Dingle: Whiskey, Beehives and Smoking Hogs

We slept well. It was not due to the craft beer or the red wine, but more the fresh sea or mountain air and a very soft comfortable bed. Good choice, yay, a hotel between a mountain and the big blue sea *chuckle*. We ate almost everything at breakfast (full Irish with lots of added extras) as we had a long day of intense coastal exploring ahead of us. Our first stop was for alcohol. Noooo, not because we were thirsty, but because one of us is a connoisseur. A whisk(e)y one at that!

The Dingle Distillery

This distillery was just around the corner (long and winding road more like it) from where we were, but we were way too early to join in on one of their distillery tours. As we were not so sure how long our day would be, we decided not to book one for later, hoping that one day soon we would return to Dingle…The distillery does not only make whisk(e)y, but gin and vodka too!! The interesting frog-looking car was one of many belonging to a group of tourists who also wanted to tour the distillery.

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Drive, which starts and ends in the town of Dingle, is part of the Wild Atlantic Way and sort of loops around the peninsula. It is a very popular route for tourists and such, but we were lucky as there were not so many big busses and small bicycles on the road. We travelled clockwise and our next stop was the seaside village of Ventry, where we visited the Celtic and Prehistoric Museum.

The interesting part of this museum is that it is small, yet it boasts items dating back to the Jurassic age. There’s a complete skeleton of a baby dinosaur, a nest of dinosaur eggs, a mammoth skull and an impressive collection of Celtic jewellery. There are many other interesting tools, weapons and artefacts on display, including this smoking hog 🐗

Splashing waves, grazing sheep and piled up stones. We were at Dunbeg Fort, which is a 500BC ruin precariously sitting on a cliff. In a few years time it might not be there, as the sea seems to be eroding it very fast, so please visit if you can. It is not spectacular as in WOW, and it also costs a small fee to walk down the hill, but it has a great historical value. The other side of the road, however, was much more interesting for us. There on the hill were many beehive huts that we simply just had to see. A very charming and friendly old lady greeted and chatted to us for a bit, advising us on which of the Fahan Beehive Huts to see first. The area is not big, but the walk is better, steep, but better, the huts are mostly intact and the view of the sea is amazing from up there. Here too is an entrance fee, but much more worth it!

There are a lot of interesting stops en route, even if it is just to see the cliffs, or a posing seagull that was definitely not camera shy!  😁

Oh, just ignore the one with the fat bum believing that she can soar over the cliffs 😆 and look at the amazing views of the Three Sisters mountains peaks instead. These wonderful photos were taken mostly from the Wine Strand, a quiet and peaceful beach a bit off the main route. Further along we also left the Slea Head Drive and motored a bit northwards to Ballydavid where we found a small pier, which is probably not in use anymore. From here the Three Sisters can be seen too. Take these little detours, you won’t regret it…

These lovely pink sea thrift (Ameria Maritima) flowering plants were growing everywhere near the pier.

So that includes our Irish Road trip for 2015. The next day we left quite early for Shannon, where we stayed for one night at the airport hotel. Yep, the airline we used changed the flight times after we booked everything, so we had to shorten our stay in Dingle because we were flying out at the crack of dawn 😠 grrrr…

 

Advertisements

The Ring of Kerry and the whiskey making woman

Happily leaving the city of Cork, we headed off to our next accommodation on the Dingle Peninsula. We took the longer route, the N71/Wild Atlantic Way, because we wanted to visit Bantry Bay. The sun was shining, the water shimmering and parking (not free) was easy to find. The bay is really beautiful where two of the largest islands, the Whiddy and Bere, can be seen from almost any vantage point. Our main point of interest though, was to visit a house, home and Irish heritage which exists since around 1690.

 

Bantry Bay House and Garden

As mentioned before, the Bantry House has been here for more than three hundred years, and in the same family for about two hundred and fifty years. We didn’t know that they had their own parking, so had to walk up a long steep lane (puff-puff) lined by many big lovely shady trees, which was good as it was quite hot. At the end of the lane you pass through a gate, unlocked and unmanned, which might give the impression that you are free to roam around. Yes, you may roam, but you have to pay an admission fee first. You can buy a ticket for the house (interior) and garden, or just the garden, which we chose. Do not even try to cheat as they do check!

