Ireland, March 2009 Megalithicmail

Now that I’m done roasting myself on the terrace (most of you think I’m kidding, but most of you haven’t seen me shirtless on Skype either), I can properly reflect on an awesome two week bender in Ireland.

I know, I know, what about Stockholm? What about Oktoberfest? What about Graz? What about skiing? What about Heidelberg? What about the Czech Republic? What about Tokyo? Sorry, getting ahead of myself on that one. That’s next week.

I’ve decided to shake this up a bit and follow the Lonely Planet format for this Megamail as that was our principal guide during this adventure. Let me know if you like it better than the chronological Bill Bryson 'Lost Continent’ arrangement that I usually follow.

Our trip was the classic, counter-clockwise B&B tour of Ireland taking in as many breathtaking views, ancient ruins, upbeat music and Guinness that we could muster. Arriving in Dublin we would stay, in order: Bray, Cashel, Cork, Glengariff, Killarney, Dingle, Kilkee, Galway, Sligo, Derry and then finally two nights and one day in Dublin. This was a 2400km trip that according to Google can be driven in about 41 hours.

Needless to say, a rental car is very important to have in Ireland. When we were making a car reservation for Ireland, we were having a hell of time making sure it was properly insured. All credit card policies explicitly deny coverage in Ireland. I figured this was still due to the troubles in Northern Ireland, but after driving around the countryside (Sam is seriously rolling her eyes right now because in fact, she did all the driving) the car will most definitely take a beating.

I remember having a glimpse of this in New Zealand where the 'ditch’ of the road was actually a vertical form of shrubbery that regularly encroached over the road. In New Zealand that was OK because the roads were wide (except for the countless one-lane bridges). But Ireland, the roads are so narrow, you are constantly living in fear that you will crash head-on with another car around the next bend or over the next hill.

And in fact, one time, we ended up stuck because the road wasn’t wide enough for both of us. Fortunately, the other driver was courteous enough to help give us a push out. But boy, I didn’t think we were getting out of that hole anytime soon.

So, no matter your best intentions, your rental car is going to get beat up. Deal with it and pay the insurance premiums to the car rental companies. It is worth it. We ended up going with Hertz, though the #1 Club perks I was used to in the US didn’t seem to apply here, namely free second driver, which is why Sam drove... she being better with manual transmissions and all.

Also, a GPS is essential. Hertz was going to charge us 10 Euros a day so we opted to by a Garmin that had both US and Europe maps on it instead. We have almost paid that off already.

If you think we were quite daft in going to Ireland in April, that may well be, but we heard that April was one of the dryer months there. In fact, I’m quite certain we experienced precipitation every day we were there, but only a couple of days did it royally screw with our plans.

So, sit back, grab a Guinness, put on some U2 or something and enjoy the tale.


The following are the cities (in some cases, towns would be a better description and yet in others, backwaters) we either spent the night in, or spent enough time in to warrant writing something about them.

Bray - Bray is apparently the tenth largest city in Ireland, but in reality it is pretty much a far flung suburb of Dublin. It has a nice beach which I imagine is why most people go there. But it is also a trailhead for a nice coastal walk. We primarily stayed here because it had a cheap hotel, was located between Dublin and the Wicklow mountains, and had some semblance of night life given our late, late Saturday evening arrival. I imagine most people wouldn’t go here though.

Carlow - We did a short walking tour of Carlow during our first day. In hind sight, we probably should have kept on driving. It was nice an all, but we should have saved more time for Kilkenny instead.

Kilkenny - We did a short walking tour of Kilkenny during our first day. We wish we would have gotten here earlier so that we could have spent more time and seen some of the attractions while they were actually open. As it was, we only got to see everything from the outside. Kilkenny seemed certainly a lot more happening than Carlow which is why we look back and see this as an opportunity missed.

Cashel - Home of the Rock. We spent our second night here and had a great dinner. But we were too wiped to explore further. It seemed on the smaller side though.

