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Exploring the West Side of Ireland

May 8th, 2022

Today we drove westward mid-morning and made our way to Killarney.  Enroute we found a place to empty our cassette and we are good for a few days now.  We got parked in a lot that allows overnighting and as it was Sunday, the parking was free all day and night; good timing!

We took a walk around town but again as it was Sunday morning not much was open.  We decided we’d go out for lunch for a little celebration as tomorrow is our anniversary but no pubs were open.  We found a restaurant near the lot and were told they were still serving breakfast and to come back after 12:30.  Fran asked about times for other pubs and it seems 12:30/1 is the magic time.

We waited back in Minou and around 12:30 we walked down the main drag again and as we wanted to do burgers in a real pub not just a restaurant, we checked in at four, found one that offered a lunch menu (one did pizza only and the other two did not serve food).  Well, The Laurels had some of the best burgers we’ve ever had!  We enjoyed some drinks and chatted a bit with the patrons around us for an enjoyable meal.

We returned to Minou and had a quiet night in the parking lot with a few other campers around the lot as well.

Monday, we awoke to the expected rain and decided we didn’t have much choice but to go ahead with our drive on the Ring of Kerry and across the Gap of Dunloe despite the weather as the forecast was not good for the rest of the week.

This part of the Ring is in the Killarney National Park.

Our fist stop was the Ross Castle which wasn’t open this early but we are fine with just looking at castle from the outside

Next was the Torc Waterfall which was bigger than we expected and during our walk to it, it was not raining:

The weather got wetter after this stop and our view at Ladies Viewpoint was somewhat restricted.  We turned off the actual Ring Road at Moll’s Gap

where got out in the hard wind and after a few pics and we then turned north off the road up through the Black Valley to the Head of the Dunloe:

lots of things you can encounter

This road is really just over one lane wide with lots of small pullouts for passing cars coming at you.  Shortly after leaving the Head we pulled over to let a car get past and before we could pull out to proceed another came along; he really should not have proceeded but in order for him to get past Doug had to back up a bit and we heard a “crunch”.  First we thought it was him hitting our back corner but that looked fine.  We got back in and tried again only to hear a bigger crunch.  We had hit the driver’s side back corner not the passenger side and it was on the rocks not the other car.

The entire bumper had come almost completely unattached (only the wiring was holding it) and was sitting on the hitch!  We managed to push it back into place and carried on down the road hoping to look at it better when it wasn’t raining so hard – the weather explains the lack of photos here.

We completed the Gap of Dunloe road (less than 10km) pulled off and had a better look.  Two screws had come undone and a bunch of adhesive.  Doug managed to get one screw back in but decided to switch it out with a longer one and on the other side had to drill a new hole but for now it’s secure.  Phew!  Could have been so much worse.

We decided to begin driving back on the Ring of Kerry until we at least saw the sea but the weather kept getting windier and rainier.  Upon arriving at the Mountain Stage lookout it was so awful and we thought it wasn’t worth it to proceed.  Fran had driven the entire route back in ’08 and we were fine with discontinuing.

We turned around and made our way inland and across to the next peninsula although still in County Kerry, and found ourselves a spot (after some navigating snafu’s) in Dingle for the night in a lot behind a church with other campers.

We took a walk around the cute town of Dingle and its harbour.

We returned to Minou for a bit and then the sun came out.  We decided to take another walk and found a possible place to hear Irish music and maybe see some Irish dancing later.  We went back “home” for a bit and returned to the Dingle Pub around 6.  There was a musical duo there: a man playing a guitar and a woman playing an accordion.  We decided to have dinner and then sat at the bar hoping for some Irish dancing.  Around 8pm another musician began setting up and it seems that our hopes of a dancer were not going to come to fruition and as it was getting rather crowded, we left.

We awoke Tuesday morning pleasantly surprised to see sunny skies.  Today was to be another day of scenic driving so that was awesome.  Before leaving however, and while it was dry, Doug took some time to fix the bumper.  He made a trip into town to the hardware store from some screws and it’s all back together now.

Today’s drive was the Slea Head Circular route which is supposed to be quite scenic and follows The Wild Atlantic Way – this route claims to be the world’s longest coastal drive….

We were not really sure what to expect but the weather held for the first half of the drive and we made a few interesting stops:

A Fairy ring aka a Lios; it’s a stone age ring fort from around 500BC:

Here there was also a petting zoo and we were able to feed the sheep and horses:

Some of the views on this drive were spectacular made more so by the sunshine:

We stopped to check out the Beehive Huts from 2000 BC:

After rounding the Dingle peninsula the weather turned and we did not have great views so much anymore.  We stopped at Cean Sraithe to try and spot birds with no luck:

We had rain much of the way back to Dingle before heading up the Connor Pass that had been recommended to us.  As we drove up Fran thought she saw a sign that said no vehicles over 2 tons but we kept going until we reached the summit.

