Another lovely breakfast with hot sausages and tea with milk. I held back a little to save room for “Ireland’s Best Scones.” And indeed, after Dave did a miraculous backup of the bus out of the hotel parking lot and we all clapped appreciatively, it didn’t take long to drive to Rathbaun Sheep Farm. Dave announced as we drove up that Frances would be coming out to greet us and would tell us the drill, either first scones and tea and then viewing the sheep or vice versa. First, though Fintin, the farmer, came out with his border collie.
Fintin and Dave the Driver
Frances wasn’t far behind. She boarded the coach, welcomed us to the farm, and told us quite confidently that the scones were in the oven, so we would view the sheep first. Off we trodded, beyond the lovely old thatched farmhouse that had belonged to Fintin’s grandfather to the barn in the back where a series of sheep were penned. I felt as if I was back at the county fair in the 4-H Animal Buildings.
We saw some huge bags of wool (two not three bags full) and had a view of a fenced-in meadow. Fintin came in and started his spiel about the farm and let us in on a horrific secret: Wool was no longer sold to make sweaters in Ireland. In fact, no one in Ireland wore wool because no one had time to wash and dry them in the damp air. Instead, they wore acrylics. The sheep were raised for meat (mutton), although they were first shorn before slaughtered. That wool was sent to China at 5 Cents a pound, as they were the only ones who wanted it – the quality was not that great. The Merino wool sold in Irish Woolen Mills were all from New Zealand sheep. We all felt not a little disillusioned! But then we got to watch the very eager sheep dog round up the sheep several times – they’d come around the corner and slam right into a gate – that was rather disturbing!
Finally, Fintin brought out some baby sheep to be given bottles, although they didn’t seem that small. Ellen hesitated for a moment before she feed one, as she thought these were full-grown sheep trying to get in on a milky treat.
After that, we crammed into a cozy room, with a fire going in the hearth, and scones and tea on the table. There was also clotted cream and rhubarb ginger jam – that was my favorite part, although the scones were quite lovely as well.
The final bit was touring the old farmhouse, which was quaint and cozy. Some folks picked up the recipe for the scones as well as cutters for few Euros.
We piled back into the coach. Later numerous passengers would tell me that this was their favorite part of the journey! On we went, through the Burren, which fascinated me. It is uncovered limestone rock cut into square wedges. In some places, vegetation has covered up the stones, as well as other historical structures. Dave declared they found things all the time in the Burren that had disappeared many years ago.Very mysterious! As we approached the coast, we passed through a town called Lisdoonvarna. Its claim to fame was that every September they had a matchmaking festival. Dave rambled on about the history but never did tell us what the present day festivities entailed – was there a present day matchmaker who would match you up if you came at the preordained time?!
From there, we soon reached the Cliffs of Moher. I’d been here before in the mid-1990s. Then, you could sit right next to the edge of the cliffs. Now there were all kinds of warnings and a wall. Of course, some people stepped over it and stood next to the edge anyway. With the wind, I would find it foolhardy to get too close. Though I did find one spot where I felt more confident in getting a photo op!
One of several warning signs
We walked back down to the parking lot area, which was much gustier than on the cliff itself! We witnessed several frail older women with walkers falling over and needing a hand up! We had a look at some of the shops built into the hillside and grabbed sandwiches in the cafe to eat on the bus.
And on we rode. As we drove past Limerick, Dave recited a limerick and announced that we would be having a contest for best limerick. We would have to turn our creations over to him before we left Killarney, which we were on our way to. But first we stopped at Adare to stretch our legs and take a look at a dovecote, which was part of a monastery. Dave asked why they might have kept doves. I responded, “To send messages.” He returned with, “Nice idea, but they were kept to be eaten.” Ah. We also could go into the church and see across the street some of the nice thatched houses Adare is known for, although some of the roofs had burned in recent times.
In another hour, and after lots of Dave’s meanderings, which made for excellent napping fodder, along with the lulling motion of the bus, we finally arrived in Killarney. I was one of the first people to check in and make my way down an incredibly long hallway that then turned right and there finally was my room. Whew! The staff of Killarney Towers had been sweet to me and given me a bottle of white wine and some mineral water and chocolate mints! I went out the wrong door and down the stairs out to the streets to find I had come out at the BACK of the hotel! I wandered in and out of shops for a while until I met up with Lisa and we made our way back together to the hotel. But first, I had a taste of Murphy’s ice cream which was very rich and creamy!
The group met up at 7pm for dinner, which was a buffet. I was in line to get some hot food, and there was a server who helped someone in front of me. When it was my turn and I asked him for something, he told me I could serve myself. Hmmm! My favorites were the roast beef and pate on a crostini – had two of those – mmmm!
Later, I went out to a pub and met up with some people from the tour. We chatted for a while, then left and ended up at another pub- Murphy’s. There was a lively session there and even more tour participants. It was like our own private party. Finally, I decided to make my way back to the hotel. I checked into the hotel pub briefly and then made my way down the maze of a hallway to catch my nightly zzzs.