Waterford City was founded by Viking traders in 914 and it has an exciting medieval flavour and riverside bustle.
The Waterford Museum of Treasures tells the 1000-year-story of Waterford from the treasures of Viking Waterford at Reginald's Tower, the oldest civic urban building in Ireland, to the story of Georgian Waterford at the Bishop's Palace from 1700 to 1970.
Waterford City is the home of Waterford Crystal, a lifestyle product of exquisite craftsmanship. A visit to the House of Crystal Visitor Centre includes an opportunity to choose from the world's largest selection of Waterford Crystal. The factory tour offers first hand access to all areas of traditional crystal production.
The city has a strong maritime tradition and an estimated 500,000 people enjoyed the colourful spectacle of the 2011 Tall Ships Race and festival of music and culture in the city and along the river Suir Estuary to Dunmore East. I was in Waterford for the Tall Ships Festival on tour and it was brilliant!
These days the produce on sale is quite diverse. 60 varieties of apples are grown on the farm, and about 15 types are available in the farm shop depending on when they ripen. Four varieties of strawberries, three of raspberry, four of cherry, three types of plums, and two pears compliment the range in the farm shop, again depending on when they ripen. Some of the strawberries are available as pick-your-own in the middle of summer.
In addition, a range of juices have been made on the farm since 1995. There is apple juice, mixtures including strawberry, raspberry, and blackcurrant juices, and some sparkling juices also. These are all made using fruits grown right there. Fruits from the farm are also used to make jams, jelly and cider vinegar.
Attractions for tourists include shore and lake fishing, sailing and water sports, bird watching and countless sites of historical interest and importance. Harbour Boat trips and sea angling excursions are also available. Fota House, Gardens and Wildlife Park are located on the road to Cobh. The Titanic Trail walking tour departs daily throughout the year. The Queenstown Story Heritage centre is located in the Victorian Railway station near the town centre and next to the Cobh Cruise Liner Terminal.
We left for Cork at 10am. Only 19 of the group decided that they would come with me to Cork but many had already made me aware of their intention to return to Cobh by train along the very scenic railway.
Cork City is Ireland's third city (after Dublin and Belfast) and has always been an important seaport. It began on an island in the swampy estuary of the River Lee (the name Corcaigh means a marsh), and gradually climbed up the steep banks on either side.
Today the river flows through Cork city in two main channels, so that you find yourself constantly crossing bridges and hence Cork City's coat of arms bears the motto 'A Safe Harbour for Ships'.
Some of the main streets are built over channels where ships nuzzled their anchor-chains a century ago. Along the South Mall, you will see large gateways at street level, under steps leading to a higher main door. These were once boathouses, when merchants arrived at their warehouses by water.
As the hilly streets go up and down, so do the voices of the citizens. They have a characteristic sing-song cadence, beloved of national comedians, and Corkonians are regarded as the most talkative of all the Irish.
It attracted the attention of the Viking sea-pirates who raided and burned the infant city, but returned in later years to settle and trade. The Anglo-Norman invasion in 1172 resulted in both the Danish lords and local McCarthy chiefs having to submit to Henry II, but Cork has always had a reputation for independence and stubborn resistance: it came to be known as "Rebel Cork".
The best way to see the city of Cork and sample the flavour of its life, is to walk. There is a signpost Walking Tour, so get the accompanying booklet and set off to explore the hilly streets and meet the people.
I left Cork at 3pm with only 8 people. Everyone else had caught the train. There was still time to explore a bit more of Cobh when we returned. I just enjoyed the peace and quiet on the roof terrace in the sun.
This evening we are all booked in for dinner at Gilbert's Restaurant in the middle of the town. Gilbert's is owned by the same family that we visited at the dairy farm yesterday. We had a very, very nice meal with lots of wine flowing and I ate far too much. We left the restaurant at 11pm. I went straight back to the hotel and to bed but I know that many wouldn't have made it past Kelly's Bar without calling in for a drink!
We were loading cases again this morning and moving on to our next port of call which, for me, is our most exciting stay of the week. We left at 10:30am after buying picnics for lunch and travelled further west, picking up the 'West Coast Scenic Route' to Kinsale, where we had a quick coffee stop for 45 mins.
From here we carried on along the scenic route to Timoleague. The scenery was outstanding and was made even more beautiful by the fact that it wasn't raining!
