Ireland Road Tripping: West Cork & Kerry (again!)

This year the kids have a full week off for February mid-term break so we’re taking advantage of it and heading away for a few nights.  We’re huge fans of staycations and make every opportunity to take in as much of the amazing Emerald Isle as we can.  If we ever relocate back to the US [or somewhere else], I do not want to look back at our time here with regrets.

Like we’ve done several times, we found a deal on SuperValue Getaway Breaks and we’ll be staying at the Westlodge Hotel in Bantry.   It’s not a fancy hotel at all and in fact, I’m slightly nervous that we’ll get put in an old room but for the price we’ll have to deal.    3 nights including a FRIDAY & SATURDAY for €245.00!!  The hotel has a heated pool with a kids area and bubble section – which was key decision factor.  Being just outside the town centre, I’m thinking we’ll be able to find a cozy pub and hopefully have live music.

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Our Room was #213. It was not a newly renovated Superior room, but it was fine!  It was very warm even in February, so we slept with the window and mesh curtain open as much as possible – but at night you’d have to close the over curtain or those opposite would see right in.  Not sure what it would be like in Summer – might be too hot?!  Our room had two single beds and a double bed. The only two cons of the room – tiny tv and when I say tiny it was like a large computer screen with a MAX volume of 21!  The toilet had some flushing issues oh and it was not mixed taps – so you have either super hot on the left and freezing cold on the right – grrr!

it overlooked the outdoor kids playground area (closed for the season – I assume to regrow the grass around it) and was just down the hall from the kids games room which consisted of some plastic garden houses, a pool table, a football table, ping pong table “like Anthony’s next to the Porsche“.  The Leisure centre staff in the pool area said they had some supervised kids activities, but it was not a “real” kids club where you check them in and they are supervised. One girl was putting some face paint on a kid and that was all the supervision we saw for the 3 days.   So if you are looking for a drop-off, supervised kid club like the amazing one at Clifden’s Station House this is not the place for you.  The kids went swimming twice, once was the four of us and once it was just Nils and the kids (I had a migraine and had taken a pill). The pool area was terrific – sauna & Jacuzzi, a small kids pool, a shallow end and a deep end.

The one huge issue we had with the hotel is that the pub areas were so un-cozy.   Even their pub was nothing like a lovely, cozy Irish pub – it had a large tv blaring some UK talk tv show, a poor singer shoved in the corner no on listening to him.  We felt so bad, we moved closer to him and watched him for a few songs.  When we left, not a person was there ….  shame that they don’t install a  dimmer switch – the lights were fully on.  We left and visited Bantry where we had a nice drink in a couple different pubs.   1) Ma Murphys – a genuine, untouched, traditional Irish pub with real Irish character, friendly staff.  it’s been in one family since 1800’s and they have a little shop section.  Mary was working and was so personable and welcoming.   2) Bantry Bar – served Paulaner on draft so I was a huge fan instantly!   Music didn’t start until 10 and kids had to be out around 9 so we were out of luck there.  We also ate in the Brick Oven Pizza restaurant and itw as great.  The best part about that restaurant was the two guys who worked there.  One kid had a melt down in the corner and without any hesitation, the guy (I think Matt?) ran over and talked with the child.  He was quite and it was so amazing – my husband was so impressed he mentioned to him that he was brilliant with kids.

The location was great – you could technically walk from the hotel down to the town centre but a 5 minute taxi ride back is easy enough too.

There were some other deals available including Sneem Hotel, Casey’s of Baltimore, etc but Bantry is a great central location not far down any of the many peninsulas.  Two years ago we stayed in Ahakista in December and in August that year our friends visited from Boston so went down to West Cork & Kerry, but have not been since so we’re due a trip down.  One day we drove over to Baltimore to have a look – we ended up seeing a huge gathering of kids doing a sailing course – very cute.   The “town” or village was tiny – a few pubs, restaurants,etc.  But what was cool was the ferry;s out to the islands – we’d love to do that in the summer.

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One thing about this trip was that we’re going to try and do/see some new things.  We’ll still do a few of the same things we always do like a stop in Kenmare – one of our favorite places!
I popped in two new charity shops which were not there when we visited last – nothing for me but more books for Nils!  I think he got 12 in one shop alone!!  There was a second hand flog it store half way up the street, but when we were going to enter the man said no kids allowed but we could come in one at at time – ah let me think about that, NO!   I get that perhaps some shitty kids were in his shop before and as an shop owner he has the right to refuse entry but then don’t try to then talk us into coming in one at a time.

