432-436: Last Days in Donegal

432 – Saturday 30th July 2016:  A very Important Game

We filled our water containers and emptied the toilet in the very convenient public toilets and wandered up the road the the regular Saturday local market int he village hall.  A bit of knitting, some local slate products, a stall of local fruit and veg and a lot of cakes.  I picked up red onions and a lettuce … J picked up a carrot cake!  The healthy and unhealthy!  But we will share :).

J was keen to watch the Donegal and West Meath GAA Gaelic Football  All Ireland quarter final, so we were looking for a pub.  We headed into Dungloe, which had its Mary of Dungloe festival – they select a local lass to be the Mary (a bit of a beauty pageant) and lots of bands in bars.  Limited parking, so we ended up adjacent to the fun fair … concerned that we might get a bit stuck there come 2.00 p.m. when the fair opened.  A quick wander into the town and then, it not grabbing us, we left and headed for the hills.

We had a pub in mind, but the small village was host to a cycling event so the pub wasn’t showing the football.  We did drive along the finish line with crowds either side of us … slightly embarrassed to be there, but tempted to give a few royal bows and waves, we extracted ourselves.  We continued into the Glenveagh National Park – some stark hills making the scenery interesting – at the visitor centre I was told about The Lagoon, back out of the Park, but it would definitely be showing the game.  So back we went.  A large pub with a lounge and local’s snug; we went into the snug.  Since the barman said we could park overnight in the car park, we forced down a couple of ciders.  Back to the van for a J nanny nap and then back into the pub for supper.  Very traditional pub menu – so much deep fat fried that one set of foreign tourists arrived, read the menu and left. However, the fish and chips and spicy deep fried chicken fillets were all well cooked.  An elderly couple had a quick chat … in very strong local accents … he was 80+ and had missed the game as he had been at work – labouring!!  A couple of bottles of the quaffable single choice of red wine (i.e. no choice at all … red or white) and we slept really well!

 

433 – Sunday 31st July 2016: Erigol the Terigol

We thanked the pub and I asked where I could find a post box in the neighbouring shop, which sold everything from ice creams to grass seed and tins of beans to fertiliser.  Post box a few miles up the road, but the shop owner offered to post my postcards with his post tomorrow … nice people in this neck of the woods.

Back into Glenveagh National Park and we parked by the already full car park by Mount Eribol.  On paper, it does not sound like a difficult climb – being only 751 m high and the 76th tallest in Ireland.  Erigol the Terigol gets its name due the the initial clamber across and in muddy wet bog.  The steep ascent is then over scree to the top – some hands and knees.  Nearing the top, the heavens opened and the mists descended so we could only see about 2ft in front.  Fortunately, we’d seen some of the views of the other peaks and the coast on the way up.  I was relieved to have my walking poles for the descent, supporting my dodgy knee and giving me some balance as we slid down the screes … J went down 3 times, and we watched a couple where he went down, then she did, and then they did synchronised bog diving!  A ‘cool’ mum was making her 9th climb up Erigol and her young son’s 5th.  Another chap at the summit, had climbed the highest peak in 30 of the 32 Provinces of all of Ireland in 2.5 years.

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The on road car parking got busier every time we looked back … this is definitely on the way up as my poles are in the back pack and J does not yet have a soggy bottom!

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It might not look much, but it was possibly the steepest climb we’ve ever done.

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Some of the views before the rain and mist came in.

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You can just make out the coast.

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The summit.

When we got back to the van and changed, we had a slight issue with Chardonnay.  She sort of started and then fizzled … no power at all though.  OK, so we have European motor insurance.  Oops – no phone signal.  J got a lift down towards the next town where he could ring the insurers and then a local garage rang him back – about an hour and half before they could attend to us.  J then had to walk the 2 miles back up the road to me, as I’d stayed in Chard … no-one hitches or picks up hitchers now :(.  A chap arrived from the garage where J had rung from … doing a favour for a mate further away.  He got us going – I had to drive in second gear, revving at 3000 rpm back down to his garage in order to clear the diesel particulate filter.  A common problem with these Fiat Duacto motorhomes … they engines are designed for white van man gunning the engine, which clears the filter.  We’d been nursing the engine for improved fuel consumption and only been doing easy slow short hops.  We now know that we need to regularly do 30 mins + where we get the engine hot.

