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Live From Ireland: 17 Day Trip Report (Self Drive)

Live From Ireland: 17 Day Trip Report (Self Drive)

Jul 10th, 2012, 08:49 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 521
Marilyn - Yes, we have been having some luck!

flpab - The Bog man? You mean in the National Museum? Yes...that was totally creepy, but super fascinating as well. To think, we just turn to leather!!!

indy - Thanks....glad I'm not the only one. And yes, cleaning them...that's what I am doing LOL
twiggers is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 08:53 AM
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Sorry all...internet wasn't working on my laptop and I didn't want to type everything on my iPad. Here is yesterday's report:

Alright, here we go with Day 3. The plan today was to drive from Belfast to Derry using the coastal route. Planned stops were Carrickfergus, cushendall, giants causeway and Dunluce. In Derry I planned on the Bogside murals, the walls, guildhall, and St. columb's cathedral.

Just a quick note. I am using my iPad because my MacBook isn't picking up the signal

Had a so-so sleep. I was tired by around 8-9 PM, so I went to sleep. I woke up at 2:30 AM and then tossed and turned until my alarm went off at 7:30. Shower in the hotel was great. Isn't it fun when traveling trying to figure out how showers work I different places?

Our room rate included breakfast. I ordered a traditional breakfast with eggs, soda bread, tomato, ham, and sausage. Um, yea I forgot that US sausage is very different. It was so much food! I finished everything but the sausage and wasn't hungry until about 6 PM. These Irish breakfasts will be great money savers. Oh, and the soda bread? holy crap, I've never tasted such good bread!

DH wasn't feeling well (diabetes meds complications) so I elected to drive. We had charged up the GPS the night before and used it to get us to the highway. I think we left around 9:30-9:45 and were at Carrickfergus by 10 AM.

It was five pounds for entry and an extra pound for the walking tour guide. The guy at the desk was so nice! I asked if he had an Ulster fiver. He didn't and then he looked through his safe and still didn't. but then 10 minutes later he hunts me down in the castle because he found one. What a guy!

The castle was pretty cool! It was nice because it was pretty much intact and you don't have to use your imagination very much, unlike the ruined castles. I spent about 30 minutes inside and saw the entire thing.

We headed back on the highway. The initial plan was to stop at Cushendall, but I was just cruising and went rig through. Ok, this route was amazing! The views were incredible and the little towns along the route were so quaint. We ended up stopping at Ballycastle for a quick soda and bathroom break.

The weather up to this point has been great. Sunny and no rain. The closer we got the causeway, the worse it got but no worries, it is all part of Ireland! We ended up at the Causeway by 1 PM, so 2.5 hours from Carrickfergus. But note, I am the worlds slowest driver. Me and third gear are great friends, but I was not the slowest one out there.

The causeway was crazy busy by this point. Barely found a parking spot! Pulled in and walked to the visitor's center. very impressive. I understand it just opened and it shows. The lines were quite long to buy tickets and the entrance price is 8.50 and includes an audio tour. It was quite rainy by this point, but I elected to walk down.

Note to the ladies - don't bring light colored pants, or a least don't wear them when it's rainy!

I think it took about 15 minutes to walk down. I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed. I mean, it was pretty cool but I think it was so hyped up. I was expecting it to be bigger or something. But I took all the pics and even walked up a bunch of stones. Took the bus back for 1 pound. I wanted to save the time, and my legs (it's all uphill on the way back).

I think I spent a total of 1 hour there. Then we were off to Dunluce, which took about 5 minutes. Dunluce was 5 pounds and a free audio guide, which I recommend. I loved this castle! You have to use your imagination because it is in ruins, but there is just enough left to help you out. And the views were awesome. I think I liked this the most today. I spent about 30-40 minutes here and explored every inch and listened to all of the audio guides.

Then we were off to Derry. I was following signs but got turned around somewhere, so we hooked up the gps. We made one bathroom break and arrived at our B&B by about 4:30.

We're staying at Rose Park. So far we are enjoying it. The owner is amazingly kind and full of so many facts and history of the area. The room is very clean and comfortable. I would definitely recommend. It is a 10 minute walk from the walls.

