Something Witty About Cats. I Dunno.

Wow. It was hot today. Looking at a local weather site, it seems this was the hottest day of the year so far. I’ve been regretting I didn’t pack any shorts1. I spent the day walking all over the city until I was about ready to drop, then finding a place to sit for a cool drink. Then doing it again.

The hills don’t help, either.

But I have to say that Kilkenny is an amazing city. There’s a lot of very interesting history here, and most of it is crammed into a fairly small space, making it easily2 walkable. My plan was to see how the walking tour this morning went, and then if there wasn’t much more in the city I wanted to see, I would take a trip to Dunmore Cave or Kells Priory, but there was just too much stuff in the city I wanted a closer, longer look at.

So, what did I do today? I started things with breakfast. Breakfast at Butler house is a bit of a productions.

You come out the back of Butler house...
You come out the back of Butler house…
...through the gardens and past the pool...
…through the gardens and past the pool…

 

... past the sculpture and through a little gate in the wall...
… past the sculpture and through a little gate in the wall…
...through the courtyard...
…through the courtyard…
...and into the rear door of the Kilkenny Design Centre. Upstairs is a very nice restaurant that makes an absolutely stellar breakfast.
…and into the rear door of the Kilkenny Design Centre. Upstairs is a very nice restaurant that makes an absolutely stellar breakfast.

See, Butler House is named after the Butler family, hereditary Earls of Ormond. They held Kilkenny Castle, and built the buildings that are now the Design Centre and Butler House. So there’s an arrangement between Butler House and the Design Centre for providing breakfast.

After breakfast, I wandered down to the Shee Alms House, which is the tourist information office, to join up with my walking tour.

This was the house of Robert Shee, who decided he needed to rack up some good karma as he got older. He donated his house and a fund to keep 12 penniless people of the city fed, sheltered, and given medical care. Sexes were segregated, mass was obligatory, and everyone had to be on their best behaviour. In his will, he four times mentioned a curse that would fall on the family if this house was not kept as a charitable institution. It was sold once, but returned to the family within four years, and then sold again. No one knows what became of the last of the family.
This was the house of Robert Shee, who decided he needed to rack up some good karma as he got older. He donated his house and a fund to keep 12 penniless people of the city fed, sheltered, and given medical care. Sexes were segregated, mass was obligatory, and everyone had to be on their best behaviour. In his will, he four times mentioned a curse that would fall on the family if this house was not kept as a charitable institution. It was sold once, but returned to the family within four years, and then sold again. No one knows what became of the last of the family.
This is the back of the Shee Alms House. You'll notice that it's only one story tall, here, while it's two stories at the front. That should give you some idea of the hills in Kilkenny.
This is the back of the Shee Alms House. You’ll notice that it’s only one story tall, here, while it’s two stories at the front. That should give you some idea of the hills in Kilkenny.
St. Mary's Church is down a twisty, narrow alley from the Alms House.
St. Mary’s Church is down a twisty, narrow alley from the Alms House.
The churchyard is very overgrown - the church is essentially abandoned. It's too expensive for the office of public works to take on right now.
The churchyard is very overgrown – the church is essentially abandoned. It’s too expensive for the office of public works to take on right now.
A lot of the tour was down twisting, narrow medieval streets like this one.
A lot of the tour was down twisting, narrow medieval streets like this one.
Or down little alleys like this one. This is the Butter Slip. Because of the shade here, farmers would store their milk and butter and cheese here during market days.
Or down little alleys like this one. This is the Butter Slip. Because of the shade here, farmers would store their milk and butter and cheese here during market days.
Down one of these little alleys is The Hole in the Wall. It was originally an Elizabethan tavern accessed by going through an actual hole in the city wall. It may have been the first place to use that name, but no one can really say.
Down one of these little alleys is The Hole in the Wall. It was originally an Elizabethan tavern accessed by going through an actual hole in the city wall. It may have been the first place to use that name, but no one can really say.
When it was purchased and restored, great care was taken to change as little as possible from the Elizabethan original construction.
When it was purchased and restored, great care was taken to change as little as possible from the Elizabethan original construction.
The upstairs is now a wine hall. In earlier times, it was frequented by many luminaries, including Arthur Wellsley, the Duke of Wellington. Though he may have come for the prostitutes rather than the drink, given his reputation.
The upstairs is now a wine hall. In earlier times, it was frequented by many luminaries, including Arthur Wellsley, the Duke of Wellington. Though he may have come for the prostitutes rather than the drink, given his reputation.

