My travel diary, Ireland,1994

Tuesday 17th May (My Dad’s Birthday) Travelling from Australia to Canada, then on to London from Vancouver with British Airways, was very cramped, however, I was fortunate enough to be offered a big wide seat in business class by a very pleasant hostess, and watched a movie, Daniel Day-Lewis, In The Name of The Father. Arrived at Heathrow half hour early, raining and cold. Transferred to Gatwick airport, we were able to take an early flight to Dublin. The security was out in force, machine guns and all! Arrived in Dublin to find clear cold weather at 8 degrees, and after picking up the rental car (Opel Vectra) we made our way to the first B&B out at Dun Laoghaire where the Sea Link Ferries arrive from the UK. Spent an interesting day around the harbour which was built over a period of 40 years by mostly slave labour. The rocks were taken from a quarry on a nearby hill. The harbour is most amazing and obviously, the sea gets very wild during bad weather. See the harbour here:

After a drive further south to the Dalkey Inn for an overnight stay, we set off to Roscommon to first see where my great great grandmother came from. Her name was Hannah Rafferty, and she left her town of  Castlerea and immigrated to Australia because of the famine and poverty. We travelled as far as Athlone and we were delighted when we arrived at St. Ruth’s B&B in the village of Curranghboy just out of town.

St Ruth’s B&B, in Curraghboy, Co. Roscommon. We booked for one night, but stayed for 3! It was simply divine..the hospitality, the decor, and the Irish homestyle meals were superb!

The farmhouse was exquisite. Helen O’Brien and her 87-year-old mother made us so welcome. Her cooking was a delight, Irish stew, all types of homegrown veggies, meat, mushrooms, and milk, all produced on the farm. The dog’s name was Sally O’Brien, a sweet little silky terrier. The Irish Breakfast is superb, Orange juice, cereals, muesli, yogurt, bacon, sausages, eggs, mushroom fried toast, and delicious heavy textured bread. In the evening, pate on toast, exquisite wholemeal scones, fine flakey short pastry apple pie, and ice cream, a superb cup of tea, fine china, and a lovely tea tray.

Wednesday 18th May -at St. Ruth’s B&B. A day of gentle walks and relaxation..

Thursday 19th May – at St. Ruth’s B&B. On Thursday we set off early to Castelrea. It was a cold and windy day, we dressed to suit the weather. We found Castlerea to be a poor grey and bleak little village. I visited the village church. The bells were ringing calling the locals to Mass. Spoke to a gentleman in the church and he sent me to Stokestown Geneology Centre, where they told me more information was needed about Hannah so that relatives could be located. We visited the National Famine Museum recently opened by the Irish President Mary Robinson. I discovered County Roscommom was the poorest and most affected County during the Years of the famine 1845 -1859 when Hannah was forced to immigrate to Australia. We then continued up to Sligo, on the West Coast, County Leitrim, and visited Yeat’s Grave. The little town of Boyle was very pretty with swans on the stream which runs through the township. Arrived back to Athlone and wandered along the River Shannon– Spoke to a young fellow who was setting out to fish for pike.

Friday 20th MayMallmore House, Clifden, County Galway, Connemara. Travelled through Ballinsloe to Galway, bi-passed the city, and headed for Clifden on the coast of Connemara. The scenery was spectacular, almost lunar, stark yet hauntingly beautiful. Clifden proved to be a real delight, leafy and green,. The restaurants and pubs were plentiful, with great traditional music. We toured the Sky Road Scenic Drive, and took lots of photos, hard to describe the awesome beauty of the land and seascapes. Visited the pub in the evening, and met a lovely English couple Sue and David. We rang Brando this evening.

At Mallmore House at Clifton in Co.Galway. We learned a lot about ‘The Burren’, the karst limestone area of Co. Clare, from the ice age and how it was formed and how it looked in the past etc. The landscape reminded us of Dalmatia.

Saturday 21st May Late afternoon we walked a 4 km walk from Clifden out along the sea-over-the-stiles-to the ancient medieval castle ruins and back to Clifden. Had dinner at Restaurant High, on the hill above Clifden, delicious lamb, and the baked in the pan Pear and Spices Torte, was superb! 

Sunday 22nd May – Churchfield House – Doolin, and Maeve.  On Sunday we left and travelled to Westport, County Mayo. On the way, we visited Kylemore Abbey, which is now a girls’ Boarding School. At Westport, we had Mussels and Crab Claws on the Seafront at a local pub. Travelled down through Galway to the Cliffs of Moher at Doolin in County Clare. These cliffs are not to be missed! It was a beautiful clear and sunny day and at 10 am we met a German family, Krista, Karl, and their son Jurgen. We spent 3 hours walking around the cliffs together, it was such an experience. The Aran Islands are visible off the coast, the sea birds were swirling and screeching about the cliffs, wildflowers so colourful, and the sea the deepest shade of jade green. We returned late afternoon to see them again in the sunset. Today we had lunch at Ballyvaughan.

