Monday, June 05, 2006

Into County Clare

I got up early to get on the road for County Clare. Stopped in Dingle for coffee and a quick internet connection - but none of the venues opened till 10 or 11am on a Saturday - so it was back in the car. Drove through Connor Pass and along the northern side of Dingle peninsula to Tralee (immortalised in the song "Rose of Tralee") and had a quick walk around, but didn't find anywhere suitable for breakfast.

I then had to make a decision about whether to go through Limerick, possibly staying there for the evening, or take the car-ferry at Tarbert and stick to the coast. It turned out to be one of those "I missed the turn" choices, and so we crossed the river Shannon at Tarbert (a whopping €15 fare), leaving county Kerry for Clare, stopping soon after in Kilrush. Kilrush looked good on paper,but offered up little for us to do on an increasingly hot Saturday, least of all somewhere to breakfast or lunch. Every third shop seemed to be a butcher (sometimes called a "victualler") but, as I lacked a BBQ in my touring kit, we moved on to Ennis.

Ennis and its brightly coloured market streets were bustling with street traffic, but I was still thwarted in my attempts to find anywhere shady that I could eat. In the end, I grabbed a foot-long from SubWay and took it back to the car, while we drove on through Ennistymon to the coastal resort village of Lahinch.

There Bondi had a brief wade in the cool Atlantic waters, but I couldn't pursuade him to move into water deep enough to properly reach his abdomen. He doesn't like waves, and even the ripples across the sandy shallows deterred him from swimming or sitting in the water as he had done in the Thames a few weeks before. I took him back onto land, and bought each of us an ice-cream and sat in the outdoor beer-garden of O'Looneys, Bondi gently lapping at the end of his soft-serve, and then impatiently devouring 3/4 of it in one brain-freezing gulp.

From the beach at Lahinch, you can view the beginning of the Cliffs of Moher to the north. Given my vertiginous experiences at Skellig earlier in the week, you might guess that when it comes to cliffs, I prefer Less to Moher, but since they were the location for the Cliffs of Insanity in the film version of William Goldman's The Princess Bride, I thought I might be able to stomach a closer look. I drove up to the Visitor Centre, and then we walked over a hill to a viewing area affording inspection of the southern most section of these 200+ metre cliffs. I could see that you could walk along a fenced walkway up around that section, but the heat and prospective dizziness sent me back to the car after a handful of photos. I stopped a few times around Doolin, a little further north again, to look at some craft shops, but didn't see anything of outstanding interest: so much of the same things are available in every county. Guiness-branded clothing also tends to dominate most gift-shops, with clothing in general seeming to be targeted at the tastes and dimensions of 55+ yr old Americans.

Since day 1 and my brief visit to Blarney I've been staggered at the number of American tourists. Most roadside stops have signs posted reminding drivers that they should be on the left-hand side of the road. It can be a bit unnerving when you're on narrow one-lane roads, and the oncoming driver can't remember which hedgerow they're supposed to be veering towards to accommodate your car.

Being mid-afternoon, and not really that far from Galway, which I had booked for 5 nights, I decided to make a couple of attempts at finding a cheap room for the night. The fallback being the car and/or tent. I scored on my 2nd attempt, calling ahead to a pet-friendly pub in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland's only town with an operating mineral spa. My very friendly host at The Rathbaun warned me that there would be traditional music being played downstair from 9pm to 1am, but I assured him that man and dog would cope.

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