Ireland 2008

We finally made it over to Ireland. I can’t believe how close it is and I haven’t gotten over till now! It was a first for Michael, and obviously for the kids-and though not my first trip there-it was a new experience for me as well. Instead of flying in and being met by family at Dublin Airport and staying with them in Dublin-I was also a complete tourist, going to a region I had not stayed in before. I have been to the major cities in the area for day trips on previous visits, but never stayed more than a day in any of them.

We started our holiday on Friday the 2nd. We were scheduled for the 6:30pm ferry from Fishgaurd to Rosslare. We got to Wales in plenty of time and stopped for a tea break at a garden centre outside Fishguard called Vincent’s Garden Centre-very nice shop. We had stopped earlier to eat a packed lunch, so we only had some tea and chips. Then we headed out to Strumble Head Lighthouse, which we had visited on our last trip to Wales. We thought we might see the ferry coming into the port-but we didn’t spot it.

Then we headed along to buy some more jam from Miranda’s Preserves– another place we stopped off the last time we were in Wales. When we were leaving Hazel spotted the ferry! They were thrilled to see it! So we raced down to the port to see the ferry come into port. The kids enjoyed that and were very excited to see the ferry. Can you tell?There weren’t many cars making the crossing, so the queue to get onboard didn’t take too long. Of course the ferry ride was the highlight of the day. We had some of the chicken and chips on board—not going to recommend that to anyone-unless you like overly greasy food.

We docked in Rosslare at 8:30pm-so a quick ferry ride, and spot on time. For the evening we booked into a B & B just two miles away. The room was lovely-if you like chintz, it would be your paradise. I’m sad to say my kids thought all the flowers were wonderful. The kids had been a bit wary of the B & B—they thought they’d have to eat whatever was cooked in the morning-they didn’t think there was going to be a choice. So of course it was delicious and they had what they liked-so it was given a thumb up by both kids. We weren’t scheduled to pick up the keys of the cottage till 4pm, so we had the day to explore.

Saturday: After we checked out we decided to go to Wexford city centre for a look around. We wandered along the waterfront for a bit and then into the shopping district. It was a bit grey out, but otherwise not bad. After we wandered there we decided to visit Waterford city centre. We just walked around and then finally found a place to have some sandwiches. The prices were shocking to us-and I thought England was pricey! So after our quick trips to both town centres we decided to head up to the cottage.

We rented a cottage in the Rathanna, Borris area in Southern Carlow County. This is the evening view from our cottage.Before we went to the cottage we stopped off in Borris to get a few groceries and some meat from the butchers. The kids had some of my mom’s favourite biscuits—Kimberley. They thought they were delicious. After getting a few things, and having a shock at the prices, we headed to the cottage. The landlord was there when we got there, so he showed us around. When he left we settled in, made some hamburgers for dinner and lit a fire—which was to be a nightly occurrence. We were all a bit late getting to bed-which was also going to be the case all week! The nights are longer there-by about an extra hour than here.

Quotes: As we were driving round from city to city on Saturday we passed numerous statues of crosses along the way. Though I was raised as an Irish Roman Catholic-we aren’t bringing the children up in any faith, nor have I gone into any of it with them as of yet. So my two have no idea what a cross is—which is very evident!

Hazel—so when Hazel saw a large wooden cross on a hill-she said in a puzzled voice—‘Look Mommy, A plane standing on its tail.’

Kieran—on seeing a wrought Iron cross in a fancy design on top of a building he said—‘Look, the weather vane is pointing both ways!’

Sunday: We woke to sunshine-which to our delight-was the theme of the week! As we were all a bit tired from the two days of travelling we decided to take it easy. I had seen an advert for a pottery shop that was near Kilkenny, so we decided to go visit the shop and then head on into Kilkenny. The pottery shop Nicholas Mosse was WAY out of our price range. And unless you have £100/$200 to spend on a plate-and I mean just the plate, I suggest you don’t go there. The dishes were lovely—but the prices were insane.

