Monday, April 9, 2012


And high winds in Kerry almost blew them back to America!

Our good friends Heather, Eileen and Danny from Newfield, plus Eileen's brother Joe, came to Ireland for an 11 day visit spanning the end of March and beginning of April. They were spurred on to visit by the news of our return to the United States later this year, most likely in the fall. We are going back to be closer to our friends and families and especially to our parents who are now entering their 80's.

I have resigned from my position as manager of Irish Seed Savers in order to have a career break before starting (hopefully!) a new position at Cornell Cooperative Extension, a fantastic organisation in Tompkins County, NY where I was working before we moved to Ireland. For our last few months in Ireland I'm back to landscape gardening with Bill, and it's nice to get my hands back in the earth again after two and a half years at a desk job.

I finished training the new Seed Savers manager just before our Newfield friends arrived, and it was so relaxing to be completely unplugged while on vacation (not possible when I was still manager at Seed Savers). We had splendid weather, took many beautiful walks, had a lot of laughs, and saw an amazing array of marine wildlife, including seals, basking sharks and dolphins.

Note: I didn't have my camera for most of their visit (misplaced but since found) so most of the photos in this blog are from Heather and Eileen's new camera.

Their flight arrived at 7 am, so on the first day we just chillaxed and walked to places close to our house in Scariff.

The first morning in Ireland - a lovely day for a walk to Irish Seed Savers

At Irish Seed Savers - Heather catching up on sleep (red-eye flight)

We walked to the nearby village of Scariff
Scariff in East Clare

Our dogs Oscar and Woody loved the company!

We drove to the Burren on the second day to climb Mullagh Mor. Not a cloud in the sky - a rarity in Ireland!

Picnic lunch on the rocks

Bill leads the way up Mullagh Mor

The first sky-blue Gentians were open early due to a mild winter

At the top of Mullagh Mor, elevation 550 m (1804 ft)

Early purple orchid

On the third day we took advantage of the continued fine weather to go on a 2-night road trip, first to Connemara in County Galway. 

We drove along the southern coast of Connemara with a view of the Twelve Bens mountains

A stop in the village of Roundstone

Wading weather at Dog Bay

Looking across Dog Bay

We tried to use the timer to get a group shot but the wind kept blowing the camera off the fencepost

Yeah, baby!

Aran Islands
On the fourth day we took a ferry from Connemara to Inish Mor, the 'Big Island'.

After dropping our gear at the hostel we rented bicycles for the day and pedaled to Seal Cove.

Where sure enough, seals were basking in the warm sunshine along with a watchful heron.
And more early purple orchids were in bloom

A nice beach to stop for lunch.........
.......then we cycled on to the prehistoric cliffside
 fort Dun Aengus,built in the 2nd century.
 (Google image)

It's long walk up to the fort on the stone path

One theory is that Dun Aengus was originally fully circular like most other ring forts in Ireland, but after thousands of years of pounding surf on the western side of the island the cliffs have eroded leaving only half the fort.

Looking over the edge - straight down for 300 feet!

Views from Dun Aengus

We had a few tunes in the pub that night with Simon the guitarist

On the fifth day day we walked to another cliffside ring fort on the island called Dun Duchahir, or Black Fort. The interior of this fort still has house foundations inside.

A nice walk along the cliff edge to get to the fort

Then we had time for a few more tunes outside the hostel before
catching our ferry back to the mainland. 

The Coast of North Clare

On the sixth day Bill did some landscaping work and I stayed home to be laundry wench while the rest of the lads headed to the Cliffs of Moher and the north Clare coast.

The Cliffs of Moher

They saw a fantastic sunset at Fanore, where the Burren runs down to the sea

We finished off the day in Ennis for a few pints and a trad session

East Clare and County Tipperary

On the seventh day we stayed closer to home and went across the Shannon into County Tipperary where we climbed a hill with a nice view of Lough Derg.

Then we headed back into Clare and the riverside town of Killaloe

Purple Heather
We stopped in an old church in Killaloe to look at the carvings and discovered the great acoustics

In Tuamgraney we walked in an old-growth forest and found the Brian Boru Oak

This oak is said to be 1,000 years old, from the time when Brian Boru, a local chieftain, was king of all Ireland.

So happy to be on holidays!

On the eighth day we drove along the cliffs of the south coast of Clare, stopping for a three different walks.

First we took a cliff walk at Kilkee

Then on to the Bridges of Ross where the surf carves huge arches and bridges into the cliffs

In the pool of water below this natural bridge we watched a 15 foot basking shark. It was trapped in the pool at low tide by the rocks at the entrance. (Not in any danger and it would be able to get out at high tide)

We had a great view of the shark, looking straight down into the pool from the rock bridge - better than Sea World!

Basking sharks eat plankton, not people. Here's a picture from Wikipedia that shows how the mouth of the basking shark is like an enormous seive to capture the teeny tiny animal and plant life know collectively as plankton. Amazing to think of such a huge creature surviving on such small creatures - kind of like an elephant living on insects and pollen.

Around sunset we stopped at Loop Head lighthouse, where the Shannon River meets the sea.

Where we were treated to the sight of a school of about 100 dolphins come around the point in groups of two and three, some occasionally leaping out of the water. Bill and I have been to the Clare coast many times in the last four years, but never have we seen so much marine life. The warm and very still conditions made it possible for marine life to come close to the rocky shore.

Sunset at Loop Head

The end of another beautiful day!

On the ninth day we headed off on another two-night road trip, this time south to the Kingdom of Kerry.

A quick stop in Adare,a  town of twee thatched cottages turned into tourist shops

In Killarney we took a beautiful walk, starting at Torc Waterfall

Then upland through a beautiful old oak forest

To climb Torc Mountain

The old road to Black Valley

Up a gazillion steps

At the top - elevation 535 metres (1755 feet)

That night we had to have pints at Sheehan's pub (Eileen and Joe are both Sheehans)

And we saw another Sheahan's - this time spelled the right way! (My mother's family are Sheahans)


On the tenth day we took a tour of Ross Castle in Killarney
Then drove out to the magnificent Dingle peninsula

We walked down to this little beach

And found a cave in the rocks

Where the walls were covered in white, green and red crystal formations

We stopped for a beautiful walk
To the edge

This is the furthest point west in Europe (and the closest to America)
We stopped at a beach to play with the sand and rocks

Ready for pints!

Our final day together was another clear day so we climbed Mount Brandon, the highest point on the Dingle Peninsula

We went up the Pilgrim's Path which has 14 crosses, well-spaced for breaks

Eileen at #13

At the top - elevation 952 metres (3,127 ft)

Views from Mount Brandon

What an amazing trip! Thank you friends for coming to Ireland!