Cork - Ireland’s second biggest city, definitely home to a happening night life and also home to our strangest sight in Ireland: a tractor with wagon in tow next to us in downtown waiting for the traffic signal. That was funny. There is also a brewpub for those of you who tire of Guinness.

Cobh - Nice little coastal hamlet outside of Cork. If you have time you should definitely get there. It has an amazing cathedral overlooking the entire town. We couldn’t find the Titanic memorial though because I heard it sank. It’s OK; you can laugh at that one.

Glengariff - A sleepy town at the base of the Beara Peninsula, but too small for our liking.

Bantry - Opted to have dinner here one evening instead of Glengariff, which isn’t saying much. When we drove by the first time it looked happening. But when we came back later... not so much.

Kenmare - Just drove through but this looked very nice. If we had a time machine, we would go back and skip Bantry and Glengariff and would have stayed here and then backtracked to the Beara Peninsula.

Killarney - The Lonely Planet calls Killarney a 'well-oiled tourist machine' and there is no denying that. But it has a sizable downtown area that is just the right size to walk around and has plenty of restaurants, pubs and shops to keep you busy.

Dingle - Charming town on the Dingle Peninsula. Only stayed one night but wouldn’t have minded staying on longer. Don’t let Google Maps fool you, this place is a lot larger than it looks. Lots of restaurants, pubs and shops to keep you busy.

Kilkee - Had arguably the best meal of the trip in Kilkee, but that is about it. It has a nice beach, but it wasn’t that happening... then again, it was Good Friday, the only day in the year when the pubs close in Ireland. If doing the trip over again, might have stayed in Ennis instead.

Doolin - Give me an O. Give me a V. Give me an E. Give me an R. Give me another R. Give me an A. Give me a T. Give me an E. Give me and D. What’s it spell? Everybody will say that Doolin is awesome, I say it is CRAP!

Galway - Awesome town! Supposedly Ireland’s fifth largest. We spent a Saturday evening here. There was a large pedestrian area full of bars and restaurants with everything spilling into the streets. Didn’t get to see much in the town itself, but the energy level of the people was fantastic. We wouldn’t have minded spending another day and night there.

Sligo - OK, town, perhaps a little run down. Nice river area. Lot’s of potential, but they are not quite there yet. The one-way streets are confusing as hell. Be sure to have a GPS with you for this place.

Donegal - Almost stayed here one night, but opted to stay in Sligo instead to balance out the driving. I’d rate it better than Sligo as far as niceness, but only slightly so. Perhaps a Bantry of the north? No, better than that too.

Derry - Spent an evening here walking along the city walls. Not to be missed are the murals which are very conveniently located along a stretch of road just outside the city walls where the violence of Northern Island catalyzed. Had an orgasmic dinner and way too many pints at a pub with live music. A fun town, but still recovering from its violent past. I give it another decade and this will be one sweet place to be. Even though it was a Monday, the place was positively jumping. I’ve never seen so many mini-skirts in my life!

Belfast - Did a drive through trying to find some murals without much luck. After going through so many small towns, Belfast seemed enormous.

Drogheda - Did a short walking tour before we returned our rental car in Dublin. Pretty much not worth it. Carlow was better!

Dublin - Maybe it was the continuous rain that soaked us during our day here, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with Dublin. Only did the Guinness tour (overrated), the Book of Kells (NOT overrated) and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (OK). Otherwise, we did a lot of walking through the pedestrian areas such as Temple Bar.

Castles & Forts

Ireland has castles, lots of castles. And most of them were destroyed during Cromwell’s Irish Destruction Tour of 1650. Here are the ones we saw during our trip in rough order of favor. Note: I’m including circle forts in the Monolithics section given their age. Don’t like my organization? Then you can stop reading at any time you know. I’m not, like, right there with a gun to your head or anything.

Dunluce Castle - Found along the north coast just a bit west of the Giant’s Causeway, this is an extensive set of ruins set high above on the cliffs and offering simply stellar views. I got really camera happy here because every step provided another interesting view, either of the castle itself or the coastal scenery beyond.

