The puttin’ o’ the greens (Ireland, but not just golf)Written by Judy Pfaffenberger | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For a long time the Emerald Isle eluded me in my travels.
For some reason, most of those who travel with me just seemed to have little interest. So I decided to resort to my husband, who doesn’t really like to travel. Throughout the years I have learned dangling golf as a carrot was about the best way to get him to go anywhere. After tempting him with that, I thought by going in late April we would encounter spring rains and there wouldn’t be much golf. I was wrong! Only one day was there no golf.
Since neither of us wanted to drive on the “wrong” side, we talked my cousin Rick Hambleton, who can drive a stick shift and also loves golf, into going with us. (Renting a standard shift car anywhere in Europe is much cheaper than going with an automatic.) Since no nonstop flights are available from Detroit to Ireland, we flew via Chicago to Shannon.
Bed and breakfasts are quite plentiful, so we booked only our first and last nights ahead. Double rooms ran between 50 and 75 euros ($1.30 = 1 euro). Although this trip was eight years ago, I checked current prices for some of the places and they were not significantly higher. We also stayed in two hostels where we had a private double room en suite with Rick bunking in the dorm. These were slightly less expensive than the bed and breakfasts.
Our first destination was the town of Cahir, passing through Tipperary — not a long way. We spent the night in Carrigeen Castle, a real treat. The guys played golf while I walked along the river to Swiss Cottage.
The next day we explored Cahir Castle before hitting the road to tour Killarney National Park, and enjoyed a jaunting car (carriage) ride into the Gap of Dunloe. Later I roamed the quaint town of Kenmare while they golfed at the Ring of Kerry Golf Club. Our rooms at the Bay View Farm were simple but adequate and included an extensive Irish breakfast. Note: Only the hostels didn’t include breakfast.
The Ring of Kerry, with its spectacular coastal views, was the next leg of our journey after a morning round of golf at the Parknasilla Hotel. While Rick and my husband golfed, I walked some of the adjacent trails.
Later that afternoon we arrived at Dingletown on the Dingle Peninsula,where we stayed in the Ballingtaggart Hostel with a view of the bay. We had thought about biking the peninsula the next morning, but since the weather was beautiful that afternoon, we drove it to check it out. The road turned out to be narrow, winding and somewhat hilly with considerable traffic so we decided to take our time and savor the views and pass on the bike ride. Back in Dingletown that evening, we enjoyed an evening of Irish music at Murphy’s Pub.
The golf course was too crowded in the morning so we headed north toward the Cliffs of Moher. These are truly spectacular with sunny but windy weather that day. Our bed and breakfast was at Spanish Point, so named because it was near where the British Fleet defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Doolin, just north of the cliffs, is famous for Irish music but here we found our bargain golf of the trip. Nine holes (par 3) with a great view of the cliffs cost just $5 in an honor system box. From there we went north to Cong and “The Quiet Man” country, visiting some places connected with the movie. We spent the evening strolling the grounds of Ashford Castle, the former home of the Guinness brewing family.
The pretty planned Georgian town of Westport, golf at Clew Bay, the Coffin Ship Memorial to those who didn’t make their destinations during the famine, Croagh Patrick Mountain (where 50,000 pilgrims climb with bare feet in July), and the desolate but picturesque DooLough Valley filled our next day. The Beach House where we stayed provided our best sunset.
The old city of Galway was our next destination. We visited the church where Christopher Columbus prayed before setting out on one of his New World journeys. Earlier, at our balconied bed and breakfast facing Galway Bay, our gracious hosts made a tee time for the guys and then invited me to attend church with them. The choir was made up of immigrants from Nigeria.
Our last day of driving took us through the Burren with its stone fences, hundreds of stone forts and strange rock formations to our final bed and breakfast near Bunratty Castle where we would attend a medieval musical feast. We also managed to squeeze in nine more holes. A great ending to eight magical days on the Emerald Isle with “the luck o’ the Irish” giving us such good weather.