Ballincard House

As our journey through Ireland continued. We drove past medieval castles and Paleolithic tombs in the Burren. We visited a Dark Age monastery at Clonmacnoise.  While the Cliffs of Moher were impressive, a great photo opp with green pastures dropping off 600 feet into the Atlantic, these sites were overrun with tourists and tour busses. None of these sites, though, compared to our evening’s stay at Ballincard House, a large Georgian-style mansion outside of Birr in the Irish Midlands. Little did we know that this Airbnb stay would be one of the highlights of the trip.

Carrauntoohil

From the town of Kenmare along the famous Ring of Kerry, drive up to Moll’s Gap. The scenery here is brown and cold. The heath and bogs blanket the jagged rocks and mountains that rise from the sea. Drive back down the pass to Blackvalley. While driving past shaggy-looking sheep, spray painted with orange and blue, take a twisting, tortuous one lane road up to the Gap of Dunloe. There are a few pinch points where cars have to play a game of chicken to squeeze by each other. You emerge out of the mountains for a moment as you pass through quaint Kate Kearney’s Cottage, but not for long before you take a left up to Cronins Yard. A few houses and farms sit at the base of a long valley.  At one end are the green pastures of Ireland, to the west sits the tallest peak in Ireland Carrauntoohil, covered is brown heath, jagged black rocks and mist. 

Meet the Cousins

A DUI check on a Monday morning?! We had already been driving on the highway out of Dublin for an hour, when we approached a line of orange cones directing us to the shoulder lane of the M9. Some cars in front of us were pulled off the road, being searched by police. We stopped in the line of cars, perplexed by the scene. Groups of cars, 5 at a time, were waved on by yellow-jacketed police (Garda in Gaelic). With each group, the drivers were breathalyzed. When it came to my turn to be tested, the female officer politely asked me for my ID. She commented on my Washington license and welcomed me to Ireland. Then she asked if I knew what a breathalyzer was and she pulled out her device and a plastic tube. With a big breathe, I passed the test and we were ushered on our way. Monica and I were confused... Why test for drunk drivers at noon on a Monday? We didn’t understand, but continued on... 

San Sebastian – Donostia

“In the Basque country the land all looks very rich and green and the houses and villages look well-off and clean... the houses in the villages had red tiled roofs, and then the road turned off and commenced to climb and we were going way up close along a hillside, with a valley below and hills stretched off back toward the sea.” – From The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway