Monthly Archives: August 2014

Paps of Danu

We had a great opportunity to go hiking with Bret’s coworkers once again on Tuesday evening.  One of Bret’s coworkers, Dana, is leaving Cork later this week, so in her honor, we went to the Paps of Danu (almost Dana).  They are a pair of breast-shaped hills near Killarney.  Yes, breast-shaped hills are a thing!


The east peak is slightly taller than the western peak, which we climbed.   There are large rock cairns at the top of each peak (the nipples).  The cairns are thought to be prehistoric graves and the two peaks combined with a stone circle to northeast of the peaks are an ancient site for rituals and festivals to the mother goddess, Anu or Danu.

We left after work and there were 12 of us to shuffle to the mountain, but were ready to start climbing by 6:30pm or so.

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We could not have picked a better evening for a hike with a view.

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From the top we could see all the way to Killarney and Dingle bay to the northwest and Kenmare to the southwest.  It was quite chilly at the top, however.  We ate a quick bite, while a few more intrepid climbers hiked over to the eastern peak.  Then we stumbled back down the mountain in the waning light, with sheep escorts.


Thanks to all our fellow hikers for a really lovely evening, especially Chris for driving and leading us!

Ballymaloe, The Old Head of Kinsale and a visit from the O’Hanlons

Back in Cork after our wonderful trip to Scotland, we had more fun things planned.  First up, a trip to the shore southeast of Cork city and to Ballymaloe House for a very special dinner.

After Bret got home from work, we drove to Ballycotton to catch the ocean view.  We had a nice walk through the small town and got to see the Irish lifeboat volunteers (Irish all volunteer staffed coast guard) heading out for a drill.


From there we went to Ballymaloe, an Irish manor house that has been converted into a restaurant, hotel, cooking school, and sculpture garden. We arrived ahead of our reservation so that we could explore some of the 400 acres of beautiful countryside. DSC_0408 DSC_0449

We especially liked the sculpture garden and hay field.  Bret was inspired to take an artsy self portrait.


Emily was more inclined to take a selfie posing like the art.


We didn’t get a picture of Bret’s favorite sculpture, but Emily liked the jacks in the haystack.


Dinner was incredible! We had a five course meal that included mostly locally sourced produce, fish, and meats (they still raise their own pigs!).  We are so thankful to Bret’s Mom and Stepdad for finding this place. As a wedding gift, they scoped it out for us and gave us money to eat there.  It was an extra bonus to be able to share such a special experience with Emily’s folks as well.  We liked the food so much that we went to the oldest bookstore in Cork to buy their cookbook which was another gift from Bret’s Mom and Stepdad.  Thanks!!!

We sent Bret off to work again the next morning, and Emily and her folks headed down to Kinsale for the day.  We had a nice morning exploring Charles Fort and the old town area…   there may have been some shopping involved as well.  Kinsale is the sister city of Emily’s hometown, Newport, RI.


Bret took the afternoon off though and joined us for the main event of the day, golfing at the Old Head of Kinsale.

The Old Head of Kinsale is a relatively new golf course and it did not make the top 100, but it sure is beautiful.  DSC_0525 DSC_0464 DSC_0481 DSC_0485 DSC_0507 DSC_0430 DSC_0437 DSC_0444

We were the last group of the day and it felt like we had the whole course to ourselves.  We finished up just as the sun was setting.  It was a whole lot of fun, although we all had some ups and downs in our game.  Emily had to get in another pose with a dog statue.


We had another fantastic meal in the clubhouse before heading back to Cork.  Thanks again to Emily’s Mom and Dad for another great day golfing.

The next day we were joined in our adventures by Emily’s cousin, Cinda and her family.  We spent the first evening at a hurling match, which we all enjoyed.  Cinda’s sons, Moe and Q, even got some hurleys afterwards so they can practice back in Geneva.  The following day, we said goodbye to Emily’s parents after brunch.  While Bret rested up, Emily and the O’Hanlons explored Cork a bit.  We went to the Gaol (Jail) and a children’s science museum.  Then we had a feast prepared by Cinda’s husband, Danny, back at home and celebrated Cinda and Danny’s wedding anniversary.


