Monday, September 25, 2017

Summer 2017 {Ireland Part 3}

{This is the third and final installment of our great Irish caravan adventure.  I have felt some urgency to documenting this journey as memories of little moments are beginning to fade with the grind of our normal routine.}  
From the Cliffs of Mohr, we decided to head inland.   We had built in some flexibility in our itinerary and we decided to head to Co. Tipperary, stopping for a plowman's lunch at Quin Abbey, a Franciscan 15th century Abbey.
Quin Abbey
In Cashel, we stayed at a unique park, O'Brien's Lodge and Caravan Park.  The caravan park is located the base of the Rock of Cashel (12th c.). The park owners provided us with a family complimentary voucher to explore the Rock.   We visited the site towards the end of the day when all of the tour buses had left.

View of the Tipperary plains from the Rock of Cashel
Our caravan site was nestled between the Rock of Cashel and the ruins of Hore Abbey (13th century).  
O'Brien's Caravan Park, Cashel, County Tipperary
Hore Abbey
The next day (day 8) our destination was Bunratty Castle, County Clare.  We had reservations for the castle banquet.   On route to Bunratty we stopped at Holycross Abbey.   Holycross is a restored 12 century abbey and has an active church.  Pilgrims have visited Holycross for years because it has a relic of the true cross and one of the oldest church bells in Ireland.  During our visit, preparations were underway for an afternoon wedding.  Beautiful music filled the Abbey

Holy Cross Abbey
On the Motorhome Facebook page, I learned about a small caravan park, approximately a 20 minute walk from Bunratty Castle (so small that even the petrol station was not aware of it). 
Bunratty Caravan Park
Once we parked our caravan, we headed by foot to Bunratty Folk Park early so to explore the castle grounds (playground, hobby farm, medieval village and gardens).  The girls enjoyed the entire Bunratty experience. Travel books, such as Rick Steves, suggests giving the park a miss, but I am glad we went.  Reservations are essential for the banquet especially during high season.

The next morning  (day 9), we headed to Ennis to attend the opening ceremonies of the Fleadgh Ceoil 2017.  The Fleadgh is the most important traditional Irish music festival.  The streets are closed to motor traffic and filled with dancers and musicians.  Michael Flatley (Lord of the Dance) was the special guest.

Michael Flatley 

From Ennis we drove to Killarney, County Kerry and stayed at the Fellesk Caravan Park.  The weather had turned rainy and cold. Unfortunately, given the timing and conditions, we did not have the opportunity to explore the town of Killarney. We could not find any space to park the caravan. [A drawback of hiring a caravan can be finding suitable parking.  Sometimes parking lots have a low gate to prevent caravans from using the lots.]  

From Killarney, we decided to tackle a small portion of the 180 km Ring of Kerry - Killarney to Sneem to Kenmare. In a campervan, this drive is frightening and breathtaking.  

From Kenmare, we headed to Blarney, County Cork.  In preparation for this trip, the girls had watched a number of travel videos and were especially interested in Blarney Castle.  We were happy to arrive at the end of the day and missed the crowds.  I have heard that during high season, wait times to kiss the stone can exceed 90 minutes.
Don't look down
yarn bombed trees in the castle gardens
Blarney Castle

Granny Square crochet stain glass
The next day (day 11),  we had a longish drive from Blarney back to the Dublin area.  I had heard about the Rock of Dunmase in County Laois so we stopped at the Rock for our lunch.   The dirt road was a little challenging in our camper van, but the view was worth the effort.  The Rock of Dunamase was a Leap Day film location.   

view from the Rock of Dunamase
For our last night in the caravan, we stayed in the seaside town of Rush, County Dublin at North Beach Caravan park.  I believe North Beach is the only caravan park near Dublin City and has lovely views of the sea.

North Beach, Rush, County Dublin
The next morning (day 12) we needed to return our camper van between 9-11.  We found a petrol station and gave the exterior of the van a good wash and vacuumed the inside. I had heard horror stories about rental companies charging 100 Euros for cleanup and I did not want any headaches.  The return went smoothly and I was glad that I had kept careful records of the pre-rental condition.  

After returning the van, we spent the day in Dublin City seeing a few of the sites we missed and celebrating Eric's 50th birthday.

Dublin Flower Stand
It was a fabulous adventure.  Although we saw so much, I left Ireland feeling that there is still so much more to see. I would have liked to try a falconry class and I also regret missing out on Killarney town.  We didn't see Cong, Cobh, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Waterford or Wicklow and  I would also like to explore more of the Donegal coastline.  

We left Dublin saying T'rah, but I am certain we will return.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Summer 2017 {Ireland Part 2}

By the 6th day of our Irish adventure, we had established a rhythm of camper van life.   Breakfast at the campsite, picnic lunch in an abbey or castle, and supper at the pub.  

I really enjoyed the sacred sites that we included in our itinerary.  From Belleek, we headed to Rosserk Friary and Mary's Well in County Mayo.  Rosserk is one of the best preserved Franciscan friaries.  The well is covered by a tiny chapel which was built in 1798.  It is said that the many miracles have taken place at the well.
Rosserk Friary
Tobair Mhuire  /  St. Mary's Well
From St. Mary's Well we drove to Crogh Patrick where St. Patrick fasted for 40 days.  We did not climb the mountain.

We headed to Connemara Park and the Doo Lough Pass.  

We stopped at the Doo Lough Famine Memorial, a memorial for the more than 400 people seeking famine relief who died travelling from Louisburgh to Delphi during the Great Famine (1849).

As you can see from the photo above, the road is narrow. It also services traffic in both directions and I believe the speed limit on that road was 80 km.  We did not have our campsite pre-booked and had difficulty finding a campground.  The three campgrounds we contacted were full, so we ended up travelling further than we had anticipated - finally finding a vacancy at a rustic campground in Spiddle, County Galway.
Spiddal Caravan & Camping Park, County Galway

The next morning (Day 7) we headed into the town of Spiddle for shopping at a wonderful Irish souvenir shop, Standun. 

Claddagh Rings

Clothespin Bag

After shopping, our goal was to reach Doolin where we booked a caravan site near the Cliffs of Mohr. On route, we visited Dunguaire Castle (16th century) and Corcomroe Abbey (13th century Cistercian Abbey).
Dunguaire Castle
Corcomroe Cistercian Abbey
Once we checked into our campground {Nagles Doolin Camping & Caravan Park}, we headed to the Cliffs of Mohr (about a 15 minute drive from the caravan park).  
Nagles Caravan Park
The weather at the cliffs can change quickly.  I recommend allowing some flexibility into your schedule.  I am so glad we made the decision to view the cliffs that evening because the next day the winds were heavy and the visibility was poor.   High winds will also close access to the cliffs.    
The cliffs were breathtaking and we were fortunate that our visit took place long after the tour buses had left.  There were just a handful of tourists during our visit.
After our visit to the cliffs, we headed to another sacred site - St. Bridget's Well only about 15 minutes away.

St. Bridget's Well is one of the oldest and most sacred wells in Ireland and particularly important to the Aran people. St. Bridget is the patronness of healing and you can hear the sound of the running waters.  In the grotto leading to the waters, pilgrims leave momentos, photos and rosaries.

In my third and final post, I will share the last few days of our great Irish camper van adventure.