Timoleague is a picturesque village which is situated just 30 miles from Cork City on the Kinsale to Clonakilty coast road (the R600). Perched at the edge of a long sea inlet this friendly tourist village is dominated by the ruins of a 13th century Friary. The Friary was founded by the Franciscan order in 1240 A.D., on the site of a 6th century monastic settlement founded by Saint Molaga. The name Timoleague comes from the Irish for House of Molaga (Tigh Molaga).
In August each year the village hosts the Timoleague Festival. This ten day harvest festival sees the streets thronged with locals and tourists alike trying to catch a glimpse of the many street activities which are organised for the event. Live street music, pig racing and the fancy dress competitions are among the most popular of these activities. A large marquee is also erected on the village green during the festival with many big name acts performing during the ten day period.
We stopped for our picnic in Timoleague, next to the ruin of a Franciscan Friary on the river estuary.
After an hour we started on the road again. We finished driving the scenic route through Clonakilty. We followed the road through to Skibbereen where we turned off the main road for Baltimore. I drove onto the harbour pier where all the luggage was unloaded and everyone got on the little foot ferry for Sherkin Island. I went to find a quiet corner of the harbour to park the coach, then walked back to wait for the next ferry which wasn't for another 1 1/2hrs. I was now officially and legally on rest until Friday morning so while I was waiting, I went for a cheeky glass of wine in the pub! Baltimore is a very small place with 2 pubs and a little supermarket.
I got on to the ferry across to Sherkin Island at 4:45pm and had to walk from there to our hotel, The Islanders Rest. I met the owner, Mark, and was told I was staying in a house down the road with 3 other couples from our group and if I could wait for 15 mins he would give me a lift. A lot of our group had settled into their rooms and were now in the bar, where I was bought another drink!
Mark drove me up to the house where the others were already settled. It was a single carriageway road across the island with grass growing in the middle and Mark told me this was the main highway on the island! We arrived at the house which was a newly built, 5 bedroom detached house with the most glorious views looking out to Cape Clear Island. There was no sign of the others, they must have gone for a walk, so I took the opportunity to have a good look around the house and make sure I'd not been left with the duff room! All the rooms were lovely and mine had an en suite so I was happy.
I'd had a freshen up and got changed before the others got back and it wasn't long before Mark came to collect us again to take us back to the hotel for dinner. There were 7 of us in total at the house who all needed a lift back to the hotel so Mark turned up in his van and opened the back where he had put two chairs which he'd taken from the bar! So we had 2 ladies in the front, myself and Angela on the chairs and the three men had to perch where they could! It was quite a terrifying ride! The chairs were sliding all over the place and I had white knuckles by the time we got to the hotel!
Dinner was a shambles but the food was very nice and there was plenty of it. Mark had arranged for live music in the bar for us which was a great deal of fun. We were the last to leave at 1am because we had to wait for Mark to drop the musicians at the ferry before he could take us back. I really enjoyed the evening and I am soooo excited about tomorrow's activities. I just can't wait! I think I must have the best job in the world!
I woke up really early this morning after a good nights sleep. That's unlike me, especially on my day off. We were picked up for breakfast, another white knuckle ride, and found the service of breakfast to be equally as chaotic as at dinner the previous night! Nevertheless, we were in no hurry. After breakfast, there was the option of sightseeing boat trips or, for the men, going fishing. I opted to go fishing!
There were about 7 or 8 of us who went out, taken by Mark on his little 3 tonne boat. I drove the boat out towards open sea before heading east to Kedge Island which has been inhabited by a colony of Gannets.
We were rocking and rolling a bit with some big waves coming in but once we started fishing we didn't notice. The first hooks had only been in the water for a few minutes before we caught 3 fish on one line, all Pollock.
The first fish I caught was a poisonous Gurney fish which was quite quickly thrown back. Then I caught a tiddler which was thrown back. Then I had a really quiet time on my line for a while until I finally got a bite. He was fighting me and I told the boys I'd got a shark! I pulled him in and sure enough, he was looking like a champ! Still only Pollock but this one was going to be the winner so he was marked and put in the tub.
We moved around to the opposite side of the island where it was a lot more sheltered, hoping to find Mackeral. We were still catching just as well but still only Pollock. There were a lot more Gannets diving and we saw a dolphin. We tried to track it and chopped some fish ready to feed it and although we had all had a good sighting of him, he didn't want to play and avoided the boat and disappeared. Another of the islanders had seen a Minky Whale on this side of the island too. Unfortunately I didn't manage any photos.