At the summit Doug saw more signs and seems that sign was correct and it added “no campervans” longer than 6m so we had some brekkie inside a rocking Minou (it was quite blustery and wet outside now) and turned around and took the long way off the peninsula.

Fran had found a campground near our next destination that had full services including washers/dryers AND a hot tub!  She called and confirmed everything and we pushed on a little further than we usually go in a day to get there.

Upon arrival at Adare Camping & Caravan, Fran met the owner, Hugh and got us set up in a spot of our choosing.  First things first, we got laundry going and then had some quiet time before having a soak in the hot tub at six.  Aaaah that was SO nice (didn’t bring our phones to take a pic).  We did not pay extra for the power hook up but there is a camp kitchen here and Fran went over to make popcorn with our air popper and we had a nice quiet evening.

The weather has been better than expected as the forecast was for a great deal of rain but we are getting some sunny breaks albeit short ones.  However, we awoke Wednesday morning to a clear sky BUT Doug had water dripping  onto his bed!  It was coming from one corner of the vent so the first thing he did was climb up onto the roof and check it out; it made no sense as the vent is the high point but he got out the caulk and after several attempts of using the caulking gun (the second one he’d purchased since we got to EU) and having it break again, he replaced all the caulking. Let’s hope that does it.  After hot showers  (there was even a hair dryer in the women’s block!) we dumped our cassette and filled our water and were on our way.

We made a short stop in the town of Adare as it was supposed to be one of the most picturesque towns in Ireland.

While it is pretty, we didn’t find it any more so than any of the other small towns/villages we’d passed through.

A few days ago, we noticed the kitchen table had become quite wobbly; seems a “hook” had broken and it was not the first – perhaps we got it with only one of them?  Anyway, we found an RV parts store that would be on our way to Limerick and went to check it out.  It was pricey but that had one that will place the system we have now and we bought it.

Then it was on to the big city to go grocery shopping.  Limerick does not have a great deal of attractions that interested us but we did want to see the downtown core if only to see King John’s castle.  We found a parking spot, luckily had a €2 coin to pay for parking as the credit card machine was out of order and took a short walk.

We also passed by St Mary’s Cathedral:

We returned to Minou and made our way to the famous Cliffs of Moher.

The weather had turned to sun/cloud/sprinkle/sun/cloud we so we had a fingers crossed we’d get some breaks in the weather once we got there.

We got parked in the main lot (€12 per person!) and asked if we would be able to stay the night – no problem – stay as long as you like.  The parking ticket includes access to the UNESCO World Heritage grounds of the Cliffs.  (The only service offered there was bathrooms but they were closed!)

We spent maybe an hour checking out the Visitor’s Centre and grounds – it was super windy but Lady Luck was on our side and the sun was out most of the time – the wind was strong and it was cold when you weren’t protected.  We are SO happy we have our big down jackets – wind and waterproof!

What a lovely site.  We walked to three view points and enjoyed ourselves before returning to the parking lot.  It remained quite windy but it was a quiet night.  It was colder than usual in the evening and we did resort to the furnace later in the evening – first time since we’ve been back.

We looked at our route planning before dinner and decide we would make a day trip to the Aran Islands tomorrow – so we booked a ferry.  Let’s hope the weather doesn’t get worse.

We awoke Thursday morning to what seemed like unsettled skies but with more sun than cloud.  We drove to Doolin to catch the ferry to the Aran Islands.  Enroute we could see Doonagrove Castle which is  now privately owned.

Before Doonagore Castle existed, there was already a first castle, built in the 13th century. The present castle only dates back to the 16th century, and was in 1582, tobetter monitor the comings and goings of ships on the Atlantic.

In 1588, Spain tried to invade England… in vain… While Spain was in full retreat, a Spanish ship of the Invicible Armada is said to have been wrecked on the Irish coast, not far from the castle.

More than 170 survivors were taken prisoner by the High Sheriff of County Clare, Boetius MacClancy, who ordered them hanged at Doonagore Castle… Their bodies were then buried in the burial mound of Cnocán an Crochaire, not far from the town of Doolin. 

We arrived at the docks, got parked, and decided we’d stay the night here as well as we paid for 30 hours of parking.

The Aran Islands – Million of years ago the islands were joined to the mainland in the area called the “Burren”.  Although separated from the mainland now they still share the same landscape  which has no soil and is covered in limestone to such a degree as to be known as “pavement”.  The surface appears hard but in fact it’s permeable limestone.  As a result,, there are very few trees on the island.  There are blooms that spring up between the crevices known as “grikes”.

