Thursday, 30 October 2008

Irish Times

Ah, so where were we? Well, we spent Monday driving around Lough Derg. Very beautiful, again we had blue skies and sunshine interspersed with heavy showers. We've seen rainbows every day, and of course when the sun shines it makes the ground look green and full of life. The trees, however, are very autumnal, shades of gold everywhere.

So Monday was fine, we thought we'd drive until we hit Portumna, then have a spot of lunch. All was well until, approaching Portumna, we found the bridge across the Shannon was closed ro repair work. So near, but yet so far. A minor inconvenience? Well, we took the recommended diversion, but in this part of the world bridges across the Shannon are few and far between, and the diversion took almost an hour before we finally hit Portumna. Can't really complain, since we drove through beautiful countryside, but by the time we arrived we were all quite hungry and were disappointed further to find that everywhere seemed shut up. I know it was a bank holiday, but I'd have thought I'd still be able to find some open cafés. Anyway, on we drove around the lough, planning to stop at the first place we saw. As it happened, the western side of the lough is even less developed than the eastern side (I wouldn't mind but we saw an excellent-looking pub/restaurant in Terryglass, before we knew about the diversion. If only we'd known...) and we didn't find anything until we reached the town of Scarriff, where a small supermarket was open. So we had a belated lunch, al fresco, sitting by the small harbour at Scarriff. Chilly but beautiful, and very quiet. As we continued around the lough, there were some wonderful views, especially once we crossed the Shannon again at Killaloe, when we drove onto high ground and had a tremendous view of the lough below. To cap it all, we saw a really bright rainbow, probably the brightest I've ever seen, which made the view almost magical. Unfortunately we weren't able to stop quickly enough to take a photograph, but the memory will stay forever in any case. It was that time of day, that we drove around into Nenagh and had no trouble finding an open coffee shop for a yummy cake and latté to round off the day.

Tuesday we went for another drive, and the roads were much more lively after the bank holiday. Drove down to Tipperary, where we stopped only briefly. It was raining, plus the place didn't look particularly attractive. We drove on to Cashel for lunch (found an excellent café) and a visit to the famous Rock of Cashel. We had blue skies and fluffy white clouds by this time, so I should get some half-decent photographs. Excellent views across to the Galtys in the distance. Very windy and cold once again, though. Some places had snow forecast...

After visiting the old cathedral, we pressed on to Thurles, a charming little town, where we stopped for an hour. Thurles is the home of the Tipp county hurling team, so I couldn't resist getting a souvenir polo shirt with which to remember the visit. On then to Nenagh once again, where this time there was time enough not just for a coffee (we found an excellent deli) but to have a look around some shops too. It was dark as we did this and there was the smell of smoke in the air - lovely. I have to say that Nenagh is possibly the most charming place we have visited, and it is right on our doorstep too. A lucky choice, given we didn't really know anything about the area when we booked.

Yesterday we fell back to "Plan B", the weather really was awful so we just headed for the nearest city, Limerick. Now, I had been warned that Limerick was a bit of a dump, but if the truth be told I was pleasantly surprised. The best thing - and this seems typical of Ireland so far - is that you see plenty of independent shops, not just the normal High Street chains. So, all in all, a pleasant day. No photos though!

Today we ended up doing something similar, although the weather was a little better so we drove right down to Cork. All was fine until we actually arrived, when it took something like thirty minutes to park. Unbelievable. The city looked good, though this time we saw many High Street chains. I suspect if we'd had longer there we would have found the smaller shops in the smaller streets, but of course we were visiting for an afternoon only, plus there was a freezing wind. I think I'd probably go back there and visit again.
I have to say I've enjoyed Ireland immensely. It is like England in terms of scenery, but more charming in terms of the towns and the people. We've been quite lucky having been so close to Nenagh, the flip side being that it took us a couple of hours to get to the coast the other day, and a couple of hours to get down to Cork today. I think possibly next time we may locate ourselves in Clare, for example, and have most things a little closer (though of course visiting places like Cork would then be out of the question). But yes, it'd be good to come back.

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