The cliffs of Moher are such a special place. Young people sitting in a ring, a young man strumming his guitar, and softly singing ancient Irish Gaelic folk songs..a scene that will always remain with me..

Monday 23rd May – Churchfield House, Located near the Cliffs of Moher..

Tuesday 24th May Sunhill House, Killorglin County Kerry. After breakfast, we departed and drove down the West Coast via Kilrush-took the car ferry across to Tarbert, then down to Killorglin via Tralee. We have decided to stay here for 4 days to explore the Dingle and Kerry Peninsulas- The Ring of Kerry.

Wednesday 25th May – Our first rainy day! We visited ‘Mackross House’ just outside of Killarney. The house was donated to The Republic of Ireland by Arthur Vincent back in 1932. We really enjoyed the walk through the house, a step back in time, and the grounds were stunning. So green and colourful.

NOTE: The Gaelic language is spoken around the Dingle Peninsula. Had Smoked salmon and potato Au Gratin for lunch- superb!

Muckross House near Killarney and the Abbeydorney Drama Group. These singers sang many Irish – Aussie ballads, ‘The Wild Colonial Boy and ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’  Thank you, Liam Gowan, Listellick, Tralee,Co. Kerry for your kind invitation to join your group. A never to be forgotten evening!

Friday 27th May. We decided to walk along the Gap of Dunloe- a 20 km walk through incredible scenery. It’s possible to hire a horse carriage and driver but we elected to walk- very enjoyable! After a late lunch we drove through Killarney, and along the Ring of Kerry to Kenmare, and saw a beautiful hotel, Sheeran Falls Hotel. Took the overland route through the Gap of Ballaghbeara – a stunning and spiritual experience.

Thursday 26th May Today the rain stopped, and we visited the Dingle Peninsula. The little town of Dingle was lovely, with a fishing village, nets, and trawlers, many tourists, mainly French and German, and few English. This is ‘Ryan’s Daughter’s filmed. We detoured and discovered the remains of the Castle of the Knight of Kerry. We met some Welsh people, and an old Irishman (Conny) and his Sheepdog. (“You might know my brother Paddy? He lives in Melbourne”. “Sorry Conny, Australia’s a big country”) Conner Pass was heavy in mist, unfortunately. However, in the evening we experienced a really memorable evening at ‘The  Fishery’. After dinner and Caberet, we met a crowd of Irish actors and singers. They invited us to join their table. Each one of them was a truly memorable character and the songs they sang around the table were moving and beautiful. Some were fun-loving, and others were sad.  They performed a play called JUNO AND THE PEACOCK, about life in Dublin C. 1922. A wonderful experience!

We decided to walk along the Gap of Dunloe, a 20 km walk through incredible scenery.

It’s possible to hire a horse carriage and driver but we elected to walk- very enjoyable! After a late lunch we drove through Killarney, and along the Ring of Kerry to Kenmare, and saw a beautiful hotel, Sheeran Falls Hotel. Took the overland route through the Gap of Ballaghbeara, a stunning and spiritual experience.

Romance at Sheeran Falls Hotel; Colourful homes of Dingle; Happy kids of Galway..

Saturday 28th May Drove up the East Coast past Waterford, visited Waterford Crystal founded in 1783 and bought a small crystal clock, then came to County Wicklow. On the way to Bray, I saw a sign Art Galleryand an arrow pointing down a country lane.I begged Branko to stop and have a look. It turned out to be one of those most unexpected moments in time! As we entered the gallery we were warmly greeted by the artist and her mother was not far behind..They introduced themselves and we were in total shock when they explained they had returned to Ireland from the Gold Coast in Australia. We discovered we had mutual friends and together, they often visited our restaurant! It was about that moment when I saw a big bold and colourful work of art that I just HAD to have. Needless to say, it was promptly purchased, packaged, and sent to Australia. We decided to stay in Bray, a seaside spot that we enjoyed. The beach walk around the cliffs was truly breathtaking.

The painting I just HAD to have, My ‘thorn between the roses, and the cliffs of Bray.

Sunday 29th May – Our final day in Ireland..we are really sorry to be leaving. There has been much more of a connection than I ever had expected! A definite feeling of Deja Vu, with the deepest feeling of love and belonging in this land of my forebears..I will return.

Monday 30th May From Bray we said our goodbyes to Ireland and we flew from Dublin to Vienna where we stayed for 1 week. It was so beautiful, visiting The Opera, Schonbrunn Castle, and Vienna Woods, the architecture, parks, and gardens of Vienna are exquisite! From Vienna, we flew to Croatia. Adrian joined us there. We arrived back in Australia end of August 1994.