We ate in PF McCarthys (again) – kids split a toasty and Nils and I both had seafood chowder and open faced, smoked salmon sandwiches on brown bread – soooo good. Oh and they too served Paulaner on draught, so I had a pint too!  Not sure but I think the barman was an American!  

It was drizzling so we popped in shop to shop from The Nest, Fat Face, Quills and the toy/sports shop up the top.    We love Kenmare & we’ll be back again and again.

We also took a trip down to Schull & Crookhaven to have an open faced, smoked salmon sandwich with seafood chowder in O’Sullivans.

crookhaven

We didn’t bother going to Mizen Head visitor centre – we’ll save that for summer too.  Schull was a bit more dead then it was last time we were there & loads of shops seems to have closed down.  The one group of people we saw walking around went into the Wine Bar across the street from Hackets.   The one great thing about Schull this time was it was low tide and down the by pier was a rocky section normally under water and it was full of sea glass and pottery pieces – I got a LOT in only about 10 minutes.

Boat with flowers inside - Schull, West Cork

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All this while keeping I mind it’s February.  Irish say it is spring , but for us we maintain it’s WINTER!   No snow like in Boston, but cold nonetheless but some flowers are starting to bloom – snowdrops are out and daffodils are right behind.

But the new things we could have possibly done included:

A day in Cork City and a wonder through the famous English Market and checking out the second hand shops on North Main Street. We never made it to walking around Cork City, but we did stop in to the Franciscian Well Brewery and had some amazing pizzas.   They lease out a brick oven pizza maker in the back and they were so good!  We got two pizzas but easily could have had a third.  I highly recommend this place and we’ll be back.

A visit to Cobh (pronounced Cove) is on the books too.  Cobh is a beautiful Victorian seaport town & the home to Ireland’s only dedicated cruise terminal.  Some 2.5 million people left Ireland for pastures new in North America via Cobh (formerly Queenstown) from 1848 – 1950. These emigrants included Annie Moore and her brothers. Annie was the first immigrant to be processed through New York’s famous Ellis Island facility in 1892 and the family stands facing the United States.  A similar statue of Annie can be found in Ellis Island, New York, representing the honour of being the first emigrant to pass through Ellis Island and standing as a symbol of the many Irish who have embarked on that very same journey.

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In looking over the things to do, we had to decide what to do.  A quick look what there is to do as tourists and seems there is a lot. Some of the attractions in Cobh include the magnificent St. Colman’s Cathedral which is a beautiful photo rather famously shown in many brochures of Ireland.

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This first photo I pulled from the Internet – the houses were not as vibrant and lovely as shown – probably photo shopped.   Anyway, the following photos are all mine. We parked in the free parking lot behind the church. Loads of steps up and down so for those with small kids and old people don’t bother – go down to the “waterfront”.


There is Titanic Trail, self-drive harbour cruise boats, Spike Island tours, the Lusitania memorial, the Cobh Road Train, Cobh Museum and many other places of interest.   They have two charity shops, so we popped in – Nils got more books, Soren a Beano book and Maebh a headbands game – which we played that night in the hotel lobby.

One option would be to visit The Queenstown Story at Cobh Heritage Centre where you learn a bit about the Titanic, Lusitania, Genelogy, Emigration, Cobh’s Maritime & Naval History, etc .  The admission fee is €25.00 for our family.

But my main drive to Cobh is to visit the Titanic Experience which is also €25.00 admission – no way would we do both.  Upon check-in you will receive your boarding card. Your boarding card will have the details of one of the 123 passengers who came to the White Star Line Ticket Office on Thursday April 11th 1912. These were the final passengers to join Titanic at her last port of call in Queenstown, Ireland. (Cobh was renamed Queenstown from the period of 1849-1921 in honour of Queen Victoria’s visit to Cobh and so they refer to Cobh as Queenstown for much of our story.) Did you survive? The final element of the experience located in the story room, is where you will learn the fate of you as a passenger and all the Queenstown passengers. We also feature a selection of interesting artefacts from Carpathia, The Odell Family Collection and some original serving pieces from the White Star Line fleet of the early 20th century.  The kids are so curious if we survive or die.  I am not sure – I think we may survive but Nils says probably die and that only in the US would we survive.

