Traveler Spotlight: Cathie and David Whatley, Self-Drive Ireland Tour, May 2013

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We try not to pick favorite clients, but if we did these two would be near the top of the list! Cathie and David Whatley, who have

family roots in Ireland

, share their story about their search for Ireland vacation packages, their “must-see” sights and provide some

tips about driving in Ireland

.


You seem like a very happy traveling couple, how long have you been married?:

We have been married 34 years. Now in dog years that’s…


Where were the top 3 places to visit on your wish list? Did you make it to them? Did they meet/beat your expectations?:

Our top three places to visit were Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains, the Aran Islands and the Slieve League Cliffs. We made it to all of them and they did not disappoint.


Glendalough & Wicklow Mountains

– We visited the Glendalough area on our first day of actual driving in Ireland so it was a good day to “break-in” the driving skills. We drove the old military road out of Dublin which was a beautiful and scenic introduction to the Wicklow Mountains and the “valley of the two lakes.” The 6th century settlement of St. Kevin was eerie yet peaceful with a great walk around the lake.


Aran Islands

– We stayed 2 nights at An Dun B&B on Inishmann, the middle island. What a fabulous spot! We were right next to a ring fort, which we explored of course, along with walking the entire Island which was a beautiful collage of sea cliffs, rock walls, cemetery, contented cows and sheep, and of course, a terrific pub where we would finish our day with a Guinness in what became an evening ritual during our time in Ireland.


Slieve League in Co. Donegal

– We stayed the evening before in Donegal Town in a top notch B&B run quite efficiently the next morning by the teenage children of the family. It was a foggy morning and we were afraid the view from the cliffs would be disappointing, but fortified by our “hearty Irish breakfast”, onward we slogged through the fog. What a great excursion! The fog only lent a mysterious element to the trek as tour trusty GPS “Sally Gap” navigated our journey. Once there we had a short walk to a most unbelievable view shared with a few contented sheep. The fog made it quite surreal as we heard the crashing of the waves against the cliffs and the veil of fog would tear open for a view of the wild, white-foamed Atlantic and the dark, drenched cliffs below. Unforgettable.

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What was the best part about your vacation?:

The best part of our vacation was the Irish. The people were friendly, helpful and charming. From the very first day while touring Trinity College in the soft rain, and our guide quips that “sky-blue” is mostly a theoretical color in Dublin to the last day when we show our B&B host a picture of the grand manor house that apparently our ancestor had owned in the 1600s and she quips “Oh, how the mighty have fallen,” with a wry grin, we were enchanted. They have a keen and cheerful wit, but we realized we had to “listen fast” (that’s hard for us slow-talking Texans) as they are rapid-fire speakers. The Irish are funny and open about their own country and curious about ours. Even when you were not going to prevail, they were always charming, as when one of the hosts of the first

B&Bs in Ireland

we stayed in asked us when we would like our breakfast– we demurred, “When do you serve breakfast?” we ask, as we are new to the game and not exactly sure how this works. “Oh we’ll serve it whenever you’d like”, he asserts. “Well, how about 7:30?” we say. “So you’ll be having your breakfast at 8 o’clock sharp, then”, he says with a charming smile and a direct glance. 8 o’clock it was.


Why did you choose Tenon Tours?:

We chose Tenon tours because of Casey Canevari’s well-honed knowledge and direct travel experiences. Including Tenon, we were speaking with several

Irish travel agencies

…and only Casey effectively possessed and communicated the specific

Ireland travel information

that we needed in our planning. With a relatively short planning window, Casey helped us to put together an
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extremely enjoyable self-directed circumnavigation tour of Ireland

(that also met our travel budget for a 15 day tour). As we put together this trip with about four weeks prior notice, Casey was invaluable.


(Yay Casey!)


Any

Ireland travel tips

to share?:



Weather:

Layer, layer, layer.


Packing:

Pack light!!! We each had one carry-on bag and small day-pack. We weren’t handcuffed by our luggage.


