Dolphin Watching and Sites for Those Traveling Along Ireland’s Shannon Estuary
“Mummy, look,” announced the little girl stretching her hand across the railing next to me. I followed her finger to the splashing water about a quarter mile away. From the upper deck of the car ferry, I could see the dolphins skimming the surface of the Shannon Estuary.
As the girl’s mother snapped photos, her father held his binoculars in front of the girl’s face. She quickly tilted her head in favor of unassisted viewing. “They’re lovely,” giggled the girl after one of the dolphins leapt clear out of the water and then disappeared into an oncoming wave.
The father offered me his binoculars. Grateful, I pointed them toward the area of whitecaps that marked their location. Every few seconds a dorsal fin would spring above the water. Then, in a strange choreography, two or three dolphins would spring out of the water one after the other. Breathtaking.
Driving Tour in County Clare and County Limerick
The water show was an unexpected treat on my drive around Counties Clare and Limerick. I had spent the morning on Clare’s Loop Head Peninsula climbing around the dark, craggy rocks; admiring the roadside ditches filled with bright orange flowers; and taking in a lunch with THREE types of potatoes in the town of Kilrush.
After the meal, I drove to Killimer where the car ferry hauled everything from cyclists to tour buses across the two-mile-wide estuary. After parking the car onboard, I passed the modest snack stand… more of a row candies and treats, and went up the stairs for the view. The whole ride took about 20 minutes with about ten minutes on each end for loading and unloading.
Once off the boat, I followed the N69 toward Limerick City. I peeked in at Glin Castle and grabbed info on their gourmet dinners (sadly, the castle is only available for group rentals and private functions in 2010). Then, it was onwards to Foynes, home of Irish Coffee and the Flying Boat Museum. The WWII nostalgia of the museum quickly turned it into one of my favorite “museumy” sites in Ireland.
On the road out of town, I pulled into the private garden of Tim and Helen O’Brien, Knockpatrick Gardens. They ask for guests to call ahead, but their “open” sign invited me to drive under the arch of lemondrop blossoms to the house. They fed me scones and tea and offered a private tour of the grounds. Lucky for me, it was hydrangea season and the plants were in full bloom.
Further east, I hopped off the main road and pulled into little Askeaton. The friary there has a nearly-intact cloister, the castle there is home to stories of a Hell Fire club and the old church was built by the Templars, but I can’t say there were any ties to the DaVinci Code.
Somewhere near Kildimo, I wandered off the main road and found myself wandering around an old cemetery and a castle and wandering the grounds of an old manor house (now a park) before winding up in Adare where I stopped for some ice cream and petrol (gas). A few minutes later, I was on the bypass around Limerick and heading home. It was the perfect daytrip… away from the crowds of tourists and among the people of Counties Clare and Limerick.