When we arrived, I asked the lady to at the counter to be sure that she gives us two people who live and two who pass as it would be exciting to see what happens.

I was Mary Madigan, Soren was Maurice O’Connor, Maebh was Ellen and Nils was xxxxxxxx.

The guided tour was about 30 minutes long and then you are brought into an area with artifacts and videos, etc.  and in the end you learn of the fete of your passenger. Like I said before two lived and two died – turns out it was the two ladies who lived and the two guys who died One body was recovered, one never found!  All in all it was good.  When we finally get to the Titanic Museum in Belfast where the ship was built, I’ll compare the two.

So when we arrived in Cobh we were hungry and all the places were just not appealing to us. I then suggested we visit The Titanic Pub downstairs from the museum.  Nils was assuming it was some tourist place with mediocre food but turned out to be excellent.  Seafood chowder was an 8.5 – excellent – a tad bit salty but still very good.  The only issue we had was that it was 8.95 so from a price standpoint it is a bit high.  I had an open faced smoked salmon sandwich and Nils had fish & chips.  The place was surprisingly good – highly recommend.

Prince August – Toy Soldier Factory

On Sunday on our way back from our trip we stopped in for a visit to Prince August – Toy Soldier Factory.  I booked online and saved 10% but they offer a great deal of 50% if you book in the morning before noon. This didn’t work for us this time, as Nils was meeting a friend from 20 years ago in a nearby village so while he was having drinks with them, we went onto the place.  Being allergic to paint, we thought this was the best part.  I have to upload the photos from our time there & will post shortly.

My TripAdvisor review:

I visited with my 7 and 9 year old kids on the way back to Dublin. Was a great way to end our weekend in West Cork. Both kids cast and painted items – my daughter their newest item – an elf. My son choose a soldier on horseback. They loved it and asked me to promise a stop each time we are in the area. Next time I’m going to join in too 🙂 The staff are all lovely and very helpful. We booked online and saved 10% but if you book before noon you can avail of 50% off (amazing deal) – I suspect it is quieter in the mornings too – though being a Sunday nding a mid-term it was not to busy My youngest pointed out that if we lived closer you could even have your birthday party there.

I’d say it’s best for kids 6 & up. The little ones would not be doing to pouring of the hot metal rather painting only.

Overall it was great, and its an activity that parents and children can do together at the factory and at home (if you buy kits to make at home). We didn’t visit the battle of Waterloo exhibition, but heard it’s amazing.

They have a small area with coffee/tea & crisps for the parents to sit while the kids paint.

We hoped to take a small walk around Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve but didn’t get there.  Too wet. We’re not a huge hiking family with Nils’ bad knee, we’re not going far but we’ll take a short walk and see what we can spot.

We did have a great drive over the Healy Pass!

Visit Donkey Donks at The Donkey Sanctuary just outside Mallow.  Wonder if we can bring them apples?  Over 5,200 donkeys from all parts of Ireland have been taken into their care.  It’s free to visit but rely on donations, so we’ll be kind.  You can also adopt a donkey for a year for €25.00!  Don’t worry, you don’t take the donkey home with you!

As  I am always up for sea glass hunting on a nice rocky beach,  so when I hear about The Coral Beach in Sneem near Gleesk Pier which is a rare geological gem and one of only 2 coral beaches in Ireland, the other is near Carraroe in County Galway.  While most Irish beaches are made of sand, this beach is made up of tiny pieces of desiccated and sun-bleached algae.  This type of coral is not like the coral you might find in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

coralbeach coral-beach-sneem-ring-of-kerry

While Fota Wildlife Park is a great place to go with kids, we’ll skip that until much warmer weather.

So for now this post is finished,  I’ll update with photos and fix why the layout is wonky!

Ireland Road Tripping: Dublin to Mourne Mountains

As the kids had two days off this week for their February Mid-Term, so we spent Friday, away from Dublin on a mini road trip.

We’ve been to Carlingford many times and often look across at the Mourne Mountains saying we should head that way.. so that is the way we travelled.

