Dingle Trifecta, Part 8

Dingle Trifecta, Part 8

Bunratty and Home

March 7 – 15, 2003 (Page updated June 3, 2003)


1: Trip begins despite war clouds

5: Slea Head Drive

2: Memphis to Detroit-Boston-Shannon

6: Golf at Cheann Sibéal

3: Dingle and Ballydavid

7: Dingle's ancient ruins

4: More Dingle and Ballydavid

8: Bunratty and home

Photo Album


By Lewis Nolan

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Friday, March 14, 2003 – To Bunratty and Home


We took our time with breakfast and packing on this last morning in Dingle, departing at 11 a.m. We were in no hurry to arrive at Bunratty Castle Hotel, roughly a three-hour drive to the north. It was a good day for traveling, clear and dry. There was little traffic on the torturous but
Lewis by treacherous road over Connor Pass
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wildly scenic road over the Connor Pass. We stopped several times to take photos of the panoramic views of Dingle Bay, the Peninsula and the craggy Beenoskee Mountain (elevation 2,796 feet).


We took a side trip down a country lane to the tiny village of Brandon, home of one of the multiplicity of Murphy’s Pubs. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a chain. Adjacent to the waterfront pub is a rugged wharf made of weathered concrete. We drove a few more miles along the coast to have a look at Brandon Point, a worthwhile detour. The high point offers grand views of Brandon Bay and its broad beaches. The Professional Windsurfing Association holds the Irish leg of its world tour in the bay, which has some of the best surf on the Dingle Peninsula.


We didn’t stay long on the point because the cold wind was blowing fiercely. Betty climbed over a sheep gate to take some close-up photos of a grazing herd.


Picking up the N-21 highway at Tralee, we drove north towards Limerick and made a stop at Abbeyfeale’s delightful store that serves the racing greyhound market. We had purchased some gear for our pet here last year and a pendant for Betty made of an old Irish coin that sports a greyhound. This time, she purchased a racing silk for Dickens, a wire muzzle (our juvenile
Betty at Connor Pass peninsula overlook
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delinquent has learned to shred the plastic muzzles in minutes), a small statue of a greyhound and another piece of jewelry. It was fun talking to the wisecracking store manager and one of his regular customers who races the dogs.  They gave us precise directions to a practice track just outside Newmarket we had chanced upon six years ago. We stopped but no dogs were running on this day.


We also stopped at the familiar petrol/grocery store at Newmarket for sandwiches and gasoline and then at the picture-perfect village of Adare, where we again visited the beautiful city park. The daffodils and forsythia were in full bloom, with their bright yellows and whites jumping out of the frames formed by lush grass. I purchased a book on walking vacations in the area to give to my cousin, Dick Nolan of Lexington, Mass. He is thinking about doing a weeklong trek around the Dingle Peninsula.


We arrived at Bunratty Castle Hotel at 4:30 p.m. The key to our spacious and well-equipped room didn’t work properly (shades of our arrival at the Dingle Skellig) and we were quickly given another room. However, bookkeeping evidently didn’t know about the switch since charges for an additional room appeared on my American Express bill a month later. It is a nice hotel, with three stars. Many tour bus groups stop here because it is only a very short walk from the medieval castle, a folk park and shopping center that caters to Americans with loads of Irish woolen goods, crystal and souvenirs of every description and price. But I don’t think the hotel was worth the $97 tariff even with the full breakfast (which we don’t eat anyway because of my low-carb diet and Betty’s lack of interest in the morning meal).


We walked though the nearby Blarney Woolen Mills outlet just as it was closing. We also took a quick look at the celebrated Durty Nellie’s pub and restaurant, which dates to 1690 and claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland. But the heavy cloud of cigarette smoke inside the establishment turned us off. So we ate at the hotel’s restaurant. The meal was pretty good, the food portions generous and the prices moderate. Our waitress was a charming and friendly young woman named Sioghan. She introduced me to one of Ireland’s favorite libations, “Jameson with a dash of red.”


The concoction is made from a pour of Jameson Irish Whiskey and topped with a small amount of Nash red lemonade. We had seen a distinguished looking, older gentleman drinking it in a pub in Ballyferriter.
Lewis by traditional pub in Cloghane
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When I described it to Sioghan, she knew exactly what it was. It is somewhat sweet and tastes like an Old Fashioned. When I asked Sioghan if it is consumed as a before-dinner aperitif or as an after-dinner cordial, she cheerfully exclaimed “all the way through.”


