Monday, 01 September 2008

6.35 Left – slightly bumpy flight.  Weather warm and bright as we arrived at 7.15 ten minutes early.  Bus from the terminal to the car hire place.  Solid traffic from the airport to the city centre.  Our room was available at The Quality Hotel by 9.30 but by the time we had checked in breakfast was no longer available so we went round the corner to a modern and very busy sandwich bar where we had a superb breakfast and excellent coffee.

Back to the hotel, very modern and recently opened.  New fixtures, fittings, carpet and one of the biggest rooms we have had in a four star hotel.

11.00 Set off to walk to O’Connell Street to catch a hop on hop off tour bus.  We did the complete tour which gave us a good over view of the city and told us lots of interesting stories and facts.

famine

Street sculpture near our hotel entitled 'Famine'

 

Walked over Halfpenny Bridge and through the arch to Temple Bar, a scruffy looking place.  We were disappointed that our plans to visit the National Gallery and the Yeats exhibition at the National Library of Ireland were foiled by the fact that galleries are closed on a Monday.

Once back at the hotel we went for a swim – something which became a feature of this holiday.

Tuesday, 02 September 2008

Did 14 lengths of the 22m pool before breakfast.  After breakfast we drove to Galway.

12.00 Stopped at the Athlone East services where B lost her debit card in an ATM.  I suggested that she try it but when it failed the machine kept the card.  Coffee in a hotel there.  To Galway on the N6.  Parked and went to the Tourist Information Office.  Bought map and found out where a bank was. 

N6 then N18, then right at Kilcolgan and on to the N67.  Stopped to take photographs at Kinvarra and Ballyvaghan.  R477 round Black Head and on to Ballinalacken Castle Country House Hotel and Restaurant.  Spray from the sea seemed to reach this hotel. The hotel’s restaurant is closed on a Tuesday and so we asked the hotelier to recommend somewhere else. 

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Sunset at Ballinalacken

The view from our hotel room that evening

 

We drove to Doolin and found the recommended Roadford House Restaurant.  We also looked at a number of other places and then went on to Doolin Pier where we looked at and took photos of The Cliffs of Moher.

 

Cliffs of Moher

One of our first views of the Cliffs of Moher

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Cliffs of Moher 2

Another view of the Cliffs of Moher

 

Went back to the Roadford House after discussion.  Had a superb and memorable meal.  Chef’s compliments : tiny tarts with onion marmalade, brie and herb butter.  Ordered, then breads arrived; scones with garlic butter and malt bread.  Both of us had Doolin crab stacks – cylinders of beetroot topped with crab, apple, celery with a curried mayonnaise piped dressing and also with a sweet soy piped dressing.  B then had Monkfish in a batter with sesame seeds and I had Sea Bass and scallops on a bed of crushed potatoes with olives.

We have been incredibly lucky with the weather today in that it has only rained when we have been in the car.  The views of the coast and particularly the cliffs have been stunning.  Photographing and watching the cliffs was actually a moving experience.

 

Wednesday, 03 September 2008

Drove to Lisdoovarna then Kifenora where we bought post cards.  Then on to Corrofin and part of the way to Gort.  There we turned round and came back to Learnment Castle where we turned right and went to Poulnabrone Dolmen.  We returned to Caherconnel for a coffee.

Poulnabrone Dolmen

The Poulnabrone Dolmen

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After that we drove north to Ballyvaghan and then round Black Head again and south through Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher car park.  Very crowded and very windy, quite disgusting compared to the previous day’s experience.  Couldn’t wait to leave.  Hated the strong winds.  Travelled on to Kilkee and started looking for hotels.  In Kilrush we went to the Tourist Information Office and asked about four star hotels.  The girl said that we would need to go on to Tralee to find some.  So we used the ferry from Killmer to Tarbet as we had intended to do.  It made us feel that we were on holiday to use the ferry. From there on I tried to move quickly to Tralee as I had had enough.  Drove round Tralee and were beginning to doubt that we would find somewhere when we stumbled across the Manor West Hotel .  Excellent room, pool and gym. 

 

Thursday, 04 September 2008

7.20 swim – pool to ourselves for most of the time.

Manor West Pool

The swimming pool at the Manor West Hotel

11.00 Set off on the N22 towards Killarney.  Turned right on the R561 at Farrenfore.  Through Castlemaine and on to Inch where we stopped to look at the famous beach – along with hundreds of other people.  I much preferred Ventry Bay which was almost deserted.

ventry bay

Ventry Bay with one man and his dog.

 

Weather really bright and warm with ever changing Cumulus clouds.  Tops of the hills capped in raincloud.  Stopped at the Dingle Skellig Hotel for a cup of coffee.  We had thought of staying there but changed our minds and decided to stay at the Manor West for two nights.  Then off on the Slea Head scenic drive.  The view of the Blasket Islands was stunning as was the one across to Ballydavid Head.  We followed the road back to Dingle noticing the cloud on the top of the hills.  Stopped again in Dingle and then up over the Connor Pass.  By the time we reached the top the cloud had gone and the views were breathtaking.  B bought us an ice cream each from a Cockney in a van in the car park at the top of the pass.  Must be on holiday then.  From there we came back along the road through Stadbally.  We did not turn off to look at beaches or villages because we had had enough.