So I headed down to Bogside and did a walk of the murals using my guidebook. Very interesting! Definitely another highlight. Heni tried to get over to the walls and ended up lost in some residential neighborhoods. I was a little worried, but when the guys drinking on the street corner didn't accost me I was able to relax a bit.

Finally found my way to the walls and did another walk using my guidebook. So cool to be walking on top of city walls! Amazing how well they fortified this city.

Went to dinner at Quay West because it was 50% off night. We had 2 full meals, a Jameson, a Magners, still water and a dt. Coke, all for 19 £.

How is the driving going? Much better today. Although DH claims that he breathes a sigh of relief whenever I stop. But I didn't hit anything. I did have one near miss when I forgot I s driving a manual and tried to pull from a stop sign in third gear and stalled with a car speeding toward me. Luckily he stopped....and he didn't even flip me off ( a ceainty in America). I have mastered the roundabout....must have hit 10-15 of them today!

Overall I loved N. Ireland! The trip is everything I imagined. Tomorrow we head to Sligo. It is a full day, but we have lots of stops planned.

Maybe we'll see sun tomorrow
twiggers is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 08:54 AM
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And here is today:

Here we go.... continuing day 4 - Derry to Sligo

First, I want to say that I was incredibly worried that I would be packing too much into my days. Just the opposite.....we have actually had lots of extra time!

The plan for today: Drive from Derry to Sligo with stops at -

Grianan ring fort

Glenveagh Castle (oh boy, there is a story there!)

Donegal - stroll town and visit castle

Sligo - abbey and Carrowmore (was never sure whether I would do that today or tomorrow morning)

Hubby did the driving today.

We started off around 9:30. GPS couldn't find the ring fort, but did find a hotel. We followed signs from the main road (N13). Started winding our way up this narrow R road. It was only about 2 kms up, but it took awhile. Passed a man out walking his dog and picking up the trash left by tourists. His dog looked just like our mini schnauzer so we stopped the car to chat. What a friendly man and his dog named Alfie! Then we continued up. The weather was not so good....very low clouds and "mizzly" to quote Ponaire. We were not going to be able to see anything from up there. But that's OK....I really just wanted to see the fort. I guess this would be considered a prehistoric (2000 yrs old) military base. Pretty cool. The ground was really wet and I deluded myself into thinking I could see something, so I walked all the way up (definitely not for the older crowd as the stairs are steep and very uneven). Yea, I couldn't see a thing....just a lot of mist shrouded hills. Oh well, I tried. I think we got up here around 10:10 AM, and I stayed maybe 10-15 minutes. As we drove down the hill we saw Alfie and his owner again and said hello!

Now, stupid GPS....she has no clue what Glenveagh Castle is. My guidebook says to follow signs and stay on R250. OK....so we start off doing this. Drive through Letterkenny and all is going well. Until it isn't! Something just doesn't feel right. So we pull over and "Laurie" (our GPS) tells us she can now find Glenveagh National Park. Great! Just stay on R254. Well, I trust the silly woman....mistake #1! So we drive and drive....and drive and drive. Man, this doesn't feel right. The old man said the castle was only 38 km away. And we're in the middle of nowhere on a street that can only fit one car (and we're in a clown car as it is!). Then she says "You've arrived at your destination." Um, we're in the middle of a mountain. We pass a car and signal them to stop. Tourists. Lost like us (they probably have a "laurie" too). But they said they saw a trail that said "Castle, 7 km" and were going to walk it. Not me. I look at the crude map I have and yea, we're lost. Oh well...let's continue on this road.

We keep on driving and hubby says "Look at those purple flowers. I think they are called Monks Hoods and smell like lavendar. Go check." So I walk out and lean over to grab it and fall in a ditch. Yup folks...even though that looks like innocent grass on the edge of the road....it hides a sinister ditch. Hubby thought I fell in a bog....I twisted my ankle (it's OK)....and never did smell the flowers. What are they? Does anyone know? They are purple and look like bells.

We kept driving and saw so many sheep. This is what I came to Ireland for. Hubby kept going "BAAA" out the window and the sheep would bleat back at us. I would jump out of the car and take pics of them....they would just stare...until I went "BAAA" and they would "BAAA" back at me. I was having a hoot.

