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“Wherever you go and whatever you do, May the luck of the Irish be there with you.” ~ Irish Blessing

It was another bright, beautiful morning filled with sunshine and we headed out on our next adventure and said goodbye to Dingle, perhaps my most favorite town on this trip! Our first “ninja stop” was to visit a memorial to Tom Crean, an Irishman who left home at the age of fifteen to join the Royal Navy.  He was a member of three major expeditions to Antarctica and received the Albert Medal for Lifesaving during one expedition.

 

We stopped for another photo stop in West Kerry, where the landscape was also stunning.  This place is sometimes referred to as the Valley of the Mad.  People would travel there to drink water from some wells to cure mental illness.  It was later found that some of the water contained high levels of lithium which might explain the results.  Again, the views were beautiful especially on the clear sunny day with which we were blessed.

It was a day with more travel time but we soon arrived at the rose garden of Tralee. which is exquisite.  There are so many varieties of roses, yet the scent is not overwhelming.  It was amazing.

 

 

Skip and I took a moment for a photo-op on such a lovely day in such a lovely setting.

 

“My wild Irish Rose, the sweetest flower that grows.
You may search everywhere, but none can compare with my wild Irish Rose.”

~Daniel O’Donnell from My Wild Irish Rose 

We stopped for a delicious lunch in Listowel before taking the Shannon ferry (very civilized and fast) from Kerry to Clare.

 

We arrived at our final tour for the day at the Cliffs of Moher.  They are stunning sea cliffs located in southwestern County Clare.  They are among the most visited tourist sites in Ireland.  From the cliffs, and from atop the tower, visitors can see the Aran Islands in Galaway Bay.   The views from the over 700 feet height on a clear sunny day are dazzling.

 “May the sun shine all day long, everything go right and nothing wrong. May those you love bring love back to you, and may all the wishes you wish come true.”

~ Irish Blessing

Of course every amazing place deserves an “I was there” photo.  (Sorry no photo of Gary and Peggy, as they were off ahead of us as they did not have to stop to catch their breath from the climb).

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“May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.” ~ Irish Blessing

Today was the first day of summer, also known as Summer Solstice.  It was a beautiful day full of sunshine.  It was perfect.

Today was the first day we got to “sleep in” on the trip and it was welcome and necessary.  After a leisurely breakfast we headed out through Dingle on our own.  The shops were just opening and they are enchanting.   There was an old church nearby we passed on our way to the waterfront.

The sun continued to shine and the storefronts beckoned us in to view (and purchase) their wares.  It was a morning of being in the moment, enjoying the weather and the only agenda being to enjoy our time together in Dingle.

“Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.”

~ Gordon B. Hinckley

We stopped for ice cream from Murphy’s, where the ice cream is made in Dingle from local cows as we strolled along the waterfront.

We stopped in a local grocery store for a drink and saw an entire aisle of gluten free foods!

It was soon tour time and we headed out to the Dingle Peninsula and Slea Head.  The guide told us that the show, Ryan’s Daughter had been filmed there as well as some of the movie The Last Jedi   The view of the landscape was stunning.

Thank goodness for digital film as it was nearly impossible to stop attempting to capture the beauty of the day.

It was truly some of the prettiest scenery I have seen. We stopped at a Gallurus Oratory in Dingle.  This church has a very  distinctive appearance, often referred to as resembling an upturned boat. It is constructed entirely out of locally sourced stone, and is corbel vaulted to support the structure.  It was charming.

 

“May the friendships you make be those which endure, and all of your grey clouds be small ones for sure.  And trusting in Him to Whom all we pray, may a song fill your heart every step of the way.”

Irish Blessing

We had a brief stop at Dingle Crystal.  The owner, Sean, was a master craftsman with Waterford Crystal before they relocated and he started his own business in Dingle.  They create and hand cut breathtaking collection of crystal gift-ware using Celtic themes with  six different and distinct patterns, It was stunning.

 

We returned to our hotel and were tired from our leisurely day so headed out to a pub where we found our new favorite drink, “The Dingle Gin Elder flower Tonic!”  It is concocted of Dingle Gin, Elder flower tonic water, and juniper berries and strawberries over ice.

It was a delightful day!

 

 

“There are many good reasons for drinking,
One has just entered my head,
If a man doesn’t drink when he’s living,
How the hell can he drink when he’s dead?”

~ Irish Saying

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“I only drink on two occasions – When I am thirsty and when I’m not thirsty.” ~ Brendan Behan

Today our journey began on the Ring of Kerry.  It is a 111 mile long circular tourist route in County Kerry, Ireland. It is a popular day trip for many, with narrow winding roads.  It is part of the mystical and unspoiled region of Ireland and it is a photographers paradise. We stopped at the “Ladies View” for a few pictures.

 

Our first destination was to the Killarney National Park.  It was the first national park in Ireland  created when Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932.  We climbed a small hill to the Torc Waterfall.  The path along the stream to the waterfall was almost mystical with every green in nature imaginable.  The sounds of the waterfall and the rushing water made you feel like you were indeed in a magic land expecting fairies to pop out around every bend.