After we'd given up on the dolphin, Mark took us back towards the hotel marina, completing a whole lap of the island. We were just approaching the marina when we spotted another boat just on its way out of the bay on a sightseeing trip with some of our group, so we raced them, got in front, turned sharply away splashing them and leaving them riding our waves! We all thought it was great fun, however no one on the other boat agreed! So for the second time we headed back to the marina, doing a few 'donuts' before we landed! Boys and their toys!
We took our catch up to the hotel where a lot of our group were gathered in the bar. They were impressed with what we'd caught. The fish were taken through to the chef where they were weighed to find out who had won. The winner was to be announced at dinner tonight in front of the whole group. The chef gave us a lesson in filleting fish before he fried it up for us.
Can't get any fresher than that! I stayed for a drink in the bar. One couple travelling with us are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary today so there was a surprise gathering for them accompanied by a few bottles of bubbly.
I was on a real high after this mornings shenanigans and I was keen to go and explore the island some more. Sherkin Island (from the Irish Inis Earcáin) lies southwest of County Cork alongside other islands of Roaringwater Bay. It has an average population of 100 people and measures 3 miles long by 1.5 miles wide (5 km by 3 km). The island has a primary school, two pubs with a hotel, B&B, community centre and a church.
Sherkin has its own special character. A West Cork anecdote has it that Sherkin's residents live off their art: island craft, paintings and book writing all inspired by Sherkins tranquil lifestyle. The busiest season starts with school summer holidays when people with young families visit the island. The busiest day of the year is a celebration of Sherkin Regatta, usually held on the 3rd weekend in July, but which is postponed to August if weather does not allow. On this day the island is crowded with sea rowers and their fans. Children's activities, music and food stalls are all part of this Sherkin fair.
Sherkin was once a busy island and had a population of around 1,000, which started diminishing during the Great Irish Famine in the mid-19th Century. Now the population is reduced and varies greatly between the summer and the winter months, with increases in summer as people return to holiday houses and tourists arrive. People from all over the globe discovered this secluded spot and consequently settled down here, these include: Americans, Australians, Canadians, Danish, French, Germans, British and Russians.
Killarney – Cill Airne – The Church of the Sloes. Recordings of human occupation in Killarney date from the Early Bronze Age, almost 4,000 years ago when copper was first mined at Ross Castle. In early Christian times, monastic settlements provide the main evidence of occupation in the area. The most important of these was the monastery on Innisfallen founded by St. Finian the Leper which was occupied for 850 years. The Annals of Innisfallen, written there in the 11th-13th centuries, are an invaluable source of information on the early history of Ireland.
Tourism in Killarney dates back to the mid 18th century, when Thomas, fourth Viscount Kenmare (Lord Kenmare), worked at attracting visitors and new residents to the town. A visit by Queen Victoria in 1861 gave the town huge international exposure.
Killarney was heavily involved in the Irish War of Independence. The entire county, had strong republican ties, and skirmishes with the British forces happened on a regular basis. One of the most notable events during the war was the Headford Ambush when the IRA attacked a railway train a few miles from town.
However, divisions among former colleagues were quick to develop following the truce and treaty, and Killarney, like many other areas, suffered in the rash of increasing atrocities during the Civil War which ended in 1923.
Killarney is a very special place indeed. Brimmed full of history, heritage, activities, and world class hospitality. Killarney is populated with enthusiastic and welcoming people and has over 150 years experience in welcoming guests. With Ireland's finest choice of Accommodation, Dining & Entertainment, Touring & Shopping Options, Sporting Activities galore and many nearby Blue Flag Beaches, all located in the midst of breathtaking and ever-changing beautiful landscapes.
St. Flannan's Cathedral, unique for its stone carving inscriptions is in Killaloe, while both villages host restaurants, galleries, pubs, and shops as well as a Sunday Farmers Market.
Killaloe/Ballina have all the amenities that you would expect to find in an Irish village, with a range of boutiques, health and wellness centres, historical sites, and a choice of superb hotels, B&B's and self-catering accommodations.
The harbour was once important for transporting goods, particularly slate from nearby mines. The present quay, built about 1780 is classified as being of Architectural, Archaeological and Technical interest but is now a leisure facility with a modern marina nearby. Cruisers are particularly attracted here by the local pubs, known for their food and music.