So we made our final destination Newcastle, Northern Ireland.  It’s a mix between the British Seaside areas like Hunstanton with beach-side fun fairs and beach side pools with slides to Seahouses and Berwick-Upon-Tweed in the Scottish borders. But add in the fantastic mountains in the background. The kids loved it… and want to come back in the Summer.


We didn’t make it as far as Strangford Lough which is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It’s the first marine nature reserve and is the British Isles’ largest sea inlet with some stunning scenery and well known attractions around its shores.

There is also a ferry which takes you from Strangford to Portaferry – could be a small adventure and then follow the coast up and see what those small fishing villages are like – could be very cute and scenic.  We did a ferry crossing last year this time and they found it fun and bit wet and choppy.

As Soren has a football game on Saturday at 10 am, we’ll be returning home that evening.  Otherwise, it could be fun to stay one night in a hotel giving us more time to explore.  However, my money is on the game being cancelled due to bad weather and the pitch being too muddy.

Oh yeah, the whole area in famous for the filming of the Game of Thones, but as we’ve never seen it, we have no clue even what to look for in the area! 🙂

Ireland Road Tripping: Cork & Kerry in August with friends

In early August, we had some friends coming over from Boston to visit us in Dublin. Instead of spending their entire nine-day vacation here in the city, we’re heading to Cork & Kerry for the first four nights of their trip.   Overall we had an amazing time and had great weather but I am Cork & Kerry’d Out – and next road trip will be Northwest & Antrim/Northern Ireland.  We have only been to the area in the winter/Christmas time so to see the amount of people in towns and around was different too.

In looking at Airbnb and other sites, it is very hard to find affordable accommodations for two families for less than 7 days, but we did.  We found a house for rent just outside Kenmare (one of our favorite villages) in Dunkerron Woods.  As you can imagine,  August is peak time in that area so many houses are already rented.   I really enjoyed renting a self-catering unit as we could enjoy breakfast and dinner (occasionally) here at that made it more affordable.  I will say though we had to buy a lot of things which you take for granted having at home like butter, salt, pepper, ketchup, mayo, etc.  So next trip we take, within Ireland, I’m going to bring a sort of started box from home containing all those condiments and bits that would be used.  Anyway, this property was great – a perfect location for exploring the area.  Very quiet at night and served our needs perfectly.

We spent our entire trip going from one place to another – so many places, I have to try and remember the names of them.  I’ll just start by posting a bunch of the best photos I took – all from my android.  Didn’t bother to take my Nikon on this trip – also as I was sitting in the back of the ‘bus’ nearly the entire time, many photos were taken through the window.

One day we drove the entire Ring of Kerry and onto Valentia Island.  It was a bit windy and chilly so didn’t walk up to Bray head – but I imagine the view is amazing and the area is so nice.  I said it was like “50 Shades of Green”. Not any time soon as I want to explore other parts of the country first, but in a few years, I could totally see us renting a small house here & just enjoying the views and area.

We also drove from Kenmare to Crookhaven in West Cork via the beautiful Healy Pass and Kerry Mountains… at one point we HAD to stop, pile out and take some photos.  The views were amazing.
Once we got through the mountains and into West Cork, we entered Goleen and onto Crookhaven, where we were impressed with the crystal clear waters.  Having only been in the area for winters – and last year right after Christmas, we only remember it from cold winter walks with the dogs, Lara and Ashleigh.)   This time was even more fun – the kids LOVED it.  They started running down the dunes and then within minutes clothes were off and they were paddling in the sea.
At Barley Cove Beach, there is a great, week-long surf school – perhaps something for the kids.  If we lived closer, I’d totally sign them up.  Perhaps there is something up this way when they know how to swim better.  Then again, I think Soren would sign up for the Sutton Dingy club to learn to sail.

Of course, a trip down to that area wouldn’t be complete without a stop in O’Sullivans in Crookhaven to have some lunch.

crookhaven

[Yep – open faced salmon sandwiches & seafood chowder!]  It was packed and not only that outside was even more busy.  This time was full of families who were jumping off the wall into the quay. Most wearing full wetsuits and a few without – who were clearly a bit cold.  The kids made a friend who they were encouraging to jump.