Of course one should never miss a photo opportunity in a beautiful location.

 

“May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.”

~ Irish Blessing

We climbed onto (with help) our horse powered “Juanting Cars” and took a lovely ride to see Muckross House and estate as well as some of the Killarney National Park. It was lovely, fun and at times jaunting.

There was an old cemetery and some church ruins.  You can only be buried there is you are a member of the family.

The Jaunting Car ride was a delightful way to spend an hour viewing the park but all good things must come to an end.

We stopped for one of the best lunches on the trip so far at a pub called Murphy’s. We headed off in our van towards Inch Strand Beach in Dingle.  It is a long sand spit backed by dune system reaching into Dingle Bay, popular with surfers, anglers and swimmers.

Of course I could not pass an opportunity to photograph some sheep and cows nearby.

After a few more ninja photo stops we headed into Dingle to our hotel.  The landscape of Ireland is like a beautiful patchwork quilt.  It’s almost impossible to capture in photograph and maybe it is best kept in memory.

 

“May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all God’s blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you may your heart be strong. May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.”

~ Irish Blessing

“We may have bad weather in Ireland, but the sun shines in the hearts of the people and that keeps us all warm.” ~Marianne Williamson

Today was another day with rain on and off but we never seem to let it get the best of us.  As Dale Evans said: “Who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.”  After another mouth-watering meal we loaded up the van and headed off to our next destination.  Before we could leave I heard the sheep calling and  we said goodbye .  “Come baaaack someday” they said!

We arrived at Bantry House and Garden. It is a stately home situated on the Wild Atlantic Way overlooking Bantry Bay in the south west of Ireland.  The estate is unique since it is still lived in and managed by the family.   I am not sure with all of the pictures of dead birds and the stuffed bird collection in the house it would be my choice of a vacation destination, but the grounds, even in the rain, were picturesque.

Winding staircases (which I did not attempt in the rain) and lovely garden paths surrounded the stables and home.

We soon were ferry bound to Garnish Island for some more picturesque gardens.  The short ferry ride of less than ten minutes stopped to allow Kodak moments of seals and eagles.  The garden was designed for its owner John Bryce, a native of Belfast. He and his wife Violet, purchased the island in 1910. Their son Roland bequeathed the island to the Irish nation in 1953.

We did not have enough time to take the guided tour of the house the couple had lived in, so we took a leisurely stroll though the magnificent gardens.

We stopped for lunch in Glengarriff and then were off to the winding road of the Healy Pass.  Healy Pass Ireland is found in southwest, a perfect diversion from the longer Ring of Beara driving route. The serpentine road  winds through a desolate, otherworldly landscape, passing between two of the highest summits in the Caha mountain range and rising to 334 metres above sea level.  The road was created in 1847 during the famine years in Ireand to help prevent starvation during the famine of Ireland.  The landscape is rocky and serves as grazing land for flocks of sheep.

We continued on these winding roads finally reaching our destination of the Uragh Stone Circle which is a neolithic stone circle near Gleninchaquin Park.  It was a long walk up a long winding rock path covered in sheep and cow droppings.

The stone circle was guarded for some odd reason by some lounging cows which was very strange.

Down the path we carefully walked doing our very best to avoid stepping in anything while bleating sheep wandered seemingly without a purpose whilst calling out to Gary!

It was another memorable day and we arrived at the Landsdown Arms Motel in Kenmare.  We had dinner with Irish music and dancing in the pub.

“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, The foresight to know where you are going, And the insight to know when you have gone too far.” 

~ Irish Blessing

 

“What butter and whisky won’t cure, there is no cure for.” ~ Irish Saying

After another wonderful breakfast we met our Vagabond tour guide Edwina, and began our journey though Ireland.  From what we could see as we sped though Dublin, the city is pretty much similar to other big cities.  People were hustling and bustling about on their way to work.

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Today was to be the day we spent our longest journey time on the road and our first stop was a lovely spot (albeit a bit touristy) called the Rock of Cashel.  According to local mythology, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devils Bit which is a mountain 20 miles north.  When St. Patrick banished  Satan from a cave the result was  Rock’s landing in Cashel.  The entire plateau on which the buildings and graveyard lie is walled.  There are remains of a cathedral, graveyards, a chapel and beautiful grounds.  We spent some time here and it was just beautiful.

The views were stunning and at every turn there was another picture perfect moment.

Just outside of the ruins on the way to the parking lot were two sheep that were begging to be photographed and I obliged.

“The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same.” 

~ Stendhal

We herded back in the van towards Blarney Castle and Gardens which is near Cork.  The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone.  Tourists visiting Blarney Castle may hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of  eloquence.  We chose not to see the stone as the wait was over an hour and we wanted to spend our time viewing the gardens and not wait in the queue.

The gardens are extensive and magical.  They include a Rock Close and Water Garden, a Poison Garden, a Fern Garden and more.

 

“Fairies are invisible and inaudible like angels.  But their magic sparkles in nature.” 

~Lynn Holland

What could be more magical than the sight of Tom appearing at the top of the wishing steps followed by Pat, Barbara and Rich!

We strolled though the beautiful gardens and through the lovely but deadly gardens.

