At the end of a 19-day escorted tour of Ireland we were in Dublin. Instead of flying home immediately we rented a car for a couple of days and drove into the interior of the island to visit a small town that was the home of my Quaker ancestors in the 17th Century.
We spent two nights in the Killeshin Hotel in Portlaoise. It was certainly adequate but nothing to go our of your way to experience. But the staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful and provided the answers to nearly all of the questions I asked.
The real target of our journey was the town of Mountmellick, about 10 miles north of Portlaoise, but still in County Laois. At the time of the Cromwellian Revolution in England many of the Englilsh Quakers were relocated to Mountmellick in what was at that time called Queen's County, Ireland. The Irish Catholics were quite repressed and oppressed by the Cromwell government. The Quakers were very industriuous and developed a number of industries in Mountmellick.
My ancestors were Welsh Quakers and were part of the relocation in 1653. While I don't know for sure what industry my ancestors were engaged in, it was probably food related, probably a grist mill making flour.
When King Charles restored the Catholics to power in Great Briton, the conditions in Mountmellick reversed and the Catholics began to oppress the Quakers. So, after only thirty years in Mountmellick, my ancestors emigrated, by way of Liverpoole, to Philadelphia, in North America, to join the colony established there by William Penn.
Mountmellick is about 50 miles from Dublin, and most of it is super-highway, I decided to take advantage of the proximity to see if what I had been told about my ancestors could be verified. It was, but even more important was the opportunity to interact with Irish people who were not in the business of catering to tourists.
On a Saturday, about noon, we went to Mountmellick to visit the Museum to Quaker Industry. We knew it was closed on weekends except for tours or by special appointment, but we went to see what we could see. The museum was closed, but immediately adjacent to the museum was Ema's Mill Cafe. The owner of the cafe readily agreed to help us gain access to the museum. He made a phone call and said the docent would open the museum for us in about 20 minutes.
We had a drink at the cafe while we waited. Soon the owner of the cafe told us the docent was at the museum and he led us there and introduced us. Dolores, the docent, had been working in her garden when called, and she changed her clothing and hurried to the museum to guide us. While we watched a short video about the Quaker history of the area, Dolores looked on her computer for the history of my family name. What she came up with fully confirmed what I knew and added several additional pieces of information. She made a copy of the pages of the data base that concerned my family and emailed the copy to me.
We bought a book for 10 EURO and made an additional 10 EURO contribution to the museum. Then we had lunch at Ema's Mill Cafe. We then explored every street of Mountmellick, which took about fifteen minutes. Everyone we encountered in Mountmellick, and in Portlaoise for that matter, was very accommodating and eager to hear about our experiences, as we were about theirs.
Driving on the "wrong" side of the road added to the adventure, but the two days spent in the interior of the island just added to what had already been a delightful tour of the "touristy" spots of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Grand Wicklow and Coastal Tour is highly recommended when you visit the city of Dublin on your vacation. You may purchase this tour from Dublin Visitor Centre at no. 16 Lower O'Connell Street in the heart of Dublin. The tour departs O'Connell Street at 10.00 a.m. sharp and returns to Dublin at approximately 5.30 p.m. There are daily tours during the summer months. The tour costs just €30.00 per adult. You may also book online before your departure to Ireland to avoid disappointment as this tour is highly popular.
Our tour group consisted of 37 persons from 16 different nationalities. Our bus driver cum tour guide (named Joe) was a jovial person who really liked to joke to make everyone happy and feel at home. We drove along the coast south of Dublin to visit the seaside resort of Bray where tour members can have a lovely view of landmark Bray Head. After our short coffee break at Bray we drove to the mountains (Wicklow Mountains National Park) to visit the upper lake of Lake Glendalough (literally means the Valley of Two Lakes). We then proceeded to the famous monastic sites of Wicklow which was not far from Lake Glendalough. Our final destination before going back to Dublin was Powerscourt Garden. This garden was certainly the highlight of our Grand Wicklow and Coastal Tour. We had great lunch at the café in the castle although lunch was not included in the package. All entrance fees are included in the package tour. We certainly enjoyed this day trip from Dublin.
The drive across the mountains on the Connor pass is a breath-taking drives in Ireland and on a sunny day, it’s heaven on earth. You can drive either at the end of your trip around the Dingle Peninsula or after .Fantastic view, lovely Lakes and waterfalls.
This is a nice Lake in Annascaul. You can walk right into the Mountains where you pass many Waterfalls and cross some small bridges. You will be meeting some curious sheepthats all. Its just an amazing feeling the peace there on the Lake with the Mountains around you.
Brandon Creek (Cuas an Bhodaigh) is the place from which, as tradition has it, St. Brendan, together with 14 monks, is said to have set sail in 535 A.D. Legend also has it that they sailed all the way to North America.
The account of the voyage of Brendan, Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis, attained enormous fame in medieval Europe and is one of the classic adventure stories of all time, with rich elements of magic and fantasy. Whether the tale was mainly an imaginative creation or not, its physical details correspond quite well to what would be encountered on a sea route to North America as the modern explorer proved in 1976-77 when he and his crew sailed from Brandon Creek to Newfoundland.