Another day we headed over to Killarney – the most “American town: in Ireland.  First we stopped over to check out a real castle as that was on Mason’s list.  So with the closest castle to us being Ross Castle, we went along to check it out.  You were not allowed to take photos inside, but we did have an informative one hour tour of the insides.    Inside was an exhibition hall and you were able to take photos there – so I couldn’t resist the “poop hole” which the kids pointed out to me.  Later on the tour, we got to see said poop hole…

While it was informative and interesting, I think I much prefer visiting old, lavish and elaborate stately historical homes which have been restored – guess I’m spoilt with National Trust properties – could visit the Muckross House next time.

Before we did the tour we had time to kill so we explored the grounds.  It is set on a beautiful lake which you can take a boat tour- that is what all the old people did as they were not physically able to climb the small, winding staircase.  Oh and I can’t forget that the kids nearly gave me a heart attack by climbing around the walls – and as they were going to climb on the cannon, my helicopter instincts kicked in and Sam was kind enough to make the blade sounds – hilarious! .

On the way back to Dublin we made our way to the Blarney Castle so that Sam & Nicole could “kiss the stone & become eloquent”.  It’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland – we had to go.

I have done it before (many, many years ago  and it was just us and the guy who works there… but this time, despite waiting with our friends in a long line (with Nils & the kids),  I was chicken and couldn’t do it.  Ever since having children 7 years ago, I’m such a wimp and overly cautious.   Anyway, both Nicole & Sam kissed the stone so it was well worth the wait.

Now they will never again be lost for words. 🙂
Outside they have a “Poisonous Garden” – bet you’d NEVER find that in America!!  I can think of a few kids who shouldn’t be brought here!
We had such an amazing time together and this post does not reflect the scenery nor our daily adventures, but for the sake of time, I just want to post up the photos.

Ireland Road Tripping: Brittas Bay County Wicklow

As the weather was pretty good on Saturday, we decided to head toward Wicklow and if we all agreed, we’d stop at a beach.  We love the Wicklow Mountains and so figured let’s head that way.  Next time I want to check out the Indian Sculpture Park.

Nils read that the Silver Strand was great, so we set off for that but then when we arrived at the sign we had to enter through a carvan park.  Not sure what it was like and knowing we were only going to be there for an hour or so (if that) and as it was already 2 pm in the afternoon, we decided to skip paying the 10. parking fee.   Instead we drove on about 20 minutes and stopped at Brittas Bay Beach which was a really lovely, blue flag beach.  It had a maned life guard station and toilets in the car park.   A short walk from the car park, we were at a nice open beach which was not busy.   Immediately, our kids were into the water and running about.

And as an added bonus, the RNLI came ashore, spoke with our two life guards and took off again.
I myself was not prepared for a swimming day as I thought it was going to rain, I never thought we’d make it to the beach.  A bit stupid of me, but then again the water was a bit cold, I probably wouldn’t have gone in anyway.  Instead I could sit and watch the kids enjoy themselves. Maebh has a love hate relationship with the sand – one minute she is making sand angels the next she is complaining her hands and face were covered with wet sand.    She always hated sand in her toes – here is a photo of her when she was just two…she sat at Good Harbour Beach in Gloucester picking the sand out from between her toes until she took off her pants and splashed in the water.  LOL

Overall that beach was nice and while I wouldn’t drive from Dublin just to go to that beach for the day, as there are some great beaches on our doorstep, but if we are in Wicklow again, we’d stop there. Well worth the 4.00 car parking/entrance fee, which goes to the car park, toilets and life guard station.

As Maebh fell asleep we took the long route via the mountains and into South Dublin and stopped at The Bath Pub in Sandymount for a beer and pizza from Base – AMAZING pizza.  We “celebrated” my turning 41 and Father’s Day together. Only problem was we were still hungry and could have had a third pizza.  The waiter was a lousy salesman, said we should only get two vs three.  🙂   Glad we don’t live walking distance from there as the pub would be a local favorite and for now we keep it special.

Ireland Road Tripping: Burren Birds of Prey, Aillwee Caves & County Clare

Instead of having a full week off at February like some schools, (we only have two days), so the kids have a full week off in early May. Truthfully I prefer that – purely based on having better weather in May.   Anyway, with Thursday & Friday off this week, we took advantage of a road trip to “West Country”. We are trying to see as much of Ireland as possible (within a tight budget),  

I found a two-night hotel package at the Inn at Dromoland.  The hotel has a pool, a voucher for 90 minutes in the indoor kids play area, supervised kid camp (which was not running this mid-term) and a 3-course meal for one night was included.   I knew going in that the hotel was not the Ritz but it was perfect for our family, a great value and really, I had no complaints.  

