N69, Foynes and BallyB by the Sea

Trip Start Mar 22, 2010
Trip End May 20, 2010

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Flag of Ireland  , County Kerry,
Sunday, March 7, 2010

One Half is in the Journey

We headed west on the very scenic drive on the N69 from Askeaton (though it starts in Limerick), past Foynes, Loghill, Glin and Tarbert, then heading through Ballylongford to Ballybunion. The journey along the south bank of the Shannon Estuary is a joy in itself. We did not stop to take any pictures this time but I'm sure we will head back this way again before we leave. Foynes is probably my favourite town in Limerick (besides home). The quiet town is set amongst a backdrop of forested hills and is charmingly rustic. There is the small port and opposite there is the Flying Boat Musuem. The musuem celebrates the brief time that Foynes was the centre of transatlantic aviation with the Boeing 314. In the 30's and 40's the rich and famous (including Maureen O'Hara) would arrive from America to Foynes. The museum boasts the only full scale replica of the 314 "Yankee Clipper" and is definitely worth a visit. West past the town the road twists and turns with the Shannon, at times the estuary disappears from view only to appear side by side with the road again - the only thing separating car from water is a low stone wall. It is a great road on which to travel as a passenger, views across to Clare are splendid on a clear day, which we got today, and Loop Head was visible stretching out into the Atlantic.  It is an even better road to drive if you like driving! Plenty of long sweeping bends and a great wide road surface make it a change from motorway and backroad, and almost not like any other road in Ireland. Another option would be to take the ferry from Tarbert to Kilrush/Kilkee if heading north towards Galway.

We took the R523 home from Ballybunion. This road is the quickest way to get from BallyB to West Limerick and is also part of the "West Limerick Scenic Drive". It heads from Ballybunion through Listowel, Athea, Carraigkerry, Ardagh and joins the N21 at Reens near Rathkeale. This is the kind of road where the folks all wave when you pass them. There are a lot of hills, marshy bogland, evergreen tree plantations and some sweeping views of the Golden Vale plains as you descend at Carraigkerry. 

The other Half is in the Destination

Children today go for a week in Spain or Portugal...but when I was younger it was off to dip in the sea at BallyB. Ballybunion is a bustling sea side town in Co. Kerry on the West of Ireland. The area is famous for it's outstanding natural beauty, with cliff walks and many geological natural features which are a geography enthusiasts dream. There are the cliffs, sea caves, a sea stack, a blow hole (incidentally known as the 9 daughters hole), a secluded beach (Nuns beach) as well as two large strands separated by a clifftop castle, half eroded into the Atlantic. There are sea weed baths available in a little building right on the beach, apparently they're very good for your skin. 

Ballybunion is also famous as a golfing destination, very popular with Americans, most notably Bill Clinton – who came here in the 90’s as US president to play a few rounds. A bronze statue of him has since been erected in the town square.

The first thing that strikes me on our return to BallyB is how much it has changed. When I was a child it was primarily a beach town. The streets were lined with arcades and casinos, including dodgems, chip shops, and tacky souvenir stores. But coming back here now I noticed how much it has developed into a dormer style town, feeding the larger towns of Listowel and Tralee. The boom development has made the town better in my opinion, but some of the dilapidated charm has vanished. Amenities have been updated, including a great playground for children, the cliff walk has been made safer and the parking and once way systems are much better organised. There are plenty of fancy eateries and pubs.

Our main goal was the beach. We strolled a bit down there and then went and walked the cliff walkway too. The beach looks great, even at this time of year it's neat and clean. There were plenty of people about too but with the beach being so big, nobody could complain of being stuck for space! The cliff walk was great, not half as windy or cold as I expected since there was an easterly breeze. It's the only time I've not seen the waves crashing against the cliffs, which reminded me a lot of Howth. Despite the calm weather we did chicken out and not go close to the blow hole, unlike some other visitors who confidently walked the perimeter and took pictures. I guess knowing the place through the years made the soil erosion really evident to us, poor ole BallyB has taken a battering, so we stuck to the designated paths... When our faces were suitably frozen from the cold we decided to call it an afternoon and head home for a nice cuppa cha... 


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