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Ireland - SHEEP - is it really a possibility?

My husband and I are planning our trip in the later part of May and I am really curious if we really will encounter sheep on the rural roads? I have always felt that this was a part of the culture of Ireland and would love to get a picture of our car surrounded by sheep.

Posted by
11973 posts

If you're on rural roads in Ireland, I'd be surprised if you don't encounter sheep; they're everywhere. I've only seen them here and there spread out over large fields. I'm not sure when/where they round them up for shearing but that's probably when you're going to see large groups of them on the road.

Posted by
2876 posts

I've driven all over Ireland and the answer is absolutely yes, you might well encounter sheep being herded on roadways in rural areas.

Posted by
9363 posts

The only trip I made to Ireland where I did NOT encounter sheep on or alongside the road was my first one in 2001. At that time there was a foot and mouth disease epidemic in the UK, and Ireland was desperate to keep it out. Access to rural areas was closed, animals were kept under close control, etc. Since that time, though, every time I have driven in Ireland, I have come across sheep. They might be standing in the road, or alongside it, but they don't run out in front of you like deer. Just drive slowly toward them and they will generally get the idea that you want to get by, and they will wander off.

Posted by
1834 posts

.....and if you go the the Isle of Islay you can find cattle on the beach.

Posted by
9363 posts

But the Isle of Islay is off the coast of Scotland, not Ireland.

Posted by
43 posts

You all are so funny! I have been laughing now for about ten minutes - thank you all for your responses, I am super excited about this trip and getting your responses have been wonderful (Nancy & Monte, you're a hoot!) I am a huge animal lover and to be able to interact with and see all types (cows, sheeps, dogs, whatever) will just make my day and trip! Thanks again for your input, I really appreciate it!

Posted by
9363 posts

Ah, but can you see the cows from NI?
Ms Hoot

Posted by
1834 posts

Nancy, A person can see Northern Ireland from Porthahavan, Islay. Mr. Hoot.

Posted by
3696 posts

I love the sheep... but I am beginning to start hoping I don't encounter them anymore. I feel compelled to stop my car and get out and take pictures EVERY time I see a wonderful field full of sheep! I don't know what it is but I can't help myself...but I do hope you find plenty.

Posted by
484 posts

Just remember the sheep have the right of way. There are some areas of west Donegal where the sheep run free, no fences at all.

Posted by
6465 posts

The long haired ones are a pleasant surprise. Drove the Sally Gap then R115 through the Wicklow Mountains enroute to Glendalough. Stunning beauty. Sheep everywhere. Drive carefully as they roam where and when they want.

Posted by
61 posts

Oooohhh the sheep were one of my favorite things about Ireland! Our car (bus) never was surrounded by sheep but they did cross the road in front of us several times. They are all over. We did get surrounded by a group of equestrians but that's another story. I came home with a large bag full of sheep souvenirs.

Posted by
1986 posts

Have had our car surrounded by sheep on odd occassions across England and Ireland, but usually they are kept behind stone walls away from the crazy tourists

Posted by
105 posts

Patty, if you're 'unfortunate' enough not to be surrounded by sheep on your drive through, just pull into any of the sheep farms in the West of Ireland and the sheep farmer will arrange it for you, we can't have tourists going home disappointed!

Posted by
241 posts

Loving this thread! Scotland, ireland, wales, rural england have animals walking everywhere! Look at flickr and plockton. You're sure to see some Highland cows lying on the road - more challenging than sheep!
S :0)

Posted by
43 posts

Again, thank you all for your input - it's been wonderful to read other encounters and advice. We plan to drive thru the Wicklow Mountains to Glendalough then to Cashel, Blarney, the Ring of Dingle, Doolin, Galway, Newgrange before we turn our rental car (then Dublin by public trans), so I am hoping to have several chances to get the 'sheep experience'. I am truly thinking of visiting a sheep farm (John), I've seen several advertised as petting farms, etc. I love this idea! I also checked out the flickr site (Susan) and viewed so many fantastic photos, but now that leads me to another question - why do so many of the sheep look like they've got paint on their backs? It seems to be a large mark of red or blue. Does this show ownership or is it something else? Again, thank you all-I really appreciate it! Mr. & Ms. Hoot, you had me in stitches....you may want too seek counseling! :o) Just kidding!

