A Return to Ireland - the O'Koski Clan Edition (Part 1) / by Douglas Koski

We were watching our departure window slowly slip away… Sinéad and I had picked up Deacon Arnold with plenty of time to arrive to Providence, but the Boston area’s ever worsening (and politically ignored) traffic crisis had flooded over to I-495 much earlier than we all had anticipated. We made it to the southern edge of Marlborough about the time our GPS said we should have originally arrived at T.F. Green. In that time Sinéad had begun consulting Waze to see how bad the outlook was. It was now 4:30pm, Boston’s core of congestion had yet to be dealt, and Waze’s estimation was quickly increasing to match… It was time to burden community traffic with our presence. We hopped off the nightmare of Boston’s interstate system at the next exit.

We twisted and turned through towns and down side streets following a trail that (at least in our car) only Waze could imagine. We remarked how lucky we were that it was at least not thunder-sleeting as was the case during our last trip to T.F. Green. There was a little traffic left to battle our way through that Thursday evening, but the end was only a few miles away. The stress of potentially missing our flights due to excessive traffic slowly started melting away. (I would not have been surprised had I been shaking from the worry and frustration.) We made it to our lot, took in a quick glance at the Patriots airplane, grabbed what we thought was everything we needed from the car, and made it to the airport shuttle.

The rest of the stress finally melted away once we were checked in and through TSA. Spirits lifted but still groggy from the drive, we met with the other 1/2 of our traveling group. Aunt Marie, Theresa, and Eddie had made it to the Airport well before us, having slipped through just before traffic built up. It wasn’t long before we boarded our flights and were off to Dublin.

Day 1

We touched down dark and early in a dreary Dublin as the city began its day. Baggage was collected, rest rooms were used, and then we began the incredibly confusing task of searching for the shuttle to the hotel. There were signs to indicate the sections where things might be but no descriptions were offered to what could be found at each section. (We should have taken that into advisement for picking up the rental cars later. Hind-sight…) Sinéad asked for a little guidance and we soon found ourselves walking what seemed to be our first 1/2 mile in Ireland. Dark, cloudy, windy, cold and damp, the shuttle finally arrived and we made our way to the Clayton hotel.


The Clayton hotel was nice, but was located well away from much of anything other than a gas station. We were all tired, hungry, and needing to offload our luggage. Sinéad was able to arrange that Theresa and Eddie could get their room early, and shortly-there-after we were luggage free and figuring out breakfast. The breakfast at the Clayton was a bit on the excessively overpriced side but, as there was nothing to challenge their rates nearby, we stomached the price and did our best to fill up for the day.

Groggy, but less hungry, we caught a cab and made our way into Dublin. Deacon Arnold needed a chance to catch up on rest and made the difficult choice to remain at the hotel for the day. We had a great driver who led us on through some of the sights to be seen in Dublin. Sinéad and I were able to point out the GPO and Trinity College. A short ride later we found ourselves at our first tourist destination.

Dublin Castle


We did it, we made it, and we were officially tourists upon exiting the cab. Sinéad and I had been learning a lot regarding the history of Irish castles, the Easter Rising, and Rebellion that followed. Taking into account the knowledge of that history, this was no insignificant location to finally visit. I was surprised, though. On the surface, this is quite possibly the least castle-like castle we’ve visited in Ireland. It takes a little digging to get a better idea of evolution of the structure to what it is today. We made our way into the castle and purchased our tickets for the next tour.

We had to tuck away our bags before we could take the tour. Fortunately there were free use storage lockers available. We tucked away our bags (I also provided on site tech support to other people on how to use the lockers) and then we started into the tour.


The Entrance

This was what the entrance to the remnants of one of the towers looks like. We went down the stairs to the left of the photo to start the tour.

There was a main room upon entering the basement area. In the center of the room there were steps that led down further to the original foundation of the castle. In the room itself, there were images and information about the castle to be seen while the guide presented some preliminary information. We crowded in, listened to our guide, and then he led us down below.

The foundation tour also included a glimpse of where the moat used to be. We were informed that there was no reason to believe throwing coins in the moat would bring good luck, and proceeded to make our way back up to the surface. The next stop on the tour was the Chapel.

