Sunday, November 20, 2022

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island has been on our list for a long time. Cars have been banned on Mackinac Island since 1898. There are more horses on the island than people. More veterinarians than doctors. The taxis are radio dispatched carriages. Bicycles are used by the porters for the hotels. The island does have a distinct aroma.

Mackinac Island is hard to get to. After our exciting return trip from Edinburgh, we wanted something simpler. We flew from Memphis to Detroit with no checked bags and drove to Mackinaw City. We took the Star Line Ferry over to Mackinac Island. We bought tickets for the ferry online but we should have pre-paid for Self Park Secure parking as well.

The ferry ride is less than 30 minutes and you arrive in the center of the business district on Mackinac Island. The porters for the hotels will pick up your baggage and beat you back to your hotel. Take your time strolling down Main St. sampling the fudge.

We stayed at the Harbour View Inn. While it was a perfect location, I'll let you read my Tripadvisor review for the details.

We dined at several of the finer restaurants including The Pink Pony, the Carriage House, and the 1852 Grill Room. All three of them were exceptional. Reservations are pretty much mandatory.

We also dined at some of the more casual restaurants including Bill's Grill and Mighty Mac's. Like the finer restaurants, the food was great but no reservations were necessary. If you need incidentals, try Doud's Market.

We took the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour. That tour gives you insights into the island that you won't see from Main St. The waiting line looked long but it moved really fast. The tour is, of course, on a horse-drawn wagon. Once you get away from Main St., Mackinac Island is somewhat hilly so the horses kept getting swapped for fresh horses. There are a number of stops and 3 choices of how to exit the tour. Be sure and ask your driver where they're from. One of ours was from Romania and another was from Arkansas.

We elected to depart the tour at the Grand Hotel for ice cream and took a taxi back to our hotel.

The Grand Hotel is a destination in its own right and we returned the next day. There's a $10 charge for visiting it but it's well worth it. There are interesting shops and incredible views along the 660 ft. front porch. We had drinks in the Cupola Bar with a beautiful view.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Ireland Dashcam Highlights

I ran a dashcam for the entire trip in 2022. Here are some of the highlights.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Ireland Geotracks

Here's a map of where we went in Ireland. I didn't capture the last day's drive back to Dublin.

I used my old Motorola Moto X and GPS Logger app.

Zoom in and you can really see some details.

Sunday, October 23, 2022


Our hotel, Cheval Old Town Chambers, was in the middle of the Royal Mile connecting Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. When you walked out the front door, you were in the middle of the Scottish Bourbon Street!

From one end to the other of the Royal Mile were shops, restaurants, street performers, medieval landmarks, everything!

We started our time there with a great walking tour by John Mowbray. It was tailored just for us particularly considering the 2 girls and the several senior citizens. We covered some of the Royal Mile near our hotel and then proceeded down the hill to the Old Town.

Grassmarket has a open air market and more shops and restaurants. John shared all the backstories on the sites along the way, e.g. The Last Drop and Maggie Dickson. Then to Victoria Street.

One of the most interesting sites was Greyfriars Kirkyard (cemetery). There were several graves there related to the Harry Potter story and "Greyfriars Bobby." Bobby was a dog who sat guard at his owner's grave for 14 years.

We weren't able to visit Holyrood Palace as there was a royal in residence and visitors weren't allowed. Maybe next time.

From our hotel, Edinburgh Castle is UPHILL to get there and then more UPHILL inside.

The one thing I wanted to see in the castle was the Coronation Stone. My first viewing of it was under the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey in 1990. In 1996, the British Government returned the stone to Scotland. It was taken to Edinburgh Castle where it is now kept with the Scottish Crown Jewels. Then when I visited Westminster Abbey in 2003, it was no longer under the Coronation Chair. So I wanted to close the circle and see the Coronation Stone in its new home.

I checked that box. Unfortunately you couldn't take photos there so you'll have to take my word for it.