Rock of Cashel - Definitely worth it! From its location on the hill overlooking town, to the intact walls, to the wall paintings in a chapel, the Rock of Cashel rocks! Of course, in my opinion it isn’t so much a castle as it is a fortified cathedral. Regardless, this is one to see.

Ballycarbery Castle - This one is a small detour off the Ring of Kerry, but is well worth it. We had to wait five minutes for the two other tourists who were already there to leave (what were they thinking poking around *our* castle anyway?), but then we had it for ourselves. This is a nice one because you can snoop around at different levels. There are hidden staircases and an awesome murder hole. Don’t miss this one.

Hussey’s Folly - This is the lone square tower you can see out across Dingle Bay. It is absolutely not marked and you have to trust your instincts or a GPS to get there. The road is half washed out just to get to the small parking area, and then you have to walk a good distance on top of that. But once there you have great views of Dingle town, the bay, the ocean and you can understand why that silly dolphin that you will hear about made it his home. The castle itself isn’t all the exciting, but as they say, half the fun is getting there.

Cahir Castle - This one was OK. Maybe because it wasn’t destroyed by Cromwell it has less mystique. It does have a nice model discussing the big battle that occurred here. I like models, especially ones in bikinis.

Donegal Castle - This one was very similar to Cahir Castle, but not as well known, or at least not as well visited. It has been extensively renovated.

Carrigafoyle Castle - There is just something about a castle that is actually sitting in the water that is pretty damn cool. If you are a photographer, you’ll love this one. Located west of Tarbert, where you catch the ferry across the Shannon so you don’t have to drive all the way to Limerick.

Rockfleet Castle - Very nice setting in County Clare northwest of Westport. It is just a photo-op and I think you would be in for a dandy regardless if it is high or low tide. At high tide the waters probably lap up against the castle walls.

Blarney Castle - Going in I was expecting this to be like Medieval Disney, but I was surprised. It was better, more like Busch Gardens Blarney. Seriously, this is the touristiest castle you will see, and you will probably see it so that you can kiss the Blarney stone.

Glenveagh Castle - Very similar to Muckross House below in that this isn’t so much a castle as a one-time rich fat cat’s house, but at least this one looks more like a castle and it has a much better view and much better gardens. It also has a pagan looking set of 67 steps deep in the woods that just beg to be climbed. The day we went was Easter Sunday which was a huge mistake because it was absolutely packed. People were parking all the way out to and on the highway. Simply mind blowing!

Charles Fort - This is a big star shaped fort south of Cork in Summerville. This was a little bit of a letdown because the fort was still being used into the 20th century and thus has charmless shells of concrete instead of stone. The views are nice, but all in all, I didn’t find it worth the detour. Though, if you have kids, or are a kid at heart, this would be a great place to play hide and seek.

Muckross House - This isn’t really a castle, but I didn’t know where else to put it. Basically, some rich fat cat lived here back in the 19th century. Ho hum.

Ross Castle - Located in Killarney. We didn’t go inside, but given how the weather played out that day, we probably should have.

Aughnanure Castle - Found in the County Galway on the way out to Connemara. We just stopped for a quick Kodak moment of this big, hulking beast of Masonic magnificence.

Ballinskelligs Castle - On the Skellig Ring extension of the Ring of Kerry. I believe you can walk to this one at low tide, but it is pretty small and doesn’t look that interesting. Other than the setting, that is.

Dunseverick Castle - Little remains of this castle along the northern coast east of the Giant’s Causeway. We saw plenty that was a lot better that wasn’t even sign posted.


Castles weren’t the only thing destroyed by the persistent British occupations. Those rambunctious religious people were also laid waste to. In many ways, the abbeys, priories and friaries were just as interesting as the castles.

Moyne Friary - This was simply awesome! You are likely to not venture this way, but its well worth the detour. These ruins are surprisingly complete and just keep going and going and going. They include a very nice cloister and have a nice coastal setting. Perfect for playing hide and seek with lots of nooks and crannies. We just loved it! Oh, found in County Mayo north of Ballina. Oh, and you have to walk past some pretty surly cows who are sick of tourists.

