On Monday 26th of July the Government of Ireland relaxed Covid-19 restrictions throughout the country and for me it was a day of joy as it meant people from the UK who had received both doses of the vaccination could visit the Ireland without having to self-isolate for 14 days. Oh, and also on that date the pubs could serve alcohol indoors which was an added bonus.
So just two weeks later on the 9th of August I was on a plane bound for Dublin, a city I hadn’t visited for over 25 years, however this time I wouldn’t be visiting it until the following Friday, the day of my return to Scotland. Today I was collecting a hire car and heading to Kilmallock, the village that would be my base for exploring the south west of the country.
My plan was to visit the counties of Limerick, Cork and Kerry but in order to get to my base in Kilmallock I would travel through the counties of Dublin, Kildare, Laois and Tipperary which by all standards is a great drive for your first day.
Kilmallock is a historical town in Co Limerick and is close to the border of Co Kerry because of its location it was the centre of a number of battles over the centuries. The last battle in the town was one of the longest battles during the Irish Civil War when the town was held by the Anti-Treaty IRA forces as they tried to stop the advancing Irish Free State Army. The battle raged for 10 days before the IRA fled the town allowing the Free State to take it over.
After a goodnight’s sleep it was of to visit my cousin and his family who live in Co Kerry and along the way I made a short diversion to Cork, just for a wee look around the city. It get’s very confusing in Ireland when the county town/city has the same name as the county.
After leaving Cork, the city and the county, it was on to Co. Kerry to meet up with my cousin, Tom, who has lived in Ireland for around 15 years. Tom lives in Killorglin with his wife, Ros and his son Tom. The town has annual summer festival called the Puck Fair. This involves a group of men scouring the hills for a male goat which the Puck Queen, a local girl, crowns the goat king and the festivities lasts for 3 days. One local, who shall remain nameless explained it to me as “we make the goat king and we all act the goat!”. Needless to say, because it is Ireland there is lots of drinking and music and dancing.
After visiting Tom it was on to the Ring of Kerry, a 111 mile tourist route around County Kerry however I wouldn’t be doing the full route just a section but what I did do was lovely with dramatic cliff views of the coast to lush green mountains, beautiful, see below.
The next stop was the village of Blarney with its famous Blarney Castle home to the legendary Blarney Stone. It is claimed that if you kiss the Blarney Stone you will have the gift of the gab. I think the person who invented the story already had the gift! However, I was in Blarney and I was going to kiss the stone.
To reach the stone you have to make your way up a very tricky and narrow spiral staircase which leads all the way to the roof of the castle and once on the roof you need the assistance of a guide to help you down to the stone. It helps if you are double jointed.
As fate would have it the Blarney Stone is the bottom stone of a parapet and the only way to reach it is backwards and and head first. It’s a long way down.
Before the safety rails were installed you had to risk life and limb as someone had to hold you by the ankles and dangle you before the stone, not for the faint hearted.
On Thursday it was time to visit Co Galway and the Emerald City more precisely known as Galway City. The city lies between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay made famous by the song Galway Bay and of course Ed Sheeran sung about a Galway Girl more recently.
The city has many places of interest such as the Claddagh, the Hall of the Red Earl and the Spanish Arch and it was in this area that I had my first taste of Irish Guinness and I must say it is true, The Guinness in Ireland tastes far better than the Guinness you get here in the UK.
Before I knew it my time in Ireland was almost up. My flight out of Dublin was at 9pm the following evening so this left lots of time to visit the city of Dublin. It’s over 25 years since I was last in Dublin and things have changed, as you would expect, but some of the changes aren’t for the better. O’Connell St is looking a bit run down and there are a good few empty shops.
The Post Office is still there and still showing the signs of the battle that raged there during the Easter Rising in 1916. The building was the centre of the Rising as all communications went through there so strategically taking this building as a great move by the Rebels. Today, the bullet holes can still be seen especially in the columns at the front of the building, see photo below.
One addition I couldn’t help noticing is The Spire which is a 120 metre high pin-like monument near the post office.
Since I hadn’t been in Dublin for over 25 years I had to redo all the tourist stuff so I walked down O’Connell St to the Ha’penny Bridge over the Liffey and into the Temple Bar area. This area is Dublin’s cultural area with many arts centres and studios however it’s probably more better known as the centre of Dublin’s nightlife and the Temple Bar is probably the most famous bar in the area.
Once through the Temple Bar area it was on to Grafton St, Dublin’s shopping street, I headed up this street towards St Stephen’s Green. During the Easter Rising in 1916 this lovely small park was home to around 250 members of the Irish Citizens Army and there are a series of information boards that tells the story of this while leading you around the park. I did find it very Irish that the fighting was temporarily halted so as the park keeper could feed the park ducks!
This is where my time in the city centre ended and it was back to the car and off to Dublin airport for the short flight home. As the plane headed to Scotland I witnessed a lovely sunset and thought it was a fitting end to my trip.