It’s our 3rd Xmas in Ireland but the first one without Covid restrictions so we were determined to make the most of it & am sure as you’ll see from this blog we certainly did!
s you will have seen us mention in previous blogs mum was working at the Irish Center Parcs this winter. She initially wasn’t going to be doing a 2nd job across winter as we hoped to be cruising but as soon as she found out that the canal was closed she snapped this position up. Just as we think she can’t get any more eccentric she goes & finds herself a job working as an Xmas ELF!! Her name was Elf Lollipop. She was based in the fabulous winter wonderland section of Center Parcs helping Santa in his grotto. Duties ranged from elf playtime on the path approaching Santa’s workshop to meeting & greeting families at the door or in Santa’s clock room to manning the shop or accompanying families inside the actual grotto & handing presents out. She originally signed up just for 2 days a week but ended up working quite a few extra days. It was really hard work as you were on your feet all day being naughty & mischievous but mum did enjoy the perks of being able to use the swimming pool & spa for free. Mum also got to make lots of new friends & meet new people which was the main aim of the job.
During this time we had a very cold spell in fact the coldest we’ve known during our ten years living aboard. It dropped down to -9 degrees in Longford. Although the boat was nice & warm Mum wasn’t impressed having to de-ice Toddy on the mornings she was going into work. It didn’t actually snow in Longford but the frost was that had it almost looked like it had & the canal harbour froze solid.
Our first winter event was at Belvedere House & Gardens near Mullingar. Mum had bought the tickets ages ago thinking she’d be moored nearby but it was only about a 45 min drive in Toddy. As it was a freezing cold night we were left at home in front of the fire & mum ventured out alone. The event was Land of Lights & mum got to follow an illuminated trail around Belvedere Gardens. She hopes to return in daylight to see the gardens in the future.
Next was Palmerstown House Drive through Christmas but this one wasn’t so impressive.
That evening mum was off to the Sallins Liveaboards Xmas Party at the stunning Westgrove Hotel at Clane. Mum loved catching up with everyone & it was such a fabulous evening.
We found a great parking spot for Toddy just opposite the hotel by Clane Friary so we didn’t have to drive home.
The next day we set off to do something that mum had had her eye on since she first arrived in Ireland – The Nenagh Xmas Tractor Parade. A tractor run is about making money for charity, and is quite a sight for anyone waiting along the route as they catch a range of vintage and modern-day illuminated tractors driving by.
The parade was fabulous & we finished the evening off by having a takeaway in Toddy while the traffic queues subsided. Then we drove to park up in the pitch dark at at spot at Youghal Quay on the shores of Lough Derg, We couldn’t see anything at night but we woke up to a nice view.
As Xmas approached mum did her last shift as Elf Lollipop & we packed Toddy up & headed away on our Xmas break. We had a cottage booked at Castleisland but we broke up the journey visiting Wendy & Fergal then Susie & Liam all moored at Portumna. Continuing our route we got a mega surprise when we stopped on the outskirts of Limerick & picked a passenger up. It was none other than auntie Sally who we haven’t seen since we moved to Ireland!! We continued on our way the 4 of us & checked into Julie’s cottage on the outskirts of Castleisland. We’d chosen that spot so we could explore Dingle which we’d not been to yet & to revisit parts of Kerry.
As we normally arrange our cottage had a lovely open fire although mum was miffed to discover she’d misread the info & it didn’t have a bath!
On our first day Xmas Eve we had a more leisurely day & we’d all been travelling a lot the day before plus it was very very wet so mum & auntie Sally just had a look round the nearby town of Killorglin. Killorglin had been in the news a lot last year as they have a Killorglin Puck Fair where a goat is the centrepiece of the festival but last year the goat had to be removed as the weather was s hot. Representing King Puck is a proud bronze billy which stands as an eternal symbol of Ireland’s oldest festival, where a goat is made king.
For three days in August, a goat is crowned king of Killorglin and reigns over a street party where people trade cattle and sell wares. Puck Fair is the oldest festival in Ireland and coincides with the Gaelic celebration of Lughnasa. It is so old that academics disagree about exactly when the fair started and a number of conflicting origin stories have been handed down through the years. Puck Fair first officially appears in the written historical record in 1613, but the one thing scholars do agree on is that the fair would have been in existence well before that date, perhaps even originating in the pre-Christian era.
Xmas day was spent in the cottage in front of our roaring open fire & auntie Sally cooked a marvellous Xmas dinner which we got a portion of yum yum. We got lots of edible Xmas presents & mum bought us a toy elf each. The nose on Cosmo’s elf didn’t last very long!!
