Farewell, Our Lovely Island!

Thursday, the last day of our tour, we started off by visiting the grave site of William Butler Yeats.

Next was a cruise down the River Shannon. We boarded our ship and yummy sandwiches were already waiting for us on the table. An entertainer told jokes and played Irish music for us as we traveled leisurely along the banks, catching sight of wild life and some wonderful landscape. 


These swans reminded me of the Irish legend of the Children of Lir. Lir was a king and he had four children who were beautiful and talented and their stepmother was jealous and turned them into swans which broke their father's heart.

Our coach.

I thought our entertainer had a lovely voice!

After our cruise we headed to Dublin. The coach dropped us off near Trinity College for a couple of hours and we went to see the Book of Kells and the library, built in the 18th century. This is still a working college so there were students everywhere and you did feel like you were walking across a college campus instead of in the heart of Dublin. The Book of Kells is a ninth century highly illustrated book of the gospels discovered in a, you guessed it, peat bog. (How it wasn't lost to the world is truly a miracle. The picture below is from the library's Long Room. George Lucas wanted to copy its design to use as the Jedi library, but they refused to let him take pictures so he simply recreated it from memory. Over 200,000 old books are housed here.

I forgot to add these photos, and I'm not sure what day it was on, but we crossed over the Shannon from County Kerry to County Clare. We drove our bus onto a ferry at Tarbert and took a twenty minute journey to the other side. It was very blustery, so no one got out to view the crossing on the upper deck. Looking out my window I could see a little snack shop built into the ferry, and little more. I took the photos as the ferry was coming in to dock.

Here's one I forgot to add from The Brooks Hotel in Dublin

Then we walked to see the National Art Gallery, but they had very little to see as they were undergoing renovations. So, what else had we to do than spend the rest of our time in a pub. We entered one and found Cheryl and Woody there, and soon our guide Steven joined us. We enjoyed our time until it was time to head back to our last castle for the night, The Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel.

These were roomier than twins, so we just used one.

I love that their pub was called the Dungeon!

The whole crew with Max, the dog.

We had a Farewell Dinner (I had Sticky Caramel Pudding, which was awesome!) with wine and a toast to our tour guide. In the morning our bus took us to the airport. Customs was easy, I slept most of the flight home. We retrieved our car from hotel parking and had a fairly eventless ride home. A spectacular sunset welcomed us. It was a wonderful trip, but always good to arrive our your own doorstep! 

Thank any of you that have stayed with me through the whole journey! It was nice sharing our memories with you! I hope you'll come back again soon. Happy Halloween!

Though Sunny, Things Are Looking Belleek!

Wednesday -- We continued north to Sligo where we had lunch at the private home of Damien and Paula Brennan overlooking Lough Gill. Paula is a chef, and Damien is an expert on William Butler Yeats. Much of the landscape that Yeats wrote about in his poems was right outside their windows.

So while we enjoyed Paula's wonderful cooking, Damien read Yeats to us and told us stories about him and his family. We had open-faced ham sandwhiches and chicken salad and these Guinness brownies that were out of this world. The tables were beautifully decorated and there was a wide variety of art around their home, very eclectic collection. I really liked some of their pieces though. 

I really loved these vases!

It was enjoyable and I think some of the guests were surprised by how much they liked the poetry. Of course, sitting in the heart of the country it was written about added a lot. We said our goodbyes to Damien and Paula (after I had plucked a couple more brownies off unguarded trays) and drove a short way to a grotto. 

We continued north to slip into Northern Ireland and find out how Belleek Porcelain is made. In 1849 John Caldwell Bloomfield, an amateur mineralogist, inherited property in the County of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland which encompassed the village of Belleek. (Wouldn't it be nice to inherit a village?) Like Henry Mitchell, he was concerned for his tenants during the Great Potato Famine, so he had a survey done of the land and found it was rich in minerals.

So Bloomfield had the feldspar, kaolin, flint and waterpower that was necessary to make the ceramics. The clay he made was incredibly thin and pearly, but deceptively strong. He had the materials, but not the artist's skill to form it. He searched out Robert Armstrong at the Worchester Porcelain Co. Once Armstrong saw the beautiful white ceramic material, he signed on. Now they just needed a backer. Enter banker David McBirney, an acquaintance of Armstrong's. The only thing left to acquire was rail service. Bloomsfield rallied and lobbied and soon they had trains that brought in the coal for the kiln, and took the finished product to customers far and wide. I love stories like this when someone is so resourceful and overcomes obstacle after obstacle to reach their dream. John Caldwell Bloomfield put Belleek on the map and made Ireland one of the top porcelain distributing countries in the world.

So, of course it was necessary to purchase some of this, to literally bring home a piece of Ireland. 


After this we traveled to the 15th century Lough Eske Castle Hotel. We checked in, strolled around the grounds and took some pictures. Then we ate dinner at the castle's pub and enjoyed cocktails. I think one I had was called an Irish Sunrise. The interior of this hotel was fabulous and I loved the outdoor statuary. Still, it didn't have the picturesque grounds that Ballynahinch did.

Dug this guy!

Check out his flames!

This one was cool!

And I love it when lion statues aren't just doing the usual. This one seems to be sleeping.

I like how this one's mouth is open like he's panting!

Love the fish jumping in the fountain!

Nicest bathroom by far.Separate toilet, shower, tub and sinks. Candles in bathroom ~ nice touch!

Sweet bed!

View from outside our window.

After a great breakfast our coach awaited to sweep us off to our next destination...