Friday, November 22, 2013

Sights to See: Conor Pass, Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

     The relatively remote Dingle Peninsula is known for its rugged mountains, jagged cliffs, and archaeological sites.  Mount Brandon reaches 3,130 feet and is Ireland’s second-tallest mountain.  The area has more sheep than residents, and the weather is often rainy but rarely interrupts sightseeing.  Plus it has sandy beaches.  Allow two nights here.
     At Tralee, the peninsula’s entrance point, take the N86, which leads through lovely countryside and provides glimpses of Tralee Bay as it heads to the Conor Pass. Located just before the N86 turns inland from the north coast, the village of Camp has several pubs and makes a good break stop before heading through the rugged Connor Pass to Dingle.
     At times the road becomes very narrow as it climbs up and over the spectacular pass.  Sheep are sometimes on the road, and fog and rain can slow things down through this rocky mountain pass over Mount Brandon.  Finally, on the descent, you’ll have an expansive view of Dingle Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.  Then it’s a hop, skip, and jump into Dingle town.

More things to do on the Dingle Peninsula.

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image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Things to Do: Cong village, Ireland


Cong village   Located just outside the property lines of Ashford Castle, this small and atmospheric village is reached by a pleasant walk along the River Cong.  The Quiet Man, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was filmed here in 1952, and this village has never gotten over it!  A daily walking tour visits the main filming locations, and an annual festival celebrating it is held in October.  The village also holds:

medieval abbey ruins: 
Rory O'Connor, the last High King of Ireland, is reputed to have died here.  The “Cross of Cong” is now displayed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

unique boutiques:
Ladys Buttery Art and Craft Gallery  purveys particularly nice locally made items. 

tea rooms:
Jenni’s Country Tea Rooms  offers a freshly baked scone plus tea or coffee for 3 Euros. 



More things to do in Cong.

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images c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Things to Do: Hawk Walk, Ireland’s School of Falconry, Ashford Castle, Cong, Ireland

Ireland’s School of Falconry  Though its origins are not certain, falconry is believed to have begun in Mesopotamia at around 2000 B.C. and is believed to be the oldest sport in the world.  By 1228, when Ashford Castle was built, the sport was well established in Ireland, among both the nobility as sport and the peasants as a way to secure food.  Now, Ireland’s original School of Falconry specializes in Hawk Walks but also is home to eagles, owls, and falcons.  All of the birds fly every day.  Peregrine falcons have been clocked at 246 m.p.h. and are the fastest living things in the world.  They are employed by airports to keep birds and pests away from runways, and indeed just their presence is a deterrent. 
     Dingle, an amber-eyed female Eurasian eagle owl--the largest species of owl in the world--is housed here. 
     According to our guide, Conal Dixon, “Dingle is the only bird we ever had that never caught anything.  Fully imprinted as a baby bird, he thinks he’s human.” 
    Our Hawk Walk was with Inca, the first Peruvian hawk in Ireland.  Conal pointed out that she has “lovely hearts on her knickers feathers.”  It was thrilling to witness her flying from a tree to perch on my arm as we walked with her through a dense and beautiful forest.  I highly recommend that you add the experience to your bucket list. 
    Though operating on castle land, this school is an independent facility.  It is not open for visits except by appointment for a walk or lesson.

meet Dingle the owl:


meet Inca the hawk:


how to release a hawk:


hawk Inca makes a spectacular return to the glove:


More things to do in Cong.

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More owls to see when traveling.
  
Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.  
 
videos c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Great Sleeps: Ashford Castle, Cong, Ireland

