Sights, sounds and smells of Ireland in June

Typically Wicklow County

Since travelling around the fantastic country of Ireland, I have been making some comparisons with my state of Tasmania. I started thinking we were very similar but the further we travelled the more differences I noticed.

  • Lots of stone fences
  • In lanes, lots of hedges with stone under them
  • Lots of houses in between villages, many more villages than in Tasmania
  • Many brand new houses for sale
  • The awful smell of slurry – dangerous as well – two deaths while we were here
  • The friendly people
  • Narrow roads especially L roads
  • Drove on the correct side of the road
  • Loud noisy crows in the trees
  • Lots of roads around the coastline
  • Every Irish country has a different accent, even within one county different accents
  • Lots of rhododendrons and fuschias in the hedgerows as well as blackberries
  • Very little natural forest, mainly pine plantations
  • Very little food being grown, the occasional potato field or onion field but didn’t see any orchards or strawberry fields
  • Every meal contains onions of some sort and usually potato as well
  • Great road signs but some are overgrown by the large deciduous trees
  • Friendly drivers when Miss W got in the wrong lane and indicated to move over
  • Smell of the sea especially seaweed around the coast
  • The amount of tourist buses in such a small country
  • Similar teaching resources in Irish schools and Tassie schools
  • Friendly kids and teachers
  • Ireland 68,890 square kms in land, Tasmania is 68,401 square kilometres
  • Tasmania has over 2000 km of walking trails, lots of walking cycling trails in Ireland
  • Tasmania has 18 national parks and about one third of the state is reserves, parks or World Heritage.
  • National parks in Ireland usually relate to bogs and peat while in Tasmania they are most often natural forests
  • Tasmania population 510,900 while Ireland has 4.78  million or thereabouts
  • Lots of cyclists not wearing helmets especially in coastal touristy areas
  • Many towns with hanging baskets to welcome visitors
  • Still light around 11pm in Ireland during daylight savings

What else would you add is typically Irish that I have missed out?


Around Cork

Our last major stopover was in Cork in the southern part of Ireland. Again we did day trips. Luckily we went to FOTA Wildlife Park and Cobh Heritage Centre on our first day. Why? Well the Irish Open Golf was playing on FOTA Island starting the next day. There was enough traffic on the day we went, with Garda practicing how they were going to be directing the traffic to the various parking areas for the golf.


Unusual rodent called a Mara

FOTA Wildlife Park was open range rather than in big cages like at zoos. We saw zebras, giraffes, bison, kangaroos, many monkeys, many water birds as well as antelope, emu and ostrich. There was only an electric fence between your self and the animals. As the Irish school year is coming to a close, there were also lots of school groups at the park for their end of year excursion or field day.

Cobh Heritage Centre had a variety of exhibitions including Titanic, Emigration, Famine and Transportation. Cobh used to be called Queenstown and was where many convicts were sent out to Australia.

Ring of Kerry view

Another day we went to the Ring of Kerry. If you ever visit Ireland and only stay for a couple of days, take the bus trip from Dublin to Ring of Kerry. A long day but everything organized and you will see a great range of typical Irish sights and sounds. But we drove our car and found it very touristy, with 8 buses at one museum, 5 buses at a seaside village for lunch and so on. We had seen similar sights at other places around Ireland except that Killarney National Park actually had natural forest rather than lots of plantation pine trees.

Davo checking out rhododendrons

Another day we decided to head toward Limerick and Tipperary. Miss W looked on the map and decided we could also visit some places in Australia, so we went through Charleville as well as Lismore. Often it is those last minute decisions that leave an impression and it certainly happened that day. We drove over the hills to Lismore, part of the Tipperary Heritage Trail – fantastic rhododendrons all over the hillside with a little lake just near the top of Vee Pass.

Mizen Head

We also went to the most south westerly place in Ireland, Mizen Head. Lovely drive following the coast as much as possible. Some beautiful beaches especially nearing the head. Had a coffee at the tourist centre and walked part of the way out to the head. But Miss W. was not going to walk up and down 99 steps and walkways at 20% slope.  We were lucky enough to see some minke whales as they rounded the head.

The last place we visited was Cork gaol – thinking this might be where William Jackson Sen and Jun might have been held before transportation to Australia. The gaol is walk through on your own with a numbered brochure. Lots of information about how the prisoners lived in the gaol.

Around Sligo

Because we went back into Northern Ireland when we were leaving Donegal area, it meant that we missed the Slieve League. So one day in Sligo was heading back to the cliffs at Sliabh Liag. A long drive but certainly worth it.