Tell us about any new friends you may have met along the way.

We loved all our stays in the

Irish B&Bs

, but we must say we really enjoyed our stay with Hannah at Liem Sliar on the Blacksod Peninsula. The Peninsula is beautiful and wild with nice beaches but Hannah just made it perfect. It was such fun visiting with her we would be laughing and swapping stories late into the night. Her story about spending St. Patrick’s day in Savannah, Georgia is great. She truly made Ireland a great experience for us.

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Were there any unplanned parts of your trip that wound up turning into one of your favorite travel stories?:

One of our favorite moments was when on a whim we decided to climb Croagh Patrick. This is a mountain in Co. Mayo right near Westport. Well it was sort of late in the day to be climbing a mountain as we drove by-around 4:00–but it was one of those places we had heard about and so we turned around to check it out. And so you know how it is, you check out the visitor center, and then you think you’ll climb just a little to see a view and then maybe you’ll go to the next rise and before you know it, you’re going all the way to the top even if it kills you. Well, we made it to the top, it didn’t kill us and it was totally worth it. Croagh Patrick is a pilgrimage site where St. Patrick himself stayed for 40 days. The sense of accomplishment was great, and the view was other-worldly, like something you would see in a dream where you could fly. All of Clew Bay was laid out before us. We could have counted the supposed 365 islands in it if we had a mind to. There were a few others on the trail both old and young and it was nice to share the experience. There was a gentleman with a sheepdog moving his sheep to another pasture, it was a beauty to watch the dog work. He makes the climb at least twice a week. Well it was after 7 by the time we got down and we still had a ways to go to make it to our next B&B in Blacksod Peninsula. So we called Hannah Quigley at Leim Sliar on Blacksod to let her know we’d be coming in late, and she was just wonderful. She said, “Oh no, you can’t be coming all the way here tonight (it was another 70 miles) you must be completely tired out.” Yes, she was right and we were cold on top of it as it had rained on the way down. So she called a good friend of hers in Westport who also had a B&B and found us a cozy place right down the road. We crawled into our car and off we went to Lurgen House where Ena met us at the door with hot tea and biscuits–a most excellent end to a most excellent day.


How did you feel about

driving on the “wrong” side of the road in Ireland

? :

There is a learning curve, mainly you just have to remember which lane to watch for when you pull out. Wow! and those Irish drive fast, at first even the little old ladies were passing us, but we soon got the hang of it. But it took two of us, one to navigate and count exits on the roundabout, and one to drive.

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What tips do you have for others planning a

self-drive tour to Ireland

?:

Just have fun and go with the flow. Ireland is a small country, but the roads are narrow, so don’t try to do too much in a day. There is so much to see, you don’t want to be driving long distances in one day so that you can’t stop and check out whatever strikes your fancy. It’s a vacation, go slow, explore.


Any advice for getting around?

Using maps, GPS, following road signs, etc..: Ok, here’s the scoop on maps, road names and GPS. Any map you get will not be entirely accurate. And since most roads in Ireland don’t usually have names or numbers, there is no way to accurately navigate by a map which assigns various names and numbers to roads with no signs. And if you do see a road with a sign, it will NOT correspond with the map in English or Gaelic, and whatever name it has on the map or actually on the sign…that name will not be what is on the GPS. Nope, what few names or numbers you see will have no relation to each other or to the map or to the GPS. But it’s OK. It’s Ireland, ask someone and they’ll give you directions and tell you you can’t miss it, which you will, and then just trust the GPS, or ask someone else, eventually you’ll get there. You’ve got to have a GPS. Very essential and surprisingly reliable. And of course you need the map to know in general where you are going, so you can point at a spot and say..let’s head thataway.


Any advice for the “round-abouts” or “circles” while driving?:

Having a “co-pilot” to count and direct to the right exit invaluable. Don’t panic if you miss your exit, keep circling until it comes back around (even if it takes a couple of times or more).


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