Bus, Train, Cab, Feet

Today was a travel day. I was up early to catch the bus to Galway, and then the train to Dublin, another train to Mallow, a third train to Killarney, then a cab to Larkinley Lodge. Now, I found out that Larkinley Lodge was within easy walking distance, but my iPhone had drained its battery while I was reading on the bus and trains, and couldn’t use the GPS to find the place. Now I know how to walk from the Lodge to the station, so that’s fine.

But really what that means is that I don’t have a lot of pictures today. Here are a few little things.

I just realized that I haven't shown you the inside of McGann's Pub, except for the musicians. Here's the actual pub part.
I just realized that I haven’t shown you the inside of McGann’s Pub, except for the musicians. Here’s the actual pub part.
This is Larkinley Lodge. Very nice folks here, and a very nice room. Good recommendations for dinner.
This is Larkinley Lodge. Very nice folks here, and a very nice room. Good recommendations for dinner.
The room is lovely. The B&B is new-built, and a nice mix of modern and traditional feel to it.
The room is lovely. The B&B is new-built, and a nice mix of modern and traditional feel to it.

I went for a nice walk around Killarney, found the pub – The Laurels – that they recommended at the B&B, and also found the place to meet for my tour tomorrow.

So, tour tomorrow. More pictures then.

Doolin Rambling

Today is my last day in Doolin. I took Tony’s advice from yesterday, and didn’t take the Cliff Walk tour. Instead, I slept in a bit, had a leisurely breakfast, and walked by the tourism information office and picked up a walking map of the area. Thus armed, I went for a walk around the area.

The fields around Doolin.
The fields around Doolin.
The narrow roads leading up in the Doolin hills. Gotta keep an eye out for cars, because there's really only one lane.
The narrow roads leading up in the Doolin hills. Gotta keep an eye out for cars, because there’s really only one lane.
Hills and rock fences.
Hills and rock fences.
Tough walking in the hills, but great views.
Tough walking in the hills, but great views.
Looking down on Doolin village.
Looking down on Doolin village.
The Aille River runs along Fisher Street in Doolin.
The Aille River runs along Fisher Street in Doolin.
Doonagore Castle overlooks the whole valley.
Doonagore Castle overlooks the whole valley.
You can see it from pretty much anywhere in the region.
You can see it from pretty much anywhere in the region.
it's on private land, so I couldn't go right up to it. But still. Pretty cool.
it’s on private land, so I couldn’t go right up to it. But still. Pretty cool.
Looking down on the piers at Doolin. With the watchtower island, and Inisheer in the background.
Looking down on the piers at Doolin. With the watchtower island, and Inisheer in the background.
Looking down at Doolin and across Galway Bay at the Connemara coastline.
Looking down at Doolin and across Galway Bay at the Connemara coastline.
An old stone house, with stone fences, and the Atlantic beyond.
An old stone house, with stone fences, and the Atlantic beyond.
Wildflowers everywhere along the roads.
Wildflowers everywhere along the roads.
Really everywhere.
Really everywhere.
There were neat little streams running through the fields down towards the cliffs.
There were neat little streams running through the fields down towards the cliffs.
I got a fair way along the cliff walk, but turned back at the sign that said not to use the rest of the trail.
I got a fair way along the cliff walk, but turned back at the sign that said not to use the rest of the trail.
A ferry coming in.
A ferry coming in.
The cliffs were amazing.
The cliffs were amazing.
Very cool cliffs.
Very cool cliffs.

So, after walking about six miles or so through the hills, I realized I probably could have managed the cliff walk tour. But I saw a whole bunch of cool stuff, and had a good time.

It was an overcast day, but warm, with no breeze. Given the high humidity, I was very hot and sweaty after the walk, so I stopped to have lunch and a drink at O’Connor’s pub, then walked back to McGann’s to shower and rest for a bit. Eventually, I went down for supper at McGann’s, and to wait for the music to start. It was going to be an early session, and thus it was sort of empty for the first little bit.

