We rolled into Foynes on one of the hottest days of the year. Where it was only 11am, the temperature was already nearing 28 degrees and after a sweltering drive from Sligo, we were delighted to arrive at Foynes flying boat and maritime museum (www.flyingboatmuseum.com).
With pre-booked tickets in our hand, we entered O'Regan's restaurant where we were welcomed into the museum. The museum is spread across the entire building, one part being dedicated to the flying Boats, the other one to the maritime life around the Shannon.
We started off our museum tour with the flying boat part of the museum. First, you get to see a 15 minute movie about PanAm's flying boat era. The Boeing 314 clipper flying boat was one of the largest planes of its time and was capable of flying across the Atlantic. Foynes was selected as one of the stops where the planes would land and played a pivotal role in establishing commercial transatlantic passenger flights. The center piece of the flying boat museum is the life-sized replica of the Boeing 314 clipper which you can board and walk around in while discovering the passenger and crew quarters, but also admire the cockpit and radio room.
The level of service on the plane was of a very high standard. There was a dining room with linen tablecloths, crystal glasses, and full waiter service. After a good night sleep in one of the comfortable beds, passengers would find their shoes cleaned in the morning. And comfort was a necessity as a flight from Foynes to Botwood would last 17 hours. Secondly, flying was for the wealthy where a return ticket would cost $675 .
In one of the museum's rooms is a flight simulator where you can control a Boeing B314 through a realistic flight simulator which will definitely be a hit with the kids .
And to talk about something totally different, did you know that Irish coffee was invented in Foynes. On a stormy night, a New York bound flight was forced to return back to Foynes. After landing , the weary passengers were treated to a drink invented by airport chef Joe Sheridan who decided they needed a little more than just a coffee. On that stormy evening in 1943, the Irish Coffee was born. Once Foynes airport closed and the staff moved across the river to the newly built Shannon airport, the drinks recipe was brought across the river as well where chef Joe kept serving it as a welcome drink to the many passengers.
Watch the invention unfold in the museums 3D holographic show where you get dragged back in time to .
On the other side of the gift shop are 3 floors full of maritime memorabilia where you can learn about life on and around the river. Find out about life as a dock worker in the 1800s, discover the various types of cargo passing through the port or delve deeper into the lives of the river or learn about weather conditions and tides.
Admire the art of Currach building or discover the life of a river guide on the Shannon.
On the top floor of the museum is the old control tower from where you have a commanding view across the Shannon estuary. With its 360 degree views of Foynes village and the Shannon, it is a great feeling to stand on the balcony and peak through one of the binoculars.
A more recent addition to the museum is the Maureen O'Hara exhibit where you can explore the life and legacy of legendary Irish-American . The exhibit is dedicated to this Hollywood icon, and within it you can admire many memorabilia which once belonged to the actress. Examples of these are some of here clothes, awards she received over the years, an old typewriter she used to write letters, a make-up case,..
So you are probably curious what the link is between Maureen O'Hara and Foynes. Well, its really her husband, the famed American aviation pioneer Charles Blair who helped work out long-distance routes and navigation techniques who has the link with Foynes. He flew the mighty flying boats into Foynes from 1942 to 1945.
Maureen O'Hara, who acted as the patron of the museum from its opening until her date in 2015 opened the museum on the 8th July 1989.
So, all we can say is that the museum is well worth a detour.