I came back here after wandering around all afternoon and asked for something cool and refreshing. They served me this amazingly delicious and cooling lemongrass ginger fizzy lemonade. It was great, and the folks there were very friendly and welcoming. Also, very cool to be having a drink in an Elizabethan tavern.

The Rothe family, along with the Butlers and the Shees, was one of the wealthy, powerful noble families in Kilkenny. The Rothe House is actually three houses, leading back from the street, and is used now by the local archaeological society.
The Rothe family, along with the Butlers and the Shees, was one of the wealthy, powerful noble families in Kilkenny. The Rothe House is actually three houses, leading back from the street, and is used now by the local archaeological society.
Down one of the side alleys is the original Smithwick's Brewery. The modern brewery working in Kilkenny no longer brews Smithwick's - that's done up in Drogheda. Here, they brew Budweiser. And didn't our guide look chagrined to admit that.
Down one of the side alleys is the original Smithwick’s Brewery. The modern brewery working in Kilkenny no longer brews Smithwick’s – that’s done up in Drogheda. Here, they brew Budweiser. And didn’t our guide look chagrined to admit that.
In the middle of the High Street is a statue of Cainneach - St. Canice. The name of the city in Gaelic is Cill Cainneach, which means Canice's Church. I didn't make it out to St. Canice's Cathedral today. I have to try that tomorrow.
In the middle of the High Street is a statue of Cainneach – St. Canice. The name of the city in Gaelic is Cill Cainneach, which means Canice’s Church. I didn’t make it out to St. Canice’s Cathedral today. I have to try that tomorrow.
This is Kyteler's Inn, where I had dinner both last night and tonight. It's the home of the last witch burned in Ireland.
This is Kyteler’s Inn, where I had dinner both last night and tonight. It’s the home of the last witch burned in Ireland.

So, here’s the story. It’s not very nice. Alice Kyteler was the sheltered daughter of a wealthy moneylender. She inherited this building, and lived in it her whole life. She married four times, poisoning at least her first three husbands with arsenic, and maneuvering the rest of her family to make sure that all her money and possessions would go to her eldest son, William Outlaw. When her fourth husband became ill, he sent for a bishop and accused her of witchcraft.

Alice had money and connections, which allowed her to arrest the bishop when he arrived. She was able to hold him for seventeen days, before the bishop’s own friends managed to win his freedom. Alice, her son William, and her maid Petronella were all accused of witchcraft and other crimes and brought to trial.

Alice managed to escape to England, completely evading her sentence. William paid to have the cathedral re-roofed, a costly endeavour, and was deemed to have repented. Petronella, with no money and no powerful friends, was whipped up the High Street and burned alive.

As I said, it’s not a very nice story. But interesting.

Grace Castle was home of the wealthy and powerful Grace family. "They fell on hard times," said the guide, "and decided to turn their home into a prison, as you do. Great place to raise kids." It's the city courthouse now, and the cells in the basement are filled with non-functional electronic voting machines that the city bought but never managed to get working.
Grace Castle was home of the wealthy and powerful Grace family. “They fell on hard times,” said the guide, “and decided to turn their home into a prison, as you do. Great place to raise kids.” It’s the city courthouse now, and the cells in the basement are filled with non-functional electronic voting machines that the city bought but never managed to get working.
This is the last little bit of the original city wall and the last gate. It's called Blackfriar's Gate, because of the Dominican monks that used to use it passing in and out from the Black Abbey.
This is the last little bit of the original city wall and the last gate. It’s called Blackfriar’s Gate, because of the Dominican monks that used to use it passing in and out from the Black Abbey.
This is the Black Abbey. It was seized from the Church by Henry VIII, sacked and used to stable horses by Oliver Cromwell, and generally abused and neglected for years. When it was rebuilt, only about half the stone could be recovered, so it is built in an L shape rather than the usual cross.
This is the Black Abbey. It was seized from the Church by Henry VIII, sacked and used to stable horses by Oliver Cromwell, and generally abused and neglected for years. When it was rebuilt, only about half the stone could be recovered, so it is built in an L shape rather than the usual cross.
The Rosary Window of the Black Abbey is famous for its beauty. When Henry VIII was claiming the land, the bishop wanted to take the window back to Rome, but the town refused his (very, very large) offer of money. So, he had an Italian artist draw up plans that would let the window be recreated in Rome, but the artist somehow left the plans behind when he and the bishop fled. This allowed the city of Kilkenny to recreate the window when they restored the Black Abbey.
The Rosary Window of the Black Abbey is famous for its beauty. When Henry VIII was claiming the land, the bishop wanted to take the window back to Rome, but the town refused his (very, very large) offer of money. So, he had an Italian artist draw up plans that would let the window be recreated in Rome, but the artist somehow left the plans behind when he and the bishop fled. This allowed the city of Kilkenny to recreate the window when they restored the Black Abbey.

