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Trip Report: Shannon Estuary

July 30, 2006
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Here’s a continuation of the highlights of our most recent trip to Ireland. Remember to visit our website at www.irishfireside.com. and listen to our Shannon Estuary podcast – Episode #20

SHANNON ESTUARY
Greeted by a sunny Irish morning, we decided to head west. No destination, no plans, no idea what we would find.

After a lackluster start in the tourist mecca of Adare, we decided to mix things up a bit. We left behind the cute, but tour bus-laden Adare for the Shannon estuary about 12 miles north.

Lucky for us, we found Ireland’s scenic N69, an almost forgotten stretch of road that includes spectacular views of the Shannon estuary and some wonderfully charming towns. For those heading from Shannon/Limerick to Dingle or the Ring of Kerry, this route provides a “secret” and scenic alternative.

Dromore Castle

Dromore Castle: You can only view it from the road, but it’s huge and has a fairytale look to it. It was fun wandering the roads in this area.

Celtic Park and Gardens: This place offers a nice forested walk and they have reproductions of a lot of structures, like standing stones, mass rock, a church, a crannog, etc. The gardens aren’t huge, but they are nice. Having seen much of these types of things for free in other parts of Ireland (including the Celtic Plantarum in Dundrum), I wasn’t as impressed, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from stopping in. They serve a great cuppa tea, but their biscuits have probably exceeded their shelf-life.

Curraghchase Tomb

Curraghchase Forrest Park: I really liked wandering the paths around here. There is a beautiful lake and the remains of a mansion on the site. My favorite find was the tombstone of the former residents’ pets.

Askeaton: This town is a real treasure as is local historian/tour guide Anthony Sheehy. We stopped in the tourist office and the woman there immediately rounded up Anthony for us. He took us on a very entertaining and informative hour-long tour of the castle (which includes the old Hellfire Club). The tour was free, but we each gave him 5 euros (he isn’t allowed to charge for the tours because the castle belongs to OPW, but he is allowed to take tips and sell photographs to help cover his efforts). We also left a donation in the jar at the tourist office. The tour covered so much and was so much fun, I can’t wait to go back and have him show us around the town’s Franciscan Friary. We did a self-tour of the friary, and the cloister is absolutely amazing. It is in pristine condition and even includes a small carving of St. Francis and loads of places to climb around. For DaVinci Code fans, there is a Knights Templar Tower in the churchyard. This town is really working to embrace its medieval past and is truly off the tourist trail. I really enjoyed my time there.

Askeaton Friary

Askeaton Castle

Foynes Flying Boat Museum: We arrived just a little too late to get to see the museum…and Maureen O’Hara was there last month to open a new exhibit. We were bummed, but we plan to stop in again when we return for Anthony’s tour of the friary. We also took a peek at Glin Castle. It’s really only open for tours by appointment only so we just took a peek from the road.

Lislaughtin Abbey: It’s a nice old abbey with lots of graves. It’s still an active cemetery, so many of them are modern. It’s a pretty good place to poke around.

Carrigafoyle Castle

Carrigafoyle Castle: We got there after the castle closed, so we couldn’t go inside. It’s in a beautiful spot on the Shannon and it look great. We enjoyed it from the outside and headed onward.

Ballybunion: Wandered around the beach in Ballybunion. It’s nice, but it’s a resort town, so we walked around for a little over an hour and then headed out. There was just more activity there than what we were looking for.

Tarbert Ferry: The crossing was very simple. However, when they say they cross every half hour, they actually mean they go in one direction on the hour and the other direction on the half hour.

More posted soon, be sure and stop back and visit us soon.

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