A little bit of Ireland

Friday morning. We flew into Shannon airport from London Wednesday afternoon on Ryanair, which had offered airfare for ?1.90 per person one way. We actually paid more to check our luggage than we did for the whole family’s airfare, and the airport taxes were even higher, but we still managed the round trip for about ?124.

We’re staying at Clonmore Lodge, a Bed & Breakfast and working cattle farm owned by John and Maire Daly. It’s on the Atlantic coast of Ireland outside the small town of Quilty in County Clare. In addition to his farming and hosting, John is a local historian and caretaker of the cemetary on his property. Clonmore has been in his family since 1903, but the first reference to the property in the Annals of Ireland cites it as the place that received the wounded from a nearby battle in 1641. Also on the grounds are the ruins of a Catholic church that was built in 1091.

It’s a friendly place: already my wife has been drooled on and the Mall Diva has been pawed — by the farm’s three dogs. When we arrived Wednesday evening one of the first things that John took the girls on a tour of his barns to see the baby chicks and baby kittens that had been in residence only a little longer than us. Thursday morning began with John taking us on a tour of the church ruins and the cemetary as he described the histories of many of the families buried there, the customs of the time and many other useful details (did you know, for instance, that Guiness is the Protestant stout, while Murphy’s was the Catholic stout?). A lot of the stories described the long history of persecutions and reprisals between Catholic and Protestants that has shaped this area, as well as the entire country. There is generally peaceful co-existence today, offering hope that while sectarian differences may be ever-present, they don’t have to be eternally hateful.

There’s also a little pub near the lodge that used to be the local village general store – and the place where our host’s father was born. The pub doesn’t open until 9:30 p.m. and I dropped in to sample a Guiness in its native habitat. The pub is about the size of my living room, with a snooker table, a couple of small booths and half a dozen bar stools. It was also equipped with a handful of locals, one of whom clearly had a Texas accent. In a room that size you’re not going to be able to sit back and observe things unnoticed, and I was soon involved in conversation with the group. The Texan introduced himself and asked where I was from. I said Minnesota, and he said he was from San Antonio, Texas. I said I was born in Texas. He asked if I, being from Minnesota, knew of the little Twin Cities suburb of South St. Paul. I said I actually lived in South St. Paul. It turns out he used to work for a St. Paul company and lived in South St. Paul, on Dwayne St., just blocks from where I live! He had later met and married a woman from Quilty and moved here, ready to greet me on my arrival.’Tis a small world, indeed.

Thursday was also a “nice” day by Irish standards for the area: sunny and with temperatures well up into the 50’s – Fahrenheit, that is. As a result, a number of people were at the beach, many in swimsuits. The Reverend Mother, however, had on just about every layer of clothing she brought with her, and even commandeered some of mine. We also visited the Cliffs of Moher which are nearby. These are impressive formations, somewhat reminiscent of the Palisades on the Minnesota North Shore, but are much more extensive. Though several hundred feet above the ocean, the updrafts from the cliffs carry sea spray up and into your face when you stand near the edge of the cliffs.

Our trip is nearly over. Today we’ll tour The Burren, a large area of land containing prehistoric artifacts and ruins such as ring-forts and dolmens from the earliest days of Ireland’s history. Tomorrow we’ll tour some more of the countryside before returning to Shannon for our flight back to London, and finally, leave for home on Sunday. I have more stories to tell of our adventures in the Cotswalds, Scotland and travels through England, and more than 600 digital photos to sort through. I’ll try to post some of these shorter remembrances and other photos over the next couple of days.

Home is that-a-way: A sunset look at the Atlantic from our rooms at Clonmore.

Irish farms are a great place to meet chicks.

Our host and tour guide, John Daly, explains the significance of the various symbols on the grave and tomb markers in the cemetary, and how to tell if the deceased was Protestant or Catholic. Many of the stones have scaled or worn badly, but there was one with a date in the 1600’s and another where the deceased had left “this transitory life” in 1777.

The Cliffs of Insanity – I mean, Moher. There’s a paved path and fence that people are supposed to stay on and behind, but just about everyone ignores it. You might see more details in a future edition of “The Darwin Awards”.

A cow’s eye view: the locals always know where to find the best views.

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