Just for a change, it was cold, grey and wet today but as it was a travel day, it didn’t matter too much. I caught the train from Lydney to Bristol Temple Meads, the bus to Bristol Airport and then the Ryanair flight to Knock, where I arrived at 4.15pm. There was, of course, a fair bit of waiting around to do, particularly at the Severn Tunnel Junction station, where I had to change trains, and then at the airport, but as I had plenty to read it wasn’t a problem.
At the Severn Tunnel, there wasn’t really a waiting room, just a few covered seats on the platform, so it was a bit chilly. The girl sitting next to me wrapped herself in a blanket that she conjured out of one of her many bags, so she was well prepared, unlike me.
My sister, Rose, and her son, Finn, were waiting for me at Knock, as was the blue sky and sun and we had a beautiful drive to their home along the narrow lanes of the Irish countryside.
Russ and the dogs came to greet us when we arrived and we spent a very relaxed evening. It didn’t get dark until after 11pm which is quite disruptive to the body clock!
The sun was shining brightly this morning when Russ went fishing for the day and Rose, Finn and I drove into Ballina to do some shopping. We were out for a couple of hours and then had an exceptionally lazy afternoon, chatting and reading.
Unbelievably, there was yet another blue sky when I woke up this morning.
As Rose was out all day today, I spent all morning talking to Russ about everything from poetry to drugs and then we walked down to a neighbour’s house, with Minnie, one of the dogs, to go and water her plants. By this time, the wind was quite cool but the sun still shining. There are some beautiful views across the fields towards the sea from their lane and it was a beautiful day.
The day dawned not quite so bright and beautiful but at least it wasn’t raining! Rose and I set off just after 9am for the drive to Ballyvaughan, which was about 2 – 3 hours away. We headed along the bog road towards Knock and then joined the main road as far as Galway before turning off to travel to the coast and Kinvara and Ballyvaughan.
We stopped at Kinvara for a coffee and a quick look at the town and then ate our sandwiches on a seat by the harbour. By this time, it was quite grey and a bit chilly, but still not raining!
We then decided that we would go to the Burren Perfumery, which is somewhere Rose had wanted to visit for years, on the way to Ballyvaughan. This involved quite a twisty drive through some narrow lanes in The Burren and we would never have found it without the directions and sign posts. It was certainly a little off the beaten track! Once there, however, it was very peaceful and quite delightful (and not too crowded, given that it was a Bank Holiday).
We had a walk around the garden and then sampled everything in the perfumery shop, without actually buying anything. After that, a cup of tea and piece of cake was required before we headed off again towards Ballyvaughan. (We did wonder what beat the Guarda were on that they could enjoy afternoon tea at the Perfumery. It must have been a quiet afternoon!)
We arrived at the B&B, which was a little way out of the village, at about 4.30pm and, after we had checked in, decided to go for a walk.
Our hostess advised us that the Woodland Loop would take about an hour and was a good walk, so we drove back into Ballyvaughan, left the car and set off.
Two hours later we were wondering whether we were just very slow walkers or she had meant it took an hour to run the track! However, apart from being unprepared for a hike (who takes their handbag on a hike?!), it was very enjoyable, with a perfect temperature, blue skies and beautiful scenery.
Once back in Ballyvaughan, we stopped at the Hyland pub for dinner, where we both had a balanced diet of soup and chips, (seafood chowder for me and leek and potato for Rose) before returning to our room for wine and reading before bed.
The sky was looking a little ominous this morning when we awoke. After a hearty breakfast (full Irish breakfast for me and tepid pancakes for Rose), we drove into Ballyvaughan and had a look at the craft fair, which was small and, not surprisingly, totally tourist orientated. The town seems to be full of B&Bs and there are tour buses going through almost continuously. We also checked out the cake stall in the pub, bought a couple of slices of carrot cake for later, and then continued on to drive around the coast towards Fanore Beach.
The road was very narrow, twisty and busy and the landscape became bleaker and bleaker and greyer and greyer as we approached Fanore. We parked at the beach and had a lovely stroll along the sand/rocks and even though the weather wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, beach weather, there were a number of people walking along, as well as a few hardy souls in the water. The coast apparently is very good for surfing but the surf certainly looked a bit messy today.
