The trip was unbelievably wonderful, with visits to Sunny Meadow Farm (an impressive operation run by my friend Dermot O'Mara); farmers' markets in Mountshannon (organized by my friend Molly Lynch O'Mara) and Dingle; cheesemakers in East Galway and Dingle (okay, I just realized that I have lots of pictures of goats—I only posted a few!); went for a luxurious soak at the bog spa in Clara, Co. Offaly; walked out onto Faddan More Bog in Tipperary, where the 9th-century Faddan More Psalter was discovered in 2006; and stopped by the National Museum of Ireland, where I had a great chat with Eamonn Kelly, the Keeper of Antiquities. All very useful and enlightening!
I also had the pleasure of meeting Eileen and Tim Collins in Dingle. Eileen and her family run Kirrary House B&B and Scuird Archaeological Tours in Dingle, both frequented by our friends Sherry and Don Ladig. They hit it off so well that Sherry came home the last time and penned an air for Eileen, which Paddy and his group O'Rourke's Feast played at their February 4 concert. I had the honor of playing a short video from the concert for Eileen and Tim, which was exciting.
I also spent a lot of time dashing around to ancient sites with my delightful Aunt Betty, who proved to be a most congenial traveling companion. We found neolithic cemeteries, court tombs, crannogs, ringforts and places where the little people might live, as well as the entrance to the Otherworld (it's near Rathcroghan in County Roscommon—who knew?)
And did I mention the food? I love eating like France in Ireland, and we managed very well, finding artisan cheesemakers in Galway and Kerry (even French-style paté in Dingle), and feasting on homemade breads and home-grown vegetables from farms and markets.
I also sussed out a few of the places we'll be staying on the tour in September, including Cassidy's Hotel in Dublin, the Kilronan Castle Hotel in Roscommon, and the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon, all very comfortable places. Thanks to Mary Pat Flanagan and everyone at CIE Tours for their help in making arrangements.
Many, many thanks, also to the friends whose hospitality buoyed us along the way—Jody and Sean Henry in Portumna, and Sean and Mary O'Driscoll in Cork. Margaret and Brian McGrath also gave us a fine welcome at Riverside Lodge outside Kilfenora in County Clare. Margaret made some fabulous brown bread and the MOST delicious Guinness cake, and Brian showed us around to monuments not many people ever get to see in the Burren. Of course, we had to climb over several stone walls and get up close and personal with some nervous cattle, but that's why we were there!