We drove a short distance back to the coast to near Rinnageeragh and found a fabulous car park amongst the dunes over looking another white sandy beach … oh yay!  A quick walk on it and we read the plaque about 4 young girls having be drowned here in ’72.  A local confirmed that the beach here is treacherous due the the undertow, but that it was a good walk along the coast to several small bays and a long sandy beach … these were OK for swimming.  That’s tomorrow’s plan then!

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434 – Monday 1st August 2016:  Walk, Bays and Beach BBQ … Phone Call!

Having slow start, as we planned to stay a second night, I did pilates amongst the dunes.  We walked along coast trying to identify the little used path, which was quite fun, passing lovely white sand bays and beaches.  We made is as far as the Carrickfinn Beach, busy with life guards.  It got even busier when about a thousand teenagers arrived from one of the summer Gaelic language schools with their tannoy!  We wandered back the way we’d come, stopping at one of the bays for some still cool beers and a swim (minus wetsuit) for K.

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A bit of a clamber up from the beach to get around the headland.

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Mountain Goat – made it!

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Mount Erigol in the background – looking pretty tame, but we know better!

I’d previously checked with a life guard – it is allowed to have BBQs on the beaches … so that’s what we did.  We carried down the BBQ, table and chairs, as well as all the necessary.  A fab location and one of those memorable events.  It became even more memorable when I took a call from the London and Surrey Welsh Springer Rescue organiser.  We’d discounted having a dog as it would be inconvenient, expensive and would limit what we could do and where we could go.  But we’ve seen a LOT of motorhomers with their faithful hounds, some really quite large dogs in not so large vans.  It felt like a gap in our lives.  So I’d just picked up the phone and rung the rescue organiser before I could rationalise against doing so – only about 3 days ago.  The conversation had gone along the lines:  There is a massive waiting list for them.  

  • I know, I’ve had one before.  
  • Where did the previous dog come from?  
  • Tina Smith. 
  • I know her and she’s really strict about who can have her dogs.  Y
  • es, my last was one of her not so good gun dogs … I did a bit of training with him with Julie Reville.  
  • Yes, she’s retired now.  

This call was to say that there was a 2.5 year old dog in Solihull – could we pick him up from there?  Of course!  The West Mids organiser would ring us tomorrow morning!  Somehow the Tcall had ticked all the boxes and `i’d pretty much gone to the top of the UK waiting list!

We opened another bottle by way of celebration and stuck a fire log on.  What a simply fabulous day!

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435 – Tuesday 2nd August 2016: Decision Made – Head for Home

Several phone calls later … we’d changed our return crossing from Belfast to Cairryan to …. tomorrow.  Whilst the current owner would have kept Oscar until the 18th, when we would’ve picked him up, she had two male dogs who’d were going at each other hammer and tongs and we just wanted to get him!  We packed up and flitted across to Belfast.  We will just have to come back to this part of Ireland to finish off the coast next year.  I put our Stendhal Festival music tickets up for first come first serve on the Motorhome Craic forum and even managed to get them posted that night.  We overnighted at a free motorhome aire in Bentra Grill, as the Carrickfergus service point was faulty.  A really quiet night too.  

 

436 – Wednesday 3rd August 2016:  Belfast – Cairnryan – Solihull

Up with the lark for a 7.30 crossing.  Nothing to report other than we drove all day and made it to a great free parking by a reservoir near Solihull – dog pick up destination!

429-431: Donegal Coastline and Dodging Showers

429 – Wednesday 27th July 2016:  Carpet Bagging Fish

Roving reporter tonight – James:

Overnighting last night?  And course the readers will know of “Lusty Beg”? Now we say ‘readers’ because we know there are at least 2 – Amelia being our reader and roving reporter based at Killiney Beach – and Mary Kate reporting from Banbridge assisted by Michael and Daniel (of the new fashionable first ever haircut…).  Anyway, getting back to Busty Leg (oops, Chardonnay is not really busty – or busting a leg…). A stunning (that word again) small ferry crossing to a major party venue (conferences and weddings) – we declined to party there and settled for our own Chardyparty…  We woke to heavy downpours 😦  No run and a damp enthusiasm.

