Blogging is hard work!

This is Jessica.  I hacked into Bailey’s blog.  Shhhhh….don’t tell her!  I thought I would share some images of Bailey the Blogger in action throughout the trip.  These photos prove what hard work blogging is….Bailey slept across Scotland and Ireland!


At first, we thought it was just jet lag and she would wake up after a day or two…


But, the bus just lulled her to sleep every day.  Here she is using Hamish as a pillow…

But, it wasn’t just the bus that lulled her to sleep.  The train did too:


Of course, on the way back to Belfast from Dublin on the train, we were all a little tired.  (Except for Ardith who stayed awake to take pictures of us all sleeping!)


IMG_2837 IMG_2836


Waiting to board our Aer Lingus flight from Shannon to London


Being back on US Soil didn’t wake her up.  This is in the car on the way home from Dulles.  It seems as though anytime there were wheels turning, Bailey was asleep!!

But, she did wake up for the important parts of the trip, like shearing sheep, loving sheep dogs, or feeding lambs.

IMG_2840 IMG_2839 IMG_2844

And, posing for pictures with the rest of us…



A Haiku for my Hi-Cooooow (Scotland and Ireland from Hamish’s Eyes)

My name is Hamish

I am a cute Highland Cooooow

I like to travel!


My first photo with Bailey


I wanted to drive the coach!


Me and Scottish Thistle


Me at the Northern Ireland Coast


Me at Giants Causeway


Me at Donegal Castle


Me learning to weave


Me at Kylemore Abbey


Me and Bailey at Cliffs of Moher


Me and Bailey on the plane heading home


My new dad was so excited to meet me that he got me these awesome balloons!

That’s my trip to Scotland and Ireland!

Last Day – Rathbaun Farms, Cliffs of Moher, Medieval Banquet

Sadly, today is our last day on this trip. It has been very fun and I’m sure I can speak for all of us when I say we will not be accustomed to doing stuff ourselves. We have been very well taken care of and will miss it. But, having said that I’m also sure I can speak for all of us when I say we are ready to come home in many ways. For me, I miss my family and definitely my dad, Poppy, my cats, and Winston.

Anyways, the first thing we did today was our second sheep dog experience, and I can say it was definitely as good if not better than the first one. We saw a young border collie herd sheep and you could tell before he started he was ready, because while his master was telling us some facts about the sheep, the dog was trying to herd us. He was running around us in circles and was kind of confused when we didn’t move. He was very cute. We even saw a little tiny baby lamb.

IMG_2585 IMG_2588 IMG_2590 IMG_2599 IMG_2631 IMG_2632 IMG_2633 IMG_2569 IMG_2574 IMG_2575 IMG_2622

Then, we saw the man sheer a sheep, and I didn’t really like that because the poor sheep was “crying”, but the guy said that she was doing that because it was just her first time getting sheered.

IMG_2603 IMG_2609 IMG_2611

But then my favorite part came. He said he was going to get bottles to feed some lambs and I was like WHAT?!?!?! But he was telling the truth. He came back with two bottles and two lambs, and he gave the bottles to me and this other young person (I think he gave them to us because we were the youngest people there) and I got to feed a lamb.


After that, we just went into the house and ate scones.

IMG_2636 IMG_2639 IMG_2643 IMG_2647 IMG_2651

I also made two other friends, Thor and Misty. Thor was a gigantic golden retriever who was very sweet and came into the house and got a piece of scone from pretty much everyone. Misty was a tiny mix of two kinds of dogs (don’t know which) who loved attention so much that if you weren’t paying attention to her she would jump up into your lap and lick your nose. They were both super sweet and cute.

IMG_2571 IMG_2642

Incase there is any confusion, to the left is Thor and to the right is Misty.

Next, we drove to the Cliffs of Moher, and on the way we saw a lot of rock walls and even one that had been knocked down and the people were fixing it. It was a neat process, we watched them for a little bit. We also went through the Burren- comes from the Irish word boireann meaning a rocky place, the Burren has thin soil covering limestone making it difficult to grow things, the Burren was the primary area affected by the Irish Potato Famine, on the edge of the Burren is where the Cliffs of Moher are.

When we got to the Cliffs of moher, we were extremely lucky, because the weather was absolutely phenominal. The sun  was shining beautifully and there was just enough breeze to keep it warm instead of hot. It was a gorgeous day. And during that gorgeous day we went up and saw the most perfect sight you could ever see. The Cliffs of Moher which stood a whopping 702 feet! They were amazingly beautiful. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

IMG_2737 IMG_2743 IMG_2728 IMG_2732 IMG_2735 IMG_2745 IMG_2751

Two movies that scenes were filmed at the Cliffs of Moher were The Princess Diaries and Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince!!!!!

Then tonight, we went to the best Medieval Banquet ever. Some people from our group got picked as king and queen and they picked me as their princess. It was so fun but made me SUPER tired. I would definitely do that again.

Tonight’s shout-out should have been yesterday’s but you know, whatever, we forgot. Anyways, it’s for Jennie Forman. We took this at a pit-stop and when we saw it we thought of you.


Thank you to everyone who reads my blog but don’t worry, it’s not over. There may or may not be a special one coming up. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Irish Countryside – Connemara, Kylemore Abbey

This blog is going to be mostly pictures because the places we went today were BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!

Okay, first, we drove out of Galway along to coast to Connemara, but along the way we had picture perfect scenery and some furry friends. We saw very pretty rolling hills and miles of mazes of stacked up rocks to make fences. This land was not always good for sheep and cattle because it was originally covered with these rocks.  All of them had to be collected in order for the land to be usable.  Instead of buying fencing, the rocks were used to make the fences.  Some of these fences are over 500 years old.

IMG_2404 IMG_2405IMG_2434IMG_2420IMG_2440IMG_2444IMG_2491IMG_2554

It rained a bit along the way, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the scenery through the raindrops.


We’ve heard many times that the only sure thing about weather in Ireland is that it will change soon.  And, it did.  Soon the sun came out and dried up all the rain.  That brought us some more amazing views as we saw several rainbows.

IMG_2463 IMG_2483

Along the way, we saw lots more sheep (sorry, for more sheep pictures, we just can’t help it!)  and some donkeys. You’ll notice the red markings on the sheep in several of these pictures.  The sheep are not fenced in (because they will just escape) so each farmer has a specific mark that they paint on the sheep to easily identify his sheep.  When the sheep get out and join the neighbors, the farmers can easily tell who the sheep belong to.

IMG_2466  DSCN1748 DSCN1749 DSCN1752 DSCN1755

We also saw Connemara horses, which are known for their distinct gray color.  They are born brown, but due to the amount of limestone in the soil, when they eat the grass on the West Coast of Ireland, they turn this distinct gray color.  If they were to be moved, even to the Eastern part of Ireland, they would turn back to brown.

IMG_2425 DSCN1745

After leaving Connemara, we drove on to Kylemore Abbey.  Kylemore Castle was built in the late 1800s as a private home for a wealthy doctor from London.  The castle is about 40,000 square feet and has over seventy rooms.  There were originally 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room as well as quarters for the staff. The castle was eventually sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1909, who resided there for several years before being forced to sell the house and grounds because of gambling debts. In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the Abbey castle and lands after they were forced to flee Ypres, Belgium during World War I. The nuns had been bombed out of their Abbey in Belgium. The nuns offered education to Catholic girls, opening an international boarding school and establishing a day school for local girls. The school closed in 2010 and now the Abbey and its gardens are only open for tours.


As beautiful as the Abbey is, the views from the Abbey are even more beautiful.


Here are a few pictures from inside of the Abbey.

IMG_2537 IMG_2539 IMG_2544 IMG_2548

A short walk from the Abbey is a Walled Victorian Garden.  The flowers we encountered don’t even look real.  Here are some of the beautiful pictures that we took in the garden.  Sorry, there are lots of these pictures.  I just couldn’t pick a few!