On the way over to the Chapel we our tour guide pointed out the only remaining tower of the original castle. That is the tower on the back side of the chapel in the image above. He also informed us that it was undergoing renovations and was not currently safe for tours. It might be part of the tour in the future, so it might be worth a return visit. We entered the chapel close to the tower, and it was immediately apparent the level of craftsmanship that was invested into this structure.

Thoroughly awed by the complexity of the chapel, we made our way back up to the courtyard before heading into the main interior of the current castle.


The Grand Staircase

Quite the statement to find upon entering the building.


James Connolly

This is the room where James Connolly was held for recovery before being executed. He and the other executed leaders of the Easter Uprising are in the photos on the wall.

We wrapped up our visit to the castle and grabbed our bags as we made our way out. It was an impressive sight to take in. I could easily understand how an impoverished and forcibly starved people would feel the need to remove those in power while walking through the grandeur of these rooms. I also cannot figure out how the British were never charged with war crimes for the execution of the leaders of the Irish rebellion. A thought for a person more in-tune with the proper history of the time, though. We enjoyed our time seeing Dublin castle, but there was more to see! A quick group selfie had to be taken before we made our way down the road in the now steady rain.

We made our way down R137 after heading out. We passed the impressive Bank of Ireland building, Trinity College, and took a quick stop in a gift shop to snag some post cards. From there we continued over O’Connell Bridge before getting to the GPO. Sinéad and I would have loved to stop at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, but (much like Kilmainham Gaol) we weren’t able to book the tour in enough time. We debated doing the tour at the GPO, but our jet-lag was starting to settle in on us. I didn’t grab any photos of the GPO as it was raining so much. The interior was not what I was expecting to see, though. I would have expected a location of important historical meaning would have been re-purposed into a museum, but that was not the case. The GPO was still very much and primarily a post office. It also had a the tour, a gift shop, and lottery tickets.

Uncle John and Aunt Marie were due to arrive in Dublin soon. It was getting about time to head back to the hotel to meet up with them. Sinéad called the taxi company and we got the verbally adventurous ride of a lifetime with Steady Eddie (always ready). We made it back to the hotel and Sinéad was able to get keys for the other rooms. We found Deacon Arnold and then moved our luggage into the appropriate rooms. We had not heard from Uncle John and Aunt Marie, and decided we were at the best place to wait for them. Theresa, Eddie, and I went over to the gas station to grab some snacks and I came upon a very unique find.

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Grab Life by the Beans!

Loved the slogan. Tasted a bit like a RedBull with hints of coffee. I will say it helped push through the jet lag!

Back at the hotel we dove into our snacks and drinks. Shortly after returning I got word that Uncle John and Aunt Marie had arrived. I gave them a heads up on where to find the shuttle bus, and before too long their bus had pulled up to the Hotel. The struggle to stay awake was real, but it wasn’t even 3PM yet. We still had to persevere for quite a while longer. We regrouped and made the decision to get a taxi to our next destination.

Malahide Castle


Malahide Castle was a great spot to visit to help us push through the rest of our day! We arrived at the castle and made it in time to grab the last tour of the day. We grabbed our tickets at the giftshop area and then slowly made our way over to the castle itself. The rain had stopped and the sun was starting to poke through some holes in the clouds making for a fairly pretty evening. The ruins of a past abbey were our sights along the way.

We entered the building and toured around the inside of the ground floor for a short while. It wasn’t too long before the guide called for our attention while ringing a bell. We grouped together and started our tour of the castle. I had to flip my bag to be in front of me, so photographing while on the tour took on a whole new challenge.


The Children are Watching

This is a painting in which the children were painted to have their eyes seem like they are following the viewer as they move through the room.

As odd as it was to try to take photos with my bag on my front, I was surprised to find it actually helped as a means of stability support when taking low light shots. I was happy to find that was the case. I didn’t photograph all the rooms on the tour, but that was okay. We wrapped up the tour in the dinning hall, which must have been a great place for feasts! We exited the tour without much time before the castle grounds closed for the day. We made our way out of the castle and back over to the gift shop.