Emily and the O’Hanlons went to Kinsale the next day.  The fort was especially fun with the energy of young boys!

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We also went for a harbor boat tour.  It was fun to see the town and the fort from the sea for the first time!

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That evening, we celebrated Cinda’s birthday at one of our favorite spots in Cork, Electric.

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Monday morning, we left Bret to tend to work (and a significantly quieter house) and Emily joined the O’Hanlons for a few days of their family vacation to Kenmare, Ireland.  We stayed at the home of a family friend of Cinda’s and it was spectacular.  The view from the back porch:

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Rainbows abounded.  While in Kenmare, we had many adventures including some hiking, some archery, kayaking, and swimming in the bay.  It was a ton of fun!

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It was such a great way to wrap up three solid weeks of non-stop adventure!   Now we are home, recovering and resting up for the last visitors of the summer season. Our good friends Tracy and Ramona arrive in just a few days and more adventures are on the horizon!  We’ll be heading to the northwest corner of Ireland and exploring Donegal.

Scotland (part II)

We left grey Aberdeen and drove to Dornach on a grey day.  We stopped for a walk around Huntly late in the morning.  There was a cute farmers market and a castle to explore there.  Then we continued on to Elgin for lunch and a rainy stroll to the “castle,” which was really just a pile of rocks at the top of the hill.  We also stopped at Johnston’s of Elgin cashmere store, but we couldn’t find any bargains, so we kept on to Dornach.  We arrived late in the afternoon, ready to get out of the car for a couple of days.  We stayed at the home of a friend of my parent’s from Newport.  Her house is adorable!


It was a really cozy place to settle into and within walking distance of the town centre and the golf course (Dornoch is not actually that big).  We were treated to a nice marching pipe band on our first evening.  Unfortunately, we missed the dancers and we only got to see the rain kilts instead of the dress kilts because the rain was coming down pretty good.

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We had a nice dinner and got to bed so we could be well rested for golf the following day.  We played at the Royal Dornoch.  While the Royal Dornoch golf club was officially established in 1877, they claim that folks have been playing golf there since 1616…  just about 400 years!  It is considered a pretty excellent golf course still today.  Bret and I were a little nervous that all the greatness of this course would be wasted on our lack of skill or experience playing golf, but we really had a great time.


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Not only did we have great company in my parents and Tom, the caddy, but we had a beautiful sunny day to boot!  Of course the wind shifted half way through the course and we did have to hit upwind for all but 4 holes.

After golf, we rushed a pint with Tom, then ran to our dinner reservation.  What a great day.

The next day, we were off again.  A long day in the car following the Caledonian canal to get to Glasgow.  Our first stop was Loch Ness.  We did not get a sighting of the monster, but the lake itself is very impressive.

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We stopped for a little hike in Invermoriston.


Afterwards, we stopped in Fort William for lunch.  Emily happened to ask about highland cows at the tourist information stop and they led us to one of the most impressive views of the trip in the Ben Nevis valley.


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We got a pretty good look at the highland cows with the binoculars, but without zoom on our phone the pictures didn’t turn out so great.


So that you can see what they look like, here is a picture we didn’t take.


Luckily for us all, Bret promised Emily that she could have one someday, so you will all get a look at one up close (someday, that is).

We broke from the canal after Fort William and headed across some dramatic mountains to get to loch Lomond.

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Nothing much to report on Glasgow.  We had a nice Italian dinner and a walk along the river front the following morning before our flight out.  It seemed like the town was having a major hangover following the Commonwealth games, so a lot of it wasn’t even open.

We were very sad to leave, but had more adventures to attend to in Cork… but that is another post.


