IRELAND: CERI

I started my journey through Ireland as part of a RailTour Ireland small group tour, in Dublin.

I’m on a 4 day Great Southern and Western Coast Tour, this includes 3 nights B&B
accomm in Killarney.

Guides were easily identified at the Dublin station with their bright yellow jackets, and check-in was easy. We were given a travel pack including rail ticket, accommodation voucher, plus a good map of Ireland and escorted through the ticket barrier. Assistance was given with luggage which was loaded into a luggage car.

The company has a reserved air conditioned quiet carriage - comfy seats and a comfortable journey 3 hours 15 minutes. We had 3 guides on board with us; however these were to accompany some passengers on the various day tours Cliffs of Moher passengers disembarked at Limerick.

I was escorted to the restaurant car where a decent choice of breakfast options was offered. These were at a cost of eur12.00 for a full Irish breakfast to approx. eur6.00 for a pot of tea or plunger coffee with toast.

The restaurant cart constantly moved up and down the train offering sandwiches Danish pastries and hot and cold drinks, including beer and wine. Priced at around eur5.00 for a sandwich and eur2.15 for coffee. RailTours Ireland include a eur4.00 credit voucher with the travel documents.

Peter, our guide, a retired gentleman, proved to be terrific with excellent local knowledge and enough history to make it interesting.

After disembarking the train at Cork, the group boarded a large spacious RailTours Ireland coach and travelled firstly to Blarney approx 8 miles away for a 3 hour visit here, to include Blarney Castle and the Blarney Woollen Mills.

I loved Blarney Castle the grounds were beautiful, I took myself off for long walks that easily filled the 3 hour stop here.Yummy lunch at the Blarney woollen mills.

The mandatory for most is of course to kiss the Blarney Stone. This is not for the fainthearted as access via 150 stone winding steps, to the parapet of the castle. Here you will be encouraged to lie on your back and hold handles located in the castle wall behind you. You pull yourself back, head down to meet the famous stone.

Be prepared to queue for an average 20 minutes for this attraction.

Photos are available at the little store for a living memory of the achievement - eur20.00 for two photos, one in preparation and one in action.

Cork is a small and rather hilly city. Easily visited just in a day; good vibe to it but not an especially pretty city.

The Apple European head office is here, a huge complex and one of the major employers in Cork. Also the German industrial Crane firm originally employing the most numbers.

Our guide explained that many companies have an Irish base as company tax is only 12% in Southern Ireland. 

Our next visit was to Cobh (pronounced Cove, and also known for many years as Queenstown) This was around a 30 minute drive from Cork, loved it!! Hilly, quaint port and home to a wonderful Heritage Centre. Heaps of information to be found here on the history of its maritime life, including the coffin ships to Australia and Ellis Island when prisoners were transported. Ships used in the 1950’s whenmigration was huge plus the Titanic and Lusitania disasters all recorded in this amazing museum a must see for anyone visiting Ireland.

We also visited the Cobh grave yard where many of the bodies retrieved from the ship wrecks are buried.

The Cobh Cathedral was a stop too, quite beautiful modelled on Notre Dame but after revisiting Koln cathedral last year, not anything compares really.

The group then travelled by train again from Cobh to Killarney with a change of train at Macroom, our luggage was transported by the coach where on arrival we were once more picked up again at Killarney station and transferred to our various accommodations.

Killarney was buzzing with tourists during my visit. A small town offering heaps of bars and restaurants, and with Irish Music flooding from many, a real Irish experience. The town is really pretty with the River winding through Killarney National Park including Muckross House and grounds a must for a leisure day in Killarney. The nearby Killarney Lakes too can be accessed by Bikes readily available for hire, or the famous Killarney Horse and cart for those less active clients.

A Bed and Breakfast stay was a new travel experience for me, and though perhaps my first impression of having to carry my luggage upstairs, and staying in Carmel’s home was mildly uncomfortable, my 3 night stay here was a really pleasant surprise.

The accommodation and bathroom were spotlessly clean, towels were changed daily and the room serviced daily again a pleasant surprise.

Carmel’s breakfast buffet was better than many hotels I’ve stayed in!!

