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Trip Report Ireland Trip + 3 days in Dublin

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This was a trip a long time coming . . . destination decided in early fall, reservations made, and then a lot of reading and planning. Many thanks to Fodor folks who took the time to answer my questions & hope this will be of help to others.

Daughter and I had a 9 day Globus tour that included stops in Kildare, County Mayo, Galway, Aran Islands, Limerick, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Blarney Castle, Waterford, Avoca, and Glendalaugh. Then we had 3 days “on our own” in Dublin, staying at Trinity University.
We had a bad start to the trip – a delay of 6 ½ hours before our plane left Atlanta, for a direct flight to Dublin. We landed at 3:00 p.m., instead of the planned 8:15 a.m., but things went smoothly after arrival. Weather was sunny and warm (mid-70s). We missed the 4:00 city tour provided by our Globus Emerald Isle package tour but felt fortunate that we had arrived in time to head out with the group early the next day.
I had been concerned that our Globus tour hotel, the Gibson (Point Village), would be too far away from the central city but hotel turned out to be surprisingly convenient and pleasant. Reception, oddly, was on the 3rd floor. We were able to reach the river sidewalk easily and then walked down as far as O’Connell Street in the late afternoon warmth. We walked by the Jennie Johnson famine ship and also the statues commemorating the famine victims and the Liberty Tower, with its Easter Uprising 1916 billboards. Made our way back to the hotel for the tour welcome dinner at the hotel. My last two Globus tours had been very small (22 on the one to France, 14 on the Reformation tour to Germany) so it was disappointing to have a big group (44) but we had an excellent guide and congenial fellow tour members. We sat with Canadians (British Columbia) for dinner; the group had 10 of them, the rest Americans. My Irish stew main dish was good and we got to bed early – ready for the first day of tour.

Saturday, June 4th . . . Enjoyed good breakfast, including scrambled eggs with cheese on toasted brown bread. I enjoyed the Irish soda brown bread and ate it every time possible on this trip. We were on our way out of Dublin at 8:15, driving across the Curragh to the Irish National Stud at Kildare. Sunny warm day, open countryside with sheep, cattle and horses. We had tour of the stables & horses – I have no knowledge and not even a lot of interest in horses but I enjoyed this, enjoyed being outside. Favorite part though was visiting the Japanese gardens (called the “finest example of Japanese gardens in Europe”) and even dashing to the new St. Fiachra’s garden for a quick look at a replica of a beehive house.
On then to Strokestown House . . . where daughter and I shared a ploughman’s lunch (cheese, brown bread, ham, pork, apple, grapes, onions and lettuce). We toured the 1740s house and then were led through their famine museum. Very interesting . . . house’s wealthy Irish land owner was killed at the height of the famine, many of his tenants had been evicted and died on famine ships heading to the New World. The house was inhabited by member of the family until 1979 and there were interesting signs of how the last owner had coped with diminishing fortunes and changing times. The new owner, a local businessman, discovered documents relating to the famine times in the estate office when he took over & realized the history should be preserved. I especially enjoyed the restored gardens (6 acres, walled) and wished for more time. Would recommend this as a place to visit: http://www.strokestownpark.ie/

Last stop at the day was at Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Knock. I’m not Catholic so especially baffled by this place with its many shops selling holy water containers and religious memorabilia. The basilica itself was very modern. While it was interesting to watch people for a few minutes, I was ready to go within 15 minutes. Some folks did a lot of shopping at this stop so I have to admit it was of interest to people, just not to me. There was an old cemetery that we could have walked to and also a small museum that had already closed – they probably would have been interesting.
We arrived at Claremorris’s McWilliam Park Hotel (County Mayo) for the night about 6 p.m. Our guide said there was little of interest in the town but daughter and I made the 10 minute walk down there and I was fascinated by their library, which seemed to be in an ancient church. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open so I couldn’t get inside but did get pictures. We hurried back to the hotel for our tour dinner. Dining area was noisy as there was both a wedding reception and a birthday party going on at the same time. Service was slow but one couldn’t fault the young wait staff, they were working hard. I had cod, tasty cooked purple cabbage, and trifle for dessert. Daughter and I walked a few minutes after dinner but hotel’s out of the way location was discouraging. This hotel was the only disappointment of the trip – night was hot so we needed the windows opened but it was very noisy outside (band playing until 1 a.m.). The hotel room doors were very noisy, we could hear when neighbors would come in.

Sunday, June 5th . . . 8:15, back on the road, drove through Westport (would have been much more pleasant evening stop than Claremorris!), and then headed towards Kylemore Abbey. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day which may influence why I think Connemara is the most beautiful part of Ireland. We had excellent view of Croagh Patrick, site of huge pilgrimages and visitors on Reek Sunday (last Sunday in July) when they climb the mountain to honor the 40 days and nights Patrick spent there.
Then reached the bays where the water sparkled in the sunshine and the roadsides were speckled with the pinkish purple blooms of the rhododendron and yellow gorse. The hedgerows were full of the white blooms of the blackthorn tree, yellow gorse also blooming. The scenery was especially beautiful when we came to the bay that extends between the mountains, creating a mini-fiord. The landscape was very rocky, mostly shrubs (that were blooming), with stone walls extending erratically up and down the mountains.