After we got over the shock of the prices, we decided to head to Kilkenny Castle. I had a lovely visit there years ago with my Grandmother and wanted to see it again. We decided to give the tour a miss as the kids weren’t really up to it. They decided to entertain themselves playing at the water fountain for awhile. After having a browse through the town we decided to head back to the cottage. When we got there we cooked a roast chicken dinner-it was very delicious. The kids had fun playing in the garden. It wasn’t kept in the best state-but it bordered a field and a farmers cottage-so there was plenty for them to explore. They enjoyed the white cow in the farmers garden and the heard in the other field next to us. They ran to the gate and waved as every tractor drove by. The cottage was just at the foot of Mount Leinster in the Blackstair Mountains so the views were very nice.

Monday: We decided to visit the Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford. When we were about 15 minutes from the cottage Michael realized he’d forgotten to lock the cottage-so we had to turn around and head back. When we got there we could see the keys dangling from the door-so good thing we went back! So after a later start then hoped-we set out to Wexford. The drive was very nice-we took the scenic route which was very easy to do in Ireland! The centre had set up replica housing from as far back as 9000 years, and some Viking ships. The kids really enjoyed looking round the buildings and the ship. It just opened so many new ideas and conversations for them-one being religion. We discussed the Celtic and Catholic religions-and I even explained what the cross was. And why I always preferred the Celtic cross.

When we were done there we decided to go to the beach in Curracloe, Wexford. Unfortunately there was a sea mist and we couldn’t see anything when we got there—and to add insult to injury, they had run out of the ice cream I’d told the kids they could have! So it was back to the car to try another location.

We ended up in Kilmore Quay, a fishing village in the south-east region of Wexford. The sea-mist hadn’t hit this area, which could explain the queues at the fish-n-ship shop. It took almost a ½ hour to get some dinner. The kids ate plenty but seemed to have plenty of room for a large ice-cream. We ate those and then walked along to the end of the pier before heading to the shops before going on to the cottage.

Tuesday: The most important thing today was it was our 7th Wedding anniversary! We made it!! We didn’t have an exchange of presents—we did that before we left. I got Michael a handheld GPS so we can go geocaching. (Sounds more like a gift for me as I’m the one who wants to do that!) So like anyone with a new toy-he used it the day we left to track our journey to Ireland! He gave me a web-link for a new Digital SLR camera—I’m going to have to pick one out—to make sure I like the cameras size.

So to celebrate, we drove to one of my favourite places in Ireland- Glendalough in Wicklow. We took the scenic route and had a small adventure en route. A doe and her fawn ran across the road in front of us-though the doe made the leap over the ditch on the side of the road-the fawn didn’t. We stopped the car to make sure the fawn was ok-he was. He was hiding in the thicket, but kept getting deeper into it. We decided to shoo him out of the thicket to make sure he was ok. He was! So off we went again! We then drove further along and stopped at a lovely pub to have a drink and eat our picnic lunch in the sunshine. It was on the Wicklow Way path but we don’t remember the name of it-it was beside a river and the kids had a play in the garden. Then we headed to Glendalough. We walked from the visitor centre to the ruins and then walked up to the upper lake. The kids had fun on the walk-walking up on the embankment with another boy. They were quite ready for an ice cream when we got to the upper lake. We then just sat at the lakeside beach and the kids had fun running round and throwing rocks into the lake.

An older tour guide was there with a small group of people. You could just tell he loved telling the local stories to whoever would listen to him—so I sent Kieran to ask him why there are no birds/ducks on the lake (Yes-I knew the story). Kieran got a lovely rendition of the story of St. Kevin and the lady who ‘fell’ from his cave one night into the lake-hence, no birds on the lake-or so the story goes! The tour guide spoke so loud and was enjoying having everyone on the beach as his audience-and then he came up to where we were sitting and expanded on some more of the local history. I so love Irish story tellers! It was the perfect way to end a lovely day in one of my favourite spots. Just felt odd being there without my one cousin—we always went there whenever I visited.

