Ireland Revisted, Laura and Dan’s Excellent Adventure

 

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1992 – High up on Connor’s Pass on the north side of the Dingle Peninsula.

The shot above is of a couple of young newlyweds about 23 years ago.  My wife Laura and I married in August of 1992.  I was in the peak of my cycling years and Laura shared in my passion.  We took many long rides together up and down the East coast and even out in Colorado.  Long before kids.  Come time for the honeymoon it seemed appropriate to spend our time in the saddle on some epic adventure.  We chose Ireland for its scenic beauty and rustic charm.  We flew into Shannon Airport and cycled around the west coast, in and around the Dingle Peninsula and on up into the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.  We rode for 10 straight days in great weather and then stayed in a little B&B in Doolin for 3 days.  We kept a journal.  We had a great time and never forgot the people we met and the places we had been.  We vowed to come back.

Flash forward 23 years.  I’m still married to my best friend.  We have three wonderful boys, a busy life, and finally made time for our return.  We brought the kids and decided to relive our bike tour with additional adventure, although this time in a rented van.

We cannot recommend this wonderful country enough for all it has to offer.  My fear was that Ireland may have lost some of that rustic charm.  I assure you its still there.  From the beautiful green countryside, the infinite stone walls, old castles and architecture, to its beautiful children and friendly people, to its milky smooth Guinness beer and sweet, sweet, Jamison Irish Whiskey, its all there just waiting for you to come visit.  It was almost depressing to have to leave.  We loved it that much.  We will not wait another 23 years to return.

There is a video of our trip below.  You can skip to it and come back.  Its OK.  Or you can read just a bit more and save the best for last.

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1992

Many years ago, while planning for our honeymoon, I remember many people thinking we were nuts.  Why not go to a tropical beach somewhere and hang out?  It would be far easier.  But something felt very right about this trip.  And so we marched on.  We would arrive at the airport at 6AM in the morning with nothing more than our bikes in a box and our side panniers filled with what we could carry.  We rode 17 miles to Limerick and then crashed hard for about 10 hours.  We would put in another 100 miles or so.

Now having driven those same roads with my kids, my only thought is “we were nuts!”  It seemed like such a long way to travel on just bikes.  I guess we were very ambitious.  I wondered if my new bride must have thought I was crazy.  But it made for great memories.

 

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1992

Before we even set out on our journey we toured St. John’s Castle in Limerick.  We walked across the street to a little pub called Katy Daly’s for a quick pint of Guinness, our first of the trip.  We left 6 hours later having met some locals who engaged us in many more pints, stories, and song.  What a warm welcome for a couple of young Americans. They are pictured above.  I often wonder where our old friends are today.

 

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This is Katy Daly’s today.  Still standing, still holding on to its charm.  There are many, many, pubs just like it.  You are never too far from your next pint or basket of fish and chips.

 

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Me in ’92.  The roads have essentially remained unchanged.  We noticed many more cyclers this last trip.  While the roads are narrow and busy, it often feels more cycler friendly than the US.

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Prior to our recent trip we had good intentions of looking at our old pictures.  But time got the best of us and we never did.  When I returned I dug up as many as I could find.  There were times that we visited and stood in the same places we did many years ago.  Here is Laura in front of Saint John’s Castle, and the castle as it appears today, below.  I’m standing in almost the same place.

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1992

On our honeymoon Laura was drawn to this old cathedral in Ballyferriter.  We stopped for her to grab some photos.  Twenty three years later we lunched with our kids up the street, took a walk, and found ourselves photographing the same church (below).  We didn’t know until we got home.  Crazy.

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On our recent trip I was on a major quest to return to Gus O’Connors Pub in Doolin.  As the story goes, the only hiccup we had on our honeymoon was that we arrived in Doolin late after a long day of cycling only to find that our room had been given away as we were suspected of being no shows.  Our host, Susan Daly, felt so bad that she loaded our bikes in her small car and drove us to 5 different B&Bs until she found one in nearby Lisdoonvarna.  Susan was so kind and gracious that the next day we headed right back over to her place and stayed for three days, touring the area on our bikes, and looking forward to the food and music entertainment at the Pub each night.

On this day we had lunched at Gus O’Conner’s then went for a walk to find our old friend.  We were ecstatic to find Susan alive & well and doing great.  The image above is of our quick visit with her.  Same house, although the image below will show that she has done well as a B&B owner/operator.  You can find her at this link. We highly recommend staying with her in Doolin.  Its a great location for exploring the surrounding area.

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I snapped this picture one evening of Susan’s girls.  Katy is pictured on the left, her sister far right, friend in the middle.  I have often thought about these girls and wondered what had become of them.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Katy is now 30, married, with 2 kids of her own, and lives and operates a B&B right up the road from Mom.  Wow!  You can find Katy’s Place here.

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One night in Gus O’conner’s Pub, we watched the usual nightly traditional Irish music.  Laura struck up a conversation with a local woman sitting beside us.  She mentioned that the gentlemen playing the flute was a well known (famous) Irish musician.  Laura wrote his name down in her journal.  He was Micho Russell.  I only recently looked him up to find that he is in fact an Irish treasure, especially in County Clare.  He recorded many albums with his two brothers and performed all over the country.  Sadly he was killed in a car accident within 2 years of us seeing him perform.  We felt fortunate to have seen him play in this little pub.  Imagine my surprise when I found this photo of him in our album.  They still celebrate his music today.

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My bride riding high in the country side.

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Along the road to Slea Head on the Dingle Peninsula.  The Blasket Islands in the distance.

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I found this shot of the Cliffs interesting as they no longer let you on this rock slab to look over the edge.  That is me in the cycling shorts. Now its fenced off and you pay for access to the view.  I was pleased to find that the reason for this is that they are protecting the species of bird that nests on the cliff face, and the entrance fee goes towards their preservation.  I felt lucky that we were able to visit the cliffs when you could still walk up to them and see their raw beauty.

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2015

My family on our recent trip.  It was almost too much fun.  We covered some major miles in our rented van.  We hiked in Killarney National Park, listened to traditional music in Tralee, car toured the Dingle Peninsula, attended the Puck Festival in Killorglin, visited the Jameson distillery in Cork, visited with our local friends, the Fitzgeralds, who own a place in Dunmore East, lunched in Doolin, saw the Cliffs, and played cards in the shadow of Bunratty Castle while enjoying yet another cool pint at Durty Nellies.  It was a blast.

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