ESCAPE TO IRELAND - #06 – Adare and ride North

July 12, 2016  •  1 Comment

May/June 2016

ESCAPE TO IRELAND - #6 – Adare and ride North

Map of our route

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Every great trip starts with packing errors.  In the case of this trip I packed the wrong power adaptors.  Foolish me.  I just assumed that the plugs in Ireland were the same as the rest of Europe so packed those converters.  Oops, they are not the same.  The UK has their own (wouldn’t you know – maybe that’s why they’re leaving the EU).  This was not a problem in Clontarf Castle (Dublin) as this 4 star hotel had outlets for North American, European, and UK plugs.  In our Hotel near Powerscourt (and it seems everyplace we stayed in Ireland), the bathroom had a “shaver only” outlet – in fact in all the places that was the ONLY outlet in the bathroom - that used North American style plugs.  So I charged all my batteries in the bathroom but as this was somewhat awkward, and we were staying in Limerick the next night we decided to fix the problem.

The hotel in Limerick (low end of the midrange chain style hotels – not terrible but really needed some deep cleaning and updating) they had a loaner adaptor and were kind enough to point us to an electronics store about a half mile away that would have what we need.  So the next morning we made this our first stop.  This store is sort of like a Best Buy here in the states and conveniently enough they had what we needed. 

So, armed with a UK power adaptor off we went to Adare



Adare originated as a settlement at a crossing point on the River Maigue.  It is snuggled in a wooded setting among the rich quiet farmlands of the “Golden Vale” (whatever that means).  It is a model village dating from the time of the Norman Conquest.  For over 300 years it was home to the Earls of Dunraven (the Quin Family). 

Being not too far from Limerick, the strategic importance of the river crossing here prompted the Desmond family to build a castle to protect (and profit from) the crossing which is about a half mile from the current village.  Aided by the traffic jam at the crossing, in the Middle Ages Adare was mostly a market town.  However, it also was home to three monasteries as well as the “Adare Manor” (now a luxury hotel) built by the Earls of Dunraven.  This hotel is closed at the moment as they are adding another 3 dozen or so rooms so were not able to visit it.

At the present time Adare is a tourist town known for its authentic thatched roof cottages interspersed with historic stone buildings and ruins and is said to be one of Ireland’s prettiest villages.  In fact in 1976 it won first place in the “National Tidy Town” competition.  Now confess.  Has your home town every won a “Tidy Town” competition?  I bet not. 

As it turned out, the day we were there was a lovely, sunny, warm weekend day when they happened to be hosting a motorcycle convention of some sort.  So, the place was mobbed.  We got there around 10:00 am and nabbed one of the last 2 parking spaces in the public parking lot.  But, within an hour not only was the parking lot full but all the streets were totally clogged with bumper to bumper traffic extending as far as the eye could see in all directions. 

Starting at the visitor center in the middle of town, in one direction is the “downtown” where there is the requisite shops and pubs pretty much all of which are in a traditional style.  Across the street from the visitor center is a lovely city park including a small exhibit on the side of a small stream where the women of the village used to wash their clothes by pounding them on rocks and rinsing them in the stream.

Typical Pub in Downtown Adare

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Adare won the “Tidy Town” award in 1976

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Up the other way on main street is a row of very charming thatched roof houses (several of which have since been turned into restaurants and shops).  It seems that in June of 2015 one of them caught fire which destroyed the entire upper section of building.  They were able to keep the fire from spreading all the way down the row or to other historic buildings but the one that caught fire was heavily damaged.   As tourism is the main stock and trade of Adare, and the thatched roof cottages are one of the main attractions, the locals figured that it would all be rebuilt by the summer tourist season of 2016.  Well, Ireland is not without its bureaucracy or procrastination and so far (June 2016) no work has started.  Perhaps things are going on in some office someplace but certainly not at the site.  Anyway, this was a bit of a disappointment not to see them all, but we were quite charmed with the ones remaining.