I thought I had good seats at the pub last night. Tonight, I was right beside Geraldine. It was awesome.
I thought I had good seats at the pub last night. Tonight, I was right beside Geraldine. It was awesome.

I’m working on uploading a short video of one of the tunes. Look for a post about that in the next hour or so.

 

 

More Music

Back in the pub again tonight. I didn’t get such a good seat tonight, as it was pretty crowded when I came in. I wound up sitting around a corner from the bar at a little shelf. But Ernst, one of the nice Germans I met last night, spotted me, and told me to come sit with him and Ilona at the same table we had the previous night.

And then the folks at the next table to us left just as the music was about to start, so we moved over one.

Yeah. That's how close I'm sitting. The singer is putting her beer on my table. Oh, and the singer? Geraldine MacGowan, formerly of the band Oisin. The piper is Blackie O'Connell, said by locals to be the best piper in Ireland. I didn't catch the name of the guy in the middle, but he's playing a mandola, so you know he's badass. And leaning into the picture from the right is Johnny from Mulingar, the harmonica player from last night, whom I think might be mad, but in a friendly, welcoming, happy way.
Yeah. That’s how close I’m sitting. The singer is putting her beer on my table. Oh, and the singer? Geraldine McGowan, formerly of the band Oisin. The piper is Blackie O’Connell, said by locals to be the best piper in Ireland. I didn’t catch the name of the guy in the middle, but he’s playing a mandola, so you know he’s badass. And leaning into the picture from the right is Johnny from Mulingar, the harmonica player from last night, whom I think might be mad, but in a friendly, welcoming, happy way.
They started somewhat late, but they played somewhat late, too, so I don't think anyone much minded. The wall of sound from the uillean pipes was astounding, and when things got going with the mandola and the bodhran, there might have been a whole orchestra sitting in that corner.
They started somewhat late, but they played somewhat late, too, so I don’t think anyone much minded. The wall of sound from the uillean pipes was astounding, and when things got going with the mandola and the bodhran, there might have been a whole orchestra sitting in that corner.
Geraldine sang several songs. Amazing voice.
Geraldine sang several songs. Amazing voice.
About half-way through the evening, they were joined by Joe who plays the squeezebox. Johnny also got another turn or two to play his harmonica, and a gentleman from Londonderry whose name I didn't catch sang a couple of songs.
About half-way through the evening, they were joined by Joe who plays the squeezebox. Johnny also got another turn or two to play his harmonica, and a gentleman from Londonderry whose name I didn’t catch sang a couple of songs.

This. This is everything I was hoping for when I decided to stay in Doolin. And I have one more day and one more night here. I’m looking forward to them, but I’ve already won at my vacation.

Good night, everyone.

Biggest Doesn’t Always Mean Longest

I took today pretty easy. I arranged a taxi ride with Doolin Taxi to pick me up around ten, which would get me to my tour of the cave around eleven. So, I got to sleep in a little, and sit in the sun outside McGann’s for a while waiting for the taxi.

I had a nice chat with a couple of other gentlemen staying here at the pub. They were both ┬ávery friendly and welcoming. One of them was the fellow who played harmonica at last night’s session, and he explained to me that he and his son, through extensive research, had recovered John Wilkins’s secret technique of perpetual motion. He had the whole thing worked out, he says, he only needs to build it.

The cab that showed up was driven by Tony McGann, former owner of McGann’s Pub, and I got a real taste of rural Ireland, as he stopped to talk to everyone, gossip with everyone, and generally just work his way through the social niceties with everyone we met. Not that I’m complaining – far from it, it was awesome. As I say, it was a real taste of authentic rural Irish life.

The drive out to Doolin Cave was fun and entertaining, the conversation with Tony was fascinating, and I enjoyed it immensely. He dropped me off, gave me his card, and said that I could pay him when he came to pick me up.