The view of the bay and the islands from the garden is stunning. There’s also a cemetery bordering on the property. They also have a tearoom serving light homemade lunches and teas. The house was opened to the public in 1946 and is now also a Bed and Breakfast. We were very impressed with the attractively laid out gardens! In 2001 Archaeologists found a 17th century deserted English fishing settlement and a medieval Gaelic village on the west lawn. Impressive and Wow! After ambling for an hour or two, we had to rush back to the car because the parking ticket had already expired. Oops! It was also still a long way to the hotel. We could have stayed at least another hour, that’s how awesome it was.

This is what we found along the N71/Wild Atlantic Way

There are many surprises to be found along the roads in Ireland, and this was one of them. A well-dressed sheep in an old vintage car. An amusing yet fetching advertisement for “The Ewe Experience” which is *quote* Ireland’s only interactive & interpretive sculpture garden *unquote*  We unfortunately could not go in as it was closed.

Amazing hills and moutains on the way to Kenmare showing the Turner Rock tunnels. There are three of them and they are quite narrow. Apparently some very large vehicles have managed to get themselves stuck under here. Oh no…

Another delightful surprise was this 200-year old cottage found on the Caha Pass half way between Kenmare and Glengarriff. Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm is still as it was before all the mod-cons like electricity. Old farm equipment, vintage cars and other interesting objects from days gone by can be seen. There are also some farm animals roaming around and Molly’s Old Tea Room and Barn Restaurant serves traditional food. It is a very unique and interesting house which belonged to a very special woman who had to bring up seven small children on her own. She was creative and a genius! She even made her own whiskey! A woman. So there!

The Ring of Kerry and still on the Wild Atlantic Way

We had to stop in Sneem for a wee and a nibble. It is a small village yet busloads of visitors stop here almost every day. There are many interesting sculptures dotted around the town, a panda donated by China and the goddess Isis donated by Egypt, to name but a few. What we will never forget is that there, in the mountains, a shop owner stumped me! Ordering baileys and cookie flavoured ice-creams, he asked if I was South African. Impressed and chuffed, I took off my red turban (my favourite cap) and beamed a big YES. “Have you been to South Africa?” I asked him. “No, never” was his reply. “Uhm, do you know any South Africans?” (hoping he would say yes and show us the way to my fellow countrymen) “No, never ever met one in my life”. Okaaayyyy! So how did he know! Was it the hair (red turban flattened the afro), the nose, or lips, or maybe my bum? I wish I knew. Everywhere else I’m mistaken for Spanish, Portuguese or Brazilian (still cannot figure that one out as my curves are not samba-samba). South African? Never ever! So it could only have been my accent…I hope  😊 He must’ve seen some movies or something…

The coastline along the Ring of Kerry is absolutely breath-taking!

 

Waterville House and Golf Links is a golf resort with an 18-century manor.

 

View from the Dingle Peninsula towards the Ring of Kerry

 

The very famous and quite large Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula

 

At last! Our hotel. The house is about three miles from Dingle Village and situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the mighty Mount Brandon. We were heartily welcomed by the owner herself, and shown to a lovely large room with an inviting bathtub…splash-splash which was used almost immediately 🛀🏻 After settling in we had supper in the restuarant downstairs and enjoyed some delicious home-cooked food. It was so good that we ate here every night of our stay. Of course, because they have an award winning chef (her husband) and an award winning restaurant! Forgot to mention the thirst-quenchers 😆 One of us had wine, as you know, sip happens, to it’s better to wine. The other one had beer…bläh. Okay, so he said it was lekker, so lekkerrrrr that he could have easily filled a bathtub with it and splish-splosh-hic-hic the whole night through. We’re talking about the very tasty craft beer from West Kerry Brewery!

Baltimore, Lot’s Wife and 17 Stones

We were on our way again! Leaving the lovely Kildare we headed southwards to the city of Cork. We booked a two night stay in a so called University appartment, which is a sort of bed and breakfast meets hostel accommodation. Old but clean. It was on a rather busy main road but not too far from the centre of town. Fortunately we had a room at the back, so the only noises we heard were coming from above. The persons residing in the room above us must have been wearing shoes made out of bricks. Oh well, we managed to get some sleep anyway. Our first day in Cork we planned to explore the town. The city centre, believe it or not, is on an island. Yes, Cork has a river running through it, the River Lee, and two of it’s channels surround the centre. We browsed and saw a few lovely buildings and did a little bit of shopping, but the highlight was the bustling English Market. Here one can find lots of fresh produce, especially different sorts of fish. It was quite crowded and well visited by locals and tourists alike. It was a very short excursion of Cork, maybe because there was not enough to see or to impress us, or the weather was just too crappy, making everything seem grey. We went for a late lunch then headed back to the “comfort” of our room. Tomorrow is another day!