Ashford Castle  In Cong, 30 mi. N of Galway.  83 guest rooms.  Breakfast included; 3 restaurants; 2 bars.  Health spa; bicycle rentals.  One of the finest and most luxurious castle hotels in Ireland, this impressive property is set on 350 acres along the shores of Ireland’s largest lake, Lough Corrib, and the River Cong (both are famous for trout and salmon fishing).  It offers country sports that include horseback riding, fly fishing, golfing on its own nine-hole course, clay shooting, and hawk walks.  Guests can take leisurely walks through the grounds and along many paths, visit a variety of magnificent formal gardens, and as well as take boat rides on the lake.  A round of golf is complimentary with every stay.  Public rooms in the castle are fitted with wood-coffered ceilings, Waterford chandeliers, huge Chippendale mirrors, period furniture, fine art objects, and warming fireplaces.  Wi-Fi is free in the magnificent Drawing Room lounge, where a full afternoon tea is served. 
     This castle dates back to the 13th century.  It was the Guinness family home from 1855 until 1939, when it became a hotel.  In 1970, it was acquired and developed by Irish-American John A. Mulcahy.  Visitors come from around the world and have included President Ronald Reagan, Oscar Wilde, John Lennon, Brad Pitt, Pierce Brosnan (who rented the entire castle in 2001 for his wedding), King George V of Britain, and King Edward VII--for whom a special billiard room was built.
     Poshly appointed guest rooms include 83 in the original section of the castle that date back to the 13th and 17th centuries.  They feature high ceilings, traditional four-poster beds, original fireplaces, and antique furniture. Some have clawfoot tubs.  Rooms in the newer wing date to the late 1960s and are also quite nice.  I can attest that corner room 316 has a commanding view of the bridge and river and a lovely soaking tub.  Being in the center of this vast estate, as the castle is, makes for a deep quiet at night. 
     Built in the late 1800s in honor of a visit by the Prince of Wales (the future King George V of England), the Prince of Wales Cocktail Bar is perfect for an afternoon or pre-dinner cocktail.  It is also the place to be a 6 p.m. on September 26 to raise a glass of Guinness in celebration of Arthur’s Day--the birthday of former owner Sir Arthur Guinness (all of Ireland does the same thing at this time).  When the Dungeon Bar is open, it is a fine option and features evening entertainment. 
     The George V Dining Room offers elegant evening dining, as well as a more relaxed breakfast buffet in
the morning.  For dinner, a jacket and tie are required, but if you forget to pack them you can borrow from a small closet selection.  The more intimate Connaught Room, located in the old wing, is open May through September.  Built about 10 years ago, Cullen’s at the Cottage operates within a spacious thatched-roof cottage and offers a less fussy and pricey, but still delicious, menu featuring items such as fish & chips, seafood pies, and steak.

Recipe for Ashford Castle's Irish Brown Soda Bread.

More things to do in Cong.

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images and video c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Good Eats: Au Fear Gorta Tea & Garden Rooms, in Ballyvaughan; and The Tide Full Inn, in Kinvara; Ireland

Located on the north coast of Country Clare, on the way towards Galway after leaving the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, the pretty little village of Ballyvaughan has a good choice of accommodations, pubs, and restaurants, including:

Au Fear Gorta Tea & Garden Rooms  065-7077157.  Daily 11am-6:30pm, Apr-Jan; $$.  A lovely garden and large koi pond with golden fish greeted us as we approached this ultra-charming upscale tea room fronting Galway Bay.  Gourmet lunches include smoked local salmon with lemon-caper dressing, beef-and-Guinness potato pie, and assorted open-face sandwiches.  A groaning table laden with pastries and cakes and goodies galore tempts at tea time.  I do wish we’d stayed for a late lunch, but we weren’t quite hungry yet so we continued on, stopping at:

The Tide Full Inn  On Main St., in Kinvara, 091-637400.  Cash only.  W-M noon-10pm.  Packed with locals, this cafe has a few tables both inside and out on the street-side sidewalk.  It is a prime spot to enjoy a sandwich, salad, or pizza, which we did. 

More things to do in Ireland. 

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Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.  

 images c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sights to See: Burren, Ireland

The Burren  +353 (0)65 7071017.  The striking lunar landscape here includes ruts, grikes (fissures), rocky mounds, and clints (isolated rocks jutting from the surface).  This rocky terrain is home to rare plants (including colorful wildflowers that bloom in spring) and insects (approximately 700 different species).  You will see plenty just driving route N67, but if you have the time head inland at Lisdoonvarna (if you’re heading north, take the R476 to R480, exiting near Ballyvaughan) to see many of the ancient ruins.  This is a helpful road map to the Burren.

     Burren Centre in Kilfenora  Stop here for orientation and detailed information about the Burren.  The area is a popular weekend escape, so you’ll find out about yoga and painting classes as well as camp sites, B&Bs, and hostels.  Note that Burren roads are quite narrow.

More things to do in Ireland. 

