Ireland Still Surprises Me

Derrybawn Bridge, Laragh, County Wicklow
Poulnass Waterfall, Glendalough, County Wicklow

Poulnass Waterfall, Glendalough, County Wicklow

I am getting ready to head back to Ireland.  So, it’s that time for the top, pre-vacation question.  You are going back to Ireland … again? It is then followed by … why? 

There are some funs answers (50 Reasons Why I Return to Ireland), but the ones that really matter are still difficult to articulate. Thankfully, over time, one has finally percolated to the top. Simply ….

Ireland still surprises me.

It truly seems that every day that I am in Ireland I manage a ‘unexpected experience.’  Sometimes, they can be small.  And, interestingly enough, I will often return to see if a place goes stale. You know … time to move on to another place.  But, my return trips still hand me at least one surprise and so, I keep returning.

Single Tree, Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, County Wicklow

Single Tree, Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, County Wicklow

I will be stopping at Powerscourt for the sixth time next month. Each time I manage to discover a nook or cranny that yields an unbelievable image.  For example, there is this little pine tree by Pepperpot Tower that just lit up by an early morning sun last December.  Simple and it stopped me in my tracks. I am kind of hoping to see that one again.  Kilkenny?  It only took five return trips to discover the side alleys.  And then there is the Newgrange Passage Tomb … to stand in this structure that is older than the pyramids and knowing that it has stood the a test of time; it never get’s old.  Even Glendalough can lend its hand at healing one’s soul.  There is a reason that St. Kevin put up a tent there, so to speak. I find that I can just ‘be’ for hours.

And don’t always listen to the tour books.  For example, I actually like Blarney Castle. Most tour books will suggest you avoid it due to long lines for the Blarney stone. True. What I didn’t expect was the grounds or the Blarney House. I was there for my third time in May and after four hours of walking the grounds, we finally headed to the car.

Blarney Castle, Blarney, County Cord

Blarney Castle, Blarney, County Cord

Oh, and those long lines … many tour busses only stop for an hour or so. That means, if they want to kiss the Blarney Stone, it will be the only thing that they have time for.  The rest of the grounds can actually be quiet.

And, if you can go off the beaten path, a whole new host of opportunities await you.  Have you every been to Lahinch, County Clare?  It is a beach/surfing town on the West coast.  Who knew?  Fethard … we were returning to the B&B on the back roads, drove around a curve and, wow!  Here is this small town still encased in a Medieval stone wall.  Glenmalure and it’s waterfall?  It took me two attempts to find it.  The waterfall is nice, but the cottage at its base creates a one-of-a-kind picture.  Copper Coast?  No buses allowed and it is a wonderful, leisurely, drive along the south cost.  I can go on ….

Blarney Castle, Blarney, County Cord

Glenmalure Cottage, Glenmalure, Count Wicklow

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about the people.  I have been very fortunate to meet a few people along the way that have become friends.  There is something genuine in the connections. There seems to be  slower pace (at least outside of the cities) and you can actually have a conversation.  I still feel community spirit in most places and it is healthy to see people watching out for their neighbors.  Family is still important … and if you want to question that, spend a few hours in the Dublin Airport … the Irish have made welcoming family home an art.

I know that Ireland is far from perfect. Ireland has many of the same problems we see here in the US.  I listen to Irish radio and read Irish news sites every day.  There have been economic hard times, high unemployment, a health care crisis, crime, etc.  But as an outsider looking in, I see people banding and trying  together to make a difference; they don’t shy from pushing back when they see ‘wrongs’.  They still care.  That can surprise even the most cynical around.

So, I am at 30 days until I board that plane.  I have a very long list of possibilities and no itinerary.  I will be lucky if I make it to a handful, but that’s okay.  There is always another trip.  All I know is that when I return, I will have a very long list of unexpected experiences that will fortify me until my next trip.

In the end, I am still betting on Ireland … and that she will continue to surprise me.

Follow the Path, Mounty Usher Gardens, Ashford, County Wicklow

Follow the Path, Mounty Usher Gardens, Ashford, County Wicklow

the Edge, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

the Edge, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

Triton Lake, Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, County Wicklow

Triton Lake, Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, County Wicklow

Take Flight, Cobh, County Cork

Take Flight, Cobh, County Cork

Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny

Get on the Boat … Doolin, County Clare

Waiting at Doolin Pier, County Clare
Arrivals, Doolin Pier, County Clare

Arrivals, Doolin Pier, County Clare

I recently posted an image of Crab Island on my social media sites.  I thought … a Doolin post! I have been twice and each time it doesn’t disappoint.  This last time … well, it was a bit of a doozy!

