When my husband and I were thinking about where to go on our honeymoon the first question we asked ourselves was, “Do we want to relax on a beach and do nothing for 10 days, or do we want to have an adventure?” Being lazy and relaxing in the warm sun was very appealing, but we decided on having an adventure and being exhausted after it was finished. The next thing we had to figure out was where to have this said adventure. My husband had never been out of the country, let alone the state he was born in, so we decided that for his first trip we would go to an English speaking country.
My husband had worked in an Irish pub in Boston a few years before and always liked the stories that he heard from the people who had lived there. So when we were looking over English speaking countries, we decided upon Ireland. We bought our travel books, went online to look at local hotels and saved up some money for the trip.
We had an evening flight, but couldn’t sleep because we were so excited. As we neared the Irish coast the cloudy skies parted and we could see the dark green Irish shores, dotted with small cottages and winding roads. We landed in Shannon on the west coast, a quaint little airport with helpful, smiling people. We picked up our rental car, an economical peppy little car, that was very easy to use despite having to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the car, not to mention the road!
Our first hotel near Shannon was a family hotel and although nice, was filled with families with small, very loud children who ran through the hallways all during the night. We would not have stayed at this hotel, but our tour package included it. Thankfully however, we were quite jetlagged so we slept through the noise most of the day and night. Also the first day that we were in Ireland we experienced the historic downpours that keep Ireland so green. (The rest of the week however, we lucked out with sunny skies and warm temperatures.)
The next day we headed east making our way to Birr. We drove through Limerick, a sleepy town with a few castles by a windy river and amidst rolling mountains and hills. We stopped at a couple of places snapping pictures of ruins of old churches, homes and castles. The second place we stayed was a little bed and breakfast in a local farmhouse. It was cozy and quiet, and was very close to Clonmacnoise.
Clonmacnoise is an early Christian monastery situated in County Offaly on the River Shannon south of Athlone. It sits quietly beside a large glassy lake, and its solitude gave us a sense of how the monastics must have felt so many years before. Many old Irish crosses dot the graves that surround the ruins, weathered by the sun and the elements but still as stately as they had once been. We were delighted to find in one of the ruins the “Whispering Arch”, a part of the church used by the priests to hear the confessions of the sick as they stood outside the church, and the priest stood inside.