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Around Lough Derg

May 7, 2008

Tony & Alfie

corey says…As my friend Bit would say…today was fairy led. Tony and I didn’t have a plan when we headed out yesterday, but after a few minutes of chatting, we had a general directon chosen.

We were going to find Redwood Castle in Lorrha. This is the home of the Egan clan…which Tony’s last name Keegan is a derivative. It’s not very far from Nenagh, so it was an easy drive.

There was a sign for it outside of Lorrha, but once we reached town, there was nothing. There was a young man about fifteen walking down the road, so we asked him for direction.

He was a very sweet kid with crooked teeth… cosmetic dentistry isn’t as big of an priority in Ireland as in the US. “Ah, Redwood Castle, ya. Ye go up this road until the main road. Then ye take a left,” he said pointing to the right. He paused for a moment. “That is left, ya.” I’m not sure if he was having a momentary loss of memory or if he was genuinely confused about which side was left vs right.

Tony gently remedied the situation by using his hand and saying, “So we get to the main road and turn that way.”

“Yeah, but it’s not right onto the main road. Ye stay on a road like this and it goes up the hill, kinda. Then ye turn. It should be sign posted from there. Ye can’t miss it.”

The famous Irish “ye can’t miss it.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve “missed it.” We followed his directions, and low and behold, they were the best directions I’ve ever gotten.

Once we crested a hill, we could see Redwood Castle in the distance. It certainly stood out among the rolling, green fields.

Our adventure then took us on Lough Derg Drive. We headed to Portumna…there’s a nice castle there, but we had been there last year. In town, we stopped at an antique store and nosed around there for a bit, and then it was south toward Mountshannon.

The drive between Portumna and Mountshannon is nothing to write home about. The other portions of the Lough Derg drive are much more interesting. However, as we were driving, an old traveler’s wagon or caravan was being pulled down the road by two horses. “Go West” was painted across the top and a teenage woman and man were at the reigns. It looked like some kind of commercial endeavor, but I wasn’t sure of the details.

We stopped the car and watched as the historic barrel-shaped wagon trotted by. The teens waved at us and smiled. I was sure to get several photos, and Tony and I both agreed this was the highlight of the day thus far.

We then stopped in the lakeside village of Mountshannon. It’s a beautiful town with great views of Holy Island and the lake. We walked along the marina and watched the swans and boats.

The sun was bright and the skies were still blue, but there was a bit of a haze in the distance, so the views across the lake, although beautiful to the eye, could not be captured well on film (or memory card).

It was the Tuesday after the bank holiday, so the town was wonderfully quiet as the Irish were now back at work. Tony and I both knew that with the great weather last weekend, this town was hopping only a day earlier.

Our theory was proved right when we stopped by the hotel in town to eat. We went to the bar to pick up menus and the server told us he had to go in back to see what they had left… “We were absolutely hammered this weekend with the fine weather. I worked 24 of the last 48 hours.”

When he returned, he decided to tell what the DID have left rather than what they DIDN’T because that list was shorter. Fortunately, they still had some decent selections. Since it was such a nice day, we decided to eat outside at the picnic tables.

Lunch was fine, but it was pricey…clearly a lakeside community…at over €30 ($46.44) for two meals and two diet cokes.

After lunch, I was taking a photo with my camera when I noticed a little alert on the screen. I didn’t have a memory card in it. YIKES! How did I do that? I’ve been snapping away all morning and didn’t have a card in the camera. Tony had taken several photos, so my documentation of the day was not lost, but Tony didn’t get any pictures of the antique wagon. That’s one image that will only live on in our memories 😦

The route south from Mountshannon provided the views we were hoping for. Along the way, we could see County Tipperary across Lough Derg (were in County Clare at the moment…and had passed through County Galway earlier).

Once we reached Killaloe/Ballina, we decided to visit our friends Eddie and Julie in Newtown. We continued up the lake to Portroe. This was probably the most scenic part of the drive. The views of the lake are breathtaking.

We weren’t sure if Eddie and Julie would be home when we arrived, but luckily they were. Eddie was out cutting grass and Julie was reading the paper in the garden. They were both enjoying the weather in their own ways.

Eddie insisted on pouring us an ice cold beer…which tasted pretty good on a warm day like today. As we visited, we started a running joke based on the number of people who were stopping by Eddie and Julies. We laughed that the yard was like a carpark…it was unusual for them to have so many visitors, but Eddie is a tradesmen, and many of the visitors were folks stopping by to chat about business. They’d chat for ten minutes and be on their way.

Eddie then brought out the latest addition to the family, a Shetland Pony named Alfie. Eddie’s also got a dog and thoroughbred mare, so he’s beginning to acquire a bit of a petting zoo.

We fed Alfie grain and apples before we let him out in the yard to finish cutting the grass that Eddie had abandoned. Of course, Alfie went right for the flower beds, but Julie stopped him before he could do any damage.

On the way home we stopped at the grocery store and then headed back up the mountain. We both agreed that the evening was too beautiful to stay inside, so we opted for a hike from Tony’s house.

We tried a new path, and it proved to be quite rewarding. Most of it was through the forestry where the yellow furze provided a great contrast with the green trees. Large portions of forestry in the area being harvested right now, so parts of it looked a bit torn up, but it was still a great view.

After getting back to Tony’s cottage, we had some pizza and watched more episodes of Killinaskully. Later, Tony’s neighbors Jimmy and Kathleen stopped by for coffee and a chat. Then it was back to Knockahopple for me. I was absolutely wiped out after a very busy day.

This Week’s Photo Album
My Ireland Expense Report

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2008 1:03 PM

    Hi, Corey,
    So happy to hear that all is well and the weather is remaining good for you. We did the western shore of the Lough Derg drive on April 26th, one of our favorite routes, so I could visualize every mile of your journey. I agree that the portion between Portumna and Mountshannon is less visually stunning than the rest, but next time get off the main road and visit Woodford, Feakle and also Whitegate. Woodford and Feakle have produced a number of great Irish traditional music players and have excellent music pubs. Lough Graney and Lough Atorik are also hidden off-the-main-road scenic gems in this area. I envy you wandering around the countryside, with no particular plan. Usually, when I set out, it is to check on new hotels, shops, pubs, B&B and the like, not just meandering, walking, hiking. What a wonderful time you must be having, just living like an Irishman!
    Next time you are in Mountshannon, try An Cupan Cafe for lunch. We have often had excellent moderately priced lunch of soup or sandwiches (outdoor seating as well) – but it is under new ownership, so it could be different now.

    Enjoying your Blog every day, it is like re-living our recent trip!

    Best from warm and sunny New York,

  2. May 7, 2008 2:09 PM

    Thanks for the tips Pat. We wanted to eat at An Cupan Cafe, but they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays 😦

    I drive the western coast of Lough Derg often because it is so close to Knockahopple/Nenagh…and the Killaloe to Tuamgraney section is my preferred route to the Cliffs of Moher, but I’ve always missed Mountshannon, so it was a nice find.

    Tony and I almost turned toward Woodford and to Feakle, but we decided to save it for a day when we could visit Irish Seed Savers (…Ella McSweeney from RTE recommended we check them out…especially because we might find some seeds for traditional Irish fruits and vegetables there for the yard there.

    Thanks for keeping up with the blog and sharing your expertise. Some time you’ll have to take a break from “work” while your over here and just go for a drive 🙂

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