Saturday, 22 August 2015

Southern Ireland

After leaving Limerick we headed to the north side of the Dingle Peninsula, where we spent a day scuba-diving at Castlegregory (in water at 13°C!).

looking towards our dive site

near our accommodation (Harbour House) at Castlegregory

wild honeysuckle

fruit of wild honeysuckle

cow in a field

Fresh Irish scallops and black pudding

The next day we toured the Peninsula and adjacent Ring of Kerry, a famous panoramic loop. The scenic 456-metre high Conor Pass connects the town of Dingle, on the south-western end of the Dingle Peninsula, with Castlegregory in the north-east, and is one of Ireland's highest Irish mountain passes served by an asphalted road.

Looking north from Conor Pass

near Slea Head, a promontory in the westernmost part of the Peninsula

The Skellig Islands, 12km out into the Atlantic, have a gannet population of 50,000!

seagull with Skellig Islands in the background

The Blasket Islands are Ireland's most westerly. The next stop west is Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. Legend has it that inhabitants' homes were decorated by elements from shipwrecks. The last permanent residents left in 1953.

Blasket Islands, off the Kerry coast

Looking towards Blasket Islands


near Dunquin, Dingle Peninsula, the most westernmost part of Europe

west Dingle peninsula

Scariff Island (right) and Deenish Island, off the Kerry coast 

 Heading towards Killarney, we stumbled across a sheepdog display.

Sheepdogs herding flock of sheep

About 18km before reaching Killarney, we stopped off at the scenic point known as Ladies View, whose name apparently stems from the admiration of the view given by Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting during their 1861 visit.

Ladies View near Killarney

 Near Killarney we visited 15th-century Ross Castle, on the edge of the lake Lough Leane.

Ross Castle 

Priest's Leap is the highest pass in Ireland, crossing from County Cork to County Kerry. The road up is single-track and very steep. The placename stems from an old legend, in which a priest pursued by soldiers escaped by a miraculous leap of his horse from a mountain cliff in the townland of Cummeenshrule into County Cork. 
sheep contemplating the landscape from Priest's Leap

view from Priest's Leap

Kerry/Cork county border

We finished our trip to Ireland in Cork, Ireland's second city. It has a long history of butter making, and in the 1860s it was the world's largest butter market, exporting throughout the British Empire.

Firkin Crane, where the barrels or casks of butter were weighed
(now a dance centre)

The old Butter Exchange

Millennium bridge over the River Lee, Cork

Hurling players practising

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Saturday, 15 August 2015

Dublin & Central Ireland

After leaving Northern Ireland we headed across country to Dublin, Ireland's capital city.

Frieze on Sunlight Chambers, Parliament Street 

I was interested to visit Fishamble Street as (1) it's the oldest street in Dublin, dating back to Viking times, and (2) it's the place where Handel's 'Messiah' (one of my favourite pieces of music) was first performed in 1742.

statue of James Joyce, O'Connell Street 

statue of CS Parnell (Home Rule advocate),
northern end of O'Connell Street 

Dublin Castle

World-famous Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Elizabeth I, and its alumni include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett.

Sphere within a sphere sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro at Trinity College

After two nights in Dublin we headed over to the west coast and Connemara. This was the lovely view from our B&B in Spiddal.

I was mad on horses when I was growing up, and at the time Connemara was familiar to me only as the name of a breed of ponies. 

windswept Connemara ponies

'Conamara' actually means 'Inlets of the Sea' in Irish.

an isolated cottage in Connemara

locals have an abundant supply of peat to heat their homes with

We then headed to the city of Galway.

Galway Cathedral, with Salmon Weir Bridge to the left, 
crossing the Corrib River (Europe's shortest river).

Spanish Arch, Galway, a remnant of the town's medieval walls

Lynch's Castle, Galway, an example of a town castle

Ireland is littered with old castles!

Dunguaire Castle, south of Galway, built around 1520

Muckinish West Tower House, Galway county

In the northern-western part of County Clare is the rocky and windswept limestone Burren region.

at the Burren

Lighthouse, Inisheer, Aran islands (seen from the Burren)

Further south along the coast are the 200m-high Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland's most popular sights.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

ruined castle keep at the Cliffs of Moher

The region is home to an abundance of wildflowers.






We spent a night in Ennis and then visited the town of Limerick, which for me until then had just been the name of a type of rhyme! You can visit King John's castle there, built by the eponymous English king between 1200 and 1212 on the banks of the River Shannon.

King John's castle, Limerick (12th century)

We also visited the very interesting Hunt Museum, which has fine collections of Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval treasures.

Roman bronze dodecahedron whose use remains a mystery.
The circles are symmetric on each side.
Hunt Museum, Limerick

Greek water jar, 4th century BC, Hunt Museum, Limerick

Horus, 7th to 4th century BCE, Hunt Museum, Limerick

On leaving Limerick we headed to Ireland's south-west: the Dingle Peninsula.

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