Made an executive decision NOT to pursue Glenveagh. Clearly Laurie was never going to get us there, and it was never high on my list. I prefer ruined castles anyway. On we go...what a rocky landscape out here in the middle of nowhere. Passed some abandoned, small stone homes....maybe left during the Famine?

Fortunately Laurie recognized Donegal, so we headed there. But uh oh, the gas gauge says we only have 1/4 tank. I sure we pass a gas station soon. About 10 miles outside Donegal the light comes on. Fortunately we found a station about 3 miles out. 48.00 euro for a full tank! My gas budget might be right on (I budgeted $550). Oh, nd now we'll always fill up at 1/2 tank. I'm used to the US where there are gas stations everywhere!

We arrived in Donegal at 12:30ish. Um, yea....a normal person would never take 2 hours to get to Donegal from Grianan. But you know what? Getting lost is the best part of a vacation. Whether it's on the streets of Rome (where I stumbled upon the most amazing churches while lost) or the streets of Ireland.

Donegal is super cute. Hubby got stuck in the main roundabout because he kept seeing "no entry" but that was meant for the traffic coming in. There is a car park, but he found a side street and stayed with the car. He's still pretty tired.

I got out and wandered. Popped into a little gift shop and bought a piece of Belleek pottery for Dad and myself. Also got a piece of peat bog art. Totally dorky, but whatever. Picked up t-shirts for a few friends and found a bookstore and purchased the road atlas! Clearly Laurie cannot be trusted. I can see us breaking up in the future...no longer are we BFF (best friends forever).

I went to Donegal Castle. It is a Heritage Site, so I bought my card for 21 euro. There was a guided tour at 2 PM, but I didn't want to wait so I used their pamphlet and wandered around myself. It was quite interesting....I covered every square inch (some parts twice) in just under 30 minutes.

Back out to the main area where I wandered again for a bit....just looking in storefronts and such and then back to the car. All told, I spent just over an hour here. I wasn't hungry, so we didn't eat here. Those Irish breakfasts fill you up!!

Next up was Sligo. We took the main N road down to Sligo. Didn't need Laurie as everything was well marked. Hubby was driving pretty good....consistently cruising at 100 km.

Driving note - 100 km feels really fast in a clown car in Ireland. My husband is a bit of a speed devil and even he commented on this. Many times he kept to 10-20 km below the speed limit.

People are very courteous on the very small R roads. We had one gentleman back up for us. But be careful....those ditches and stone walls are lurking! Don't pull over too far to the left or you'll be calling AA.

We are also finding ourselves looking over our right shoulders A LOT, and forgetting which way to look when merging. It's getting better though.

Also, hubby has big feet....so when he goes to brake he is often hitting both the brake and gas. Thankfully the clutch is in, so no disasters. And here I thought that clowns had big feet....you'd think they would adjust the clown car accordingly.

OK, back to the day. We pulled into Sligo and I thought I would visit the abbey. We were early! I told the B&B owner we would be there by 6ish, and it was now only 3 PM. We saw signs for the town center and abbey. Were doing great and then the signs disappeared. Nothing with Laurie....not sure how the Abbey is not a point of interest *sigh*. So we gave up...drove through the town center (super quaint) and headed to the B&B. Fortunately I had the lat/long and input that in. Found it very easily.

We are staying at the Iona and hubby is like a little kid. Something about Bob Newhart and some show....he said that we are now in a "true" B&B. See, in Derry we were in an apartment in the rear of the house and now we are staying in the house. Looks like we're the only ones tonight, but she only has 3 rooms. The room was ready and it's perfect. Hubby is a big guy, so we have a double + single. Maybe he'll get some sleep tonight (me too!).

Rose offered tea and we accepted this time. I don't drink caffeine, so I have always resisted tea. Um, idiot! Tea is the bomb. Little bit of cream and a little sugar. And all those biscuits please. Maybe tea is just a good excuse to eat biscuits. I may have to take up tea, but find the non-caffeinated kind. I know nothing about tea though. Anyhow, we had a great chat with her about her family, her business, the area, etc. She gave us a dinner recommendation for down by the beach that we'll probably head out to later.

