Abroad in Ireland (Part 3) — Week in County Clare

For Spring break a lot of my college friends made plans to go on fancy trips to mainland Europe, but knowing there was still plenty to see in Ireland, I decided to take a tour of County Clare. I booked a week-long stay at a hostel in Sixmilebridge, and to get there, I needed to make a lot of transfers. I took a train from Derry, to Belfast, then to Dublin, and finally a bus to Sixmilebridge. I think I could have maybe taken a bus with fewer transfers, but it would have taken a lot longer, and Irish roads + double-decker bus = nauseating. Lots of swaying and jerking around. Travelling by train was much more comfortable.

 

I stopped to say “hi” to Molly Malone in my walking transfer between trains in Dublin.

By the time I arrived in Dublin, I discovered (to my dismay) that there were no more buses to Sixmilebridge that evening! I’m not sure what happened because I was sure to research the transfers thoroughly. While I was explaining my predicament to the ticket clerk, a bus driver overheard me. He had to drive a bus back that direction anyway for some reason—maybe to pick up a morning connection in the opposite city, and said that he’d be able to take me on his empty bus and drop me off. I was a little nervous about that, but I really didn’t want to sleep on a terminal bench in Dublin either, so I accepted. He was a very nice man, and I’m glad I did it.

I arrived at the “Jamaica Inn Hostel” on a dark, misty evening, and knocked on the door. Hostels aren’t like hotels that have 24/7 concierges running the front desk. For example, when I booked my stay at the hostel, one of the questions on the form was “What time will you be arriving?” I knew I’d be arriving really late in the evening, so I put 11:00… well, most people in Ireland use 24-hour time, so the hostel owner thought I’d be arriving at 11:00 in the morning—I neglected to say 23:00!! The owner thankfully had just finished checking in a group of kids from Basque country and was still awake. Thank god! He opened the door and said, “You’re very lucky I’m still awake! I wasn’t expecting anyone else!” What would I have done if no one was awake to let me in? I got lucky twice that evening.

There is a lot to see in this area and it’s all close together, which is good for since I didn’t have a car. The first day of my trip I spent wandering around Sixmilebridge. It’s a very small town, but absolutely charming. There’s basically only one hostel, two bars, and a church. In the morning I chatted with an elderly lady in the park who was busy feeding the birds. We talked about Mary Poppins. I think she might have been a few crayons short of a box, but she was super sweet and fun to talk to. She said that she’d be at the pub around dinner time and that I should meet her again later. I poked my head into a boutique shop and was horrified to see a beautiful harp mounted on the wall being used for nothing more than an earring rack. Scandalous! For lunch, I went to a small cafe overlooking a bridge and had crusty bread smothered in butter.

My lunch scene
My lunch scene

After that I found the town’s library inside an old church building. I picked up “Catcher in the Rye” and sat down to read it until they closed. I almost finished it.

The library (Love Google street view, by the way. I never took pictures of these places—besides my camera at the time wasn’t very good anyway).

I did stop at the pub around dinnertime to see if that lady would be there. I lingered over a drink to enjoy the musicians playing session. Later that weekend the session group let me play along even though I was new at it and a little bit on the slow side. They were all very nice. The kids from Basque were there too. Turns out that they were folk dancers and had their own troupe of musicians with them! They joined the session players and also danced for us.

I didn’t find that lady there that night, but later that week I was at the pub talking to visitors from London and they said that they’d ran into her too and that she was talking about me! I was sorry to have missed her! Word gets around quick in a small town eh?

She’s playing so fast that the bow and her fingers are double exposed. She was flying!
A cute Irish guy playing the banjo. I thought he looked like Daniel Radcliffe. Banjos are a popular choice for Irish session. They worked their way over to Ireland from American Appalachia.
The Basque kids dancing in traditional garb.

I hung out at the pub probably every night while I was in Sixmilebridge. I don’t know what it was about that tiny little village, but there were people from all over place! I think it’s because there was an international airport not far from here in Shannon. I already mentioned the dance group from Basque, but there were representatives from Italy, Australia, England (London), and one guy from Galway. We all bonded and I connected with them on Facebook. I managed to stay in touch with them for a while.