Posted by
2349 posts

About the markings on the backs of sheep-someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I've read. The farmers put paint on the chest of the rams, and that transfers to the ewes during mating. Makes the rams feel proud. When I was in Scotland, and we went for a long walk near Aviemore, we were so excited to see shaggy cattle. And even more so to lay down in a patch of heather.

Posted by
9110 posts

Rams don't give a crap as long as they have fun. The belly paint is so the owner can tell who did what to whom. The other paint is to define ownership, I think.

Posted by
441 posts

A man in Ireland told me "if you don't like your neighbors, buy sheep". They tend to get out. We encountered them on the ROK, in the middle of the road. Also in Dingle, there was a painting shop with a newborn lamb. The lamb had a pamper and we could pet it. I found out (and she did too) that my grown daughter likes sheep.

Posted by
241 posts

karen - yup Ownership - yup
S ;0)

Posted by
241 posts

Ps someone's just mentioned lying about in heather - remember ticks. Don't get the usa type tick borne encephalitis in uk and ireland, but they do carry the bug causing lyme disease S

Posted by
28107 posts

The term for rams mating ewes is "tupping" or "covering". Those are tupping marks (or covering marks) so that a farmer can tell at a glance that all his ewes have been prepared for the following Spring. And, as implied above, each ram has a different colour. This then lets the farmer know what to expect.

Posted by
43 posts

I have learned more about sheep in this last week than I have in my entire life! You all are so helpful and I thank you so much for your input - thank you Claudia, I did check out the link and LOVED IT! What great photos and articles. I'm hoping to get that exact experience! Karen, I had to Google a photo to find out what laying in a field of heather meant and now it's something I may have to do (but just for a quick photo op) - as beautiful as it looks, I can only imagine how great the flowers smell too! Nigel, thanks for the 'class' on tupping/covering, I'm just hoping that as a result of all the markings being spread, I will have a chance to see a lot of babies while I'm there....end of May, what are my chances??? I promise I won't try to smuggle one out of the country, but they are so darn cute! Again, you all are the best! Thank you so much, sincerely, Patty

Posted by
3696 posts

Those red and blue marks on the sheep were a real distraction in my photographs till I went digital and learned how easy it is to clone. Two seconds in photoshop and the marks are all gone! I have also been know to clone a whole sheep at times when they were not strategically posed in my picture.... so little left of reality anymore!

Posted by
28107 posts

If where you are going is like the English midlands for timing the first lambs should be in very late February into mid March continuing into early May. So there should be plenty of week to month old bouncy lambs.

Posted by
9363 posts

Rahard Lodge in Cashel is also a working sheep farm. When we stayed there, my nieces discovered that if they played their new pennywhistles, the sheep and little lambs all came running. Turned out that the farmer whistled when it was feeding time. They let the kids all hold a week-old lamb for photos, too.

Posted by
101 posts

Patty, Are you planning on staying the night in Cashel? If so, I would highly recommend the Duallah House B&B - it's on an actual working sheep farm. The house is a gorgeous 200 year old Georgian house and has the MOST comfortable beds I have ever come across. We got to walk down around the sheep and my best Irish memory - I looked out of the bathroom window and saw a rainbow that ended directly in front of us - I even have the photo of it ending. Don't worry - you will see plenty of sheep. I am obsessed with them as well and have plenty of photos to share. Have a great trip - we will be there in late May as well :) thanks,
Tracey

Posted by
43 posts

Yes, Tracey, we will spend one night in Cashel. We haven't made our reservations yet, but had been looking into many places. I did not know about this place, thanks for the wonderful advice. As much as I love all animals, I'm equally doing this for my step-mom, Mary (yes, her favorite nursery rhyme is...you guessed is 'Mary had a little lamb') and to be able to send her photos of all the sheep/lambs may help me to motivate her on a trip with us to Ireland in the future. Again, thank you, thank you!

