Our 2008 Grand Tour - Northern Ireland

August 30, 2008

We begin our trek to Northern Ireland today. We’ll be seven days on the road and end the Ireland portion of our trip in Dublin. Today, if all goes well, we’ll be in Donegal Town by mid-day lounging in our new accommodation. Take a look…

Lough Eske Castle


August 31, 2008

Really, there are no words to describe our stay in the castle last night and our drive north, through Co. Donegal today. I could try but, I dare say, the words have yet to be coined. I’ll post some pictures but they won’t do justice to the beauty of the area we drove through nor the grandeur of the castle. Now then, we’ve never been this far north in Ireland. Oh, what we’ve been missing. We left our castle about noon and went to Donegal Town for lunch. We then headed north through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. We stopped so many times along the way I can’t recall all the village names. We ended the day in Dunfanaghy, on Horn Head, a peninsula jutting out in the North Atlantic in Co. Donegal. Before we settled into our hotel we hiked out to the end of the peninsula, to a castle ruin on the edge of the world. The sky was blue, there was no wind, we could see nearly to the smokestacks of New York! We got back to the hotel and went, straightaway, to eat at the Carrig Rua Seafood Restaurant across the street from our hotel. One, wait, two words…seafood chowder! The best we’ve had so far. (We’re eating seafood chowder wherever it’s available) Now? We’re in the hotel lobby listening to a gaggle of four Donegal women making music of the English language, doing handstands with their turns of phrase, the likes of which you have not heard!


Co. Donegal


On the Edge


September 1, 2008

Malin Head


Rainbow on Atlantic


September 2, 2008

We blew out of Derry late, getting an hour’s grace from our new found friends at the City Hotel. Everything was “wee” this and “wee” that. “Here’s your wee table. This is your wee room.” “What are you saying to me?” I screamed. “Calm your wee self!” I heard, in reply. It must be the Scots influence on the tongues of the northern Irish. We were making for Belfast and watched the passing countryside fly by us. The distances were in miles and the petrol was in pounds. But pounds for the Irish in the north is “pinds”.  Wee pinds. Just outside of Belfast, where Tom wanted to stop to see Stormont Castle, the place where the Good Friday agreement was hammered out that transformed for the present the situation up here, the skies opened and the rain lashed us. We decided that negotiating a tough big city was bad enough but doing so in the rain was too much. So we waved goodbye to Belfast from the M2 and headed for Carlingford. And here we are in this charming medieval town just inside the  Republic, next to the City of Newry. There are remnants of castles and battlements all through the little town. We are staying in the Village Hotel in the heart of town and just returned from the Taaffe Castle pub where there was a traditional music session and story telling. The band played “It’s a Long Long Way From Clare to Here”, one of Tom’s favorite sentimental songs that he learned thirty years ago. While the song was being played, I looked over at him and he was weeping gushers.  We’re back in the hotel. It’s well after 1:00a.m. and Tom seems to have recovered from the overload of sweet Celtic melancholia but not from the sticky toffee pudding that he ate at Kingfisher Bistro! Ok? 

Entrance to Carlingford


Hi Mom!

Pub on the Road to the North


 September 4, 2008

I’m so sorry but I really don’t have much time to write at this moment. After all, we are now in Dublin and there is so much to do and see in this wonderful city. As a matter of fact, we are, just now, setting out for the Abbey Theatre to see Oscar Wilde’s, An Ideal Husband, after dinner, of course. Here are a few pictures from Derry to tide you over. Oh, wait. Tom insists I write some Derry history to complement the photos. I guess we’ll be fashionably late for the play… 

The sad story of Derry begins over 300 years ago but the recent 40 years put it all in stark relief. We stopped at the Free Derry Mural in the Bogside neighborhood and at the H-Block Memorial to the Volunteer IRA martyrs, whom the Iron Maiden Maggie Thatcher killed back in the 1980’s by pursuing her icy-veined “not an inch” failed policy of not treating the Irish Catholics as political prisoners, which they plainly were. We also visited the Bloody Sunday Monument, a tribute to 13 unarmed Irish Catholics whom the British army murdered in cold blood in 1972. There are any number of “Bloody Sundays” in world history (nearly all perpetrated by the British during their empire building or during its slow tortured decay), but U2 gave this one the lasting infamy that it deserves. I challenge anyone to see these monuments, learn what they represent, and keep her eyes dry. 

Free Derry, by God!


September 5, 2008

Dublin, Ireland. My, oh my! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen rain like the rain I saw this morning. We awoke at 9:00 am and I opened the curtains and saw, well, nothing. The rain was hitting the window straight on and I couldn’t see beyond it. I thought, possibly, someone might be spraying the window in order to clean it but, no - ‘twas the weather and nothing more. We intended to hire a bicycle and ride to all the important sites in Dublin but it was not to be. Instead, we ate a full Irish breakfast (rashers, sausage, black and white pudding, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast), drank coffee in front of the fireplace, and contemplated the day. About 3:00 pm the rain let up and the sun tried to reach beyond the clouds so we set out to conquer the city center. I wanted to do some shopping but Tom isn’t much into shopping so we ended up in The Stag’s Head pub for a coke and a wine. We were instantly surrounded by a herd of Dubliners on an “after work happy hour”. We ended up chatting with them for hours about all sorts of issues. It was brilliant. We depart for France tomorrow so our stay in Ireland is coming to a bittersweet end. Alas, we, most certainly, will be back - possibly to live. Who knows…

P. Kavanagh & T. Phalen


Only Man Who’ll Listen to Tom


Dublin Canal