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Pub hopping through Ireland

Pub hopping through Ireland

No, this is not a Guiness tour of Ireland. During spring break in 2011, we spent a week in Ireland from March 12 to 19. It had not escaped our attention that we would be spending St. Patrick’s Day on the Emerald Island. We flew to Dublin and rented a car and immediately started making our way to the western shore. Our main objective was to pub hop, not for the Guiness but for the music. So on top of our list was the small town of Dingle which is famed as a center for traditional Irish music. Dingle is in the far western part of the country on the Dingle Peninsula whereas Dublin is on the eastern shore. Other than pubs, we also stopped at a number of interesting ancient sites and ruins.

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Cashel

Our first stop was Cashel which is about half way to Dingle. Cashel is best known as the site of an old castle known as the Rock of Cashel which dates to the 12th and 13th century. It sits on a hill overlooking the countryside and includes a tall round tower, old cathedral and chapel.

Our BnB in Cashel

Our BnB in Cashel

The Rock of Cashel at night

The Rock of Cashel at night

Irish or high crosses

Irish or high crosses

Remains of the cathedral

Remains of the cathedral

The round tower and more high crosses. Note that the door to the tower is raised about 12 feet.

The round tower and more high crosses. Note that the door to the tower is raised about 12 feet.

The wall and surrounding countryside

The wall and surrounding countryside

Remains of the chapel

Remains of the chapel

The Rock on a hill

The Rock on a hill

Scattered showers are in the forecast, on the drive to Dingle Peninsula

Scattered showers are in the forecast, on the drive to Dingle Peninsula

Conor Pass at the entrance to Dingle Peninsula

Conor Pass at the entrance to Dingle Peninsula

Dingle

We drove to Dingle and stayed in a quaint BnB right on the harbor. The small town of Dingle (population 2000) is a major fishing port with a large harbor. The shops on the main street are very colorful but it is most famous, at least in my mind, for having several pubs that feature traditional Irish music. Every night of the year there is live music at 2 or 3 of these pubs. We went to the Marina Inn on the first night as there was a jam session on Sunday night with many local performers.

We met a couple from Toronto traveling with their teenage daughter at one of the pubs in Dingle and started chatting with them. They were also traveling in Ireland primarily for the music. It turned out that their daughter was an accomplished fiddler of Irish tunes. To our surprise the next evening we saw them at another pub and their daughter volunteered to play a few tunes with the performers, which she did to excellent effect. It turned out that we were on the same tour itinerary as we would run into them again and again in Doolin and Galway!

One day we were wandering around the town and I went into a small music store with collections of mostly Irish traditional music. So I asked the lady who ran the shop if she could recommend some good local Irish performers. She and another customer in the store immediately said that I should buy the CD from Pauline Scanlon, a local woman. Unfortunately, she wasn’t performing on the days that we were there but I did buy the CD (Lumiere), which is beautiful! But what I found interesting is that after I made my purchases (if I recall, I bought 2 CDs), the lady said that we should celebrate with some Irish whiskey. So she pulled out a bottle from behind the desk and poured all three of us a shot. Sort of fit the Irish stereotype.

During the next day we drove around the Dingle Peninsula which is a beautiful drive with great views of the sea and island as well as several interesting ancient sights. The Gallarus Oratory is of particular interest. It was build probably around the 12th century and consists of finely cut stones that are corbelled together without the use of mortar.

Lil outside our BnB

Lil outside our BnB

Panoramic view of Dingle harbor

Panoramic view of Dingle harbor

Views of the main street

Views of the main street

Views of the main street

Views of the main street

Views of the main street

Views of the main street

Marina Inn is a famous pub for Irish music.

Marina Inn is a famous pub for Irish music.

John Moriarity is a famous pub for Irish music.

John Moriarity is a famous pub for Irish music.

Murphy’s Pub is a famous pub.

Murphy’s Pub is a famous pub.

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The Sunday night jam at the Marina Inn

The Sunday night jam at the Marina Inn

Gallarus Oratory is thought to date to the 12th century

Gallarus Oratory is thought to date to the 12th century

Closeup of the wonderful stonework on the Gallarus Oratory

Closeup of the wonderful stonework on the Gallarus Oratory

Old ship

Old ship

Mountains on Dingle Peninsula

Mountains on Dingle Peninsula

Panoramic view of the Dingle Peninsula

Panoramic view of the Dingle Peninsula

Panoramic vies of the Dingle Peninsula with the Blasket Islands in view

Panoramic vies of the Dingle Peninsula with the Blasket Islands in view

Irish music at the An Droichead Beag (or Small Bridge) in Dingle. The young girl on the right is the teenager from Toronto that we had met the night before.