Donegal Carpets have graced the Ambassadorial residences of countries around the globe, prestigious hotels, wealthy houses, Buckingham Palace and – “Aras an Uachtarain” – the official residence of the President of Ireland. Very sadly, this may be coming to an end… But on with our story…

I had a little prior knowledge of the Donegal Carpets business – Katherine had not really heard of them. So we journeyed to Killybegs town to find parking for our friendly beauty – Katherine! (Actually, I could be in a spot of bother here, so don’t tell her – she doesn’t weigh 4 tonnes – she’s a mere slip of a girl…). Anyway Chardonnay proved difficult to park (she’s not a difficult lass – neither is K (he quickly and diplomatically added…).  K wandered across the road to the local TIC – and the nice chap offered to have us parked just off the main street right behind his office!  He obviously spotted our 2 beauties – Chard and K!  

Armed with maps and lots of useful information, we strolled up to the carpet factory/museum. As always the staff were friendly, professional and very well informed. Started by a Scot in 1857, it grew quickly (4 factories initially) – 3 closed after 10-30 years leaving Killybegs only. The photos show the immense skill and detail involved – every single carpet over 150 years was unique and completely to the owners individual design. K did some weaving and knotting of a carpet in progress…see photos – I was cameraman of the day. The wool for the weaving could only come from the local black-faced sheep – clearly, the sheep facial expression came out on the designs! 

The competition from synthetic and mass produced carpets has taken its toll and the last carpet was weaved 3 years ago – with no present orders…

We can only hope that somehow this lovely piece of local industry and history can continue – who would like to buy a nice carpet factory?

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The longest loom in the world.

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1920’s pic all knotting away.  The minimum requirement was 350 knots per minute, but some got up to over 600!

Our wild camping for the night was at Teelin Pier – another lovely quiet harbour – lots of activities during the evening – kids rowing classes, boat trips, fishing… and another gem from our neighbouring fisher folk. K perambulated to chat with some fishermen – and came back with 2 large mackerel – free gratis!  Supper was the freshest of fresh Donegal sea produce.  Later, our Katherine came upon a couple of Latvian/Lithuanian fishermen – conversing in Russian – K’s Russian is a little rusty – like “2 large vodkas please” – she somehow came away with some generously sized pollock… second free  and fresh fish supper tomorrow evening!  K:  Honest injun … I did not set out to blag two lots of fresh fish … I did offer to pay!

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The views out of our window at Teelin Pier …

 

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430 – Thursday 28th July 2016:  A New Wooly and an Inspirational Man

Guess what fell from the skies during the evening and night – a kind of soft mixture of moisture, vapour and magic mist!  Some folk would call it heavy rain – but we prefer the mystically damp theory!   It was so mystically magic the it crept vertically through the open roof lights and attached itself to some clothing – but not to our duvet!  We slept peacefully, having enjoyed another (they are increasing) alcohol free evening…

The – lets call it ‘nice rain’ sort of decreased and we shot off (shooting off  for us means a leisurely departure at 1030 am) to the area of Malin Beg – not Ballyseg….  We happened upon a Donegal knitwear outlet shop en route and we stopped ‘just to look’ at the Aran-style sweaters. Within a few nano seconds, K’s face lit up at one beautiful cardy-style item.  We settled for an early K birthday pressie and the purchase was completed in lusty style … (K:  my birthday is not till December!)

As we headed for the beach having been warned of the dangers of the mountain track – we fell into conversation with Pablo (injured toe) and David – Peruvian and Irish lads who were long distance walkers. We suggested they might take a lift with us to Glencolumcille – they were happy sandboys – they had camped overnight on the beach! 

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A LOT of steps down and back up (!) to the beach …

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… proof that we did make it!

Glen Columcille Folk village was established in the 50’s/60’s by a true visionary – Fr James McDyer.  A native of Donegal who worked in London initially – he was transferred to Glencolumcille in the 50’s.  He immediately recognised the plight of the local folk – emigration, lack of jobs, etc.  Under his leadership, they built a village hall, holiday cottages to let and many other projects.  He lobbied government for electricity power supplies, water improvements – a saint – you don’t have to be formally canonised to be ‘saintly’.   To attract more tourism he created a small village to show life through the ages.

Glen Garish pass en route to Naran beach – the next overnight stay – is the equal of the most spectacular passes in the Lake District!   

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Glengesh Pass … amazing views, just too misty 😦

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Loads of peat cutting all around Donegal.  J remembers wielding tools to do this as a wee lad, but nowadays it is is nearly all machine cut.