Her good-natured, quick response to my question about the drink points to an easy familiarity the Irish have with alcohol. That familiarity is the subject of countless jokes “God created whisky so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world’), an important source of recreation and social life in Ireland and a huge health problem.


Under a headline of “Ireland Faces Harsh Reality About Abuse Of Alcohol,” The New York Times reported March 2, 2003, that annual consumption per Irish adult had risen to the equivalent of 10.6 quarts of pure alcohol in 2000. The European Union average was 9.5 quarts. Police have started enforcing two-year-old legislation that allows them to close a pub for a week if they catch it serving anyone under 18.


Ireland’s Health Minister said in a speech “There has been the beginning of a realization that we have, in relation to alcohol, a culture of acceptance.” He wants to ban advertising and sponsorship of sporting events by alcohol companies. The government ordered that a Guinness commercial be pulled from TV because it promoted what was deemed an inappropriate link between successful athletes and drinking. The Gaelic Athletic Association is under pressure to abandon its deal with Guinness, the national drink of Ireland.


All that temperance wagon preaching aside, I must admit that my cranky attitude from a long day’s drive improved markedly once I had a “Jameson with a dash of red” plus a pint of Harp lager inside me.


I went for the grilled salmon and Betty for the deep fried scampi, which tasted like scallops and looked like chopped and processed shrimp. Both were served with a mountain of French fries. I took a quick furlough from my low-carb diet and ate most of my potatoes as a “last meal” for a man condemned to return to the Atkins regime when back home.


The British Sky News network was full of coverage about the impending invasion of Iraq by United States and British forces. Prime Minister Tony Blair is coming across as a rare leader, with extraordinary abilities and charm. He reminds me of Bill Clinton, without the bad baggage.


Saturday, March 15, 2003 – To Shannon, Boston and Memphis


We had been advised to arrive at the Shannon Airport by 10:30 a.m. That gave us plenty of time to have a bit of breakfast, pack and make the 15-minute drive from Bunratty. We had a one-hour “overage” on the rental car, which cost an extra $33. Had I remembered the 24-hour rental period specified in the Avis contract I would have not lingered over my last chance at Irish bacon. Getting through Aer Lingus check-in and security screening was a breeze since we were over two hours early. Golf clubs went through a special “out of gauge” checkpoint.


I sat in a reasonably comfortable chair in the departure lobby, had a ham sandwich and made some notes in my trip book while Betty did some duty-free shopping for gifts and souvenirs. Had we been willing to go to the trouble of carrying two, glass bottles of liquor on the plane and through U.S. Customs, we could have bought tequila or Scotch whisky for about half what we pay in Memphis.


The flight home departed on time at 12:45 p.m., relieving my anxiety about clearing Customs in Boston in time to make a connecting flight to Memphis. We got caught in delays flying home on our last trip and ended up having to spend the night in Atlanta after a series of screw-ups. This time, it was a relaxed, six-hour trip across the Atlantic, broken up by complimentary drinks (gin for me and wine for Betty), chicken for lunch and a ham-and-cheese sandwich for an afternoon snack.


We had three hours to make the connection thanks to a faster-than-expected flight from Shannon. Since we were both well under the
Betty tries on hat at Bunratty (didn't buy)
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allowed $800 of duty free purchases, we sped through Customs without delay. Dinner was cheeseburgers from Logan International Airport’s McDonalds, which were quite heavy compared to the fresh seafood and salads we had enjoyed in Ireland.


Returning to Memphis on the same Northwest plane was my pal John Dudas and his family, who had been skiing in New England. The three-hour flight home was the best kind –uneventful. We arrived just after 8 p.m. and after collecting our baggage we caught a cab and got home about 9 p.m. This was another great trip to Dingle. We may go back in another year or two during Betty’s spring break.


The gathering war clouds continued to darken. Four days after our arrival back in Memphis, U.S. missiles starting striking Baghdad. The first were reported at 8:54 p.m. Wednesday, March 19. Security precautions around airports and other installations were increased to “orange alert” status. There were no incidents in the U.S. and no reports of American travelers being stranded overseas.


-         Lewis Nolan, March 20, 2003


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