The cliffs of Sliabh Liag

Arrived to a closed gate but saw a taxi go through, so decided to follow. Nearly two kilometres later we were at a little turning circle with coaches and cars. It is actually a tall mountain just over 600 metres, but the cliffs go straight down into the Atlantic Ocean. We saw lots of sheep just wandering around here, so of course lots of photos by Miss W.

Back through Ardara then over the hills towards Ballybofey in Donegal and through mountains at Barnesmore Gap. There are tales of ghosts being seen at night through the gap. Back in the days of Miss W. great great grandmother (mid 1800’s) there are stories of robberies in this part of Donegal.

Back towards Sligo we saw a road heading to Glencar Waterfall. This was the first waterfall we had seen on our travels so off we went. This is mentioned in WB Yeats poem The Stolen Child apparently.

Another day was spent heading south towards Galway. We knew we were going to miss this part of the country once we headed to Cork. Down the N17 to Claremorris and off to Cong between the two loughs Mask and Corrib. Got in a traffic jam in Cong, so many tourists visiting the castle there or heading off to fish, horse ride or golf.

Looking down Killary Harbour

On through the lake country of Ireland to N59 heading towards Clifden but we diverted instead through the R344 near the Connemara National Park. Next stop was above Killary Harbour for a fantastic view down the fjord. A bit further along was Leenaun where they were advertising seaweed baths.

One more day near Sligo so we went to the beach first at Strandhill – clamber over lots of boulders or stones to get to the beach – didn’t stay long. Then north to Mullaghmore – beautiful sandy beach and lots of kids learning to sail as part of their last weeks in school field trips.

Representing Yeats’ poetry

We also stopped off at WB Yeats grave at Drumcliffe then saw a monument for Constance Markievicz who took part in the 1916 Easter Rising and was jailed in solitary confinement in Kilmainham Jail.

So our next stop will be Cork – see you then.

Student activity

Would you ever try a seaweed bath? Why or why not?



Westward bound in Donegal

Decided to head to Carrigans where great great grandmother was caught stealing back in 1847. Took photo of street of the village then headed back via the Ulster Scots Historical Society in the hills toward Letterkenny. Miss W thought they might have something about the Jackson family, alas nothing there but we were given the name of a researcher to contact at a later time.

Glenveagh Castle garden

Through Letterkenny and on to Glenveagh National Park which is the 2nd largest park in Ireland. This also includes a castle built by John Adair with magnificent gardens attached. At the visitor centre we read the sad story of how John evicted 244 persons from his land just so the view from the castle was more aesthetic. Copies of the Londonderry Standard on the walls of the visitor centre told the whole story.

From the park we headed further west toward the coast and it was here we started noticing lots of the bog being dug up. Apparently people still use the peat for heating their homes in the winter.

We then found a museum that was the Dunfanaghy workhouse which is where many of the evicted tenants were sent after their houses and properties were taken from them. There was also an exhibition about Wee Hannah and her survival through the famine and then the workhouse.

Back to the B&B and our last meal at the Smugglers Pub. Thought We had better take a photo of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Here I am checking out the pub from the bridge across the River Finn.

Border is a river

Travelling the north

Well we are now tourists, no longer researchers so we can travel where ever the mood takes us. First we headed to Northern Ireland and the fantastic Giant’s Causeway. If you like golf and motor homes or hotels, then the coastal route is the way to go. Not a skerrick of land between the road and the coast was left vacant; they all had golf courses on them.

Davo at Giant’s Causeway

Now the causeway was very interesting. We travelled via the bus rather than walking – lazy Miss W.  Listened to all the stories on the audio headset – loved the one about Finn McCool that was back at the visitor centre. An amazing basalt rock formation and all of this is looked after by the National Trust of UK.

Now you all know we never travel the same road twice if at all possible, so we headed back to the B&B via the ferry at Magilligan Point which is at the entrance to the Lough Foyle . There is a Martello Tower on the point.

Across on the ferry then heading inland to the Famine Village at Doagh. Thought this would give Miss W. a look at what her great great grandmother might have been living like during the famine years. Learned about things like the hearth tax and how landlords evicted their tenant farmers during the famine years.

Eviction then house destroyed

Back through the hills and noticed a sign to Carrigans ( great great grandmother got into a lot of trouble here) – maybe that will be a place to visit tomorrow.

Activity for students:

Have you been to the Giant’s Causeway or something similar in your country? What made it so amazing?

We found Cloughfin!!