Posted by
43 posts

Wow Nigel, for being a non-sheep farmer, you sure are a wealth of knowledge! I checked out the other thread with your history of growing up around farm animals. You sure learned alot just by being a neighbor. I also did a lot more research on the Flickr site and found several photos of the sheep with more than one color on their hind side, looks like some of them are having a little too much fun covering another ones color. I might have to learn a the photoshop to remove the marks too, but in other photo I may still leave it on. I also saw two particular photos of sheep that I'm really hoping to see, (I wish I knew the what the breeds where called), but one type had really long shaggy hair, bare legs and sort of a naked head and the other type had these really long curly horns. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? I would love to label the photos correctly in my scrapbooking when I return. Also, if I get a chance to pet or touch them, do you think the farmer/owner would mind or should I ask first? What about feeding them? I thank you for keeping me straight on all this, maybe one day too, I can be a sheep-whisperer! :o)

Posted by
28107 posts

Patty What you mustn't do is interfere with lambs or ewes during lambing season. Bothering ewes who are near the end of their pregnancy can cause problems, putting your smell on lambs can cause their mothers to reject them, and a ewe worried about her lamb(s) can be a very unpleasant animal indeed. If you want to get closer there are petting farms all over the UK, I'm sure the Irish would do a similar thing. They even have special lambing days. I'm sorry to say you should not feed farm animals without permission of the farmer and then only what they provide. Lambs and sheep are the life blood for the farmers, they take a lot of care and they make very little profit. Anything to interfere with that most certainly is not welcome. Enjoy, but enjoy from a distance.

Posted by
1834 posts

Just to add to Nigel's lamby lore, once when I was in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar on Islay I asked some of the regulars if they told sheep jokes just at we do here in Idaho. One said, "Why do you think the Irish wear wellies".

Posted by
1437 posts

Be very wary of the rams, if you do get out of the car near one. When I was younger, much younger, I ended up collecting soil samples on farms in Nova Scotia. I was alone in a back field when a ram knocked me to my butt and kept coming at me. I ended up with my rubber-booted feet planted firmly on his head, while he slowly rotated me in the mud, and I hollered my head off for someone to come and rescue me. This was one of the most undignified moments of my life and the bruises were memorable too.

Posted by
11973 posts

Sheep souvenirs (or cheap souvenirs)? At Hill of Tara there were sheep roaming around. There were occasional shrubs in the area and most had tufts of the sheeps' wool in them. I took a tuft from one of the bushes, stuck it in an a spare ziplock bag and still have it. I also found a chunk of peet, the kind used for burning, in a parking lot near Killarney, put that in a ziplock and still have it.

Posted by
2349 posts

I think Diane has inspired all of us to keep those cameras rolling during sheep encounters!

Posted by
43 posts

Hi again everyone- thank you so much for your input, I love reading the personal experiences (great and not so great). Wow Diane, you gave me a mental picture that will last long after my upcoming trip to Ireland. I will do my very best to stay away any and all rams, especially when there isn't a fence or wall between us. I will have my camera ready at all times (Karen), you just never know whats around the next corner. And Nigel, I promise not to interfere with mommy and baby bonding, I'm just hoping to get some really great photos, using a ZOOM camera lens! ;o) I also, promise not to feed the sheep, unless a farmer allows me to...I have a secret feeling I will be making lots of sheep farmers into friends! Thanks again everyone - this trip cannot come quick enough.

Posted by
5669 posts

After more then ten trips to Scotland I've seen a lot of sheep. ; ) My friend who takes us on walking tours keeps sheep. It always cracks me up that she calls the rams, the boys and how she has to keep the boys away from the girls. ; ) A couple of trips ago I broke down and bought a sheepskin "rug." It's wonderful sit on and my niece likes sleeping on it when she comes to visit. I have a great picture that I use for my tripadvisor ID that was taken on Lewis few years ago. It was so nice of them to pose for us. If you want to search it out, I'm a DE for Madison WI. Pam

Posted by
977 posts

Patty if you are spending time in Northern Ireland. You would enjoy the experience of staying at Kinbane Farm B & B near Ballycastle. It is a working sheep farm. Wonderful place to stay. En route to the farm we were held up on the side road by a herd of cattle for 10 mins. On your arrival you will be warmly greeted not only by the hosts, but by their working sheep dogs as well.

Posted by
241 posts

Wow, sheep saga's continuing. I am surrounded by sheep here (no jokes from Europeans ...)
S ;0))