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Glencolumbkille Folk Museum

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Would that be an empty glass?!

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Whilst Catholicism was repressed the Priests went into hiding and toured villages.  If a couple wanted to marry, they poked their fingers through a ‘Promise Rock’ and became bonded.  They could then live as a couple until the Priest arrived and performed a formal marriage service.


Naran beach is a popular resort but still not too busy – loads of youngsters on a 2 mile long white flat sandy beach – another Donegal gem!  Not an amusement arcade to be seen.  K walked the 2 km white sands whilst I had a minor nanny nap.  Once the beach carpark emptied out, we move Chardonnay so we would awake with the sea and beach views … also right next to the left open all night toilet block … how convenient is that?

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The overnight view of the 2km miles of white soft sand.

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Views on K’s walk … layers of mountains and tones …one of those peaks is Mt Errigal, highest mountain in Donegal.

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Someone’s hours of work that I photographed on the way out of my walk …

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… to witness the joy of some other children then destroy on the return leg.  I wondered if the creators would be upset when they came back to the beach tomorrow.

 

431 – Friday 29th July 2016 – Not Moving in Naran Beach

K rinsed clothes while we were right next to water and then we attempted to move Chard to a longer and less in the way parking space … only to be told by an unpleasant cafe owner that the whole car park was NOT for motorhomes and to read the sign.  We’d read every sign … rubbish!  No mention of cars only, but we gracefully moved out of his sight.  K would have fancied an ice cream later today, but no way will she buy from him!  The other locals in a different cafe and the life guards had all been really relaxed when she checked last night about where we could park up. 

We ran for not too many miles on the beach – “Tra Mor” in Irish Gaeilge – large beach. Today, Friday – we decided to be still, spend another night in this completely unspoilt corner – and travel onwards tomorrow to where?  Any where we call home.  

We met Stephen and Christine – relatively new to motor homing and had coffee and cakes!  Still working and thinking of going full time – our advice is – just go for it!  We had a short walk along the coast until the path disintegrated.  Donegal really has not got to grips with tourism … it could do so much more to attract walkers and cyclists, but I suppose it would spoil the uncommercial feel.  

We shall be moving the van again tonight once the car park is empty, but not near the unhappy cafe owner!!!


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426-428: Water, Water Everywhere

426 – Sunday 24th July 2016:  Benbulbin – a Must See

We drove on around Lough Gill to Glencar Waterfall, which is on Glencar Lough (funnily enough) … water everywhere around here!  To be honest the waterfall, which is part of the Yeats drive was disappointing … set up as a massive tourist venue with block paving, a horse drawn carriage to hire and ice cream van.  We did not stay long, but we did manage a Mr Whippy.  The ice cream vans only seem to do these, no choice of ices on sticks 😦

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Glencar Waterfall.

James had been going on about Benbulbin mountain, the most notable in Sligo.  I did not know what to expect … we’d googled about walking up it, but received wisdom was that if was not safe, but J had found a walk just north of it.  So we headed there and the heavens opened … water water everywhere!  We lunched, rested and in a reprieve of rain set off … only for the heavens to open again!  It did dry up a bit and we could see the clouds and mists beetling across the top of Benbulbin revealing the most amazing wide vertical riven rock face.  A seriously memorable mountain.

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Benbulbin:  poor weather meant we really did not have the best view of it.

We fancied a coastal overnight, so headed to Streedagh Beach … an amazing spot and the sun actually made a fleeting appearance.  K spoke to a chap who’d swam … he does so every day of the year.  Cripes!  The water’s lovely, he said, so in I went.  But with wet suit … and it really was silky.  J had to stay on shore to photograph the evidence … again!

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Evidence!

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Taken when the sun finally came out from Streedagh Beach.

We’d planned to stay the night here.  We knew the beach parking sometimes flooded at high tide, so I checked with the life guards … we should be OK.  J was just washing up from dinner and a guardian angel knocked on the door …. the tide was creeping up close and she’d seen lots of motorhomes and cars destroyed … even though I’d checked, the tide still had an hour to go till high tide, but it was close enough.  We very promptly packed up.  Fortunately today was a new all time record in the Clune household … ever!  it was our third dry night in a week since we met over 10 years ago!  Our really lovely guardian angel suggested we drive south to Raghly Point – the the small fishing harbour.  She said … views of Benbulbin and across to Downpatrick mountains – fabulous.  And water!  Although now nearly 9.30, we filled up all our bottles and on board tank … with the view to showering in the morning.  A real gem of an overnight.

