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Arriving on the “Emerald Isle”


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April 1, 2022

We awoke Friday morning near the town of Holyhead on the west coast of Wales to receive a message from the Stena Ferry Line that our ferry departure time of 9am was being delayed two hours – so now there’s no rush to get up!

We got to the ferry terminal by 9 as suggested only to discover that we were among the last vehicles – maybe others didn’t read or get the email about the delay?  It took quite a while to get through the line up to check in but we were given £10 vouchers as an apology for the delay as well as a coupon for 20% off our next sailing.  Wouldn’t get that from BC Ferries, would you our British Columbian friends/family?!?  We checked out the Duty Free Shop in the parking lot and bought a few items.

The ferry actually left the dock about quarter to 11 but the usually 3 ¼ sailing time was increased to 4 hours due to one engine not being in service.  IT was a clear day with a fairly smooth Irish Sea and it was uneventful.  We used our vouchers on board to get some not so great breakfast but other than the added drink we shared, it was on their dime using our vouchers.

We made it to Ireland!

Here’s fifty amazing facts about Ireland in no particular order.

  1. More Irish people are living abroad than there are in Ireland. Mass emigration means that there are 80 million Irish people outside of Ireland and only around 6 million in Ireland.
  2. The president of Ireland has very little power. The Taoiseach is the head of the Irish government and controls all the power across the Republic of Ireland.
  3. Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle because of its rolling green fields.
  4. Ireland has hundreds of accents, and each town in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has its own unique flavour.
  5. Ireland has two official languages: the Irish language and English. Roughly 2% of people in Ireland speak Irish daily.
  6. Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick, was born in Wales, not in Ireland.
  7. More Guinness is sold in Nigeria than it is in Ireland.
  8. Croke Park in Dublin is the fourth biggest stadium in Europe.
  9. Drinking is a central aspect of Irish culture. Ireland ranks sixth worldwide in the average consumption of beer per person.
  10. The submarine was invented in Ireland by John Philip Holland.
  11. The longest place name in Ireland is Muckanaghederdauhaulia. Try pronouncing that after you have had a few pints!
  12. Halloween was derived from an Irish festival called Samhain.
  1. Ten million pints of Guinness are produced in Dublin every day.
  2. The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and not the shamrock. It is featured on the front of Irish passports. Ireland is the only country with a musical instrument as its national symbol.
  3. Ireland has the third-largest consumption of tea per capita.
  4. Another of the top Irish facts is that a form of the Irish sport hurling is over 3,000 years old.
  5. The White House, where the president of America lives, was designed by an Irishman.
  6. In contrast to the popular belief, only around nine per cent of Irish people are actually natural gingers.
  7. St. Valentine is actually buried in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin.
  8. More people speak Polish at home than speak Irish.
  9. There were never snakes in Ireland, even before Saint Patrick. Many animals common on mainland Europe cannot reach Ireland as it is an island nation.
  10. Irish is technically the first language in Ireland and not English.
  11. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Ireland since 2015.
  12. Abortion has been legal in Ireland since 2018.
  13. The Wild Atlantic Way, which follows Ireland’s coast along the Atlantic Ocean, is the longest coastal drive route in the world.
  14. The oldest yacht club in the world is in Ireland. It is known as The Royal Cork Yacht Club and was founded in 1720.
  15. The  Irish flag was inspired by France. However, the Irish flag is green, white, and gold as opposed to blue, white, and red.
  16. One of the Ireland facts you may not know is that Argentina’s navy was founded by an Irishman.
  17. The vast majority (88%) of Irish people are Roman Catholic.
  18. Irish surnames that start with “Mac” means ‘son of’ and Irish surnames that start with “O” means ‘grandson of’.
  19. Newgrange in County Meath, Republic of Ireland, is 5,000 years old. This makes it older than the ancient pyramid of Giza and Stonehenge.
  20. Ireland has won the Eurovision song contest seven times, more times than any other country. Throughout the 20th century, Ireland won in 1970, 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1996.
  21. Bram Stoker, who wrote Dracula, was born in Dublin in 19th century. He also attended Trinity College in Dublin. Dracula is said to have been inspired by the Irish legend of Abhartach.
  22. Croaghaun Cliffs on Achill Island, County Mayo, the largest island in Ireland, are the second highest cliffs in Europe. They are 688 metres above the Atlantic Ocean.
  23. The Tara Mine in County Meath is the largest zinc mine in Europe and the fifth-largest in the world.
  24. The guillotine was used in Ireland before it was used in France in the 18th century.
  25. The River Shannon is the longest river in Ireland.
  26. Since 2009, it is illegal to be drunk in public in Ireland.
  27. An Irishman designed the award given at the Oscars.
  28. Ireland is home to one of the oldest pubs in the world, it opened in 900AD.
  29. Hook Lighthouse in Wexford is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world.
  30. The Titanic was built in Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
  31. Ireland has one of the youngest populations in the world because of its high birthrate, especially within the last 50 years.
  32. There have been people living in Ireland for approximately 7,000 years.
  33. Ireland has had two female presidents, more than most countries in the world.
  34. Ireland has its own ancient version of the Olympics called the Tailteann Games.
  35. In the 18th century, County Cork was the largest exporter of butter in the world.
  36. The Woodenbridge Hotel in Wicklow is the oldest hotel in Ireland. It opened in 1608.
  37. Lots of multinational companies set up offices in the Republic of Ireland because of low tax rates.
  38. Roughly 34,000 Americans reported Irish descent in the 2000 US census. People from all across the world boast Irish roots.

