Sudden Trip to Ireland with Mollie

Bright and early, we landed in Shannon, Ireland. Mollie and I brushed our teeth and changed in the bathroom before Bart and Kathleen picked us up. We drove back to Ennis and caught up before taking a much needed nap.Around 9, we got ourselves up and started our adventure plus Allen and Anna. We spent the morning driving about town and stopping at ruins all around Clare Abbey.Dysert O’Dea tower house, monestary, and castle. I prefer ruins that are left alone, so I didn’t love the tower. The monestary and castle were both great. I’d skip the cost though and just visit the castle.Quinn AbbeyWe also made a stop at Craggaunowen; a reconstruction of a Celtic lake dwelling. We explored old castle living, realistic 17th century homesteads, wool making and dyeing, and creeping through secret tunnels. Fun, but a bit touristy.All day, we battled tiny rain storms and wind, but it was plenty warm and the sudden spots of sun were stunning on the green background.Oh, and we stopped for many cows so Mollie could talk to them.For dinner, we ate at a fancy pub called The Abbey Tavern. The food was fancier than I expected, but my fishcake and crumble dessert were both really really tasty!After dinner, we retired to the house to watch some TV and spend some quality family time together.Today’s adventure began on a boat. And it began with very choppy seas. We rode for twenty minutes over waves the size of our boat on the Doolin Ferry.As Inisheer Island came into view we caught our first glimpse of The Plassey shipwreck way up on shore.When we finally landed, we walked inland a bit and rented bikes from a trailer. The bikes had some serious character. Chains came off, tires were flat, seats kept lowering by themselves… But what more could you need on a beautiful Irish island. We rode about town and through amazing fields split into small enclosures. There were stacked stone fences with no mortar built between all the enclosures. Why so many? Nobody knows.We rode about a mile and dropped our bikes to go check out the wreck. I really couldn’t believe there was any way the ocean, hundreds of feet away, could possibly have thrown the boat this far ashore. But it really seems that it did.The best part of the shipwreck was that it wasn’t in America. This meant we could climb up in it! The whole time, we barely avoided death by falling or tetanus. Worth it.After exploring every accessible area of the boat, we hopped back on our bikes and explored the rest of the island including churches, graveyards, and forts. When we couldn’t bike any more, we stopped in a pub and ordered some chips(fries) and beers.Our boat took us back to the mainland, then along a bit farther to the Cliffs of Moher. These, you might recognize if you have seen The Princess Bride or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. These cliffs were used to film Voldemort’s cave and The Cliffs of Insanity.Apparently there were puffins, but we could barely see them flying around or bobbing in the water. The views were definitely worth it though.After our boat ride, we met up with Bart and Kathleen to walk around the top of the cliffs. Despite the ridiculous parking fees from the local farmer, we had a great time! Well, everyone except Kathleen who was certain her children would fall to their deaths.Everything was so picturesque. We bounced on peaty Earth and took pictures until the rain came in.On the way home, we stopped at Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna for dinner. Mollie and I were quite excited because they brewed their own beer. After ordering the black at dinner, Mollie and I walked up to the bar to order the white and the red each. The bartender, Oisin, got to talking to us and ended up offering two free drinks if I stole my neighbor’s drink. Two or three locals in the background chimed in agreements. After a good long while I stole one sip from the bottle and enjoyed a bourbon Bailey’s and a green flag shot. Kathleen offered to come back to get us later, but we ended up heading home to hang with the family.Day three was a long one. We spent at least 10 hours in the car on and off to really see the sights. On the way, we drove through Killarney and all sang along to Christmas in Killarney, because we had to. We drove South to Killarney National Park to drive the Ring of Kerry (otherwise known as Kerry Circle and Kerry Loop).I was relatively underwhelmed by the repetitive landscape at first. While beautiful, there’s only so many rolling hills filled with square pastures that stay interesting.We crossed a bridge on the way to Valentia Island and the scenery quickly changed. Rocks, beaches, seels, tetrapod fossils, cliffs… So amazing.The rest of the loop was much more interesting. We passed through dense foliage, rocky cliffs, and so much more.We took a quick detour to a stone circle, then stopped in Kenmare for dinner at the Wander Inn before heading home. Fine town, fine dinner, but nothing very special.Allen and Anna headed home early on day 4. The rest of us got back in the car to head Northwest.We stopped for a quick saunter through Dunguarie Castle then continued to Galway. Castle was pretty, but nothing special.This was another necessary sing-along opportunity for Galway Girl of course. We also did a bit of digging and found that Claddagh rings are originally from this area, so I did some shopping and found myself a ring with Connemara marble as the heart. Definitely a touristy town, but seemed like a fun place with street performers and flags everywhere.We continued on to Connemara National Park and did a short hike. I’m a bit bummed we didn’t make it to the top, but the weather is constantly changing and we had more to do.After petting the horses, we checked in to Ben Breen House for an hour of down