Kells Priory - Found south of Kilkenny. We almost didn’t go and that would have been a mistake. We visited late in the day and had the place entirely to ourselves. It was fantastic. Not only is it huge with intact walls, but well, it is huge and you can walk everywhere. There was just something magical about the whole experience.

Rosserk Friary - Found just a few clicks south of Moyne Friary and almost as good.

Hore Abbey - This is the one you can see clearly from the Rock of Cashel. We walked, but you can fit a car or two there if you needed. Again, we had the place to ourselves. Definitely worth checking out after going to the Rock of Cashel.

Athassel Abbey - Located a few clicks west of Cashel. Again, we had it to ourselves. Worth the detour if you are in the area as I suspect you would be because everybody goes to the Rock of Cashel.

Kylemore Abbey - This is a very popular abbey because unlike all the others, it is still functioning. For how much longer remains to be seen, but I’m sure it will carry on as a tourist attraction for quite some time. As the weather was pretty nice, we decided to continue on instead of taking the inside tour. Very splendid lake setting.

Corcomroe Abbey - This abbey found in County Clare near Bell Harbour is a good representation of abbey ruins. Good sized, but not strictly amazing.

Sligo Abbey - We didn’t do this one because it wasn’t open yet, but it looked nice from the road. It is also right in town so you can’t miss it. Unless you are going the wrong way on a one way street and the police stare you down. But that is another story altogether.

Burrishoole Friary - See Corcomroe Abbey above. But this one is rated lower because it is a much longer detour to get to.

Glendalough Monastic Settlement - Arrive early! When we walked past during our hike, the grounds were almost empty as was the parking lot. When we finished our hike, the place was swarming with tourists and the parking lot was overflowing. Some really nice ruins, but there are better ones with a lot less people to be found.

Monasterboice - This was the last abbey that we saw on our trip and we may have experienced some abbey burnout by this point. It has some enormous Celtic crosses though and a nice round tower, but it is little else other than a cemetery. Located north of Dublin in County Louth. Arrive at sunset to take advantage of the long shadows though.

Errew Priory - This one, located in County Mayo is a bit of an adventure to get to. First, it is kind of well out of the way, but then you have to walk a long way across cow infested farmers fields to arrive to. As such, you will probably have it all to yourselves, but I didn’t find it much worth the walk, nor the drive to get to.

Timoleague Abbey - Found southwest of Cork near the Drombeg Stone Circle. Just did a drive by, because the weather was still cooperating at that point. If the deluge would have started earlier, I’m sure we would have stopped because it looked to be nice and large.

Ballinskelligs Priory - On the Skellig Ring extension of the Ring of Kerry. These are a smallish set of ruins that didn’t trip my trigger, but again, the location is priceless.


I’m lumping in anything that is very old and made of heavy stones in this category. Lots of these are sticking up all over Ireland.

Drombeg Stone Circle - Ireland’s Stonehenge! OK, maybe not really, but kind of. And again, amazingly, we had the place to ourselves. Great stone circle with sacrificial (that’s what it looks like to me!) alter and some remnants of some other dwellings. Quite nice.

Cahergall Stone Fort - A small detour off of the Ring of Kerry, and the best ring fort that we saw due to the presence of the 'inner sanctum’. There is another ring fort a very short distance from this one that we didn’t do, but probably should have because we ended up in a traffic jam because two morons got into an accident on a one lane bridge. Anyway, that other fort is accessed via the same parking lot, but you take the path towards the house and just keep going after that.

Dunbeg Promontory Fort - Located on the Dingle Peninsula, this is one of the many 'privately run’ attractions. Basically, the land owner realized they were sitting on a gold mine and started to charge admission fees. Not a lot, something like 2-3 Euros. They throw up an official looking plaque, provide a porta potty and then they rake in the dough. That sounds cynical, but in this case it is worth it. Those ancients... they really knew how to pick the best spots. Fun little fort with amazing views, a waterfall and even little donkeys for the kids.