Now I'm in the room....hubby is sleeping. I was going to head out to the Abbey & Carrowmore, but decided to save it for tomorrow. We have a light day tomorrow anyways.

Overall, I did not feel like "we would be seeing our vacation from the windshield." Yes, we had some mileage to cover today, but it wasn't horrible and we ended up ahead of schedule. And....it's sort of the same thing over and over...sheep, hills, mist, and rain. It's not like I would stop and take a picture. I don't know....we saw a lot from the car today. It was a lot of fun! People on here discourage from taking on too much and it had me nervous, but it was just perfect!

Tomorrow morning's breakfast has been ordered and it has brownbread and I'm trying black pudding for the first time! That excites me And yes, I know what is in it but I don't care. You've got to try everything once.

Tomorrow's plan is to head to Clifden where we are staying for 2 nights. We plan on stopping at Foxford Mills (if Laurie can find it), Westport, and then doing the scenic drive to Leenane and into Clifden. But we'll start by doing Sligo Abbey and Carrowmore in the morning.
twiggers is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 10:32 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
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Still folloowing along and enjoying. I like black pudding but seem to be in the minority of Americans. Enjoy! I also like the white pudding which is sometimes served with breakfast.

The purple flowers were not MonksHood unless it is a different variety. The ones in my garden (here in coastal Mass) bloom at the end of August and into September. I'll check my Irish wildflower book tonight.
irishface is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 11:18 AM
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Lots of really great information, and such fun to read.

Keep it coming!
sugarmaple is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 01:09 PM
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Turns out it was Foxgloves! Thanks Tony

I am looking forward to trying the black pudding tomorrow. She also had white pudding, but I'll save that for another day.

I still need to try Guinness too.

Thanks sugar! I am glad you are enjoying.

Went down to Strandhill tonight for dinner. Was quite good pub grub (~28 euro for the two of us, no alcohol). The views were great. It was quite windy, but there were people out there surfing!!!
twiggers is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 03:16 PM
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Thanks Tony. I was wondering about foxglove but always think of it as pink rather than purple and have never noticed a lavender smell.
irishface is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 03:29 PM
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twiggers....I'm going to share a bit of modern Irish history.On my first trip to Ireland in 1980, my wife commited to visiting the brother and sister of an Irish woman who worked for her family...and we did. We found them in the tiny village of Tullykyne, northwest of Galway, near Moycullen. Th cottage was typical of the time...thatched roof, no electricity, no running water. To make a long story short, the next three times we stopped by we wer amazed at how the iriah Government improved there lot, all the way to elelctricty, TV, fully-equipped kitvhen, running water, indoor toilets, etc. The picture will show it to you. They're both long gone..last visited in 1996 when only brother Michael was living at over 90.

When you're in Clifden, stop by "Destry's" for lunch..a movie buff owns it and commemorates the flick "Destry Rides Again"..Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich...posters everythwre... excellent menu choices. Have fun in Ireland..looks like you are alerady!

stu Tower (pics will be in the next post..covering 1980, 1987, and 1996)
tower is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 03:39 PM
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please excuse all the typos..just sloppy..here are the pics for you:

tower is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 04:56 PM
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You must try a Guinness and a Bulmers cider. Tower, I loved seeing those pictures. So looking forward to your Clifden report. We want to rent a cottage in that area some year. I would love to go to the Belleek factory. It is around Sligo. the brown bread and seafood chowder, yummmm!
flpab is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 06:40 PM
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Hello. I am still reading and so glad that you accepted a lovely hot cup of tea when offered by Rose. So far you are doing really well with the places you are staying.

Sorry your DH has not been well. Has the time change and the time you eat your meals contributed to his diabetes medication problems? I do hope he feels better very soon.

Keep it coming. You are doing a nice job.

SandyBrit is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 09:12 PM
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A question for you Twiggers, about the Belfast to Derry day.

I'm assuming you did the Antrim coast and the glens? I'm wondering about time.

I don't plan to go into Carrikfergus castle or the Giant's causeway, but would like to go to Bushmills (a good spot to get a few bottles as gifts for the men). We're mainly interested in soaking up the scenery, and stopping here and there to stretch our legs and mosey around a bit and have lunch somewhere.

