Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 53.8542, -9.30174
July 23, 2009
We got up for breakfast in Westport and headed in the direction of Castlebar. After about 20 minutes in the rain, we arrived at the Old Cemetery. There, we randomly stumbled upon Mr. Ernie Sweeney, a Castlebar local who has made restoring the Old Cemetery his life’s passion. Definitely in possession of the “gift of gab,” Mr. Sweeney walked us through the cemetery as if he was giving a tour of his own home. He brought to life the stories of people we had never met as if they were members of his family or otherwise close friends. After an hour and a half of slogging around through wet grass, and despite his helpfulness, we failed to locate the gravesite of the Devlins (possibly Jeannette’s great, great grandmother). A bit disappointed, we ventured into the town after nearly toppling someone’s gravestone with our Volkswagen. There we found the “new” Church of the Holy Rosary, which was built in 1901 on the site of the original parish church. At that point, it was off to the library, where Jeannette met with Mr. Ivor Hamrock, a local historian/archivist with whom she had been in contact for the last three
or four years. He pulled out a much larger cemetery map and helped us identify the correct grave based on surrounding stones.
Armed with this information, we had to back. Within 5 minutes, we found it! (Actually, we were around it all morning, but couldn’t read it, or at least not closely enough.) We should add that earlier, Ernie offered up a universal blessing for relatives long lost. Jeannette did a victory dance and we were on our way.
The wet and extremely narrow roads would eventually lead us to Doolin. We stopped along the way for pub lunch and also decided to leave a small piece of the passenger rear view mirror as a souvenir for Ireland to remember us by.
We arrived in Doolin just before curfew (this was 6:00 p.m. at our B&B), unloaded our belongings, got situated, and drove up to the nearby Cliffs of Moher to enjoy what looked to be a sunny evening. By the time we arrived at the Cliffs, mother nature decided to unfurl a special Irish blessing of sleet and hail. (Ernie would have called it “liquid sunshine.” In reality, that would come later.)
Wet but not weary, we regrouped and walked into the
“village” of Doolin, which is really just a country road surrounded by about 10 buildings (and no ATM). Local live music was our goal, and we experienced three different bands. The first was entirely acoustic, the second was also very good but overpowered by the loud voices of some obnoxious Americans (not us), and the final ensemble rounded off the night of our Doolin pub crawl with some fantastic flute playing and vocals. We had never considered that bringing along a flashlight might have been a good idea. It gets really dark in Doolin. Forget about skipping over mudpuddles in the dark. We were just destined to have prune feet for the entire day.
July 24, 2009
Up for breakfast at 8:30, we took advantage of the sun and went back to the Cliffs, bound to see the sights unmarred by storm. This time the weather cooperated. It was breathtaking to say the least, and very windy. From atop the hills, we could look out over the Atlantic and see the vast ocean as well as the Aran islands, which are one of the last things you see before New York. We couldn’t see New York, though.
Thus began an afternoon worth
of driving up and down, back and forth, through the Irish countryside on the narrowest roads we have ever seen. We don’t know why they even bother painting a center line in some spots, because it looks like a two-way golfcart path. The roads of Appalachia are wide compared to these roads! The randomness and absurdity of some of the road signs also surprised us. Our favorite, which we have now encountered three times, is “Hidden Dip Ahead.” Each time, we’ve looked, expected, and been disappointed. Perhaps there is a little leprechaun on the side of the road with chewing tobacco in his mouth, but there wasn’t any dip in the road. Another favorite, after excessive winding, would be “SLOW” painted on the road, a sign saying “Dangerous Bends Ahead” then another sign saying “SLOWER” followed by a speed limit sign of 100 km/h, and then a less sharp curve than any of the previously unmarked dozen. Large coach buses, which seem wider than both lanes of the road, came barreling at us out of nowhere, threatening to run us off the road. Both of our mirrors survived today, but we’re not sure how. In fact only one time did
we actually make the speed limit of 100 km/h because the road was straight and wide enough, but it only lasted about 15 minutes.
We stopped for lunch inside Killarney National Park at a place called “Lady’s View” named for Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting who stopped at this location in 1861. From there, it was another 15 km to the quaint village of Kenmare, where we arrived at Rockcrest B&B to find a truly beautiful place to stay that will accommodate us for our last three nights in the land of Erin. Now, we venture out to explore the town and grab a bite to eat before starting an early day tomorrow exploring the famous Ring of Kerry.
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