If you are unfamiliar with Doolin, it is just a few miles north of the Cliffs of Moher.  It is best known for the Doolin Pier where you can catch a boat and view the Cliffs from the Atlantic Ocean.  If you are heading that way, and in the word’s of a friend … get on the boat!

Is it worth it the time?  You are probably thinking … by the time I get there, buy tickets, wait, go out, etc., it will take an  entire afternoon.  But, it is absolutely worth it!

Sea Stack, Cliffs of Moher

Sea Stack, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

First, if you like ‘people watching’ grab a seat at the back of the boat; sit back and observe. You will see newly purchased wool sweaters, excited kids, nervous parents (watching those excited kids), resigned spouses (only there because he/she made me), and camera’s everywhere.

Unless you venture inside the cabin, be prepared to get a bit wet.  There is the ever changing weather and you can find yourself standing in a shower.  You are also going to be on the Atlantic Ocean.  It can get a bit ‘choppy’.  This last trip, we were dipping enough that the spray was coming over the top and the waves were pushing water over the bow.  If you are there for the photos … consider a camera rain sleeve and a cloth to wipe the lens.  (Since you are dealing with salty sea water, it was easy to toss the $3 rain sleeve and lens cloth afterwards.)

Before we talk about the images, let’s talk about the excursion.  I have never been motion sick.  In fact, I sailed on the Gulf two days after a hurricane and had a blast.  Understand that you are going to get on a small boat and sail into the Atlantic.  Now, they will never put anyone’s life in danger.  But, it can get choppy depending on the weather and many are not prepared for it.  If it is a very windy day, it may not be the right time for you.  My first trip was pretty calm.  This last one … not so much.  In fact, we took a couple of swells and most people panicked.  They actually took a vote and there were only five us eager to get closer … it was a sunny day and we had our cameras ready.  Everyone else wanted to head back … most were indisposed while the crew handed out plastic bags. So, heading back was probably the right thing to do.

Here is my suggestion … if you know you get motion sickness, it may not be the best choice unless it is a very calm day.  Most days, you will probably get some pitch like my first trip, but it isn’t bad.  If it is windy or stormy, the water will probably be ‘choppy’.  If you are concerned about the weather and/or sailing conditions, ask.  I really respected the gentleman at the counter (as the wind was picking up even more) who strongly suggested another day when a couple showed up to purchase tickets.  They also had a baby stroller in tow.

So, back to the images … is it worth it?  Absolutely.  You can get some really good images of the Atlantic, Crab Island and the Cliffs, themselves. More importantly, if you really want to get a feel for the scale of the Cliffs, taking the boat tour is the best way to do this. If at all possible, you definitely want to get on that boat!!

Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone … On the Way to Aran Islands

If I may do a ‘kindness of strangers’ shout out.  Thanks to  the crew (on shore and on the boat) for locating my iphone.  We were ‘rocking and rolling’ so much that as I steadied myself against the bow, I also pushed my phone out of my back pocket.  The boat loaded quickly, so we weren’t able to catch it before it headed back out.  But the guys on shore were kind enough to call the boat.  The crew located the phone and once they returned, we were reunited. (They also seemed to appreciated the fudge that I bought them as a ‘thank you.’)

And kudos to Apple’s “Find an iPhone” app.  We were able to confirm that the phone was on the boat and still working.  So, my iPhone has been to the Aran Islands.  I, however, still have it on my list for another day.

Crab Island, Doolin, County Clare

Crab Island, Doolin, County Clare

North Side, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

North Side, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

Cliffs of Moher & Sea Stack, County Clare

Cliffs of Moher & Sea Stack, County Clare

Arrivals, Doolin Pier, County Clare

Arrivals, Doolin Pier, County Clare

The Story Behind the Images

Hedges, Kilruddery House & Gardens, Bray, County Wicklow

It is time for a reboot of the site!

My style continues to evolve. While I still work to capture that iconic ruin or landscape image, I now find myself pausing along the way. Instead of walking past a bench, a stone wall or even a tree, I stop. I take a breath and work to be present in the moment. At that time and in that place, I question myself – what is Ireland letting me borrow for that moment before she pulls it back?

If you explore my older posts, you will find information on various places that I have visited since June 2012. After my third trip, my blog stalled. I wasn’t sure the direction that I wanted to take. In the meantime, I started Facebook and Twitter accounts to share my photos. And while those sites are slowly growing, my social media sites were disconnected.