It was well worth the trip and we soon headed on to our hotel for the night The Gougane Barra Hotel, in County Cork where we wined and dined on one of the most delicious dinners of this trip!

“May your troubles be less, your blessings be more.  And nothing but happiness, come through your door.” 

~ Dorien Kelly,  The Last Bride in Ballymuir 

 

“I can’t control the wind but I can adjust the sail.” ~ Ricky Skaggs

Sometimes it is best to take a deep breath and realize that you can not, as hard as you try, control things.  It is hard if you are a planner or the wife of a planner.  It is difficult to let things run their course.  Some people will say what is the difference as long as you made it to where you were going.  Hey, that is awesome if it works for you!  It does not for me.  Today was a travel day in a different way then the rest of the week.  We flew on Ryan Air to Dublin.  To be honest, I thought that it was going to be a disaster, like the horror stories of Spirit Airlines I have heard.  It actually went quite smoothly.  Breakfast at the hotel was delicious and the vans showed up to take us to the airport and the drivers walked us right to the terminals we had to check in.  The check in process and security was pretty unremarkable.  Ryan Air has you wait in a giant area with seating and restaurants until the gate shows on the screen, or the delay.  Fortunately, it was only a short delay.  I’ve never flown Ryan Air before and not sure I would again.  The “upgraded” seats were very small and uncomfortable and if you wanted anything there was a charge.  Bottom line we arrived at Dublin airport without much of a delay and safely and with all of our bags.  Then the delay began.  They sorted the European Union and the non-European Union citizens and we waited for customs, and waited and waited some more.  The process was slow and inefficient and frustrating and after an hour and a half we made it past customs.  Welcome to Ireland.

We freshened up quickly and were off to “The Irish House Pardy” in Dublin.  The Irish House Party is a truly unique experience in Dublin. The evening consisted of a dinner followed by  traditional Irish music and Irish dancing at its very best, performed by All Ireland champion musicians, dancers and entertaining presenters. They played the Irish Flute, the Uillean Pipes, a guitar and Bodhran.

It was an enchanting evening of music and dance and some story telling after a wee bit of a frustrating travel day.

 

“Sometimes I wish that I could go into a time machine right now and just look at myself and say, ‘Calm down. Things are gonna be fine. Things are gonna be all great. Just relax.'”

~Tristan Wilds

“Never delay kissing a pretty girl or opening a bottle of whiskey.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Today was our last full day of sightseeing (and drinking) in Scotland, and it rained and then it poured, but none the less we toured.

“There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter.”

~ Billy Connolly

Our first stop was just a short ride and called Castle Stalker.  It is a is a four-story tower set on a tidal islet of Loch Laich.  It was in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.  Castle Stalker appears in the final scene as “The Castle of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh”.

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Next we had a “ninja stop” on a roadside to see some sheep.  It kept raining so “baaaaad.”

We were soon off to the town of Oban for some chocolate shopping and a Scotch tasting at the Oban Distillery.  Neither place failed to meet our high standards.

“Whisky experience, is about gathering memories from each whisky, not just collecting sealed bottles.”

~ Single Malt Lodge

Fueled by both chocolate and Scotch we journeyed on in the now torrential rain.  The clutch was challenged in our car as we drove to McCaigs Tower. McCaig’s intention was to provide a lasting monument to his family, and provide work for the local stone masons during the winter months.  I am sure with the sun shining it is lovely and the views are amazing but in the downpour it was not the best sight to be seen.

Another quick rainy stop was made at the Falls of Lora.  It is a tidal race in the mouth of Loch Etive which forms when a particularity high tide runs out from the loch causing rapids.  

We visited St Conan’s Kirk which is located high above the water and surrounded by trees.  It is renowned for the fragment of bone that is rumored to have come from Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland.

 

 

 It was time to be fed again and we had a quick stop at the Ben Cruachan Inn for some hearty food and drink before we were off again as the sun made a quick appearance.
We visited the ruins of Kichurn Castle from across the marsh.  It is a ruined structure on a rocky peninsula. It was a base for the Campbell’s of Scotland and is now open to the public.  I was not going to risk the mosquitoes for a close up view and we still had places to go!
The mountains in Scotland are said to weep after a rain.  Rivers of water flow down after the storm.

“One year I recall it started raining at the end of July and there wasn’t a single period of 24 hours that it didn’t rain for 104 days. I was able to tell when the summer ended and winter began though, because the rain got a lot colder.” 

~The Misery Of Scotland by John Macpherson

The sun briefly came out for our final photo stop in Loch Lomand before we arrived in Glasgow and parted ways with our delightful guide Robert.

 

There is a song  written by a MacGregor of Glen Endrick, who was jailed, along with a friend, in Carlisle England in 1746. The author had been condemned to death for his support of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745 uprising, while his friend was going to be set free. The song tells of the old Celtic myth that the soul of a Scot who dies outside his homeland will find it’s way back home by the spiritual road, or the low road.

“Ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak the low road 
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye 
But me and my true love will never meet again 
On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond.”

~The Bonny Banks of Loch Lomand Song by Frank Ticheli