This was about the end of the tour. Our guide3 did tell us a story about the Cats of Kilkenny. See, folks in Kilkenny are called Cats. This may or may not date back to the time when the city was besieged by Oliver Cromwell. One of the things the locals did to keep themselves amused during the long, boring stretches between the terrifying assaults, was bet on cat fights4 : they’d tie two cats together by their tales and let them go at it.

Now, this was against regulations, so one night an officer wandered by where one of these matches was taking place. To hide things, one of the soldiers drew his sword and slashed the cats’ tails off. When the officer saw the tails, he allegedly thought the cats had eaten each other down to their tails. Hence the little nursery rhyme.

There once were two cats of Kilkenny
Each thought there was one cat too many
So they fought and they fit
And they scratched and they bit
‘Til (excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails)
Instead of two cats there weren’t any!

After the tour, I sat and had a cold drink, then went to check out Kilkenny Castle.

The main gates of Kilkenny Castle. Entry onto the grounds is free, and there were scores of people wandering around looking at stuff or just sitting on the grass when I went in.
The main gates of Kilkenny Castle. Entry onto the grounds is free, and there were scores of people wandering around looking at stuff or just sitting on the grass when I went in.
The courtyard lies between the three remaining wings of the castle.
The courtyard lies between the three remaining wings of the castle.

 

The Rose Garden adjoining the castle.
The Rose Garden adjoining the castle.
The central wing overlooking the rose garden.
The central wing overlooking the rose garden. I have a big photograph of that statue hanging over my bed in Butler House.

Photography is not allowed inside the castle. This is understandable, but regrettable, because the restored and reconstructed interior is absolutely amazing. I wish I could have taken a few pictures.

St. Mary's Cathedral was built in the 1840s. Also going on in Ireland in the 1840s? The famine. Perhaps a little hypocrisy in the Church at the time, spending money on this instead of feeding people.
St. Mary’s Cathedral was built in the 1840s. Also going on in Ireland in the 1840s? The famine. Perhaps a little hypocrisy in the Church at the time, spending money on this instead of feeding people.
Can't deny that it's a beautiful place, even though there's apparently a lot more restoration work to be done on it.
Can’t deny that it’s a beautiful place, even though there’s apparently a lot more restoration work to be done on it.

That was about the end of my endurance today. I went back to my rooms to have a shower and cool off before going back to Kyteler’s Inn for dinner and more music. It was excellent again.

Now, that’s enough blather. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow if I want to see the rest of the things I want to see in Kilkenny.

But seriously, folks. Come visit this city. It’s amazing.

  1. I could buy some here, of course, but I have the unshakeable conviction that would bring on torrential rain. []
  2. Well, mostly easily. []
  3. I think his name was Colm? Maybe? He was awesome, though. Knew the history cold, and was able to present it well, along with context and opinion. Great tour. []
  4. “There’s two things Kilkenny has been known for through history,” he told us. “Gambling and prostitutes. Thankfully, at least one of those is no longer true.” I love the Irish sense of humour. []

More Trains

Today was another travel day, so again, not many pictures. I got a nice send-off from Toni and Danny at Larkinley Lodge – seriously, guys, that is THE place to stay in Killarney. Wonderful rooms, great food, and the warmest, friendliest, most helpful hosts you could wish for. Danny even drove me to the train station this morning.