We arrived at Kylemore Abbey about 10:15. It was originally built in the 1860s as a private home for a wealthy English family; then sold to a group of Belgium Benedictine nuns fleeing Ypres, Belgium after WWI who used it as an exclusive girls boarding school. Daughter and I resisted the abbey itself, instead hurried to the shuttle running up to the gardens. At its height, the gardens had included a formal garden, many glasshouses (including individual glasshouses for figs, tomatoes, and bananas), a vegetable garden, a workman’s croft and a very nice head gardener’s house. Much of the gardens, excepting the glasshouses, had been restored and were beautiful on this early June sunny day. We took pictures, admired the blooms, wandered a bit on the woodland trail (admiring the ferns and big trees), then walked down the trail back to the house. We decided to have our quick lunch (bowl of excellent broccoli & potato soup + brown bread for me) early, before crowds, then dashed through the parts of the Abbey that were open so we would have more time to walk along the river and to visit the little Gothic replica church that the original owner had built. Reluctantly returned to bus at 1:15, wishing we had at least another hour at this beautiful place. Would recommend a half day or full day to properly appreciate it: http://www.kylemoreabbey.com/
Back on the road again, driving through Quiet Man countryside (and seeing in the distance a bridge that was made famous by the film). Our guide told us about a popular Irish film, The Field starring Richard Harris, made in the area that I now want to see. I enjoyed the little towns that we passed through here, and throughout Ireland, that had houses and shops of varied bright colors. Particularly on rainy days later in the trip they were cheering!

At Moycullen, before arriving in Galway, we stopped at the Joyce family’s marble workshop – something I had thought of as a bathroom and shopping break but that was a surprisingly nice educational experience. The owner of shop was there to show us the different colors of marble mined in the area’s quarries, the means of polishing, etc., and then we were turned loose to shop – and I actually regret that I didn’t buy any jewelry with the lovely green Connemara marble although daughter did get some earrings. We walked across the road to an additional shop that they had, filled with random furnishings from the past century and a table set for company. Charming and a pleasant 30 minute break from the bus.

Then . . . arrival in Galway, at our nicest hotel of the trip, the Radison Blu. The hotel had river views but it wasn’t really by a part of the river that was pleasant walking so daughter & I walked a couple of blocks towards the center of town. Sunday of a Bank holiday weekend – it was busy. We walked around in Eyre Park (official name JFK Memorial Park, in honor of his 1963 visit to the park) and then returned to hotel for the bus trip out to Dunguaire Castle. Castle itself was in a beautiful spot, sun shining strongly on the bay. We entered castle & were served a glass of mead (a tasty alcoholic drink to me, maybe because it was sweet), then headed into the banquet hall. There was seating for perhaps 40 people so had a nice, intimate feel to it. I had excellent smoked salmon for my first course (best smoked salmon of the trip), a very mediocre chicken & vegetable medley & potatoes for main course (potato part excellent though) and apple pie for dessert.
The entertainment part was charming – harp music, recitation, poetry, bits of drama and song put together in a way to tell a bit of the Irish literary history of the area. After entertainment, we had a little time to wander through the gift shop or outside (I chose outside and wished I had on tennis shoes, there was a clear but rocky path around the castle that would have given a view out on the bay but I didn’t trust going that far in dress shoes). Was charmed by the lone swan in the bay and tried to get a good picture of him – not knowing that I’d see many, many more swans later in Galway, Limerick, and Killarney.

(To be continued . . . )

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    (2nd installment . . . sorry it is taking so long!)

    Monday, June 6th: A lovely breakfast the next day in a charming bright dining room with views of the river before setting out for the Aran Island adventure. We saw the Bank holiday Galway residents out walking along the bay, even swimming in it, on what seemed a pleasant spring day to me. Over an hour to the ferry, then loaded up, then a wait, then a 40 minute easy ferry ride to Inishmore. Beautiful day, beautiful views of the island. Walked around the dock, up the hill to Ti Joe Watty’s pub for an early lunch (soup and sandwiches). Owner’s son talked to us a bit about growing up on Aran Islands and did a few songs, took questions.
    The best part of the day was definitely the shuttle bus ride around the island (driver gave good background about the island, we stopped at old church and cemetery ruin) and then Dun Aengus, the prehistoric stone fort perched up a cliff top. Luckily it was a dry day, otherwise the steep climb up might have been slippery.
    Interesting to reflect on why people would have built such an extensive structure (was it really a fort? Or some kind of religious place?) right on the edge of a cliff, looking out over the ocean. Can not imagine anyone would have tried to invade by climbing that cliff anyway but the fort could be seen for a long distance so maybe it was intended to “shock and awe”. Ireland doesn’t put railings and signs everywhere but trusts people to have sense enough not to go falling over the cliffs.
    We went quickly through the museum, reminding self about how very long old (before Christian era) this place was.
    Loads of wildflowers blooming everywhere on the island. Our guide said the sheep on island were just for meat now, no one uses the wool for knitting. (Wool imported for whatever knitting is still done.) Had just a sprinkle of rain as we were waiting for ferry but otherwise another pretty day. Guide pointed out a red Galway hooker on the water as we came back & told us that the abstract sculpture in Eire Square represents the Galway hookers.
    Back at hotel by 5:30. No tour dinner so instead had excellent fish and chips at McDonagh’s (recommended by both Rick Steves and our Globus guide); shared an outside table with a friendly honeymooning couple from California. Then we did a bit of sightseeing, got down to the medieval Spanish gate and the river. Wished we had gotten back in time to visit the Galway museums but maybe another time. Inishmore and especially Dun Aengus very interesting but they did take up an entire day.