On the tour guides recommendation I went to the Irish pub Danny Man for live music, but it didn’t start until 9.30 and i had finished eating by 8.30. Wasn’t fun sitting on my own so went and bought an Irish Cream ice cream yum!! And came back for an early night.

 

Day 2

Ring of Kerry day tour 10am until 1730 hrs Collected at 10 today, by RailTours local operator Davos Tours.

The driver was excellent with a full knowledge of the road making the drive comfortable, but the bus was a smaller 20 seater and fully booked, it felt very cramped after a long day on board. The air conditioning was either too cold or too warm so not too good really.

The tour commenced with collection of the Dublin day trippers at Killarney station at 1015. Our first stop at the Red Fox Inn adjacent to the Kerry Bog Village, this was an extra eur5.00 to visit but a good representation of an early settlement worth the extra cost. The Irish coffee at the Red Fox was a welcome drink at an extra cost too, eur3.00 from memory.

The village of Puck, was next on our drive where they celebrate an annual festival where a goat is strung up 82 feet in the air crowned before being sacrificed - pagan ritual (yuck)

Next stop was a demonstration of a sheep farmer with his 2 border collies herding his sheep, very personable farmer highly educational and entertaining a worthwhile additional eur5.00 for the 30 minute show.

This is only offered in July and August (apparently a visit to a waterfall near Killarney is included at other times, no additional costs.)

Would definitely advise our clients to take a seat on the right hand side of the bus; as the bus travels anti clockwise with the coast on the right.

Following lunch we had a 10 minute photo stop Peter pointing out things of interest, then back on the road for a further long drive via Waterville - Charlie Chaplin monument here, as his summer holiday home located in Waterville.

Continuing along the coast before heading inland with a stop at the very scenic village of Sneem, scenic bridge over the river here, and famous homemade icecream , 15 minute stop here.

Continuing inland the scenery was dramatic with beautiful glacial valleys leading to the Killarney Lake system - spectacular scenery on this part of the trip. Final stop was at Ladies View in Killarney National Park stunning views down to the valley floor and the lake system.

Continued to Killarney to arrive for the 1715hrs train connection back to Dublin for those leaving the tour today. Farewell to Peter our guide at this time.

Dinner for me tonight was in the Stonechat restaurant good ambience and pleasant dinner.

 

Day 3

Dingle Peninsular 10am until 1730

The tour today is operated solely by RailTours local ground operator Davos Tours.

Tim our driver / guide was brilliant, amusing, knowledgeable and concerned for everyone’s comfort.

The tour today followed the coast and operated in a clockwise direction, clients need the left side of the bus today, and Dingle Peninsula far surpasses Kerry in terms of beaches and coastal vistas.

This area is 100% Irish speaking and summer schools operate during the summer months, highly in demand. Here students must only converse in Irish if they speak English at any time they are off the course, and returned to their home.

The first stop for coffee was at the surf beach of Innis- not exciting in my book as i again realise Australian beaches surpass anything one sees generally overseas. 

The peninsula itself is wild and stormy with several holiday spots along the coast.

Loved the harbour town of Dingle cute pubs, tourist shopping and a strong Tourist feel ( maybe due to the summer holidays here)  I would recommend clients stay here in preference to Tralee.

Recent Dingle distillery producing their own Dingle Gin and Dingle Vodka, and consequently late back to the bus as I went in search of the Gin and found it in the supermarket, where everyone was speaking Irish i felt i was truly O/S Not too much history on this trip today, Tim explained the ancient Lists known as fairy rings originally built to hide in, surrounded by water and were joined underground. They now appear as circular mounds either of trees or just grass and we became quite proficient at recognising these amongst the fields, by the end of the tour.

The driver advised the famous Irishman Tom Crean, who joined Shackleton on his voyage to Antarctica originates from here, and his pub South Pole Inn was pointed out during our drive.

Too early for dinner, I went exploring Killarney, and enjoyed the riverwalk in the national park.

Highlight dinner at Bricin where i experienced Irish boxty - a potato pancake stuffed with meat or vegetable and served with salad.

Especially like this restaurant as recognised i was eating alone and brought me a beautiful local photography book to flip through while i waited.

 

Day 4

Killarney to Galway via Limmerick, Bunratty Castle, Doolan, Cliffs of Moher, and The Burren.