Boxing Day or St Stephens Day as it is in Ireland we were back at the exploring as mum had her heart set on turkey sandwiches & hot soup while parked up somewhere picturesque with a view & the lady who owned the cottage had told us about a special St Stephens Day festival in Dingle which we wanted to check out. First stop was the stunning Inch Beach for walkies & we managed to avoid the rain which became a rarity on this holiday!
Then it was off to dinge to get parked before the crowds arrived. Dingle is well know for Fungie the Dingle dolphin who sadly now is assumed to have died as he’s not been seen for so long. In 1984, Paddy Ferriter, the Dingle Harbour lighthouse keeper, first began watching a lone wild dolphin escort the town’s fishing boats to and from port. By August of that year, local Ministry of Marine manager Kevin Flannery was able to officially record the dolphin as a “permanent” resident of the entrance channel and self-appointed “pilot” of the fleet. The friendly dolphin Fungie who swims playfully alongside the boats in Dingle Harbour has been immortalised in a bronze statue at the harbour front close to Dingle Pier. American sculptor and environmentalist James ‘Bud’ Bottoms (1928 – 2018) created this much loved bronze sculpture, as Dingle town’s Millennium project.
Today we managed to catch the Dingle Wrens Day which I hadn’t heard of before. On St. Stephen’s Day , December 26th, crowds of people take to the roads in various parts of Ireland, dressed in motley clothing, wearing masks or straw suits and accompanied by musicians – remembering a festival with antecedents that long predate Christmas. The Wren – sometimes pronounced and written, wran – was once common all over Ireland. In some areas, the Wrenboys are called Mummers and the festival has a strong English influence, incorporating characters like St. George.
Lá an Dreolín, or Wrens Day, is an Irish tradition that takes place on the 26th of December each year. The tradition of Lá an Dreoilín, is thriving in the town of Dingle, with residents of the town taking part in a number of Wren groups, parading around the town, while hundreds line the streets and join in the festivities. Traditionally musicians would march wearing straw ‘rigs’, and other accessories made of straw, but now, anything goes! From glitz and glam, to the downright bizzare, as each street in Dingle town wear colours indicative of the Wren they represent. The Green and Gold Wren HQ is in O’Flaherty’s Pub; among their ranks is legendary broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh. We managed to watch the Green & Gold parade after a quick drink in O’Flahertys.
As the festival goes on all day & well into the night we then escaped to the more peaceful route of Slea Head. Mum achieved her goal of hot soup & turkey sandwiches with a view & we drove around the stunning scenery of Slea Head before returning to the cottage.
Next day we set off for another big day to drive part of the Kerry Ring. Unfortunately a warning light came on on Toddy’s dashboard which after some research later we discovered meant he needed the brake fluid topping up. We managed to find a Halfords open in Tralee & had a look around Tralee instead. Tralee is famous for the song Rose of Tralee.
The Rose of Tralee is a nineteenth century Irish ballad about a woman called Mary, who because of her beauty was called The Rose of Tralee. The song tells the tale of a doomed love affair between Tralee merchant William Mulchinock and kitchen maid Mary O’Connor in the 19th Century. William’s family were wealthy brogue and linen merchants, Mary was the daughter of a poor brogue maker and lived with her family in a thatched cottage on Brogue Lane in the middle of Tralee. At 17 Mary got a job as a kitchen maid in the grand Mulchinock family home, West Villa and when William met her it was love at first sight. William and Mary would meet secretly each day by the well in the grounds of West Villa and sometimes they would stroll together up Lover’s Lane and go to the dance at Clahane. One night under a pale moon William proposed to Mary. But William’s family deeply disapproved of his marriage to a broguemakers daughter. Although Mary loved William, she declined his proposal as she didn’t want him to be disowned by his family. William wrote the song to try and convince her to marry him, but she still refused. Heart broken William left the country only to return to Tralee six years later with Ireland in the midst of the Great Famine. William was intent on seeing Mary again only to find that she had died from tuberculosis.
The Rose of Tralee festival had been inspired by the ballad. The Rose of Tralee is held in the Co. Kerry town of Tralee each August and has evolved into much more than a simple beauty pageant. From its humble beginnings in 1959, when the festival budget was just £750, the Rose Of Tralee has emerged as one of the most important events in the Irish social calendar, second only to St Patrick’s Day for its colour, fervour and popularity. The highlight of the Festival is the hugely popular Festival Fashion Show as the Roses model the latest collections from Ireland’s top designers.
