Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round Ireland (2016-20)

Shannon to Ennis, the long way round

I had just touched down at Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland, following an Aer Lingus Regional flight from Edinburgh. Although I had been in Dublin three times since completing Part 1 of my Round Ireland adventure in April 2016, this was my first return to Shannon since that time. The original intention to resume my Round Ireland itinerary during 2017 had been thwarted by my decision to move house for the first time in 25 years. One year on from becoming a resident of Edinburgh's West End, I was now ready to pick up where I had left off.

I took possession of my latest rental car at the airport's Avis/Budget depot. With the exception of its colour - silver rather than brown - it was remarkably similar to the vehicle that I had used in the spring of 2016. The first section of today's lengthy drive was a short one: just 12km from the airport to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. Nevertheless, it had its moments. The car leaving the depot in front of me missed numerous opportunities to move onto the public road on this quiet Sunday morning, then repeatedly ran backwards at a T-junction with a slight incline, before finally going the wrong way round a roundabout to come face-to-face with a pair of tourist coaches proceeding in the opposite direction. Yikes!

Bunratty village is located just off the main road from Limerick to Ennis. That's right - as I drove into the village, I was aware that my first overnight stop of Part 2 was a mere 28km behind me, yet my deliberately circuitous route would probably take a good seven or eight hours to complete, including multiple stops. I easily located my more immediate objective, parked my newly acquired car and bought a combined ticket for the castle and so-called folk park. The latter was an attractive recreation of rural life in Ireland during the 19th century, featuring a complete village and an assortment of farm properties.

The 15th-century castle had fallen into ruin, but has been impressively restored. I enjoyed my self-guided tour, although I was relieved to be doing it at a time which didn't coincide with one of the advertised 'mock medieval banquets'.

Feeling fairly peckish but not yet desperate, I pressed on via the outskirts of Limerick to Foynes, on the south bank of the Shannon. (I had passed through this location, travelling in the opposite direction and without stopping, towards the end of Part 1 in 2016.) My objective here was the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum - and let's face it, that's probably not the snappiest name in the world! After grabbing a quick lunch on arrival, I made a fairly brisk visit to the museum, which celebrated the days when transatlantic air traffic was mainly handled by flying boats. And Foynes, in many ways the forerunner of Shannon Airport, was right in the thick of it. There was plenty of information to assimilate and memorabilia to look at, but the highlight was the opportunity to visit a full-size replica of a Boeing 314.

I also had a look at the 'Maritime' section, covering port activity at the one-time transport hub of Foynes. Time pressures meant that this part of my visit was necessarily short.

Next, I made for the Shannon Ferry at Tarbert and managed to catch the 1430 sailing. To my surprise and delight, it was free of charge! I pondered the fact that since landing in Co. Clare this morning and visiting the castle, I had briefly passed through both Co. Limerick and Co. Kerry. Crossing the Shannon and landing at Killimer would return me to Co. Clare. I had intended to stop at Kilrush, but in the event thought that it looked a little uninspiring. I therefore continued to Kilkee and had a look around there instead.

ABOVE: Taking the ferry to Killimer, Co. Clare
BELOW: A quick look around at Kilkee

I spent mid-afternoon taking the Loop Head scenic drive, visiting Kilbaha, Loop Head Lighthouse, Bridges of Ross and Carrigaholt, all of which was very pretty and featured single-track roads (with passing places) that reminded me of the more remote parts of my native Scotland. At one point, I even got caught up in the transfer of some cows from one field to another. I was mildly apprehensive about the fate of my near-spotless rental car when I saw the animals heading straight for me on the narrow road. I needn't have worried: not one of them so much as brushed against the side of my stationary car.

RIGHT: A brief, and apparently popular,  stop at Kilbaha
LEFT: End point of the Loop Head drive
RIGHT: Road congestion, but not as this city dweller knows it
RIGHT: Bridges of Ross scenic viewpoint BOTTOM ROW: My final stop was the village of Carrigaholt

By this stage, I was ready to call it a day and head for my hotel on the outskirts of Ennis, travelling via Ennistimon. At the end of a most enjoyable, near-circular tour, I wound up within a half-hour's (direct) drive of Shannon Airport, and the meandering nature of my chosen route didn't bother me one little bit!

Sun 09 Sep 2018

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