Thatched roof home on the main street

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Thatched roof store

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Row of thatched roof buildings

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More Thatched Roof Buildings

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Across the street from several of the thatched cottages is a complex of religious buildings.  It’s hard to know what is what, but as far as I can tell there is The Holy Trinity Church that was built on the site of the Trinitarian Abbey – or perhaps was part of the abbey at one time.  But there’s also a sign for a Trinitarian Monastery which may be the same thing as the Abbey.  Anyway, these buildings have been kept up for the most part and are still in use although the brochure says there’s a section that is pretty much still in ruins.  The church was founded in 1230 and many changes and improvements have been made along the way, with more in the works


Holy Trinity Church

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Trinitarian Abbey (I love the red door)

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Door on the Church

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Desmond Castle was built by the Earl of Desmond c. 1500.  It is a fine example of an urban tower house and consists of a three story keep with storehouses at the rear.  Originally built as a Customs house, the castle also served as a prison in the 18th century (it is known locally as the French Prison) an ordinance store during the Battle of Kinsale (1601) and as a workhouse during the Great Famine. By the early decades of the 20th Century Desmond castle had fallen into decay. It was declared a National Monument in 1938. 

Today it is in a state of arrested decay.  Little has been restored, but all the debris from the crumbled walls and buildings have been removed to keep folks from falling over them and in a few places they’ve excavated to expose earlier walls and foundations.  In a few places, modern ramps or stairs have been added to allow access to varying portions of the site.  Some are where wooden draw bridges had been or to span a place where the wooden floor is no longer there.  But you can still get a good sense of the place.

Touring this castle is very nice.  It is about a half mile from town, just over an automobile bridge that crosses the River Maigue.  This is the main road into town from Limerick and even on light days has quite a bit of traffic.  The bridge itself though is very narrow, just wide enough for two small trucks to squeeze past each other and there is no shoulder or place to walk except in the traffic lanes.  So, in order to keep people from walking across the bridge, the only access to the castle or its grounds is by formal tour.  You sign up and catch a tour bus in the town and then a tour guide shows you around the place.  This is very nice as there aren’t hordes of other people milling about when you’re in the castle, just your group of 15 or so.  This makes getting clean photographs much easier.  During the tour inside the castle, when we stopped for the guide to give us some history, I was pretty free to wander around that part of the castle to look for photo opportunities. 

The tour guide was quite knowledgeable and had plenty of stories about life in the castle.  For example how when they had visitors for lavish banquets, the visitor’s horses were placed on the first floor of the banquet hall wing where the guests were on the 2nd floor, right about the horses.  This made for an odd mix of aromas between the freshly cooked food and the horses doing what horses do.  Speaking of which, one can still see the gutters on that first floor that allowed the horse pee to flow over to a hole in the wall and fall into the river.  This spot in the river was about 20 to 40 ft. from the kitchen where they used buckets to get water from the river to cook with.  Yummy.   At that time you always made sure your water intake was upstream from the castle’s outflow into the river.  But, of course, your water intake was probably downstream from someone else’s castle.

Castle and bridge to town from across river

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4 story quarters of the ruling family from outer courtyard

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Fortified entrance, inner Moat and lord’s living quarters.  Kitchen and Banquette hall are on left

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Windows in Kitchen area looking over river toward town

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Dungeon.  Much of the stone was limestone which leached to form stalactites

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Stairs to top of wall surrounding inner courtyard

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Four Story section where the lord’s family lived

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There are 3 Friaries (or Monasteries) in Adare.  I already talked about the Trinitarian Aby in town, and this is the second one.  The third one is the Adare Franciscan Friary which is off behind the Desmond Castle.  To get there you need to drive to the golf course, stop in at the registration desk, sign a bunch of release of liability forms (in case you get hit by a golf ball), then you can hike through the golf course dodging golf balls to get to the friary.  Anyway, it was hot and sunny (yes, this is Ireland) and we decided that it was too warm for that much effort.  But we did go over to the Augustinian Friary which is attached to the St. Nicolas Church of Ireland. 

