2011 UK and Ireland travel blog


Connor Pass

The locked door to Boyce's Garden

Bridge over the Shannon in Limerick

Frank McCourt's Museum (Angela's Ashes)

Frank McCourt's kitchen

King John's Castle in Limerick

The River Shannon

There was a young man from Nantucket...guess where we are! Indeed the fine and grand Irish city of Limerick. It has been quite a drive from Killarney today. The Irish weather changes constantly and drastically within a few minutes and a few miles. From sunshine to pouring showers to sunshine and then pouring showers; again and again. And everywhere it seems there is that howling biting wind from the Atlantic. After leaving Killarney we visited the rugged Dingle Peninsula, just north of where we visited yesterday, the Ring Of Kerry. The first place we stopped was the Inch Peninsula, which is long sandbar that extends south into Dingle Bay. Once obviously sand dunes it is now long-grassed hills with a long golden sand beach on the western side facing the crashing surf of Dingle Bay and the open Atlantic Ocean. This area is reminiscent of the Oregon Coast and parts of the California Coast. Indeed this too is surfing territory, but the water is cold like Tofino. And again the wind blows strong off the water constantly. The Inch Peninsula is where the movie Ryan's Daughter was as they say here filmed in 1970 starring Sarah Miles, Robert Mitchum, John Mills among others. It is one of Joan's favourite movies, though I have long forgotten its plot. As soon as the Germans showed up we headed west to Dingle Town further along the peninsula, a small town right on the water and exactly as an old coastal town anywhere should be. Perfect and quaint but very Irish. We then headed over to the north side of the peninsula and this trip was spectacular. A high range of treeless walled and pastured mountains runs like a spine along the middle of the peninsula. And although the road up to the summit and through Connor Pass was very winding the road itself was wide enough for two cars to pass with caution but tour buses prohibited. It was at the summit that we enjoyed with shock and awe the most incredible views yet in Ireland. Sweeping away to the north far off was the Bay Of Tralee with the misty peaks of elves and leprechauns looming damp and solemn and pounding out the many shades of green upon green. And turning 180 degrees to the south was the endless slope of the mountainside down to Dingle Town, Dingle Bay and the foggy outline of the Kerry Peninsula beyond. With the driving wind cold and pelting the rain and mist into us we stood quiet looking and listening to the timeless mystique of nature's marvel. A more stunning sight I cannot remember, rivalling even the spiritual testimony of witnessing sunrise at Haleakala volcano in Hawaii or the sheer wonder of the Grand Canyon. The drive down to the northern coast was nothing like the drive up the southern side of the mountain. A narrow winding one lane road clinging to the cliff side with huge slabs of slate black with moisture stacking up tall beside our slow nervous descent. But as Dustin Hoffman stated in Rain Man "I'm an excellent driver!". On to Tralee (what a splendid name for a town) along the south side of the wide estuary of the River Shannon in rain then sun then rain then sun...stopping briefly at Boyce Gardens just before Limerick. This is no doubt the ancestral land of Joan's father's family and the garden is a noted tourist sidebar. Supposed to be an acre of splendor all we could discern was a sign, a small walled garden with a small wooden door set in another taller stone wall. Like a scene from Alice In Wonderland a small sign instructed to ring twice and engage the metal latch. No mention of what pill to take and after waiting several minutes with nothing happening decided to abandon our quest for the mythical Boyce Gardens. It shall remain a mystery what lay beyond that door for no hint was visible from the country lane that lead us to this place. Into Limerick and easily we found our hotel on the very banks of the River Shannon across from the old city. A hotel no more than a few years old, large modern and elegant in all ways we were settled by 4 PM. Mother settled into her suite on the restricted executive level (this is another later story to tell when it's not so late as it is now) Joan & I hiked over the old stone Sarsfield Bridge into Old Limerick for some poking around. Mainly to visit the Frank McCourt Museum. Limerick has held me enthralled and intrigued ever since I read Frank McCourt's book of his childhood in depression era Limerick, Angela's Ashes. One the best books I have read and certainly one of most distressing. Also made into a excellent fillum starring Robert Carlyle (he of Trainspotting fame). If you haven't read Angela's Ashes read it. The museum was special and moving. The poverty that young Frank McCourt grew up in is unbelievable, unknown to any of us and that he rose so beyond it is truly an acheivement of epic proportions. We enjoyed the tour and presentation immensely. Always a destination Limerick is becoming quite a draw because of this book, this auto-biography, the description of a time and a place so many have said is truly of an Ireland not that long ago. Moving indeed. A fine dinner in the hotel's fine restaurant. A long drive ahead tomorrow, so this is Steve & Joan & Patricia saying again goodnight.

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