J here:  Now then… Our gallant readers will know a little about our PeePeePot.  Yesterday, as I was going about my ‘business’ – I thought about how we might classify our ‘emissions’ ?  How about a wine classification?  Demi-sec?  The container is a sort of demijohn.  Well, see have been dry for a few days – hang about – we are very ‘sec’ indeed – too much information?  Ok – you can ‘sec off’!

 

427 – Monday 25th July 2016:  

A run around the peninsula and then a massive spring clean in the van … and then we showered.  Clean sheets, clean van and clean us.  Joy.  Then we filled up again with water … and had chats with the local fishermen … lobster no good at the mo, as the weather too poor, so they are catching crab, but the price is low.  

We’d now a big Ikea bag of laundry, including the bedding, so I’d googled laundrettes nearby … but by the time we got to Bundoran it was gone 3.00 and the laundrette lass said it would not be ready till tomorrow.  We contemplated staying in the aire next door … EUR15, including showers and electric … but ever budget conscious me (unless it is something I want!) said no, EUR15 is EUR15 and we don’t need to spend it!  But we’d also googled that it was going to cost EUR1 to dispose of card and plastics and EUR4 for a bag of household waste (no free bins and all waste except glass and tin cans are chargeable …. BUT very few recycling / disposal centres and they have very restrictive opening hours … do not get me started on this!!!).  HOWEVER, there was a Lidl next door and J checked … the aire had bins … soooo we could claim the aire was only actually going to cost us EUR10, by the time we’d paid for waste disposal elsewhere, when we’d found one that was open!  And we’d about 4 days of waste starting to smell and be tripped over … in our now pristine Chardonnay.  J rang the contact number and PJ came and opened the barrier and gave us a tour of the newish facilities.  

We shopped and then took a wee dander around Bundoran.  I was not expecting a lot, as it is a well known (in Ireland) seaside resort.  But once you get past the amusement arcades and mini fun fare, it had really pretty beaches, good for surfing … too far for me to walk in my wet suit!

We made the most of our EUR15 … all waste disposed, free electric so the slow cooker made an Italian veggie soffritto and slow cooked a whole chicken, charged devices, toilet emptied and all water replenished.  And I showered … quite necessarily, but because I could!

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Bundoran: one of the small beaches.

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Beaches and rock pools.

 

 428 – Tuesday 26th July 2016:  Belleek Pottery

We both ran through the town and along the beach front … nice.  And I then Pilates’d on the grass.  J cooked a one pot bacon bits, onion and mushroom scrambled egg thing on the bench outside, just before the drizzle started.   We collected the washing – even the knickers were neatly folded!  

We drove onto Belleek.  Now this is one of my favourite potteries … I don’t like the stuff with the painted Shamrock, but Mutt inherited some basket weave Belleek from Great Aunty Mary, which I really do like.  Mum, I’m sending you a  postcard of how to date it … and whilst you’re at it, please put a sticker on the bottom that I will inherit these pieces … sorry Clare, hope that is OK with you!?  Did I mention that I resist spending unnecessary money … well, my new ear rings were really necessary and so was lunch!

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The moulds are only good for 400 pieces and then they loose definition.

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The porcelain mixture is poured in and and then out of the moulds, leaving a residue to harden up.  When it is removed, the staff remove imperfections and rough edges.

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They also cut off unwanted bits, such as the castellations on this one.

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To make the distinctive weave, the base is made and allowed to harden, then the spaghetti strips are moistened and laid over a form.

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Unfired.  All the flowers etc are made by hand.  This one would retail at about £150, which is not dear for the hours of hand labour.

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After firing, glazing and firing again, any paintwork is done by hand.  Then the third and final firing.

Neither of us fancied doing much more sightseeing, so we researched and headed inland to Lower Lough Erne to a wild parking.  Can anyone explain why Lower Lough Erne is above the Upper one?  We are currently parked up a the chain ferry car park that takes vehicles to Lusty Beg Island … yep … that’s the real name.  And guess what … it is tipping it down … please I’d like to see some blue skies!  The Aged P’s have been in Cx2 (Clare and Chris’) place near Bordeaux .. too hot to sit out.  

