All the rest

The time is running out. My memories and notes are still fairly clear, but I think if you write a post more than 2 weeks after an event, half-truths start to filter in. So I’ll keep this brief, fast, and mostly in picture form.

After Inishmore, we returned to spend a bit more time in the Connemara region. Clifden Castle was an un-signposted site that I’d had on my list, and, after a bit of up and down and around the block, we found it. Trooping through sheep fields, past white shaggy ponies, it finally appeared.

a castle in a field of sheep, by the ocean

See that curve in the road there? The one that seems to be a bit… puddley? That’s because there was a 25 ft long completely impassable stretch of water, mud, and sheep poop. The fence posts went straight down into the water, with no way around it.

So I went through it. Luckily, I was wearing my high-top hiking boots that day; after I rolled my jeans up, the mud went clear up the sides, but didn’t hit my socks. Win. And it was gorgeous close up:

a cow through a castle ruin's doors    tower ruin facing the water

Well worth the muck. Actually, you don’t really have to entice me with a castle. The muck is its own reward.

On to Galway (which I’ll have to return to someday, since my only impression was loud and full of tourists; I didn’t really find the city), then south to Lisdoonvarna and the Burren. Beautiful. Ancient crosses, amazing landscapes, a perfumery that uses local scents, and flipping adorable Burren ponies.

burren ponies

I pet that one on the nose. He was a sweetie.

Since we’re on it, more animals:

dramatic sheep

This was a lady we found at the end of an unmarked road. I christened her “Dramatic Sheep” and proceeded to chase her around (politely) the ruins and striking sea cliffs of Kerry. I do believe I have a hundred pictures of her alone. I went a bit sheep-wild.

cows coming out of the fog by Hore Abbey

Then there were the cows.

cow staring at the cameraFirst, at Hore Abbey, my pre-dawn rambles nearly got me in trouble as these ladies came to a slow realization that I was not bringing them breakfast. The betrayal in those eyes.

Cows and a cross

This last cow picture takes a bit of explaining. G and I were out investigating the crosses at Kilfenora. Two of the ancient beauties were hiding in a protected ruin of a church. The third was just off a bit, in the middle of a field.

A field that, while having convenient stiles to get you closer in, was not empty. Not at all. It was, in fact, home to about 20 or so young cows. G and I approached tentatively, snapping cautious pics along the way. The cows were looking at us. We got a bit closer. They were still looking. Then they started to take a few tentative steps towards us. G and I looked at each other, and slowly started backing up towards the stile.

Bad move, apparently. Something like showing weakness to a wolverine. These adorable baby cows started to come a lot closer, a lot faster. G and I are hustling it now, but there’s a problem; only one person can go over the stile at a time, and the cows are RIGHT THERE. I bravely pushed her towards the stile, yelled for her to go first, then turned to the calves.

I had no idea what to do with frisky teenage cows. I know with a bear, you puff up big and yell, but cows? The only thing I had was my camera. So I popped the flash up, and started snapping pictures, tilting the bright flash all around and shouting “Pose! Vogue, ladies! Vogue!”

It worked. They preened and posed like red-carpet Bessies. Or, you know, they were just totally befuddled. Either way, I was able to make my escape, and they ran back to the cross, kicking their feet up playfully. Probably they didn’t want to chew our legs off, but you never know. Sadly, their photo shoot resulted in nothing but blinding white shots. That’s what happens when you’re too panicked to adjust ISO or focus.

On to Dingle, where we found amazing cheese with seaweed in it. We also found some crazy good Gouda that we called the Springsteen cheese for the rest of the trip (apparently he’s a fan). On to Killarney, where I fell asleep in the shade of Muckross Abbey. On to Cork, where a sweet young priest convinced us to tour St. Finbar’s Cathedral by offering us a bargain-basement price. They were replacing the organ, which was a bit fascinating to watch, but meant a lot of the church was cordoned off. Still, pretty.

a stone angel in Finnbar Cathedral

On to Cashel. In Ireland, they either have too many historic monuments to lock them all up, or they actually trust people to have a care with the ancient artifacts and ruins. Either way, it means we had a fabulous amount of freedom. Our lodge was directly between Hore Abbey and the Rock of Cashel. While that put us in perfect touring position for the next day, it also meant we could sneak across the road to the Abbey ruins that night and take some spooky pics.

Ghostly Me's at Hore Abbey

We just barely poked our noses before we chickened out. C and I chickened, anyway. G was raring to go. She later mentioned that it looked like a perfect place to pitch a tent and spend the night. There were, like, hyenas howling in the distance, I swear. She was cool as a cucumber.

Our final stop before we returned to Dublin was Locke’s Distillery, another recommendation of @smartgrrrl’s. And what a recommendation! An amazing tour of an old pot still, with wheels still churning up the river and whiskey still bubbling in the vats upstairs. A wee taste afterwords convinced us to do most of our souvenir shopping here, and what a great choice that was! Their Connemara peated whiskey was favorably compared to Laphroig by a grateful recipient, and their 15 year-old whiskey has won international prizes.

locke's distillery chimney

And that’s it. My trip, in a large, colorful nutshell. Thanks for listening.

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