time. Really cute place!That night, we went out to dinner, then stopped at Molly’s Pub in Keelkyle. We met Molly the dog and chatted with the owner. He seemed really nice until he berated his wife extensively right in front of us…Day 5 started with a LOOONG drive. We split it by stopping at Mr. Chippie for lunch. Lots of fries. Nothing tasted good. Don’t go.Finally, we made a stop at Dunluce Castle. We didn’t have much time, so we just walked out to an overlook for a few pictures.When we eventually arrived at Giant’s Causeway, the rain had stopped. We walked down and, just like last time, it was beautiful.We walked as far as the paths would allow, then climbed some stairs to return on top of the cliffs. Stunning.Our next stop was in Belfast at our bed and breakfast, Comfy Wee House. A place of Jesus. Eek.Kathleen decided to call it an early night, but the rest of us still wanted to get a bite to eat. We circled the city quite a few times before finding the center. We passed countless old churches; some broken down and some still in use.We walked through a tiny bar district and through tons of live music. When we arrived at The Dirty Onion and Yardbird, they told us they were closed. It was 9:30 after all. Unfortunately, we found out that Belfast doesn’t serve food after 9. Anywhere.We decided to stick it out and have beer and purse snacks for dinner. Mollie got a gin fight and Bart made me bomb whiskey into beer to try a Boiler Maker.Since we were now in “England,” we had to use pounds. None of us had any, so I paid with a card and had no way to tip. I asked the bartender how I could tip him and he just asked for a $2 million check or a smile. He even topped off our drinks after we took a few sips.He also knew we were having beer for dinner, so he made me a dessert shot called a Choc Pop (or something of the sort, accents are hard).We came back to the table to find Bart attempting to communicate with some locals. Their accents were so think, I only caught every sixth word. Basically they wanted us to go party with them. That was our cue to head home. Where we snuck more snacks despite a “no eating in the room” rule.Off to Dublin!In Dublin, we stopped first at Guinness. The tour was just as good as I remembered. There was an additional performance by a drummer and tap dancers that was excellent as well.From Guinness, we walked over to The Brazen Head just missing lunch. After an okay dinner time lunch, we walked on to Christ Church Cathedral and then to Dublin Castle. Both were interesting, but nothing amazing.On our way to Grafton Street, we meandered through St. Stephen’s Green and by the Molly Malone statue.We stopped for a tiny bowl of gelato at Amarino and walked through Grafton Street finding absolutely nothing of interest. The gelato was worth the trek though, if you ask me. They let us get as many flavors as we wanted even in the smallest size. If only America had these!After an unnecessarily long walk back, we got back in the car to head on to Bray. Our bed and breakfast, Pat’s B&B, was great. Pat himself gave us the tour and offered suggestions for the evening. We were told we just had to visit a pub in town that had been given the title of “best pub.”On our walk down, we were stopped by a mother who asked Mollie to introduce herself as Katie Taylor to 6 year old Sophie. We quickly found out Katie was a local that had gone on to win basically every title in lightweight boxing internationally and was coming home tonight.We walked on to Daata where we had some really interesting Pakistani food (really good if that’s your thing, but I’d prefer to just eat Naan) then finished the night at Harbour Bar.I can see why it won such a title. There is a huge outside seating area and virtually every seat was taken. Inside was even more packed with live music, multiple bars, and a special gin menu celebrating some sort of festival. We opted to take our gin and tonics upstairs to a cozy, quieter area where we enjoyed fires, candles, and just enough room for a game of Spades.For our final day, we mostly had to make our way back home. Our first stop was a pick of Kathleen’s: Powerscourt Gardens. The gardens were huge and quite pretty, but not my top choice for something to do in another country.Next, we crossed the Wicklow mountains through Sally Gap which started off as really unimpressive peat fields, but ended up being quite picturesque.We ended up stopping at Glendalaugh, a glacial valley, and hiked around for a few hours. We poked around a lake via boardwalk then investigated a small town of ruins.Our final drive was to an old timey feast at Bunratty Castle. We walked in and enjoyed mead while serenaded by singers, violins, and harps. Then, they led us in to a big feast room with Harry Potter style tables. We were served three courses and wine with only a dagger to assist the meal. They finished up with a few songs from their choir, a crowning of a king, and a quick stint in the dungeon for one lucky guest. While it was definitely cheesy, this dinner was actually quite fun.Before we could leave, Mollie and I wanted one more chance at a pub experience. We walked with Bart and Kathleen to the local pub and played a round of euchre. The bartender wasn’t pleased to have foreigners, so Mollie and I sent Bart and Kathleen home so we could go to town.It was going to be quite a walk and when a taxi driver found us, he insisted on giving us a free ride to town. Once there we went to multiple bars, none with a good pub feel, but all with character.We met a bride celebrating her bachelorette party 6 months early and spent some time dancing with local gents at another.Finally, we gave up and found another free taxi home before heading to bed in preparation for the flight home.

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