The room was a family room with a double and two singles and as expected, Maebh and I were in the big bed! 🙂   It was not one of their more recently updated rooms but wasn’t bad.

The kids enjoyed the indoor play area and made lots of friends.  Maebh mainly did the slides and ball pits and Soren played football in the back with some older boys.

Just up the road was the 5-star, Dromoland Castle – a “sister property” but to me it was more like a third cousin, twice removed, if it is still “part of the family”! 🙂  We didn’t go inside, but the grounds were lovely and offered a lot.  Instead of 200 for two nights, it was probably 400 for one night type of place. Way over our budget.

Getting to the hotel, we took a bit of the long way going through the Burren.  It’s a great rocky expanse in Country Clare and is one of the world’s truly unique places in that it supports Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpine plants side-by-side (yes I read that interesting fact). The limestone mountains are just beautiful and so different from other parts of Ireland.


The windy roads, which get somewhat narrow at places prove to be too difficult for trucks and busses to pass each other on the road.  These are the times when it’s perfect to say “only in Ireland”!

Oh and a car in the ditch?!
We stopped at O’Connors Pub in Doolin to have lunch in a pub.. it was VERY full of Americans and bus loads of Spanish tourists.  The food was just okay …  while nothing was wrong (including a doggy bag request),  I just would probably visit a different pub for lunch, if I were to ever return to that area.   If we were staying locally and they had a Trad night going, I’d probably consider going for drinks only – as I love those sessions.

Of course there are COWS – not so many sheep.

 

After lunch, we set off to the Cliffs of Moher, but when we finally arrived there it was raining and very windy and decided to not visit it with our kids until they are a bit older.   I did take a few photos from Doolin. Having been there before (12 years ago, I know they are cool).

On Saturday morning as the sun was shining, instead of heading to the pool after breakfast, we headed out to do something outdoors.  We were originally going to Doolin Ferries to take the Cliffs of Moher cruise but the seas were just too rough (and they start in March so a bit early on Feb 22). I think this would be so great in the warm weather.   

Check out this video – warning accent is brutal – but views are great!

So in looking at the map to see what other area attractions are around, we headed to the Aillwee CavesBurren Birds of Prey Centre.
The caves were amazing – having never been in any cave before, I had no idea what to expect.  I’m actually surprised I went in.  I think being American, I have been drilled for Health & Safety my entire life – and sure enough each step in, I kept thinking the worst thoughts… where is the exit, what if Nils someone bumps his/her head, what if here is a fire, what if the guide’s flashlight dies or someone falls into a while.. lol – you’d think I could relax a bit but surprisingly I did enjoy it.  I did disliked an Eastern European family who kept cutting, bumping and annoying me but I managed to get away from them.  I just read that when Kim and Kanye, were honeymooning in Ireland, Kim actually got stuck inside the caves and the fire department had to come free her.  
The Aillwee Cave is one of the many caves beneath the Burren. It was formed by glacial melt waters that seeped through the cracks in the limestone pavement during an early ice-age. It is the oldest cave in the Burren at 1.5 million years old, and boasts some of the most spectacular stalactites and stalagmites in Ireland . The powerful flow of these melt waters eroded through the rock, forming a subterranean river. Since the last ice-age, this river has subsided, leaving in its place one of Ireland ’s most spectacular caves. The largest area in the cave is known as The Highway, which is located at the centre of the cave.  Amazingly it only discovered in the 1940’s by a local farmer who lost his dog into a hole in the ground chasing a rabbit. The farmer went looking for his dog through the opening in the ground and some hours later managed to find not only the dog but the natural heritage feature. 
The cave was inhabited by animals for thousands of years before it was discovered by man. Hibernation pits dug out by bears were found in the cave, as well as bones of a brown bear. Bears are no longer found in Ireland , and have been extinct here for over 1,000 years.  
After the caves, we went down the hill to the Birds of Prey Centre.  It’s actually quite small place but had some of the most endangered species of birds in the area. We first walked through and got to see the various birds the had including Harrier Hawks, Sea Eagle, Falcolns, various owls including Jessie, the barn owl – my favorite!   They make the “show”,  very educational and you have the opportunity to handle some of the birds.

