Well, it wouldn’t be the ultimate Irish road trip if we didn’t actually do any driving or sightseeing, would it? When we left Galway we had a free day before our arrival in Cork, so we spontaneously booked a hotel in Killarney and got ready for a day of sightseeing. The only two places that we had on our hitlist were the Cliffs of Moher and Father Ted’s house: but we ended up discovering a few other beautiful places on the way.
I’ve got to tell you something that might ruin your childhood. Father Ted’s house isn’t actually on Craggy Island. Nope. It’s in an, admittedly craggy, part of Ireland called “The Burren”. Father Ted doesn’t live in the house, either. It belongs to a family who have lived there for over 20 years. James said it must have got a bit awkward when Ted, Dougal, Jack and Mrs Doyle were all hanging out in the living room: and I had to ruin his childhood by explaining that those scenes were probably filmed on a set in Dublin.
Sadly, we didn’t realise until that day that you can actually have afternoon tea in Father Ted’s house. We thought it would be rude to ring the family first thing in the morning and ask them to bake for us, so we missed out. But if you’re planning on heading down to the Parochial House I reckon you should give them a call! I could have killed for a nice cup of Barry’s and a cream scone.
As we were driving on the back roads towards the famous farmhouse, we stumbled upon Kilmacduagh Monastery, which dates back to the 7th Century. We parked the car and took some time to roam around the ancient buildings. The most interesting building was the uniquely Irish 30m high round tower; the door is 7m from ground level. During attacks, the monks would climb in with a ladder then pull the ladder inside so that they were safe.
We continued on our way to Father Ted’s pad: if you’re interested in paying a visit yourself, the coordinates are 53°0’37″N 9°1’50″W. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a photo at the front gate, although I did feel a little bit nervous as I could see members of the family milling about and thought they might shout at us! On the contrary they were very friendly, and even waved hello.
We drove away rather elated, and then noticed a footpath leading into the Burren National Park. We decided it would be nice to stretch our legs and have a little wander. We didn’t go very far, but we saw loads of rocks and a gigantic hare. The landscape was really interesting, very rocky, and very: well, barren. It’s easy to see why this area was chosen as “Craggy Island”.
Our next stop was the Cliffs of Moher, but as luck would have it our sat nav took us through Lisdoonvarna: just in time for lunch! I’ve become slightly obsessed with Lisdoonvarna after watching a highly bizarre and hilarious TV show on BBC Alba where two Gaelic lassies from Scotland head off to Lisdoonvarna’s famous matchmaking festival to find a man. Sadly we were there in the off season, but we did find the Matchmaker Bar : which had a sign outside proudly proclaiming that “some matches are made in heaven, but the best are made in Lisdoonvarna”.
We grabbed some fish and chips in the Irish Arms. It was surprisingly good pub grub, considering we were the only people in the bar and considering it was the off season. To be honest, I was vastly impressed by the general quality of food in Ireland. Sure, I didn’t eat anything exciting, but the amount of care and attention that went into the food made it taste far better than anything I’ve ever eaten in Scotland. There was maybe one meal I had during my time in Ireland that I didn’t enjoy, but we’ll get to that.
After digesting, we drove onwards to the Cliffs of Moher: where they charge you 6 Euro each to get in. SIX EURO EACH! Bloody fortune. Of course, it was definitely worth it to see these beautiful cliffs and gaze out over Ireland’s Atlantic Coast. I don’t really like being high up, so I was a wee bit nervous. The cliffs stand about 702 feet tall: the same size as The Wall in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, fact fans.
We decided since we’d paid a bloody fortune to get in that we’d visit the mysteriously titled “Cliffs of Moher Experience!”. Sadly this was just a room where a screensaver of the Cliffs of Moher was playing. Errr. We beat a hasty retreat, and then James enjoyed an espresso in the gift shop while I slurped down a Mr Whippy ice cream because I’m a child.
Understandably, by the time we arrived at our hotel on the outskirts of Killarney we were knackered. We didn’t have the energy to walk all the way into town and explore that too, so I’m ashamed to say we just wandered next door to the Chinese restaurant for our dinner.
Still, it was an amazing day of exploring: and I’d highly recommend it as part of the essential Irish road trip!
Next time: Cork!