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Expect Scattered Showers of Sleet and Snow – Chapter 1

Mar 4, 2023 | Road Trips, The Grand Adventure | 10 comments

It was February 2023. Cold and miserable. Short English days of foggy, grey skies. So we decided to pack our bags and go to Ireland. . . .where it’s even colder, with a forecast of scattered showers of sleet and snow.

No, I don’t know what we were thinking, either.

So, we left this. Sadly, this is what ten o’clock in the morning on a typical English winter’s day in our Suffolk village looks like:

And arrived to this. The first of our Irish hotels for the next week. I don’t think the gorgeous blue sky was typical, but we weren’t complaining:

It’s Wednesday. It Must be Dublin. No, It’s Naas.

We had eight days to explore as much of Southern Ireland as we could. We’d rented a car in Dublin and headed straight for Naas to see a cousin of mine before her first baby was born in March.

Too late!

Méabh O’Kelly arrived into the world on 21st February 2023. An enchanting wee thing, despite single-handedly wrecking our lunch plans with her parents.  But it gave us a chance to explore more of our hotel and surroundings before we headed further south.  And what a fab hotel. Check out the bedroom – two king-size twin beds. What joy, and we used both of them!

Killashee House Hotel and gardens

Thursday. Right Room, Wrong Floor

Our next stop was Kilkenny, an easy hour’s drive, so we amble-shambled our way there through the Irish countryside, enjoying another day of sunshine. Long may this last, we hoped.

Kilkenny’s a fun little town. We stayed at the Zuni Restaurant and Boutique Hotel – I know, not very Irish sounding, but the check-in process was as Irish as it gets.  Here’s how the manager explained our room location as she handed over the key (say it in the best Irish accent you can muster):

‘‘You’re in room 306. You’ll find it on the second floor, not the third, on account of the fact we only have 2 floors. But don’t let that put you off.”

Flummoxed but not daring to ask for clarification in case it confused us more, we climbed the stairs to the second floor, where we did indeed find Room 306.

Then, we set off to explore Kilkenny Castle. Built in 1260, it was sold in 1967 for £50 by its English owner, the 24th Earl of Ormonde, to the people of Kilkenny. It’s a dour-looking thing from the outside, with a chequered and bloody past, but amazing on the inside. The highlights are the Moorish stairwell and the Picture Room, specially built to house the family’s collection of artworks. We’re thinking of doing something similar for Russell’s collection of golf clubs. At 50m long, it could double as a driving range. 

Working up an appetite after our castle tour, we returned to the hotel for one of the best meals we’ve ever had, finished off by this splendid Irish Banoffee Ball. 

It’s worth watching the video for the surprise ending.

Friday. A Muddle of Murphys

The next day we set off on another hour’s drive to Dunmore East, a small fishing village on the south coast.

On the way, we had lunch at the Waterford Castle Hotel and Golf Club, another ancient castle wrestled back from centuries of English ownership, this time by an Irish developer in 1980.  It’s a splendid old pile, set on a 420-acre island, accessible only by car ferry.

A rather bored, but friendly member of staff happily showed us around the castle as they had no guests staying that night. So, we got the full Cook’s tour and pretended to ourselves that we were going to come back and book the Presidential Suite.

And so we arrived in Dunmore East, perched on the North Atlantic Ocean Coast. And dead as a doornail in February.

The only place open was our hotel, The Haven, which – thankfully – had a restaurant and bar. We were given the honeymoon suite with a four-poster bed and the best table in the restaurant, both of which had a view of the beach, so all was not lost.  And the sun still shone.

Checking out the next morning, the hotel’s computer system went down, which the flustered receptionist blamed on ‘Murphy’s Law’. I said I thought that was fairly appropriate given that Murphy was presumably Irish.

“For sure Murphy was Irish. And a great Irishman he was too,” she replied.  Turns out, Murphy was Edward A Murphy, a United States Airforce Captain and aeronautical engineer, whose research projects in the 1940s routinely failed. 

A fellow engineer said of him “If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will.”  I wondered which Irish Murphy the hotel receptionist was thinking of. It bothered me all the way to Dingle.