IMG_2550 DSCN1761 DSCN1764 DSCN1769 DSCN1770 DSCN1775 DSCN1780 DSCN1785 DSCN1789 DSCN1790  DSCN1794  DSCN1796 DSCN1797 DSCN1799 DSCN1821 DSCN1827 DSCN1828 DSCN1829 DSCN1830 DSCN1831 DSCN1832 DSCN1837 DSCN1840 DSCN1844  DSCN1849DSCN1848

After strolling through the gardens, we had lunch in the tea room by the Walled Garden.  Here is my dessert:
That thing on top is a jello mold with fruit it in.
And, a few more pictures from the Garden:
Here is the Gardener’s home within the garden.
After leaving the Abbey, we headed back to hotel for a break then headed into the City Centre of Galway for a little shopping and dinner.  Tomorrow, we are going to a farm to see more sheep and sheep dogs herding them (Yay!!!) and then we will visit the Cliffs of Moher, which are supposed to be an amazing site.  We will wrap up tomorrow with a Medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle.  I can’t believe tomorrow is our last day of this trip…

A Day Without Rain – Donegal, Sligo, Knock, Galway

Well, you are stuck with another guest blogger! Kathy (Meme) is filling in. Today didn’t feel like Sunday however we did eventually go to a church. We started out in Donegal as we continued down the coast of southern Ireland. We went to Donegal Castle which was built by the O’Donnell chieftain in the 15th century and expanded in the 17th century. It has recently been renovated with new roofing and flooring and is furnished in period style.  The ceiling and floor were rebuilt using the same techniques originally used.  There are no nails, only pegs.

IMG_2279 IMG_2288


While in Donegal we had a little shopping excursion at the Irish House where we bought tweed and a t-shirt for Bailey. We had a weaving demo of tweed making. It can take 5 hours to 5 days to make 90 meters of cloth depending on the type of tweed.  Here we are showing off our purchases.

IMG_1326  IMG_1908IMG_1909

As we traveled through County Sligo we went to a beautiful church and graveyard to view the grave of W.B. Yeats a Nobel prize-winning poet.  At the time of his death in 1939, Yeats was not only a national favorite in Ireland but also a major literary figure around the world. Below is an excerpt of one of his works describing his beloved Ireland.

A Rose Upon the Rood of Time by William Butler Yeats
“Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!   
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed,
Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old
In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
Sing in their high and lonely melody.
Come near, that no more blinded by man’s fate,
I find under the boughs of love and hate,
In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.”
IMG_2324 IMG_2326 IMG_2330 IMG_1945 IMG_2321
Also in County Sligo we saw some amazing rock walls. All of the rocks pictured came from the adjacent fields and had to be dug up to allow for grass  to  grow for the sheep. The rocks are laid without mortar and holes in the walls are intended so that wind can blow through to keep the walls from blowing over. Some of the walls are over 500 years old. We can’t seem to stop ourselves from taking pics of sheep. They are so photogenic!! We found a cute little donkey too.
IMG_2347 IMG_2352
IMG_2352 IMG_2313IMG_2335

While we don’t have pictures to share, we traveled  to County Mayo to the town of Knock to a shrine. This was reportedly where villagers saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1879. There you could purchase empty bottles to fill up with Holy water from the shrine. We didn’t buy any because we weren’t sure what to do with it. We needed to consult with one of our Catholic friends (like Debbie Miller but she wasn’t readily available)!

We actually made it to our night’s stay without rain but it did rain after we arrived in Galway! So goes the Ireland summer days.
Tomorrow, we will have a walking tour in Galway and visit Kylemore Abbey in Connemarra, where the guide has promised to show us some Connemarra ponies that are known for their distinct gray color.  Finally, we will stroll along a lake shore (probably in the rain as the forecast for tomorrow isn’t looking too good!)

North and South – Coast, Giant’s Causeway, Derry, Letterkenny

I’m back. I was WAY too tired to blog last night.