My goal when I returned from my June 2014 visit was to resurrect this blog and find my voice. But, providing historical/tourist information on a site didn’t feel ‘right’. There are dozens of sites that I can point you to for information. They will do a better job than I ever would. So, what direction? What voice?

Since it is November and not July, you would be right in thinking that there was still a bit of a struggle.  So, I decided to sign up for an online, travel blogging class this fall by Dangerous Business (http://www.dangerous-business.com).  The class has provided a variety of information, ranging from tips to approaches.  What it has really done was find a way to pull it all together.

So, I reflected on the question that I am often asked … why do you keep returning to Ireland? One primary reason are the experiences; many unexpected. As I post my image to Facebook and Twitter, these stories are lost. Then, it came to me … I can use this blog to connect the social media sites. This will be my avenue to tell the stories behind the images. To share the Ireland that I have discovered and love.

So, it is time to get started. I liked the idea of using the image of the Kilruddery House & Garden’s hedges for a feature image.  It is a visual that shows my path coming to a focal point; thought it would be appropriate  I am also going to leave you today with a few other images today.

As always … enjoy your day!

Malahide Harbour, Malahide, County Dublin

Malahide Harbour, Malahide, County Dublin

Between the Stones, Doolin Pier, Doolin, County Clare

Between the Stones, Doolin Pier, Doolin, County Clare

Hidden on the Suir, Cahir, County Tipperary

Hidden on the Suir, Cahir, County Tipperary

 

 

Windows of Ireland

The following is a collection of windows found throughout Ireland. With a little help of the iPad app called ‘ArtistaOil HD, I have moved photos to paintings.

The Munster Bar, Waterford, County Waterford

The Munster Bar, Waterford, County Waterford

 

Loop Head House, Bunratty, County Clare

Loop Head House, Bunratty, County Clare

 

Golden Vale Farmhouse, Bunratty, County Clare

Golden Vale Farmhouse, Bunratty, County Clare

 

Artisan House, Bunratty, County Clare

Artisan House, Bunratty, County Clare

Kilkenny, County Kilkenny

Kilkenny, County Kilkenny

 

Kitty's Cabin, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny

Kitty’s Cabin, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny

 

Shannon Farmhouse, Bunratty, County Clare

Shannon Farmhouse, Bunratty, County Clare

 

P Mac Namara & Sons, Bunratty, County Clare

P Mac Namara & Sons, Bunratty, County Clare

 

St. Nicholas Church, Jerpoint, County Kilkenny

St. Nicholas Church, Jerpoint, County Kilkenny

 

Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny

Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny

Bunratty Castle, County Clare

After arriving in Ireland, I had a few hours to fill before I could check into the cottage. A few minutes outside of Shannon is a town called Bunratty that has a castle … Bunratty Castle. Sara and I stopped there on our last day in June. But we were tired, it was getting late; we simply took a few photos and headed to the hotel.

My day started out cold and rainy. After 20 hours of traveling, it was a good way to walk away the fog. In addition to the castle, there is also a village attached to it with a variety of houses, a farm, etc.

The castle was interesting. They allow you to go in and walk around. While they have added indoor plumbing in a few places, they have not altered most of the architecture. I anticipated that they would have widened or straightened out the steps, but they didn’t. In the US, they would have simply blocked them off and not permitted access. I love the fact that we can be trusted to climb the circular, narrow, stone steps. I walked up to the North Solaris at the top and explored multiple floors.

From there, it was walking the grounds. I have decided to take photos of windows and doors during this trip. Hmmm … some possibility there. At the very end, there was a mini village. It was decorated for Christmas, obviously for a weekend mini festival. They even used white batting; cutting it to make it look like snow patches on the roofs. Ingenuity!

Here are photos for the day:

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle

 

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle

Entrance to Bunratty Castle

Entrance to Bunratty Castle

 

Christmas Decorations!

Christmas Decorations!

 

Stained Glass Windows

Stained Glass Windows

 

Village Door and ...

Village Door and …

 

Farmhouse Window

Farmhouse Window

 

Post Box

Post Box

 

Farmhouse Replica

Farmhouse Replica

 

The Vertical Mill

The Vertical Mill

 

Golden Vale Farmhouse

Golden Vale Farmhouse

 

Notice the "Snow"?

Notice the “Snow”?


Location via Google Maps:

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