Can this be comfortably done in one day, Belfast - Derry? Or would you recommend stopping for the night along the way?
sugarmaple is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 10:46 PM
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tower - very cool pics!!! Amazing how time and technology catches up to even the most remote areas.

Sandy - We're not sure what it is...we thought we adjusted the meds correctly. I think part of it is that at home he just eats whenever and when you're traveling that isn't always the case. So we've adjusted his insulin a bit and are hoping today will be better!

sugar - Yes, we followed the Coastal Causeway Route. It is VERY well marked. I think it can VERY much be done in one day, especially if you're not doing Giants or Carrickfergus. The drive is very scenic and there are a lot of small villages to pop into. If you get an early start from Belfast, I think you'll be fine. We left around 9:30 and pulled into Derry around 4:00.
twiggers is offline  
Jul 10th, 2012, 10:48 PM
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Well, we had a GREAT night's sleep...it's about time! And there is sun outside....I know that it can disappear in a flash, but I'm happy to see it.
twiggers is offline  
Jul 11th, 2012, 06:18 AM
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twiggers, really really enjoying reading your live trip report. We'll be doing the same trip in about a month (celebrating our 15 year anniversary). I was concerned about driving from Belfast to Portrush post jet lag but reading your report I think we should be fine...we'll simply drive to our inn and wait to explore the following day.
Tower - really cool pictures
mnag is offline  
Jul 11th, 2012, 07:18 AM
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Twiggers: Great report! You are having the "time of your life," it would seem, and that's the way it should be! I loved walking the Walls in Derry too! Amazing, isn't it, how protected you feel up there? I'm enjoying your travels vicariously and can't wait to return to Ireland myself!

Tower: Lovely pictures and what a wonder for that family to finally receive the "luxuries" we take for granted!
MarilynT1435 is offline  
Jul 11th, 2012, 12:50 PM
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mnag - Thanks!

Marilyn - I am definitely having a fabulous time. Ireland is everything I expected and so much more.
twiggers is offline  
Jul 11th, 2012, 12:51 PM
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Today was day 5 of our Ireland adventure. I am happy to say that hubby is starting to feel better! We've adjusted his insulin and that has been helping. Today's plans:

Sligo Abbey
Foxford Woollen Mills
Stroll through Westport
Scenic R335 drive straight into Clifden (with a note to visit Clifden Castle at some point).

We are overnighting at the Dun Ri Guesthouse for two nights! Yay...we get to stay put for a few days

So let's get down to business:

After leaving our B&B this morning we headed to Carrowmore. Note: Don't trust the GPS coordinates on Wikipedia...Laurie didn't like Carrowmore's coordinates, so we just followed the brown signs and that worked fine. We arrived at Carrowmore right at 10 AM. Remember the sun? Well, it decided to hide and it was lightly raining. I went right in and used my Heritage card (now up to 7 euro used - need to get to 21 to make it worthwhile). Was given a laminated guided tour and helpful navigational info from the desk clerks.

They have a VERY informative exhibit indoors that chronicles the history of the area. It was a great history lesson! However, I made the mistake of commenting "Wow, amazing how they did this" to an archaeologist. Normally I would be fascinated, but this man was the driest academic I've met in a long time (and I'm an academic). I was finally able to walk away after about 20 minutes LOL By the time I got outside the rain was coming down pretty good. I managed to make it through everything, but I was chilled to the bone. I think I spent about 15 minutes outside. I have to say....it's not that the stones were that amazing....the fact that they were 5000-7500 years old is what was amazing! And the main cairn? Oh, just breathtaking! I ended up skipping the few stones on the other side of the road because I was soaked.

Left there around 11 AM and headed to Sligo Abbey. Hubby was driving today and found a spot right outside. I ran in, used my Heritage Card again (now up to 10 euro) and was given a laminated guided tour. It was VERY helpful. I covered every square inch (some areas twice) and was finished in about 20 minutes. I found it very fascinating and I'm hoping that I see more like this during our trip.