    Tuesday, June 7th: Sorry to leave the very comfortable Radisson but out by 8:15, heading to Rathbaun Farm. I was a bit skeptical about this – a lesson in scone making and then a sheep shearing and dog herding demonstration? But I enjoyed the visit very much.
    Beautiful rural Rathbaun Farm . . . little cottage with thatched roof where farm owner was born and raised. We were greeted by our scone instructor, owner’s cousin and neighbor, who herded us all into a workroom, divided us into small groups and turned us into scone makers. I can’t remember all the advice: preheat baking pan as well as oven. We had the ingredients laid out in front of us (and this southern cook was glad to see that they use self rising flour, too!) and then mixed, kneaded, patted dough and cut the scones out. While they were baking, we headed out to see the sheep and meet the sheep dog. Quite interesting to watch sheep dog herd – he was bringing in 3 sheep for shearing and the farmer explained that it is harder to herd small numbers than large. The shearing process was difficult to watch – the reality of sheering was messy.
    We ate our scones with tea & they were the best scones ever, crisp on both bottom and top and soft and melting with butter on the inside. Looked in the little cottage, walked around the edges of the garden & admired the big trees – it was a good morning. But then we were back on the bus.
    Headed out of Galway, on scenic route across The Burren (a high limestone plateau). It was an interesting area – desert like because of the lack of soil but with lots of vegetation in the rock cracks. We had a 20 minute break to explore at the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a Neolithic portal tomb. I clambered out a ways just to see what was growing (flowers and even ferns), enjoyed the openness of the landscape.
    We arrived at the Cliffs of Moher about noon and had until 2:30 to explore – our guide insisted it would be chilly with the wind out on the cliffs but it was a bright, sunny day so the light jackets we both carried were totally unnecessary. Beautiful, spectacular place, particularly at high noon in early June, with the sun making the ocean waves below us sparkle and the cliffs stand out in sharp relief. We climbed to the top with all the tourists, took pictures, gazed around, and then realized there was a trail going off for as far as we could see out along the cliffs on both sides. We headed off, along with a lots of folks, but very quickly, the crowd was gone and there was only a few people at wonderful other view points. I have a bit of acrophobia but this didn’t bother me, for some reason, although I didn’t go right to the edge like daughter did. We could see birds in little nooks all up and down the cliff & thought they might be puffins but learned later they were probably gannets.
    After climbing up and down and seeing the trail continue on & on (to the next town, miles away, we learned), we turned back and then hiked a bit on the other side. Time ran out on us here and we never got beyond the crowds but it again was so beautiful. We made it back to the visitor center that is set back into the cliffs in time to join a bathroom line but not in time for lunch or exhibits. Could have happily spent the whole day here but realize that if weather different, it wouldn’t have been the spectacular sight we enjoyed.

    We arrived at the Strand Hotel in downtown Limerick about 4:00, rested a moment, and then set out to explore. Hotel location excellent, we were right at major bridge across River Shannon. We turned at King John’s Castle and hurried along to St. Mary’s Cathedral, oldest Limerick building still in use dating back to c. 1150, but it had already closed for the day. Largest cathedral we had seen yet on our trip so we walked around it, talked to couple from Utah with 2 teen age sons whose luggage had all been lost on their flight over several days before. We walked along the busy shopping street, spotted an indoor mall with Sainsbury. Came out with sandwich, salad, fruit and potato crisps – enjoyed observing the other shoppers, with their bags of onions, leeks and potatoes checking out. Good thing I had my shoulder bag to put everything in – that is expected.
    We returned to the hotel, made our tea & coffee to go with meal and enjoyed peaceful supper by the window, finishing up with leftover scones from the morning. Back out again, watched the swans on the river and the occasional dog walkers at one of the little parks, and just enjoyed being outside. Many of the tour group had gone on the Globus optional evening dinner trip to Bunratty and next morning we heard about the wonderful Irish singing and dancing we had missed. But it was also nice just to experience a bit of Limerick, a much more interesting and pleasant city downtown than expected. Don’t understand why Rick Steves completely ignores city in his guidebook!