Scotland (Part I)

Bret caught up with Emily and her folks for a long weekend trip through Scotland. First stop: Perth. We stayed at a nice hotel overlooking the South Inch park. They were set up to host a horse show in the park but we didn’t stay long enough to partake. We did have a nice walk after dinner to the river Tay.


We didn’t spend much time there in the morning, because we wanted to maximize our day in Stonehaven and Dunnottar Castle. Emily’s great Grandmother and Grandfather (her Mom’s Dad’s parents) hailed from Stonehaven. She grew up hearing stories about visits to Stonehaven from her great Uncle.  We arrived at the harbor and were careful not to drive off into the ocean.


Then we drove up to the castle!


You may recognize this castle from the 1990 Mel Gibson film, Hamlet.



The site of Dunnottar Catle had religious significance to the Picts prior to the arrival of St. Ninian and Catholicism in the 5th Century.  It is thought that the original chapel was founded by St. Ninian at that time.  The standing ruins were built in the 15th and 16th centuries, although there are many references to a castle at Dunnottar prior to then.  The castle was built by William Keith and his descendent who held the castle as the seat of Earl Marischal until the Jacobite rebellion in 1715.  It had been falling apart since then, until restoration began in 1925.  It is probably most famous for its role in hiding the Scottish Crown Jewels from Oliver Cromwell.





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It was pretty cool!

Next up,  we headed back into Stonehaven for fish and chips.  Emily ran across an article some time last year that announced that the winner of the best fish and chip shop in the UK in 2013 was in Stonehaven, so we had to seek it out.  The Bay fish and chip shop definitely lived up to the billing. We wandered along the beach and through town a little more before hitting the road to Aberdeen for dinner with the extended family.


These are Emily’s second cousins once removed (i.e. her Mom’s Grandfather’s Sister’s grandchildren) and their spouses.  It was so fun to have dinner with family that Emily has not seen since she was two years old or so and still feel like old friends.


Aberdeen was an interesting city…  very grey.  Almost every building is constructed with a grey granite that looks like concrete blocks.  We did not have too much time to explore, but we did get a couple nice walks in.  We also tried our luck at a nice looking pub and met a friendly local, but he turned out to be a Denver Broncos fan.  As always, it would have been nice to have some more time to explore, but we had new places to head on to and explore, so we were off the next morning for Dornach.  We’ll fill you in on that in our next post 🙂




Another great weekend on the Dingle

Lyn and Peggy came to visit. We gave them a day to acclimate, then brought them to Dingle. We had a late start on Friday because someone has to work, but we made it there in time for a delicious dinner at one of our favourites, the Goat Street Bistro. The next morning we hopped on a boat for an adventure to the Blasket Islands. We started off on the Great Blasket Island where we went for a hike around half of the Island.


There was a small fishing village on the island until 1953, but now most of the small houses are falling apart.  There were plenty of campers setting up tents in the ruins and a small hostel was also in operation.DSC_0090

Here is a few pictures from our hike.

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After our hike we jumped back on the boat and took a tour of the outer islands.


We saw lots of wildlife including grey seals



and Puffins


and porpoise (this was the best view we were able to get)


and Red Deer on Inishvickillane island


For a small island it sure has a lot of impressive bucks.


The deer were introduced to Innishvickillane by Charles Haughey.  He was an Irish Taoiseach, which is the Irish Prime Minister, from 1979 to 1992 with a couple of short hiatus.  He seems like he must have been a sketchy character and there were many inquiries into how he could afford a private island and an extensive wine cellar on a public servants salary.

The boat ride was very nice, here are some pictures.

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Back in Dingle we had another great dinner at An Canteen.  After dinner we dodged the hen (bachelorette), and stag (bachelor) parties doing pub crawls in costumes.  It was worth it because when we made it to the marina we saw this great sunset.


The next day we took the slow ride back to Cork through Killarney National Park and Bantry Bay.
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We finished the weekend with dinner in Clonakilty.  It was a great way to start off our two week tour of Ireland and Scotland.