Day 15: Homeward Bound

We’d had typical weather for Ireland this time of year: partly cloudy, cloudy, mostly cloudy, and rainy. Temperature ranged from only forty to fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, I laughed when I saw the “Spring Arrivals” at Ashford Castle when we were there.Spring Arrivals at Kylemore

Yet for the past seven straight days the sun had shined brilliantly. We knew it had to end. Sure enough, snow began to fall from a slate gray sky as we taxied down the runway at Dublin Airport. That was fine. Nothing could detract from the vivid images fixed in my mind.

Sheep on the Meadow

Colorful SheepFleecy white sheep on verdant Connemara hillsides, many ewes bearing colors. Why? Rams are sometimes put into a harness at mating time. The harnesses have a colored, waxy block in them, which leave a mark on the ewe when mounted, so owners know which ewes have been mated with and which have not. After three weeks the color of the crayon is changed. Any ewe that is re-mated gets the second color on her. This one’s been busy.

And then the babies come.

Baby Lambs Closeup






Dazzling color came in the ubiquitous Western Gorse, an evergreen shrub prevalent in countries of Western Europe.

These vibrant hues of green, pink, blue, yellow all combined to lighten the gray days. The glorious red-orange of a Renvyle sunset completed the color spectrum.

Stay lovely, Ireland. Then again, I know you cannot help yourself.

Renvyle Sunset



Day 13, Part 1: Killarney National Park, Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey and Muckross House

Woodlands–in fact, the most extensive covering of native forest remaining in Ireland–bogs, lakes, and mountains combine in Killarney National Park’s more than 25,000 acres to create a natural wonderland. Located in County Kerry, it is home to the country’s only native herd of red deer. We stopped our drive along a portion of the Ring of Kerry and snapped a photo from “Ladies’ View” before moving on to Ross Castle.

Ladies' View, Ring of Kerry

Constructed by the O’Donaghue clan, Ross Castle is a typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages. For almost 100 years, beginning in the 15th century, this bastion afforded protection until it yielded during the Cromwellian Wars.

Ross Castle

Our timing was off to take a guided tour, but the visitor’s center had a detailed exhibition. One pointer (again with the puns) we picked up concerned swords and spiral staircases. Built in a clockwise direction, the center structure of the spiral would prevent attackers ascending with a weapon in their right hand from having free swing. Conversely, defenders descending with swords swinging from the outer and more open part of the staircase had an advantage. I’ll remember that next time I attempt to overtake a castle.

Next stop: Muckross Abbey, a Franciscan friary founded in 1448. Legend has it the  yew tree in the central court is as old as the Abbey itself.

Muckross Abbey

Muckross Abbey 2Muckross Abbey Yew

A short drive away is Muckross House, a 65-room Tudor-style mansion designed by Scottish architect Williams Burn. Built in 1843 for Parliament Member Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, painter Mary Balfour Herbert, it is now owned by the Irish government.

Muckross House

Mindful of the time, once again we opted not to take a guided tour, but chatted instead with the personable woman manning the gift shop. We purchased a souvenir book. There we saw photos of the interior of Muckross House.

The pictures below are of rooms in which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed in 1861. (Photo credit, Muckross House: Killarney National Park.)

Muckross Queen's Bedroom

We had a distance to drive along the Ring of Kerry, heading back to Waterfalls Farm House, where we would spend the night again. Needing sustenance, we decided on the obvious. Chocolate.

Next time: Lorge Chocolate, Molly Gallivan’s Traditional Farm House, Bonane National Heritage Center

Day 12: Blarney Castle, Kinsale, and the Ring of Beara

It was a chilly day when we visited Blarney Castle, but trees on the grounds were bursting with spring blossoms. Blarney Blossoms

The castle, built in 1446, is the third to be situated on the site, the first being a wooden structure dating from the 10th century. The 13th century keep still stands, and it is here that visitors may climb to the top to kiss the famous Blarney Stone and thus receive the gift of gab.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Oubliette







The stone spiral staircase is narrow, but if Oliver Hardy and Winston Churchill could do it, so could I. Safely past the Oubliette,  a trap door allegedly used to eliminate unwanted castle guests in the past, I approached the man who would facilitate my downward dip into eloquence.


Kissing the Blarney Stone





Frampton did it, too.

Frampton at Blarney






Kinsale Cookoff

Kinsale TastingAfterward we headed for Kinsale, a former medieval village that has been hailed as the “Gourmet Capital of Ireland.” We saw gulls taking a break from fishing, perhaps waiting for leftovers from the chowder festival in progress.

Kinsale Gulls

Later we explored part of the Ring of Beara. Shared by counties Cork and Kerry, its breathtakingly rugged landscape is a walking, cycling, and driving paradise.

By early evening we arrived at County Kerry’s Waterfalls Farm House, so named for the waterfall on the River Sheen which flows through the farm. Proprietress Nora May O’Sullivan greeted us warmly. So did Peanut, her pup (seen below in left foreground), who accompanied us on a walk to the falls .

Peanut and the Falls - Copy

A sign warned of Leprechauns but they were not in evidence. Yet.