First thing today, we drove through a bit more of Belfast and saw some of the division that remains from the conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics.  This conflict is commonly known as “the Troubles” and lasted from the 1960’s to 1998.  There is still a fence or “peace wall” dividing the two sections of the city.  This wall has been painted as a symbol of peace.  Since the peace agreement in 1998, the government is made up of both Protestants and Catholics to ensure both sides are represented.  Our guide talked a lot about how the people of Northern Ireland still feel the division and that it will take a new generation of Northern Irish to eliminate the hatred that was taught to the children during the Troubles.  There are still reminders of how dangerous Belfast was during the Troubles, including lots of barbed wire and armored police vehicles.

IMG_2260 IMG_2147 IMG_2148 IMG_2149

After leaving Belfast, we drove along the Northern coast of Northern Ireland and saw the amazing views and beautiful scenery.

IMG_2161 IMG_2163 IMG_2168 IMG_2183 IMG_2201IMG_2255DSCN1712DSCN1716DSCN1719

When we stopped to take pictures, there was a black plaque. And do you know who that plaque was for? It was for a pigeon. This pigeon wasn’t any ordinary pigeon, this pigeon was a note carrier during one of the World Wars. But sadly, he died of natural causes.


Next, we went to Giant’s Causeway. This is a beautiful place with an interesting story.  These hexagonal columns were really formed by movement in the tectonic plates, but the Irish myth is a lot more fun.

IMG_2225 IMG_2228 IMG_2232 IMG_2236 IMG_2242 IMG_2204


The story is… Finn McCool, the biggest, strongest, and meanest giant in Ireland. But another giant in Scotland doesn’t like that, so he challenges Finn to see who really is the biggest, strongest, and meanest giant. So Finn builds a “bridge” out of stones and rocks, so that he can go fight the other giant, but then he sees the giant from Scotland, who is much bigger than him.  He runs back to Ireland and tells his wife.  His wife has an idea to outsmart the other giant, so she makes giant baby clothes and dresses Finn up like a baby.  When the Scotland giant comes across the causeway, he sees the “baby” and gets scared because if the baby is that big, how big must the daddy be?  The Scot giant runs back across the causeway and breaks it down so that Finn cannot follow him back to Scotland.  All that is left of the causeway is a few “stairs” left right by the coast.

Next, we drove further South in Northern Ireland to the city of Derry.  Derry was renamed LondonDerry by British royalty in the 1600’s, but some of the residents don’t like the name and prefer to call it only Derry.  Derry is the only completely walled city in Ireland.  The walls protected the city.  We were able to walk along the top of the walls.  Derry has a lot of history related to “the Troubles” in Ireland, and it is possible to still see the division between Protestants and Catholics.  There are many memorial walls documenting “the Troubles”, like in Belfast, including one of a 14 year old girl that was killed.  The mural is called “Death of Innocence”.  The guide said the the girl’s dad never recovered from her death and he would come and sit by the mural every day to talk to her for five minutes until he died.

IMG_2257 IMG_2258 IMG_2259 IMG_2264 IMG_2265 IMG_2272


After leaving Derry, we continued on to the Republic of Ireland, commonly called the “South of Ireland”.  It is interesting to go from Northern Ireland to Ireland.  There is no border.  The only way you know that you have traveled into a new county is by the lines on the road and speed limit signs.  In the North, the lines marking the side of the road are solid white and in the South, they are broken yellow lines.  Also, the speed signs change from miles per hour to kilometers per hour.  We drove to LetterKenny, where we are staying for the night in the Station House Hotel.

IMG_2274 IMG_2275

Thanks again to everyone who reads my blog and stay tuned tomorrow so you can see Donegal Castle and Galway.

