Friday, June 12, 2015

Ireland - Day 10

Woke early to an overcast, but beautiful sky.  No rain for today - we have soooo lucked out on the weather.  Today we will do a little shopping in the morning and then will head off to the Guiness factory.  The sisters want to do a little pub hopping, but I will probably head back here and do some homework.  :(

More to come after we do our travels for the day!

Ireland Day 8 - Stoneyford

We started our day at Lawcus Farm - our only morning there.  We had delicious fruit, coffee and a yummy spinach feta omelette with rashers, broiled tomato, and blueberry drop scones.  Jo had porridge – not to my taste! But she liked it.  Kaja scored rhubarb yogurt – delish!  Some of the other visitors were from Pinellas county Florida – small world, eh? The guestroom is bright and sunny and there was plenty of good coffee!

After breakfast, Mark took us up to tour the house that they built.  It is beautiful and homey with tons of imaginative details.  I got bunches of photos – Kaja was so wishing that Bubba was with us because he would have totally loved it – we are going to head off to the town of Kells to look at the tower there – she figured Bubba would stay and help Mark build something!  LOL  Packing up now to head off to Kells and then take the road up to Dublin.  We loved our stay here and wished we had booked a little extra time. 
On the way back down to the guest house, I snapped this beautiful mauve poppy.  I want one for my garden at home!

This morning I took the wheel for the drive to the Kells Priory - only a mile or two away from Lawcus Farm.  It was lovely – nice easy car park with a great map of the site at the car park.  You walk through a people gate and hike across a field full of sheep to the priory itself.   

 I have been working on my panoramic shots and got a pretty good one of the sheep scattered across the hillside with Jo on the right.

It is protected from the sheep by clever gates with step through for people.  There were almost no people there and the peacefulness of the site was intense.  The weather was overcast, not as sunny as it has been so far, but was still lovely for our exploration of the priory ruins.  Anne Marie gave us a map with a loop trail that led from the priory along the Kings River to an old flour mill.  The path was flanked by the river on one side and the mill race on the other, and the sound of the water and the birds was so relaxing. I could totally see coming here to draw or paint or just to sit quietly and let the peace of the priory sink into your spirit.  Loved it.

From the priory, we hiked on to an old flour mill.  The mill was a huge building – apparently some folks are restoring it – we could see where they had started the work and set up their living quarters on the top floor.  We hiked on along the Kells road to another beautiful mill – this time a flax mill, which has been set up as a crafts center – however it was closed.  From the flax mill, a beautiful arched bridge crosses the river.  Anne Marie told us that the old bridge had been built too narrow, so another was built over it.  We got some good pictures of the bridge – it was lovely.   I will post them once I process the photos from my camera.

We walked across the bridge into the town and stopped at a local store for a soda.  Kaja checked to see if they had any rhubarb yogurt – but no luck.  A guy pulling a horse trailer stopped at the corner – unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the whole rig – only the bumper sticker – it had 6 wheels centered under the rig and the horse looked to be loose and facing backwards.  In case you can't read the bumpersticker, it says "Farming.  It's a load of bollocks!" Funny!  We hiked back up the road to the parking lot, jumped in the car and headed off to Kildare to the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens. 

I found the stud & gardens a little disappointing.  Fortunately, we negotiated a family rate + 1 to get in, so we got a bit of a deal!  The gardens were well labeled,  but the whole thing was a little kitschy.  Saint Fiachra’s gardens and the grounds around the stud were quite beautiful.  Kaja and I were happy to get some scritches in with baby horses and the other sisters enjoyed it as well.  The stud tour was definitely a lowest common denominator kind of tour that was 70% entertainment, 30% information.  We did get to visit the stallion barns and they were just beautiful (both the barns and the horses!)  The museum of the Irish horse was small, but was well done, and had Arkle’s skeleton in the entrance – that was kind of cool.  Of the many places we visited, this is one I would not come back to and apart from getting a little time with the equine babies, wished that we hadn't wasted the time & money.
From Kildare, we headed to Dublin.  I weenied out of driving to Dublin, so Randee took over.  It was a shortish trip, until we got to town.  The streets are packed and terrifyingly narrow, but fortunately, everyone was moving so slowly that it all worked out!  Randee was AMAZING! We navigated our way through the streets to Molesworth Court Suites which are located near St. Stephen’s Green and Trinity College.  We got a nice spacious three bedroom suite with two baths – yay!  While not quite as posh as the photos show, the suite is very comfortable with a very pleasant living area and kitchen, as well as comfortable sized rooms.  It is in the heart of everything, but still very quiet for a flat in the middle of town, so we are all set up for the next couple of days.  