Baltimore and the famous Beacon

Yay! The weather God smiled upon us. Warm, dry and with only a few clouds floating in the sky. We meandered our way along the coast towards the interesting town of Baltimore.

The coastline between Cork and Baltimore is one word: AMAZING! Before we reached Baltimore, we stopped for a nibble and a bite at this uncommon inland sea-water lake called the Lough Hyne. The water is so clear that you can clearly see plants and animal thingies swimming about, which of course is also essential for marine research. When we sat down on the stone ledge, the water seemed so far away, but by the time we left, the tide had come in. A wonderful process of nature! There is a hilly “forest” next to the lake where many climb up to experience some dazzling views towards the sea. Unfortunately we did not know this, so missed a super opportunity 😞

Before entering the town you come upon this area, favoured and loved by scuba-divers because there are a lot of shipwrecks which can be found here. We found one! ⚓️

Baltimore was completely ravaged in 1631 by either Algerian or Moroccan pirates. Every single person in the village at that time were sold either as slaves, or managed to run away to the nearby town of Skibbereen. The village remained deserted for many generations, but slowly began to recover and prosper around the 1800’s, only to suffer more losses in the Great Irish Famine. Now it is a picturesque little town, with small harbour and the imposing O’Driscoll castle overlooking the area. The recently restored castle, known as the “fort of jewels”, is open to the public.

Climbing the way up to Baltimore Beacon

The short drive out of town to visit the beacon means that you have to meander upwards on a very narrow road before you reach the car park. The beacon is now nearer, but only muscle power will get you to the top. So go on baby, huff, puff and clamber up those rocks!

The beacon and the whole area around it is worth all the trouble to get up there. It was not bad climbing up though…easy peasy *fingers crossed*. The original beacon was too small, shoddily built and also vandalised, that is why a newer and larger one was constructed and finished in the late 1840’s. It is often called the “pillar of salt” or “Lot’s wife”, who is mentioned in the Bible, the book of Genesis. We have seen people sitting on the edge of the cliff enjoying the vast views, while others scrambled down to the rocky waters edge for whatever reason. Both are dangerous. The cliffs are crumbly and not secure and the rocks on the water are slippery. Besides that, the waves hit hard and fast so it is not easy to judge their strength. One little mistake and you done in for…It was on the news last year that three people apparently drowned here. Sad 😢

Drombeg Stone Circle

Driving back to Cork we made a detour past Skibbereen towards the megalithic site of Drombeg to visit this famous stone circle. We almost got lost driving through the back roads, but the trip was very interesting and all the little villages we passed by even more so. When we had almost given up, we found the car park! It is a few hundred metres away from the circle, and you have to walk through an interesting hedged path to get there.

Prepare yourself for the impressive quietness, the historical and spiritual “feelings” and most of all, the most breathtaking views of the fields and the ocean. The weather was beautiful, that is why we also made a little “offering” as a thank you. The circle consists of seventeen pillar stones which have been dated back to 1100BC. It is very popular and we were told that it can become quite busy, but we were the only ones there until an American guy came, looked and left. There is no entrance fee, and only this area is for the public. The surrounding fields are all privately owned…horses, cows, sheep and all.

Hope that you’ve enjoyed looking at all these awesome photos!!

Kildare: a Saint, a Stud and the Japanese

The night was shorter than Mr. Cruise, yawn, and the relentless cawing of the crows right next to our window forced us to get up. So cranking our bones into some form of mobility, and with the sound of beautiful Irish music still ringing in our ears, we washed, dressed and went to breakfast. We were greeted by our cheery host and some very noisy black birds screaming…sorry…cawing at us from a patch of lawn in front of the kitchen. They seemed to be quite at home, not even fluttering when a spontaneous a-a-aatishoo was shot in their direction. Okay, the sneeze was on purpose. There’s something creepy about nibbling on your fried sausage with so many eyes staring at you. It is a well known fact that each and every one of those very eyes have extreme binocular vision. Oh, and they would also kill for some meat scraps. Or do they just poke your eyes out?!? Note to self: next time leave the room when hubby-bunch watches his horror movies. Oh well, at least our host was quite proud that they come to him every single day. Hmmm…seeing him throwing leftovers on the lawn it’s very understandable as to why   😱

Kildare, a lovely vibrant little town not far from Dublin (about an hour’s drive) is one of the oldest towns in Ireland, some say it is the oldest. Kildare was made famous by Brigid, who started the first female christian monastery under an oak tree on the edge of the now famous Curragh, called the Church of the Oak. She is one of the patron saints of Ireland. She performed many miracles in her lifetime, and was also a good friend of St. Patrick. It is also said that St. Brigid was a Celtic Goddess before becoming a saint, though opinions differ, depending on where you do your research.

