A Travellerspoint blog

Northern Ireland

So this looks like my last post of our great trip. For some reason the blog isnt uploading my pics so it will be short and sweet today with no pics. We have been in Northern Ireland for the past 5 days. It started with some nice coastal drives and a trip to Londonderry. From there we went to one of the 2 UNESCO world heritage sites in Ireland, The Giants Causeway. It is a cool geological area with cool rocks and coastal formations.

Here is a link that I hope works for a pic

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From there more coastal driving on some of the most beautiful roads I have been on. We visited a number of coastal villages which are pretty.

They last few days we have been in Belfast and this is very much one of the coolest cities I have been too. First, it is a very artsy city with a very young population and very trendy districts. Sydney and I have also learned a bunch about the "troubles" between the Catholics and Protestants. It has been an eye opening experience and I am glad I have been able to visit the most critical sites in this historic event. It will not only broaden my horizons, but will make for a fantastic grade 12 social lesson. My grade 12 text has a page on this subject but does it very poorly. I am lucky enough to at least have a working knowledge that I can bring to the students.

I have enjoyed the last 5 days in Northern Ireland and have loved the last few in Belfast. I would recommend that anyone that makes there way to Ireland make sure you get here. Sorry for the dull post, will be home in a few days. Stay tuned for the San Francisco Blog in about 12 days to finish off the summer of travel. Cheers.

Posted by Bad Kitty 14:49 Archived in Northern Ireland Comments (0)

Near the Best Day Ever

It isn't like there are any typical days on a trip to Ireland. It is a beautiful country and with a trip like ours where we are seeing something new and amazing every day. Today, like every day, we had sights we wanted to see. I think we were expecting a pretty standard Irish day. A quick car ride to see a cool coastal town and then something beautiful. The plan today was to drive to the town of Killybegs and see the main Irish fishing port and then to a place called Slieve League which is the highest cliff face in Europe (or so the guide book tells me). We expected to drive to Slieve League, oooh and ahhh a bit at the pretty mountain and drive back to Donegal. What happened was something much different and a day neither one of us would forget.

KillyBegs was fine and picturesque but quiet and we did not spend much time there. We then made the short drive to Slieve League. Sydney and I have not been eating the "healthiest"on this trip so we decided to park near the bottom at the first car park and take the about 3km walk to the site of Slieve League. The walk was on a curvy road that I think I was just as happy walking as driving. It was an up hill climb but the walk was well worth it.

Here is the pic at where the closest car park is to the cliff.

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If you look at the pic you will see the high point on the right hand side which looks to be the summit but it is deceiving in the pic, the summit is actually the third peak to the left of that.

When we got to the end of the highest car park we noticed a rock path up to the top of the cliff where we were situated which is beside Sleive League. We thought we would give it a go and try to walk up it. This a pic from part way up this climb.

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If you notice in the pic there are a number of hikers walking on the ridge. This is a ridge that connects to Slieve League from the mountain we were viewing it from. Sydney and I thought we might go ahead and give it a try. We noticed in the local guide book that this part of the hike was suitable for most hikers and thought it a good idea. So we persevered on. The pic below is the view from the top where the hikers were in the last pic. You will notice on the right hand side of the pic the white path, these are bags of rocks that one day they are planning to put out to make the climb easier, but for now the rocks are in bags along where the path is. t does give a good scope of where we headed.

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We came to a spot where most hikers turned back but a few hearty souls were pushing on and Syd and I debated whether to go or not. The guidebook said that anything past here was for experienced hikers only, which I dont think either of us would really qualify as. However, the weather was beautiful and we had just eaten so we decided we would go on and if either one wanted to turn back that would be the end of the hike. So we pushed on.

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At points the rocky path does get uncomfortably close to the cliff edge but we took our time, didn't look down too much and kept pushing on.

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The last pic above is the path that crosses from our first mountain over to Sleive League. The views were unbelievable and unforgettable.

The picture below is the continuing path along the ridge of Slieve League.

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This is us from the same spot :)

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This is the view from the same spot but looking to the other direction towards the town of Sleive League where we came from.

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The next there pics show the different terrain we face going up and down the various peaks you saw in the first pic. It was never a straight walk it was always up and down and the pics below show some of the typical terrain we had to deal with.

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The last picture was a quite common situation where we were on our hands and knees climbing up rocks like these. It was so much fun and neither one of us wanted to turn back. We also realized we were going to have to come down these things as well and down is always harder.

