Friday, 26 August 2016

Living The Irish Dream - Part 4

     The 179km circuit of the Ring of Kerry has been hailed as no. 6 of the 10 great European road trips to do in our lifetime. That is not surprising as it's a trail that takes you through 10,000 years of dramatic history, where you drive from deep forest to the crashing waters of the Atlantic. It's certainly wild, rugged and scenic. And I'm proud to announce that the Ring of Kerry marked my maiden drive in a foreign land. Derrick was too exhausted to continue driving so I was behind the wheel whilst Derrick took a much-needed snooze. To perk me up and to give me the confidence, he played Christina Perri's inspirational "A Thousand Years" on bluetooth.
     As advised, we travelled anti-clockwise to minimise traffic problems on the narrower roads. We spent a night at historic Cahersiveen (as mentioned in Part 1) and another night at bustling Killarney, which is the gateway to the Ring of Kerry. Some tourists can do the Ring of Kerry route in a day, but for us, even 2 nights were insufficient. There is really so much to see and do. And doing it hurriedly is definitely not the way to enjoy its essence.
     One extremely scenic spot is Ladies View at Killarney National Park, 16 km from Killarney. Apparently, Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting were so enraptured by the view during the royal visit in 1861 that this area was named after them. Tourists hopping down from the bus will be inclined to snap quick shots from several angles. But the astounding beauty of this area beckons you to sit quietly for a while to really savour the splendour.
Resting and marvelling at the incredible beauty of Ladies View

Two lovers at Ladies View

     Torc Waterfall, which is located 7km from Killarney, is easily accessible after a 5 minute walk through scenic woodland. It is about 70 feet high and offers some lovely views. It's definitely worth a stop.
Delighting in the sounds of the tumbling waters of Torc Waterfall

     Watching the sunset at Ross Castle, a 15th century castle in Killarney National Park, is most unforgettable. By then, the hordes of tourists would have left. But there would still be plenty of people around and safety is never an issue at this castle that sits majestically on the shores of the lakes of Killarney.
Such serene beauty at sunset - Ross Castle

I really enjoyed watching the sun dip down for her rest, here at Ross Castle

     These are just a few of the places that we visited around the Ring of Kerry. There really is so much more to explore and experience. I guess Derrick and I will just have to return.
Jaunting cars were everywhere at Killarney National Park and sitting in one makes you feel transported back in time
A lovely Irish gentleman and his jaunting car

We had hoped to be able to spot a leprechaun!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Experimenting with Irish Roast Chicken

     Ireland's national drink is undoubtedly Guinness. I have never been much of a drinker but I absolutely adore cooking with alcohol. And so when a fellow blogger, Phong Hong, posted a recipe that calls for Guinness, it aroused great interest in me as I have been digging up my 2013 Ireland trip photos for my blog. Ireland = Guinness.
     Her original recipe in uses Guinness and BBQ sauce but I tweaked the recipe a little. I marinated the boneless chicken drumsticks overnight with salt, ginger powder and a can of Guinness Stout. 30 minutes prior to popping them into the oven, I took them out of the refrigerator for them to come to room temperature. It was also then that I gave them a massage with Hoisin sauce, which was later re-applied onto the meat halfway through the roasting.
Naked chicken drumsticks prior to marinating

Ingredients :
2 boneless chicken drumsticks
1 can Guinness Stout
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of ginger powder
4 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce

Method :
1. Rub chicken drumsticks with salt and ginger powder. Pour
    in the magic brew and leave to marinate overnight.
2. Remove chicken drumsticks from marinade 30 minutes
     before roasting. Add 2 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce and 
     give the chicken drumsticks a good rub.
3. Place chicken drumsticks (skin side up) on a tray lined
     with aluminium foil. 
4. Roast at 180 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes.
5. Halfway through, baste with remaining Hoisin sauce.
Tender and succulent Irish Roast Chicken (Chicken Chop) ready for you

     The aroma that fills the house during and after roasting is indeed intoxicating. One bite into the juicy flavourful meat is enough to make you want more. And the best thing about this recipe is it can be used for a Chinese or Western meal. Pair it with fluffy white rice and you'll get a Chinese meal. Serve it with mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes and that's a Western meal for you. How versatile can it get?! Oh, yes, it can get more versatile. The same marinade and method of cooking will work equally well with pork ribs.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Living The Irish Dream - Part 3

     From County Donegal , we drove into County Londonderry and then on to County Antrim. And we had driven from Ireland into Northern Ireland, thus entering the United Kingdom. We were headed for a town called Bushmills, which was our base for the three places that we were keen to visit.
     The highlight was, of course, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Giant's Causeway. It is not only a marvel of nature, but also a place where you can let your imagination run wild. After all, legend says that this causeway was built by the Irish giant Finn McCool to link Ireland with Scotland as he wanted to teach the Scottish giant Benandonner a lesson. Standing there, walking on the causeway, it was not difficult for me to imagine a time when this legendary protector of Ireland was making his mark on the very same steps. Scenes of his battle with the rude Benandonner, as giant clashed with giant, had unfurled on these very same steps. 
Hexagonal basalt columns of the Giant's Causeway

Near-perfect hexagonal shapes

Walking in the steps of Finn McCool
Wonderful to heave and hurl yourself up these columns

     If you do not believe in myths and legends, you would still be awed by these hexagonal basalt beauties. These over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns were formed as an aftermath of volcanic crashing, burning and cooling. As I explored these near-perfect hexagonal tubes stacked next to each like puzzle pieces, I was completely amazed by these fabulous geological formations.
 The Giant's Causeway...magical at all times of the day, and especially when bathed by the last light of the day