Around the corner and down the hill from Old Town Chambers is Cockburn Street. There are pharmacies (drug stores), pubs, and best of all gelato shops. We spent a lot of time on Cockburn Street.

There's WAY more information on my daughter's post.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Cheval Old Town Chambers

So much of our trip was a semi-repeat of previous trips to Ireland that we wanted to add another country. Why not Scotland? After all, it's nearby.

Pretty much knowing nothing of Scotland we decided to just focus on Edinburgh.

John Mowbray met us at the Edinburgh airport and transported us to Cheval Old Town Chambers. Talk about being in the MIDDLE of everything. We were at the mid-point of the Royal Mile. If we could have just put a pin in a map as to where we wanted to stay, that would have been it.

As noted earlier, we had started planning this trip in 2018 for 2019. From 2018 to 2022, the Old Town Chambers has changed hands but the staff and facility were unchanged. Oh, it had been renovated so it was very fresh and up to date.

Old Town Chambers is a collection of buildings with walkways between them. These walkways traverse welcoming open areas, one with a nice restaurant/bar. The interior hallways wander up and down and around inside the buildings. My son-in-law said that being the architect for those buildings would either be fun or a nightmare.

We had two 2-bedroom suites each with 2 baths, a den, and a laundry area. They were just across the hall from one another. They were incredible accommodations with a staff to match.

You can tell from this photo of the elevator panel that that part of Edinburgh is quite hilly.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

John Mowbray Executive Travel & Tours

With all the golf tournaments in Scotland during the time we visited Edinburgh, we had trouble arranging airport transfers and tours. John Mowbray Executive Travel & Tours bent over backwards to serve us. He met our group of 7 at the airport and had a van large enough for our American-sized luggage! He had even tracked our flight and realized that we were going to be late arriving.

The next morning he met us at nearby Deacon Brodies Tavern for a walking tour. When he saw our group included 2 children he immediately changed his agenda to include more Harry Potter sites. Miraculously, he organized the walk to be mostly downhill! Seriously, he arranged the steep steps to be taken downhill and the uphill stretches to be on gentle slopes.

The anecdotes he shared during the visit to Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery kept both the young and old entertained.

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Off to Scotland

After a couple of nights at Ashford Castle, we took all the tires that would hold air and headed back to Dublin.

We had pre-paid for fuel and coasted into the Dublin airport with about 1 liter remaining. The Transport used diesel and the typical cost in Ireland was $8.26 per gallon.

Enterprise didn't blink at what was left of the Transport and even reimbursed us for the replacement tire.

We took Ryanair from Dublin to Edinburgh. For all the hoops that Ryanair imposes on you to buy a ticket, the airport experience was typical airline. Their check-in area was well staffed and moved quickly. Of course, the flight was late but every flight we took was late.

Seven of us flew from Dublin to Edinburgh for a fraction of what we paid per person for Memphis to Dublin.

The Irish airport security (think US TSA) was disorganized and the only difficult clearance we had on the trip.

In spite of the UK's leaving the EU, there was no security, immigration, nor customs for our Ireland to Scotland flight upon our arrival in Edinburgh.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Cong, Mayo, Ireland

When we visit Ashford Castle, we stay across the way at The Lodge at Ashford Castle. Not only is the price better but the atmosphere is more relaxed. And you get all the benefits of staying in the Castle. The service staff is exceptional. They always know your name and bend over backwards to help you.

The actual Castle is 1/2 mile away and there's a Land Rover available to run you back and forth.

We repeated several of our activities from our last visit, but added some.

As we visited the Castle we noticed that there were statues of Irish wolfhounds beside the door. We asked the doorman (in his top hat of course) why they were there. He offered that we could help walk the wolfhounds the next morning at 8:00AM.

So the next morning we turned up at the Castle (in the Land Rover) and joined a small crowd to go walk the dogs. We were led to a 6 ft. gate nearby. The dogs were inside in a van. James Knight, the handler,  cautioned us not to feed them and released them. They were HUGE!