The train ride was suitably boring; the only thing of interest was, after scrambling to get my ticket and onto the connecting train in Dublin, there was a problem with that train’s signals1 and we all had to troop off that train and over to another train, which meant we were delayed about twenty or thirty minutes.

But I made it to Kilkenny and, after one2 wrong turn, I managed to find Butler House, where I’m staying.

The room is huge. Seriously. You could probably fit my living room, dining room, kitchen, and one bedroom in it.
The room is huge. Seriously. You could probably fit my living room, dining room, kitchen, and one bedroom in it.
Here's the other angle on that picture of the room. What you can't see on the right hand side is the big wardrobe and the second bed. Seriously. Huge. And very nice.
Here’s the other angle on that picture of the room. What you can’t see on the right hand side is the big wardrobe and the second bed. Seriously. Huge. And very nice.

After dropping my stuff off, I took the advice of Helen, the lady who checked me in, and wandered up to Kyteler’s Inn for dinner, where they had a music session going.

I am indeed spending more time in pubs this trip, and also hearing more traditional music. These are connected, and that's a good thing.
I am indeed spending more time in pubs this trip, and also hearing more traditional music. These are connected, and that’s a good thing.

There’s a whole story behind Kyteler’s Inn, but I don’t want to ruin it for folks. I’m sure I’ll get a more detailed3 version of the tale on my walking tour tomorrow, and I’ll be sure to share it with you.

Tonight, I’m going to be taking the rest of the evening easy.

  1. Or something. I don’t know. It coulda been signals. []
  2. Well, okay, two. []
  3. Or at least more colourful. []

Not A Euphemism, As It Turns Out

Well, the sunburn on the arms is not fun, but still not enough to ruin my mood. I got up early today, gave some laundry to Toni here at the B&B1, and went for a nice walk before my tour.

This is the church at the centre of town - the town being Killarney.
This is the church at the centre of town – the town being Killarney.
There are some nice statues in the Killarney town parks, including one of Johnny O'Leary, a renowned accordion player...
There are some nice statues in the Killarney town parks, including one of Johnny O’Leary, a renowned accordion player…
...and of Jesus.
…and of Jesus.

Then I made my way down to the Deros offices to get on my tour of the Dingle Peninsula.

Boo Boo guards the door at the Deros offices. She's a very nice old dog.
Boo Boo guards the door at the Deros offices. She’s a very nice old dog.

There were apparently more people signed up for the tour than expected, so I wound up on the second bus, leaving about a half-hour later. It was a small bus, with only about a dozen of us, so we got a lot of personal attention, and a more flexible, looser structure to the tour.

Inch Beach is a peninsular beach made by ocean drift, stretching almost all the way across Dingle Bay from the Dingle Peninsula to the Iveragh Peninsula.
Inch Beach is a peninsular beach made by ocean drift, stretching almost all the way across Dingle Bay from the Dingle Peninsula to the Iveragh Peninsula.
It's a pretty impressive stretch of beach, especially with the low tide the way it was today.
It’s a pretty impressive stretch of beach, especially with the low tide the way it was today.
There's a neat little cafe at the beach, with the mountains of the Dingle Peninsual rising behind it.
There’s a neat little cafe at the beach, with the mountains of the Dingle Peninsual rising behind it.
On up the coastal road is a little spot called Fahan. It's got great views of the Dingle Bay cliffs.
On up the coastal road is a little spot called Fahan. It’s got great views of the Dingle Bay cliffs.
The cliffs are pretty dramatic.
The cliffs are pretty dramatic.
Up the hill a ways from Fahan is a little neolithic farmstead, with stone fences and a surviving beehive hut.
Up the hill a ways from Fahan is a little neolithic farmstead, with stone fences and a surviving beehive hut.
The beehive hut is still standing. Some of the other structures are undergoing some restoration.
The beehive hut is still standing. Some of the other structures are undergoing some restoration.
The rough coastline here is near the Blasket Islands.
The rough coastline here is near the Blasket Islands.
The Blasket Islands are, by some measures, the westernmost part of Europe. They had folks living on them up until 1953 when the last of them left.
The Blasket Islands are, by some measures, the westernmost part of Europe. They had folks living on them up until 1953 when the last of them left.
They are beautiful, rocky, remote islands.
They are beautiful, rocky, remote islands.
The land on the Dingle coast opposite the Blaskets is still pretty rugged.
The land on the Dingle coast opposite the Blaskets is still pretty rugged.
Then it was back down to Dingle town, a very pretty little coastal town.
Then it was back down to Dingle town, a very pretty little coastal town.
Dingle is a working harbour, mainly with fishing boats.
Dingle is a working harbour, mainly with fishing boats.
One of the things Dingle is famous for is Fungie the Dolphin, who has lived near the harbour mouth since 1983, and is known to come in and play with swimmers and follow the boats around.
One of the things Dingle is famous for is Fungie the Dolphin, who has lived near the harbour mouth since 1983, and is known to come in and play with swimmers and follow the boats around.
There's actually a store called The Dolphin Shop on the high street, dedicated to Fungie memorabilia.
There’s actually a store called The Dolphin Shop on the high street, dedicated to Fungie memorabilia.