423-425: Neo Classical Cave Cavan Cavorting

423 – Thursday 21st July 2016:  Coole in Enniskillen

A short drive to Castle Coole, just south of Enniskillen.  As we arrived, it dawned on us that we were back in N. Ireland … the Sterling wallet with the Italian National Trust cards had to be retrieved from its hiding place!  You have to book onto a house tour and no photos allowed inside, as the furniture etc. still belongs to the current Earl who has a wing of the house and the farm on the estate.  

One of the Earls was married 3 times.  Wife Number 1 died, so in his 40s he married an English 17 year old; she could not bear him or living in damp Ireland so they separated … unusually she was allowed to keep her daughter with her in London until the child was 5, when she had to return to be brought up in the family home.  It took 13 years and an Act of Parliament for the Divorce.  18 months later he married the neighbouring money and estate … sorry, I mean, his third wife.

Another story was that King George IV was touring Ireland and expected to stay … we saw the plush unused State Bedroom.  George had previously had an affair with ??? who now lived in Sligo – their passion was rekindled and he never got further than her House and it is said that this is why the road between Dublin and Sligo is so straight!

It is funny how you can have empathy with your fellow tourists … we were all aghast at one family who had the MOST obnoxious child … she kept sitting on the chairs, touching everything, running around and barging past people.  The parent’s made no attempt to restrain her.  I don’t know how the guide didn’t evict her … I know if I’d ever had to teach her, she have spent a lot of time outside the classroom and catching up work in detention with me!

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Castle Coole – another neo classical edifice built by one of the ‘Plantation’ Lords  The Earl of Belmore owned a ship and barges, so he imported Portland Stone from Dorset!  The cost nearly bankrupt the first Earl, but not to worry … they all just married more money!

From here we travelled to Asda in Enniskillen and its free large carpark … very important to stock up on alcohol free beer …. it really has improved a lot since it first came out.  The TIC was very helpful and walked around the town, in between sunshine and really heavy downpours.  Enniskillen is actually surrounded by water, making it an island.  It is mostly known for the IRA bomb killing 11 people in 1987, but we did not go looking for any memorials … there must be something in recognition though.  We had read that both Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett both went to school here.  There should have been a Beckett Festival on at the moment, but the main sponsor had pulled out.  A lovely high street with lots of independent shops.

The castle was mostly being refurbished, but has a central Keep with the Inniskilling (old spelling) Regimental Museum.  Enniskillen had formerly two Regiments – all subsumed into the Ulster Rifles … now based in … wait for it …. England!

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Tomorrow we planned to visit both Florence Court House and the Marble Arch Caves … we politely asked both receptionists if we could park overnight there …. not allowed, but the charming girl in the Caves told us about a carpark 13 mins down the road in Belcoo … where she came from.  A great pitch with a toilet and a park … we watched a group of ladies slogging their way around it whilst we consumed wine … not an alcohol free night!!!

 

424 – Friday 22nd July 2016:  Marble Arch Caves and Florence Court

A short run around the park … J in front stopped on lap 2 and that was no encouragement for me to carry on … all his fault!  So I did some punishing Pilates!  

The Marble Arch Caves were only investigated in 1895, but not open to the public until 1985.  We’ve ‘done’ caves before, the most notable being the Predjama Caves in Slovenia, but these were bit different.  It was really evident where the river had excavated its path through the limestone – we followed its path.  The tours includes a boat ride, a lot of head ducking and walking through a walled walkway with water waist height on either side.  Some unusual formations.  Unexpected flooding of the caves in the 1990s was due to mechanised peat cutting on the nearby bog … the peat retains the water: remove the peat and flood the caves.   As a result the whole area was designated a UNESCO Geopark in 2001.

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 The colour is due to the peat minerals.

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Not animal scales, but the effect of eddies of water.

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A boulder had been washed away after the calcium had formed a canopy over it.