    Next morning, I was up early enough for a before 7 a.m. short walk along the river and this time I noticed the Treaty Stone along the sidewalk. Our hotel was right at the center of some Irish Rising incidents, too. Pleasant breakfast (highly recommend Limerick Strand hotel for its location and ambience).
    Globus had arranged for us to get into King John’s Castle 30 minutes before it officially opened (one of those moments when I remember why I like big tour companies!). Very interesting, we climbed all around and got a great view from the top of the battlements, a sense of how we were at the mouth of a large river, close to the ocean and enemy ships could come sailing in at any moment.
    Instead of coffee and cake, daughter and I hurried the 2 blocks back to St. Mary’s Cathedral & it was worth the 5 Euros to see the interior for even a few minutes. Church walls were light stone (maybe limestone?), huge altar, saw the slits in a corner for medieval lepers, and the carved choir misericords.
    Back in the bus, a quick stop at the Treaty Stone for a picture & time for daughter and I to dart across the street to go in the much smaller Saint Munchkin’s Catholic Church, which dated back to the early 1900s. Outside walls of limestone; we recognized beautiful polished green Connemara marble on the altar!
    As we headed out of Limerick, our guide told us about how the folks of Limerick resented Frank McCourt’s description of Limerick from the 1940s and 1950s, when he was growing up poor with a father who drank away his wages. I can see that during rainy, cold times it would be cold and grim but again, in June sunshine, seemed a beautiful place.

    Next came Foynes and their Flying Boat Museum, which seemed a waste of time to me and most of the others on the tour. Interesting to hear about Irish coffee & get a demo in making it, the guided tour through the museum okay but definitely not the way I would have chosen to have spent a sunny beautiful mid-day. (This is what I don’t like about a tour!) We ate at the museum café, not much else at the town.
    We arrived at Killarney and the Riverside Hotel about 2:15 and immediately set out in jaunting carts for a ride through the park. So beautiful! The trees were so big that it was darker inside the park and the visit to Muckross Abbey ruins was fascinating. A huge yew tree was growing up in the central courtyard. Graveyard had both recent and very old graves.
    Again, sun shining, blue sky, perfect temperature. We returned to the hotel at 4:00, then the jaunting carts headed back into the town of Killarney with

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    (continued) with those of us who wanted to stay on for the 1/4th mile ride. Some were heading in to shop and eat but we had plans to get into the park itself.
    I had read that one could easily enter the park inside the town but that was harder than it seemed. The first two entrances we came to were mysteriously closed & locked so we carried along on the sidewalk, finally able to turn into the park about 10 minutes past the center of town. Obviously, we should have done more research and asked our Globus guide or jaunting car driver. Rick Steves guidebook, which we had with us, not helpful either. What followed was a wonderful, magical walk of almost 3 hours on a level path. We first walked along a narrow river with lots of greenery, flowers, trees, etc., then we came to the lakes and eventually we made our way to Ross Castle, exhausted and well after its closing time. Such a beautiful spot. More swans on the water in front of the castle.
    I realize now that our 3 hour walk is part of the “Gap of Dunloe trip” and could have included a waterfall and a boat trip if we had done the whole thing. I love Ireland’s parks – no admission fees, no ropes and barriers but I did miss the information kiosks that seem more plentiful in our parks. Again, don’t understand why the closer to town gates were locked. Would love to visit park again and spend several days walking but part of the magic of this walk was the beautiful sunny weather and perfect temperature. We were very tired when we got back to town about 8:00, found a restaurant that quickly served us excellent shepherd’s pie and then we walked the final way back to hotel.
    Am of mixed opinion about the hotel – wish it had been downtown Killarney but it was right next to the river, a little park, and the Kerry Way. Both mornings I got up early and did a few yoga stretches by the river, saw a great blue heron fishing both mornings and savored the 30 minutes or so of being on my own. I did notice a tent, with boots by it, tucked under some trees that was in the park both mornings. Homeless, a camper, I don’t know. Hotel was not air conditioned and it was hot in our room both nights. Leaving window open means not drawing curtains which means early morning sun. First morning of our stay I saw beautiful sunrise over mountains at a ridiculous hour, 2nd morning woke up to gray skies.
    And 2nd morning was our drive on the Ring of Kerry. (To be continued)

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    I have never been to Muckross Abbey or Ross castle. I am so glad you had sunny weather. I love the cliffs at Inishmore more than the cliffs of Moher. Did you see seals?
    Saint Munchkin’s Catholic Church, which dated back to the early 1900s. Outside walls of limestone; we recognized beautiful polished green Connemara marble on the altar! I would have loved seeing that. You sound like us with the Sainsbury stop but I am always looking for Marks and Spencer. Great take away when you get tired of restaurants. I love doing that for a picnic.

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    Van driver pointed out 2 spots that he said were seals but I was too far way to claim seeing them. Think the boat trip at Ross's Castle would have been good. We needed more time at the park!