Ballinalacken Castle. Yeah, we have castles here. They're scattered all over the place. We hardly notice it anymore.
Ballinalacken Castle. Yeah, we have castles here. They’re scattered all over the place. We hardly notice it anymore.
This is the entrance to the shaft they opened down into the cave system. The original entrance required crawling through a stream for 450 metres, which was not something they could ask visitors to do.
This is the entrance to the shaft they opened down into the cave system. The original entrance required crawling through a stream for 450 metres, which was not something they could ask visitors to do.
This is a section of the original passage. Yeah. I wouldn't have crawled through that.
This is a section of the original passage. Yeah. I wouldn’t have crawled through that.
The shaft they made is five metres wide, seventy-five metres deep, with 125 steps to climb up and down. The up part is the rough bit. Just sayin'.
The shaft they made is five metres wide, seventy-five metres deep, with 125 steps to climb up and down.
The up part is the rough bit. Just sayin’.
This is the largest known stalactite in the world. There is one that is longer in Brazil, but it's only about 30 cm around, as opposed to 350 cm, so yeah, largest, but not longest.
This is the largest known stalactite in the world. There is one that is longer in Brazil, but it’s only about 30 cm around, as opposed to 350 cm, so yeah, largest, but not longest.
This should help put things in perspective. It's huge.
This should help put things in perspective. It’s huge.
The stalagmite beneath the stalactite is about the size of a couch. It's sitting on soft clay, though, which means that it's sliding slowly downhill. There's another stalagmite that used to sit beneath the stalactite, but it slid down clay bank far enough that it tipped over.
The stalagmite beneath the stalactite is about the size of a couch. It’s sitting on soft clay, though, which means that it’s sliding slowly downhill. There’s another stalagmite that used to sit beneath the stalactite, but it slid down clay bank far enough that it tipped over.
The main chamber of the cave is mainly clay - they've dug down over seven metres, and not hit rock. The clay is apparently very good for pottery, with no stone or sand in it.
The main chamber of the cave is mainly clay – they’ve dug down over seven metres, and not hit rock. The clay is apparently very good for pottery, with no stone or sand in it.

This cave is obviously a lot smaller than Marble Arch Caves, and not as developed, but that stalactite is something to see. We all had to wear hardhats, and the ceilings were so low that even someone as short as me had to bend over through long stretches of the cave. Gotta say, the fourth or fifth time I scraped my hardhat against the ceiling, I was really glad to have it.

I don’t know why I never think about how much of a climb it is to get out of these caves. 152 steps at Marble Arch, 125 here at Doolin Cave, and they are always steep and usually slippery. By the time I get to the top, I’m wiped out.

So, I took a bit of a rest in the cafe there, and had a nice chicken panini, then took a walk along the nature trail. It gave me some nice views of the castle, and had some nice stone gardens along the way.

A nice little rock garden.
A nice little rock garden.
The stones are all gathered from the limestone that makes up the Burren.
The stones are all gathered from the limestone that makes up the Burren.
I just like the look of this rock.
I just like the look of this rock.

So, after the walk, I called for Tony to come and pick me up. It was another good ride, and Tony gave me some good advice for my cliff walk tomorrow. He explained how long the walk is, and how rough it can be, so he advised me to rethink going with the tour, and just follow the trail on my own, turning back when I’m tired. That’s what I think I’m going to do.

Tonight, though, I’m going back down to the pub for dinner and music.

Over Here, They Just Call It Music

Quick update before I turn in.

My plan worked, and I had a nice meal at McGann’s and staked out a good seat for when the music started. It was a good evening.

