This was the first extended tour in 2015. A religious background, I was told, but not a pilgrimage, rather an educational tour.
One Holy Mass has to do
The group leader was a Roman Catholic Curate. He told me that he was going to celebrate a Holy Mass on Monday and that that will have to do for the week.
The clients were from the diocese of Wuerzburg, so one of the highlights was most certainly the visit to Mullagh – birthplace of St. Kilian, who was the Apostle of Franconia and who died a Martyr death in Wuerzburg in 689.
Here’s the itinerary.
Change of plans
Day 1 – Sunday, 22/02/2015
I was not surprised to learn that the group hadn’t had any lunch by the time they arrived. On top of that, biological, for the clients it was an hour later – due to the time difference. The fact that we had to have an hour for lunch and the fact that St. Patrick’s Cathedral was not accessible for parts of the day, due to Sunday Services, we decided to reschedule the visit to the Cathedral for next Sunday.
We checked into the Clarion Hotel, Liffey Valley (has since been renamed to Clayton Hotel) at 5:30 p.m.
The clients were happy, but very tired. Some of them vacated their beds at 3 a.m.
Dinner was set for 7 p.m.
Day 2 – Monday 23/02/2015
We left the hotel at 9 a.m. and headed straight to Mullagh. Birthplace of St. Kilian, the Apostle of Franconia. We visited the Visitor Centre which was partly financed by the Diocese of Wuerzburg.
Our Curate celebrated Mass in the little church, across from the centre. You could really tell that it was a very special moment for him to be celebrating Mass in the church of the birthplace of St. Kilian.
After that we headed to Kells for lunch.
After I organised some postal stamps for my clients, I headed into the Headfort Arms Hotel to get some food.
A large section of the place was under construction. It seemed the buffet had been moved in to a function room with bar.
The place was quite crowded. I saw about 8 or so clients of mine, sitting at two tables.
As I was in the queue for my food, when one of my clients called me over and asked how it can be, that she was charged €8.95 for half a quiche and chips and two other of my clients paid the same for two portions of the same.
I enquired for her. The boss of the house came to have a look at the receipt and had a few words with the girl at the till. Seemingly, she overcharged.
This can happen – but you should have seen the boss, she absolutely lost it with the girl and kept apologizing to my clients, saying that in 35 years this has never happened before. She told my clients she was Angela Merkel – with other words, she has the say in this establishment.
My clients were very amused.
After lunch we headed to Old Mellifont Abbey, before visiting Monasterboice. We ended the day with a visit of Howth harbour, before returning to the Liffey Valley Clarion Hotel. We arrived at the hotel at 6 p.m. and had dinner at 7 p.m.
When it all goes wrong
Day 3 – Tuesday, 24/02/2015
We left the hotel at 9 a.m. and headed straight for the Wicklow Mountains.
The sun was smiling at us, even though it was freezing cold.
Towards the end of my tour on the site, it started to rain a little bit. It was rather sleet than rain.
I suggested to take a walk up to the upper lake and board the coach there. The group agreed and I sent the coach to meet us up there.
About ten minutes into the 25 minute walk, heaven opened. It absolutely lashed horizontally. We got soaked to the bones.
When we finally got to the coach there was not a dry square inch on anyone of us.
We travelled via Hollywood and Carlow to Kilkenny. I was of the opinion that we were to stay in the Ormonde Hotel and was surprised to see the coach driver pass this hotel out, heading straight for the Pembroke Hotel. I explained to the coach driver that he was heading for the wrong hotel and that he has to turn the coach and go to the Ormonde.
He duly did as I asked of him. We pulled up outside the Ormonde Hotel. I went ahead to check in the group. The reception was very busy and I had to wait a few minutes before I got some attention. My group started to gather behind me.
When it was my turn, the receptionist looked at me somewhat startled and said “there’s no group staying here tonight”. I looked at my documents and nearly collapsed. We were not booked into the Ormonde Hotel, but into the Hibernian Hotel on Ormonde Street.
I apologized to my clients profoundly and took the lead to walk to the right hotel. 21 confused clients were pulling their suitcases behind me. All in good humour.
We checked into the hotel at around 5:30 p.m. and had dinner at 7 p.m.
Day 4 – Wednesday, 25/02/2015
We left the hotel at 8:45 a.m. and headed straight to Jerpoint Abbey, where we once more dived into the world of the Cistercian Order, which was the very first Roman Catholic Order to be established in Ireland (Old Melifont 1142).
From there we moved on to Cashel. I gave my group a tour of the legendary Rock, before we had lunch in the town.
I love the Bakehouse on the Main Street. This is one of my absolute favourites. Great freshly baked bread and other yummy baked goodies.
From there we were supposed to travel via Kenmare and Moll’s Gap to Ladies View, visit Muckross Garden and possibly have some free time in Killarney before checking into the Holiday Inn Hotel in Killarney.
This is one of those days, where the agents just got it wrong. The day has only so many hours. To accommodate all this is just not possible.
For a guide it is very difficult. I’m supposed to fulfil the itinerary. Looking at this itinerary I had already left the hotel 15 minutes earlier than normal and booked dinner for 7:20 p.m., so 20 minutes later than I normally would.
Luck was to be on our side. We had a comfort break in Macroom and as we moved on, as we approached the turn for Kenmare, we noticed a huge band of fog descending from the hills.
I had a quick word with Tom Walsh, the driver, and than with the group leader, explaining to him that it would be nonsense to do the scenic route, driving into the fog at the expense of free time in Killarney.