We were there for quite a while and then continued our drive along the coast towards the Cliffs of Moher. By this time, despite the large breakfast, we decided it was at least time for coffee, if not lunch, so we were lured in by several signs along the way for the Stonecutter’s Cottage. This proved to be an excellent choice and we both had soup in a very cosy cottage (funnily enough) with extremely helpful and friendly staff.
Next stop was the Cliffs of Moher. Here, there was a large charge to walk along the cliffs, which we were reluctant to pay, as well as a lot of people, so drove a little further on and then followed a car that had turned off down a lane towards the sea. Amazingly, at the end of this (several kilometres of even narrower, twisty road), an enterprising Irishman had turned his front garden into a car park for which he was charging 2 euros, as opposed to the 6 per person in the official car park, so that is where we parked.
We then walked up to the Cliffs of Moher coastal walk, which is a track that passes right the way along the top of the cliffs. The car park was full so obviously a large number of people knew about it even though there were no signs off the main road.
By the time we started the walk, the sky was looking very black and it was obviously raining in the distance. However, it was good to walk and actually see the cliffs (just) without being with the coach loads of tourists at the other end of the track. We walked along for about 45 minutes but when the rain started in earnest we turned around and came back. Despite having jackets on, we were both fairly wet by the time we got back to the car. As it was then about 5pm, we drove straight back to the B&B to find some dry clothes.
Our hostess had told us of a jazz and barbecue evening in one of the local pubs and we intended to go to that. However, when we arrived, it was in an open courtyard, the place was packed with people and the band was most certainly not playing jazz, (Dire Straits and the ‘Sultans of Swing’ not being my definition of jazz), so we went to the same pub as the previous night, where it was warm and the food was good. After that, it was back to the room, like the boring ladies we have become, for wine and a good book.
The morning dawned nice and grey. After another very large breakfast, we drove along the archaeological trail up to the limestone plateau of the Burren and made our first stop of the day at the Portal tomb at Poulnabrone.
We rushed ahead of the coach party that arrived at the same time and had a wander around the extraordinary landscape. The tomb itself dated from about 3000 BC and it was amazing how the plants grew is such a barren place.
After this, we went back to the Perfumery and tried a few more products before making the big decision about what to buy. We had to have coffee and cake to assist!
After making major purchases, we meandered along the road a little further until we reached the Hazelnut Chocolate place that we had seen signposted. This was a bit more disappointing as there was little to see, the chocolate was very expensive and, even more importantly, there were no samples to try, so we didn’t stay very long.
We continued our drive along the road until we reached the coast and then took a detour off the main road to Flaggy Shore. Here, we checked out an art gallery and the beach, which looked too bleak and hard to walk along, so we drove around the estuary and rejoined the main road heading back towards Ballyvaughan.
Our walk today took us along the beach at Bishops Quarter, which had a lot of rocks, low tide and also looked quite bleak, the weather still being a bit on the grey side. However, we both enjoyed the stroll in the fresh sea air.
We arrived back at the B&B at about 5pm and had an hour or so to relax before going out to dinner, which we intended to have at an Italian restaurant which had an early bird menu. The food was very good and we felt extremely full afterwards but, somehow, somewhere during the course of the evening, we were subtly manipulated onto the main menu by the restaurant staff, the result being that the bill was much more than we anticipated. This left rather a bad taste (no pun intended) for both of us.
As is the way, now that we were leaving, the weather was much brighter today. After our last large breakfast, we packed up and headed towards Galway and home. The countryside certainly looked a lot more attractive and less bleak with some blue sky and sun.
We drove back along the coast to Kinvara and then joined the main road into Galway, where we decided to stop for an hour or so to have a wander around. The hour or so turned into 3 somehow, as we walked through the pedestrianised centre, with its many buskers, had a hot chocolate and then strolled along the waterfront to the marina. Naturally, there were one or two shops investigated along the way, as well!
By the time we returned to the car, it was about 2.30pm and so we just managed to avoid the school traffic. Apparently, the roads are always congested at peak times, so it would have taken a lot more time and patience if we had got the timing wrong.
We made one stop at a supermarket and arrived home at about 5pm by which time we were back to grey clouds and, coming over the bog, some very torrential rain. We had spotted the very large black cloud from quite a distance away, (it was difficult to miss!) so were not surprised at the deluge.