Driving around Ireland

Trip Start Jun 25, 2012
Trip End Aug 25, 2012

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Flag of Ireland  , Western Ireland,
Sunday, August 12, 2012

Friday August 10

Mill Park Hotel had a pool and gym, so after a good sleep-in Michael and the kids headed off there and had a nice swim. We then packed our things into the car and headed off for a big day's sightseeing and driving. First we headed south to Sligo which is a pretty town and strongly associated with WB Yeats. On the way we passed the spectacular Ben Bulben, part of the Dartry Mountains in what is popularly known as 'Yeats Country’. We stopped for lunch at Sligo in a nice little pub recommended by a local and got chatting with some of the friendly guys at the bar, although the hard part was understanding what they were saying! They recommended we check out the countryside near Louisburgh, so we headed back to the car and drove out in that direction.
We stopped at Westport where we had a drink and relax, while the kids had fun on a jumping castle slide, and then drove on Louisburgh, a beautiful little village, also on the coast. The kids enjoyed playing on the sand there for a while on this uncharacteristically warm, sunny day. 
By this stage it was getting quite late, so we continued on the windy, narrow roads, past incredible hills and lakes. There was a memorial cross at one spot, commemorating "The hungry poor who walked here in 1849, and walk the Third World today". We stopped for a drink at a lovely little pub at Maam Cross where we also checked out on the TV how Steve Hooker was going and discovered he never got over his opening height – never mind!
Keeping on driving, at 9.00pm we finally reached The Westwood Hotel at Galway, relieved to be there after such a long drive. This was a really lovely hotel with very friendly staff – the woman on the desk said her sister was now settled in Yankallilla of all places! We ate dinner in the restaurant which was luckily still open and then headed off to our room for a good sleep.

Saturday August 11

Today we were driving to the Cliffs of Moher, through the amazing Burren landscape. On the way we stopped at a typical Irish pub called The Irish Arms and established in 1870 for a nice lunch. The road continued winding through the barren Burren, and finally we reached the famous cliffs, luckily before it started to rain.
It was interesting to see how much this had changed since Mum and I visited back in 1993! They had a beautiful new visitor’s centre, built into the hill like the one on the Giant’s Causeway, and the cliffs now had a barrier to stop people accidentally flinging themselves over, but where the barrier finished, the path along the edge of the cliff continued on private land, so we joined everyone else in climbing over the barrier and continuing walking along.
  Michael found it all a bit traumatic with his vertigo and eventually he returned while the kids and I went on a bit further, but then came back just as it started to spit with rain. The view didn’t disappoint – it really does blow you away – and we were lucky to see it so clearly.
Next we drove onto Limerick, making up limericks in the car as we went. Michael’s went like this: There was a nice family from Oz/ Who went to the ‘Lympics just coz./ It was so much fun,/ And Dad brought the sun…/ Oh, what an adventure it was!

and mine went like this: The Chalmers toured Ireland in a car:/ On winding roads they drove very far./ At the steep cliffs of Moher/ Mike was scared they’d go o’er…/ But surviving, they gave it a star!

We were thinking of stopping in Limerick for a drink, but couldn’t see anywhere nice and it was getting late so we kept going. Finally we reached the Carlton Hotel in Tralee, famous for hosting the worldwide Rose of Tralee contest, which our friend Cathy Holdcroft had been in. We had an average dinner in the bar, but enjoyed talking to an Irish family who were watching the boxing. The Irish were very excited as they had recently won a gold medal with their female boxer Katie Taylor, and so the bar was crowded with people all watching this bout and hoping for another Irish gold, but the British guy won it… Never mind!

After that it was off to bed, ready for more driving the next day, the kids getting slightly tetchy about the amount of hours in the car by this stage!

Sunday August 12

It was a loud night at the Carlton as they had a wedding on and we heard the rousing Irish music to the wee hours, but eventually all got to sleep. Tom was very excited as we had made a booking to play 9 holes of golf at a nearby course. This was the Beaufort Golf Club, near Killarney and at the beginning of the famous Ring of Kerry route.
We were extremely lucky with the weather, which had looked threatening but remained fine and warm. The course itself was absolutely stunning, set beneath a lovely mountain range including the highest mountain in Ireland, Carrantouhill. The green fees were quite reasonable and we hired two sets of golf clubs and a buggy to drive. Rachel and I came along to watch and it was a beautiful way to spend a few hours. Rachel especially enjoyed driving the buggy! Tom’s game is really improving and he is very excited about getting into golf properly when we get home.
We had a late lunch at the clubhouse, watching the Irish player Rory McIlroy playing superbly in the PGA Tournament, much to everyone’s pleasure. We were not surprised to later hear he went on to win it. Then we piled into the car to drive the spectacular Ring of Kerry, much to the children’s disgust as they would have preferred to go straight to our next accommodation!
The drive was initially very slow as it was the last day of the Killorglin Puck Fair, where they crown a goat and have a free fair with lots of street entertainment. It was incredibly crowded and we had no chance of finding a park, so we just crawled past it and eventually got onto the open road.
  Then we had a lovely drive along the winding roads of Kerry, including a spectacular view over the Atlantic Ocean. Eventually we got onto some decent roads as we headed past Cork and onto the little town of Dungarvan where we had booked a family room in the Park Hotel. We got there at 7.30 which wasn’t too bad and had a very average meal in the restaurant (what the Irish generally do to vegetables is criminal!), before heading off to our room to watch the Closing Ceremony. This was absolutely spectacular – much better than the one we saw in Beijing! The range of musical artists was great and we all enjoyed it, which was lucky since the wifi the hotel had advertised wasn’t working in our room, much to the kids’ consternation!
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