Myth or science...the Giant's Causeway will nevertheless awe you

     9 minutes away from the Giant's Causeway lies the medieval castle ruins of Dunluce Castle. It is perched majestically atop the steep cliffs, with the rugged Antrim coastline as the backdrop. We did not venture in, but were more than happy to admire it from afar.
The medieval Dunluce Castle and its surroundings

Majestic ruins of Dunluce Castle, accessible after a steep climb

Moo moos near Dunluce Castle

     Visitors to this area should not give the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge (15 minutes from the Giant's Causeway) a miss.  First erected by salmon fishermen in 1755, this famous rope  suspension bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It was extremely thrilling to walk nimbly across the bridge that spans over a 23-metre deep and 20-metre wide chasm. I prayed that no fat giant would decide to cross the bridge while I was still on it as that would have rocked it wildly. The views all around, and especially from the tiny island, simply took my breath away.
The walk to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge allows one to drink in such astounding sights

Adventurous lass making her way to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

My hero making his way across the bridge

A view of the rope suspension bridge that spans over the dizzying gap over the North Atlantic

Photographer hard at work trying to capture some shots of wildlife
As we left for Belfast, we made a stop at the Dark Hedges in the small town of Ballymoney. It is a beautiful avenue of beech trees planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century. These iconic trees have even been used as filming locations.
The Dark Hedges (not so dark at this time of the day)

     Many do not make the journey from Ireland into Northern Ireland for various reasons, but it would be a real pity. Northern Ireland, especially County Antrim, has so much to offer. Just some advice : 1. Make sure you have Euros for Ireland and Pound Sterling for Northern Ireland. 2. Driving speed in Northern Ireland goes by miles per hour, so do not make the mistake that I made. I drove like a tortoise at 20 km per hour, having mistaken the 20 mile per hour sign for 20 km per hour! But the long train of cars trailing behind me were far too polite to honk at me.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Living the Irish Dream - Part 2

        It was rather difficult to watch the 2010 romantic comedy film "Leap Year" because we were so blown away by the spectacular Irish scenery that we could not concentrate fully on the movie. Fortunately, we watched it on our own DVD so we could have a rerun. Take, for example, the scene of the wedding towards the end of the movie. We were ooh-ing and aah-ing at the awe-inspiring background that we missed quite a bit of the dialogue.
      That wedding scene was filmed at the Upper Lake at Glendalough, Wicklow National Park. Glendalough, which means Valley of Two Lakes,  is situated in County Wicklow. It takes approximately 1 hour 15 minutes to drive there from Dublin, which makes it an easily accessible place to visit. Being the largest of Ireland's six national parks, the Wicklow National Park covers 20,483 hectares! It is home to an abundance of stunning landscapes. Hiking enthusiasts are spoilt for choice as there are plenty of walking trails, including The Wicklow Way, a famous 132km walking trail.
      Hubby and I had a plethora of must-visit destinations on our Irish agenda. Moreover, hiking is not our forte. So we restricted our Wicklow experience to just the Upper Lake at Glendalough. We had planned to explore the Lower Lake too but the breathtaking beauty of the Upper Lake took up too much of our time. We just could not get enough of it!
Scenic beauty of Wicklow National Park beckons

Get, set, go! Let's explore!

Come, follow me, and explore further.

Blissful to have the place all to ourselves

Tranquil evening stroll

Mirror reflection of the beautiful hills

More mesmerising mirror reflections of the Upper Lake

To more splendours of Wicklow National Park

Sunset stroll by the shores of Upper Lake

Lovers by the shore of Upper Lake, Wicklow National Park

       It was indeed a remarkable place that stilled our minds, inspired our hearts and filled our souls. There was hardly anyone around as we were there in the late evening, when the droves of tourists had departed. Once again, we were able to truly savour the dramatic beauty amidst blissful solitude. And it reminded us how fortunate we were to be able to live our Irish dream.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Living the Irish Dream - Part 1

     When hubby and I watched the 2010 romantic comedy film "Leap Year"
starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, we made a promise to ourselves that we would visit the The Emerald Isle, and specifically Ballycarberry Castle. And in June 2013, that promise was fulfilled. We were finally in Ireland, the Land of Leprechauns!
     Although many of the sites where the movie was filmed were either fictional (the Ballycarberry Castle that was said to be at County Tipperary turned out to be the Rock of Dunamase with computer assisted technology) or not in the exact place mentioned (the cliffs that were supposedly Dingle Peninsula were actually cliffs in County Galway), the scenery was so breathtaking that it prompted this visit. And we were not disappointed. We fell head over heels for Ireland, the Land of Celtic Crosses!
     Despite knowing the Ballycarberry Castle that we were visiting was not the one in the movie, we were eager to go there as the images on the Internet had promised castle ruins located at an isolated spot. It was every inch that we had imagined...just perfect. Located about 3 kilometres from Cahersiveen, a small town on the Ring of Kerry, Ballycarberry Castle was built in the 16th century. There was hardly anybody around when we went there so we practically had the entire castle and its grounds to ourselves. We could venture in and out of the castle. There was a staircase in relatively good condition so we were able to access the first floor. Hubby managed to heave himself up to the second floor as well but I was not so adventurous. He spent ages taking photographs there, and I was more than happy to just admire the impressive ruins and let my imagination wander.
Ballycarberry Castle in the late evening

Derrick gets flung out by The Dark Forces

Ballycarberry Castle in the morning

Nothing beats savouring spectacular Ballycarberry Castle with your loved one!

A quiet moment at Ballycarberry Castle

     Ireland is indeed wild, rugged, majestic and magnificent. It would do her a grave injustice if I were to cram all the photos and places visited in one post. So in this inaugural Irish post, it's all about Ballycarberry Castle, once the home of the McCarthy Clan.