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    Tour not ideal but if you don't want to drive, it does get you around to many places. Also makes trip less stressful. I enjoy the fellow travelers as well. Will be back with rest of trip story soon.

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    Resuming trip report . . .

    Ring of Kerry drive was a disappointment. I think I expected too much. There were some beautiful spots but I had been spoiled by sunny, blue sky weather so missed the sparkle of the ocean. It seemed gray like the clouds hanging heavy in the sky.
    We stopped at a little restaurant/gift shop that had opened for us to use their bathrooms; stayed for 30 minutes so folks could have coffee and shop (and to compensate the owners for opening a bit early). There was nowhere to go during that time other than the shop. We stopped in town where Charlie and Iona Chaplin’s often visited; watched the waves washing up to shore. We stopped at several spots, including one to view one of the small ring forts but we were too far away to see it well. Also saw Skellig Michael from a distance. I think there were roads off this main road around the peninsula that big bus couldn’t manage that would have been interesting.
    Lunch stop was at Sneem. We did stop at a couple of places for wonderful views of the mountains (the McGillycuddy Reeks) as we headed back towards Killarney. In the old I love Lucy shows, Lucy’s maiden name was McGillycuddy I was sure the screenwriters had invented the name!
    We were back at hotel by 2:00, set out soon afterwards for a tour of Muckross House which was enjoyable. Best of all were the gardens – biggest rhododendron I ever expect to see in my life. By the time we reached the hotel, it was raining lightly. Dinner was at the hotel and then daughter and I walked to town, to souvenir shop again, in a light rain. We had umbrellas and jackets so we didn’t get too wet but the lively spirit was gone from the streets, there were no boys dancing, no street musicians singing, and even some of the stores seemed to have closed early.
    Next morning there was no pretty sunrise, just heavy clouds and while I was outside, admiring the river again, it started raining lightly. After we were on our way, it started raining more steadily. We arrived at Blarney Castle about 10:30, I think, and had until 12:30 for our visit. Blarney was a pleasant surprise, an interesting and beautiful place. We had turned the corner of Ireland & were now on the south coast, with its even more winter temperate climate. The gardens were lovely; a few palm and banana trees thriving in sheltered spots of the extensive garden.
    Yes, we did go up in the castle (for its great views!) and were part of the line to kiss the Blarney Stone. It was fun although I don’t think I actually touched the stone itself on my slide out over the wall. The Blarney family must have been rich and clever because the property itself was beautiful, with extensive gardens. We didn’t make it to the House itself, only the old castle and tower .
    The rain turned from light to moderate as we toured the gardens. We enjoyed the rock garden & waterfalls and also went back into a cave that had provided an escape route for the Blarney residents along the river but didn’t have enough time for all the gardens, to take the lakeside walk or to view the Blarney House & arboretums.
    Grabbed a quick sandwich and made it back to the bus in a steady rain. Even with our rain gear, we were wet. Some folks had spent their entire time in the Blarney woolen mills, which we missed entirely. Blarney worth at least half a day, probably an entire one, again to my surprise.
    Then off to Waterford . . . I didn’t think I’d be interested in the crystal factory and showroom & I really wasn’t. The items were beautiful but I knew I wasn’t going to buy and the craft process of blowing the glass didn’t interest me either. But, within 45 minutes, daughter and I were back out on the street and Waterford itself was enjoyable & quite an old, historical city.
    Our hotel (the Tower Hotel) was very central to city and river so we just crossed the street to tour the old Viking Tower, sticking up in the middle of town. Then headed over to the medieval museum, which was excellent. Bottom floor the old cloisters. Beautiful , early church vestments in the museum and early records also on display. Well worth the time.
    We walked through town for a few minutes and had planned to visit a church but it was having 5:30 services when we went in.
    Back to Tower Hotel and our small, narrow, stuffy room – we asked room service to come up and help us with the window but it never really cooled down well in the room (outside temperature in high 60s). Globus provided us with a hotel dinner and I was not expected it to be anything special but it was.. I had delicious, creamy seafood chowder and very tender and tasty lamb. Best meal of the trip; made the stay in the hotel worth it.
    Daughter and I walked and explored more that evening , took pictures of the Viking ship outside the Tower, walked over to the river, which was very sluggish, no swans on this one. The river at Galway was nice but Limerick, on the Shannon, had the best riverfront of any of our Irish stops.
    Next morning I was out before breakfast and enjoyed walking around, down at the river. Waterford did have the temper somehow of an old, old city (which it is).
    We headed out for last day in grayness, drove by Roscommon and Enniscorthy but did not stop. Arrived about 10:15 at Avoca, a charming place, and enjoyed a tour of the woolen mills (but it was just a tour, one worker had come in to have a loom going for us but it was a Saturday). I don’t weave or knit but have friends that do so I enjoyed seeing all the bright colored threads and yarn, enjoyed hearing how the place has been going since the 1700s. We were encouraged to eat in their tea room & the food did look good but it was too early for me. Most beautiful woolens we saw in the shop but I didn’t want to buy.
    Daughter and I walked outside and down to the little sparkling river & into the field a bit but anxious to get on the way to Glendalough. It was a beautiful, green drive through the mountains into the old monastery complex. Our Globus tour guide warned us that weather prediction was for rain coming soon so we left the bus with rain jackets and umbrellas. Glendalough guide gave us history; monastery’s heyday was around 1100, destroyed by the English in 1398. It was a center of learning and a real community. . We saw a well preserved round tower, which probably had 5 floors, and stood in the ruins of the large Romanesque church that had served monastery and local community.
    There was an extensive graveyard but most striking was St. Kevin’s Cross, a plain high cross made from one piece of granite. The guide took us inside Kevin’s Kitchen (Church). One only gets inside the church with a guided tour and it was an interesting experience.
    We had an hour after guided tour was over but we had not done a good job of planning -- guide had mentioned another old church along the path but when we tried it, we realized that we had no idea how far it would be. We did enjoy walking for a few minutes, seeing the meadows and pastures, but then returned to the monastery ruins just as it started raining. We continued wandering around, just soaking up atmosphere but time was short and we again sloshed back to the bus, a bit early, to eat snacks before we started moving again.
    Rain kept getting harder and the drive on to Dublin had some real downpours. Would like to visit Wicklow area again, hopefully in better weather.