The musicians showed up and started a little bit early, which was completely fine by me. It's hard to see in this picture, but between the guitar player at the back and the white-haired gentleman on the left, there's another man who played guitar and banjo.
The musicians showed up and started a little bit early, which was completely fine by me. It’s hard to see in this picture, but between the guitar player at the back and the white-haired gentleman on the left, there’s another man who played guitar and banjo.
The singer had one of those classic Irish voices, and knew a huge number of songs by heart, judging from how quickly he was able to accommodate requests. He also played the bass on the instrumental numbers.
The singer had one of those classic Irish voices, and knew a huge number of songs by heart, judging from how quickly he was able to accommodate requests. He also played the bass on the instrumental numbers.
A customer had a harmonica with him, and sat in for a tune. I believe the tune he played was Apples in Winter, but don't hold me to that.
A customer had a harmonica with him, and sat in for a tune. I believe the tune he played was Apples in Winter, but don’t hold me to that. He was really good, though.

Okay. Now I have to explain a Hen Party.

Hen Parties are the Irish1 version of a bachelorette party. The bride-to-be’s friends pick some sort of costume theme, and go out to party on the town. We had one of those show up and basically take over the pub, singing their own version of The Green and Red of Mayo, forming a conga line, doing some step dancing, and pelting the musicians with special requests. They were, apparently, dressed as Father Ted’s Lovely Ladies or something – I dunno. I didn’t quite catch it, and I’ve never watched Father Ted, so it wouldn’t have helped, anyway.

Hen Parties are – I am told – usually rowdy, but in a fun, high-spirited way, and this was no exception. The German couple sharing my table commented, “The Irish really know how to celebrate something,” and I couldn’t agree more. It was a loud, fun night.

About all you can see of this woman is her pink sleeve and the microphone she's holding. She sang a wonderful version of Black is the Colour.
About all you can see of this woman is her pink sleeve and the microphone she’s holding. She sang a wonderful version of Black is the Colour.

And then the musicians packed up and left, and I did the same.

Tomorrow is Doolin Cave. My tour there isn’t until 11:00, so I’m taking advantage of that to sleep in a bit.

  1. And possibly UK, but I’m not sure. []

Inisheer and Sheer Cliffs

Today was my trip out to Inisheer and the Cliffs of Moher by ferry. In checking things out last night, I discovered that the piers where the ferries dock is about two miles from where I’m staying at McGann’s Pub. The ferry was set to sail at 10:00, and everyone was supposed to check in by 9:30, so I left McGann’s at 8:30 to walk. I made it in plenty of time, which is good.

This is Doonagore Castle, in the hills over Doolin. Got a decent view of it as I walked down to the pier.
This is Doonagore Castle, in the hills over Doolin. Got a decent view of it as I walked down to the pier.
There are two or three different ferry companies running boats to the Aran Islands, and - of course - they all have their offices down at the pier.
There are two or three different ferry companies running boats to the Aran Islands, and – of course – they all have their offices down at the pier.
The sea was doing its level best to put on a good show for us. Some very impressive waves along the coastline.
The sea was doing its level best to put on a good show for us. Some very impressive waves along the coastline.
And just to make sure you didn't forget that it's summer, there are wildflowers growing up everywhere amid the limestone of the Burren.
And just to make sure you didn’t forget that it’s summer, there are wildflowers growing up everywhere amid the limestone of the Burren.
Yes, the name of the ferry is Happy Hooker. It's important to point out that a Galway Hooker is a type of traditional fishing boat.
Yes, the name of the ferry is Happy Hooker. It’s important to point out that a Galway Hooker is a type of traditional fishing boat.

The ride out to Inisheer was a little bit jouncy, but overall, quite nice. The temperature was decent, but there was a fierce wind coming in that cooled everything off. I was glad I had brought my windbreaker.

