Next morning, after having gone to bed before 8 p.m., we’re awake around 5 a.m. and I’m restless to do some writing. Despite creeping stealthily down the hallway and through the door into the dining room, where our computers are resting, I make one small noise and it seems that almost instantly Sheila’s face pokes around the doorway and queries as to my well being. “No, everything’s fine”, I assure her, feeling guilty about having woken her, but it seems hardly any time at all before Lorraine’s in the room as well and Sheila has a cup of tea made.
We’re delving into yesterday’s photo production and the results are pleasing, leaving us with pictorial memories that will bring pleasure for years, but we still find it hard to come to terms with the fact that when 7 a.m. rolls around there’s still no evidence that the sun might return for another day.
Still, after breakfast, while Lorraine’s packing her suitcase, I escape outside and, for the first time, pull my birding lens out of its bag and record some of the avian species that abound around the farmyards. No sooner do I start than I regret not having done it sooner and, not long after that, I’m summoned back inside to finish my packing so we can be gone.
The Skoda fires up and we bid Sheila farewell, wondering just how much longer she can keep running this rustic place, such a treasure for nature lovers though not for Lorraine who down marked it severely for the overcooked dinner we were served the first night, the smallness of the rooms and bed and the tiny bathroom area with a toilet that croaked for several minutes after you used it whereas I was bug-eyed just looking at the panoramic view out the window and the sheep wandering right by; everything else didn’t matter much.
We climb over the Gap for the last time and, despite Lorraine’s focus on moving on, I insist on taking a last picture or two because there’s fog in the valley floor and it looks magic as the sun caresses the top of the mist and highlights the colours of the slopes. Over the crest and down the other side there’s no direct light at all and I manage to stop a couple of times more. Lorraine actually gets out at one and takes her best picture of the trip so far, one of a stone bridge and the water beneath that you can see through all the way to the bottom where the green growth is so clear you’d almost swear the water wasn’t there.
Further down I get a shot of a derelict building that I’d missed the day before and find much satisfaction in the result but, we’re on our way to Adare, a town of promise and the prospect of a castle visit. Lorraine’s so excited she falls asleep for half an hour and wakes just in time to enjoy the arrival into this chocolate box top place where almost every building is a picture in itself.
We call at the local tourist office and the abrupt girl manning it tells us brusquely that the castle isn’t open because it’s off season. I’m in shock. Initially because it is closed and secondly because when we’d visited Muckross Castle the day before there were hundreds of tourists. However, she doesn’t care and immediately jumps back on her computer, obviously annoyed at the intrusion on her life while we are left standing wondering what to do next.
She had given us instructions on how to view the attraction from the road so we followed those which took us past so many thatched roofs we were entranced. Built by Lord Dunraven in the 1820s they are a noted tourist attraction these days though three were, sadly, burnt in 2015.
The town only became an earldom in 1822 and, when the 7th Earl died in 2011, the title went with him. The Dunravens were responsible for much of the eye-catching architecture and town layout you see today.
In 1756 John Wesley preached to the people of Adare from under an ash tree near the Franciscan Friary but the tree died around 1860. Today a stone marks the site where this tree stood and the Methodists hold a Field Meeting here in June each year.
Further down the road we chanced upon a local school that was built upon the remains of a 14th century Augustinian Abbey, colloquially known as the “Black Abbey” because the monks wore black habits. The school itself celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2014.
We chanced our arm and walked in and managed to see some interesting stuff like the cloister and some in-memoriam tablets from the 19th century but couldn’t go further because the rest was taken up by the school.
Then we crossed the bridge over the river Maigue, somewhat tentatively I should add as there is no walkway, just two traffic lanes and when trucks come past on this busy highway it tends to be unnerving. Here is the best view of Desmond Castle, a 12th century structure trashed by Cromwell on his destructive visit to Ireland around 1657. Elsewhere in the vast grounds there is an impressive manor house, one of those “if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it” types. Apparently the interior is stunning if a little dated in a couple of areas.
We turned around and headed back to the village and the Dunraven thatched cottages that give the village such a magnetic attraction. En route we pause for five minutes in the local park with its avenue of mature trees and streamlet running by. Is there nothing in this place that isn’t beautiful?
There’s barely time for a cuppa, watching eye-popping farm machinery go by that would require an escort in Australia and admiring the delightful colours of the business facades. Such a change from modern boring shopping centres back home.
Oh sweet Adare, Oh lovely vale
Oh soft retreat of sylvan splendour
Nor summer sun nor morning gale
E’er hailed a scene more softly tender
Gerald Griffin 1803-1840