St. Brigid’s Well

St. Brigid’s Well is in a little park found down a narrow lane with limited parking space. It was almost around the corner from where we were staying, so we could walk. What a place!! My oh my!! This was really one of the most calming and spiritual places we have ever visited. Standing on the soft grass in the middle of the park with your eyes closed, a serene quietness envelops you, augmented by the gentle splashing of a little stream flowing next to a statue erected in honour of St. Brigid. Then you hear the leaves rustling in the wind, sounding like fairies whispering messages to each other from tree to tree. Or the fluttering of many pieces of ribbons, bows, rags or “clotties” tied to the lower branches of a “wishing tree” situated right next to the well. Then suddenly a bird starts to sing, making your heart simply just tingle with joy  Some people who visit the holy well dip their “clotties”, as it is commonly known, into the well, wipe certain areas on their body in need of healing, then tie them to the tree. Others hang their “clotties” as a symbol of prayer, make wishes or ask for blessings. Some take a bit of water from the stream home, like we did. Oh, and under the archway, seen on photos three and four above, are two u-shaped stones said to be St. Brigid’s slippers. Wow! We highly recommend visiting this very phenominal place. A little something for you spiritual romantics out there: A girl from Germany walked all the way from the centre of Kildare town to visit the well. She was sitting on the bench, deep in thought, when an Irishman entered the park. He too had come a long way. Both had a lot on their minds this day. On his way out, he stopped to ask if she was okay. Yes, thank you, she said. As he exited the park, she called after him because a sudden overwhelming need to give him something came over her. It was one of two special Irish sheep tokens that she had bought earlier. Now she understood why she felt the urge to buy two of them. They started off as strangers and ended up as husband and wife. Both are now living a happy and settled life in Ireland. Sigh…the love 💕💖

The Japanese Garden within The Irish National Stud

Kildare also boasts a national stud with gardens, all currently owned by the government, and found in the same area as St. Brigid’s well. It is the only stud farm in Ireland open to the public. You have to pay an entrance fee, and you can also book a tour if you wish. We decided to amble at our own pace. Okay, so finding a world famous Japanese Garden within a horsey place sure is amazing, but then again, in Ireland you will find many of such funny oddities and pleasant surprises, which only adds charm to this great country. Okay, someone here loves Ireland 😍  whoop-whoop!

The Japanese Garden was laid out by a master Japanese landscape gardener more than a century ago. They are not as big as first expected, but there’s a lot to see and experience, like these wonderful stone sculptures, and if you look closely, there’s a bird sitting on the last one. The bird is real. We recommend using a self-guide leaflet (ask at reception) and follow the exact numbered sequence. This way you can really appreciate the symbolic journey of man, or the story of life, as told with rocks, trees, sculptures, water, caves and more. The entrance to the garden is through a Japanese gate, called the “Gate of Oblivion”, where the pilgrim soul enters. The tour takes you through the cave of birth, on to childhood, then marriage, parenthood, old age, death and beyond. We were amused at how representative to real life everything was. You cross the “Marriage Bridge” and reach the “Honeymoon Path”. Ooh! A few steps to the right and there’s your first “Difference of Opinion” where you part and go your separate ways. Don’t worry, it’s only a short distance before the paths meet again. Phew! Honeymoon not over yet…😝

We visited in early May, so were very fortunate to see a lot of beautiful flowers.

Here you have the “Tunnel of Ignorance”, a shortcut through the “Hill of Ambition” and the very beautiful red “Bridge of Life”. A profound red amongst all the green. Amazing!!

 

According to the guide, the tour should only take twenty minutes, but why rush. It is so peaceful and calming walking through all this. We took much longer to finish! Muchos!!

The Irish National Stud

After exiting the garden, we crossed over to the stud. There are three little lakes on the whole property, sporting a few inhabitants like fish, birds and ducks. This lovely fountain can be found in the Sun Chariot Yard, where you’re able to see a foaling video which runs right through the day. It’s about ten or so minutes long and very interesting to watch.

We were so blessed that it was foaling season when we visited. This little cutie was just a day or two old and still unsteady on its legs. It did not stop him from being inquisitive though! Oh, and so cheeky! See the nyeh-nyeh tongue sticking out hahahahaaaaa….

