I think it is now time to go back a couple of weeks, to the time before the boys all arrived for our birthday week. Back in fact to our holiday in Ireland. Because we packed so much into our time there I decided to divide the holiday into two posts, week one and week two.
I wasn't sure what to expect of Ireland except rain, and lots of green, but we were soon both enthralled by the beauty, the lovely people, and the relaxed atmosphere every where. We did get rain, but nothing like as much as we had expected. Some days were showery and I was glad of my nylon raincoat, but most days an extra jumper or light fleece was all that was needed. We even had a few days when we walked around in shirt sleeves. But everyone told us what a wet summer they had had, with no chance of mowing the lawns because the ground was so sodden, and you could hear it squelching when you walked on it, so we were very lucky with the weather for our two weeks.
And we did see our forty shades of green, and some! Most days we found ourselves driving down narrow roads with huge deciduous trees on either side that almost met in the centre, so we were driving through green tunnels. In other places the trees were changing to their autumn colours and we really appreciated this as just about the only trees we see out here are pines.
The thing that was common to just about everywhere we went was water. We saw rivers, lakes and water-falls as well as the sea. Even the cities all had a river or two running through them. This river, running through the centre of Cork reminded me of mum. She used to love the way these little daisies crawled all over the dry-stone walls in Wales.
And with so much water of course, we also saw the sea birds, with great variety. This is a flock of gulls and pigeons flying over the harbour at Limerick. We also saw some swans take off from this stretch of water, and nearer the coast we saw herring gulls, cormorants kittiwakes and dippers. And inland we saw hundreds of crows and jackdaws which are so beautiful close up, but also rather menacing.
We altered our original planned route, driving from Dublin straight across to Limerick on the first day, and then driving south to Killarney, through Bantry bay and on to Clonakilty where we stayed for three days. This was the area where Chris's mum, Peggy, was born and spent her childhood. She left when she was only 14-16, but each year she took her children back for a holiday. They used to stay with her mother in a cottage in Shannonvale on the edge of Clonakilty, and we went to see this cottage, which is still standing though it has been extended and modernised. We also saw the ruined cottage where Peggy was born, and the fields and lake that Chris remembered from his early holidays. A few months ago we had a visit from a cousin and friend of Chris from his younger days in Northwood, and from him we had learned that there were still a few of Peggy's family living in Clonakilty, so we arranged to meet Joe Tobin, son of Peggy's brother Tom. Chris had not met him before because he was born after the last time Chris went out for a holiday, when he was about 15. We got on well with Joe and his wife, and they showed us around, and filled in some gaps in Chris' memories. In the evening he took us to visit their grandparents grave, which is also where Joe's father and brother were buried. Joe suggested we also try to get to the Dingle peninsular to meet his sister, which we eventually did, but more of that next time.
Clonakilty itself was a busy little town with a big cathedral as well as a Church of Ireland. There was a big supermarket on the outskirts, but the main road was made up small indivdual shops. I particularly loved this old fashioned sweet shop. Every available space was lined with jars of old-fashioned sweets. I made the mistake of going there just as the schools came out and as you can see it was very busy! We found the statue of Michael Collins who played such an important role in Ireland's history. By going back far enough it is possible to link him to Chris's family but most Irish folk around there lay claim to that as well.
Dotted around the town there were large and colourful statues of animals. They were all part of an interactive art project for the children. Apparently there were about thirty but I only found about third of them. I thought they were rather fun and they brightened up some dark areas. I'm sure my boys would have loved spotting them when they were out and about.
We left Clonakilty to drive the short distance to Cork city, where my dad was born. We had timed it so that we were there for the weekend because it was the finale of Cork folk festival (Céilí Mór). This took place on the main plaza which was set up with lovely food stalls all around one end, and a big stage at the other.
On the Sunday afternoon we sat and watched some of the 'warm-up players', and then later there was a series of céilí bands, including Cork under thirteen band who were so good. The youngsters were playing fiddles, pipes and drums easily as well as the adults. They had come second in an all-Ireland competition. As the bands played they had several 'callers' who called out the moves for the dances and everyone went into a cordoned off area and joined in. We did a few dances but they were a bit energetic for us, and mostly we just enjoyed listening to the music.
We wanted something to do before the folk session so we went for a long walk to the area called Shandon. So many of the place names are familiar to me from the wide range of Irish songs that we both like listening to, and I am sure I used to have one about the Shandon bells, but I haven't been able to find it yet. The bells are housed in a tower and some mornings the public can have a go at ringing them. But we were there on a Sunday morning so it wasn't an option for us. The tower is know as the Four Liars because the four clock faces on it's sides never tell exactly the same time. Also in Shandon we spent some time in the butter market museum which was very interesting and we learned all about the brand name Kerrygold, and how it came about.
To get to Shandon we walked across a beautiful park called Fitzgerald park. it was a still morning and there were lovely reflections of trees and bridges in the water.
While we were in Clonakilty we drove along the river estuary to a lovely beach called Inchdonny. It was two wide, almost deserted, sandy bays with a spit of land between them that ended in cleft rocks. Chris remembers going to this beach on his holidays and climbing on the rocks. We watched the sunset there and it was beautiful. And on the other side of the estuary we visited Ring harbour which was also a very pretty spot. The photo of the swans gliding passed an old ruined building there is one of my favourites.
But I think the most beautiful place that we went to during our first week was Killarney. There is a national park as part of the city and we had a long walk in there, and the next day we hitched a ride on a jaunting car which took us passed the lakes to Torc Falls and Muckross House. it was all lovely.I took loads of photos of mossy rocks, toadstools, weird and twisted trees, and a few wild flowers. When we drove on from there we stopped at lady View point from where we could see all down the valley to the lakes. Just stunning!
Well I think I had better stop there. I have added just a few photos to this post and I have tried to use one that aren't in my main folder, but you can see the places I have been talking about, and other too, in the folder "Ireland; week 1" in my gallery which you will find if you click here. I hope you will have time for a quick look. There were far too many beautiful places to do them justice here.I'll be back soon with week two.