Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Good Craic (Part 2)

When we last saw our intrepid travelers, they were dealing with an unexpected itinerary change. After leaving the bored, gum-snapping ticket agent at the Aran Islands Ferry office unsatisfied*, we returned to the Doll's Cottage to take advantage of our remaining hour of free wifi and some informed advice. We consulted with Sean and his other guests (a crazy-for-hiking German couple, and a nice American school teacher traveling with her two adult children), and decided we would check out Bunratty Castle and then spend the night at Loop Head, unanimously declared the most beautiful place that no one goes to in Ireland. We set the GPS for Bunratty** and headed back toward Shannon for the second of what would end up being four times.

Bunnratty is a fully restored Edwardian castle surrounded by historical buildings, livestock, and agricultural machinery. Think Jamestown or Williamsburg, but quite a few centuries older. It is a miracle that we managed to get this picture of the castle with no one in front of it. One of the guides told us that she sees a thousand people on an extremely slow day. They have medieval dinners in the evenings. I think it's blackbird pie and typhus, but I didn't look at the menu that closely.

After a drizzly but pleasant couple of hours at Bunratty, we made our way to Loop Head via the Coast Road (aka the scenic route). We were bound for a "wonderful B&B" Sean had recommended at Carrigaholt. We were almost there when we realized he had never told us exactly where it was or what it was called. Fortunately, we started seeing signs for a place called Glencarrig B&B. It was getting late, we were tired and a tiny bit grumpy, so it seemed good enough.

It turned out to be better than good enough. Luke and Mary Aston live about a mile from town, and Mary runs the Glencarrig guesthouse for her husband's charter fishing business. Had it been summer we probably couldn't have gotten a room, but in early October we were the only people in the place. The guesthouse is separated from the main house (connected by the dining room), so it was very much like having a cottage to ourselves. Mary recommended The Long Dock for dinner, so we headed back to town.

The view from our room at Glencarrig. It is hard to believe that this whole country isn't covered with condos. 

Downtown Carrigaholt is three pubs and a stop sign, and we were at the end of a long day. We really weren't looking for much except edible dinner and sleep. It ended up being our favorite night in Ireland. After a relaxed supper of local seafood, Biscuit asked about local music. Live music shuts down with the season in all but the most tourist of towns, but we asked anyway. They sent us next door to Morrissey's Village Pub. There was no music, but before we could turn around the locals called us in, made a spot in the center of the bar, and treated us like long lost friends. We had a wonderful night talking about life in Ireland, life in America, what sort of snacks sheep would like (nuts), big tech companies, fracking, and it gets a little fuzzy after that. We may have had a pint or two too many -- at the insistence (and expense) of the locals.

After a slow start in the morning and a much needed full breakfast, we drove off to see the sights of Loop Head. Once again, the pictures can tell the story better than I.

The lighthouse at Loop Head. It is every bit as lonely and beautiful as this shot might lead one to believe.

The Bridges of Ross. There used to be three bridges, but one fell in the sea.

The coast at Loop Head may not be quite as spectacular as the Cliffs of Moher, but it was close, and we didn't see a single tour bus while we were there. 

The parking lot at the Bridges of Ross. We spent close to an hour there and never saw another person. There were three cows, but I believe they were locals. This was typical of our time at Loop Head.

Our last stop in Ireland was to be the Dingle Peninsula. We had originally planned to start the drive to Dingle somewhat late in the day from the Aran Islands ferry, so we scheduled an overnight stop in Ballybunion to break up the drive. More gorgeous coast, this time with golf courses. More good food and local music.

Ballybunion is a golfing resort that is perhaps not as popular as it was before the crash. Consequently, there is plentiful lodging, quite a few pubs (open and closed), and of course beautiful coast, ruins, etc. The women's beach is to the left here, with the men's beach on the right.

This is getting long again, so I will save Dingle for another day. I assume you quit reading it ages ago, in any case. There is only so much of someone else's vacation that any of us can stomach. Since you won't be paying attention, I'm definitely going to talk about you in the next post.

* No, I mean we left unsatisfied from our visit. Not that she was unsatisfied. Because, well, that's just not going to happen, know what I mean? What? We're not doing phrasing anymore?

** Bunratty is the setting between "stun" and "electro-convulsive therapy".

1 comment:

  1. my favorite approach to travel - improvise and adapt and get suggestions from locals. your night in the pub sounds about perfect to me... oh, and don't you dare talk shit about me. i'll get a lawyer...