Waterfalls Leprachaun Crossing Sign

We were pushing the dinner envelope in the nearby town of Kenmare, where restaurants open at all–this not yet being “the season”–were closing their doors. But we managed to find beef stew, hot bread, and red wine in a near-empty pub before returning to Mrs. O’Sullivan’s and a marvelous night’s sleep.

Discovering Dublin: Day 2, Part 2

What’s a trip to Ireland without a taste of Irish whiskey? Newcomer to the field, Teeling Whiskey Distillers in Newmarket was the perfect spot to get a first hand look at the brewing process.

Our guide led us through the steps, explaining the how barley is transformed from simple grain into the makings of beer and finally into Irish whiskey. Of particular note for me was that the three large copper pots used in its making were named for the daughters of the distillery’s owner.

Teeling Tour Guide

Potstills 3




Malted Barley

Frampton at TeelingPotstills4













The Brazen Head on Lower Bridge Street is officially the oldest pub in Ireland, dating back to 1198. In the past it’s played host to revolutionaries as well as literary greats like James Joyce, Brendan Behan and –surprise!–Jonathan Swift. We ate beef and lamb stews and mashed potatoes washed down with Guinness and red wine by a cozy fireplace, and marveled at how fast we were falling in love with the Emerald Isle.

Brazen Head



Discovering Dublin: Day 2, Part 1

The National Museum of Ireland–Archaeology is located on Kildare Street, as was our hotel, making it an easy first stop of the day. There I found artifacts from prehistoric Ireland and Viking times, including tools and works of gold, bog bodies, and a replica of a Viking Ship.

Viking Ship Replica


The rituals surrounding a king’s coronation during the Iron Age involved human sacrifice. The peaty, mossy constitution of bogs acted as a preservative. Several examples are in the museum, and the interactive presentations of how items are handled after discovery was informative.

Bog MRIBog Body










Next up was Trinity College, where The Book of Kells was on display. An illuminated manuscript containing the four Gospels of the New Testament, it is believed to date from 800. No photography of any kind was permitted at the exhibition, but we were able to take pictures upstairs in The Long Hall. Jonathan Swift is featured in the foreground of this section of famous busts.

Jonathan Swift and Friends in The Long Hall

Later we headed to Christ Church which we learned was the site of the debut performance of Handel’s Messiah in 1741.Christ Church (Anglican)

A few blocks away we came across Leo Burdock’s Fish and Chips. Noting its longevity and the list of famous clients, including Sandra Bullock, B.B. King, William Shatner and Helen Mirren,  we had to buy a bag of the famous fries. Fabulous.

Burdock's Fish and Chips



Frampton Eats a Chip

Nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral offered much, including stained glass windows and the burial site of Jonathan Swift. We know him as the author of Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal among other works, but he is honored in the cathedral because he was at one time Dean of St. Patrick’s.

Stained Glass

Swift Burial Plaque

Part 2 to follow.


Discovering Dublin: Day 1

St. Patrick’s, the Church of Ireland’s national cathedral, was closed by the time we arrived from the airport yesterday. We’ll return today, but still enjoyed reading about it on a plaque in the lovely park across the way from it. According to tradition, a church was originally erected in the location to commemorate St. Patrick’s baptizing of believers in the river that still runs underground on the property. St. Patrick's
St. Pat's Emblem






Heading back to our hotel, we passed The Swan Bar, a Victorian Heritage Pub established in 1661. Descended from a medieval inn, it housed the Irish Volunteers during Easter Week 1916, a period of rebellion against Great Britain, the centennial of which is being observed this month.

Years later, in 1937, John Lynch acquired the premises. His son, Sean, whose bronze bust is prominently displayed, became an international rugby star. Framed jerseys and historic photos line the walls of the pub, whose interior features beveled glass, mosaic floors, granite bars, and hand-carved woodwork. It also features delightful barkeeps.

The Swan Bar

When asked for a recommendation for dinner, the front desk manager at our hotel recommended The Bank on College Green. Just a few blocks away from us, and only a couple of hundred meters from the ancient Viking Parliament, the building was once the site of the Irish House of Commons and then The Belfast Bank. It’s a magnificent example of Victorian architecture, its high ceilings filled with marble pillars, stained glass, and mosaics. A row of bronze busts of heroes of the revolution in 1916 line one corner of the lower floor, which also houses a beautifully-appointed room for private parties.

The Bank on College Green

Tomorrow: The National Museum of Ireland–Archaeology and Trinity College (The Book of Kells).

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I first heard “Leaving on a Jet Plane” performed by the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary. Over the years it was recorded by others, including Frank Sinatra, but perhaps no one as close to its meaning as John Denver, who  wrote the lyrics. Here’s a clip of him singing it in 1977:

In his intro, Denver talks about it being the story of his life. Lately it is mine as well. Last month I traveled from home in Portugal to Indiana via Madrid and Philadelphia, then on to New Mexico, California, Arizona and Florida. I’ve been home a week and I’m on the way to Ireland tomorrow (at dawn, just as the song says).

If you’d like to follow along on my first visit to the Emerald Isle–my ancestral home–stop by and sign up to receive my updates. My plan is to write brief posts each day in the coming weeks, along with a picture or two each time.

I hope you join me. In the meantime, “Dea-shláinte a thabhairt duit!” (“Good health to you!)