Beehive Huts -Located within spitting distance of Dunbeg, this is another private attraction. Not as exciting as Dunbeg, and seemingly more crowded, but with equally as great views. Nice little complex. Our friend Dana got a kick out of the porta potty.

Brownshill Dolmen - Just outside of Carlow is what I call 'Big Fella' Just look at the picture and you know what I mean. Worth the short walk to see if you are passing by.

Gallarus Oratory - Found on the Dingle Peninsula, this was nice and they have by far the best facilities, but there is just the one structure here to look at so the bang for the buck factor is diminished.

Poulnabrone Dolmen - This is probably the quintessential dolmen, but I’ve knocked it down on the list because you find out that at some point in the recent past one of the portal stones broke and they replaced it! I feel cheated, even though I didn’t pay for it. The landscape the dolmen is located though, The Burren, is aptly named. Very foreign and bizarre stone systems.

Staigue Fort - This is the ring fort that everybody does on the Ring of Kerry. It is good, but the other ring forts on the north side of the peninsula are better in my opinion. It does have a hell of a good view though.

Reask Monastic Site - I’m sure historians around the world will cringe when I say that to me this was just a pile of rocks. Nicely arranged rocks, but that was about it. The sign for the place is so small and faded we blew by it and probably shouldn’t have bothered backtracking. Oh, and this is located very close to the Gallarus Oratory.

Creevykeel Cairn - Quick, what does cairn mean to you? Pile of rocks, right? And that is indeed what they are. Historians will really hate me but I would keep on driving if you see this one.


All of our activities in Ireland that didn’t involve visiting castles, abbeys or other really old stuff, involved walking or hiking in some measure. Here are the hikes we did in order of awesomeness.

Diamond Hill, Connemara National Park, County Galway - This two hour sprint up Diamond Hill is a very popular option and after doing it, we can understand why. Amazing views reward you with each step you take. It helps that the skies broke as we went up. It does get a bit windy up there so dress appropriately.

Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim - The highlight during this short walk is the geological oddity known as the Giant’s Causeway where rocks have cooled down to form hexagonal patterns. However we were a bit disappointed that this feature was limited to a small area and not along a greater portion of the coast. Still, the setting is so surreal that you won’t soon forget it. Also, the walk doesn’t go as far along the lower path as you are led to believe because they have closed most of it due to erosion.

Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry - At the very tip of the Dingle Peninsula you will find Slea Head. You can’t miss it. It really sticks out and there is an overflowing parking lot present. Very close by are numerous islands, the Blaskets. That is not a typo. This isn’t so much a hike as it is an exhilarating walk. The views are so awesome that you just have to sit down and let them sink in. You could quite literally spend all day there... assuming it isn’t raining. We were blessed with perfect weather. Not too far up the road is another good, but not as excellent walking detour at Clogher Head.

Hag’s Head Trail, Cliffs of Moher, County Clare - If you don’t mind breaking the rules a little bit. And I do mean a little bit because you won’t be the only one doing it, just like speeding. But if you innocently walk past the Private Property and Do Not Go Beyond this Point signs, you will find a well-worn trail out to Hag’s Head, a castle like structure looking out for that bastard Napoleon. It is a good couple of hours there and back and you will be walking along the top of some very amazing cliffs with breathtaking views around every bend.

Carrick-a-Rede Island, County Antrim - This one is a bit of check-off tourism. There is a little more than a 1km trail along the coast to a sturdy rope bridge across to a small island. The views don’t suck along the way, but plan on waiting a good half an hour or more just to cross the bridge. Mostly this is because people want photos of themselves on the bridge without anybody else on it so crossing the bridge really takes a long time. The island you cross too isn’t all that big either and most of it was roped off to help deter erosion.