We finished our day with another delicious dinner.  This time at The Kitchen.  Delicious food and great staff.  Kaja had Salmon with greens, Shelley and Randee had a chicken dish that was out of this world.  Jo had a very good chicken curry and I had a yummalicious venison curry.  The desserts sounded sooo good, but we were stuffed to the gills and opted to pass on dessert.

Ireland Day 7 - Cloyne

So, I didn't start writing until Day 7, so will need to do a little backtracking as I go.  Will try to stay up to date over the next few days, then add in the previous days before I forget what we did!

We awoke to a beautiful crisp morning in Cloyne, at Wisteria House.  Temps probably in the low 50’s, but completely clear and beautiful.  Jo and I shared the Almond room, which had a completely fabulous rainwater shower and heated towel rods.  Kaja came in and opened up the window for some fresh air (and I picked on her – bad sister!). the view was spectacular - the old church and a round tower.  One of the homes in the distance had a puff of smoke from the fireplace. 

We all hung out in Randy, Shell & Ka’s gigantic room, and stretched a bit and then discussed the plan for the day.  The gang wanted to go to Ardmore to view the site of a favorite Norah Roberts series and wanted to have lunch in Gallagher’s pub (now Murphy’s), but Ardmore was only about 40 minutes away and we would arrive way too early for lunch, so we checked out our guidebooks and Trip Advisor and found the town of Youghal (prounounced y’all) on the way.   Youghal has a neat heritage trail with well marked and documented old buildings.   Next stop would be Ardmore, then we were thinking we would go to Waterford so that Jo could pick up some Waterford salt shakers for Mark, then we were thinking that we would got to Cashel and Cahir if we had time before going on to our resting place near Kilkenny.  After finalizing our plans, we went down for breakfast.

The breakfast room at the Wisteria House in Cloyne is a beautiful spacious room with a lovely view of the Round Tower.   The table was set up for our arrival with beautiful flower placemats and a centerpiece with fresh mint, purple chive blossoms and an orange flower that we couldn’t identify.  On one sideboard, a small simple piece, topped with marble, was fresh squeezed orange juice.  On the other – a taller more substantial piece, had fresh baked scones, cereal, milk, yogurt, and a delicious fruit bowl with kiwi, apples and pears, tossed with mint and basil. 

We all dug into that quickly and then our host Albert came up with coffee and toast and took our breakfast orders.  Jo and I asked for scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and the rest of the gang had the spinach and feta omelet.  The coffee was French press and was delicious, as was the food.  The highlight for me was the scones- they were amazing.  Crisp outside, tender inside with a delicious flavor.

After breakfast, we chatted for a while with Alta and Albert.  They are Albanians, who emigrated to Ireland during the troubles in Albania.  After looking around for a bit, they decided to make Cloyne their home and started the B&B.  Alta also teaches.   They have made Wisteria House a beautiful and inviting haven and we were sorry to leave.  Albert helped us schlep our bags down the narrow stairs and we loaded up the Citroen Picasso. 

On the way out, we stopped to investigate the corner store – Motherway on the corner of 631 and 629, run by Mrs Mack, who is 90-some years old.  It was sort of a typical small town country store with a little bit of everything in it. It was teeny and the five of us filled it up.   While we were leaving, there was a village traffic jam with a provision truck on one street and one of the gigantic Irish tractors trying to make a turn into the narrow street.  We watched the tractor driver cleverly navigate his way through the EXTREMELY tight turn.  After that excitement, we piled into the car – Randy driving, me navigating and headed out towards Yougal. 

The drive to Yougal  Although historic buildings lined the street, this was a “real” town, vs a tourist town, so the shops were all normal – grocery shops, pubs, houses, solicitors, estate agents, etc. all jumbled together.   The main street parallels the harbor, which we did not have time to visit.   

