The day dawned cloudy again, but breakfast was fun and tasty. Without realizing it, we both nibbled on blood sausages, one kind of which I actually enjoyed. There was a nice girl managing the breakfast that we had a long chat with. She was only 24, and originally from Germany. We somehow got on the topic of healthcare, and she was of the opinion that German health care was excellent, but Irish healthcare is terrible. If you have private insurance, you might wait a month or two for non-urgent care, but if you have government insurance, it could be up to two years.
We drove out of Galway, through unbelievably indescribably beautiful landscapes against the sea, and mountains. None of the pictures I took did justice to the absolute beauty all around us, and we were both constantly (well, me more than Heath) gasping and pointing.
We made several quick stops for pictures, and on a whim, stopped at a castle that was not in our guide book: Dunguaire Castle. We were really excited! Our first castle! Only, once we got inside, and started to read the wall plackards, we found out that Dunguaire Castle wasn’t technically a castle at all. It is a traditional Irish Tower House. Tower Houses were fortified residences built as a “fashionable Irish house” for a gentleman or rich farmer, between 1450 and 1650 AD.
We were a little disappointed to not actually be wandering through our first true castle (especially once we finally saw how huge the real ones were!). But the house had a lot of charm. This particular house is the best preserved in Ireland, and was built in 1520. It was passed down from family member to family member until 1966, and it is in remarkably good condition. Lots of tiny stairwells and low doorways, and an excellent view from the top floors.
In the gift shop, I got a very beautiful Claddaugh bracelet with peridot hearts, and I love remembering that stop at the Tower House. I’m glad we stopped there for another reason; as we drove over Ireland, we saw many other crumbling tower houses (most were nearly fully ruined), and we could identify them because of the similarity with Dunguiare Castle.
We continued on towards the infamous Cliffs of Moor. The fog got thicker than thicker and thicker the closer we got. It looked like we’d reached the end of the world, and was slightly unnerving. Total pea soup fog with no visability whatsoever by the time we got to the main parking lot for the cliffs, so we drove past, and went to a cool rock shop for a bit to see if it would clear up. It was clear around the rock shop, but remained foggy around the cliffs, so we very sadly gave up.
Near the cliffs, there was a lovely shrine to St. Brighid (or “Bridget” in American). It was a very cool experience, and I dipped a Connemara marble heart that I’d bought for Heath at the rock shop in the spring that is blessed by St. Brighid. We also walked around a really neat graveyard that was just behind the shrine on a cliff. As we walked back towards our car, a wee Irish lady started chatting with us about the shrine, and wished us well. It was just a neat experience.
Since we missed the Cliffs of Moor, we decided to move on to the highly recommended Bunratty Castle. Strike two – it closed at 4:30 PM, and we didn’t make it in time. We kept going down to our next stop at a new B&B and got stuck in stop-dead traffic outside of Limerick. Took us over an hour to go 11 kilometres!!!
Limerick, from what little we saw of it, was very seedy and not very interesting-looking. Once we got past all the traffic, we followed some truly zany directions to get to the B&B (which was outside of town, in the countryside). We pulled up and our jaws hit the floor. It was a fairly modern house, the grounds were spotless and filled with a beautiful garden, and the house was set against a beautiful backdrop of farmland. A sweet old yellow lab waddled up to greet us when we parked. The inside of the house was just as pretty, and our room was really comfortable and big – even nicer than Amber Bay (our accommodations got progressively better in Ireland – just wait until you hear about the last one). Our super-sweet hostess with a thick Irish accent barely came past Heath’s waistline in height, and was just one of the nicest people we’d encountered so far.
She recommended we to go to the local golf club to get dinner. I’m a big foodie, and Heath and I wanted to experience as much of the local food as possible, so we smiled at her suggestion but immediately vowed to find something else when we got in the car. We drove past the golf course, looking for alternatives, but there seemed to be nothing but houses and farms. The lone pub we found did not serve food, and ALSO referred us to the golf club, so we gave in and turned around. Heath’s bun-less burger covered in gravy, mushrooms and onions was excellent, but my Irish stew was definitely below par. All of the bites of meat had large pieces of fat and/or sinew on them, and it had peas and lima beans and corn in it (the former two are the two rare veggies that I don’t like to eat).
Our dinner amusement: a member of the group behind us loudly proclaiming in shock “JAySus, Mahry, an Jozef!” as a rat scurried across the deck just outside of the window by which we were all sitting. It was hiLARious, especially as I never expected anyone to actually say one of the two phrases the Irish are often stereotyped as saying.
When we came back to the house, the sun finally broke through the clouds, and we took a short walk through the garden. This was the first B&B to have a desk, so I happily uploaded pictures, typed in notes for my travelogue, and read until the sun came down.