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    McGillycuddy, I have a friend whose maiden name was that. Did not know that about Lucy.
    I went to Avoca, we orders two things from the cafe and did not like them at all so headed straight for Fitzgerald's for a pint. The fish cakes were suppose to be so good but were horrible. A beet salad was just as bad. They filmed Balleykissangel there.

    Glendalough is beautiful, I am going to try and get there again in September. Great memories with your daughter.

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    Regret that I wasn't prepared for Glendalough. Signs and brochures not as informative as at American sites and parks but fewer roped off areas, too, so shouldn't complain. I am already thinking of trip back in a couple of years. Will finish my trip report with 3 days in Dublin, on our own.

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    Finishing up now in Dublin
    Midafternoon arrived at Kilmainham Hilton with Globus tour group, ready to sightsee for the rest of the day. But what should we do? Our plan had been to visit the Gaol right across the street from the hotel but we had just realized earlier in the day that it wasn’t a matter of lining up for a ticket – we needed a reservation and none were available. 2016 edition of Rick Steves had no mention about the difficulty in getting a ticket! Website says to book ahead to avoid long delays but doesn’t indicate that none may be available – Saturdays in June probably super busy in Easter Rising anniversary year.
    Daughter is definitely not a fan of modern art and I am lost with it but the Dublin Modern Art Museum was nearby & in a beautiful, huge building with lovely grounds. So it became our default tourist stop. We got to the gate and the drizzle turned to steady rain as we sloshed our way up the long driveway to the building that was once the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, “the finest 17th century building in Ireland” and originally used as a home for retired soldiers. Beautiful courtyards and formal gardens are hard to appreciate in rain so we headed inside to look at the collection but we were back out again in about 30 minutes.
    Looking at their website since, I see that they had an exhibit on the history of the building which we would have enjoyed. It also seems that the cemetery and other areas were open but we didn’t see the entrances – and again, in rain, it was difficult to enjoy outdoors. Lovely old trees and some signage that indicated possible ancient graves underneath them & area was possibly the site of important battle between Vikings and Irish High King.
    So disappointed not to get into the Kilmainham Jail that I went by to try to beg our way in on the way back to the hotel. Very nice young ticket agent was sympathetic but I had waited too long – everything was closing soon. We did tour the Kilmainham Courthouse next door quickly and that was interesting. Told myself that Jail would have been heart-breaking so best not to be haunted by it.
    By the time we walked to nearby restaurant, the rain had turned to mist and as we looked out the 2nd story window by our table, the sun started shining again. My seafood was good & daughter’s lamb was also (but not as good as the lamb at the Waterford Tower Hotel the night before.) We walked afterwards, trying to find the WWI Memorial Park (not successful) and giving up before we got far enough to find the Phoenix Park. Hotel was nice but not in a convenient spot for rather timid walking tourists.
    A rainy Sunday morning at the Hilton . . . we saw some of our fellow Globus tour travelers with their bags, heading to the airport, as we went into breakfast about 8 a.m. I enjoyed brown soda bread and honey for last time & we left hotel by taxi about 9:15 in a light rain, headed to our home for the next 3 nights, Trinity University.
    Very easy to find the reservations office & a quick check-in but room not ready, of course, so we took the excellent campus tour done by a history grad (included our ticket into Trinity University Library but we decided to do that another day). Saw the statute of the Provost who didn’t want to admit women & heard how very recent it has been that female Trinity graduates have been able to go through the graduation ceremony. Also learned the Easter Rising even had its moments on the Trinity campus, it was a British stronghold. But most fun was hearing about the Trinity Library & the huge Oregon maples next to it, so lush & green that they’ve managed to lower the immediate water table and prevent water leakages on the bottom floors of the library.
    Then to campus entrance to assemble for another Historical Walk with a group of about 30 (unusually large, our guide said). The weather remained gray and chilly but no actual rain – walked past the Bank of Ireland, to the River Liffey and onto the Ha’Penny Bridge, to Christ Church (we didn’t go in) and finished at the beautiful Mayor’s House. Not an Easter Rising tour but we heard lots about it, especially women’s roles, from our young female guide. Two+ hour excellent tour & hungry and tired at the end. We had lunch at a busy KC Peaches chain & then went back to Trinity to actually check in our room.
    We were in an old stone building, right next to the chapel and the Provost statute, and luckily on bottom floor.
    I saw no elevator in the building. Our room was stark and very dorm like but clean and adequate. Bathroom small but again adequate. Disappointed that we didn’t have our own hot water kettle for convenience but the kitchen (for 4 rooms) was next door. Tea, coffee, sugar and creamer were provided along with refrigerator, sink, microwave, and kettle. It was a pleasant room with table & windows but we never saw anyone else using it except for the housekeeping staff. We were next door to the Buttery but our eating times never coincided with their hours, unfortunately.
    On with sightseeing, in a light drizzle, to the National Museum of Archaeology -- a beautiful building with marble mosaic floors. We saw a passage tomb reconstruction, cauldrons, Beaker pottery, a log long boat, beautiful amber and gold jewelry found in bogs and then large exhibits devoted to the Hill of Tara, bog people and the Viking/early Christian battle for Dublin led by the last Irish “High King”, Brian Boru, in 1014.
    I liked the early Christian bells and reliquaries and the “pocket books”, the small Bibles that monks carried with them from place to place. We stayed at museum until it closed, then walked back to our dorm room in the drizzle, stopping at a Spar store to pick up sandwiches for supper & yogurt for breakfast. After eating, the weather had improved so we walked around Merriam Square into St. Stephen’s Park, enjoying the lush greenery and 1916 signs. Lots of people still out when we headed back at 8:30 but Trinity University itself was quiet, most of the tourists gone and only us “temporary residents” still wandering around.