Early start today. We were collected from our accommodation at 0700 hrs and transferred by 20 seater bus to Limmerick, to meet the Dublin day trippers for the tour.

Drive was around 90 minutes and we arrived in ample time for the 0950 arrival of the train.

We continued now in a RailtTours Ireland yellow full size coach, considerably more comfortable than the Davos vehicles, with Norman our tour guide, equally as experienced as Peter and a valued part of the day’s proceedings.

As we left Limerick we were given a mini city tour, and to learn that this city has the largest unemployment, explained the dour feel of the place. Limerick’s claim to fame is this was the setting for the book Angela’s Ashes as the author came from here.

Bunratty Castle about a 30 minute drive from Limerick was our first stop.

The castle has been refurbished and the main hall is now used for medieval banquets.

Most of the furnishings in the castle are not original these have been brought in mainly from Germany. The last family to reside in the castle, left in the early 18C as too cold damp and draftey they built and lived in Bunratty House located in the grounds and now part of the Folk Park here where many original cottages have been placed to create an authentic early village museum.

We spent a very pleasant 90 minutes here.

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The drive across country to the west coast was a pleasant 90 minutes passing through many quaint colourful villages en route to our highlight visit to the Cliffs of Moher.

Our lunch stop was at Doolan which I had great expectations of, but in reality comprises of one street, with a few shops cafes and a pub. A youth hostel and several B&Bs in people’s homes, are the accommodation choices, though thereis a large holiday trailer park adjacent toa disappointing beach.

However it is the starting point for viewing the amazing Cliffs of Moher, the 8km walk of the cliffs can commence here, and a guided walking tour operates at 10am daily during summer.

Our group travelled to the visitors centre located midway between Ennistmoon and Doolan, which is a must to visit after viewing the cliffs with many hands on attractions, and a great alternative for anyone afraid of heights, or has difficulty in walking.

Our arrival was in a fierce storm, but after walking one side of the cliffs in the rain, the sky cleared and we were able to view and photograph the cliffs in clear sunlight from both sides. A must on an itinerary though I can see how often you would not be able to see the cliffs at all.

From here the Arran Isles are clearly visible - accessible by ferry from Doolan or a 7 minute flight (small aircraft) as an alternative.

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Following the Cliff visit we continued along the coast passing through the unique Limestone Burren region which stretches for several miles Burren meaning Rocky Place Certainly a unique landscape and as we were fortunate to have a geologist as one of our group, she made the visit incredibly interesting for me.

The drive then continued along the Galway coast - considered beautiful, but again a little disappointing in terms of beaches/ holiday resorts in my book.

Our arrival into Galway was at 1745 and we had until 1900 when we had to be at the station for our train to Dublin.

I walked through the city park, and through to the pedestrian shopping precinct. Very cute feel to Galway and especially lively as the Galway Cup had just finished and busloads of well dressed, well 'oiled!!!! young folk poured into town for the after party - reminded me so much of home around Melbourne Cup, on a smaller scale. 

The return train did not offer a separate luggage car, therefore we had to handle our luggage ourselves and place in the area at the back of the carriage. RailTours had again a reserved car and reserved seating just for our group.

We arrived back into Dublin at 2150hrs where it was pouring with rain.

Westbury Hotel Dublin

Tucked in a quiet street off the Grafton Street shopping precinct brilliant location, 10 minute walk to Trinity College, Saint Stephens Green parklands and shopping centre.

Templebar nightlife to the right of Dora Street also many pubs and restaurants in the streets to the left of Dora near the Westbury Hotel.

Comfortable 'gentleman's   club' feel to the hotel, dark furnishings, black marble bathrooms. Spacious room’s flat screen TV choice of paid selections or regular TV

Free Wifi and a Nespresso machine (which i failed to get working!!!) in every room.

Dublin sightseeing enjoyed via the Hop on Hop off sightseeing bus 48 hour ticket purchased prior to arrival, great value terrific overview of Dublin taking 90 minutes for the complete circle. Narrated commentary by the amusing entertaining bus driver, far better than the headphones offered on many such tours.

Not to be missed the Guinness storehouse, home of the famous Ale Eur18.00 entry, less cost if booked on line, and allows front of line entry.

Jamiesons Whisky distillery, and Trinity College to view the famous Book of Kells, and the original university Library, also a must see.