The Augustinian Friary is across the river and across the road from the castle so after the bus brought us back to town, we drove back out to this site.  The middle section the Friary is no longer in use but you can wander around inside.  One side of it is now a private church run school (in the language of the UK they’d say it was a public school meaning you pay out of pocket for it rather than through taxes).  The other side is the St. Nicolas Church of Ireland which is also still in use.  This friary was formerly known as the “Black Abbey”.   Interestingly the Trinitarian Abbey in town was known as the “White Abbey”.  Both of these terms stem from the color of the clothing worn by the nuns or brothers.

The Augustinian friars first came to Dublin from England in about 1260. They were invited to Adare by John FitzThomas FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Kildare in 1316 and given land and houses in the town.  By 1541 the Augustinians owned nearly 80 acres (320,000 m2) of land, several cottages and gardens in the village and a fishing weir on the river. As part of the Tudor suppression of Irish Monasteries at the end of the 16th century, the Augustinians were driven out of Adare and moved to Limerick.

Augustinian Friary (taken several days later as we passed on the bus tour portion of our trip – ergo clouds)

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Old main entrance to Friary

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Hallway in cloisters

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St. Nicolas Church of Ireland

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After leaving Adare we headed North toward Galway.  Several months before our trip we plotted out our route and made hotel reservations.  We decided to stay near Galway for two nights to give us time to explore the Connemara region to the north, afford an opportunity to catch a ferry for a day trip over to the Aran Islands and we had made reservations for a Medieval Banquette in a town called Kinvara near Galway.  We searched TripAdviser for Hotels near Galway and found a lovely (but pricy) B&B, right on the water of a pristine and rural bay.  So, even though it was pricey we booked into there for 2 nights and that is where we were now headed.

After an hour and a half we arrived in Galway, but our GPS still said we had an hour and a quarter to go to get to the B&B.  This doesn’t sound right.  I know this doesn’t make sense, but on one hand I thought the GPS perhaps calculated the time wrong and on the other hand I trusted it to get us to where we wanted to be.  So, we continued.  After traveling up hills and down hills, on good roads and one lane roads that were not much wider than a driveway, through little towns farmland and barren landscapes, we arrived at the B&B - exactly where the GPS said it would be.  So, the GPS was correct in getting us to where we wanted to be.  However, its guess that it would take 1:15 was wrong.  It took us more like 2:30 from Galway what with and construction and lots of “bank holiday” traffic (it was the start of a 3 day weekend with great weather). 

As it turned out, well after we had made this reservation, we got the detailed itinerary from the tour company we’d be using for the 2nd half of our stay in Ireland and it included a day on the Aran Islands, so we didn’t need to do that on our own (even though the weather was perfect for it).  Then we checked to see exactly where our Medieval Banquette would be the following evening and it turned out to be 20 minutes the other side of Galway.  Now normally I like driving but I was not about to leave the dinner around 10:00 PM and then drive over 2 hours in the pitch black, on the wrong side of the road  - where the road was wider than one car- through all those twists and turns in an unfamiliar car.  So, something had to give.  We made some phone calls and found another B&B in the same town as the dinner who had a vacancy (more about this in an upcoming segment) and booked it for the next night.  As we needed to cut our stay here from 2 to 1 night, our innkeeper was willing to refund the 2nd night if he could fill the room (turned out he couldn’t). 

So, the next order of business was dinner.  Now, when I say that this lovely B&B is in the middle of nowhere, take my word for it.  Other than the restaurant in the B&B itself, the nearest other one was over an hour drive away so we ate in the B&B’s 4 star restaurant.  It was good but way over what we normally spend for a good dinner.  However the setting was gorgeous, the food was good and the service excellent. 

B&B near Doonreaghan

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B&B near Doonreaghan

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So ends our 5th day in Ireland, again Bright Sun, mid/upper 70’s (f), and no rain.


Next on our agenda –Connemara region

I hope you enjoyed reading this travel log and will read accounts of future trips.  

- Images of this trip can be found on my website at.



The Ireland blog series can be found here:


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Thanks for reading -- Dan


I like the thatched roofs!
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