Horses have been bread at this stud since 1900, where some of the best stallions in the world now reside. Breeding season runs for five months starting in February, where mares from around the world are sent here to be mated or, in horse language “covered”. Yep, a quickie that can cost many thousands of euros!! 😮 No, no further comment. Let’s just leave this whole sex thing right here 😜 Oh, and the Queen, the one who owns quite a few good racehorses (and corgis), visited Ireland for the very first time in her life, and what was on her itenary?? Yay, the Irish National Stud! I must say that you don’t have to be a horsey person to enjoy these animals, because ooooh, the foals are the most adorable!! You can also visit the horse museum where the skeleton of Arkle, the greatest thoroughbred horse in Ireland’s history, can be found. The stud is also a horse retirement “home”. Wow!

Duckett’s Grove

Oh what a day it’s been so far! A happy and busy day. We met our friends for lunch, then took a drive over to the next County, Carlow, to visit some ghosts. Apparently this 19th century ruin is haunted. A Banshee Ghost supposedly lives in this once great house and former estate. Seriously, some people “heard” screams or have “seen” tables move. How scary is that? Who do you call? Ghostbusters da-tum-ti-daa…

Duckett Grove also has other surprises. There are two old walled gardens which have been revived and restored to its almost original status. The first walled garden is on the small side, where a few historical varieties of rose shrubs and Japanese peonies, to name but a few, have been planted. The other walled garden used to be an orchid, where many paths and this sunken stone bridge has now been restored. A beautiful and quiet place. There’s also a tea-room on site, clean toilets and there is no entrance fee.

Okay, we did not find any ghosts, just sheep and birds. Lots and lots of black birds! We peeked through broken windows and cracks in the walls and saw…nothing. The ruin has also been used as a setting for two international films, and believe it or not, also favoured for weddings. It is a very imposing building though…standing right there in the middle of nothing. Hmmm…Duckett’s Grove by night…anyone??

This portico was quite a few kilometres from the actual estate, which is said to cover a total  of some twenty square kilometres or so…

AMAZING PHOTOGRAPHY!!

 

 

Waterford Vikings and Dungarvan Musicians

After all the whisky fumes from Kilbeggan, we headed south towards our next stayover, Kildare. After checking into our cozy (okay, small) little B & B, we met our local friends for supper in the centre of town. Food was great, atmosphere fantastic and the banoffee served for dessert was the best ever!!! Yum-yum! We did not stay out too long though, as some-one, the same some-one who had been nipping “spirits” a few hours before, was quite tired (or was it the other thing, hic-wink-wink-hic)  😲

It was a short and bed-small-hard night, but after a typical fry-up breakfast made by a charming host, and bellies swelling with beans, we were ready and waiting to start our new sight-seeing adventure. This time it was more wonderful because we could leave our car squatting on the gravel, as we did not need to drive anywhere ourselves. Instead we were “chauffeured” by our very patient and informative friends. The road between Kildare and the city of Waterford,  our surprise trip for the day, is not too long, about 90 minutes, takes you through the amazing Irish countryside, and depending on the route, also through three counties.

Waterford

MS Hamburg - Waterford Harbour -  River SuirWhen you arrive in Waterford, the first thing you notice when crossing the bridge is a huge river (the Suir) which automatically tickles your “close-to-bursting” bladder. Pinching all muscular exits into a coma, you also notice the many little and big boats, one cruise ship (the MS Hamburg) and a cool parking lot which runs along the river on the one side. Most cities would ban all cars from being anywhere near a pier, marina or quay, for the sake of the tourists or hand-holding lovers 😙  The Waterford Marina also has a very busy dual road, called the Merchants Quay, yet there still was enough parking spaces available, and a public toilet. Phew! Too much delicious Irish tea for breakfast…

After a bit of retail therapy, a creamy hot chocolate and a creamier slice of cake, we stepped into this lovely church called the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, which is situated right opposite the coffee shop. As you can see in the second photo, the pews and altar were decorated with white lacy material because a wedding was about to take place. What you do not see (or hear) are the musicians. A harpist, a violinist, and a soprano giving you goose-bumps, that’s how nice she sang. We also met the delightful Father Paul, who gave us a short lesson on the history of the cathedral. This photo also shows some glittering crystal chandeliers. Waterford is the home of the famous Waterford Crystal, who gifted a total of ten chandeliers to the Cathedral. The Altar is also quite new, built only in 1977 when the Cathedral was refurbished. We had to leave before seeing everything, as the wedding party had all started to arrive, and we definitely did not look posh enough in our blue jeans 😉

Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland, established by the Vikings way back in the eight hundred and something years. These silly tongue pointing people could not resist the opportunity to go back in time just to get a bit of the Viking feel. There are many others also waiting to do the same. There is only one statue, and be prepared to contort your body or else you won’t fit properly behind it. One of us had a bum-peeping-out problem…

Viking Boat before Reginald's Tower, Waterford, IrelandThis circular defence tower from the 13th century, the Reginald’s Tower, can be found in the city’s historic Viking Triangle. It is named after an Irish-Viking called Regnall (Reginald). It is the oldest civic building in Ireland, and has had many uses over the years (prison, storehouse, mint, royal castle, to name but a few). It was also the venue for a famous marriage ceremony in 1170 between the leader of the Anglo-Norman invasion force, Strongbow, and the daughter of Diarmaid, the King of Leinster. The Christ Church Cathedral disputes this though, as they claim that the wedding took place in their Cathedral, as written on their own website. Both historical versions agree on one thing, and that is that this marriage changed the course of Irish history forever. The tower is now a museum. The Viking Longboat in front of the tower is not a war boat, nor is it an original, but rather an exact replica of one found at the Viking Museum in Roskilde, Denmark. This type of boat was used for trading purposes.

Dungarvan

A few hours later we motored southwards towards the coastal town of Dungarvan situated on the mouth of the Colligan River, which actually divides it into two. Irelands only stash of mammoth elephant bones, dating back forty thousand years or so, were dug up here. The town was later also well known for its hake fishing industry. As can be seen on the left photo, taken from Davitt’s Quay, the sun was out and the tide was low when we arrived. Dungarvan is beautiful, with the Comeragh Mountains nearby (good for hiking) and the Irish Sea on its doorstep. It was also nice to have such a good view (and an even better camera) of a Grey Heron landing on the water. No, we did not see it catch any fish. Must’ve had lunch already 😋

The striking turreted Dungarvan Castle (above), built at the mouth of the Colligan River, is an Anglo-Norman fortress built in the 1180’s. Over the years it has been upgraded to accommodate cannons, was captured and blown up, set on fire, restored, used as a Garda station, and now is the exhibition centre for the history of the castle. We did not have time to see the inside, but we’re told it is worth a visit. Oh, and here’s a gory little tit-bit: there were heads propped on poles and publically displayed on one of the castle towers. Yes, dead and cut off rebel heads…eeewwww! Here’s another absurd bit of information: Oliver Cromwell, the one that failed to take Waterford, managed to capture Dungarvan, but as he was marching into town, a local woman gave him some wine. He then decided to spare the town from destruction? Hmm, so the wine was good then?

This lovely stone building to the left is a restaurant, cooking school and guesthouse. A few steps down the road and you’re at the mouth of the river. The Old Market House (right), which is around the corner from the restaurant, could have been a courthouse in 1641. It was the centre of the town back then, later used as a butter market (markets were held here too), then a library and museum, and now houses an Arts Centre. It was also the place where all public executions took place, probably only when it was a courthouse. Certainly hope so, because it is difficult to imagine blood in the midst of all those vegetables!! Creepy! One prominent Irish patriot was hanged from one of the windows on top. Shiver! Yes, art is definitely better!

IMG_6595_bearbeitet-1 Kopie

…and he’s been regretting it ever since 😂  What?? He’s the one who pointed it out to me! Scout’s Honour*hiding hands*. I did not see it first, nor did I strategically position myself next to it. Oh, and it wasn’t me who wanted a photo as proof 😇  *uncrossing fingers*  👀

The red Nagle’s Bar and the green Paddy Foley’s Bar are both traditional Irish pubs, one much older than the other, and can be found on Grattan Square, a historical and busy little area in the heart of the town.

