After Brian and the boys and I traveled around Ireland for about 10 days, starting in Dublin, and then heading to Northern Ireland (including Belfast, Bushmills, and the Giant’s Causeway), and then to the west of Ireland (including Louisburg and Dingle), we headed back north towards Galway to meet my parents and siblings with their spouses and kids. The Collins family – all 33 of us – was reunited at Galway’s Ross Castle which my parents had rented for the week.
When we arrived, not all the rooms were ready, so we hung out in courtyard. Patrick and Danny were excited to play with slingshot torpedoes they convinced us to buy them earlier in the week. It didn’t take long before their uncles joined the fun and one torpedo was stuck on the roof of a castle building. Thankfully my brother Brian found a ladder and rescued the torpedo.
While the kids ran around and explored the spacious grounds, the adults chatted and drank Guinness which was on tap in the castle barroom.
Everyone was excited to see and hold and snuggle with Baby Barrett, my sister Nora’s new baby boy who was just two weeks old.
We all went to dinner at a restaurant in the nearby town of Moycullen. Danny was thrilled to have an enthusiastic audience to watch him perform his “La Bamba” dance from his recent school concert.
The waitresses followed Danny’s performance with a “broom dance” in which they danced with and over a broom. They were really good at it!
The next morning we all went to Sunday mass. We had lunch at the castle and hung around the property that afternoon. It was fun to watch the cousins play together. Brian and I were happy to have deli meat for lunch since we can’t get that in Paraguay.
My dad and Barrett napped together, oblivious to the world around them.
Before dinner everyone gathered in the courtyard for an all ages rock, paper, scissors tournament. My sisters Katie and Colleen, the organizers of the tournament, had established brackets for this best-of-three tournament. Everyone – not just the kids – was really into it!
Due to rain, we moved the tournament inside after a few rounds. Brian, Patrick, and I were all knocked out in the first two rounds but Danny was doing great and kept winning and advancing. He was thrilled!
When my dad and Danny advanced to the final round, Dad consulted some of my siblings, asking, “How do I not win this thing?” My siblings noted Danny’s preference for throwing “rock” and suggested my dad plan accordingly. When Danny beat my dad and was declared the family champion, he was so happy and everyone was excited to celebrate with him.
Danny loved celebrating with my sisters!
Fresh off his win, Dan told Brian, “Daddy, I’m so proud of myself!” Not everyone shared Danny’s happiness over his status as champion though. My nephew Emmett shed a few tears, and the next day Patrick said about Dan’s win, “I just don’t understand how he could possibly beat me since I am better than he is at everything.”
Danny happily shared his prize of glow stick bracelets with his brothers and cousins, and the two Kevins celebrated by doing “cheers” with their age-appropriate drinks.
For dinner we had take out from a local restaurant – a variety of appetizers, plus several trays of lasagna, traditional shepherd’s pie, and shepherd’s pie with salmon and leeks.
We ate in one of the castle kitchens at a very long table, large enough to fit us all.
We had several cakes for dessert and celebrated Mike’s birthday which was that day.
After dinner, Patrick sang “Stone Soup” for the group, a song from his school’s family day celebration the month before.
With the kids all in bed, the grown-ups played “Collins Family Charades” organized by my sisters Katie and Colleen.
Some of the favorite charade topics included: when Dad superglued his teeth, Mom cries when she hears the song “Baby Mine” from Dumbo, my dad’s mom (poorly) playing charades, my sister Katie was so tiny at birth we put her in a water and took pictures, my brother Matt broke his ankle, Jonah ate Katie’s clearly labeled meatball sub from the kitchen fridge at Christmas, my brother Matt “bumped into a twee” as a kid and had a huge bruise on his forehead, Dad’s famous “champion-chip French toast” breakfast, Annie fell off a treadmill and had to get so many stitches on her thigh, how much my niece Evelyn loves seeing my sister Sheila, Dad had a mustache and wore a brown tuxedo on his wedding day, when my parents’ house caught on fire one year on Christmas Eve, Jimmy the creepy son of the owner of a restaurant we used to frequent, the time in high school when Mary Kate did the Heimlich maneuver when I was choking, Sheila – when forced as a child to apologize to Maureen – said, “I’m sorry and I don’t mean it.” There were lots of laughs and reminiscing!
The next day we visited the Cliffs of Moher, the most visited natural attraction in Ireland. The cliffs stretch for five miles and are nearly 400 feet above the ocean below.
The kids had fun with the telescope viewer and they liked O’Brien’s Tower, a small castle on top of the cliffs.
After being up on top of the cliffs, we drove down to the bottom and went on a boat ride departing from the town of Doolin. It was neat to see the cliffs from the water.
The boys like seeing how tiny O’Brien’s Tower looked from such a distance.
The water was a bit choppy and we all had to hold on tight since it felt like we were on a roller coaster with the waves. Kevin snuggled right up to Brian and took a good nap.