Saturday. On to Kinsale Where The Sun Don’t Shine, Apparently

This two-hour drive along the Copper Highway took us four because we kept stopping to admire the view and soak it all in. It was breathtaking. No wonder they call it the Emerald Isle. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

In Kinsale, we stayed in a disappointing hotel, but it did have a wonderful view of the marina, and it’s a colourful little town – especially when the sun’s shining, which it was. Still!

Speaking of the sun shining, I realised on our Copper Highway drive that I was in bad need of a pair of sunglasses. The glare off the water was blinding. So I dropped into a likely-looking shop in Kinsale and asked if they had any.

“Oh no, dear.” The lady behind the counter shook her head. “You won’t buy sunglasses around here at this time of the year.  We don’t order them till May. It’s never sunny in February, you see.”

“I beg to differ,” I muttered, as I squinted my way out of the shop.

Sunday: Well, Dingle my Dell. What a Place!

Leaving Kinsale behind, we started the magical drive across the south-western corner of Ireland towards Dingle. If we thought the Copper Highway had spectacular views, nothing prepared us for this:

Go there before you die. You will thank me for it, I promise.

Arriving in Dingle we checked into the Heaton Guest House, a comforting cross between a hotel and an old-fashioned B&B. The breakfast was the best we’ve ever had and our ‘Sea View Deluxe Room’ had both the promised sea view and several touches of deluxe, including a super king bed and a balcony we couldn’t use because it was too damn cold. But the sun kept shining! 

We were spending two nights at Heatons, which meant we had time to explore the beautiful Dingle Peninsula. But, be warned. It’s closed for winter. Or, at least, every restaurant, cafe and guest house along the coast road is closed in February, as we discovered when we went looking for somewhere to have lunch outside Dingle.

We did find one pub open in Dún Chaoin (or Dunquin for those of you who don’t speak Irish), which is the most westerly settlement in Ireland and happens to be where they filmed parts of Ryan’s Daughter. In fact, just about every movie with an Irish setting has scenes shot on the Dingle Peninsula. Not surprising really:

And so, the sun set on our first night in Dingle, and our fifth in Ireland. We’d checked into five different hotels, dined in several more pubs and restaurants, visited castles and beaches, and our Irish adventure wasn’t over yet.

We hadn’t seen any of the forecast sleet or snow, but maybe we were heading straight for it. It was cold, but by God, it was still sunny!

And the best was yet to come.

But you’ll have to read Chapter 2 to find out about the Dingle Dog, Dick Macks, the craic, and our hair-raising drive through the Connor Pass.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with an Irish conundrum:

At what stage in life do you qualify for age-friendly parking?

Can you use this parking spot if you’re 55, or do you need to be over 60, or perhaps 70?

And what difference does it make to a 60 or 70-year-old if they park here or in a non-age-friendly parking space? It wasn’t any closer to the shops.

We couldn’t work it out.

Maybe we’re too young.

 

10 Comments

  1. Thanks, Leslie. Now, there’s an idea!

  2. Absolutely brilliant Mel, have you considered giving up your day job and becoming a tour guide showing off the quirkier side of Ireland, Mr Wick would of course have to accompany you

  3. Hi Sue! It was so beautiful around the south east coast. I had no idea what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed

  4. Brought back memories of our trip some 30 years ago. We did visit Valencia, the island where our parents spent a summer holiday. Sounds as if Ireland is still a magical place.

  5. I think that trip was more like 1981. I’d just got my driver’s licence and you very bravely let me drive your car. But I can’t remember where we drove to.

  6. Brilliant Mel.
    I remember our trip to Ireland in ?1984 very fondly.
    Can’t wait for the descriptions of your subsequent 2023 travels.

  7. Well thank you, Trina, to be sure, to be sure! Chapter 2 will land in your inbox in the next couple of weeks. Hope you’re well and happy in Sydney.

  8. Mel your adventures are inspiring me fly to Ireland but will make do with your amazing dialogue and fantastic photos.
    Keeping up your blog between king size beds, pub lunches and long drives admiring the stunning Irish countryside is quite a feat to behold, to be sure, to be sure. Thank you for the update, absolutely loved it. X

  9. Thanks for sticking with me, Shelagh. Yes, Ireland can be chilly all year, but by God it’s pretty!

  10. Ahh..love a good Irish story or two… I enjoyed my sojourn there in August (my nostalgia tour)… quite a bit of sun, stunning countryside.. and still quite chilly.
    I look forward to the next epistle of travels.

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