The rest of the trip was something of a hunker down for me. The day in Killarney was quiet and then we headed to Bunratty for dinner and drinks at Durty Nellie’s.
…via Conor Pass and Annascaul…
Unfortunately, Conor Pass is now closed to buses. Some say it’s concern over erosion to the shoulder of the road; some say it’s concern that the buses keep whacking the overhang on the way down. Either way, all we were able to do was go up the wider side to the top, look around, then drive back down. The day was very overcast and we weren’t able to see the full panorama that sunshine would have allowed.
In Annascaul we found Hanrahan’s pub again. The old owner has retired (we could see him watching television in the back room) and the bar is now run by his son. However, he had gone off to Dublin to see Bruce Springsteen. His sister, Moira, was tending the counter. The place is slightly fixed up from our last visit but still largely the same. We had a Guinness or two and then headed onward.
Dingle turned out to be somewhat of a non-event…or perhaps I should say a major event…for me. We had a quick bite in The Marina Bar (Gavin no longer works there). I started feeling slightly odd but put it down to heat and tired. Later that evening I totally lost my sh** with Laurie over something trivial and, shortly after that, found myself standing on the street by myself totally disoriented, sweating, feeling tight in the chest, and unsure of how to get to our hotel (which was literally 100 yards away). A few hours later I was in the back of an ambulance headed for Tralee. I spent the next 14 hours there having four ECGs, three blood tests, two X-rays and one CT, talking to a half dozen doctors and eating really bad food. They ended up ruling out a heart attack, decided severe dehydration wasn’t the cause (duh, I could have told them that), and no sign of diabetes. However, there was evidence of an ischemic event and they wanted me to stay several days for more accurate testing. I checked myself out of the hospital at that point since they said they weren’t actually going to DO anything for me until those tests (I had them run when I got back to the States and the diagnosis appears to have been correct) and Killarney was only 15 minutes from the hospital if I had to come back.
So, no Dingle for me. I got a cab from the hospital to Killarney in the afternoon and spent a relatively quiet and early evening.
Somehow I didn’t feel like taking my camera out down through Connemara to Galway. Galway was fun; we spent most of our time hopping between pubs and listening to music. Julie and Becca took a day trip up to the Aran Islands. I had intended to go to the fleadh at Ennis but it turned out that the transportation complications were a little more than I expected. I’m sorry I missed it.
The journey to Kilkee a couple days later included the Cliffs of Moher and Poulnabrone.
There were some funny moments at the latter due to a group of modern day druids or animists or something who were there partaking of the aura of a tree, the spirituality of a hole, and the essential nature of several stones. Pat tested it for himself but reported no chi.
…via Carrick-a-Rede and Giant’s Causeway…
I’m a bit acrophobic, so the rope bridge across the chasm at Carrick-a-Rede had me a little nervous. I was really impressed by those who suffer from it a lot more than I do. There were white knuckles and a couple tears but they all made it.
The basalt formations at Giant’s Causeway were interesting but, unfortunately, shared with a hundred or so fellow tourists.
We went out to Shoot the Crows in Sligo that night. There was a session and I got to sit and listen to Rick Epping and (I think) Máirtín O’Connor play. What a night!
…via Newgrange and Dark Hedges…
Dublin was, well, a city. While it’s a nice one, it’s still my least favorite part of the trip. Even as cities go, I prefer Galway. We did the Hop On-Hop Off thing, saw the sights, hit the obligatory pubs, etc. for two days.
Then we headed for Northern Ireland. Our first stop was the passage grave at Newgrange. The outside was as I remembered: a bit too prettified for the tourist trade. The interior, however, is still quite moving and one of my favorite experiences in Ireland. I would love to be able to see it at the winter solstice when the light reaches up the long entrance corridor and illuminates the burial chamber. However, the odds of me winning the lottery for the few slots available are virtually non-existent.
In some ways, the view away from Newgrange to the surrounding countryside is more impressive, if only because of how storybook Ireland it appears.
We then continued on up to Ballymoney, stopping at Dark Hedges. For all that there is a paved road running down the middle, it still has a Tolkien-esque aura. I can see why it became a set for Game of Thrones.