We enjoyed the view of the castle grounds before loading into Taxis and making our way back to the hotel. Deacon Arnold was feeling much better when we returned and we started discussing options for dinner. We decided it was best to handle dinner in 2 groups as we had options to meet both groups wants. Sinéad and I joined Uncle John, Aunt Marie, and Deacon Arnold for dinner at the hotel bar. The dinner food was good and it was nice to enjoy our first pints on this Ireland trip.

We started wrapping up to have an early night. Jet lag was fully set in and we needed to be well rested for the next day. We called it a night and got some shut eye.

1:30 AM our room was awaken to some knocks on the door. There was a wedding going on and a couple of the lads must have received a wrong room number by some ladies they were expecting when instead they were met with my disappointing face. They apologized and moments later called the room trying to figure out if we were guys who shouldn’t be there. Never a dull moment… Door securely locked, we got back to sleep and rested up for the next day’s adventures.

Day 2

We awoke to another dreary, cold, cloudy, rainy day; but that’s what we were expected given the time of year and that we were in Ireland. First item on the agenda was to collect a couple cars from the Dublin Airport. Sounded easy, but we soon relived the prior day’s hotel shuttle debacle. Uncle John, Theresa, Eddie, and I hopped on the shuttle back to the Dublin Airport and began the journey of looking for the rentals.

On our way back to the main airport terminal we noticed signs pointing us towards the car rentals. We followed those signs quite a distance to the Hertz location to find nothing except parking spaces designated Hertz. We swung by the Eurocar booth and they explained we needed to go to the desk in the terminal. We made our way back towards the terminal and waited in a line that ended up not being a line until the confused person behind the counter called for someone to come forward. We asked where to grab our rentals and they pointed us back outside to pickup a shuttle… We went back outside and begun trying to figure out where the shuttle might be located. We noticed another company’s shuttle that was idling next to an island in the middle of the road and headed that way. Eventually we found designations for Hertz, and even more eventually a shuttle arrived.

We loaded up and, after a lot of winding around the airport and making another stop to pick up more people, we found ourselves at the rental office where we could finally pick up our cars. There was a bit of damage on the vehicle Uncle John and I were originally assigned with and the rear tires were very bald… We ended up getting a much newer rental after pointing out the condition of the vehicle. We re-connected with Eddie and Theresa, and from there made our way back to the hotel.

Once back we enjoyed a quick bite to eat before loading up the cars and getting on the road out of Dublin. We had a fairly pleasant ride out of Dublin and once we got on the M9 there were hardly any vehicles on the road. The low hanging clouds and rain didn’t leave much distance for seeing the passing country side, but we could still see enough to enjoy it. Eventually we arrived at our first tourist destination for the day. There may have been a slight wrong side of the road incident shortly before parking. Regardless, it all worked out fine, and we were soon on our way to see…

Kilkenny Castle

After watching the shows Sinéad and I have seen, I thought Kilkenny Castle would not have been as close to the road as it actually was. We took some time to take in the oddly mismatched entrance and side walls. And then made our way quickly inside as the rain had not let up at all. We grabbed our tour tickets and then waited for the restroom runner to return. As we were no longer in the rain, I pulled out my camera for an easier time taking photos.


Mortared Ceilings

The ceilings appeared to be a mix of sticks woven in mortar.

Almost got it right…

Loved that this toilet was obviously designed to perfectly fit a corner, but was placed in the center of the wall.

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Original to the room

I believe it was the tour guide in the room who confirmed each room had at least 2 items original to the castle. I also believe she said the Screen Divider was one of those pieces.

I, again, did not take photos of all the rooms in this castle. Some of the bed rooms while incredible were too busy with foot traffic and my lens did not zoom out far enough to capture all I would have liked to capture in a single shot. I figured I had grabbed enough photos as it was. With all the impressive sights we had been offered by this castle I made my way down this fancy stairwell believing only the exit remained. I was completely caught by surprise when we came to the next room…

Now the only door left to pass through was the exit. I tucked away my camera before heading out into the rain. I headed out and met up with Uncle John who led me to most of our group. Eddie and Theresa wanted to check out the gardens, and had temporarily split up from the group to go do so. The rest of us went to the other side of the castle to take in the grounds and a look in to the open side of the castle. Pixel 2 to the rescue for some water proof pics!