There you have it, the top fifty Irish facts you probably didn’t know! How many of these facts were you aware of?

We’re keen to see how many of these we can discover!

We had to pass through  immigration on this side and the border control agent actually made US look for space in our passport for the stamp! – in all the countries we’ve been to, this has never happened despite us trying “to suggest” the spot for the stamp when we were trying to complete pages.

We have been trying to sell the first empty of our two French propane tanks on FB Marketplace (posted in Dublin) and had a bite on one but on the ferry we heard from the guy who told us he does not live in Dublin and won’t be coming into town today; we told him we were around until Monday so he thought Monday might work.  We’ll see.

By the time we got off the ferry it was beginning to cloud over.  The good news was that our UK SIM card does in fact work here in Ireland (we had our doubts) so that was one less thing we had to take care of entering a new country.  We had to pass through a toll tunnel which we paid via a credit tap at the toll booth.  The reason we mention this is that many toll roads in Ireland do not have booths and you need the transponder or you pay online by 8pm the next day. We were heading north to check out the oldest archeological site in Ireland and had an overnight spot in mind.  Enroute we stopped at a Highway Rest Area where we dumped and were able to have free hot showers!

Our parking spot for the night was a church parking lot in a tiny town new Newgrange and we spent a quiet, somewhat rainy night there.  After we parked we looked at the website for the attraction to find out their hours, only to learn you have to book ahead and the weekend was sold out!  So we had to rethink our weekend plans as we have an appointment on Tuesday, about 30 km / 20 mi south of Dublin for an oil change and we think three days in Dublin is too much.  We don’t want to have to drive back to this part of the country as there’s nothing else we wanted to see/do here but we also don’t want to miss this so we’ve booked for Monday morning.  We’ll do Dublin in two days and then return here for the morning and then head south that afternoon to be close to Greystones for Tuesday morning – nice to have the luxury of no schedule!

It’s Saturday morning and traffic is light on the highway to the toll road and we had a short distance on the M2 to go to a park and ride parking lot that allows 24 hour parking.  Others have stayed here overnight and from here you can catch a tram into the city.  We parked, secured Minou and went to buy our tickets.  It costs €4 to park for 24hrs and the return tram ticket was €5.40 each for the day.  Not bad at all.

The electric train was pretty empty most of the way until we got closer to the city.  It took about 25 minutes and we were downtown.

We had made a “plan” ahead of what sites we’d like to see/check (Fran has been to Ireland before – she took her Mom here back in 2008) and began strolling around.

Since we’d had the issue with yesterday’s site we began to look into whether we needed to book other sites.  We got the Book of Kells booking done and as the Guinness Storehouse had plenty of openings we left that for a while.

On our walk about we saw:

Dublin Spire

Dublin’s Famine memorial

In late May 1847, at the height of the Great Famine, 1490 tenants from the Mahon Estate embarked on the grueling 165 km / 100 mile walk from Strokestown to Dublin.   They were part of an assisted emigration scheme organized by their landlord.  Untold number of emigrants did not live to see their ultimate destination of Canada.  Over half of those who travelled onboard the two “coffin ships” died at sea.  Many of those who survived the arduous journey succumbed to fever shortly after arrival in Quebec.  Of the 1490 who left, more than a third did not make it. 