Soren was luckily the first one to spot Batty, the Bateleur Eagle coming from way up in the sky, so he was able to hold him first.   The handler in the photo was Dutch – which I could tell the second he started to speak! 

I took some photos but also a video with my phone – excuse the clicking sounds of my camera…

Batty is about 2 years old, he was taken from the wild in Africa as a chick, and somebody tried to smuggle him into the UK. Luckily, he got caught by customs, and was hand-reared by some kind soul. Eventually, he ended up in the centre in Ballyvaughan, and people just love him. He’s such a peculiar-looking bird! When he fluffs up his feathers, he just about doubles in size.  His cage is full of kids today.
 

 

 

 

 

 

He also did a demonstration with a falcoln called Mille.

 

When this guy was done, another guy brought out a barn owl named Jessie.   Maebh was brave and asked for a chance to hold the owl and later Soren asked too.

I think we paid €45.00 for our family of four to visit but if you plan ahead you can use the Adults Go FREE offer from Kelloggs boxes.   Or Tesco Days Out has a points for voucher scheme too.

I hope to get up to Sligo/Westport area and will have to stop at the Eagles Flying place up there.

After this fun adventure, we stopped in Ennis for some lunch at Knox – which I highly recommend and then back to the hotel where we went into the swimming pool. 

Sunday morning we fueled up on the hotel’s buffet breakfast, which was very good and headed south to Killimer, where we got onboard the Shannon Ferry for a 20-minute, very windy, wet car ferry across the estuary which separates County Clare from County Kerry.   Here is a video I took going on the ferry….

When we got off the ferry, we headed to the seaside town of Ballybunion but being winter and VERY seasonal place, the entire place was closed… but we did have a peak at the beautiful beach, which I’d love to see in the summer.

After driving a bit around we headed to Adare for lunch at Pat Collins pub  – great seafood chowder!
and then onto the M7 (major motorway) for a boring, two-hour drive back to Dublin from Limerick.  

Overall – a great two nights away exploring all which Ireland offers.  In thinking ahead, I hope our next road trip will be towards Westport, Mayo, Connemara region or Belfast for the Titanic Quarter and W5.

I just saw a posting online with 33 photos that prove Ireland is the most beautiful country in the world.  I’m not sure I’d agree with the most but surely is a beautiful place and so different as your travel to different parts of the country. 

Ireland Road Tripping: Greystones & Wicklow Mountains

On Sunday, we decided to take a road trip towards the south of Dublin towards county Wickow which is known as the “Garden of Ireland” has it all – mountains, lakes, coast, beaches, forests, blanket bogs, ancient monastic sites, stately homes and gardens, pretty villages & towns.  Sounds great, so we first visit Greystones – a village we heard a lot about.   When we arrived we poked around a vintage flea market called Flea By The Sea – which had a mix of some real vintage items and a bunch of overpriced junk.  For example, a used, dark blue plastic police money box which Soren asked about.  Her reply to him was 20 EURO saying it was where Dr. Who slept – pfff.  Perhaps if it were brand new or metal would anyone pay 20 euro.   I was expecting a few EURO. So if I ever see one – [or if anyone who reads this blog posts sees one for cheap], grab it for Soren.

We parked our car in the centre and walked around the seafront a bit, where Nils and Maebh spotted a giant car boot sale -so we of course, had to visit that for a good hour.  We got some good deals including football boots for Soren.

Then back along the seafront, the kids played hop scotch and watched some people in the sea, a SUP and a seal.   Then we were off to explore but first had to eat.

Walking down the main street during lunch time with two hungry kids, we ended up in a place which had a soup/sandwich special for a good price – but in hindsight, I’d have preferred different.  It’s too bad we didn’t do any research on pubs or restaurants to visit as we ended up in one which was fine but not good food.  Note to self – never do that again.   But they did have a lot of laughs on their shared bench.

 

Before you say it – Soren just got a bit of a haircut now he can see again! ;0

After we left Greystones we took a drive into the Wicklow National Mountains through Enniskerry – which is such a cute town coined gateway to the garden of Ireland.  I’d much rather have had lunch here and a friend suggested next time we try Poppy’s for lunch in Enniskerry and come see the Kilmacanogue Horse Show next year.