Spink Track, Glendalough, County Wicklow - A good three hour hike around the upper lake of the Glendalough Monastic settlement. This hike is made a lot easier by the presence of railroad ties instead of walking on the boggy surface. The hike also takes you by some small ruins. It was OK, but not amazing. Most people were doing this counter clockwise, but we did it clockwise. I think the clockwise route affords better views during the descent, but those other people may have known something we didn’t.

Pulleen Loop, Beara Peninsula, County Cork - A loop trail along the coast that not only provides some good views, but also has a couple of caves with waves crashing in. But do yourself a favor and ignore the map at the trailhead and just do this one clockwise. There is no way to find the trail going the other way so you’ll end up cutting across bog to get to it. If you are in the area it is a good one hour walk, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it.

Bray Head, Bray, County Wicklow - A short jaunt (less than an hour) up to the top of Bray Head, the hill overlooking the town of Bray. It was a nice enough day and we were afforded some excellent views of Bray, the ocean, the coast to the south, and the mountains inland. First impressions were: Where’s the Green? I had this stereotype that Ireland had 100 words for green and 100 words for rain. I certainly experienced the latter, but not the former. We have friends who assure us that Ireland was green when they went there, but we were having a hard time seeing it ourselves. This leaves me with the assumption that either a) all of our friends are color blind , b) global warming is setting in, or c) April isn’t the greenest time of the year to visit. I’m leaning towards the latter, but I sense conspiracy!

Glenveagh Castle Walk - You have two choices to get to the castle from the parking lot. Walking or taking the shuttle bus. I’d recommend the shuttle bus because the 4km walk isn’t all that exciting.


I didn’t know where to put the rest of this stuff so I’m lumping them under the category of 'Views.’ Again, if you don’t like that, go to hell.

Cliffs of Moher - It is not without reason this is Ireland’s most visited place. Actually, I don’t know that for certain, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. All in all amazing. Worth the 8 Euros for parking.

Conner Pass, Dingle Peninsula - No trip to the Dingle Peninsula would be complete without driving over the Conner Pass. And it is totally worth it too. Awesome views.

Loop Head - I’m going to give you some advice that will save you a lot of time. Just south of Kilkee, follow the signs for the scenic drive. What you get is what I’m calling the Poor Man’s Cliffs of Moher. They are very nice cliffs (but not as high as the Cliffs of Moher), nobody is around, don’t have to pay a dime, all in all, despite the gloomy weather, quite nice. But, when that road hooks back with the main road heading out to Loop Head, I’d turn left and head back to Kilkee. Loop Head itself wasn’t that special.

Slieve League - The Lonely Planet called this better than the Cliffs of Moher, but less traveled. They may be better, but it was so overcast that we couldn’t see but the first hundred feet of them. But I imagine on a clear day this would be beautiful. However, the secret is definitely getting out about this place. They just recently enlarged the parking lot and even in April it wasn’t large enough to handle the crowds.

Doolough Valley - This valley provides some good scenery on your way through County Mayo. It is west of the main drag of N59 south of Westport. It is pretty nice, but if you are pressed for time, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if you didn’t see it.

Skellig Cliffs - Not sure what this place is called, but at your furthest point west on the Ring of Skellig you can’t miss the advertising. They are nice cliffs, but a bit pricey. I’d save my money for the Cliffs of Moher.

Benbulben - Is a very recognizable hill north of Sligo that has near vertical walls. Kind of reminds me of Devil’s Tower, but not as cool. Especially when you can barely see it because it is covered in clouds.

Healy Pass, Beara Peninsula - OK, but I think it would have been better if the weather was just a bit nicer. As it was, this was the only time during this day that we had any precipitation and so we had mostly cloudy skies.

Glen Gesh Pass - Directly north of the Slieve League, this provides a one-time view of the valley opening to the north. It was OK, but not spectacular.

Wicklow Gap - Totally not worth it. Just don’t bother.


In the southwest corner of Ireland there are five peninsulas that attract many a traveler. From north to south, they are Dingle, Kerry, Beara, Sheep’s Head and Mizen. That is almost how I would rate them too.