National Art Gallery – only a quick stop as once inside we saw nothing that really grabbed us

National Museum of Ireland Archaeology

Doug really enjoyed this stop:

St Stephen’s Green

Grafton Street

The Molly Malone statue

A statue representing Molly Malone was unveiled on Grafton Street during the 1988 Dublin Millennium celebrations. This statue is based on the song “Cockles & Mussels” .  The song tells the fictional tale of a fishwife who plied her trade on the streets of Dublin and died young, of a fever. In the late 20th century, a legend grew up that there was a historical Molly, who lived in the 17th century. She is typically represented as a hawker by day and part-time prostitute by night. In contrast, she has also been portrayed as one of the few chaste female street hawkers of her day.

This statue is known colloquially as “The Tart with the Cart” or “The Trollop With The Scallops”. The statue portrays Molly as a busty young woman in 17th-century dress. Her low-cut dress and large breasts were justified on the grounds that as “women breastfed publicly in Molly’s time, breasts were popped out all over the place.

There is no evidence that the song is based on a real woman in the 17th century or any other time. The name “Molly” originated as a familiar version of the names Mary and Margaret. Many such “Molly” Malones were born in Dublin over the centuries, but no evidence connects any of them to the events in the song. Nevertheless, the Dublin Millennium Commission in 1988 endorsed claims made for a Mary Malone who died on 13 June 1699, and proclaimed 13 June to be “Molly Malone Day”.

In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty,

I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,

As she wheeled her wheel-barrow, through streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”

“Alive, alive, oh,Alive, alive, oh,” Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”.

She was a fishmonger, But sure ’twas no wonder

For so were her father and mother before and they each wheel’d their barrow

Through streets broad and narrow crying “Cockles and mussels alive, alive oh!”


She died of a fever, And no one could save her,

And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone.

But her ghost wheels her barrow, through streets broad and narrow,

Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”


In Dublin City where the girls they are so pretty,

‘Twas there I first met with sweet Molly Malone;

She drove a wheel-barrow, thro’ streets broad and narrow,

Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, all alive!”

Alive, alive-o! Alive, alive-o! Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, all alive!”

She was a fish-monger and that was the wonder,

Her father and mother were fishmongers too;

They drove wheelbarrows thro’ streets broad and narrow,

Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, all alive!”


She died of the fever, and nothing could save her,

And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone;

But her ghost drives a barrow thro’ streets broad and narrow,

Crying “Cockles and mussels, alive, all alive!”


We arrived at our reserved time to view and learn about the Book of Kells at Trinity College.

The college grounds themselves are quite impressive:

Before viewing the book you enter a room with an audio tour of the history and explanation of the books.

The Book of Kells is an  illuminated manuscript Gospel book written in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the  New Testament  together with various prefatory texts and tables. It was created in a  Columban monastery in either Ireland, Scotland or England,  and may have had contributions from various Columban institutions from each of these areas. It is believed to have been created c. 800 AD. It is a masterwork of Western Calligraphy takes its name from the Abbey of Kells, County of Meath, which was its home for centuries.

The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells surpass that of other Insular Gospel books in extravagance and complexity. The decoration combines traditional Christian iconography with the ornate swirling motifs typical of Insular art. Figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots  and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours, enliven the manuscript’s pages. Many of these minor decorative elements are imbued with Christian symbolism and so further emphasize the themes of the major illustrations.

The book had a sacramental rather than educational purpose. Such a large, lavish Gospel would have been left on the high altar of the church and removed only for the reading of the Gospel during Mass, with the reader probably reciting from memory more than reading the text. the book was produced with appearance taking precedence over practicality. There are numerous uncorrected mistakes in the text. Lines were often completed in a blank space in the line above. The chapter headings that were necessary to make the canon tables usable were not inserted into the margins of the page. In general, nothing was done to disrupt the look of the page: aesthetics were given priority over utility.

The manuscript today comprises 340 “leaves” or “folios”; the  front and back of each leaf total 680 pages. Since 1953, it has been bound in four volumes, 330 mm by 250 mm (13 inches by 9.8 inches). The leaves are high-quality calf  vellum. The lettering is in iron gall ink, and the colours used were derived from a wide range of substances, some of which were imported from distant lands.

