“Irish road signs are idiosyncratic in the extreme… a masterpiece of disinformation. A sign is designed to lure you towards a place that you’ll never see mentioned again, unless it is marked in two separate directions on the same post.” – Pete McCarthy
Eugene’s was a wonderful place, well deserving of its James Joyce Pub Award, with a genuine Irish welcome and an excellent glass of Guinness, so excellent in fact that we stayed for a second and almost missed our table reservation.
We sat in a corner surrounded by Father Ted mementos and hatched a plan to try and visit some of the places associated with the TV series. Actually, as it turned out we had already made a good start and we had unknowingly already visited some of the filming locations. On the drive into the Burren we had seen the Aiilwee Caves which were renamed ‘the very dark caves’ in the episode ‘The Main Land’, the bare rock beach was the picnic site in ‘Old Grey Whistle Theft’ and the Cliffs of Moher were featured in ‘Tentacles of Doom’.
As we spoke to other customers who for some reason were gathered around an unnecessary log fire there was a event outside which could have been a pure piece of Father Ted as a parade of Priests and altar boys made their way down the High Street following a statue of the Virgin Mary before they stopped where a crowd of people had gathered for the celebration of the Corpus Christi at the other end of the street.
After a good meal at the restaurant we returned to Eugene’s for a final Guinness and after a conversation with a very drunk lady from Belfast walked back the short distance to the Grove Mount bed and breakfast. It was the longest day of the year and a clear night so although the sun had not long disappeared already the sky was beginning to brighten again in the east.
Sheila served an excellent Irish breakfast and gave us clear instructions on how to locate the Craggy Island Parochial House, which was the home of Fathers’ Ted, Dougal and Jack and we set off in the sunshine along narrow roads flanked by hedgerows decorated with wild flowers, buttercups, iris and fuchsia, until we reached the next village of Kilfanora which is the location of Vaughan’s Pub which was used in the episode ‘Are you right there Father Ted?’ as the Chinese pub.
We stopped for a while to take some pictures of the replica props and then carried on towards our principal objective. On the way we passed the ruins of Leamanean Castle, which isn’t used in the series and then followed the directions to the house and after a while there it was looking exactly as it did nearly twenty years ago when the series was filmed. It is a private house and apparently lots of people turn up at the gate to see it and have their photograph taken but it was still quite early and we were the only ones there so we had the photo shoot location all to ourselves for ten minutes or so.
We were anxious to continue with our journey now because we had a distance to travel towards our next destination of Dingle and we were unsure of the travelling time on account of conflicting information at breakfast. We were planning to take a ferry across the River Shannon and although the lady who served breakfast said that it wouldn’t be too busy and there would be no problem, Sheila said that it might be so we should allow some extra time for the journey. This created some uncertainty but everyone knows of course that in Ireland road signs are contradictory and confusing, distances are approximations and travel advice is as reliable as a government economic statistic.
Our journey took us back to the coast at a place called Spanish Point where we stopped for a coffee and enjoyed a short spell in the sunshine next to the beach and then we followed the coast road south until we reached the river and eventually the ferry crossing at Killimer at twenty past twelve.
The timetable suggested that the next crossing was at one o’clock so we joined the line of traffic and Kim and Pauline went inside to the gift shop and as soon as they had gone through the door the cars started to move forward for loading. This seemed early so I asked the man supervising the loading what time the next crossing was and he said in five minutes! They had altered the crossing schedule!
There was potential trouble here because Kim and Pauline like browsing around shops and Richard and I grew concerned. Pauline appeared but no Kim so Richard ran back to find her. There she was casually browsing the merchandise and even refused to believe the departure information interpreting this as another trick. When she looked outside and saw that the car had moved and was parked on the ferry the penny dropped and there was a mad rush to get on board as the engines started to growl and the ferry staff began preparations for departure. She was rather flustered but eventually found it just as amusing as we did.
The boat slipped away from its moorings and we left County Clare and Father Ted and crossed the water to County Kerry.