409 – Thursday 7th July 2016: Dead ‘Ard Going’
Who booked the 4.00 am crossing??? Our arrival in Belfast Lough was peaceful and calm – we stopped nearby at Groomsport harbour and slept for a few hours … We deserved a cooked breakfast for brunch and ate in sunshine on considerately provided benches. After the last few days of rain in Scotland, the sun was MOST welcome and K finally divested herself of her thermal underwear!
We drove around the Ard Peninsula, stopping at Donaghadee: pretty and boasting the oldest N Irish inn … we did not consume there, but instead had a homemade vanilla ice-cream sat over looking the boats. We’re on our ‘olidays in a new country! And the sun was shinning.
We continue south to Portaferry with the intention of climbing the hill to a windmill to get the views of the fast moving tidal waters at the narrow sea opening. Not to be – carpark with a height barrier. Never mind, we’ll park in the town and see if we can see the first underwater hydro barrier … nope … height barriers again! We left, hugging the coast, which at the start was really rather narrow with few passing places. A kindly elderly gent reversed (zig zagged actually with his passenger giving verbal assistance through the use of her sun visor mirror!) back a way to let us through.
We halted at Scrabo Castle, just near Newtownards where we finally got a walk – up to this fine example of a lighthouse-style building with 360 degree views. A fine wild camp spot with BBQ topped tables … so we used them. We happily consumed the odd glass of vino with our BBQ, only later to see a sign warning that drinking in public risks a £500 fine … we’ve since seen a few of these public order signs up … seems strange when there’s BBQ facilities – aren’t a BBQ and Booze inseparable?
And really quiet – good sleep…
Scrabo Tower: built by the tenants in memory of one of the Marquess of Londonderry … wonder how much say they had in the building?
410 – Friday 8th July 2016: Titanic
Titanic is a must see and we planned it as a train trip – from Bangor West. The weather was favourable – the exhibition is expensive but after 3 hours, it proved it’s good value. At £98 million build cost, they have to recover some money. The industrial history of Belfast itself started the tale – following the shipbuilding local industry to the Titanic build – a suspended cable car ride (James didn’t look down) – the maiden voyage and tragic loss – discovery and recovery of relics – perhaps more might have been included and the reasons for the ship failure – structural loss or design?
The Nomadic ferried passengers on board.
The grand staircase.
We overnighted in a lay-by near Mount Stewart which K had spotted on the Ard drive yesterday. A busy spot with people arriving with takeaways. The good souls put the rubbish in the bins, but then the seagulls pulled all the rubbish out! K went out with rubber gloves to do a bit of tidying … like to leave a free spot a little tidier than when we arrived.
411 – Saturday 9th July 2016: Mesmerising Mount Stewart
Running is supposed to be a way of life, but recent poor weather, laziness and some unsuitable locations meant we’ve got a bit stiff recently. However, we returned to it this morning, a slow plod along the coast and K did some Pilates.
The Aged P’s had said Mount Stewart was a must see, however, since their visit it has had major refurbishment, including opening up the main staircase and more rooms. You’ll need to come back, if you can fit it in you holiday schedule! The National Trust has bought up loads of furniture and other memorabilia from other Marquess of Londonderry property sales and created rooms with a lived in feel. They targeted the era of Lady Edith, who was married to the Maquess of Londonderry, also known as Lord Castlereagh – the politician. Edith moved almost permanently into Mount Stewart and set about making a home of the house. The gardens are absolutely incredible and we did a Gardener’s Tour … she designed the gardens as a solace due to Lord C’s numerous affaires! There is quite a gap between the main children and the last Mairi, was the product of a brief reconciliation!
The house had really good room staff, including some youngsters. Part of the Italian Garden.
The Spanish Garden.
Edith was interested in the classics and there is a lot of symbolism in topiary, as well as some unusual sculpture that she commissioned … Spot the Dodo above!