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 image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Misc.: Cologne, Germany


Lost in the Translation
(updated Jan. 27, 2015)

A while back, as we were driving through the streets of Cologne, Germany, trying to find a hotel near the famous and gigantic 13th-century cathedral (now a UNESCO World Heritage site), we passed a bar where the merry patrons flowed outside into the street.  We pulled up, and my husband, feeling confident in his German, asked in German, “How do we get to the cathedral?”  Their response was incredulous looks and a few snickers.  He asked again, being a bit more insistent.  And then they started laughing, and gave friendly directions.  Because the central shopping streets were closed to traffic, the directions were complicated.  One of the Germans offered to get in our car and direct us to a hotel they knew nearby.  After settling into the hotel—we could see a bit of the cathedral from our room--my husband looked up “cathedral” in his German dictionary and realized he had been asking for directions to the big “katheter”/catheter not “kathedrale”/cathedral!  We figure the Germans we met are still telling this story, too. 

More things to do in Germany.

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images copyright 2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sights to See: Saint Brigid’s Well, Ireland

Saint Brigid’s Well  Beside Murphy’s pub, 5 min. from the Cliffs of Moher, in LISCANNOR.  Regarded as a place of healing, the well at this pilgrimage site is in a little cave-like structure filled with offerings that include holy pictures, rosaries, medals, and similar items left by pilgrims.  Steps lead up to a cemetery with a large cross.  This cemetery is where Cornelius O’Brien, who built the tower at the Cliffs of Moher, is buried.

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video c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers  



Monday, November 4, 2013

Sights to See: Cliffs of Moher and O’Brien’s Tower, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher  1 hr. NW of Shannon airport, 2 hrs. S of Galway, near the village of Liscannor, +353 65 708 6141.   Opens 9am.  E6, 65+ E4, under 16 free; guided tour E45.  This is Ireland’s most visited natural attraction and a UNESCO recognized Geopark.  Towering 702 feet above the roaring Atlantic Ocean and running for a 5-mile stretch, the shale and sandstone cliffs are so high that the ocean’s roar is heard as just a whisper.  This official entry provides protected cliff-side pathways.  An eco-certified, grass-roofed building embedded unobtrusively in a hillside holds a cafe and the visitor center, where you can view two short movies and take the 5-minute “Ledge Experience.”  Free WiFi is available throughout!  On clear days you can the Aran Islands and on to Connemara.  Rain and fog are disappointing and not unusual, but you will still enjoy a visit.  Hags Head outside Liscannor Village is the most southerly point of the cliffs and the sweet fishing village of Doolin is the northerly point. 

O’Brien’s Tower  €2 , children €1.  Built cliff-side in 1835, this tower stands near the cliffs’ highest point.  You can climb a spiral staircase to a viewing platform on its crenellated top.  The area immediately north known as Cliff of the Foals is a world-famous surf spot.

More things to do in Ireland. 

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first image, vintage photo courtesy of venue; second image c2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, November 1, 2013

Misc.: car rental, Ireland

When renting a car in Ireland, choose the smallest car that can accommodate you and your luggage.  You’ll be glad you did when you find yourself driving along one of the narrow country roads lined with dry-stone walls.  Take note of the the duct-taped mirror in the picture of me in our Dooley Car Rental.  Fortunately the damage was done by someone previous to us, but it is an example of what you might be in for!  Apparently Ireland is one of two countries in Western Europe that have the most traffic accidents (the other is Portugal).  Because most credit cards no longer offer complimentary collision insurance in the Republic of Ireland, you will most likely need to buy Collision Damage Waiver insurance (CDW)--which limits your financial responsibility in case of an accident.  It is expensive.  While you can opt out of the CDW in some countries, it is a mandatory coverage in Ireland (actually, you can waive CDW, however you will be liable for the full value of the car in the event of damage/theft, and you will be required to leave a deposit of €3,000).  After checking with several car rental agencies, Dooley Car Rentals  felt like a good choice to me because it is an Irish company and has a fully inclusive rate.  Be aware that some car rental agencies won’t rent to, or charge additional for, drivers under age 21 or over 69 and for taking a car into Northern Ireland.  Dooley’s is the only company that will provide cars to clients between the ages of 21 and 24, and it doesn’t charge extra for traveling to Northern Ireland.  A piece of advice once you have your car (this was our mantra in Ireland)--look right, drive left.  Another item to consider--though it costs more for an automatic transmission, I did think it was well worth the expense.  And my favorite sign was for “traffic calming” areas before roundabouts, which are prevalent, efficient, and easy to get used to.

More things to do in Ireland.

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image c2013 Gene Meyers