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A salad lunch prepped in Chard and eaten on benches at the Caves centre and then back up the road to Florence Court House – another National Trust.  Yep, we are making excellent use of our Italian FAI cards :).  Yet again, we had to book onto a tour and no interior pix allowed … not explanation this time as to why!  Another Neo Classical Palladian house with perfect symmetry.  This one was really only notable for its plasterwork ceilings – really remarkable.  The house was passed to the National Trust in 1953 and fortunately they upped the insurance from £8 to £25 million as the central part of the house burnt down in 1955!  Most of the plasterwork has been recreated, but it does not detract from its effect … one room had pheasants looming down from the ceiling.  

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Again, perfect symmetry, but a not particularly large house with only 9 bedrooms!

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A lovely rose garden and walled garden.

We’d picked up a really useful booklet on the Geopark at the Caves and the helpful lass who’d directed us to our last night’s parking recommended one of the walks.  We drove up the Cavan Burren carpark, but the gates would be locked at 9.00.  Back down the hill then to a carpark outside a Church a few miles away.

J had volunteered to cook.  Now this may not sound remarkable, but it is … in all the many years I’ve know him, he has cooked me one cooked breaky and one evening meal.  The deal normally is that I cook and he washes up.  Fair enough.  As I write the blog, I have been giving some back seat driving instructions … just helpful hints, you know, and I do think he appreciated it.  I have just got involved though, as I could smell burning.  You did put water in the bottom of the steamer?  Yes, I definitely did.  I’m coming over to have a look …. the base of the steamer did have water in it … and all the veg, but it was sitting on top of the top part of the steamer … whoops!  But it was delicious.

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He’s now volunteered to cook once a week … yay!  And I did the washing up, although he offered … nope – you cooked.  Fair enough! 

 

 425 – Cavorting in Cavan Burren and in Search of Innisfree

J here …

We had overnighted outside the most plain church – with free WC facilities!  K ran and I sort of dawdled but actually I did some tidying and readying the van for our graceful departure.  (K: he’s turning into a domestic Goddess!)   

A lovely relaxing walk at Cavan Burren – strangely unpublicised in the guide books? But it all quite new – 2014 – and huge expenditure and beautifully sign posted with info boards all the way round – Dolmen / tombs from 6,000 BC!!!  

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Farming gave way to forestry in the 1950’s and this is the remains of an abode with the ancient Dolmen in the back being adapted for livestock shelter.

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This hole in the ground is actually aline kiln from the C19.  We had not idea of all the multiple uses of lime: spreading on alkaline fields, white washing walls, building mortar when mixed with sand, fine plaster work, as a mild fungicide to keep buildings clean and as a slug deterrent.  We should all have them in our gardens!

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To the hill of Dooney via Sligo town – John Joe, Fr Tom and Mammy all called this their home at Ardsoran on the Sligo/Roscommon border.   Since I was a small child, I have been spellbound by Yeats’ poetry and the magical Lake Isle of Innisfree – raised your parents on the lyrical words… “and peace comes dropping slow…” Such magical word music.

“I will arise and go now

and go to Inishfrre

and a small cabin build there 

of clay and wattles made

and peace comes dropping slow”

…  Peace? Yes!

The weather was not good and we could easily have passed on to other locations…we would have greatly regretted it… We will stay here for the night at the car park for Innisfree – quiet and very peaceful – have we used the word ‘peaceful’ a lot recently? With good cause… We are both a little fatigued – I’m knackered after my guest appearance on Celebrity Faster Chef – I did not say ‘Farter Chef’ although our blog may silently record otherwise…?  I really enjoyed cooking and since K has done 100% of our culinary masterpieces, it is time.. and ‘time and tides wait for no man’… There may be a minor out burst of poetry here…

Having spent another tasty night of zero alcohol-free beer – extremely tasty – we will permit ourselves a modicum of wine tonight…

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Lough Gill and the sun is trying to make a brief appearance!

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We came in search of Innisfree … J has been reciting verses of The Lake Isle of Innisfree to me since we met.

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The right hand humps are the Sleeping Giant.

 

 

 

409-415: No Mourning an Ard Orange in N.I.

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.

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Donaghadee.

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… 

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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?

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The Nomadic ferried passengers on board.

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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!  

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The house had really good room staff, including some youngsters.  Part of the Italian Garden.

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The Spanish Garden.

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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!

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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!

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James and his neice, Mary-Kate.

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James should you really be teaching Daniel this?

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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?

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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.  

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The Lodges are pretty wealthy … a number had private plates and Kilkeel had a huge new Lodge building only built in 2015.

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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. 

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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!

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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 🙂