Waking up in Kinvara, we had a mission in mind.. Clean clothes.. This time we thought we were lucky. The lady at the guest house told us that we would find a laundromat around the corner, only it seems it’s not a laundromat or coin laundry.. they do the washing for you. We don’t have time to wait around for that so we decide to continue on after breakfast and head to the Cliffs of Moher.
We haven’t been let down by a single Irish breakfast so far. They are all delightful and this was no exception. After eating our fill again, we headed with our bags down to the car to get moving. A quick drive around the town in daylight hours, a few shots of the boats on the bay and across to Dungaire Castle and we’re on our way again. I’d have loved more time to have look around this picturesque seaside village. It was just gorgeous.
This part of the country is known as The Burren and is a very rocky parcel of land which is national park. Even though I had known that parts of Ireland would be barren due to the blasting winds and ocean spray, I was still unprepared for the extent of it. Against the amazing greenery in other parts, the contrast is so marked.
We were on our way to the Cliffs of Moher and very excited to be seeing them. We drove along little country roads no wider than a driveway and as we neared the cliffs, the weather was getting worse. We passed a tiny little old building on the side of the road, about the size of a bus stop but ancient. As we got out to take a photo, sleet set in. We ran back very quickly to the car, camera under the coat to protect it.
When we got to the cliffs, we wandered whether it was worth actually going up or not as the rain had set in. A hot chocolate might help us make up our mind, so we called into the rock place just near the Cliffs of Moher tourist area. This was a great place to do a bit of souvenir shopping and have a cuppa. We decided that since we were here, we might as well face the elements and climb to the top. I had thought that we’d drive down the road and just see them but that didn’t actually eventuate. We paid our 6 euro each, walked through the information centre then out to battle the elements.
I know I keep talking about how strong the wind is here, but oh my goodness, today it took all my strength to stay on my feet. The wind was blowing me sideways. I climbed to the top, struggling to stay upright and finally made it to the top to the lookout. We didn’t go to the top of the cliffs, just to the part where you overlook them.
The weather was really severe and as we walked right up the top of the steep cliffs, sea foam was being blown up into our faces. My camera stayed in my waterproof bag most of the time, only coming out briefly between showers to try to get some photos but visibility was pretty poor. It was still exhilarating though. The wind was so strong and so cold, I could barely breathe. My lungs felt like someone had shoved a knife in them. This was breathing in ice.
We stayed up there for as long as we could bear it but our clothes were soaked through to the skin (saves a laundromat I guess) and we gave up and came back down. Back through the tourist centre, we browsed while we warmed up a bit and then headed back out to the carpark.
We passed through a little town that is famous for it’s matchmaking festival. Lisdoonvarna holds a festival every year and features Ireland’s last matchmaker, Willy Daly. Such a pretty town. If you haven’t ever heard of Willy, google him. I’d been told stories about the matchmaker in Ireland.. so was fascinated by it and wanted to stop by the place of the festival.
Our next plan was to drive down to the car ferry at Kilimer and head down to Dingle but time was running out, weather was really rough and so we rethought our plans. looking at the map, we realised that if we took the ferry over as planned, we were exceptionally close to Shanagolden. I have mentioned in previous blogs, that my Grandmother Gargie always said if she owned a house she would have called it Shanagolden as it was the most beautiful place on earth. That led me to believe she may have spent some years here.
We called into Kilrush and grabbed some fish and chips to warm us up (still wet from the cliffs of moher), we raced down to the ferry, and within ten minutes were heading over to Tarbert. It was such a quick trip costing 18 euro and we were on our way to Shanagolden. I’ve spent many hours driving through the streets of Shanagolden with my mouse on Google maps so I feel I know this town already and am so excited to be finally going there.
We passed the sign we’d been waiting for… Welcome to Limerick county. I’m not kidding you when I tell you, I got goosebumps from head to toe.. I felt excited, sick, overwhelmed and shaken.. I started to tear up again as did Wendy. This place really is pretty country. As we drove along, we started to get more and more excited. Every corner we turned there seemed to be another castle sitting in a stunning green paddock. This really was God’s own country.
Driving through Foynes we knew we weren’t far. Once again, I’ve traveled this road on Google Maps so I knew the roads well. Isn’t technology an amazing thing? Finally, we drove into Shanagolden. I honestly can’t tell you if the feeling of coming home and familiarity is because I really have lived here in a previous life (which I believe I have) or if it’s because I’ve google mapped the town so much or maybe even a mixture of the two. Regardless, I felt like I’d come home.
As we drove past the service station coming into town, I knew I had to turn left at the pub to find the house I was looking for. I drove past the familiar landmarks and drove past the house that feels so familiar to me. For those who haven’t read it before, I saw a house one day when I was googling Shanagolden and burst into tears immediately. I felt strongly that I had lived there before and so was looking forward to seeing it in real life to see if I felt the same.
The feeling of knowing it was still very strong as we drove past to have a look at the other end of the street. A little way up the road, Wendy found a cemetery. We stopped and went in. The old graves were too hard to read but many of the names my grandmother spoke of were there. Of course they are standard Irish names but there they were. We had a walk around and headed back into the town. Pulling up near the familiar house, we walked into Patie Joe’s. This little hotel is right near the house and I had seen it many times in my googling. As we walked in to the warm little bar, the locals all said hi and acted like they’d always known us. It was as if we’d just walked in after seeing them only yesterday, such was the friendliness.
We asked if they had rooms there but they were taken however they told us that we could go to a little B&B down the road called Knockoura House. One of the men, Mick, offered to go get the number from his car, which he did. When he brought it back into the bar, another of the men offered to phone them for us to organise it, which he did. Wow.. Where do you get this sort of help and kindness from these days?
He told us they’d be waiting for us when we were ready, so we had a quick drink and then Mick said he’d drive past there on his way and we could follow him so we didn’t get lost. As sure as his word, he waited till we were ready then lead the way to Knockoura House. He waved as we drove in the driveway and said he hoped to see us again. We hope that too.
Going up to the gorgeous house, we rang the bell and were greeted by Kathleen, our hostess for the evening. What a lovely lady and what a lovely house. We were introduced to her family and ushered into the dining room for a good, hot cup of tea and a scone. We had a lovely chat with Kathleen and her son. If you’re considering a lovely home to stay in during a visit to beautiful Shanagolden, I’m sure you’d be made as welcome as we were.
We left not long before sunset to visit the other cemetery in town and see if we knew any of the names there. After a walk around there and to the monument on the corner, we headed to the Old Stand Hotel for a bite of dinner. We weren’t really hungry but knew we had an early morning coming up so had a meal. Seriously, this meal was just scrumptious. I had lamb chops with chips and salad. It really was delicious. We then proceeded to have sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Overfull we headed back to Knockoura for the night. After another chat to the lovely Kathleen, we headed up to our room for a good night’s sleep.
The room is warm and inviting and makes you feel as welcome as the family here. I’d definitely come back here again. It’s up early tomorrow to go pick our other cousin Debbie up from the airport at Dublin, so for now, I must close my eyes and get some rest.. Tomorrow, we aren’t going to stop talking all day.. so I need as much rest as possible tonight..