Their names are Cronan And Garvan. When he went around the crowd asking where we were from we answered "Memphis." He then explained that the wolfhounds were there because Stanley Tollman, the owner of Ashford Castle, had visited the Peabody in Memphis and was enthralled by the ducks in the lobby fountain. Upon his return to Ashford Castle, he began a tradition of having the wolfhounds presented in the lobby daily.

The walk lasted about 45 minutes and the dogs performed all the necessary functions.

We had the falconry experience again this time with our daughter and granddaughter. It is a walk through the nearby forests with the Harris Hawks foraging for food. When they would return to the girls, they would swoop down with their huge wings extended.

Afterwards we got to visit with the family of ferrets. One pair was named Charles and Camilla. I'll let you speculate why. That was a big hit with the girls.

The manager of the falconry is Debbie Knight, James' wife. Here's a good article ( on James and Debbie.

Our younger granddaughter had just turned 6 so we had lunch in the drawing room of the Castle followed by cake and ice cream as we had done for our older granddaughter on the previous trip. They sang "Happy Birthday" and took photos. The younger granddaughter enjoyed exploring the Castle.

After lunch, the girls had a trail ride through the grounds.

The reception staff at the Lodge had made all the arrangements for us and everything came off perfectly.

For dinner, we drove up to Cong and explored the ruins of the Abbey and played on the banks of the river.

Incidentally, the Lodge is in County Mayo and the Castle is in County Galway.

The Lodge's web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.

Interestingly, our guide for the falconry shared with us that many of the words and phrases associated with falconry have made their way into the everyday English language.
  • Under your thumb Refers to tightly gripping the bird’s tethers to keep it under control.
  • Wrapped around my little finger Falconers wrap the tethers around their pinky to prevent the bird from flying away.
  • Fed up When a bird has eaten its fill, it will no longer hunt.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Cliffs of Moher, Clare, Ireland

We had visited the Cliffs of Moher in 2007. We stopped there again in 2022 on our way to Ashford Castle.

In 2007, the weather was clear. Not so much in 2022. It wasn't really raining but the air was saturated with moisture. And the wind was beyond blustery.

We ate a quick lunch in the Visitor Centre and then tried to walk up toward O'Brien's Tower. The wind had a different idea.

Their web site is here and the wikipedia article is here.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Tarbert Car Ferry, Kerry, Ireland

To get from the Shores Country House to the Cliffs of Moher we took the ferry across the Shannon estuary. It goes from Tarbert in County Kerry to Killimer in County Clare in about 20 minutes.

The ferry is run by Shannon Ferries Ltd.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

The Shores Country House, Cappatigue, Kerry, Ireland

What more can I say about the Shores Country House? I've posted about it here and here. It's still the one place my son-in-law insists on staying when we visit Ireland. An my daughter's post says "we gorged ourselves on our favorite breakfast in the world." And I stand by my earlier comment "The Shores Country House is one of the nicest places we've stayed anywhere, anytime, PERIOD."

The rooms had been renovated since our last visit and the Internet worked great. But don't stay on the Internet too long. Get out and walk around. The grounds are beautiful and overlook Brandon Bay and the longest beach in Ireland.

Annette O'Mahony is the consummate host and cook. She has moved her website here ( The Tripadvisor reviews are here but they're pretty much all 5.0s.

On the way in, we dined at Spillane's Bar on Stradbally.

On the way out, we backtracked a little and visited the waterfall on Conor Pass. It was raining so we didn't explore Peddlers Lake like we had done before but we were treated to a beautiful rainbow.



Sunday, August 28, 2022

Ring of Kerry, Kerry, Ireland

One of the places we visited for the first time on our 2022 trip was the Ring of Kerry.

We traveled the Ring of Kerry on our drive from Galley Head Lighthouse to Shores Country House. With a car load including 2 children, we had to pick our stops carefully. I think we succeeded!

