Ireland Trip 2023

Driving west into Galway, we stopped at Kilmacduagh, an 11th century abbey. It was very cool: the kids loved the cows and the ruins. I also loved the cemetery, which is clearly still in use and well-maintained.

From there we drove on tiny theoretically two-way roads into the Burren and stopped at a visitors center to learn about “the father of the Burren” and a famous celli band that is very large and almost all descended from one local family. The roads have very bumpy, in addition to extremely narrow, and we keep having to pull over when another car tried to approach in another direction. The Burren reminds me—I have been amused at just how many different places we’ve been that are also the names of Irish pubs in Boston. The Burren, the Jeanie Johnston…there have been more, too! In addition to the shrubs on the left-side of the road--which Marcus and I became closely acquainted with--we spotted fun sheep signs and many cows on the sides of the roads.

By 3:00 we made it to the Cliffs of Moher and parked the car at a local person’s house near Liscannor to walk up to the cliffs. Robert paid in dollars and got change in Euros, and we walked up to the edge of the cliffs.

At that point it was extremely windy, and it was clear that the path was going to get narrower and closer to the edge, so I decided to sit down and relax for awhile while the rest of the family kept walking. I read a book and watched the bags of a nice pair of bikers who were from Vancouver, had bought bikes in Dublin, and were biking around Ireland for a month. They didn’t want to leave their saddlebags on their bikes, locked up to a fence a little ways below us, but they also didn’t want to carry them all the way to the edge of the cliffs. The views were amazing, even if the wind was wild, and it was all definitely something to see.

We went to a pub in Doolin for dinner, having fish and chips, a Guinness for Robert, beef stew, and chicken curry, plus a chocolate lava cake. Apparently there was a big hurling match on and all the locals were there in their sporting shirts. It was pretty great that we managed to be there for Sunday night hurling, and to get a table where we could see the game, too.

The B&B tonight was a little awkward because there was a room that sleeps three and a room that sleeps five which were across, but not directly across, a public hall from each other. I had asked if the rooms were adjoining when I reserved them and was told “yes, they’re wonderfully convenient for a family,” which is not exactly how I would describe these. As it happened, though, I got Helen into bed in the bigger room and she fell asleep (she had been yawning through dinner) while we were discussing arrangement. Marcus laid down on the bed next to her to use his phone and fell asleep a minute later, at 8pm, so Samantha and Robert and I went into the other room to play cards for an hour and a half. Then she went back to that room to sleep. I do always worry about fires and things if the kids are in a room without us, though, in a strange hotel. Meanwhile, it was still bright light at 9:30, but nevertheless we slept great, waking up without alarms needed at a reasonable time.

The B&B had a plated breakfast we ordered last night for 8:00, and then Helen sat outside with an activity book while we finished breakfast and got our things ready. Next we had a cave tour (going down into the limestone underneath the Burren), then at noon a boat ride out of Doolin harbor to the foot of the cliffs and around some small rock formations out there.

The cave was famous for Europe’s largest stalactite, which was really pretty large, and was in the middle of the chamber rather than along the edges as is more common. Though it was a very cool tour, I did keep getting distracted by the older man’s accent during the tour, especially when he talked about the two young “bys” who discovered the cave in 1952, the amount of “mood” in the cave (which his daughter, an artist, digs out clay and makes pottery from), and all sorts of other fun details. (The caves also had a donkey and goat to pet, and a little nature walk, but Helen was the only kid Robert could persuade to join him on that part.)

Then we had a nice boat ride, with just a little drizzle on us. The boat was a little bouncy but pretty comfortable, and then we did some walking out on the limestone rocks of the burren. There were lots of bunnies and ravens and flora in and among the rocks.

After the boat ride, and walking around the rocks, I made everyone go to the (surprisingly decent) bathrooms on the pier and then piled into the car and I plied people with snacks. We drove an hour south of Doolin to Limerick, and first we stopped at the Milk Market, a little set of food stalls around a central entertainment area that often has live music, and that was open 11-3 on Sunday. We pulled in around 2:35 and I was betting that there would be a few different possible lunch options in one place. As it happened, there was an amateur dog show happening, where you could enter up to 4 categories for 10 euros for charity, and the categories were fun things like “saddest eyes” or “largest and fluffiest” or “most resembles owner” or “best veteran” (only for ages 11+) etc.

So I ordered crepes from a stand (bacon, egg, and cheese for Marcus; bacon and maple for Samantha; and Nutella and marshmallow, the pink marshmallows like in New Zealand, for Helen) and everyone watched the dog show for awhile. Helen and Robert particularly appreciated it.

Then we went up to King John’s castle, which dates to 1210, with earlier structures extant on the site.

They had a cute museum before and then the castle yard is set up with games and with costumed interpreters who would talk to you for ages about cannonballs and the kind of methods of cooling steel, and did card tricks with Helen, and taught sword-fighting lessons, and you could walk down into the ruins of the castle foundations and also up into all of the towers.


In the picture below, you can see three spots where cannonballs hit the castle during the 1642 siege of Limerick--Robert was very impressed.

It was a very satisfying castle experience, overall, and everyone got into it.

Samantha seemed content to talk to the weapons guy forever, actually--they discussed the physics and chemistry of swords and cannonballs and more. But really, over the years we’ve been to all sorts of castles, some that are ruins with no interpretive plaques, some that are self-guided tours through partial ruins or unfurnished rooms, some that are audio-guided or live-guided tours through furnished rooms, etc. Some are not geared towards kids, some are overly touristy, and this one managed to be in the middle in an interesting way—some ruins, some empty rooms, some kid stuff, some adult information, some things to read, etc.

From the castle we had a drive of about 90 minutes to get to Killarney, where we checked into another B&B for two nights. We split the drive by stopping at a Chinese takeaway in Newcastle West called Jasmine Court. Marcus found it hard to parse as a Chinese restaurant. We mostly ordered a spice bag and a spice bag variation, and this one came with the option of “satay sauce” (a thicker, soy-based sauce that may have had some peanuts in it, or may not have) or curry sauce to go with it, so we got one with each.

Then we ate on a table outside at the town plaza, right in front of the (now closed) Desmond Castle (but we took a picture for Desmond up the block), noticing that there were vans of sheep around and also people with horse-drawn buggies on the main town roads.

Once we checked into the hotel, Marcus and Robert walked out to a grassy field about ten minutes away to throw around a frisbee, and Helen and Samantha did some journaling/scrapbooking before bed.


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Created: 7/2/23. Last Modified: 7/2/23.