We set off to find Ireland’s tallest waterfalls – Powerscourt Waterfalls.  It’s part of the Powerscourt Gardens Estate which looks like such a nice place so we’ll have to come back and explore. If we lived closer, I’d consider an annual membership as you support the estate, the amazing grounds and the conservation of the beautiful falls.  I just saw it was rated No. 3 garden in the world by National Geographic.

Not knowing what to expect after we paid entrance and went past the super cute cottage,we parked our car and walked over a bit but as you’ll see in the first photo, you can drive right up near them and many families were having picnics, birthday parties, etc.

There are some nice trails around which we didn’t do, but here you can see three 20 something year old guys who climbed up the side and were struggling to come down. Soren said they were “not smart people”.

Part of the falls area is a nice playground which the kids loved.   Soren was especially loving the metal crank thing where the water is brought up.

And like all the playgrounds here, a giant fire pole and super fast, super high slides -they are all so high and so fast – why?!  One kid came down so fast, they flew right off and into the dirt.

After an ice cream, we were off to make our way towards home, until Nils suggested one more detour and so we headed towards the Glendalough National Park. It was already 5 pm when we arrived, so we only planned to take a quick peek and head home.

We drove through the mountains on Military Road, built in 1800 by the British who were trying to gain access to areas wehre the Rebels who took park int he 1798 uprising were hiding out.

The first thing we came to was the Monastic site – an early Christian monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Over time, this early settlement developed into one of the great monasteries in Ireland whose remains can be seen in the Monastic City today.

The Monastic Site contains a number of monastic remains. Foremost among these is the Round Tower which stands 30m high and has been completely preserved. Round towers are a feature unique to Irish monasticism and have evoked much curiosity as to their purpose. As a symbol, the Round Tower has become synonymous with Glendalough.
Other buildings of interest include:
  • the Cathedral which was dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul;
  • St. Kevin’s Church (commonly known as St. Kevin’s Kitchen) dating from the 12th century;
  • St. Kieran’s Church which stands next to St. Kevin’s Church in testament to their friendship;
  • St. Mary’s Church dating from the 10th century which was also known as Teampall na mBan (the Women’s Church) and stands in the outer enclosure of the Monastic City;
  • the Priest’s House which stands in the cemetery.
Remains of other churches outside the Monastic City itself can also be found on the site. These include the beautifully preserved Trinity Church dating from the 11th century; Reefert Church which was one of the earliest built and stands in the area near the Upper Lake known as St. Kevin’s Desert; and St. Saviour’s Church situated at the eastern end of the valley about 20 minutes’ walk from the Monastic City.
A number of other features of archaeological and spiritual significance can be found. A large granite High Cross, thought to be one of the earliest in Ireland, stands at the centre of the Monastic City.
The remains of an old stone fort or ‘caher’ can be found between the Upper and Lower Lake. A further three stone crosses can also be found in this area.
Most significant of all is St. Kevin’s Bed, a Bronze Age cave carved into the rock overlooking the Upper Lake which St. Kevin made his retreat when he founded the monastery. It is a lonely and inhospitable place which gives one an idea of the hardships faced by early Irish monks and the courage and commitment it took to face their challenges.
St. Kevin’s Bed is no longer accessible but can be viewed from the other shore of the lake. However, St. Kevin’s Cell on a ledge of rock also overlooking the Upper Lake can be accessed relatively easily. Here the remains of a beehive hut can be seen which is also thought to have been St. Kevin’s.

From the monastic site, we took a 2 km walk before finally heading back to the car and make our way home.



Overall it was a lovely place to visit and like the other places on our trip today, it would be nice to come back and visit again – especially during their family days – which look to be fun & educational.

There is a place just up the road called Clara Lara –  despite their horrible website – it looks great. Apparently it is a unique outdoor adventure park – dedicated to providing healthy and creative fun for
families and groups of children. 30 acres of beautiful countryside in the Avonmore River valley with tree houses, Tarzan swings, rope bridges, rowing boats, water slides, rafts, canoes, junior go-carts, B.B.Q.s, mini golf, picnic areas, a restaurant and lots more.