Ireland: Shannon Cruise, Dublin Walkabout, and Farewell Dinner

On the last day of our Best of Ireland Trafalgar Tour, Handsome and I packed dirty laundry in our suitcases. We also packed up mementos. With thirty euros left to spend, we boarded the bus for the day’s travel. Our guide, Ann, and our faithful driver, Pat, herded us into our assigned seats. We headed off toward Shannon, which in Gaelic is Sionainn.

By our eighth day together, our tour group has swapped names and stories. Two couples celebrated anniversaries. Bel had a birthday. Many in our group are retired. Handsome has told them how much he wishes he was retired. A few have asked him medical questions. Some have learned that I’m an author and asked for business cards.

Gar and Ruth will spend more time in Ireland thanks to a conference. They are paleobotanists and university professors.

Professors of paleobotany were on the tour.

Nancy and Earl shared our amusement and confusion over how to operate the showers and the lights in the rooms. In some of the hotels, the lights will not go on unless the room key is inserted into a slot on the wall. As for the shower controls, well, one of the hotels offered instructions.

Tub and shower instructions.

Ann taught us the meaning of craic as an acronym.

  • C = coel (music)
  • R = rince (dance)
  • A = amhran (song)
  • I = is (and)
  • C = comhra (conversation)

We have done our best. Because of the spotty WiFi, people pulled their faces from devices and socialized. It was lovely and refreshing.

On the Shannon River Cruise, I learned that Richard from Texas was adopted. Thanks to using one of the popular DNA test kits, like Ancestry and Me, he discovered half-siblings he didn’t know existed. Adopted young, he has been on a journey to reconnect with lost family. He approached me to chat because he wanted to discuss how to write his story to share with his family. So, during my recess from writing, I am again reminded that stories are everywhere. Next month, I resume writing. These few weeks off have energized me.

Shannon River Cruise.

Our driver, Pat, delivered our luggage to the hotel every day while we visited castles and villages.

Our guide, Ann, said that 1% of all road taxes goes for artwork, such as sculptures on the roadways. We saw a bronze elk, orange triangular sails, multi-colored silhouettes of horses and cows and lamb and deer, and a metal Chieftan on horseback. The Chieftan reminded me of a character from an HBO series called The Game of Thrones. The sculpture reminded me of The Night King. Oh, and when we passed the Aryn Islands, I thought Ann was calling them the Iron Islands. The map corrected me.

When the bus dropped us off for time in Dublin, Handsome and I marched straight to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. The line was about sixty deep, but we were inside in fifteen minutes. Cameras, flash or no flash, are not permitted in the room where the Book of Kells lies open beneath the protective glass. The vibrant golds, greens, blues, and reds are astounding. Preserved so long, this precious manuscript deserves preservation. Scripture comes alive through the illustrations and artistic calligraphy.

An illustration from the Book of Kells, courtesy of Trinity College.

Above the viewing room is the Latin library collection. Someone mentioned that the room was used in a Star Wars film. Display cases in the middle of the chamber show different types of damage to books with examples: humidity, rodents, vandalism, accident, and fire.

Trinity College in Dublin.

Trinity College.

The Trinity College library where the Book of Kells is housed.

Trinity College Library. These volumes are in Latin.

Trinity College.

The farewell dinner gave us time to reflect on the tour and trade photos. I taught one lady how to use iPhone’s airdrop feature. Those who got to know Heather, traveling solo from South Africa, urged her to move out of South Africa because of the increasing violence against whites. White farmers are being driven off their property; their families were beaten and killed. She said she is seriously considering moving to England. I pray she does.

Best of Ireland tour group.

The tour group was made up of Americans, Australians, a South African, and Canadians. It was a joy to explore Ireland with them.

Recommended reading on Ireland:

  • Trinity by Leon Uris
  • Seek the Fair Land by Walter Macken
  • Light a Penny Candle by Maev Binchy
  • The Big Wind by Cecil Woodham
  • and the poetry of W.B. Yeats.

May your neighbors respect you, trouble neglect you, the angels protect you, and heaven accept you.

Ireland: Knock Shrine, Castle Donegal, and Sligo

On our Best of Ireland Trafalgar Tour, we began the day by driving to Knock. And yes, knock-knock jokes raged through the bus.

At the Marian Shrine in Knock, fourteen witnesses saw an apparition of Mary. The vision lasted two hours in the pouring rain outside the back wall of the cathedral, behind the altar. A glass enclosure was built to allow worshippers to pray behind the cathedral.

Marian Shrine at the cathedral in Knock.

This is the front of the cathedral.

Inside the cathedral at Knock.

Handsome pauses by a wall made of stone and coral.

We stopped at Drumcliff to see Yeat’s tombstone and the cathedral.

Yeats headstone at Drumcliff.

Inside the cathedral at Drumcliff.

The cathedral at Drumcliff.

We stopped at Donegal for shopping and lunch. Castle Donegal is a planter castle. Castle Donegal in Gaelic is Caisleán Dhún na nGall. We didn’t have time to climb around this castle, so we grabbed lunch instead.

Donegal Castle.

The tide was out in Donegal.

The town of Sligo, which is Sligeach in Gaelic, was built around a ring fort. It is an active shipping port. A Neolithic tomb at Carrowmore, near Sligo, at the top of Knocknarea hill is said to be the burial place of Queen Medb, or Maeve. She is the warrior queen of Connacht in Celtic mythology. Fifty-percent of Europe’s stone age art is in Ireland. The bogs preserve artifacts. This place is an archeologist’s dream. To see more about ancient ruins, click here.

Ancient stone walls mark property lines.

The lump at the top of the hill is the burial site of Queen Maeve.

Giant windmills dotted the hills.


The Clayton Hotel in Sligo looks like a castle on the outside. We stayed there overnight.

The Clayton Hotel in Sligo.

The Clayton Hotel in Sligo.

We elected to go on the optional Sligo scenic drive and dinner and we were very pleased we did. The drive took us closer to a castle as seen from the shore. We saw the harbor where the IRA bomb killed Lord Mountbatten and members of his family. We dined at Harrison’s Bar and Restaurant. An amazing meal.

A lovely castle near Sligo.

The harbor where Lord Mountbatten and his family’s boat launched before being blown up by an IRA bomb.

The owner of Harrison’s Bar and Restaurant greeted our group.

Thus, we collapse at the end of our day. We have one day left of our Best of Ireland Trafalgar Tour.