We overnighted with about 15 other vans at the Aire in Donaghadee – this was our view 🙂
412 – Sunday 10 July 2016: Boyler Table Battles
Leisurely start and we drove to Banbridge via Stormont, which the intention of walking the grounds … but no parking … a reoccurring theme? K managed to get a retina flash image of the long vista up to the parliament palace.
Families are everything! The Boylers are brilliant, our welcome outstanding, free drive accommodation, showers and use of washing machine – grand hospitality. James reprised his (famous?) football skills with Daniel who had the Boyle/O’Reilly/Clune ball/hand/eye coordination … the score was Daniel – a lot – James 0! The only thing was that it was on the table using Daniel’s supper … even Daniel knew it was little bit naughty!
James and his neice, Mary-Kate.
James should you really be teaching Daniel this?
But Daniel learns fast!
413 – Monday 11th July: Orange Order March and Band
A first for James Clune – taking part in his first ever Orange Day Parade and proudly waving a Union flag! The family are aghast! Orange Day parades take place across Ulster on and around the 12th July to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne, when Prince William (Dutch and protestant) came over to the aid of the Irish and defeated King James of Scotland and England – Catholic. In the times of the ‘Troubles’, the marches were targets for local conflict and more trouble. K did check with the really helpful lady at the TIC … yes, really family friendly.
A great afternoon and evening … lots of marching bands followed by events in the recreation field. The Scottish Ulster dancing was brilliant: one girl said they practice for 3 hours a week plus competition time … it showed. Apparently in this part of Ulster there is more Scottish dancing than Irish, as they link back to their Scottish ancestors. A great band and a massive bonfire. The pallet suppliers must love this time of year as their sales go through the roof … most towns and villages had a towering stack of pallets all ready to go up in flames. The ones nearer Belfast were ludicrously tall … a few real leaning towers … fire risk?
This is for the family … J waving the Union Jack at an Orange Day festival!
414 – Tuesday 12th July 2016: Loyal Orange Order and Silent Valley
A good run through Kilkeel town before the marchers started – they started practising at 6:00 am today, so it was an early first cup of tea! This was the main march, with Loyal Orange Lodge bands from nearby towns all playing. Each band was followed by the members, all dressed in suits … quite a few suits were ill-fitting and obviously only come out on high days and holidays. The quality of the playing was superb. The sight of wheelchair bound soldiers of old with their medals on proud display brought tears to our eyes… The history is well known – we now appreciate it much more.
Back to the field of last night – just stalls designed to fleece all the kids of parents’ money and people picnicking, so we returned to Chard and had our lunch.
The Lodges are pretty wealthy … a number had private plates and Kilkeel had a huge new Lodge building only built in 2015.
Just caught this lady … loved her dress … could’ve done with it for the Queen’s Birthday celebration in May with Frances and Edward.
We planed to spend two nights up in the Mourne Mountains and do some walking. We started with Silent Valley; reservoirs that feed Belfast and County Down. A little dull walking along the reservoir, but then you turned a corner to that wall of the second reservoir. A walk to and up – and down – 300+ steps and the views from the top were pretty good.
Mary-Kate had heard about cars being broken into in the Mourne Mountains over the holiday period, and K had read about trouble at an aire, so we booked into the Tallymore Park campsite for two nights. Being on site means a BBQ is mandatory … although the awning did come out to protect BBQ and us from the frequent downpours! Has our reader ever heard of a campsite where the rules included a ban on fire-logs on pain of instant expulsion from the site? The site is OK but a little tired but the price is reasonable. A few glasses of vino … don’t think a campsite can count as a public place and no house rule against alcohol. AND we dipped into the toffee vodka that K had made … following the recipe that George gave at the wildcamping Brin Highland gathering … pretty good, but you don’t need much of it!
415 – Wednesday 13th July 2016: Sitting Pretty
Today we perambulated in the Olympic style (not!) and now taking it very slowly on a jobs/admin day. We heard this morning the tragic news of 23 deaths in Italy in a train crash…it makes us realise yet again how precious our lives are and how lucky lifestyle…thinking of those who died and the injured and survivors…
Another BBQ evening 🙂