal A1). We got to the gate 15 minutes after the flight had left. So we re-booked on the next flight (about 90 minutes later) and had a beer in the bar in the airport while we waited.

Audrey drove in solo to meet us at the airport (she had to circle 4-5 times). She brought Buddy with her and he nearly turned inside-out with excitement when he saw us. We were home to the house around 8:45 pm or so.

The End!



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