Clonfert in County Galway is nowadays just a tiny hamlet close to the ruins of Clonmacnoise. The only place of interest for tourists is this lovely church : Saint Brendan's Cathedral that was built together with the monastery of Clonfert in the 6th century. It was destroyed in 1541 and not rebuilt again. In its high time the monastery had 3000 monks, but you will not find a lot of traces of the monastery any more today.
Nevertheless the entrace to the cathedral is quite interesting with the gothic sculptures of the 12th century, see also my other photographs !
Its near Ballyvaughn. You enter the caves through the gift shop! The caves that are part of the tour is less than half the length of the full cave, as it gets narrower towards the end, and goes under water. Only 2 people have ever reached the very end!
Its a guided tour, the girl we had was very informative, but it was as if she was reading the words directly from the book, which made it feel a bit stiff and too educational. Theres a couple of waterfalls inside and the usual things you find in caves.
Theres also a shop where you can puchase cheese (yum!), Mead (mmm!), Fudge (best we're ever tasted!) and other bits n bobs. We spent quite a bit of money here.. hehe
Situated in the Grafton Street, opposite of Shopping Centre, the theater offers daily performance. Ticket can be purchased online. We watched beautiful performance of the Riverdance. It is simply amazing.
Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry is a mysterious place. Every time I visit it has a different face to show me. You can walk the whole distance or just sit and ponder and watch the changing colors and rays of light, or movement of fog and mist.
There is a famous scene in the movie "Ryan's Daughter" that was filmed on this beach. Before then Dingle was not well known.
Fintown, Co. Donegal is very remote, nessled in the center of the county, so it makes a good base of touring Donegal. It is known for it's railway that takes you to Glenties, and also around Lough Finn.
It is north of the Blue Stack Mts. and located on R252 and R250. Aghla Mountain is a beautiful backdrop for the town as is lovely Lough Finn. There is a great general store, which is also a Bus Station and a Post Office. And the post mistress is as helpful as she can be. She also owns a rental cottage if need be. Not to mention the Buses and Store and Gas Station.
This area is remote, and if you want to rent a Traditonal Irish Cottage (only in the late spring and summer would be my suggestion) you will have a nice time among the sheep farmers and Tree farm growers and lovely local people that you can meet at the Ceili House Pub. Many attempts have been made to replace the trees that England had destroyed over two centuries ago.
Try Fintown, it is definately Off the Beaten path. And County Donegal is so lovely.
Ballyglunin stataion aka Castletown
The famous arrival scene of the John Wayne 1952 film 'The Quiet Man' was filmed in the village of Ballyglunin about 10 miles from Tuam (15 from Galway). I think the real name is much more evocative that what Hollywood named it, but I can't do much about that.
The place is being converted into a restaurant as a community project, but you can still wander onto the platform for photographs, at least for now.
If you then get a video of the film you can clearly see how little has changed apart from the sad fact the trains don't run at the momemt. The line may well re-open in a few year's time if the plans come to fruition.
Off the N63 Galway - Roscommon road
When driving on the Nenagh bypass, you will notice a sculpture of a bull, facing Nenagh town, but it's derriere is facing the road. Across the road, there is a sculpture of a man with outstretched arms, like he's pulling something. This pic was taken from the online newspaper The Meath Chronicle.
The famous tower at the monastery at Glendalogh, where the monks used to hide from the Viking invaders during the 11th century.
The tower is 34 meters high and is among the main landmarks of the monastery site.
I made a Google Map of the 10-day driving trip my sister and I took to Ireland. We were first-time visitors and petrified of driving, but we encountered absolutely no problems. We started in Dublin and did a loop to Wexford, Cork, Kenmare, Dingle, then Limerick. Sharing my map with embedded photos and tips for other first-timers looking for suggestions. Let me know if it helps!
The beautiful Cooley Peninsula and Carlingford Lough lies approximately 1 hour north of Dublin and south of Belfast. The small mountainous region of Cooley is an ideal place to head to the hills and get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. I live in the nearby town of Dundalk and just love to head up into the mountains to forget about the worries of the world!! The Cooley area is reknowned as the setting of the Ancient Irish epic the Táin Bó Cuilagne (Cattle Raid of Cooley) in which the boy warrior Cuchulain holds back the might of the army of Queen Maeve. The region is packed full of ancient archaeological monuments and sites of mythological significance and still retains a magical attraction today.
The Medieval Town of Carlingford is packed full of B&Bs, pubs and restaurants and makes an excellent place from which to explore the region by foot or bicycle. The small town contains 3 medieval castles, part of the old medieval town walls a ruined Franciscan priory and a medieval toll gate (no toll is charged) and church. The streets are made up of Georgian cottages and townhouses with few less than 200 years of age.
The hills and mountains behind the town are easily accessable and walking routes exist to suit walkers of all levels. Guided heritage walks of the region are available and are highly recommended to those seeking to understand this beautiful landscape and mans place within it. With views across Carlingford Lough to the beautiful Mourne Mountains and the Isle of Man beyond, a visit to Carlingford and the Cooley Mountains is always going to be enjoyed.
More Regions in Ireland