Wednesday: After such a long drive on Tuesday and yet another very late bedtime all round- we decided to take it easy and after lunch we went to explore a garden I wanted to visit, Altamont Gardens in Carlow. Michael was a bit reluctant, but gave in to me after saying a few times how wonderful I’d heard it was. I’m happy to report—they all agreed in the end that it was the best garden we’ve been to.

It was just over 40 acres or so and had a wonderful woodland walk along a stream down to the Slane River. The gardens blended seamlessly together—and it was a lovely 2 hour stroll—even the 100 steps just near the end!

After our stroll we headed to the main road to a café we spotted called The Forge. We had the lightest scones I’ve had in years! They were really delicious-and I’ve forgotten how much I like them with fresh cream over the clotted cream.

Thursday: Was a day for another long drive. I’d never been to the Tipperary region, so we headed out there to visit a couple of ruins. Our first stop was at the Rock of Cashel. It is an old ecclesiastical remain- it is said that St. Patrick was there and converted the local king at the time. The interesting part for me was that I had always heard our family (my Dad’s) had originally come from the Tipperary region. In the graveyard at the Cathedral I found three graves with my family name on it-they dated back to the 1700’s. I should do some family tree stuff one of these days!

The second stop of the day was to Cahir Castle—a great find! We had such a good time exploring the castle. It was built in the 13th century and was slightly renovated in the 1800’s, and then by the state in the 1900’s. You could climb up to the castle walls and explore all the turrets as well. We found some hidden walkways and the kids enjoyed learning more about the ‘violent’ past of the castles. They hadn’t heard of archers or anything before that-but seemed ok with the info. To add to the enjoyment of the day—the man at the desk didn’t charge us for the kids to enter. And if you’ve been to Ireland you’ll know why that was great—it was soooo expensive for everything.

After our visit to the castle we went to the souvenir shop across the wall. The kids’ great-gran had given them some money for their holiday-so we went so they could choose something. Kieran as always picked a car-an Irish paramedic car, his first paramedic car. Hazel picked out a lovely rag doll named Roisin—one of the names I was deciding to use when I was pregnant with her.

On the way back to the cottage we stopped off for dinner at the Fox and Goose in Kilkenny. They make excellent burgers! So if you ever drive by-it’s worth the stop.

Friday: Decided this morning that as we were in Carlow County, we should at least go to Carlow Town to see what it was like. Not worth the effort! So we just turned around and headed to Kilkenny. I had wanted to find a bookstore to find some books for the kids and I had remembered seeing a warehouse style bookstore along the Kilkenny road-so we went to find it. Another wasted effort! It was a huge toy store with one small section of books! Why didn’t they just call it a toy store? So after a bad-for-us-lunch at KFC-we headed back to the cottage to pack.

Saturday: Our ferry was leaving at 3pm, so that gave us some time to walk around Wexford for a bit. We finally found two bookshops that had what I wanted. In one shop one of the teenagers that worked there was very helpful and found the right type of books I was looking for. Before we went to Ireland I asked my mom if she wanted anything—one of the items was white pudding. Now-we can get that here, but it tends to be very oaty and I always remembered that it was smooth in Dublin. So, when we get to Ireland-we get the oaty one in the B & B and in the local shops and butchers. I’m still thinking this isn’t the right stuff-so when I noticed a butcher shop next to the parking lot when we were leaving I decided to stop in. They actually had a white smooth pudding called: Dublin pudding!

The Ferry was just as exciting to the kids coming home as in going over. They had a blast. We had stopped in the café just before the harbour-and just about everyone in the café was on our ferry. Though we were in the last group to get on the ferry-we were about the 20th off the ferry-yeah! It was just over a 3 hour drive home. We still had some sandwiches and fruit-so we stopped to eat those quickly and then snacked on nuts and dried fruit for the rest of the way home.

We had a great time and are looking forward to going back! But–as always–it wass nice coming home!

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