We found the beautiful clock tower and then a little further, turned up a teeny little street that climbed up to the beautiful Youghal Cathedral (get name).  The church has a lovely stained glass fa├žade, and the grounds were amazing – flowers every where and mixed in with them, grave markers going back hundreds and hundreds of years.  

was lovely and scenic and we came into the town down an extremely narrow and steep road leading down to the harbor.

We met a sweet local lady in the church with her baby grand-daughter, Misha, and she told us a little about the town and the church.  She also tipped us off on where to go pee, because the church toilet was out of order.  We spent some time examining the church, which had an amazing interior, including roof beams hand hewn out of individual trees, then we went out and climbed a path which led up to town battlements and a sally port, and then back down on the other side of the church.  Joe took a picture there of a freshly dug grave – it’s amazing to think that such an old graveyard is still in use!  I think we would have spent more time there, but we all had to pee like crazy!  So we made our way back down the teeny little street to an adorable bar called the Nook, where they kindly let us use the facilities. 

We realized that we were going to run ourselves out of time, so we hustled back to the car and hopped in.  Randy navigated us through very busy, and fortunately, one way traffic through the town, and off we went to Ardmore.  For navigating, I have been using both the GPS that we rented with the car and the Waze app on my phone, along with Google maps from time to time.   All of the nav tools let us down in Ardmore – as we looked for the round tower, we wound up in a neighborhood with no tower in sight.  We reconnoitered a little and then figured out where it was and made our way over there.

The site of the round tower at Saint Declans was absolutely stunning.  It is situated in a peaceful graveyard with grassy fields sloping away up hill to the top of the Ardmore cliffs, and beautiful sea views to the East, and the town falling away to the beach on the north.  There is also an oratory there that just has the most special peaceful feeling.  The carvings here on the oratory walls are amazing.  The cemetery was quite special as well – there were tombs and graves so old that almost nothing remained even of the gravestone, as well as graves that are only a few years old.

After spending some peaceful moments exploring the ruin, we went down into the town (found the public toilets), and wandered the streets for a bit, checking out galleries.  There was a man rethatching a roof and it was pretty fascinating to watch him tie and then comb the thatch.  We wanted to have lunch at the pub from the Norah Roberts books (An Tobar), but it was closed until three, so we had to give it a pass (plus we were still stuffed from breakfast).  We did see a kayaking class in action on the beach!

We took the Ardmore round about, heading back up the hill out of town and picked up the N25 (?) towards Waterford.  Waterford is a busy, somewhat industrial city, and we made our way through, finding a great parking lot behind the Waterford store.  Although cut glass is not to my taste, the store was lovely with sparkling glass and beautiful displays.    Jo got her purchases made and arranged to have them shipped home and then we all piled in the car again and headed up the N10 towards Kilkenny.  We got turned around a little on the N10, R713 exchange, but got it sorted out and headed into Stoneyford, home of the Lawcus Farm B&B. 

Wow!  What a beautiful place.  Everywhere you turn on the farm is another little magical nook or cranny with a treat for the eyes.  The rooms are small, but fitted up perfectly – it feels like living on a ship.  I have noticed that Irish bathrooms are really lovely and Lawcus is no exception!   

After a cup of coffee with our hostess Anne Marie, we headed off to a nearby town to the Sol bistro for an excellent dinner – appetizers included an amazing country pate, which I think was a favorite, luscious trout rillet and some very yummy honey goat cheese with roasted beets and olives.  Dinner included chicken, salmon and risotto – all wonderful.  We were too stuffed for dessert, so made our way across a bridge over the River Nore to the Red Door off license shop to pick up a bottle of wine. 

Kaja found a nice malbec and Jo explored the whiskey/liquor options, hoping to finding something like Rum Chata for breakfast.  Nothing floated her boat, so we headed back across the bridge, intercepting Randy and Shelley, who had been walking more leisurely and who were – err – appreciating the Irish scenery in the form of a handsome young man.  We headed back to the farm where Mark showed us his tree house – literally a little cottage in the trees, which will soon be another guest house.  It was so private, cozy and lovely, even though not quite finished.  
Pouring ourselves some wine, we explored the grounds of the guest house, enjoying goats, pigs, chickens and dogs as well as beautiful scenery.  We wandered down to the King River and watched the brown trout rising as the evening fell.  Tomorrow we will go spend some time at the Kells priory before heading down the road to Dublin.  The weather has been spectacular so far, and tomorrow looks good as well.