Arrived in Shannon (County Clare) yesterday afternoon and was met by Peter, the taxi driver, who gave us a ride to Bunratty Heights B n B which is run by Patricia, a very gracious host! At the B n B, we met several members of our tour, then walked up to Bunratty Castle and folk park, complete with an old village of farmhouses with thatched roofs – so quaint. Later in the evening, we met back at Patricias for complimentary wine, then walked over to meet the other members of the tour at Gallagher’s restaurant (best sea bass ever!)
Next day – The Tour Begins! (the tour is what sparked me to come to Europe in the first place. Wes and I have been John Smith fans ever since we began attending the Kerrville Folk Festival 10 years ago and now we are finally doing one of his tours!)
John joined us for breakfast at the B n B, then we loaded up and Hugh, our bus driver, started filling us in on what to expect. Already, I am in love with Ireland and its people! I also love reading the signs which are written in both English and Gaelic!
I’m impressed by the GREEN, the stone fences Everywhere, and the ruined castles and abbeys throughout the rolling hills (lots of sheep too)
First we stopped at Dromoland Castle (not on our list but John thought we might want to see it) – beautiful with red vines climbing up the sides and a sweet gazebo where the earl’s favorite horse was buried.
Next was Coole Park, the estate of Lady Gregory, a lover of the arts. She invited many writers of her time (George Bernard Shaw, Yeats, James Joyce, etc) to visit and they all carved their names in a huge copper beech tree, called “The Autograph Tree” – so cool!)
We all stood around a giant sun dial and reintroduced ourselves – such an interesting and friendly group of people!
For lunch, we stopped in Cong where the Quiet Man was filmed. Remember this one? An old John Wayne movie (my dad would have liked this place as he was a big John Wayne fan 🙂
Now we are in Westport (County Mayo) where we will be staying for 3 days. It’s such a beautiful town with a river flowing right down the center and Croagh Patrick Mountain towering overhead. On “Reek Sunday”, the last Sunday in July, thousands of pilgrims (some barefoot) attempt to climb to the summit. One of our group members mentioned to me that her husband use to climb the mountain every summer and that after her husband passed away, her son spread his ashes on top of the mountain. What a feeling that must have been for her to stand there and gaze up at Croagh Patrick! I’m so glad she shared with me.
Tonight we will meet for our first formal dinner, then be treated to some great Irish music – who knows? Wes and I may even do a jig!