Back to the Manor West Hotel by 4.30. 

5.45 Swim in the pool and then shower, change and dinner at 7.00. 

An absolutely brilliant day.  Real holiday stuff.  We have not walked as much as we hoped but it would have been difficult to fit much more in than we have and we have swum twice.

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Friday, 05 September 2008

10.30 Left the hotel and travelled along the N22 direct to Killarney.  Stopped for petrol.  It was pouring with rain.  Followed directions to Muckross House but didn’t bother to get out.  Quick look at part of the Torc waterfall and drove on through the Killarney National Park, past Moll’s Gap and on to Kenmare. Drove round and through the town and noted the restaurants.  Again we didn’t bother to get out of the car because of the rain.  Worked out that if we travelled back over the Macgillicuddy Reeks we would get to the hotel by 2.00pm by which time our room would be ready.  So we returned to Moll’s Gap and turned left towards Sneem and almost immediately turned right to head down into the valley.  Although the road map we had was not really detailed enough we managed to find the road that went through the Gap of Dunloe. 

dunlowgap

Approaching the Gap of Dunloe

 

These very minor roads – one car wide – were steep and had lots of bends, lots of holes and not many passing places.  The scenery was spectacular although it was not possible to take many photographs because of the wind whipped rain.  Some of the best ‘Ogio Pogio’ driving in a long while.  Second gear for most of the time and first on one part of the climb.  It was a real Ireland Driving Experience.  Drove around Beaufort for a while until we found the Dunloe Castle Hotel at 2.08.  Checked in: super room, best position in the hotel.  Top floor facing the best view with a balcony, a sitting area, a writing desk, big TV and a huge bed on a mezzanine.

3.00 went for coffee in one of the restaurants and booked in for dinner at 7.  Back to our room to read and to write this until 4.00 when we went for a swim.  The pool is a huge hall like building with glass walls.  It is 25m long and we did 30 lengths.  There was nobody else there.  It was a magic experience.  Then we went into the steam room for a while.

The Pool at The Dunloe Castle Hotel

 

5.15 back to our room to read, write, drink and watch the news.  Whilst we have had rain here it is nothing to what has happened in Wales.

6.45 The maid came to do “turn down” but we declined the offer.

7.00 to dinner.  As we went in I noticed a coat and a handbag on the stool at the grand piano and I thought “Oh dear, we will have some really stuffy music.”  But, no.  Nora Jones style and done very well.  The Haflinger Ponies in the field also provided a visual experience.  Food -  excellent.   An appetiser of duck breast and salad then B: red and black currant sorbet followed by Monkfish on lobster mash. A: Carpaccio of beef with parmesan, rocket and asparagus followed by venison in a reduction with a Cox’s Orange Pippin Apple stuffed with red cabbage, saddleback potatoes and a selection of vegetables.  Served with a Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon.  Espresso coffee.  A very memorable evening.

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dinnerview

Our View Over Dinner

Saturday, 06 September 2008

8.00 Pool – swam 22 lengths

10.20 Left to drive the Ring of Kerry.  South to Kenmare.  Along the coast to Sneem.  Stopped a number of times to take photographs, but really just drove around the Ring.  Recognised the site where I camped 24 years ago and the long drag up the hill from Carhensiveen.  Apart from that I recognised nothing from my ride in 1984.  But I am impressed that I cycled the whole way in just two days.

3.30 back to the pool.  B’s challenge was to swim a mile today, particularly as we had done no walking.  This meant that she had to do 42 lengths.  We had the pool to ourselves and she managed it easily.  I had got ahead of her and had done 50 lengths when she had finished and so I asked to stay and do 64 which meant that I had swum a mile in one session.  After that we had a while in the steam room.  B returned to our room whilst I went on to the biggest sauna I have seen in my life.  You could easily fit fifty people in there.

7.00 Different pianist this evening.  Good but not as good as last night’s. Appetiser: ham and three kinds of melon. B: sorbet (again) followed by a pile of perfectly cooked scallops.  A: cream of mushroom soup followed by lamb in a herb crust.  As I have learnt before the meat served in five star hotels tends to be the very best and there is plenty of it.  Accompanied by a good bottle of Sancerre.  Espresso to follow.  A superb meal and had already started to miss the experience before it had finished.

8.00 back to our room to find that we had been “turned down”.  Chocolates on the pillows, subtle lighting, new towels, glasses washed and the room tidied.

Sunday, 07 September 2008

7.10 Pool all to ourselves again and we did 32 lengths

9.00 breakfast and then packed ready to leave.

10.00 we had a walk round the grounds and took some more photographs.  Paid the bill and left at 11.15.  The hotel brochure says that the hotel is four hour’s drive from Dublin.  We had one five minute stop and arrived outside the Quality Hotel at 3.25.

4.30 We went to the pool and did 20 lengths.

Monday, 08 September 2008

4.50 Left the hotel and drove to the airport.  Left car at car hire place and went and had a coffee.

8.00 flight supposed to leave but it didn’t until 8.40

9.25 Touched down at EMA.

 

There are some more photographs of our trip to Ireland here:

http://flickr.com/photos/abnorth/sets/72157607230395753/

 

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