Travel # 16 -- April 5, 2005
From Cork to Ennis with possible personal lead

By Bob Corbett

After a pleasant full Irish breakfast to tide us over for a long day of travel, we caught the Eireann bus out of Cork to Ennis via Limerick. Long ride on a relatively dreary day. We went through a tiny town called Buttevant. It was just a cluster 25 to 30 buildings right along the only street and quite rundown, one of the few really rundown looking places we saw other than some city slums in the larger towns.

Right in the middle of this cluster was one of the most rundown looking of all the buildings and it was Corbett's Guest House, presumably a small B&B. This intrigued me. I have done many years of family history, having traced much of my mother's family back to the 15th century, and not only traced my former wife's family, but even visited her relatives in two places in Ireland on a trip in the 1980s. But I have no real evidence of where OUR Corbetts originated.

There are family stories. One great uncle said County Clare. Another, speaking with what seemed more authority has given me the information that they were from Kilmalik Parish in County Limerick. The reason I say this information seemed more authoritative is for two reasons:

But, I don't really know where the Corbetts came from and haven't verified this Kilmalik parish story. This Buttevant, between Cork and Limerick is very close to where Uncle Charlie told me they were from, so now I have a lead to at least follow up on and some people to write to at the little rundown guest house on main street -- the seemingly only street -- of Buttevant, Ireland. Wish me luck on that one.

(Anyone out there every heard of Killmalik Parish in Limerick?????)

We arrived in Ennis which is the largest town which is on the border of The Burren. The Burren is, for me, one of Ireland's most interest places. I tend to refer to it as "The moon with sheep," since it looks like a moonscape of eerie rocks with almost no houses, but lots of rock walls, sheep and Druid ruins.

It was raining a bit, so Sally sat at the bus station with our luggage and I headed over to see about a place to stay. Just two blocks from the bus station I came across as very lovely and large B&B, The Grey Gables run by a delightful woman, Mary. I took a room for a night and went back to get Sally. The rain was quite light and the distance minimal so we walked over and settled into a lovely room looking out on a beautiful garden with trees and birds singing and flowers everywhere.

It was mid-afternoon and we were going to walk up and explore Ennis a bit and get some food. Mary recommended The Old Ground "Hotel." While I pay serious attention to the advice of locals, eating at a fancy hotel was not much to my liking. We donned our rain gear and headed out.

I do have to preface this story with a second-hand story I got from my brother John yesterday. It turns out my cousin Mike Moser is on this list and he tends to call my Aunt Catherine and read her the stories of our travel. She asked my brother John if I had put on a lot of weight. John, puzzled, had said no. Aunt Catherine indicated that the notes Mike was reading her had so much about food and eating that she was worried I did nothing else in Ireland!!! We, as you've read, I did do a wee bit of walking and other things, so actually I think that despite the awesome food, I did come home a bit lighter than when I left.

At any rate, as you may now guess, here comes another food story. I do love to eat.

We walked past this fancy hotel and didn't even realize it. When we got to a corner and rounded it there was an entrance to The Old Ground, but it wasn't to the very very fancy dining room (which we saw on return visits, but where we never ate), but this entrance was to The Poet's Corner, a pub connected to the hotel. And was it lovely. The main floor of the pub was just a normal looking pub, albeit a bit spruced up. This first visit we sat on that main floor. It was very crowded for the lunch meal, but we were just minutes before the lunch menu was ending for the day.

On return visits we were to discover why the name "The Poet's Corner." At the other end of the pub is a fairly large alcove, up a few steps above the rest of the pub and in this area there is a library and lovely large lounge chairs, and dark wood on the walls. It is a lovely “nook” where one can sit for hours and talk, or, of course, share poetry and other such things, a decent library of Irish literature was on the walls.

With the exception of the gourmet meals at The Old Pier, this was the second best eating place we found in Ireland, though we also stumbled upon a good one in Dublin at the very end of our trip.

This first day, however, the "lunch specials" were just ending, and we were going to be "stuck" with the normal menu served all day and evening. What caught my eye immediately was: the prices were incredibly modest. Modest for ANY PUB, but rather shockingly modest for such an elegant place and they had some extremely unusual appetizers. We decided to have a meal of just shared appetizers.

I started out with a liver pate that I had all to my self, it not being as appealing to Sally as to me. She got a small Greek salad and it was lovely. We next shared an astonishing dish of stuffed mushrooms, and we even did a third shared appetizer. We were stuffed, and sitting back relaxing, but we couldn't help notice all around us people sitting with these delicious desserts. We couldn't resist and had the ONLY dessert of our whole trip. Both of us got some ice-cream dish and a jar of whiskey to go with it. Delicious.

We could barely stand up to go outside!!! But we did and walked for a long while all over the small and very cute town just window shopping and people watching, the rain having let up. We stumbled upon an e-mail place right along the rive that runs through town and spent an hour or so on e-mail, then crossed over to the wall alongside the river and stood watching a man in wading boots fly fishing for trout. Just a lovely scene.

We found a Dunnes store and picked up some wine and treats to take back to the B&B, again following out pattern of only eating one meal a day out, but today's was a very large meal indeed. A meal of little things, but just a bunch of them.

In the evening we were visited by Michael "The Happy Cabbie" whom I had telephoned at Mary's suggestion. He came to discuss with us a cab trip into The Burren.

Our original plans back in St. Louis had been to spend three days on rental bikes in The Burren. However, in talking with folks in Ireland before this day we realized that it was going to be very hard in this season to find a rental bike and secondly that The Burren is quite large and very hilly, biking would be a major challenge. No buses can really get into it, at least not the really interesting interior since the roads are too narrow.

Thus we talked with Michael, The Happy Cabbie. He is a very jovial and pleasant fellow and offers three different day-long tours he gives to tourists. Since there would just be the two of us, and since we'd have his cab all day long, this was going to be a rather expensive tour. I put together a proposal of bits and pieces of two of the three tours, and wanted more time in the heart of the "interior" of The Burren. He was surprised I knew as much about it as I did, and agreed to all we wanted, but was convinced that one road along the sea which I had NOT wanted was a mistake. I stuck with my plans and he agreed -- IN WORDS. The next day he ended our marvelous tour by taking us on this Atlantic seacoast road, and he was, of course, 100% correct, it was an awesome experience, one he said is completely off the tourist path and not open to buses of any sort.

But, more about this day in The Burren tomorrow.

Well-fed, excited about the long trip into The Burren for the next day, and mellowed out by a couple of glasses of wine and some chocolate in the later evening, we slept well, looking forward to the adventure of the coming day.

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Bob Corbett