There are fields everywhere separated by low rock walls.  IT is estimated that there are 1000 miles of stone walls on the island of Inishmore alone (the island is only nine miles long by two miles wide.  The farm land is made up of land divided into strips that run from the road to the sea.  Fields are divided by single walls but when you see a double one, that’s a property line.  The walls are made of loos stones with intentional gaps to allow the wind to go through – otherwise the walls would be pummeled down by the never ceasing wind.  (the joke is the holes are there to enable the cows to see how much greener the fields are on the other side!). 

For centuries Islanders have been creating thin topsoil by layering seaweed and sand.  Other than the occasional family potato patch and garden this man made land cannot support agriculture and is mostly used for grazing cattle.  However Fishing is the most common livelihood. 

The ferry left a bit after ten and although we thought we’d booked the express ferry it stopped at the second of the three islands as well and TWO people got off.

Upon arriving at the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore, we walked over to rent bikes to see at least two of the sights on the island.  By this time the weather had turned to completely cloudy skies with the odd sunny “sucker” hole.

The places we wanted to see were a tad far to walk in the five hours onshore we had.  We used our app to get to Poll na bPeist aka Serpent’s Lair – turns out we took the hard way along the Back Road and it was a struggle for Fran especially and then the road turned to gravel and we were both walking out bikes.

About a half mile from the “swimming hole” aka “worm hole” you have to walk the rest of the way on a little marked trail (if you can call it that).  We made it there and it was amazing!

trail head to Serpent’s Lair

This is a natural rectangular shaped pool into which the sea ebbs and flows at the bottom of the cliffs.  We arrived just as a large group of high school boys arrived so we didn’t’ have it to ourselves but it this alone was worth the bike ride and the trip to the island.  It is said to be 300m / 984′ deep and on two occasions cliff diving has taken place (think Red Bull – check it out on YouTube – it’s crazy!).

Next we walked back got our bikes and made our way over to the islands main attraction an 1100 BC fort called Dun Anaghasa…

Dún Aonghasa  is the best-known of several prehistoric hill forts on the Aran Islands. It lies on the larger of the three islands, Inis Mor, at the edge of a 100-metre-high (330 ft) cliff.

It is not known exactly when Dún Aonghasa was built, though it is now thought that most of the structures date from the Bronze Age and Iron Age.  Some believe that it was built in the 2nd century BC.  Excavations at the site indicate that the first construction goes back to 1100 BC, when rubble was piled against large upright stones to form the first enclosure. Around 500 BC, the triple wall defenses were probably constructed along the fort’s western side.

You have to park your bikes outside the info centre, buy your tickets and walk up the site – about 15 minutes walk.  About half way there, Doug realized he’d forgotten his phone in the basket on his bike so he turned around and meet Fran at the entrance a bit later. Phew – it was still there!

The triple layer walls still stand looking over the edge of the cliff is amazing.


We walked back down got back on our bikes and made our way into the village at the pier via a much better and much easier route.  We were very fortunate with the weather; the sun popped out a few times but mostly it was bright and cloudy but it never rained on us.

We returned the bikes and it was now after 2pm and we were starving.  We asked the fellow at the bike shop where to eat and he recommended “the Bar” for its fish and chips which is exactly what we did.

On the return ferry ride at 4pm it was pretty much pouring the entire and it took about an hour to get back as it stopped at both of the other islands and it rained the entire journey.

It was a cold wet night.

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Next morning we were up early as neither of us slept well due to the wind and made our way northwest heading for the border.  We made a short stop in Galway city to check it out to say we’d been there, before heading further:

love the different coloured doors
they call this the Spanish Arch
Kirwin Lane – a medieval street which was not too exciting
Eyre Square with flags of various clans

The weather had improved greatly and we found ourselves a camp spot in Sligo just away from it’s centre on the river for the night.  As mentioned above, we had purchased new table railings and after taking apart the old set that was broken, Doug had to go find a hardware store for a couple of screws (the package came with none!) and we got it all set up and are back to having a sturdy dining table.

We took walks around the town and the nearby park:

We had a quiet night by the river and continued north on Saturday.  Fran found what appeared to be a very nice campground near Donegal not too far for the Northern Ireland border but far enough for the day.  Upon arrival there was one trailer parked there and a VW camper and Joe, the owner, said they’d be leaving soon, and we could move to their spot which was rather large.  It had full services including laundry so we got there around 10 in the morning and spent the day on their great Wi-Fi, got some laundry done and enjoyed hot showers.  When they left we moved into their spot and actually had a sitting area into which we took out our chairs and read in the sunshine and warm temps.

in the yard beside our campsite

By late afternoon another van pulled up and we had happy hour with Dan and Kat from Yorkshire on our “patio area”.  By bedtime two more motorhomes from the UK had arrived.

Note:  We are going to get this website updated (it’s been nearly ten years!) so if we’re down a few days soon, that’s why!