And then it was back to Killarney, and not being on time to pick up my laundry.

This is my last night in Killarney, and my last night at Larkinley Lodge. Larkinley is a great B&B – Toni and Danny are great hosts, the room is beautiful and comfortable and quiet, and the bed is very comfortable.

But I’m looking forward to moving on to Kilkenny.

  1. Laundry service here is Toni taking the laundry to the laundrette, and me picking it up at the end of the day. Unfortunately, my tour got back late, and the laundrette was closed. I’ll have to pick it up tomorrow morning before I get on the train. []

A Bit of a Gap

It was beautiful weather today – sunny, just a few puffy clouds, a bit of a breeze. Seeing as I was spending most of the day outside, this was wonderful. Except, of course, that I forgot to put on any sunscreen. Yep, I got some pretty good sunburn on my arms and a bit on my face.

I was up fairly early because I needed to go down to the Deros Tours to find out which tour I was on today – I had booked both the Gap of Dunloe tour and the Dingle Peninsula tour, but I had lost the e-mail that told me which day was which. So, I had to go down early and find out which tour I was taking.

And then I walked around the High Street for a while, waiting for the tour to start.

The town centre of Killarney is very pretty. Killarney is pretty focused on tourism, and everyone is very friendly.
The town centre of Killarney is very pretty. Killarney is pretty focused on tourism, and everyone is very friendly.

The time came, and we got on the bus, and went up to Aghadoe to take a look at where we’re going today.

These are the lakes we're going to be boating on later.
These are the lakes we’re going to be boating on later.
The lakes are very beautiful from above.
The lakes are very beautiful from above.
There's no wonder that Killarney area is a popular tourist destination.
There’s no wonder that Killarney area is a popular tourist destination.

Then we were on to Kate Kearney’s Cottage.

This is the start of the trail up through the Gap of Dunloe. There are a number of men with horses and traps there to drive you through the gap if you don't want to walk the seven miles through the mountains.
This is the start of the trail up through the Gap of Dunloe. There are a number of men with horses and traps there to drive you through the gap if you don’t want to walk the seven miles through the mountains.
So we started up the gap, me and two charming Irish ladies, and the driver.
So we started up the gap, me and two charming Irish ladies, and the driver.
The steep walls lining the gap are studded with limestone outcroppings, looking both forbidding and picturesque.
The steep walls lining the gap are studded with limestone outcroppings, looking both forbidding and picturesque.
The first and deepest of the lakes in the gap, this is Black Lake.
The first and deepest of the lakes in the gap, this is Black Lake.
The road crosses and recrosses the chain of tiny lakes and rivers on similar rustic bridges as it switchbacks up the gap.
The road crosses and recrosses the chain of tiny lakes and rivers on similar rustic bridges as it switchbacks up the gap.
Looking back down the Gap of Dunloe towards Kate Kearney's Cottage.
Looking back down the Gap of Dunloe towards Kate Kearney’s Cottage.
The last lake in the gap is Serpent Lake, said to the be the place where St. Patrick eliminated the last snake in Ireland.
The last lake in the gap is Serpent Lake, said to the be the place where St. Patrick eliminated the last snake in Ireland.
At the top of the gap, looking down the other side into Black Valley. One of the most remote places in Ireland, with about thirty families living there. They just got electricity there in 1976.
At the top of the gap, looking down the other side into Black Valley. One of the most remote places in Ireland, with about thirty families living there. They just got electricity there in 1976.
The road down is a little less steep and far greener than the road up.
The road down is a little less steep and far greener than the road up.
And the horses get a well-deserved rest at the end of the trail.
And the horses get a well-deserved rest at the end of the trail.
The bridge to Brandon's Cottage, where we got to have lunch and board the boats.
The bridge to Brandon’s Cottage, where we got to have lunch and board the boats.
This tower is the original Lord Brandon's Cottage. It's not open to the public, because it's not safe. But it is cool.
This tower is the original Lord Brandon’s Cottage. It’s not open to the public, because it’s not safe. But it is cool.
This is just an awesome tree.
This is just an awesome tree.