Here was the last approach up to the summit of the mountain and some views from the top.

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Sidney and I really pushed ourselves today and we are both feeling very accomplished. We dont want to overstate this as there were 60 year olds up there with us, but we felt like we did something special today and it is a day neither one of us will ever forget. I think days that you remember your whole life often come from those you dont expect anything much to happen. Both of us were saying the whole time that we were not going to go to the top but when we talked about stopping neither one of us were willing. We stayed safe and had a brilliant day. Are legs are jello and we are very tired but we did it. We ended the day with s beautiful dinner and some Irish dancing in the pub. Off to sleep.

Posted by Bad Kitty 11:58 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Aran Islands, Gulway,Wesport, Donegal

We have been so busy that we have been slacking on our blogging duties. So much has happened in the last 4 days that I am not sure I will get it all in, or remember it. But here goes.

Aran Islands - Syd's Birthday

We had a great time on the Aran Islands, they are absolutely beautiful. The day started with a Ferry ride to the Islands where miraculously we encountered our Irish friend on the Ferry showing her American friends around her country. That was a very nice surprise and we had about an hour and a half of her telling us more about Ireland. That was a great (presumably) last visit for us. There are 3 main islands in the chain (maybe only three, Im not really sure) but there is a big, medium, and small island that ferries run to. We rented bikes and toured the large island called Inishmore for the day. Syd and I loved it and it was a great way to spend her birthday. Here are some pics.

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The last pic is of the Cliffs of Moher that we saw a couple of days earlier from the top, this time from the water. Very cool.

Here is Sydney blowing out the candle on her birthday dessert. She is getting so old on me :(

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The next bunch of pics are from various parts of the drive between Galway and Westport. It is a wonderfully gorgeous drive which I think most tourists miss out on. In the last 4 days we have been in the West and Northwest of the country and it is sparsely populated. I also have noticed that the amount of foreign tourists here has also decreased dramatically. There seems to be a lots of Irish tourists but not so many Americans as was the case in the South. I think this is too bad because it may be more beautiful here than it was in the more popular south and the Irish language and culture also seems to be much stronger here. It is a shame that more people do not get here. I am not saying I like it better than the south but it certainly does deserve more visitors. Some pics for you to decide upon.

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I may have mentioned this before but we are having some wonderful adventures with the GPS. The GPS likes to "save us 200 meters of travel distance by taking us off the main highways and onto back roads. We lovingly refer to these as "Bob's Road" If you have seen the movie Twister you will know what I am talking about. There are several types of highways in Ireland. Ones that start with M such as M7. These are Motorways and are divided and have multiple lanes each way. We dont get on these too often as we really are going to some off the beaten track places. There are N roads such as N17. These are not divided and usually only have one lane. If there are only 2 numbers after the N these would be typical of rural highways back home. Reasonably wide but one lane in each direction. There are N roads with 3 numbers after such as N239. These can be quite narrow and bendy. They have a speed limit of 80 but often you really cant go that fast. If you do you will miss the turns or get a bunch of air in your tiny rental car (that maybe happened). Then there are L roads with 4 numbers (L2337) or Bobs Roads. There are even L roads with 5 numbers (L23372). These are even worse. L roads have no lines, frequently have overgrown bush cramping the road, almost always have grass growing down the middle and frequently are covered in horse poop. Thats Bobs road. Here is a pic for you.

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I have to tell you this isnt even a bad one. There are so many ones worse than these. We never get pics of those because we are too busy folding in our mirrors or backing up the car because this is two lane traffic and we have to back up to a turnout to let cars pass. It has been a lot of fun. We still fall for it because often we need to take these roads but we love it when the GPS takes us off N8 just to do an 800m circular arc back to the N8, great times :) lol

Below is a picture of Kylemore Abbey. This rich dude fell in love with an Irish girl and built this castle for her. I have to point out that I hate this dude because he is making the rest of us gents look bad, however, I cant blame him. In my time here I can see why he fell in love with an Irish woman. If I had the money I might build a castle myself. Anyways Sydney and I decided I should buy it instead, and conveniently, I wouldn't even need to change the name of it. The castle is built on a lake on like a bagillion acres. It has its own church, and gardens and walking paths and all sorts of stuff. We got a bit lazy with pics starting here so this is all we really have.

