Russell Dandridge also contributed to this article
Photos by Russell Dandridge
Interested in a trip to the Emerald Island? The best way to do it is to drive and the best time to take the trip is right now. With a mission to capture a bit of the spirit of Ireland, albeit a different type of spirits for our story, Russell took on the job of the spirit of the drink and me, to find the spirits that are said to be haunting the islands of Ireland and that have been there for the past hundreds of years.
Arriving in Dublin on a chilly and windy day the mood was just right as we began our journey and for a good ride with excellent gas mileage to get around try the classy 2014 Ford Fusion Energi. Offering very high fuel economy in 2014 the Ford Fusion Energi now comes with a heated steering wheel and air-conditioned front seats.
Indeed, this is one of the most stylish cars I know for good gas mileage and head turning style, the competition includes the Chevrolet Volt with a longer electric range, but holds fewer passengers. The Toyota Prius Plug-in and the Honda Accord Plug-in hybrid are also options in this category too.
Seating five passengers easily, this sedan has two trims, the SE Luxury and Titanium.
Under the hood, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi operates with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine combined with an electric motor from a lithium-ion battery pack. With this you get 195 horsepower from the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Notice that the battery pack in the Energi is larger than in the regular Fusion Hybrid and that gives this option more power overall for longer electric power use.
For safety options, depending on trim and package, there are the add ons of blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, driver-drowsiness detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and collision warning with brake support.
The 2014 Ford Fusion Energi does have a remarkably small trunk, but that is because of the battery pack inside, overall there is only 8.2 cubic feet of space.
Definitely an easy drive with more than acceptable acceleration for getting around town or on the highway and it's quiet, all the time, so quiet you likely won't know the car is even running. One standout as well is the EV button and you can switch to all-electric, normal hybrid or the EV Later mode meaning you are using fuel and saving the battery power for later.
With a snazzy car to explore our many stops, we were off to spend the day in the city of Dublin beginning our journey at the Brewery Bar of Guinness Storehouse.
After lunch at the bar we took a tour of the storehouse and heard all about the making of Guinness, a beer that is as popular in the states as it is in Ireland. A few factoids about the Brewery is that it was in operation as a fermentation center from 1904 to 1988 and is now the seven-story visitor experience dedicated to the history of this place located in the heart of the St. James Gate Brewery. The building is actually designed in the shape of a giant pint of Guinness that if full would hold 14.3 million pints. Since 1759 Guinness has been produced at St. James Gate Brewery and the brewery sits on 60 acres of land on Dublin's south side.
That night, the Dublin Bus Ghost Tour kept us entertained for hours and in the dark of night and almost a full moon there is nowhere else a ghost hunter would want to be than walking down old streets and through spooky cemeteries. The ghost tour is a fun look at Dublin after hours.
After a day in Dublin we were ready to hit the road and explore the countryside onward to Galway City where the cobblestones of this old town were calling our name. We took a lovely walk along the promenade in Salthill just to breath in the fresh air of Ireland on the way in and from Galway Bay you can look across and see the Burren Limestone Region in County Clare.
Of course a walking tour of Galway City is also a must and we had the pleasure of our tour guide Conor Riordan of Legend Quest touring us around the city and giving us ghost story myths and legends as we came to find out than there are a number of hauntings in Galway City, a virtual smorgasbord of ghosts to discover in fact.
We had been looking forward to discovering the Aran Islands so the next morning we drove to the tiny airport in Inverin to fly to Inishmor. They take things slow there and they love to chat. It is here too you will find the culture and tradition of Ireland still alive and well with traditional music, historical sites and a scenery not to be forgotten.
A main highlight on Inishmore is Dun Aonghasa, a stone fort site located at the highest point of the cliffs on the southern coastline of the island offering views down the west coast of Ireland. It is a look at history of Inishmore as the fort is predicted to be thousands of years old. In fact, recent excavations have found evidence that human activity on this hilltop dates back as far as 1500BC to 1000AD, but the most important date for the history of the fort seems to be around 800BC at which time the fort was more than likely the center of the community for folks living on the island.
While on Inishmore we were encouraged to visit a place called Brigit's Garden as soon as we got back to the mainland since this stop would indeed be mystical. In fact, about three people told us about the place and the owner of the guesthouse even called ahead for us. Needless to say, we had to make a stop there. Brigit's Garden is a garden laid out depicting the Celtic holidays beginningwith Samhain (Halloween and the beginning of the Celtic new year), Imbolc (February 1 and also known as Brigit's Day), Beltane (the Celtic Fire Festival marking the coming of Spring) and Lughnasa (the beginning of harvest and the transition from summer to fall). There is also a Ring Fort or fairy fort to discover, woodlands and meadows and even a sundial and the entire experience is mystical as you walk through the gardens paralleling the experience to the cycles of the year. In fact, the seasonal four gardens mirror the cycle of life and reflect perfectly the landscape of the West of Ireland.
Another stop that we were eager to make that afternoon after Brigit's Garden were the Cliffs of Mohr. There are ghost stories that abound here and on approach we saw a group of horses running over the cliffs in the distance, however we weren't fast enough to get a photo. Was it horses from centuries past, who knows, but the magic of what we saw stayed in our minds and welcomed us to the area.
The Cliffs of Mohr are the most visited natural site in Ireland and the cliffs rise above the ocean 700 feet at the highest point. You can even see the Aran Islands in the distance on a clear day and wildlife also abounds including Puffins, Razorbills and there is a pair of Peregrine Falcons nesting below O'Brien's Tower built in 1835 by a descendent of the first high king of Ireland.
As we neared the end of our trip we continued on to the Dingle Peninsula and found what was called Gallarus Oratory an early Christian Church and then headed on to the Blasket Islands Centre for a tour. The Blasket Island Centre is located in County Kerry and is on the tip of the Peninsula offering a look at the heritage of a community who lived just offshore on Blasket Island until 1953. Highlights at the Centre are an American Room dedicated to the Blasket immigrants who ended up settling in America and also exhibitions about the fishing and farming methods on the island when it was inhabited.
Finally, our last night had come and while we had found some rumblings of spirits and tales, we still had the spirits that Russell was looking to discover on the agenda in Cork. So with no further adieu we stopped in at Jameson Midleton Distillery in County Cork where we were given a tour and tasting of the best Irish Whiskey and why people come from far and wide to experience the taste.
Like all good things that must come to an end so did our Irish sojourn as we left a little wiser both in regard to the beer and whiskey and the ghosts that haunt Ireland - after all, why wouldn't you want to head back to the Emerald Isle as soon as possible dead or alive - I know we plan to return again very soon.