Limerick, Ireland – August 2008

Day 1 – getting there

Sunday 3rd September

We think of ourselves as rather adventurous people by and large. We’ve travelled around the world (and then some) and have been to some far off, exotic destinations. But it’s also true to say that we’ve explored the British Isles extensively too, having travelled up and down the country on various weeklong breaks. Indeed we’ve travelled around our own back yards, so to speak, quite enjoyably in the past and so when the opportunity presented itself for us to re-visit the emerald isle, I jumped at the chance. I didn’t, on the other hand, fully appreciate the fact that it would be such a long journey to get to our chosen destination of Limerick on Ireland’s Western shores. All told, we spent around fourteen hours travelling – much of which was spent cooped up in the car with the oh so very entertaining (and dare I say it – predictable) whining, and indeed screaming, of the two toddlers in the back. Yes, what a good idea this was.

We left the house at just after seven in the morning and didn’t pull in to the Bunratty complex until after nine at night, by which time I was entertaining thoughts of madness and insanity not fit for inclusion in this blog entry. Perhaps it was the seemingly unending barrage of road works we were subjected to throughout the England & Wales leg of the journey from Rayleigh to Holyhead. It was as if all the road works planned for the entire country were quite conveniently arranged to coincide with the entire length of our chosen route. Or perhaps it was the fact that we arrived at the ferry port with just moments to spare and finding ourselves amongst the last on-board and thus with nowhere to sit. Or maybe it was the fact that the DVD player (our ace-in-the-hole for keeping the kids entertained) kept stopping working intermittently and sending the kids into fits.

The boat ride was to be the break in driving and wasn’t so bad in the end. There was a small (and I do mean small) children’s entertainment area where balloons were being handed out and a Curious George character was on hand to keep the kids amused. It would have kept a lot more kids amused had it not been for the fact that Jennifer had taken to the large bear and insisted on monopolising him for all the cuddles she could get.

It was a shame the ferry crossing wasn’t longer in some ways, since we had another three hours of driving to look forward to on the other side before reaching Bunratty. Luckily, I‘d upgraded the TomTom satellite navigation system just before departure and so we at least had the advantage of the most up-to-date map data for the Republic of Ireland.

We stopped off for some rather predictably unsatisfying McDonald’s food half way to Bunratty and were thoroughly exhausted and fatigued by the time we arrived. Actually, even though the kids both fired up into fits of inconsolable screaming by about twenty minutes before arrival (which didn’t subside until after we arrived), I did feel that, by and large, that they handled the trip very well, all things considered.

I think it was at some point just before arriving in Holyhead that I started to feel a bit under the weather myself. This got steadily worse as we neared our destination and I was feeling quite rough by the time we arrived with a sore throat and swollen glands.

Having been to Bunratty before (we toured around Ireland in the camper van some four years ago), the castle itself was a familiar sight. What we weren’t quite expecting was to see just how much the site around the castle had been developed in this time. It’s now practically an entire village with holiday homes, hotels and the like spread out over several dozen acres of land.

Our three-bedroom house is a bit on the small side but very comfortable nevertheless. The staff here are excellent and went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed – even to the point of hunting down broken bits of wood to use as a brace between the banister and our stair-gate so that it would fit better. I drew to their attention that the expected cots were no nowhere to be found in the house and it wasn’t long before they materialised along with a high-chair.

We took our time letting the kids settle before putting them down, and ordeal in and of itself, and were tucked up on bed by sometime shortly before midnight – very shortly thereafter to be completely comatose. We’ve only just arrived and we already need a bloody holiday!