Letters from Scotland
By Jonathon Farrell
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As promised, I have had a very busy time lately. I believe my last E-mail ended just as I was about to take off to Ireland. Well, that started with a trip to Edinburgh where I spent a night at my roommate Angus' house (intentionally this time!), and then I was off.
It is a 45 minute flight to Dublin from Edinburgh, and I am glad - I flew with the notorious discount airline Ryanair, which has tried to sell standing-room tickets and install pay washrooms. There were always ads playing, and the seats were about like a bus with less leg room, so the short flight was nice.
I arrived, and after a short wait to find my parents, we were off. We spent the first day on a quick tour of Dublin, which was an interesting city. You can really tell that its economy had been great up until recently, and that the EU was giving its all sorts of funding - there were sculptures and monuments everywhere, all around the city with its public bikes and new tram systems.
The part we were in was modern, with all the strange architecture of a North American city. My favourite was a bridge shaped like a harp - I have included a picture of it.
The next morning we were off to the Irish National Stud, where we saw horses that were worth more than €60 million! We went through the small town of Cashel, with a glorious castle we did not take time to go into, and saw the spot where St. Patrick preached.
We proceeded through Limerick, where we saw King John (from Robin Hood and the Magna Carta)'s castle, and then through Tipperary, and stopped for the night in Ennis. From there, we went for a banquet in a Medieval castle called Bunratty, where there were harps and fiddles and singers in costume, but no forks or spoons. It was a really fun night!
An interesting twist happened when one girl in our group threw up all over the harpist and stage, and the singers did not even flinch (until the next song, which they barely made it through due to laughter!).
The next morning was spectacular! We headed north to the legendary Cliffs of Moher, which I have many pictures of in my album. Let me say, this was one of the most spectacular sights I have seen!
From there, we headed to the City of Galway, past the Burran which is an enormous plateau of nothing but limestone. We stopped at Connemara to see the green Irish marble and how it is worked, and had lunch in Galway.
We spent the afternoon at a traditional farm, where they put on a display with a sheepdog (very poorly-trained!!), and gave us tea in the thatched roof cottage, with a peat fireplace. It was really interesting to see this old farm, as that would be how my ancestors, the O'Farrells, lived before emigrating to Canada!
After a second night in Ennis, we headed south into the Ring of Kerry, a glorious scenic coastal drive on the southeast of the island. This was incredible - rivaled Moher for scenery! On the way to Kerry, we crossed the Shannon River on a ferry (once again, as the O'Farrells would have done as they sailed for Bruce County), and saw dolphins swimming around us!
We also toured Killarney National Park, which was rugged mountains and lots of lakes - I thought it was quite similar to the Scottish Highlands.
After a night in Killarney, we started the day by a tour in jaunting carts, pulled by horses, around the park, which included a very well-preserved castle, called Ross Castle. It was great fun.
From there, we headed out to Blarney, but I did not kiss the stone. I take a long time to tour castles, and had been denied entry to some others, so I chose not to go in, as I would have needed far more than our one- hour lunch break!
We went along the south coast through Cork, and stopped for the night in Waterford, including a tour of the famous crystal factory, where someone in our group accidentally smashed a piece! Luckily for them, they got away with it!
It was a really nice city, and will be hosting the Tall Ships Races this year, so many of the pieces were nautical-themed.
Jonathon Farrell, son of Geoff and Sandra Farrell of Huron-Kinloss, is studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland this school year, through a student exchange program at Queen's University, Kingston, where he is a third-year student.
After that, we went out for a little tour of the old fishing village at Dunmor East, and spent some time in an old thatched pub with a hilarious guy singing for us, and he looked so much like my dad that they could have been brothers.
The next day we headed through Avoca (including a tour of a weaver's shop) back to Dublin. On the way, we stopped at Glendelough, an ancient monastic site for a great tour of ruins, where there was a tombstone for Patrick Farrell (my little brother's name!).
Back in Dublin, we went to the Guinness factory, where we had a guided tour and ended in the gift shop (naturally), with all the great original merchandise they produce. My favourite was the Stress Pint - a stress ball, to squeeze and what-not, except it was shaped and made to look like a pint of Guinness!
The next day the tour ended, but we did not fly out until evening, so we took a tour of Dublin Castle and explored St. Patrick's Cathedral. After another Ryanair flight to Edinburgh, we spent the night there. The next day we took a hop-on-hop-off tour bus around the city, and spent a fair amount of time on the Royal Yacht Britannia, seeing what luxury sailing can be like!
After this tour, we went back to St. Andrews for the night.
The next day we toured the town, walking the Old Course and the Scores, and taking a trip through the Aquarium and the Castle, and a long tour of the old cathedral ruins, complete with an ascent of St. Rule's Tower to get a full view of the town.
We saw a movie in the cinema, and then turned in for the night again. The next day was back to Edinburgh, where we did a long tour of the castle and the Royal Mile, and saw another movie that night.
The next morning, Mom and Dad were on a plane back to Canada, and I am back in St. Andrews, resting and recuperating in preparation for my final month of classes!
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Saturday, April 09, 2011