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Report 1922: Coasting Through Ireland on Pints of Cider

By Green Dragon from FL, Spring 2011

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Page 14 of 21: Tuesday, May 24th: Nice Bright-Shirt – Pity Your Wife Isn't Wearing One

The beds at this B&B were a bit firmer than I'm used to, but we had gone to bed early so I got plenty of sleep. Breakfast was with a German couple and a German/French couple who kept switching back and forth between the two languages.

The weather Gods were evidently listening, as this was one of the very few no rain days we had in Ireland. It was sunny and glorious! There were some clouds here and there, but we stayed dry, though wind-swept. I swear, I do not remember it being this windy on other trips, but it was ever-present for our entire vacation.

We went down to the launderette to drop off our laundry – but it was closed. The website I had checked the night before said it was open at 9, but no sign of the owner. We walked across the street to inquire of the shop there, and they said he usually stayed closed unless someone called him – but my phone wasn't getting through to the cell number listed on the door. They had his home number, but that went straight to an answering machine. We went back to the B&B, and the hostess managed to get hold of him – but he was in Galway, taking an exam. However, here Irish hospitality kicked in – he said he'd pick up the clothing from the B&B on the way back, do the laundry, and drop it back before we were home for the day, and he did. Lovely solution!

We headed off along the coast road, taking several stops for photographs on the way to Fanore and beyond. We saw signs forbidding the building of cairns, and figured the locals didn't want the competition. We then went on to Lisdoonvarna, and did some shopping in the smokehouse. I really wanted to get some smoked fish and cheeses, but none came in sampler packs or small enough packages that I could reasonably eat most of it before heading back to the US. That made me sad – we had gotten some on my last trip when we were able to gobble it down at the self-catering lodge for breakfast. I did pick up a bottle of Poitin for Jason, and a couple other gifts.

Onwards to the Cliffs of Moher, in competition to be one of the new seven natural wonders of the world! Not that the cliffs are new, by any stretch of the imagination, but they are definitely full of wonder, and the weather Gods were gracing us with sun today, I would not waste the gift.

There were, of course, droves of tourists there, especially as it was such a nice day, despite the still-strong winds. Today was evidently a French day, I heard it everywhere in various degrees of accent and style. As we left, a fresh wave of Germans started coming in, but we shared the Cliffs experience mostly with the French.

The last time I was here, there was a big sign saying 'Do not go beyond this point'. There was still a sign, but it was covered in stickers from various places, almost to the point of illegibility. The way past that point was also much better blocked by stone barriers – last time it was relatively easy to get past them, and many did. This time I saw no one venturing on private property past the sign.

Also, last time the O'Brien Tower had been closed for renovations – this time it was open, and free of ugly scaffolding. We explored the varying views of the cliffs, 700 feet above sea level, and the wheeling seabirds cavorting among the strong waves and sea stacks below. It is an awesome place, in the best sense of the word 'awe'.

On our way back down through the crowds, we stopped at a couple of the little gift shops, especially the one with music. I tried to find some storytelling or Noel McLoughlin CDs, but failed. Yes, they are available online, but are expensive, so was hoping to find it less so in a local shop. Also, storytelling CDs were hard to find.

We headed out for the Burren to explore and find interesting things. We searched for the Poulnabrone Dolmen, and for once, the brown signs let us down – the only ones we saw was for the walking trail The Burren Way. This was likely because TomTom took us around on little roads, and the signs are only on the main roads.

We finally found Poulnabrone Dolmen, and shared it with only about 20 tourists, the largest dolmen I've yet seen. The Burren itself is a bizarre place, with a karstic, cracked rock landscape offering intriguing folds of flora and fauna within its glacier grasp.

We explored a bit more for Caherconnell Fort, and then ended up almost back to Ballyvaughan on small back-roads through the Burren. We headed back, as we were looking for the Burren Perfumery, scents and oils made from the local flowers and herbs. We found Parkanbinnia Wedge Tomb completely by accident on the way, atop a hillside and through a rocky pasture. The perfumery itself was on a very long, winding road through a valley, and did have some lovely scents. However, the few things I was interested in were all only available in the larger sizes, which didn't work for the three ounce rule, nor did I want to trust it to checked luggage at those prices.

We went to the café for some food, and I had the goat's cheese salad with a locally made chutney. We then left, and passed through Corrafin – a self-advertised 'Angler's Paradise'. "What, do the fish blow the anglers and then jump into the boat?" We passed a man walking with his wife down the narrow road, he was wearing a neon safety shirt, pity she wasn't wearing one. (thu-thump-thump!) I hope no one gets offended at that – we were a bit silly and loopy at this point!

Along the course of our drive, we came across another infamous brown sign. This one said Dysart O'Dea Castle – and a High Cross. The German woman in the castle was quite helpful, but when we noted that half the clerks we had spoken to in the area were all German, she professed she didn't know why. We figured the Germans are slowly infiltrating the island, and will quietly take over the country before anyone notices.

We explored the castle a bit, then into a field where the high cross was at, passing a group of (gasp!) London tourists on the way.

We headed south to Quin on a quest to find Quin Abbey. We did pass Clare Abbey in the distance, but this was not our target for the day. Quin, when we found it, was actually closed as it was 5pm by now. However, I was able to explore the graveyard and architecture quite a bit on my own. We saw a sign for Knappogue Castle, but it was hidden by trees and closed to the public at that moment. We turned around on a small road with a girl exercising her horse, and headed back to Ennis.

We wandered around downtown a bit, found a parking spot, and decided on Brogan's Pub for some dinner. Once again the seafood chowder became a meal, though I had fried prawns and rose marie sauce – and we each had 1/2 pints to wash it down. It was reasonably crowded, and the waitresses were a bit rushed, but the food was decent.

It had turned out to be a fantastic day today, with winds still high and around 20-25 mph, but the blue sky wasn't shy and the clouds were fluffy and white. We ended up back in Ballyvaughan for a couple of pints at Monks, chatted with Robert at the bar, and relaxed.

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