Sightseeing in Ireland  -  May 2013

For this trip we flew in/out of Shannon and made a sort of giant clockwise loop thru the southwest corner of Ireland.  We used "Back Roads Ireland" for guidance but knew going in that 8 days was simply not going to be enough.  We drove to a major objective each day and checked out whatever we happen to see along the way.  You might notice that we are wearing our rain/windbreaker coats in just about every image.  We saw rain and/or wind every day.  You can get more information on each site visited by clicking on the title for each site.  Here are the highlights....

Click on a thumbnail for a bigger view and more information.


Clonmacnoise:  An ancient ecclesiastical site along the banks of the Shannon River.  We stopped in to search for Kathy's Great Great Grandfathers gravestone (which we found) but were planning to visit this National Monument anyway.  There's a lot of history in this place which we'll leave for you to read about on your own.  At first blush this appears to be just another old cemetery but it's history is so much more.



Birr Castle:  We stopped in here during our transition day between B&Bs.  Parking was on the street with a 2 hour limit so we never did get to tour the castle itself.  The gardens and grounds were very nice and we enjoyed our hike.  We found the telescope to be especially interesting.  While on our hike, we met one of the caretakers out walking his dog.  Turns out he's an American citizen from New York who has been living in Ireland for 15-16 years.  His grandparents were Irish but he was born in the USA.  We found it interesting that he also has Irish citizenship because he was able to prove his Irish linage.



Mizen Head Signal:  This is billed as Ireland's southern most point and is located all the way out at the end of a peninsula.  Our GPS told us it was about a one hour drive and it took us three to get there.  Add in some other stops along the way and this turned into a very long day.  We arrived with some of the sunniest weather we had all week but the winds were ferocious.  As you can see from our images, there is a lot of walking involved.  While there I completed the one and only geocache for the week.



Killarney National Park - Muckross House Garden and Grounds:  We stopped at the National Park on our way to a B&B located on the other side of Killarney.  There were several bus loads of people waiting to tour the house so we decided to spend our time in the gardens and grounds.  Fortunately we were prepared for rain which is what we had while visiting the park.



Killarney National Park - Muckross Abbey:  While touring the park we took the hike out to the abbey and were surprised to see that it was in ruins.  None the less, it was open for self guided tours and offered a host of picture taking opportunities.  While walking around we met a couple from Chicago who currently live in Germany.  They were on vacation in Ireland with his German parents.  We were amazed that the abbey was "ruins" and that we were allowed to explore the place.



Ring of Kerry:  We allocated an entire day to drive the "Ring of Kerry".  There is some debate on the best way to go, clockwise or counter clockwise.  The tour buses go counter clockwise and some suggest it's better to be behind them on the narrow roads.  We decided to go this way and didn't encounter many buses, it's early in the season.  Seeing the area by car gave us the opportunity to get off the main loop where buses are not allowed.  We spent an entire day on and off the loop and easily could have used another.




Ring of Kerry - Bray Tower:  A number of people told us to get off the main loop and head over to Valencia Island.  While on Valencia we took the hike up to Bray Tower.  Clear skies and lots of wind for the hike but we no sooner got back in our car when the skies dumped on us.  The tower is 1.35 miles from the parking lot (round trip 2.81 miles).  Nothing like a hike with amazing views all the way.  This hike was a hi-light of our day on the Ring of Kerry.  Valencia Island is also where the 1st transatlantic telegraph cable connection between America and Europe was made in 1865/66.




Ring of Kerry - Staigue Ring Fort:  The fort is located quite a ways off the loop down a very narrow road but we just had to check it out.  By "narrow" I mean sections where brush was hitting both sides of the car.




Ardfert Cathedral:  It seems there are ruins everywhere in Ireland.  We read about this one and decided to check it out in our travels.



Ardfert Friary:  These ruins were within sight of the cathedral so we just had to stop in.  The ruins were out there by themselves and completely open for anyone wishing to walk around.  It even looked like someone could even climb part way up the tower but I didn't have the nerve to try the exterior stone staircase to the first door.



Bennerville Windmill:  This windmill seemed unusual for Ireland so we stopped in to check it out.  There was a museum describing the history of it's construction, use for grinding grains, and restoration.  We were allowed to climb to all levels inside the windmill.  Some of the machinery and wood structure was not to be missed by our cameras.  The interior of the windmill was just made for the Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye lens I had in my camera bag.



Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience:  This was a section of the cliffs developed in recent years to improve safety and access.  Apparently in years gone by, visitors were challenged to see just how close they could get to the edge resulting in several deaths each year.  The government stepped in and developed the area.  There were 8 bus loads of visitors when we arrived.  Fortunately, for those of us with the time and ability to hike, there were undeveloped trails off to the north and south of the main visitor area.  We chose to hike a couple miles out to the south.  Everyone has the typical picture of the cliffs taken from the easily accessible area.  Most of the images you'll see here were taken out on the trail where few of the bus visitors will ever go.



Burren College of Art:  In our travels we came across a sign for "Burren Castle" so we turned off the main road and checked it out.  The castle turned out to be a stone tower on the grounds of an art college.  The tower was open to the public so we explored it.  While on the campus we spotted signs for an art gallery and took the time to look at some amazing photography done by the students.



Caherconnell Stone Fort:  Another stone fort we happened upon in our travels.



Poulnabrone Portal Tomb:  Another thing we happened upon in our travels.



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 New May 2013