We had to catch the car ferry from Tarbert to Killimer this morning that would save us at least an hour of driving while allowing us to avoid Limerick entirely. We were up and at the dining room by 7:45 a.m. but no one was there. A few minutes later, we were told that breakfast would not be available until 8:15 a.m. Upon checkin the time stated was anytime after 7:30 a.m. The sweet lady in the kitchen felt badly that we were going to have to leave without eating so she said she could quickly scramble some eggs for us. That was fine.
Thankfully, shortly after a good night’s sleep and a little breakfast; reconciliation occurred. I am thankful that though my kids get extremely irritated with each other from time to time, they have yet to divorce one another. They break apart, then come together. Their bond is stronger than that of many “normal” families.
The car ferry leaves Tarbert on the half hour and we were aiming for the 10:30 a.m. crossing. Seana felt a headache coming on near Blennerville so we pulled into the parking lot for the Blennerville Windmill so she could access her medication. We got disoriented in Tralee (typical) and then stuck behind a large tourist bus for miles before arriving at the car ferry along with said tourist bus. That bus took up one whole row that would typically squeeze in multiple cars. Thankfully, we were loaded ahead of it. I had purchased our fair online back in November (nothing like planning ahead) saving us a little bit of coin. This trip took perhaps 20 minutes and then we were on our way.
Seana’s headache continued to plague her so she ended up taking more medication to keep it at bay. As a result she was “out like a light” when we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. I gave the guys a time to meet back at the car if Seana were to awaken and we were to attempt the walk to the cliffs. Sure enough, perhaps 5 minutes after they left she awoke and wanted to give it a try. We went arm and arm up the long walk to the cliffs. They are spectacular to behold. Taylor was wearing a mostly white jacket so I could spot the guys ahead going from one side of the cliffs to the other before we were made it to a viewpoint. I’m glad Seana rallied to see this. It was windy and damp but worth the struggle. I snagged the boys as they were about to head back to the car. We were able to get a group photo at the cliffs.
From there I took a side route north that cut closer to the sea. We passed by ruins of cottages and eventually found our way to Doonagore Castle just outside of Doolin. We have a picture of this little tower castle taken over a decade ago that hangs in our bedroom. I think we all enjoyed the photo opportunities presented here before we ventured into Doolin. The original plan was to have lunch in Doolin but it was teaming with tourist. Instead, we continued up the R477 along the Burren.
The Burren is a large limestone plateau that dominates the landscape north of the Cliffs of Moher. In the month of May, alpine wildflowers can be discovered blooming between the cracks. We did some exploring along the Burren and the wildflowers were quite plentiful. I had never seen so many there.
The stone upon stone fences along the Burren also fascinate me. Many were constructed as work projects during the years of the Great Hunger (potato famine). Starving Irish were forced to work for a bowl of gruel and a place to sleep. Many died of starvation in the construction of those fences.
From Black Head point we traveled to Ballyvaugh where we tried a fast food pizza that was actually quite tasty, and stocked up on groceries for tomorrow’s breakfast. After yet another directional mixup, we headed south on N67 to R480 to check out the Aillwee Caves. This had not been on my agenda; however, we all enjoy a little spelunking so we decided to work it in. The cave was interesting and had some typical cave features. Two sets of bones from ancient bears had been discovered in the cave and determined to be from 4,000 B.C. and 10,000 B.C. There was no evidence that humans ever lived here. The kids loved it!
After leaving the caves we gave Bill a call. “Are you in Ireland?” I asked. Indeed he was. Thank heavens! From the caves our last stop was Poulnabrone Dolmen. This is a megalithic burial portal. Excavations determined that the remains of at least 33 individuals were interred here about 3,000 B.C. The first time I visited here we had to climb through a cattle barrier to walk up to the Dolmen. The site has been greatly “improved” with bus parking and a ramp to the dolmen. As fate would happen, we stopped just as a tour guide was herding the riders back into the bus. We actually had the place to ourselves for a short time.
After leaving Poulnabrone the greatest challenge of the day was locating our lodging. We approached Ennis from a different direction than I’d planned due to the addition of spelunking. We drove around and around, through tiny twisted streets, thronging with people attempting to find anything that looked similar to what I’d printed off for Bill. We eventually resorted to calling him (his phone is still working) and having him identify landmarks. It was a sight for sore eyes when we spotted him standing on the porch of 40 Park Street waving at our car. We are staying in our own house! We each have our own bedroom and bathroom for around 125 Euros per night. Can’t beat it.
After claiming our respective bedrooms we headed two short blocks to the town center for some dinner. I had chosen Brogan’s as our dining location. We entered through the front door and were escorted to a large round table in the far back of the packed pub. We ate well! Taylor tried the usual seafood chowder (he has become the resident expert), and Keenan ordered the “Brogan’s sharing board for two” that he ate himself. The waitress said, “When it’s for one it’s called ‘the greedy boy’.” Seana had mushroom tortellini, Bill a robust hamburger, and I had the potato leek soup. With two rounds of drinks we had one of the best, most economical meals we had for the whole trip.
From Brogan’s we walked down to Cruise’s pub in search of live music. It was pretty crowded by then but there was a small group playing in the corner. In retrospect, I moved us on from there too soon. The young lady with the group sang a beautiful melody but I was frustrated by the lack of bodhran or uillean pipes. I hoped we could find a session with some of those instruments as well. We wandered up and settled in one pub with live music that appeared to be taking a break as we entered. We ordered drinks and Bill made friends (from Brazil) at the bar before we realized that the break was for the rest of the evening! As we were heading out the door, we saw some of the musicians from Cruise’s coming in. I asked the man at the door if there was to be anymore live music this night to which he answered in the negative.
Back down the hill we went to a pub around the corner from Cruise’s. There was quite a jam session going on there with multiple musicians hopping in. Unfortunately, every song sounded the same and there were no vocals. Bill and I were happy to call it a night. He’d done quite well for his first night in-country. We found our way back to our home whilst the boys took a rest before heading back out on their own.
As much as I have loved traveling with my children, it was a delightful treat to see Bill and have him join our group. I am pleased beyond expression that our plans have come together so well on this trip and that Seana, Keenan, and Taylor have seen the vast majority of the things, and places I’d intended for them to see. We all have one more full day in Ireland together. My heart is happy.