Northern Ireland to South of Ireland and back again – Titanic Belfast and Dublin

This is Jessica acting as the guest blogger today. We had a long day and Bailey was too tired to write today’s entry…
We started off the day by visiting the Titanic Belfast museum. The Titanic was built in Belfast and launched on its maiden voyage from here. The museum covered how the ship was built, how it sank, and it’s recovery.
The museum is extremely high tech and uses that technology to make you feel as though you are on board the Titanic.  It was very sobering to learn about specific passengers that did not survive the sinking.
Titanic Belfast is located 100 meters in front of where Titanic’s hull was constructed and launched; to its right is the drawing office where she was designed and to the left is the Victoria Channel from where she first set sail. The outside of the building is covered in 3,000 individual silver anodized aluminium shards.  It is intended to represent the bow of the Titanic.
After completing our tour of the museum, we broke away from the tour group to travel to Dublin for the afternoon by train.
There was some beautiful scenery along the way:
We walked through Trinity College and visited the Book of Kells exhibit.
IMG_2096 IMG_2097
The Book of Kells is an illustrated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament written in Latin. It was created in a monastery in either Britain or Ireland. It is believed to have been created ca. 800 AD.  We were not allowed to take photos inside the exhibit, so I have include a picture of one of the most famous illustrations that I found online.
We were able to take some pictures in the Long Hall, which is a huge library at Trinity College.
IMG_2100 IMG_2101
After that, we took at bus tour of Dublin. Here are some photos from the tour:
IMG_2113 IMG_2112 IMG_2120 IMG_2122 IMG_2128 IMG_2136
Here is a photo of a hotel that U2 purchased several years ago.  Unfortunately, there were no Bono sightings….
We finished our Dublin visit with dinner in a beautiful pub before heading back to the train station for our return trip to Belfast.
IMG_2138 IMG_2139
On the way to Dublin, we took 2 trains…a short ride from the station closest to our hotel to the main station then on to Dublin.  By the time we got back to Belfast, there were no more trains from one station in Belfast to the other.  So, we walked back to the hotel, but didn’t really know where we were going.  We encountered City Hall which was lit beautifully for the night.
Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Northern Ireland and head South. We will visit the Giant’s Causeway and learn about the legend of Finn McCool. Stayed tuned…

Last Day in Scotland – Loch Lomond, Alloway, and Belfast

Here is a picture of our view from last night’s hotel in Ballachulish.  The rain stopped during the night and it looks like we will have better weather today.


Today, we had our last view of the Highlands, and they were beautiful. There were all kinds of streams and rivers and bridges, oh my. They were beyond gorgeous.

IMG_1992 IMG_2002 IMG_2003

We even saw a tree growing out of a rock!!!! Our guide told us that the tree had found a part of the rock where it could grab on and grow.


This picture is as we are coming down out of the Highlands.


After the Highlands, we stopped at Loch Lomond to take pictures. We went down to the loch, the closest we’ve ever been to one, and we took pictures. The water is in Loch was so clear! We also touched the water, and it was FREEZING!!!!!!!! While we were taking pictures, I saw two swans, the only swans I’ve ever seen, and one swan swam up and pulled out some of his feathers for me. He knew I had never seen a swan before. He was so cute and sweet.

Next, we drove to Alloway, and on the way we saw some very pretty views and we saw the tops of the buildings in Glasgow. In Alloway, we went to the Robert Burns Museum.  Robert Burns is the official poet of Scotland and wrote many famous poems, including the words to Auld Lang Syne.  It was the most fun museum I’ve ever been to. It was very interactive and made the learning fun. There was also the cottage where Robert Burns was born.

We also saw the Alloway Auld Kirk.  In Burn’s poem, Tam O’Shanter, Tam peers through the windows of this creepy, ruined Kirk one dark and stormy night, and sees a gaggle of witches dancing to a tune played on the bagpipes by the devil.   Tam foolishly disturbs the witches and has to flee for his life.  The statue below of Tam fleeing from the Kirk on his horse is made from grass and twigs.

IMG_2027 IMG_2033

Here is my favorite tombstone from the Kirk’s graveyard.


This is a picture of me and my mom posing with a giant mouse we saw on the way to the cottage.