I don’t have an interesting picture of the current Lord Brandon’s Cottage, simply because it’s not that interesting a building. It’s a little cafeteria, with a lot of picnic tables.

Down at the boats, pulling away from the docks at Lord Brandon's Cottage.
Down at the boats, pulling away from the docks at Lord Brandon’s Cottage.
The boats pass through three different lakes and a river as you circle Purple Mountain.
The boats pass through three different lakes and a river as you circle Purple Mountain.

 

This is Purple Mountain. On our trip, we brought along someone who lives in the valley, who wanted a lift to check on some sheep. Apparently, his family owns a couple thousand scattered over this mountainside.
This is Purple Mountain. On our trip, we brought along someone who lives in the valley, who wanted a lift to check on some sheep. Apparently, his family owns a couple thousand scattered over this mountainside.
The scenery is just gorgeous.
The scenery is just gorgeous.
The only channel out of the lake is through Coleman's Eye, a gap in the rocks about twelve feet wide.
The only channel out of the lake is through Coleman’s Eye, a gap in the rocks about twelve feet wide.
The river winds around the mountain.
The river winds around the mountain.
We saw a couple of swans, a couple of eagles, and a few herons along the way. According to the boatman, there would usually be more birds and other wildlife, but several years ago, someone in Waterville imported a bunch of minks to farm. When they inevitably escaped, they started breeding in the Kerry Mountains, and are a real problem for wildlife and sheep.
We saw a couple of swans, a couple of eagles, and a few herons along the way. According to the boatman, there would usually be more birds and other wildlife, but several years ago, someone in Waterville imported a bunch of minks to farm. When they inevitably escaped, they started breeding in the Kerry Mountains, and are a real problem for wildlife and sheep.
Looking back as we enter the next lake.
Looking back as we enter the next lake.
This bridge can apparently sometimes be underwater if the lakes rise too high, as they can if the rain is high.
This bridge can apparently sometimes be underwater if the lakes rise too high, as they can if the rain is high.
This bridge, leading into the big lake, doesn't get covered by water.
This bridge, leading into the big lake, doesn’t get covered by water.
Inisfallen is an island in the big lake that has the remains of an abbey/university from the sixth century on it. It was, apparently, one of the great centres for learning in Ireland.
Inisfallen is an island in the big lake that has the remains of an abbey/university from the sixth century on it. It was, apparently, one of the great centres for learning in Ireland.
We dock at Ross Castle, about a mile from the town of Killarney.
We dock at Ross Castle, about a mile from the town of Killarney.
Ross Castle is a 14th century castle. Ross is the Irish word for promontory, so this is the castle on the promontory.
Ross Castle is a 14th century castle. Ross is the Irish word for promontory, so this is the castle on the promontory.

Then it was back on the bus and back to Killarney. I wandered around for a bit, had a nice dinner at Quinlan’s – a fish place that catches its own fish. I had the special, which was John Dory with chips and salad – I’d never had John Dory, or even heard it, but it was tasty.

Walking back to the B&B, I grabbed a homemade honeycomb caramel ice cream cone. I had a lot of pictures to process at the B&B, many of which were not very good, as taking pictures in the back of a bouncing horse trap is not conducive to getting unblurred pictures.

Now, bedtime. Tomorrow, the tour of the Dingle Peninsula.

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.