Antiques, King John, leaving with a Limerick and the beautiful Cairbre House

We have tried not to waste a moment of our time in Ireland, so we arose early and breakfasted, then headed out the door for some last minute sightseeing before our 1:30 pm checkout.  We headed down the river walk towards King’s Island and King John’s Castle.  We were fascinated by the way the locks were built along the side of the river to allow two way travel independent of the tide. There were also some great views of the castle.

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After crossing the River Shannon and turning towards the Castle entrance, we passed an Antiques shop with interesting merchandise in the window and an invitingly open door.  We walked in and spent the next half an hour browsing through potential treasures.  Since we wanted to get to the castle, the proprietress put aside our chosen merchandise and promised to hold for us so we could purchase on our way back and not have to carry them on our tour.  We continued to the castle and purchased our entrance tickets.  We then immediately moved to the side of the entranceway as a herd of Irish school children thundered past on a school excursion.  Some things are the same in any country, and forty 10-12 year olds make the same kind of noise no matter where they are.  Once the coast was clear, we continued inside to the castle bailey.  We explored the areas of the castle such as the old Mint and armory.  We even climbed the towers to take pictures of the spectacular views and then descended to areas under the visitor’s center to view archeological excavations as well.  During the entire visit, school children kept popping up in groups of twos, threes and fours.

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For the final leg of our visit, we toured the exhibitions in the visitor’s center. Normally this would be the first stop in the visit, but we bypassed originally due to the aforementioned herd of children.  This time, however, we were lucky enough to tag along behind some visiting American dignitary who was being given a personal tour by not one, but two of the Castle employees.  We never learned who the American was but enjoyed listening to the commentary surreptitiously.

Upon leaving the castle, we stopped back by the antique store where I purchased a print of a local Limerick church and Mom and Vicki found treasures as well.  By this time, we were pushing our pre-arranged late check-out time, so we hurried back to the hotel to load up the car.  As we headed out of town, Mom recited the limerick she composed especially for this occasion. (Apparently you can’t leave Limerick without writing one).

There once were three gals from the USA

who decided to go on a holiday.

So they hopped on a plane

and to Ireland they came.

And apparently chased all the rain away!

We headed down the N24 towards our next scheduled stop; a bed and breakfast in Dungarvan.  Feeling a little peckish, we stopped for a late lunch in Limerick Junction (not as close to Limerick as you would have thought) and had lunch at the Bit and Bridle.  Mom had beef lasagna, Vicki had battered cod and I had the best omelet I’ve ever had.  Mom and Vicki’s meals came with side vegetables including carrots, cabbage and turnips cooked with bacon and served with a parsley sauce they said was out of this world.  Back on the road, we continued towards the southern Irish coast.

Midway through our journey, we began to climb the mountains and passed by far the most spectacular fields of rhododendrons in bloom that I have ever seen.  For both sides of the road, and as far up and down the mountains as you could see, was nothing but purple blossom-covered shrubs.  We weren’t the only ones to stop for pictures.  Another gentleman (very good-looking), who he drove this way “quite regularly”, said he had never seen it quite that spectacular before.

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Cresting the mountain, and starting to descend the other side, we noticed a distinct change in the weather.  Up until now, we had had the most beautiful sunny weather.  Every day had been sunny and over 80 degrees which we had been assured by person after person was NOT normal for Ireland.  On this side of the mountain, the temperature was decidedly cooler and clouds were beginning to build.  However, by the time we arrived at Cairbre House in Dungarvan, the weather, although cool, had returned to at least partly sunny.

Where do I start with Cairbre House (pronounce almost like car-borough)?  I have stayed at many B&B’s over the years but this was by far the best and in the prettiest location.  The house itself is 190 years old and has been in the same family for 100 years.  Our host served us tea, coffee and shortbread in the garden upon our arrival. The gardens were absolutely spectacular, as will be evidenced by Vicki’s 100+ pictures.  She has taken over 600 on the trip so far and the camera several times pleaded “battery exhausted”.  However, she has found that generally letting it rest will allow her to resume in time.

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Inside, we were allotted two rooms with an en-suite bath. I only wish the pictures could do it justice.

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After relaxing for a while with our tea and coffee in the garden, we decided to head into the town of Dungarvan in search of a little something to tide us over until morning.  The 15 minute walk was lengthened by several stops to take pictures.

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We found sustenance at Merry’s purveyors of fine wines and food.  I had risotto with asparagus and poached egg, while Mom had seafood chowder.  Vicki held out for dessert.  Vicki had the plain and simple bowl of ice cream while I opted for the Chocolate Sundae and Mom feasted on sticky toffee pudding.  (Yes, there will be payment for these calories eventually).

After the consuming every last crumb and drop of our dessert, we ambled (or maybe waddled) back to Cairbre House.  There we made a web cam call to Dad.  The internet connection was much better here, so we had Dad call Granny and then my uncle Steve on the phone so we could share a web/conference call.  I think it thrilled them both that they could talk to us and it sounded like we were in the next room instead of several thousand miles away.  Once the call was over, we went upstairs to bed, already regretting that we would have only one night at this tranquil spot in Dungarvan.

Stay tuned tomorrow for details of the incredible breakfast, our 3 hour shopping trip at the Waterford Crystal factory, turning in the rental car (with most of the car still intact) and our absolutely amazing suite at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin (I swear it’s bigger than my first apartment).