Our first stop was Staigue Stone Fort. It's a couple of miles off N70 but worth the drive.

Staigue Fort is one of the largest ring forts in Ireland. It stands on an low hill, with a view of Kenmare bay to the south and is very impressive in size. The walls are up to 18ft high and 13ft thick and 90ft in diameter.

The fort is thought to have been built somewhere between 300 and 400 AD as a defensive stronghold for a local lord or king.

At the site there are toilets and a donation box. There was a coffee bar there but it wasn't open.

The website is here. The wikipedia article is here. The Tripadvisor review is here.

Less than 9 miles away is one of the most special places we visited. This was Derrynane Abbey.

The abbey is on an island appropriately named Abbey Island. It is accessible from the mainland on foot at low tide. It is believed to have been built in the 6th century.

Here's the tide chart. You'll need it. You can only walk there at low tide. We planned our drive to hit there at low tide. Watch your time so you don't get trapped out there.

While we didn't play in the water here, the beach and water were beautiful. It's worth spending an afternoon here.

The website is here. The wikipedia article is here. The Tripadvisor review is here.

Staigue Stone Fort

Derrynane Abbey

Sunday, August 21, 2022

O'Donovan's Bar, Fishers Cross, Cork, Ireland

O'Donovan's Bar is on the way to Galley Head Lighthouse. But you probably don't want to drink before you drive to the lighthouse.

As O'Donovan's is a bar, not a pub, there's no food offered. But the management has arranged to have The Wandering Wagon Pizzeria there on the weekends.

On the Sunday evening we were there it was packed so get there early. And in the Irish tradition, stay late.

As usual, I had my Bulmers Cider.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Clonakilty, Cork, Ireland

We used the nearby town of Clonakilty as our locus for our time in County Cork. There used to be family in town but now they are all out in the countryside.

Clonakilty is a must for provisions for the Galley Head Lighthouse.

We shopped several times at Harte's SPAR Supermarket although there is a Lidl nearby. Harte's had a nice ice cream bar.

We spent an afternoon exploring Clonakilty and saw the Western Cork Model Railway Village, the Clonakilty Distillery, had lunch at Fig & Olive and dinner at The Whale's Tail Bistro.

There are lots of shops and restaurants to stop in so take some time in town.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Red Strand Beach, Clonakilty, Cork, Ireland

Just down the road from the Galley Head Lighthouse is a wonderful beach - Red Strand Beach.

Here's why it's called Red Strand Beach.

In spite of it being in July, the water was freezing and even our granddaughters wouldn't get in it. But they enjoyed running in the sand and playing on the rocks to the east.

There were lots of shells and jellyfish to play with and avoid.

We had been there in 2015 and this time there was a food truck there.

The web sites referenced in the 2015 post have mostly gone away but don't let that dissuade you from visiting. Take a blanket to spread out and turn the kids loose.

We went more than once during this trip.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Galley Head Lighthouse, Clonakilty, Cork, Ireland

We first visited Ireland in 2007. With family in the area, we were taken to visit Galley Head Lighthouse and were blown away by the views and atmosphere. Upon my return to the States, I discovered that the lightkeepers' houses were available to rent.

On our visit to Ireland in 2015 we booked both units.

For our 2022 return to Ireland, we again booked both units. That gives you private access to the entire headland. The area adjacent to the houses is securely fenced so we were comfortable giving our grandchildren free run of the area.

The atmosphere of the houses is "old farmhouse" but well maintained. Remember that they are "self-catering" so you'll need to stop in nearby Clonakilty (10 miles, 30 minutes with me driving) for foods and snacks. It's probably worth securing some household goods as well, e.g., soap, shampoo, paper products, etc.

The site management team is actually part of the family who at one time occupied the houses as lightkeepers. They literally have written a book. Their stories alone are worth the trip.

The views morning, mid-day, and evening are extraordinary. I call them "magical."