    Monday morning . . . had my walk around campus at 6:30 a.m., before tourists arrived. We ate a quick breakfast in the dorm kitchen and then arrived at the Trinity Library when they opened at 8:30. Opening time was a mystery – their sign said 9:30, the website said 8:30 and Rick Steves said 9:00. Correct time was 8:30 so we were able to walk in easily and have a couple of minutes alone in front of the opened pages of Book of Kells after going through the exhibit that explained it very well. Such beautiful, intricate detail!
    The Long Room of Trinity Library was breath taking – glossy old wood, shelves and books stacked from floor to ceiling, arranged by size. One had a sense of what a special place this had been, how precious the books once were. Beautiful medieval harp, Seamus Healy and independent exhibits, also on display. Library’s gift shop was, of course, very crowded.
    We headed next, in more drizzle, to Dublin Castle & bought tickets for a timed tour – then headed over to the Chester Beatty Library to admire its manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, rare books and decorative objects. We saw an early Chinese encyclopedia and an early Japanese novel, also sacred texts or objects from many religions. Impressive collection of early Christian scroll fragments; also Islamic scrolls and books.
    Lunch was hot carrot soup in the museum restaurant, then off to Dublin Castle Tour that started down underneath the castle. Heard the story of the “turning over of Dublin Castle to the Irish in 1922”; visited the gray stone chapel, saw fancy drawing room, banquet hall and throne room, plus the room where a wounded James Connolly was brought after the Easter Rising.
    Consulted our city map and decided to head next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was huge, built of gray stone and had tour buses all around. The small side area by the entrance was the most interesting spot, the old baptistery, with the “feel” of the medieval stones, but once inside, it was bustling and lined with statutes, decommissioned regimental flags, etc., and full of tourists.
    As Ireland’s national cathedral (not Catholic, Church of Ireland), it reminded me of Westminster. Learned more about Jonathon Swift, a good guy, Dean of the Cathedral for many years – exhibited is his death mask and various possessions.
    We stopped by Ireland’s National Library on our way to the National Gallery but no time to enjoy the exhibits. I did get a peek in their reading room, in its baby blue colors.
    The National Gallery is undergoing extensive renovation and the collection seemed very disorganized and scanty. I enjoyed the Picasso, a Czech rooftops painting and early Monet and Van Gogh in their “modern section”. In the “Old European” section, the Caravaggio commanded attention, drew the eyes. Also enjoyed the Vermeer painting. Liked the couple of early Jack Yeats paintings in this section better than the ones in the “modern room”.
    Picked up another sandwich and rested a while in our room before heading to the small Peacock stage of the Abbey Theatre. It wasn’t a long walk so we had time to cross over and see the GPO building before weaving through construction to get to the Abbey Theatre. The play we saw was The Town is Dead, very Irish and very intense and sad. Most of our fellow audience members seemed to be Americans. We were out by 9:15 and made the 15 minute walk back to Trinity in full daylight, even stopping for a moment in one of the Carroll gift stores.
    Tuesday – Woke up to another chilly, drizzly morning. We headed out early to catch the GrayLine Tour Bus for a visit to seaside town of Howth, New Grange Passage Tomb and Hill of Tara. The main thing we wanted to see was New Grange but I think if the weather had been clear, Howth would have been our favorite. Even so, we enjoyed the stop to see a lighthouse there (that completely disappeared in the mist as we watched) and then the town itself.
    Going in, we drove the by the ruins of the a church and we spent our free hour getting something hot to drink at Insomniac (an Irish chain) and climbing back up to the 14th century St. Mary’s Abbey where we got a lovely (although foggy) view of the harbor below.
    Then, a lovely road along the River Boyne and through a tunnel of green to New Grange. We rushed to get in line for food, right before the line got long and I had excellent vegetable remoulade & coleslaw & beets to fortify me for the shuttle up to the New Grange hill and tour.
    Raining lightly again as we listened to our guide explain what’s known about the passage tombs while waiting for our turn to go in the tomb itself – very nice to be able to be with a very small group, see the roofbox and the amazing stones with their whirled carvings. The guide turned out the lights and we had a simulated light coming in through the roof box, just as the sun would have (if there were no clouds) for 5-6 days centering on Winter Solstice. Once out of tomb, daughter and I walked around it, admiring the 97 keel stones and the amazing views from the top of the hill, with other tombs in sight. So amazing to think that New Grange dates back to before the pyramids, before Stonehenge.
    Back at the museum, we went through exhibits and then walked back to our GrayLine bus but I wished for more time to be outside there. I loved the views of the River Boyne, with its strong current and all the blooming wildflowers and green grass.
    On to the Hill of Tara – which turned out to be not one hill but a high grassy spot, looking down on areas and having views well off into the distance, even on our completely gray day there. We saw Slade’s Hill, with its bell tower for St. Patrick, and stayed on while others went back for coffee and tea, just so we could have our last moment with the Irish landscape, marveling at the fact that we were cold, with jackets, in the month of June. We walked around in the church and graveyard there before boarding the bus back for the rainy drive back into Dublin. We had grocery store falafel/hummus/carrot sandwiches and then walked again back to St. Stephen’s Park. But the sadness of leaving was on us.
    Next morning we got on the AirCoach bus for easy and cheap trip to airport, learned our flight was delayed for 2 hours and thought about what a lovely trip it had been. I regret that we didn’t see any Irish dancing, didn’t get to the Yeats exhibit at the National Library or to the Hugh Lane Dublin Art Gallery but we did a lot. One of these days, I hope to return to western Ireland, to Connemara, and to make it to Dingle and Donegal and Northern Ireland. Maybe. Thanks again to the Fodorites in planning trip.