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After this we were in the Town of Gulway and Westport. We got really lazy with pics here and in fact don't have a single one from either town. I will say that so far one of our favourite towns is Westport. It isn't too big and there are not too many Americans or Germans (no offense to Americans or Germans intended). Although every time we see a German tour bus we laugh and go "Das Tour Bus". Its stupid and makes no sense but we are tired and goofy right now. West port has a nice chilled nightlife and a calm and refined daytime feel. We like it a bunch. We also finally made our way to a traditional Irish dancing show in Westport. There were signs all over town and in the tourist office for the show. We were expecting a large production with hundreds of people. What we got was 30 people attending a youth Irish dance troop. However, before I go on I have to say the dancing was amazing. The boys and girls blew our mind with Irish dancing that you wouldn't even believe. This being said Sydney and I were in for a bit of a surprise. What this basically was is a dance recital for family and friends. It was certainly open to the public but we were the only non-Irish people there except for 2 people from the UK. and of the 30 people there 25 were relations to the dancers. Again, all well in good, no problems lets just watch the dancing and have a good night. However, this is not how family dances go in Ireland. In Ireland, or so I am led to believe from this one experience, the audience are very active participants in the show. The show had dancing but also a lot of signing, which of course the crowd always joined in to and frequently were the only ones signing. Of course Syd and I have not brushed up on our Irish folk music and did not know the words to any songs. We stuck out like sore thumbs. We were asked by the MC of the night to tell us where we were from , we of course said Canada and she assured us that we would be sharing in the signing of a Canadian folk song before the night was up. I can absolutely guarantee she was not joking. She kept on alluding to the second half of the show where people who be coming to the stage and sing or dance. Here is the problem, I dont sing or dance and I really dont know and Canadian folk songs either off by heart. Maybe the Log Drivers Waltz or The Hockey Song but I aint signing any of those. Long story short, we did have to hold hands in a big circle of people and sing Irish songs and somehow we avoided having to sign in front of these people and overall we had a very enjoyable cultural experience. In all about 15 people did come up on the stage and sign or dance. It is amazing, the young and old just stood up, went on stage, and did their thing. The Irish are so proud of there heritage and culture. It is something we very much admire about them even if we dont know the words to the songs. Perhaps Canadians need to be more proud of their culture, or perhaps I just realize I cant sign or dance. In any case it was a beautiful and frightening night.

Tonight we are in Donegal. We cruised the town quickly. Looks very nice again. Here is a quick pic of the harbor. chat again soon. Off for now while we brush up on the North Mayo county song which we may have to sign in the bars tonight. For the record there are 32 counties in Ireland and they all have at least one if not more songs. And everyone is extremely patriotic to their county. So we are in Mayo county now and in the North of that county so we better figure out the song. Funny thing is someone did sing it last night on stage. Should have been more focused :)

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One one more pic, a nice beach we visited today. We contemplated surfing but I was wearing a sweater and was freezing. 13 degrees today and cloudy with high winds, love the Irish summer. :)

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Posted by Bad Kitty 09:04 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Limerick, Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Caves, and Friories

Been a few days since our last blog entry because we have been so busy. We are getting up at about 7 each morning and touring hard until things close at about 5. After that we usually get involved in the nightlife where we can. At the moment we are in Limerick. I am told by my Irish friend that this is the murder capital of Ireland, which explains why everyone here looks like they want to murder me. In all fairness to this town it does have some charm to it. The first impression of this city is that it is nothing like any other Irish city. It is very structured, drab and industrious looking brick buildings all over the city center that all look the same. We are in the heart of the city here and on the river and it is quite pleasant. However the reason we are here is because it is a great base for seeing a lot of stuff outside the city. Here are some of our favourites but by no means a complete record of what we have done in the last 3 days.

To get here from Killarney we took a pass through the mountains called the Connors Pass. It is said to be the highest and most scariest road in Ireland. It is a bit scary mostly because of cliff hanging roads that are really only wide enough for one way traffic, but there is two two traffic. We did have to go backwards a couple of times to let traffic by but ultimately it was more fun than scary when you take it slow, like 5 km and hour slow. The views from this road may be some of the best in the country here are some pics of them.