The group re-united, Eddie, Theresa and I made our way back to the car before heading to a 2nd floor cafe across the street for lunch. The food was hot and satisfied the hunger our small breakfasts had been too ill-equipped to handle. I was a good husband and split a meal with Sinéad. She was so incredibly grateful I was there to help her eat the vegetable soup she had grabbed. (Read as: my existence as a member of lunch was coming into question shortly after she tried her first bite.) I splurged and grabbed a Kilkenny beer with my lunch. Only other place I have been able to grab that particular brew has been at Kilkenny’s Pub in Keene, NH.

We wrapped up our lunches and then headed down to the gift shops. Eddie and I headed back to the car to put more time on the meter. We thought we were going to need it previously, but the last time we checked we still had a bunch of time left on the ticket. We got back to the gift shops, met back up with everyone, and Sinéad and I took the opportunity to sneak away and see what else was close by. We found an Art Exhibition, a pottery shop with the potter crafting pieces in the shop, and an entrance to another cafe and gardens area.

We met back up with our group and decided to take a look at the Art Exhibition together. There were some cool things to be seen in it. One of which I was able to figure out without looking at a description for it. There were a couple girls standing in front of it with no idea what it was supposed to be. I told Sinéad what I thought it did, and the 2 girls were in shock. It was a system that used an Xbox 360 camera to determine silhouettes of people and apply those silhouettes to a fuzzy display beneath. Fun pose time happened immediately upon the discovery.

Thoroughly pleased with the fun we just had, we continued on exploring. Sinéad and I led everyone to the gardens in front of the cafe building. It was a lovely little area and we explored it for a short time before heading farther into Kilkenny.

Our exploring had a purpose, and we soon found ourselves at location we intended to visit next. Unfortunately, part of the attraction to the location was closed due to odd hours and the rain. Regardless, the rain had let up and I wanted to grab some photos of the church we were now visiting.

St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower


Although we were not able to go inside the church itself or go up in the tower, this was a nice location to visit. The graveyard was full of interesting stone work, and the building itself had some wonderful external detail for people to see. We did not have a lot of time to explore the grounds, so the quick visit worked out well for us.

With expert level timing we made our way back to the vehicles and back on the road just at the core of rush hour traffic! We avoided traffic, though, by taking a route the GPS did not guide us to take. Before too long we were back on the highway and heading towards Cobh. We were fortunate to take the route we did towards the highway. The scenery we could see between the hedgerows along the way was well worth it. Part of that scenery included seeing Balief Castle.

The majority of the drive to Cobh was fairly easy going. Uncle John took the lead while we were on the M8, so our vehicle followed him to the hotel. Unfortunately, Cobh has a couple tricky intersections. One of those being the top of the hill where Park View, Cannon O’Leary Pl, West View, and Sky Hill all intersect. The GPS brought us down Cannon O’Leary Pl and told us to turn left to get to the hotel. The left it instructed was down West View. The left it instructed leaves the driver with a hair raising realization that the wrong turn was taken. Fortunately it was not an icy evening, or our vacation would have taken a wrong turn in more ways then the one! We made it down the very steep incline, under the archway at the Cobh & Harbour Chamber, and I reminded Eddie to stay left after the arch (while pleading that Uncle John not bear right where there was a police car sitting at the separation before the Lusitania Memorial). I had a few flashbacks to my confusion last year when I came into Cobh the exact same way.

We did finally find our way to the Hotel, though. After a little unpacking we grabbed something to eat from the Chinese restaurant that was part of the hotel. When our appetites were satisfied we re-joined as a group in the hotel bar. I had a Murphy’s, Sinéad had and Orchard Thieves, and (a member of our party who will remain anonymous) enjoyed a Cute Hoor.

We enjoyed the atmosphere and our beverages until some of the local lads, who were heavily intoxicated, decided they would give the musical talent some “help” in their performance. Knowing the next day would come quickly, and knowing it would be a busy one, we made our way back to the AirBNB and settled in for some much needed rest.