Doolin nestles between the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and the Aran Islands. Renowned as the traditional ("trad") music capital of Ireland, it's really just one street of old-style buildings. O'Connors is the main pub in town. We stayed with Darra and the rest of the Hughes family at Sea View House. They only had one night available for us, as they were leaving for the United States the next day. Better than nothing! Tom was able to go down to the pub to check out the music scene, while Sue slumbered on the blissfully soft bed. We left the next morning, headed on a quest for ... who knows. Tom was looking for a musical instrument to add to his collection. He was distracted by an establishment that offered Irish whiskeys for sale. Alas, it wasn't open for business that day. We continued with our journey.  

We were amused by some of the road signs we saw along the way.

Beneath the Burren are many caves, formed by meltwater under the limestone during the ice ages. The Aillwee cave is open to the public. The first thing one sees on the tour is a series of shallow excavated pits where (now extinct) European brown bears hibernated. We took a tour down the narrow passages, where we saw shallow depressions scraped by the bears. There were also some bear bones that had been found in the cave. It wasn't for the claustrophobic!

We lucked into the Burren crafts fair on our way. Handmade goats-milk soaps were our prize purchase. Guess what everyone got for Christmas that year.


We stopped for lunch in Kinvara, at the far southeastern edge of Galway Bay. The guidebook said that this was home to a number of Galway hookers. It turned out that this was a reference to the traditional sailing boats of the area.


In an effort to get a better look at the castle, Tom drove into the curb (or is that kerb?)-- thereby losing a hubcap. A helpful local retrieved it and brought it to us in the castle's parking lot.

We drove north into County Mayo, along Lough Corrib -- Ireland's longest lake. At the north end of the lough, we came to Ashford Castle. Tom napped in the car while Sue wandered around the grounds. We decided not to spend the night there, even with the special off-season rate of €299 per person (about $750.00 per night).


The castle had its own golf course. There was also a School of Falconry, available for guests.


The castle used to be owned by the Guinness family. Lots of famous people have stayed there, including the cast of the film "The Quet Man" in 1952 and Ronald Reagan in 1984.Pierce Brosnan had his wedding there in 2001.



Fuchsias aren't native to Ireland, but they were everywhere -- alongside just about every road and path that we traveled. The gardeners at Ashford Castle had gone crazy with fuchsias.

There were some dramatic views from the castle.

After Ashford Castle, we continued driving along the lough and then westish through what was billed as "Joyce's Country." The Maumturk Mountains were to our left, and beyond them were the Twelve Bens. At Leenane (An Líonán), we turned north to Westport. Leenane sits near the end of Ireland's only fjord, Killary Harbour.