Galley Head Lightkeeper's Houses continue to be on our "must" list for Ireland.

I realize that this is almost a repeat of our 2015 drive but the drive experience is always worth revisiting.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Remember the Suburban

If you've watched any news recently you've certainly seen the bedlam over travel in the summer of 2022.

Our outbound flights on Delta were relatively uneventful except for a leaking lavatory on the ATL-DUB segment. This delayed us for 1 1/2 hours but didn't really impact our travel as we were driving from Dublin to County Cork upon arrival.

Later, we flew RyanAir DUB-EDI. That flight was about 1 hour late but again didn't really impact us. The service providing us transfer from the airport to the hotel was watching our flight and was there when we arrived.

The inbound flights on Delta were a whole different situation.

Our itinerary for our return was EDI-BOS-ATL-MEM. I was so pessimistic that I had reserved a Suburban in Atlanta so we could drive home.

Our EDI-BOS flight was scheduled to depart at 11:55AM. At 5:59AM I got the following text message.

What the ^&*( was DL 1644? The Fly Delta app wasn't any help. Actually it was confusing as it didn't show any flight for the ATL-MEM leg. Remember the Suburban.

On the app, there was a big red "Accept" button. I didn't dare push that.

Our son-in-law is a Delta Diamond Medalion so he could get someone on the phone. Delta thought that with the delay of the EDI-BOS flight that we didn't have time to make the BOS-ATL connection so they wanted to move us to DL 1644. The problem was that the connection time between that flight and the ATL-MEM flight was also too tight. Remember the Suburban.

If we had accepted the changes, we would have surrendered our confirmed seats on the BOS-ATL flight and been waitlisted on DL 1644. Remember the Suburban.

We rolled the dice and didn't accept the changes.

The EDI-BOS flight was even later departing and they made up a few minutes in flight but from touch down to the BOS-ATL scheduled departure was around 40 minutes.

In that 40 minutes, we had to clear US immigration, reclaim our bags, clear US customs, recheck our bags, change terminals (walking through a parking garage), clear US security, make it to our gate, check in, and board. Remember the Suburban.

We did have a few things on our side. Our son-in-law is CLEAR, the entire party is Global Entry, the BOS-ATL flight was late departing, and we had a teen-ager with us.

Global Entry pays for itself every time we use it. We entered the immigration hall at Boston and it looked like Disney World. The lines zigged and zagged all over. I asked a flight crew where the Global Entry kiosks were. He pointed to the far end of the hall and off we went.

The previous time we had used Global Entry, you had to scan your passport, put your full hand on a sensor, and look into a camera. This time all we had to do was put our face in a circle on a screen and we got the magic ticket.

Off we went to reclaim our bags. Customs was a non-event with Global Entry so we slung our bags back on the luggage belt and headed through a parking garage to the domestic terminal.

Once inside the terminal we had to pass through TSA security.

With CLEAR, our son-in-law whisked through security and headed to the gate where the BOS-ATL flight was already boarding.

Even though Global Entry gave all of us TSA Pre✔, the rest of us struggled with security, especially the grandparents. One of us ran the entire way in their sock feet.

Our son-in-law made it to the gate with the teen-ager not far behind. The gate agent was trying to close the door. The teen-ager leaned back into the terminal and said "I can see them coming." She will have to spend some time in confession for that.

We all made it onboard and made our connection in Atlanta. The Suburban got to stay in Atlanta.

We arrived back in Memphis with no incident and on time. I can't say the same for our luggage. It didn't make the connection in Boston.

We went home and went to bed after 15 hours of traveling.

The next morning the Fly Delta app said most of our luggage was still on a flight to Minneapolis. That should have arrived in Minneapolis late the night before.

I called the Delta customer service number and was told that the hold time was 2+ hours. The interactive voice response offered to use Delta's messaging app so I tried that.

Long wait there as well.

"Kindly use the same online resource we access to track checked baggage." What good are they?