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Along the road there were some places to park the car and do some mountain climbing. We did this at two different points and the climbs were amazing and gave us tremendous views. We would be getting in really good shape if it were not for these devilish creations

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These things are pure evil and tasty. We have had many of these. These I believe are an Irish thing. Essentially it is a soft serve ice cream with a flake bar stuck in it. We do sell flakes in Canada and maybe you have seen them. They are this flaky chocolate business and they go great with ice cream. They call them a "99" here and they are everywhere and are making up a very large portion of our spending on this trip :)

The next couple of pics are from some structures made in about 2000BCE. Essentially they are rock structures that use no morter at all to hold the rocks. The are simply balanced on each other. The rocks are chosen for appropriate shape and size and simply stacked on each other. They made houses and fencing with these structures and are pretty amazing to be still standing over 4000 years later. These things are everywhere. There is so much stone in this country. I feel the last 4000 years of history in Ireland is all about people who spend there entire lives moving stones around. Its pretty amazing to see.

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There is a random shot of the beach from these sites in there as well. There are so many places like this in Ireland, the coast here is spectacular.

The next 4 pics are form a castle we came across on the side of the road. There are so many castles in Ireland, I cant even begin to explain it. In a 30 minute drive into the country it is not unusual to see 4 or 5 castle ruins in random farmers fields on the side of the highway. There are so many here they cant even restore them all. Farmers just have them sitting in their field and plant around them. This castle is a very cool one from the 1400's. You will notice a giant hole blown into the front of this one. This was done with 3 days of constant artillery fire at the castle. Castles here were generally built to protect treasures, sometime religious sometimes precious jewels and such. The British or Vikings depending on the time would come and siege these castles in order to take the treasures. In this case it was British privateers who robbed this castle, executed the inhabitants and sent to jewels to the King in order to win favour with him. This is basically a medieval break and enter. This is one of the few castles we have been to that is completely open and free to the public. You can just walk in, go anywhere you want, however there are no railings or safety structures in place so you kind of take your chances. We went to the very top of this one and these things are deceptively high in the towers. Here are the pics.

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Here is something we would not have expected here. There is a grocery store that has this in all of their locations across the country. It is a bit different as it is mostly self served and the baked goods are different but cool nonetheless.

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The next pick is of Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. This is a castle that has been completely restored and is what you would expect in a castle in about the 1700s. It also has a village beside the castle that is like Fort Edmonton Park where there is a restored country village as it would have been a couple hundred years ago. Very interesting.

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This is a Friary in the town of Ennis. We have seen many Friaries, Priories and Churches on this trip. This was a particularly nice one.

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Today we spent our day travelling to a place called the Burren. It is a desolate place of rock and very little trees, however it is full of birds and very cool and different landscapes.

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We took a walk down a woodland path we found outside of a cave and we came across this bird (Falcon?) it freaked the heck out of us. We also saw many creepy wood carvings like the one you see below. Blair Witch Project did come across my mind a bit on this walk

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Then for some reason we decided it would be "fun" to walk 500 meters underneath a mountain and do some caving. I have been to many caves and chickened out of going into them in the past, today we did it. 500 meters in and 500 meters out with 140 meters of mountain above us. Sounds stupid but we did it anyways. It was fun but 40 minutes inside a mountain freaked us out a bit. It was well worth it to see the underground waterfalls and stalactites and stalagmites.

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Our final destination for the day was the Cliffs of Moher. Pretty self explanatory, cliffs with perilously high drops to certain death into the ocean. You can walk right to the edge if you want (we didnt want) but we got close enough to the edge to take these pics. Everything in this country is so high and scary :)

Talk soon, enjoy the pics.

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Posted by Bad Kitty 07:31 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Beara Peninsula, Ring of Kerry and Kilarney

I would love to be able to describe each picture to you and where it was taken but to be honest I am starting to lose track. We have spent the last couple of days on the Beara Peninsula and The Ring of Kerry. These are according to conventional wisdom the most beautiful parts of the country. The conventional wisdom is probably pretty accurate here. It is beautiful and we are constantly taking pictures. Essentially what these pic are from is the ring roads around the 2 peninsulas. There are all sorts of cool towns and villages along the roads and an endless amount of photo ops.

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One of the cool things we were lucky enough to be able to watch is a traditional Irish horse race. Horse racing is kind of a big deal here and they do it all over the place. If you notice in the pics they are running on turf which is a bit different from home. And I don't believe this is a track that is normally a track. It really looks like this was set up in a farmers field, but I'm not really sure. In any case it was fun to be around and all sorts of people, families included come down to see the horses run.

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Tomorrow is the DIngle Peninsula and maybe pics of traditional Irish pub singing if I can sneak Sydney in. I will let yo know how that goes tomorrow. Here are some nice pics of beaches and mountains and peninsula related items :)

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Posted by Bad Kitty 07:28 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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