Danny – an avid bird lover – especially enjoyed watching all of the puffins swimming and flying and diving into the water for fish.
After the boat ride, we had a nice lunch in Doolin.
While in the car on the way to Galway city, we gave the boys some Oreos cookies to enjoy. Patrick wanted to eat them all himself, so he told Danny that the white filling was ground up grape skin. Danny and Kevin passed the time by making spitting sounds.
In Galway, we visited the cathedral.
We walked around Galway’s Latin Quarter.
We visited a pub, Tig Coili, which had been my brother Patrick’s favorite hang out when he was a college student studying in Galway.
Our group took over a corner of the pub. The kids (at least one of them barefoot with absolutely filthy feet) had lots of fun playing fetch with their uncles using drink coasters.
We had dinner at King’s Head nearby and my sister Nora and I split two amazing seafood dishes.
The next morning, the guys went golfing at Connemara Golf Club, right on the ocean.
While the guys were off golfing, the women and children went to Brigit’s Garden. The kids had fun running around and playing and learning about druids and fairies and Celtic myths and warriors.
Patrick’s favorite feature of the park was a wishing tree where visitors could write a wish on a piece of paper and then attach it to the tree. Patrick wished to see a fairy and remains disappointed that it still hasn’t happened. After lunch at the restaurant on site, which for me included seafood chowder, we headed back to the castle.
While Kevin took a nap, Danny and Kevin were excited to run around the castle grounds flying kites.
The wind was so strong that it snapped the string on both kites. The boys then entertained themselves by rolling down the hills.
That afternoon, Padraic, the caretaker of the castle took the boys fishing. This was one of the most anticipated activities of the trip for Danny and Patrick. They had been talking about going fishing for months!
Danny was so happy to be fishing that he didn’t even notice his fishing pole had no hook on the end of the fishing line. (The way he whipped his pole around, it was definitely safer without a hook!)
Patrick, having recently read a book about fishing, was constantly telling the rest of us to stop talking since fish are more likely to bite when people are quiet.
After fishing from the boat for a while and catching nothing, we headed back to land and the boys continued fishing from the shore for a bit. Although no one fell in the water while we were in the boat, Danny somehow fell over – and fell into the water – while standing on the shore. Even though we didn’t catch any fish, the boys loved going fishing.
Patrick and Danny rode their oars (or horses as they called them) back to the storage shed (or stables, according to Danny and Patrick).
That night we all had dinner together at Oslo Pub in the Salt Hill neighborhood right along Galway Bay.
The next morning, while my parents and siblings headed to Ballynahinch Castle and Kylemore Abbey, Brian and the boys and I headed to the Aran Islands. We took an eight minute flight from Connemara airport to Inis Mor in a small 10-seater plane.
When we arrived in Inis Mor, a shuttle took us from the airport to the center of town and we rented bikes. I had a tagalong bike with Patrick, and Brian had a little cage for Danny and Kevin.
It’s a small island and there weren’t many people around. The scenery was beautiful and it was nice to ride our bikes across the island. Patrick said, “This is so fun. I really like this.” And Danny said, “It is so cozy and warm in my cave and I snuggled up to Kevin to help him stay warm. He kept taking off his socks and shoes so for sure he was getting chilly.”
We stopped at a lookout point near a seal colony and saw a few seals and ducks in the distance.
As we continued on our bike ride, we saw lots of sheep and cows.
We visited the ruins of Dun Aengus fortress high on cliffs above the ocean. We left our bikes at the bottom and hiked to the top, up somewhat steep and rough terrain. It started to softly rain as we neared the top.
Due to excessive squirming and yelling, Kev was restrained outside the frame of one shot below.
As the rain increased, we started to make our way back down.
Here are Danny and Patrick in front of an aerial view of the ruins we visited. For obvious reasons we kept the kids away from the cliffs!
We rode our bikes in the pouring rain to Joe Watty pub.
We sat near the fire to warm up and dry off. Brian and I had Guinness and the best lamb stew of the whole trip.
By the time we finished lunch and were heading back to town, the rain was back to a steady drizzle.
We returned our bikes and did a little shopping in the town. The boys had fun petting a lamb statue and Danny really wanted us to buy a bunch of stuffed baby lambs. (We didn’t buy them.)
With the rain still falling and having visited all the stores in town, we went into a nearby restaurant. The kids had ice cream, the adults had Guinness, and we all played games until it was time to catch our shuttle back to the airport.
It was another 8 minute flight back to Connemara.
We had a few sleepy boys in the car ride back to the castle!
We cooked up some chicken nuggets for the kids and put them to bed. It had been a long day for them. Meanwhile, the planned dinner for the adults – delivery from a nearby Italian restaurant – had been delayed. The restaurant, whose owner was on vacation in Italy, had temporarily misplaced the order and was no longer able to deliver the food. A couple of my siblings went to pick up the food. We had a mix of delicious pastas, pizzas, and salads. It was a low key night, with most of us tired and in bed early.
Up next: more about Ross Castle, our home for the week!