The book itself is open to one set of “leaves” at a time and changes over a set schedule.  It is difficult to get a photo looking down at the book itself but here’s what we got:

The tour finishes with a walk through the amazing library at the college including the harp that is included in the coat of arms for Ireland and that is part of the Guinness logo.

We then wandered over to Dublin Castle which was not that impressive and has been taken over by government offices for the most part.

Then it was on to Whitefriar Church were St Valentine is buried

We walked towards St. Patrick’s cathedral and saw it from the outside as well as the nearby Liberty Bell.

At this point we checked into Guinness bookings again and they only had one opening left for today that just before closing.  We then decided to check out Jamieson Distillery’s booking which it turned out had nothing for the entire weekend (but they have another location in Cork) and so we decided to take the late booking at Guinness but by now, 5 minutes later that too was gone!  As Fran did not go here back in ’08 as her mom doesn’t like beer we wanted to do this iconic Irish thing so we booked for tomorrow afternoon.  We had by this point seen most of what was on our “list” and it’s only 2 in the afternoon so it seemed too bad to have to come back into the city, but it is what it is.  We checked more online to see if there was anything else to add to our plans and found a few more spots.

We saw Christ Church Cathedral :

Then did the long walk over to Merrion Park with its Oscar Wild statue

By now it was after 4 so we headed over to the Temple Bar area where we wanted to check out a few pubs and maybe have dinner.  We actually go two seats right at the entrance bar (it was way too crowded further in for our liking) and we enjoyed some drinks admiring the memorabilia on the walls.

Next we hit the Brazen Pub which claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland but we know it’s not as we have Sean’s Pub on our itinerary which is much further west in the middle of the country and here we met a young couple from North Carolina whom we chatted with for about a half hour while Doug enjoyed another beer and Fran had a decaf Irish Whiskey to warm up.  The day had been partly cloudy but there’s a chilling wind this afternoon.

(Sorry phone was on “mirror” mode hence the backwards words!)

We looked into food options and nothing grabbed our attention and as Irish cuisine is either similar to British or described as “any food that is boiled” we passed on eating out.  There are lots of people out and about and we always wore a mask indoors but we were in the minority for sure except on the tram, which was about 50/50.

We crossed the Liffey River via the “Ha’ Penny Bridge”

and caught the tram back “home”.  As the clocks sprang forward here in the UK last weekend, it’s light till about 8pm here.  We are very happy now with our furnace in Minou and we use it to take the chill out of the air as needed.  We had a quiet night at the park and ride with no disturbances.

Sunday morning it was cold – slightly below freezing but sunny and said to be warmer than yesterday without as much wind.  We had a relaxing morning in Minou and after our brunch took the tram back into the city for our Guinness tour at 1:30.

Enroute Fran realized she didn’t have the email with the link to tickets; after checking with Doug to be sure he didn’t have it, he checked our credit card and the charge was there.  Luckily we arrived 20 minutes early for our tour time and went to information where we sorted it out and he let us go in immediately.

The “Storehouse” has six floors of interactive exhibits about the history of Guinness, brewing and marketing.  On a few of the floors there are “extras” you could purchase like “how to pour”, tastings and “stouties” (more on that later).  We did not pay for any extras but included in the ticket is a free pint in the Gravity Bar on the top floor.

The 900 year lease that Guinness has

We toured through the floors and upon arriving at the “stouties” went in to check it out.   This is where they take a “selfie” of you and imprint it onto the foam on the top of your glass!  As mentioned, we had not paid for extras but when we decided to do it, he sent us inside.  We figured we have to pay then but the girl took our photo (three times!) and then sent us over to get it done at the bar.




We still had not paid so we thought maybe it’s when you leave so Doug went over to ask and they said “did you not purchase this with your ticket?” and when he told her “no” she said “don’t worry about it”!  So we had our first real properly poured glass of Guinness ever.  Neither of us is fond of dark beers (and most of you know how fussy Doug is about trying new beers) but we did figure out as long as you don’t drink too much foam, it tastes okay.  It’s still bitterer than we’d prefer, but we did enjoy it.

So after the final floor of exhibits we made it up to the Gravity Bar.  This is quite the place – it is glass walls all around with spectacular city views from seven stories up.

