Western Ireland 4.6. – 5.6.
We had planned that after arriving by boat to Southern Ireland, we could rent a car for exploring Western Ireland. However our departure from Dublin was delayed as we were waiting for the new battery from England. We’ll write a separate battery story another time. Thus we rented a car and headed west.
Our regular readers have probably noticed that we are fascinated by medieval castles. Already in wintertime I found from internet a story about medieval feast arranged in Ireland and we just had to to do it. Ireland is packed with old castles and ruins but Bunratty is different. It was intriguing to spend the evening at castle’s party instead of just going around and imagining the past.
The Bunratty Castle is located close to Limerick. We chose the scenery route from the navigator and after a short stretch of the motorway we turned into winding B-roads. We just followed the navigator and it was a pleasant surprise to pass Tullamore. The Tullamore Dew whiskey is part of the same Grants group as our favourite whiskey Glenfiddic. The Tullamore distillery isn’t open for visitors and we just opted to rejuvenate ourselves with a cup of coffee.
We were driving in the middle of lush countryside. At times the roads were so narrow that there were space only for one car at a time. Andrus whirled casually between the local drivers as this is already the second summer driving on the left side of the road. Soon we arrived in Bunratty and checked into Bunratty Castle Hotel that is only a short walking distance form the castle itself.
Bunratty Castle is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland and it is rebuilt four times at the same spot. Last time the building took place in 1425. It was expanded afterwards but today it is restored back to the glory of 1425. Maybe that’s why it might feel small. The castle is decorated with the furniture of the 15th and 16th century. And of course all the tapestries were fabulous.
Our host, butler Jim and the rest of the service crew were dressed in medieval attire. As we crossed the drawbridge at dusk it was like stepping into the different era. We were welcomed as "noble guests" even our clothes were from distant future. After climbing up the narrow spiral staircase we arrived in the Great Hall where the walls were decorated by beautiful tapestries. Costumed musicians performed beautiful harp and fiddle music as we were sipping a goblet of mead. The festive started by crowning of the Earl & Lady from the castle visitors.
After formalities, we descended to the Banquet Hall where bench seating at the long oak tables with candlelight reflect the Banqueting style of the medieval era. The feast consisted of four-course dinner with fine wines and superb performance. The cheering was done medieval style by hammering the tables with fists that created quite a rumble. The Earl and Lady approved all dishes. The eating was done medieval way by fingers using only a spoon and a dagger as a fork was not used at those times yet.
In the middle of the evening a scoundrel was found among the visitors and everybody gets to vote if he should be thrown into the dungeon or put under the murder-hole. Fortunately the Earl pardoned him and the feast could continue. The whole evening was done very well and we enjoyed it vastly. The castle became really alive when we participated in the medieval feast inside its walls.
The next day we headed the car to the famous Irish scenic route, the Ring of Kerry. The route is 180 kilometres long at it is advised to drive it counter clockwise. The roads were really narrow and winding. However the speed limit outside villages were astonishing 100 km/h. Even the locals did not drive so fast. Andrus sighed that “I wish just now to have a proper sports car”. The roads went up and down with serpentine curves right and left. On the right side spread the open sea and on the left side rugged mountains raised. Oops, again after the blind corner was a bridge that only one car at a time could pass. Fortunately also the busses go counter clockwise as well and we could enjoy pushing our rental car around the curves.
There are quite a few sights along the Ring of Kerry, like for example the home of Liberator Daniel O’Connell. If we had time then trekking in this environment and just staying overnight in random B&B would have been great fun. We only had one day so we had to keep going stopping only at view points.
We diverged from the Ring of Kerry for searching the westernmost point of Western Europe. The lookout to west must somehow be in the genes of human. All Western European countries have their own end of the world point. There is Lands End in England, Cape Finisterre in both France and Spain and Cabo de Roca in Portugal.
Thus we took a ferry to Valentia Island. On the west coast of island we went climbing up the Bray Head coastal cliff that is 140 metres tall. The sheep and cows around us were not bothered at all by biting wind up in the cliff.
The Valentia Island has a strong connection to west. In 1866 the first telegram cable between Europe and America was hauled from this island. We were now more west than any of the other points in Western Europe and the next into west would be America. Actually we are now cheating a little bit because the western point is 14 kilometres to the north, on the cape of Dingle which is still 1.5 kilometres more to the west. We however run out of time, as it would have meant driving another 200 kilometres to reach there.
We continued on the Ring of Kerry after returning from the Valentia Island by southern bridge. The Sun started to set and the scenery was painted in beautiful golden colours. Our round was terminated in Killarney that is the paradise for all the trekkers in Ireland. There were a lot of tourists and most of them were from America. We enjoyed the plate of seven fish before returning to Dublin and back to Suwena.