The next day we set off again on our Ring of Kerry exploration. Firstly we took in Kerry Cliffs which mum was pleased to visit as last time we were there they were closed due to covid. It was very very windy & we all laughed when auntie Sally’s bobble hat blew off her head!
Next we went down to Portmagee for lunch & a quick drive over the Valentia Island before winding our way home. We had stayed at a cottage at Portmagee during the first Xmas lockdown in 2020
On the way back we stopped at The Red Fox pub & Kerry Bog Museum & were surprised to find this slightly hidden tourist attraction.
Our final day in this area was a biggie. We spent the day firstly exploring Killarney National Park. Starting with a soggy walk to Torc Waterfall. At least there was plenty of water to see cascading down. Torc Waterfall is a 20 metres high, 110 metres long cascade waterfall formed by the Owengarriff River as it drains from the Devil’s Punchbowl corrie lake at Mangerton Mountain. The waterfall, which lies at the base of Torc Mountain, in the Killarney National Park, is 4.3 miles from Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland.
Killarney National Park, Ireland’s oldest National Park is located in Killarney, all the while adjacent to the town. Killarney is also Ireland’s Oldest National Park, formed in 1932 when Senator Arthur Vincent and his family entrusted Muckross House & Estate into the care of the Irish State. Now the focal point for many visitors to Killarney, Muckross House & Gardens has been entertaining as a 19th century mansion, containing all original pieces of furniture, artwork, trophies and many other furnishings from that period. The Park is currently managed jointly by the National Parks & Wildlife Services and the Trustees of Muckross House, Killarney. Killarney National Park was deemed a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981 due to the quality and high ecological diversity, extensive habitats and range of species found that in the park, some of which are quite rare.
We drove around Killarney National Park taking in a few view points & stopped for lunch at the stunning Ladies View. Back in 1861, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert came to visit the region by horse and carriage, accompanied by her ladies-in-waiting. While on their way to Muckross House, where they were staying as guests, the Queen and her companions decided to stop for a picnic. It’s said that the group were so stricken by the view, that it was named after them. We were lucky enough not only to get the only open table upstairs in the verandah at the cafe but also to be treated to a rainbow whilst we were there.
Next it was onto Killarney town as we had something special planned which we needed carrots for!
No visit to Killarney would be complete without taking a Jaunting Car Tour of Killarney National Park. Renowned for their wit and charming storytelling, a local jarvey will guide you through the park on a horse drawn cart regaling you with local history, stories of old and Irish legends. The Jaunting Car is an absolutely unique way of touring the National Park, Now as it was Christmas the Jaunting cars are transformed into sleighs & we had as sleigh ride booked to the nearby Ross Castle ably transported by Ginger our horse who enjoyed her carrots. Ross Castle perches in an inlet of Lough Leane. It is likely that the Irish chieftain O’Donoghue Mór built it in the fifteenth century. Legend has it that O’Donoghue still slumbers under the waters of the lake. Every seven years, on the first morning of May, he rises on his magnificent white horse. If you manage to catch a glimpse of him you will enjoy good fortune for the rest of your life.
So all too soon our final day at Julie’s cottage dawned but our adventure didn’t finish here oh no. We set off across country bound for a couple of days in Dublin for New Year. En route we called in at a couple of our previous mooring spots to show Auntie Sally.
We arrived at our airbnb accommodation mid afternoon. It was an ecelctic room in an eclectic cottage at Clontarf on the outskirts of Dublin. It was doggie friendly & a much better price than the extortionate prices in central Dublin. We literally checked in had a quick drink then were off out again. Negotiating the Dart & the Luas then a walk brought us up to Dublin Zoo. Tonight we had the absolutely spectacular Wild Lights booked.
We then had a late tea in the Brazen Head Dublins oldest pub & attempted & have up at getting into a rammed pub at Temple Bar!
The next day to give Sally a whistlestop tour of Dublin we did the Hop On Hop Off bus before returning back to our airbnb to prepare for the big night our for New Years Eve. We had tickets for the big outdoor party with Lyra & Gavin James playing & Westlife headlining. It was a fabulous show & certainly we’ll remember New Years Eve 2022. Unfortunately all the buses home were packed so we ended up walking all the way in just under an hour. Mum ended up with blisters on her blisters!!
All too soon our holiday was over & auntie Sally was boarding her flight back to the UK as we drove back across country to the good ship Golden Boyz & a bit of a rest before the next adventure. Well we’re having a rest mum is frantically doing washing & filling the boat with water & diesel unpacking & packing again while we snooze on the settee!
So to all our blog readers we hope you’ve had a absolutely wooferful Xmas & we wish a furry fun filled 2023.