 

Restaurant The Lazy Lamb - Dungarvan Town - Ireland

After exploring and breathing in all that sea/river air, our stomachs were starting to make strange rumbling noises. So there we were, walking up and down the square trying to find somewhere decent to eat. Imagine our excitement when we spotted the lamb here, mouths already watering in anticipation! Hrmph! It was closed! We were unfortunately an hour or two too late, as most eateries had already closed for lunch. We finally managed to find a small restaurant around the corner that served delicious food, an array of heaps-on-hips desserts, and the typical friendly Irish atmosphere thrown in for free…

Marine Bar

Sated and happy, we heaved ourselves out of our chairs and made our way to enjoy an evening of live traditional Irish music. Our friends suggested the Marine Bar, that’s not even ten minutes drive from the town centre, and conveniently on the fringe of the N25 highway. Do not be put off by this though, as it’s in a very rural location and you cannot get lost either. Oh. What. A. Night! It was still a bit empty when we got there, but just a few minutes later it started to buzz! The music was absolutely fantastic, especially the accordion player!! Never ever have I seen someone play this instrument with such passion and nimble fingers, not even in oompah-oompah land. There were many who took to the “stage” and sang. Young, old, in-between. The Irish really have amazing voices! As the night went on, the noise levels got higher, but mostly from all the sing-alongers, like us. We felt at home, enjoyed all the hugging, dancing and shouting-in-my-ear talks. It was a very special night that we will always remember! One very, very special and delightful person, Tom, was there with his family and friends to celebrate his 82nd birthday. He kindly invited all of us, yes everyone who happened to be there, to celebrate it with him, feeding all of us with delicious sandwiches. He also stood up and sang. Sadly Tom has since passed on 😢 We would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to all those who knew him, especially to his family. R.I.P. Tom and thanks for an enjoyable evening and the lovely chat. We look at the video of you singing and cannot help but smile.

Floating Spirits at Kilbeggan Distillery

After four overnight stays in the marvellous county of Donegal, we headed off to the almost middle part of Ireland, Kilbeggan. There were no in-between stops this time, just a long, almost four hour drive spent mostly on the national highway. This journey was also a very pleasant experience, as the national roads in Ireland cut through very scenic and impressive areas. Added to this, there were no traffic jams, big puffing lorries, or irate motorists. Bliss! We reached the Kilbeggan Distillery in pouring rain. Our pre-booking was postponed to an hour later, which was okay, because by now we were quite cold and hungry for something warmer than biscuits. The distillery has a very good little restaurant on its premises, and we were lucky that a big group of tourists were on their way out, or else there would have been no place to sit. The restaurant is called the Pantry… enough said, wink-wink. The ambience was great, and the food divine and oh so yummy! Oh, and it’s a good idea to eat before doing all that whisky sampling   🙂IMG_6509_bearbeitet-1 KopieOur personal French tour guide, who spoke perfect English, collected us from the Pantry to start our tour. The first impressive thing you see is this English (the flag on the badge was a dead giveaway) vintage car from the 1930’s called a Standard Ten. It is still in great working condition!

Distillation at Kilbeggan ceased in 1954 and the distillery closed in 1957. In 2007 an old Pot Still, which was last used in 19th century, was restored and distillation started again. The vast majority of the distillery tour covers the old mothballed part of the distillery. On the one hand it was such a lovely experience to see all this old equipment, but then again we were quite sad that they are not used anymore. So it was good that the small working part of the distillery was included in the tour. We chose the Gold Medal Tour, which was sort of private, as we were the only two participants.

The drive shaft (left) turned all the machinery in the distillery. One end is connected to a 19th century water wheel (still in a good working condition) and the other end is connected to a steam engine (right), which was rarely used. The steam engine was only installed so that it could operate when the water level of the river was low, or if the water wheel needed repairing.

The Brosna or Brusna River, popular for fly fishing, flows through the distillery, where the water was used to fill these large brewing vats (left). The steamed heated water was then let into these iron mash tuns (right) through a perforated false floor, together with a grain mix from a chute overhead, then slowly heated for about four hours. The starches in the grain then changed into sugar, was absorbed by the water, and eventually drained out. This sugary liquid was called Wort. The leftover grains in the mash tuns were sold to the farmers and used for animal feed.

IMG_6520_bearbeitet-1 KopieThe worts were drained into the container on the right (brew-language: underback) flowing into copper pipes which were set in the bed of the river to cool the sugary liquid. The cooled liquid was then collected in a lower underback and pumped up to the fermentation vats.

IMG_6466_bearbeitet-1 Kopie

Yeast was added to the wort once it reached the fermentation vats (mothballed fermentation vat above – current one below) and after about four days, the sugars changed to alcohol. This frothy liquid with about a 7-8% alcohol content was called wash, or “pig-ale” as the workers called it as it was quite difficult to swallow.