Irish music at the An Droichead Beag (or Small Bridge) in Dingle. The young girl on the right is the teenager from Toronto that we had met the night before.

Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher

Leaving Dingle we headed north toward Doolin, another town famous for Irish music. It happens to also be very close to the popular tourist site known as the Cliffs of Moher. While driving around the cliffs, we ran into the Canadian couple again. And then saw the daughter playing in a band in Gus O’Connor’s Pub, which is probably the most famous pub for Irish music in Doolin..

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

At Gus O’Connor’s pub in Doolin

At Gus O’Connor’s pub in Doolin

In Doolin at Gus O’Connor’s Pub with the Canadian girl on the left joining the band

In Doolin at Gus O’Connor’s Pub with the Canadian girl on the left joining the band

Sunset on the Burren near Doolin

Sunset on the Burren near Doolin

Sunset on the Burren

Sunset on the Burren

Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren, Ireland. A neolithic portal tomb dating to 3000 to 4000 BC

Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren, Ireland. A neolithic portal tomb dating to 3000 to 4000 BC

Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren, Ireland

Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren, Ireland

Dungaire Castle, Kinvara Ireland

Dungaire Castle, Kinvara Ireland

Galway for St. Patrick’s Day

We drove to Galway just in time to watch the St. Patty’s parade and also to hit a few more pubs.

While waiting for the parade to begin, who should we see busking outside an Irish pub but our friend from Toronto.

While waiting for the parade to begin, who should we see busking outside an Irish pub but our friend from Toronto.

The Toronto couple and daughter (three in the center) are also into the St. Patty’s spirit.

The Toronto couple and daughter (three in the center) are also into the St. Patty’s spirit.

Waiting for the parade to begin

Waiting for the parade to begin

Spectators in the spirit

Spectators in the spirit

The Marshal declares the parade to begin

The Marshal declares the parade to begin

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

St. Patrick’s Day parade in Galway

In a pub we saw this poster on the wall highlighting 9 famous pubs in Ireland. Interestingly for me was that we had visited 4 of them in our short trip to Ireland..

In a pub we saw this poster on the wall highlighting 9 famous pubs in Ireland. Interestingly for me was that we had visited 4 of them in our short trip to Ireland..

Irish music in Galway

Irish music in Galway

In the Taaffes Pub in Galway on St. Patty’s Day

In the Taaffes Pub in Galway on St. Patty’s Day

In the famous Tig Coili Pub  in Galway on St. Patty’s Day

In the famous Tig Coili Pub in Galway on St. Patty’s Day

Music in Tig Coili Pub in Galway

Music in Tig Coili Pub in Galway

Irish music in Galway

Irish music in Galway

Irish music in Galway

Irish music in Galway

Step-dancing to the music

Step-dancing to the music

Newgrange

On the way back to Dublin to catch our flight home, we stopped in Newgrange, which is a fantastic Stone Age site!! It is located in an area with a number of neolithic sites. Newgrange itself consist of a large mound within which lies a tomb consisting of a long hallway leading to a central room constructed with very large stones. The entrance and window box above the door are perfectly aligned on the rising sun on the winter's solstice. The first rays of the rising sun on that day enter the window box above the door and light up the long inside hallway, which has a slight upward slope as you walk in toward the center tomb. Standing at the central tomb, the window and doorway are not visible so the first light will seem to make the room glow. How did they do this in the Stone Age, circa 3200 BC, before Stonehenge??

Imagine that you are building this structure and discover that the calculations were off by a few inches and the door has to be moved slightly. First, how would you move the huge stones a few inches? And once you’ve done it, you would have to wait for a year to see if the adjustment was correct. Or possibly wait a few years if the weather is cloudy on the critical days. Amazing!

One can enter a lottery to be one of a 100 people out of about 30,000 applicants who can see the phenomenon on one of the 5 days around the solstice each year.

The mound at Newgrange

The mound at Newgrange

The doorway with the window box above it

The doorway with the window box above it

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Trim Castle

For the last evening we stayed in the town of Trim, near Dublin. There is a large ruin of a castle, and more pubs.

Trim Castle

Trim Castle

Trim Castle

Trim Castle

Irish music in a pub in Trim

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Here’s to St. Patty’s Day!!

Here’s to St. Patty’s Day!!

Northern Spain

Northern Spain

Japan

Japan