We sailed past an island with a ruined watchtower on it. It's just off the coast, and provides some shelter for the piers.
We sailed past an island with a ruined watchtower on it. It’s just off the coast, and provides some shelter for the piers.
O'Brien's Castle sits atop the highest hill on the island, inside an old hill fort called Dun Fhormna. You can see it from pretty much anywhere on the island.
O’Brien’s Castle sits atop the highest hill on the island, inside an old hill fort called Dun Fhormna. You can see it from pretty much anywhere on the island.
Pretty much the first thing you see as you get off the ferry is the line-up of locals offering to take you on a tour. A couple of them have minivans, but the majority have a horse and cart. Guess which one I chose.
Pretty much the first thing you see as you get off the ferry is the line-up of locals offering to take you on a tour. A couple of them have minivans, but the majority have a horse and cart. Guess which one I chose.
We got a good view of the castle, with the later addition of a Norman-style tower behind it as we circled the island.
We got a good view of the castle, with the later addition of a Norman-style tower behind it as we circled the island.
This is what a lot of the streets in the village look like. The roads around the island are very similar, except maybe two feet wider, and gravel.
This is what a lot of the streets in the village look like. The roads around the island are very similar, except maybe two feet wider, and gravel.
Another shot of the castle as we circled it.
Another shot of the castle as we circled it.
Cnoc Raithni is a bronze-age tomb that shows the island was inhabited as long ago as 2000 BC.
Cnoc Raithni is a bronze-age tomb that shows the island was inhabited as long ago as 2000 BC.
A different angle on the castle.
A different angle on the castle.
In the 1960s, the cargo ship Plassey got on the wrong side of a warning buoy and was holed and wrecked. The inhabitants of the island managed to save the entire crew. It was stuck on the rocks you see in the right of the picture, but high seas in winter time washed it farther up onto the shore.
In the 1960s, the cargo ship Plassey got on the wrong side of a warning buoy and was holed and wrecked. The inhabitants of the island managed to save the entire crew. It was stuck on the rocks you see in the right of the picture, but high seas in winter time washed it farther up onto the shore.
A neat looking stone house surrounded by stone walls.
A neat looking stone house surrounded by stone walls.
Much of the island is a maze of these stone fences, with narrow roads running between them.
Much of the island is a maze of these stone fences, with narrow roads running between them.
Here's a view of the castle from about the site of the signal tower. Have you noticed that I don't have any pictures form inside the castle? That's because the horse wouldn't climb that high. When I went walking later, I couldn't find a trail in - the maze of narrow, rock-lined roads and trails kept leading me away. I KNOW you can get in; I saw people in side. But after three quarters of an hour, I declared myself defeated and went to have some lunch.
Here’s a view of the castle from about the site of the signal tower. Have you noticed that I don’t have any pictures form inside the castle? That’s because the horse wouldn’t climb that high. When I went walking later, I couldn’t find a trail in – the maze of narrow, rock-lined roads and trails kept leading me away. I KNOW you can get in; I saw people in side. But after three quarters of an hour, I declared myself defeated and went to have some lunch.

After lunch, it was time to get back on the ferry for the second part of the cruise. This took us to the base of the Cliffs of Moher. I visited the top last time, and thought this would be a good way to see them again.

Okay. So, we were in a smaller boat. Instead of cutting right into the waves bow-first, we were cutting across the waves, taking them on our side as we approached the Cliffs. I got pretty thoroughly splashed several times, including some times when I had my camera out. I also got dumped on my butt a couple of times. Really glad I had taken some motion-sickness tablets.

The upshot is that the pictures of the Cliffs are not as stunning as I might have hoped. Still, here you go.

Here we are coming up to the Cliffs of Moher from Inisheer.
Here we are coming up to the Cliffs of Moher from Inisheer.
The cliffs really loom as you get close to them. Also, tons of birds. Mainly seagulls and what someone told me were puffins, but they didn't look like puffins to me. Then again, what do I know about birds?
The cliffs really loom as you get close to them. Also, tons of birds. Mainly seagulls and what someone told me were puffins, but they didn’t look like puffins to me. Then again, what do I know about birds?
If you look very carefully and squint a little, you can see the tip of O'Brian's tower at the top of this cliff. That's where I took some good pictures of the cliffs last time.
If you look very carefully and squint a little, you can see the tip of O’Brian’s tower at the top of this cliff. That’s where I took some good pictures of the cliffs last time.
This spire of rock at the base of the cliffs is just awe-inspiring.
This spire of rock at the base of the cliffs is just awe-inspiring.