Now during the exhibits we read about what other beers they brew and decided to try their Hop House      13 – a milder beer and probably more to our liking.  Doug saw a fellow drinking on at the end of one of the bars and we went over to chat with him and his wife.  Turns out she’s from Ireland but they live in the US; they are well travelled and have been to Ireland many times.  Doug then got us each a Hop House and we really enjoyed them.   We chatted with Silvia and Jerome for a while and then they had to leave to head over for their whiskey tour.  We then wandered around the bar taking in the views

As we couldn’t get a tour time for the whiskey tour at Jamieson’s this weekend we will do one in Cork where their other distillery is located.  We walked back to the tram station across the Liffey and returned to Minou where we had another quiet night at the Red Cow tram station parking lot.

Monday morning we drove north again back up to Newgrange where we did the 10:15 shuttle bus tour.  You are asked to arrive at 9:30, spend about 30 minutes touring the Visitor’s Centre and then get on a shuttle across the river (walking across a small pedestrian suspension bridge).  You are taken to two of the three sites via this shuttle bus and given a tour guide at each site.

There were 14 in our group, mostly from the US.

Newgrange is a prehistoric monument in Ireland, located on a rise overlooking the River Boyne.  It is an exceptionally grand passage tomb built during the Neolithic Period around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids! Newgrange is the main monument in the Bru na Boinne complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site that also includes the passage tombs of  Knowth and Dowth, as well as other henges, burial mounds and standing stones.

Newgrange consists of a large circular mound with an inner stone passageway and cruciform chamber. Burnt and unburnt human bones, and possible grave goods or offerings, were found in this chamber. The mound has a retaining wall at the front, made mostly of white quartz cobblestones, and it is ringed by engraved kerbstones. Many of the larger stones of Newgrange are covered in megalithic art. Some of the material that makes up the monument came from as far as the Mournes and the Wicklow Mountains.  There is no agreement about its purpose, but it is believed it had religious significance. It is aligned so that the rising sun on the winter solstice shines through a “roofbox” above the entrance and floods the inner chamber. Newgrange shares similarities with some other Neolithic monuments in Western Europe; especially Gavrinis in Brittany, which has a similar preserved facing and large carved stones,

Its initial period of use lasted about 1,000 years. Newgrange then gradually became a ruin, although the area continued to be a site of ritual activity. It featured in Irish mythology and folklore, in which it is said to be a dwelling of deities. Antiquarians first began its study in the seventeenth century, and archaeological excavations began in the twentieth century.  The front of the mound was reconstructed. This included an inward-curving dark stone wall to ease visitor access. Newgrange is a popular tourist site and, is “unhesitatingly regarded by the prehistorian as the great national monument of Ireland” and as one of the most important megalithic structures in Europe.

The first shuttle stop was the mound called Knowth – it is the largest of the three but you cannot enter the “passage tomb”.

Knowth consists of a large mound (known as Site 1) and 17 smaller satellite tombs. The mound is about 12 metres (40 ft) high and 67 metres (220 ft) in diameter covering roughly a hectare. It contains two passages placed along an east-west line and is encircled by 127 kerbstones, of which three are missing, and four badly damaged.

We were given time to roam around the site and there is a stairway that takes you up top of Knowth.

At 11 we walked cross the road to the exhibit hall where after viewing the exhibits we were shown a short film.

Then it was back on the shuttle bus to be driven to the second site: Newgrange (described above). While most of these mounds have a circular tomb section inside the passage this one is in a cruciform shape.  At this location the guide took us inside but unfortunately no photos at all allowed, even without a flash.

Panorama of Newgrange
check out the roofbox above the door where the sun enters at winter solstice
what it would like at winter solstice

The third site is Dowth which has not been excavated and is no open to the public.

During our tour, Fran’s phone pinged but she didn’t check it out until we had some free time.  Her sister, Cynthia, had advised that their mom had passed peacefully during the night.  She had not been well the past few months with a few issues and we had been told in February that the end was coming.  Her sister, Cynthia, who lives nearby in Kingston, had visited her twice on the weekend and it was pretty sad – Mom was pretty unresponsive and couldn’t keep her eyes open.  At least she is at rest now and passed with no pain.   So we will have to plan a trip to Canada very soon after the 3 sisters discuss the arrangements.  Luckily about 18  months ago the three of them had purchased their mom a prearranged funeral so most of the details have already been decided.

beautiful shot of Fran’s mom in her early twenties

The weather held for us as it was an overcast day and it had rained on our way up but did not on the tour.  Before leaving the parking lot, we made brunch and then began the drive to the other side of Dublin.  This included two toll roads so Fran paid those online later that day.