It took us a while but we did eventually find Cloughfin National School with principal Fiona Farry @ffarry1 on twitter. We actually arrived just as school was letting out on Monday afternoon. What a very polite group of students! It was interesting to see a school where the principal and teachers knew all the parents – 33 students with two pairs of twins.

So Tuesday morning after a great breakfast at the B&B we headed up a road, hoping to find the school. Miss W has this google mapping down to a fine art now. We arrived just in time for school to start.

Of course I was a hit with the students as was a platypus we took with us. I think it stayed behind – not sure what the students will name it. We talked about Tasmania and Ireland, schooling, money, weather and of course animals. We also left a 2015 calendar with lots of animals on it so the students and staff will remember our visit.

Students at Cloughfin

We took quite a few photos and Miss W has created a collage from them. When we went into the junior room, they took me to the veterinarian centre to check me out. Thanks goodness I was well, don’t know what they would have done otherwise.

Talking to all the teachers we have visited here in Ireland, we have noticed many resources teachers use are the same as Miss W used in her classes. Most teachers here are still reluctant to use technology in the classrooms just like back in Tasmania. But at Cloughfin National School where there is a lot of use of computers, twitter, edmodo and Khan Academy, the students looked more interested in what they were learning.

Fiona tweeted out once we left that students were learning the song Highway Number One and then adapting it for places in Ireland. I hope they add their results to their blog.

This was our last school on our Ireland trip.  Many thanks to Martina, Merry and Fiona for allowing me and Miss W to visit. We hope you enjoyed the gifts we left and learnt something about our state Tasmania.

You will notice I am about to add a page called About Ireland to the blog. Any students who read this blog and have questions about Ireland, please leave them on that page. Maybe the students we have visited can then leave answers in the comment area.

Time to catch up

Been a few days since my last post. Miss W has been doing a lot of research on her family history at the National Archives and National Library of Ireland, both in Dublin. She will have lots of information to add to the history of the Jackson family. Luckily there was a great archivist at the archives who told Miss W to check the Outrage papers of Donegal in 1847. She also checked newspapers on microfilm. But she was disappointed that she couldn’t find the actual court records of the trial in 1847.

Before leaving Dublin, we headed out on the Hop on, Hop off bus. These are great for seeing the main tourist sites at a reasonable price. It also meant we didn’t have to drive on the narrow, one way streets of Dublin.

Leaving Dublin on Monday, we headed to Donegal to meet Fiona at her school in the hills behind Lifford. En route, we visited Bru na Boinne which is a fantastic Neolithic site with passages through huge mounds of earth. We didn’t realise you could only visit on a guided tour, so we were lucky to get on one to Knowth immediately we arrived.

Heading back on the main road through Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom), we started hitting slow traffic. Why? Probably tourists who were used to driving in kilometres per hour in Ireland now drove in miles per hour in Northern Ireland. Remember 50mph = 80kph

Finally found our way to Cloughfin National School near Ballindrait near Lifford. Fiona starting to worry as Miss W said we would be there around 2pm but we were closer to 3pm and Fiona had the keys to the B&B where we were to stay in Castlefinn.

More about our visit to the school in our next post.



Davo visits Greystones

After a fantastic morning with the students in Bray, we then followed some little country roads south to Greystones. According to @merrybeau1 we had to make sure we veered left at the tudor building at the top of Bray otherwise we would get lost. A lovely drive along narrow streets with lots of small shopfronts and we were in Greystones.

We followed the road around the coastline and came in to St Brigids via Kimberley Street where we parked in the church car park. The school is in an old convent building but they are gradually moving into some newer classrooms, so lots of packing boxes in the narrow corridors.

We visited three classes and each time Miss W spoke about our country and the students had lots of questions also. In two of the classes, students sang a song in harmony for us to listen to – it sounded fantastic. They also tried to teach Miss W some words in Irish. I think she might need some more lessons though.

After lunch break with the staff, Ms Beausang @merrybeau1, Jane, Miss W  and a group of students went for a walk to the Greystones Bear where we had a photo opportunity. Then it was back to Mrs Mooney’s sweet shop to get some jelly snakes and finally back into school for the end of the day.

Can you see me in the spade handle?

We headed out to the Firehouse Bakery with Ms Beausang and her husband who has the same surname as Miss W. ‘s convict relative. A lovely chicken sandwich on sourdough bread and a cappuccino before heading back to school for Miss W to get the car and drive us home via the M50 again.

An exhausting day but it was great to meet excellent students in both schools and to hear the harmonious songs by the students at St Brigid’s.

Activity for students

What are some Irish words you think we should learn before we start travelling any further around Ireland?

Leave a comment with the word in English, then Irish then how to pronounce it.