IMG_6479_bearbeitet-1 Kopie

The stills were first filled with wash and fires were lit underneath. In the early years the stills were heated by locally produced turf, later, imported coal was used. With steady heat supply the alcohol evaporated. Then it was condensed by passing it through copper pipes in cold water tanks. This condensed liquid collected in the canpit room. When enough had collected the liquid passed out to the stills to be distilled again. After distilling, a clear strong alcohol called First Shot was produced. It was similar to good poitín (illegal Irish whiskey)

The spirit store consists of the Blue Vat and the filling and weighing apparatus. The Blue Vat was filled with the freshly distilled whiskey, and to bring it to the correct strength, distilled water was added. Then they filled casks and brought them to be stored in the warehouses to mature.

The Copper Pot Still of the new distillery (left) was made in the early 1800’s and is the oldest whiskey producing pot still in the world today.It was once used in the distillery in Tullamore and was installed by Cooley Distillery, and run in 2007 to mark the 250th Anniversary of the Old Kilbeggan Distillery. This freshly made Pot Still Whiskey is then filled into small oak casks and matures in the warehouse. Below is a picture of the Cask Filling Station in the warehouse.

In the maturation warehouse there is still a lot of open space but it was good to see how many freshly filled barrels have gathered since 2007.

 

IMG_6505_bearbeitet-1 KopieThe outside of the distillery, showing the river that runs through it…

After the tour you can relax in the bar, buy something, sample a dram or two, or have serious whisky discussions with the distiller.   😜

 

These items can be found in their very interesting “museum”.

IMG_6534_bearbeitet-1 Kopie

These are the impressive Pot Stills of the Tullamore Distillery. Around the end of the 1990’s, they were saved from being turned into a molten mass by John Teeling.

The warehouse to the left was built in the 1930’s and is jokingly called the jelly-mould. The photo on the right is a 200-year old granite warehouse.

 

 

Slieve League Cliffs and Paddy’s Yellow Submarine…

Another day, another adventure. We’re still based in Letterkenny, which is sort of central and perfectly situated for travelling to both the northern and southern parts of the whole Donegal county. We went south, as we wanted to see the “Grey Mountain” as it’s called, which is three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher. There we go again, mountain “goats” looking for something to climb 🐐 😛

On our way we stopped at the largest fishing port of the county and country, Killybegs. This natural deepwater harbour is very impressive, and the town is also known for its famous hand-made Donegal carpets (founded by a Scotsman), made out of pure wool, and which can be found in places like the Vatican and Buckingham Palace.

Driving along the beautiful coast near Largy, with nothing but green fields and sheep!

 

The Oceanview Guesthouse

This enchanting house nestled at the foot of a mountain and overlooking the ocean is actually a luxury bed and breakfast accomodation. No, we did not stay here…

 

We arrived at our destination, Teelin, a little too early for our boat tour, so we decided to climb up this steep hill, just for fun…Easy! with only a little bit of huffing and puffing 😉

 

There you go, the “Grey Mountain” better and famously known as the Slieve League Cliffs, seen from the “scary comfort” (no toilet) of a little boat. We were lucky that the water was calm enough, not much wind, and no rain at all. These cliffs are 609 metres high, and it was really fascinating to see them from the bottom up. So many formations, colours, caves and waterfalls, with a sheep or two literally dangling by their toes on the edges! The tour was about ninety minutes long, there and back, with lovely anecdotes, tit-bits and general information from our skipper, Paddy.

Now, getting off the boat can be a bit shaky for some, as you still have sea-legs. The best is to cling onto whatever railings you are able to reach, pray that the gap between boat and wall does not open wider, and hope that you can muster the few steep, narrow and slippery steps without falling into the water. Or you could faint and wait for Paddy to heave you out of his boat with his strong able hands 😀  This is Paddy, with his permission. He is standing in front of his yellow submarine. Yes, that is what he calls it. A super guide!

As if we did not have enough, we also wanted to see the cliffs from the top. No, we did not climb up all the way, instead we drove up to the main viewing area, and walked the rest of the way. Not as difficult at first, but the higher you go the stonier it becomes. The views are amazing from any point, so it is not necessary to walk all the way up…

 

IMG_6438_bearbeitet-1 Kopie

Oh dear, here is Super-Something, who thought it might be a good idea to learn how to fly from the edge of a cliff…

 

The weather changed so often while we were up there, quite normal for us by now. It looked like storm clouds, which then disappeared after five minutes. The photo on the right shows this amazing natural lake sitting on top of the cliffs. Nature is so wonderful!

The road going up or down the cliffs. Drive, walk, crawl, huff, puff…choose your pleasure. This pub and B&B on the right, found between Carrick and Teelin, is called the Rusty Mackerel. Hahaha, just wondering where this name originates from and why…