This is me playing on a rocking horse in the “play yard” at the cottage.


In the gift shop of the museum, we found this guy (a stuffed Highland Cooow – see yesterday’s blog post), and we just couldn’t resist buying him. (Thank you, Meme!!) In the second picture, I came back from somewhere and I found my little buddy up on the rearview mirror trying to take a ride. His name is Hamish. I didn’t name him that, our tour guide, Pat, did, but I liked it so I kept it.


We left Scotland by ferry.  We left from Cairnryan, Scotland and arrived 2 hours later just outside of Belfast in Northern Ireland (which is still a part of the UK).

This is our hotel for the night. It’s right in the center of Belfast.  We are staying at the Europa hotel, which was a big target during the “troubles” in Northern Ireland of the past.  Our tour guide told us that the Europa has been bombed 72 times!  Luckily, the troubles are a thing of the past, due to the peace agreement that was signed in the 90’s.  Belfast has become a much safer place since then!!!


We had dinner in the hotel, then went across the street to see one of the most famous bars in Belfast.  (Yes, I went in the bar, but just for a minute to take these pictures).  The Crown Liquor Saloon has been open since the 1800’s.  It has lots of beautiful wood carvings and tile work inside.  The story goes that it was opened by a Protestant woman and her Catholic husband.  She wanted to name the bar The Crown, but her husband thought that his Catholic friends would not frequent a bar associated with the royal symbol.  So, they compromised by naming the bar The Crown and creating a crown in the tilework on the floor as you enter the bar.  This satisfied the husband because his Catholic friends could wipe their feet on the crown as they entered the bar.

If you can’t tell what the second picture is of, it’s of a little cubicle type thing. It’s there because, a long time ago, people thought it was wrong for ladies to drink in public, so there were these cubicles with a string they could pull when they wanted their drink, so then they could drink in public and not be impolite

IMG_2060 IMG_2063

Tomorrow we will visit the Titanic museum in Belfast and take a quick trip to Dublin.

Nessie and Things – Loch Ness, Isle of Skye, and Clan Donald Centre

Today, we had a very full day. Full of beautiful scenery and fun adventures.

First, we went to Loch Ness in hope to see Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, and we definitely saw something or someone. You be the judge.

(viewer discretion advised)


Next, we drove through the Highlands to the Clan Donald Centre and got beautiful pictures of the mountains and and streams coming down off the mountains. We learned that the soil is so thin on the mountain, that when it rains, almost all the soil comes down off the mountain (erosion) and that’s why most of the mountains are mostly rocks.


On the way through the Highlands, we stopped to take pictures of some highland cows (or coooooows as our guides call them) (rhymes with goose).

DSCN1632 DSCN1631  DSCN1628

Then, we made another stop at the Dornie Castle to take pictures.

DSCN1633 DSCN1635 DSCN1636

At the Clan Donald Centre, it was raining pretty hard so we went up to see the Armadale Castle ruins, ate some lunch, and then took some pictures of the scenery.


Then, we got on a ferry, and rode across a loch. Even the coach rode the ferry, and to get off the ferry, we got on the coach and rode off. It was pretty cool to ride off a boat on a coach.

DSCN1638 DSCN1640

After that, we made a pit stop for a bathroom break and to take pictures of a famous bridge. Do you want to know why it’s famous?

You: YES!!!!!!

It’s the bridge in Harry Potter. In the scene where Harry Potter and Ron Weasly are flying over the train in the flying car.

DSCN1642 DSCN1644

There was also some Harry Potter merchandise in the little gift shop, and I got a Dobby (the house elf) necklace.


Then finally, we got to our hotel for the night, and it is the nicest one we’ve had on this trip. I love it!!!!


I’ve got another shout-out tonight, and this one is for my dad, Jamie. We caught a glimpse of a steam train on the way to the Harry Potter bridge.  The train, the Jacobite Express, was used in the filming of Harry Potter.


Thanks again to everyone who reads my blog.