Good craic at MacGregor’s pub that evening.
Accordion player with the Basque group.
Accordion player with the Basque group.
Joquin from Basuque country. He came with a larger group of traditional Basque musicians and dancers. Joquin kept asking me in broken English to marry him. 😛 Aww, he was adorable.
From left to right starting with the bloke in front drinking– Paul from Galway, Fabio from Italy, Victoria from Bulgaria, Lucy from London, Tony from Australia, Louise from London, and Kevin from Australia. I think Tasha from London is taking the picture.
Me and Fabio. One night we were all drunk and hungry and he cooked pasta carbonara for all of us in the hostel kitchen. It was soooo tasty.
Guys from Australia Kevin and Tony. Cool accents, of course 🙂
Girls from London Lucy, Louise, me and Tasha
Paul from Galway and me. He was cute and nice.

The next day, I hitched a ride to Bunratty Castle from the Australian guys I’d met at the hostel. They had a car rental, and were kind enough to give me lift on their way to the airport in Shannon. It’s about 4 miles from Sixmilebridge. Bunratty Castle is a cool place because even though there are tons of ruined castles all over Ireland, they have put a lot of effort into maintaining this castle it as it would have been in it’s heyday. It really helped me picture the lifestyle more vividly.

Bunratty Castle, a restored 15th century castle.
They have a banquet set up every night where the feed people and entertain. It’s quite expenisive or else I would have done it. This is the room they hold it in.
Kitchen.
Chapel in the castle
Windows from inside the castle
Solar for the castle’s guests. The Earl’s family has their own private living room as well.
Earls’ bedroom.
At the top of the castle in one of the towers.

In addition to admission to the castle, you also get to hang out in a reconstructed 18-19th century Irish village. They’ve re-created farmhouses and a “main street” complete with pubs and shops, and chickens milling around. 

Outside this cottage you see a thatch roof, which was common in Ireland. Made with straw or reeds.
The kitchen area with the hearth. There’s a basket of peat and a small peat-fire. Peat has a very different smell to it. It almost smells like meat cooking or smoking. It’s quite pleasant, but can be very overpowering if the room isn’t drafted right.
Close up of peat basket
Close up of peat basket
Reminds me of the Irish cottage at my local renaissance faire with the little loft…
…and ladder leading up to it.
They used to stack their hay up on these pedestals to keep it dry.

After I spent the morning and afternoon at Bunratty, I decided that since it was a beautiful day and it was only 4 miles back to the hostel, I’d walk all the way back. It was harder than I thought it’d be because the road was extremely narrow with no room to walk on the side of it really. There are hedges and stone walls right up to the edge of the road, so if a car came careening around the corner, you’d better pray the driver is paying attention for pedestrians!

The next day I took a bus tour up to the Cliffs of Moher, which are stunning. It’s a must-see if you go to Ireland. My old 2007 camera pictures really DON’T do it justice, so I’m going to borrow a professional shot to supplement my own.

Cliffs of Moher | Pixabay
A slight haze in the air on the day I visited. Neat to see how it impacts the atmospheric perspective on the undulations of the cliffside.
Ocean…nothing but pure ocean.
A quaint little tower was built on the cliffs for Victorian era tourists.
After seeing the Cliffs, the tour bus took us to the nearby city of Ennis, known for their traditional music scene. Pictured is a lovely road.
Ennis friary built in the 13th century, in ruins now.
Main window that used to hold a top-of-the-line blue stained glass when the friary was new in 13th century.
St. Francis statue…
St. Francis statue…
A few shots of beautiful stonework around window alcoves

Very elaborate tomb– the carvings on the face are depictions of the Crucifixion of Christ.

The dormitories of the monks that stayed in the friary.
Interesting topiary/moss harp sculpture made from metal.

The next day I set out to a a little park where they built replicas of Irish villages from the stone and bronze ages. This was a really cool and well-done museum!

This is called a “Crannog”–it’s a man-made island with a bridge leading to it. It is easily defended and the people could live in relative security. It wasn’t until the Normans invaded Ireland when you start to see fortresses made of stone.
Close-up of the side of the made-made island. you can see they stuck poles into the ground and filled them with turf, sand, timber, whatever was around.
This is a weird little bathing area. The ancient people would take the rocks and cook them in a fire…
…then throw them into this little bathtub to warm up the water. They would also use a similar method to make hot water used to cook their food with.

Here you can see the curve of the wall, hence the name–Ring Fort.
Inside of one of the little huts (below)
inside this particular hut was the entrance to what was called a “southterrain” and underground passage through the ringfort. Sometimes used as an escape route when things got tight, but also as refrigeration. It’s always a cool temperature down there.
This is the exit of the southterrain passageway.
Also in the park was a re-made ship called “Brendan” These guys made it it the 70’s and took it out on the ocean and sailed all the way to Newfoundland with it!
The little ship in-person.
Recreated dolmen. There are lots of these thoughout Ireland and they are thought to have been used for tombs or have religious roles.

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