And then the ferry went back to the pier. I got off and walked back to McGann’s. I wasn’t in a rush, this time, so I checked out a few shops along the way, and generally had a nice little stroll.

This is McGann's. I'm staying in a little room on the second floor. You can't see my window - which is in my bathroom - from here. There's a magnificent skylight over my bed, though.
This is McGann’s. I’m staying in a little room on the second floor. You can’t see my window – which is in my bathroom – from here. There’s a magnificent skylight over my bed, though.

Now, laundry is hanging to dry, this post is done, and I’m going to go downstairs in a few minutes to have some supper and wait for the music to start. I may post something later, if something interesting happens, or I may just stay late listening to the session. I don’t have to be up as early tomorrow – my tour of the Doolin Cave doesn’t start until 11:00.

Guess I’ll have to figure out how to get there.

I’m a Rover of High Degree

Short post tonight. Need to get some sleep before tomorrow. Also, nothing much new to report. I’ve spent the day traveling on the buses to get from Belfast down to Doolin. I checked out of the Old Rectory around 9:00 this morning, and got to Doolin around 8:00 this evening. So, not much to show you from the trip – pictures of bus stations aren’t all that interesting. I did manage a few pictures, though:

The bust trip from Galway to Doolin went through the Burren. Normally, I don't even bother trying to take a picture from a moving bus - they turn out mediocre, at best. But this view made me try, and the shot is... well, it's not as bad as I expected it to be. Notice the large limestone mound in the background; that's what tells you you're in the Burren.
The bust trip from Galway to Doolin went through the Burren. Normally, I don’t even bother trying to take a picture from a moving bus – they turn out mediocre, at best. But this view made me try, and the shot is… well, it’s not as bad as I expected it to be. Notice the large limestone mound in the background; that’s what tells you you’re in the Burren.
This is the view from the steps leading up to my room at McGann's Pub. I took it mainly to document the fact that, once again, I've got some good weather in Ireland. Which I have just jinxed. Dammit.
This is the view from the steps leading up to my room at McGann’s Pub. I took it mainly to document the fact that, once again, I’ve got some good weather in Ireland.
Which I have just jinxed. Dammit.
Compared to the Old Rectory, my room here is tiny and austere, but that's okay. It's got a shower, a toilet, and a bed, so I'm set.
Compared to the Old Rectory, my room here is tiny and austere, but that’s okay. It’s got a shower, a toilet, and a bed, so I’m set.
And this is the main reason I came to Doolin. The session got started about 9:30, and the place got really crowded. I had had dinner at a little counter where I couldn't see the musicians, so I wound up standing in behind some folks and in the way of some other folks. By the time 11:00 rolled around, it was hot and crowded and I wanted to sit down. I can still hear them playing from up in my room - they just finished The Butterfly.
And this is the main reason I came to Doolin. The session got started about 9:30, and the place got really crowded. I had had dinner at a little counter where I couldn’t see the musicians, so I wound up standing in behind some folks and in the way of some other folks. By the time 11:00 rolled around, it was hot and crowded and I wanted to sit down. I can still hear them playing from up in my room – they just finished The Butterfly, and started into Beeswing.

All the above pictures were taken with my iPad, because I was too tired to dig my real camera out of my bag at the various times. Tomorrow, when I1 take the ferry out to Inisheer, I’ll have my camera with me, and I’ll bring it into the pub for better pictures.

Bedtime, now. It’s about a two-mile walk to the ferries tomorrow, so I need to get started early.

  1. Hopefully – the forecast is for rain. []