Dingle - It was really a toss up between Dingle and Kerry, but I gave the edge to Dingle for two reasons: there is a good-sized town on this peninsula in which to make a base of operations and also the presence of Inch Beach, which is a long finger sticking perpendicular from the rest of the peninsula. Great walking and don’t pass up the best hot chocolate you’ll ever have at Sammy’s!

Kerry - Yep, there is a reason why everybody goes there. It is amazingly beautiful. But the scenery-o-meter really cranks up if you do the Ring of Skellig extension at the tip. Don’t pass that up. We spent the better part of a day here and we rushed. Two days would do it justice.

Beara - Definitely worth a journey. We only allowed it a few hours by going over Healy Pass and doing a short hike, but it looked lovely and certainly less traveled than either the Kerry or Dingle Peninsulas.

Mizen - In fairness, the weather was brutal so we didn’t get to see much. We did go all the way to Mizen Head though and experienced near horizontal rain. It was insane!

Sheep’s Head - The weather just got worse so we didn’t even bother here. I’m sure in good weather, both the Mizen and especially the Sheep’s Head peninsulas would offer up some spectacular views.


You know, if you are at all interested about this part, I direct you to my profile on TripAdvisor. You can find out the best and worst there, but where we sleep is so low on the importance factor for me, I’m not going to bother boring you (too late you say!) with those details here.


No Megamail would be complete without the inordinate amount of detail devoted to food. Here is where we ate in chronological order.

Kearney’s Castle Hotel, Cashel - Our first dinner in Ireland, barely. We arrived late into Cashel and pretty much went directly here and just barely got served. We thought the prices were a bit high at first, but the portions were enormous so don’t get scared off. I had the salmon with a creamy leek sauce that was amazing... and filling. Sam had the huge bowl of chowder which was OK, along with an enormous platter of smoked salmon. With a few pints of Guinness on the side, naturally.

Atticus, Cork - As I recall, this was skewed towards Italian, but we had few choices because it was pretty much the last place open. In the end, it worked out pretty well. I again went with salmon, but this time with chicken and some philo dough. Sam had some amazing artichoke pasta. All with a nice Chardonnay/Semillon bottle of wine from Australia.

Bantry Bay Hotel, Banty - Uninspired. Move along. Though, we did fear that they might take our chairs away from us. Apparently the Foreign Legion was having a meeting in another room and they didn’t have enough seats so they raided the pub for every chair they could find and they were eyeing up the occupied ones too.

Unknown Place, Killarney - Whatever it was, it was pretty good. The best bread we had in Ireland!

Danny Mann, Killarney - I’ll make this easy for you... get the Cottage Pie. That is what Sam got and it was excellent. I got the Irish stew which was filling, but a bit bland.

Dingle Pub, Dingle - Pub fare, as you might expect. Nothing awesome, nothing bad either. Straightforward. However, they are open later than most places and have live music!

Murphy Blacks, Kilkee - If not the best meal we had, certainly the second best. We ate there on Good Friday which means our choices were really rather limited and I guess that worked out well for us. We had the specials, which I can’t actually remember what that was anymore, but I do remember it as enjoyed with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, the other Emerald Isle.

Gus O’Conners, Doolin - Say it with me, OV-ER-RAT-ED. You know, the service here was so bad I am actually mentioning it. Why people go to Doolin is beyond me.

Mustard, Galway - A fancy pizza joint in Galway that has an actual working water wheel inside the restaurant. Our table was directly over the raging stream feeding that water wheel. The pizza isn’t bad either, though perhaps a little overcooked.

Fiddler’s Creek, Sligo - The food was OK, kind of like the Dingle Pub, but whatever you do, insist you sit in the front dining room. We got taken in the back in a room that was decorated in early TGIFs. I.e. not very appealing. I had the ribs, which weren’t bad and Sam had the Thai salmon which was about as much Thai as I am.