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    Thank you for your wonderful trip report. We are going to Ireland in September for a quick road trip of two weeks including Dublin. Your trip report has really made me excited to see Ireland.

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    Great, very detailed trip report! Was in Dublin very briefly beginning of June and enjoyed it so much, we're
    going back in Oct. For a small city, there's plenty to
    see and has so much history.

    Your tour certainly kept you busy!

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    computer sent off comment before I was done.

    Your comment about mead resonated with me as I really like sweet stuff as well and do enjoy mead when I am in Ireland.

    I hope that this first taste of Ireland which gave you some tempting things to explore further will inspire you to take a trip on your own and maybe even rent a car. You might rent a cottage or apartment in a small town or one of the cities where you could enjoy shopping at a local grocery store for your meals and taking day trips or local tours.

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    Thanks so much for your trip report. I wonder if you wouldn't mind me asking a couple of questions -

    1. A short or long raincoat? There sounds like a lot of rain.

    2. I have planned a Howth and Newgrange trip. Did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it? Was there enough time to explore?

    3. Were there any attractions or places that you would recommend to prebook?

    I loved the detail in your report and I am so excited to go now - thanks!

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    Would be glad to answer your questions. I think short raincoat is probably adequate. Long one is so much trouble to carry around. Just expect to be wet at some point and quick drying pants, rather than jeans, good to wear on rainy days.
    We definitely enjoyed Howth and Newgrange. We had bought and studied the Rick Steves guidebook and he only mentions two options for NewGrange (a local tour company and a bus option). I should have done more web research -- once in Dublin at the tourist office, we realized there were several tours operating in the area. We took Grayline because it was easy pickup near our hotel and actually gave us the most hours. Grayline provided the Newgrange ticket; not sure if those can be pre-booked.
    Howth was lovely and we did not have enough time there. But the Grayline tour did provide enough time at both Newgrange and Hill of Tara.
    Definitely prebook Kilmainham Gaol tour!! We missed out on it because they were sold out for the afternoon and morning we had available.
    I did prebook an Abbey theatre ticket for us also but that was the only thing.
    Enjoy your trip!

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    Thank you so. I have for including so much detail in your report, and for your honest assessment s of the hotels, meals, etc. we hope to visit Ireland next year and I will save your report to help in planning.

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