Or "reach out directly to our Baggage team at 800-325-8224..." That rolled over to general customer support service with a 2+ hour hold time. In retrospect, that probably was the best alternative.

So I insisted to be connected to Delta's Baggage Service Center using messaging.

After an hour or so of no response, I headed to the airport. All of our bags except one were sitting in the baggage area. The Fly Delta app now showed that remaining bag was arriving from Atlanta. I looked out on the baggage carousel and there it was! All bags present and accounted for.

But I hadn't terminated the messaging dialog with Delta's Baggage Service Center. I kept it active just to see what they knew.

They finally responded 36 hours later.

And we never needed the Suburban.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Rock of Cashel, Cashel, Tipperary, Ireland

We tried to visit some new sights on our 2022 trip to Ireland. The Rock of Cashel was at the top of our list. The family of a close friend of ours were some of the original occupants of the Rock. That made it all the more special.

We drove from Dublin after our flight from the US so we were famished by the time we got to Cashel. On the way to the Rock was the Rock House Restaurant. At lunch they offered an excellent buffet along with great service. Be sure to save room for the sweets downstairs.

Just up the HILL is the Rock of Cashel.

While some of the structures date from 1101, the majority of buildings date from the 12th and 13th centuries. Still pretty old to Americans.

We didn't read the signs at the entrance closely and entered less than an hour before closing. That really wasn't a problem as the employees didn't run us out and when we finished our wandering, the gates were closed. They let us out and we walked back down the HILL.

There is a paid parking lot just above the Rock House Restaurant with a passage to the restaurant.

The Tripadvisor review is here. The website is here. The wikipedia article is here.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Ireland and Scotland 2022

We had visited Ireland in 2007 and 2015. With a new Toohig we thought we needed to go back in 2019. It turned out that the littlest Toohig wasn't up to the trip so we slipped it to 2020. And you know what happened then.

Finally in July 2022, we were able to make the trip. We tried to hit some of our favorite places and add some new ones. And this time we finished it off with a couple of days in Scotland.

After a 1 1/2 hour delay departing ATL due to a lavatory leak, we flew into Dublin and rented a 9 passenger Ford Transport from Enterprise. It even held all our luggage!

A new stop for us was the Rock of Cashel. After a quick lunch, we spent an hour or so exploring and soaking in the views.

Our destination for the next three days was the Galley Head Lighthouse near Clonakilty. There is Twohig family nearby and of course Red Strand Beach.

We spent an afternoon exploring nearby Clonakilty and saw the Western Cork Model Railway Village, the Clonakilty distillery and The Whale's Tail Bistro.

Two wonderful Irishmen helped us with a blowout on the Transport.

We should have taken them to O'Dononvan's Bar for a cold one. Well, maybe a warm one in Ireland.

A new sight for us was the Ring of Kerry and especially the Staigue Stone Fort and Derrynane Abbey. With a little planning, we hit it at low tide.

The Shores Country House is always a MUST for us along with Spillane's on Stradbally.

On the way out from Castlegregory, we doubled back to the waterfall on Conor Pass and saw a rainbow!

Some of us hadn't been to the Cliffs of Moher before so after a ferry ride we stopped by there on the way to The Lodge at Ashford Castle.

We enjoyed the falconry and trail riding and added walking the Irish Wolfhounds at the Castle. We had another birthday lunch in the Castle's drawing room and wandered around in nearby Cong.

We drove what was left of the Transport back to Dublin and took Ryanair to Edinburgh.

John Mowbray met us at the Edinburgh airport and transported us to Cheval Old Town Chambers on the Royal Mile. John took us on a walking tour of the Old Town with lots of Harry Potter information.

We found a great gelato shop and visited there every day. We explored the Real Mary King's Close Underground and Edinburgh Castle.

Then we had a crazy return trip on Delta. We will be forever grateful for Global Entry.

Here are the GPS logs of our driving and some highlights from the dashcam.