Halo, Derry - Sam described her dessert of caramelized bananas as orgasmic. That is all you need know. The rest of the meal was pretty good too, if a little pretentious. I had seabass and cheesecake (which was not so bad either) and Sam had an appetizer double play of scallops and risotto. Note that there is another floor that is the same place, but with a different menu that is more salads and sandwiches.

Burger King, Dublin - You wouldn’t think that I would put this here, but we arrived very late to Dublin and just wanted to eat something and go to bed. Nice homeless guy doing his best Eddie Murphy 48 Hours impersonation for that authentic Irish entertainment you can’t get anywhere else.

Rick’s, Dublin - We wanted some burger and my god, was this the messiest burger you will ever have. Skip the bland fries and just get the heart clogging burgers.

Gallagher’s Boxty House, Dublin - What we really wanted was some Shepherd’s Pie, but believe it or not, we couldn’t find that on a single menu in Temple Bar so we settled for this place that does brisk business. The waiter we had was awesome, but alas, everything else was just OK. We were disappointed in the Boxtys that enticed us into the place in the first place.


You’re almost done. Rest assured that I tried the trifecta of Irish stout possibilities and have ranked them in order of quaffability: Guinness, Beamish and Murphys. I drank so much Guinness I peed black for a week! Mmm, that was probably too much information actually. OK, OK, let’s let you wrap up...

Bray, Porterhouse - If the Porterhouse sounds familiar, we apparently visited the London branch of the same establishment years ago. They have a number of beers on tap, most you won’t find anywhere else in Ireland so if you are in Bray and you like beer, this is the place to stop. Of particular note was the Chocolate Truffle Stout which I can recommend to any stout lover.

Cork, Franciscan Well Brewery - This small brew pub gets rave reviews and they certainly know how to party given all of the festival posters on the wall. However I found their beers a tad bland. And also a big drawback... no food, only beer so go there after you’ve eaten.

Galway - I can’t for the life remember all the places we went to in Galway, but there were several and there were several more that we could have gone to. Be sure to ask for a Hooker at the bar. No, not what you are thinking, Hooker is the beer that they only brew in Galway. I have to say though, it is not without a small amount of pleasure that you say to the bartender: Two Hookers please. And they cost less then 10 Euro which is the best deal on hookers I’ve ever had. Not that I would truly know, but I hear they are pricey.

O’Donnels, Derry - This was recommended by our B&B host and sure enough, we saw him there later. They have live music, amazing live music, and we chatted up with some folk from Galway, Luxemburg and Italy. We drank way too much and had a good time doing it. Much like you’ve had a good time reading this Megamail, right?




Nightlife in Galway.


One of the murals in Derry.


Pilgrimage completed at Guinness Brewery in Dublin.


Dangerlously perched Dunluce Castle.


Yours truly at the Rock of Cashel.


Look mom, no railing Ballycarbery Castle!


Donegal Castle.


Carrigafoyle Castle.


Rockfleet Castle at low tide.


Gracy the gabber at Blarney Castle.


Climbing the forbidden stairs at Glenveagh Castle.


Charles Fort.


Babe by Ballinskelligs Castle.


Crankerous cows by Moyne Friary.


Kells Priory.


Hore Abbey.


Hanging out at Athassel Abbey.


Sam smirks by the Kylemore Abbey.


You don't know what patience I had to take this photo without any people at the Glendalough Monastic Settlement.


Cross and tower of Monasterboice.


Young virgin awaits sacrifce at Drombeg.


Failed assault on Cahergall Stone Fort.


Sheep enjoy sucky view by Beehive Huts.


Me under the Brownshill Dolmen.


Sam conquers Staigue Fort.


On our way up Diamond Hill.


Sam along the Giant's Causeway.


Silly Sam at Slea Head.


The crowds start to come back across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.


At the far end of the Spink Track.


Sam walks the Pulleen Loop.


Sam at the top of Bray Head.


Sam on the way back from Hag's Head at the Cliffs of Moher.


The Poor Man's Cliffs of Moher south of Kilkee.


Just a wee bit cloudy at Slieve League.


Random scene on Dingle Peninsula.