The Curate agreed and we skipped Kenmare, Molls Gap, Ladies View and Muckross Garden. The clients had some free time in Killarney before checking into the Holiday Inn Hotel at 6:20 p.m.
We sat down for dinner at 7:20 a.m.
Time on the run
Day 5 – Thursday, 26/02/2015
We left the hotel at 9 a.m.
On the itinerary for the day was Dingle peninsula and on to Limerick for two nights.
First of all we headed for the Cathedral of Killarney. I added the Cathedral to the itinerary in return for the group agreeing to skip Muckross Garden. It’s a religious group – so I thought that one of Ireland’s most impressive Cathedrals makes more sense than a garden in the freezing cold in the middle of winter with nothing flowering.
I gave the group twenty minutes for the Cathedral. After about 15 minutes a client approaches me, asking for a toilet. The Cathedral toilet was locked. There was no toilet anywhere in the vicinity. She asked whether I could drop her into Killarney town. There was no way that I could do that. This would destroy all the timely planning of the day. As it happened, the twenty minutes I gave the group for the Cathedral didn’t seem to be sufficient either, after 30 minutes the clients were back on the coach. I had to address timekeeping with them. Timekeeping is of utmost priority for me as a guide. If time is not kept, the day will end in disaster and it is my job to prevent this from happening.
We left the Cathedral and did a quick pit-stop at a hotel, for the lady to look after her emergency.
Dingle Peninsula at leisure
From here we went to Inch Strand, where I gave the group 30 minutes to have a short stroll at the beach. To my surprise, none of the toilets there were open to the public. My plan was to use this stop as a toilet stop at the same time and pass out Dingle town, do Slea Head Drive and Gallarus Oratory before heading back to Dingle town for lunch and then move on to Limerick.
Well, this was not to be. We had to do another stop for the toilets in Dingle. Time was slipping through my fingers. I decided not to worry and let the day take its course.
After the pit-stop in Dingle we continued to do the Slea Head Drive. It was a glorious day. The itinerary suggested a stop at the 6th century Fahan Beehive Huts. I have to say that I’m not a fan of those huts.
From the outside they look all authentic, but the inside has been plastered. The farmers used them as storage cabins.
The huts stand on private land and an elderly lady subsidises her pension with an admission fee.
I believe that they make great images, taken from the street, but I do not believe that one should pay €2 a head to look at the inside plaster. I advised my clients accordingly.
Some of my clients didn’t seem to really get my message. Maybe I didn’t really make it clear enough, but they started to step onto the lady’s land, walking towards the beehive huts. The lady of the land came out and demanded €2 per person. I asked the clients to either pay up or leave the land. They decided to leave the land. We got onto the coach and as we got moving, the elderly lady showed us her middle finger. That’s what I call a good Irish Welcome.
The weather was so nice, that I decided to do a bit of a walk. We got off the coach, a bend before the cross (an cros). We did a 25 minute walk along the cliffs. We were not on the coach three minutes, when the sky opened. This time we were really lucky.
On we went to the Gallarus Oratory. We were booked in, I had a voucher, but the visitor centre was closed and a gate was left open for us to be able to access the site.
After the oratory we went back to Dingle where we had lunch until 3:20 p.m.. We had 1 hour and 50 minutes to spend there. I initially planned to spend 2,5 hours in Dingle town.
We arrived at the Clarion Hotel in Limerick at 6 p.m. and had dinner at 7 p.m.
Day 6 – Friday, 27/02/2015
We left the hotel at 9 a.m. and arrived soon after at Bunratty Castle.
The welcome at the front desk was very special. Big smiles and sheer happiness all the way. They were saying that when they see me then summer has arrived.
We left Bunratty at 11:45 a.m. and arrived at the Cliffs of Moher just before 1 p.m.
After leaving the Cliffs we headed via Lisdoonvarna along the Black Head Drive. We had a little half hour toilet break in Ballyvaughan before going via Poulnabrone back to the Clarion Hotel in Limerick.
We arrived back in the hotel at 6 p.m. and had dinner at 7 p.m.
Day 7 – Saturday, 28/02/2015
We left the hotel at 8:45 a.m. and headed straight to Clonmacnoise. The drive to Clonmacnoise took much longer then I anticipated. I’m generally very good when it comes to timing, but I really got it wrong on this day. We got there at around 10:45 a.m.
I did a tour with my clients and we headed on to Moate where we allowed ourselves a bit over an hour for lunch.
According to my itinerary we were supposed to be visiting the National Museum of Archaeology at 2 p.m. sharp. In red letters it said that this is the only time available.
I knew that there was no way that we would make it there by 2 p.m.
I rung the front desk of the museum and the guy there was as cool as a breeze, saying “just come along whenever it suits you. There are no other groups booked in”. That made life so much easer.
We arrived at the museum at 3ish p.m.
We left the City at 5:25 p.m., arrived at the Liffey Valley Clarion Hotel at 6 p.m. and had dinner at 7 p.m.
Day 8 – Sunday, 01/03/2015
After leaving the hotel at 9 a.m. we started the day with a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
We weren’t able to do it on day 1, due to time issues. After the tour in St. Patrick’s, the group had the rest of the time until 2 p.m. at leisure.
We left the City at 2 p.m. for the airport.
I checked the group in.
Another tour concluded successfully. 21 beautiful people enriched my life for the last eight days. I love my job. I love working with people and I’m ever so happy to be in a position to give something to people, which they can nurture from for years to come.