Haha, I'd planned to drive straight to Limerick and spend yesterday exploring the city. Haha, it took me all day to get here. I saw a sign to Bunratty Castle, followed it and that was it for the day :)
Before that I'd come across a megalithic tomb on the road from Ennistymon to Ennis. There was no information provided about the tomb but I think it's a portal tomb. No idea of its age.
I love how these things are just there on the side of the road. Just about every bend in the road brings something new to look at. And there are plenty of bends - no such thing as a straight line in Ireland!
Sadly though, there's not always the opportunity to stop and have a proper look: the roads are narrow and winding and places to pull over and park are few and far between once you get out of the towns and villages.
Just as I was about to get on the motorway I saw a sign to Clare Abbey. So off I went down a narrow little road..... The abbey is mostly a ruin and at least one of the towers is leaning rather precariously. The gates around it were all locked so I couldn't get inside for a decent poke around. I thought about climbing the fence but the field was full of scary cows. I suspect the abbey is now on private land.
The only way to get back to the motorway was to back up all the way I'd come. Did I mention the roads can be narrow?
A few miles down the motorway and I saw a sign to Bunratty Castle. Detour again....
15 euros to get in. I thought that was a bit steep at first but the castle is fully open to the public and comes with a whole village spread over a number of acres. It's definitely a place to spend several hours, if not all day, so 15 euros isn't so bad after all.
I spent the whole afternoon wandering around the castle and the grounds. The castle itself was crowded with tourists (duh!) which made taking people-less photos difficult. There are signs everywhere asking people not to use flash photography - to protect the tapestries, etc. There are also signs on all the stairways: Entry Only and Exit Only - to keep the traffic on the narrow spiral stairs one way only. Ha! Both sets of signs were routinely ignored by most. Idiots. Traffic jams on the stairways were immensely annoying.
There's a lot more room to move outside and all the buildings are open. They're kept in as original condition as possible - peat fires make them very smoky and most dwellings were small and dark. Interesting nonetheless.
Most of the cottages are white but a couple were painted different colours.
I got sucked in by the touristy thing and ended up buying a certificate with the history of the family name, coat of arms, etc. Apparently Strahan originated in the Donegal area up in the north of Ireland. Shame I'm heading south.
Anyway, after several hours at Bunratty I had a coffee at Durty Nelly's, a 1620 inn just outside the castle, and then got back on the motorway to Limerick. I'm now in the Greenhills hotel until Friday. I decided to spend a couple of days in Limerick as there looks like there's plenty to see. Going off to find King John's castle once I've finished here.
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