Next up: Foxford Woollen Mills. We took the main N roads there. Laurie didn't fail us this time. Hubby was getting the hang of the driving. I think it was just before 1 PM when we pulled in. Unfortunately I just missed the start of a tour, so I strolled around. I grabbed a scarf (not sure when I'll wear it in Texas) and then found the seconds table in the back! Score! I grabbed a Heritage patterned blanket and couldn't see anything wrong with it and it was marked down to 40 euro. Turns out it was discontinued...so there were no flaws! I can't wait to use this on our chilly winter nights (or really, our one cold night LOL). Then the tour started....OK, I was disappointed. Somehow I was led to believe online that we would see the actual mill. Instead it was just 40 minutes of the history of the mill. The first 10 minutes was interesting, but then I started getting weary of it, and the last 5 minutes or so was just an advertisement. No actual mill tour

We left there right around 2 PM and headed for Westport. Stopped in the main street and just wandered a little bit up and down the streets. It was a quaint town, but just seemed like a lot of shopping. We stopped in Maple Moose. It's this chain restaurant that sells ice cream, waffles, and crepes. They forgot my order and ended up refunding my money and giving me my crepes. They were just OK....I just wanted a snack. Left there around 3:30/4:00 PM.

Next up was heading along the R335 coastal route. We stopped at the Famine memorial and then snaked along Clew Bay. Man, what beautiful views. We just putted along and stopped every now and then and snapped pictures. The mountains were so beautiful and Dough Lough was great....just a beautiful lake at the bottom of the mountains. And the sheep were everywhere! We did run across a few sheep in the middle of the road...we did some bleating and got a few bleats back. For some reason we are easily entertained by this.

Hubby wants to know what people drive 100 km on these roads??? That would be insanity! On the R roads he is hovering around 50-60 km and on the N roads he goes between 60-100 km depending on the width of the road. Some N roads are much better than others.

We finally pulled in Leenane around 5ish. Stopped at the sheep and wool center....it's just a tour bus stop, but it had clean toilets. Thankfully we arrived right before a tour group.

Then hit the N59 to Clifden. We were cruising along and noticed signs for Kylemore Abbey. I mentioned to hubby that we were going to come back this way tomorrow and he insisted we stop. It was about 5:30 and they were still open. Oh wow, it was so picture perfect pretty! I paid my 12.50 (ouch!) and walked up to the Abbey. Again, so pretty outside and such a romantic story. However, I was disappointed by the interior. There just isn't much to see. I was in and out pretty quickly. Then I walked over to the Gothic Cathedral. This was worth the walk...it is a miniature cathedral. So cool. Again, very romantic story behind the cathedral. Walked back over to the main entrance and caught the shuttle bus to the Victorian Gardens. I'm not much of a garden/flora/fauna person, but the gardens were very pretty. Those who are interested could easily spend 30-45 minutes strolling around. I spent around 10!!

Back to the car by 6:45 and off to Clifden. Laurie didn't disappoint and we pulled into Dun Ri just after 7 PM. Michael, the owner, showed us to our room on the second floor. We have a double + single overlooking the pony farm. It is a good sized room, but doesn't really have a B&B feel to it....they have 13 rooms, so it feels more like a hotel.

Went into town and stopped in a pub for dinner and some trad music! Yay! Finally some music and a pub It was a lot of fun. Hubby had fish & chips, but he thought the fish was a little greasy, but still ate it. I had guinness stew...oh yum! It was 12.95 each. DH had a Guinness and I had a Magners (4.50 each). Then we kicked back and listened to some trad for awhile. It was great!!! The fiddle....ah, the fiddle! I could listen to that for hours on end. But alas, we decided to call it a night early and get back to the room. We just want to veg a bit. We're not really night owls or partyers.

Overall, today was a good day. Beautiful scenery around every corner and some great historical sights to keep me entertained.

The plan for tomorrow is to do Sky Road and maybe head over to Roundhouse. Oh, and Clifden Castle. We're just planning on bumming around tomorrow and taking it easy.
twiggers is offline  
Jul 11th, 2012, 09:18 PM
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Great report! Waiting for more ... We'll be coming for 3 weeks in September, meanwhile I plan clockwise. Was one day in Dublin enough or you'll be spending more time at the end?
tasta is offline  

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