718-723: Amazing Antrim

718 – Saturday 13th May 2017:  The Point of Magilligan

We arrived at Magilligan Point for our next wild camping – narrow space to reverse the van – oops!  We just clipped the pub guttering – the kind workman nearby said he would repair it – human kindness, again…

Beach walk – almost deserted – cold wind – O was happy with his usual stick…  Military firing range inland and a Martello Tower – we really did keep Napoleon out!   Pub supper booked at 7:00 … table ready at 7.40 – just had to have a second bottle.  Doesn’t it just irritate you when you point out they’ve left at £15 bottle of wine off the bill and no-one has the grace to say thank you much for pointing it out to them!    But we did manage to watch some of Eurowiddle  Song Contest on tv – winners – Portugal – we raised a glass to them!  Obrigado!

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My boys playing.

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The Napoleonic Matello Tower 1812.

719 – Sunday 14th May:   All Downhill at the National Trust 

A run in the morning…..   Drove to the Downhill National Trust Estate.  Walk along by dovecot, Mussenden Temple, to Castlerock, and back via Hazlett House (beam structure and same family for centuries) and then Downend House.  The builder, the ‘Earl Bishop’ was very wealthy and liked his mistresses (many), including the mistress of Frederick William of Prussia and Emma Hamilton, mistress of Nelson … they were a busy ladies, and he was a busy man.  Shame about his wife, they became estranged, once they had bred a number of offspring.

The Earl Bishop was the Bishop of Derry  – the most lucrative Irish living given to him by his brother, the Lord Leieutenant of Ireland.  The Lord L. promptly died and the Bishop became the  Earl of Bristol, inheriting the Ickworth Estate in Suffolk.  Yet more money.  Having fallen out with his sone and heir, he left Downed left to his cousin, who had acted as Steward who looked after it … in their family for years.  He sounded a most colourful character.  King George III called him ‘that wicked prelate’.

Ali the coffee stall man at the carpark was a character and we chatted to a couple who came to see him from Derry – they had 3 springers and Oscar was much admired … again! We spent a peaceful but wet night snug in our Jezacarr. 

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So much colour with the wild flowers.

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The dovecot with the ice house under.  The Earl Bishop spared no expense on his estate.  But he spent in the district to support the locals with employment.  

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View from the Temple.

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Mussenden temple clinging to the cliff edge.  Built by the Bishop to house his library and his books.  A fire was lit in the basement to keep the books (not his mistress!) warm.  He was for acceptance of all religions and allowed Catholics to have a Mass in the basement.  My sister Clare will attend a wedding here, but not until August 2018 … hopefully it won’t have fallen off the cliff by then!

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We debated descending on a minor detour to the lake, built for leisure and to supply the big house with fish.  We were so pleased we did.  It proved to be the highlight … bluebells and wild garlic amongst mossy stones and trees … a heady mix of colour and scent.

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We continued along the coastal path to Castlerock.  The railway in bottom follows the coast to Derry … for another SUNNY day.

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The big house … built in 1774, burned down in 1851, rebuilt in 1876 and abandoned after WW1 – the farmer who owned it had to remove the roof to avoid property tax and it fell into complete disrepair.

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720 – Monday 15th May:  Mount Sandel-rain

AM – K walked Oscar in pouring rain – wet through to her underwear!  Rainy Coleraine beckoned for mega shopping … B&Q, Pets at Home, Lidl and Saninburys … whew.  But K delighted to purchase preserved lemon, she’s seen a recipe somewhere!  Walked around Mount Sandel-fort – the rain has brought the vegetation on hugely – immense shades of green….  A nice lady recommended beach walk at Portstewart just along the coast.   Our overnight was by the river with a Victorian salmon leap.

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View from the Fort of the carpark on the opposite bank where we overnighted.

721 – Tuesday 16th May:  Rain Delayed Play Portstewart

K and O walked early in the nearby woods. K phoned the TIC for Jezparking – parked close to town and beach. Town, promenade walk – coffee – and – guess what?  Another lovely beachwalk!  Following the end of the NorthWest 200 motorbike races, the hospitality tents and fencing were being removed.  It is obviously quite an event.

Whilst at Camac Valley in Dublin, a lady had recommended a campsite in Bushmills –  our next location – (not just for the whiskey). The site is Ballyness and is a real gem – manicured and whitewashed with immaculate lawns and pitches!  Great music playing in the sanitary block, including Tom Jones and Abba … great to dance in the shower to!  Oh, and underfloor heating!  BBQ in the evening – not fire log though as too many people around… 

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Portstewart.

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Easy walking around the bottom of cliff….

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… and then you arrive at …. this!

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 We drove on along the coast stopping at a view point of Dunluce Castle.

722 – Wednesday 17th May: Show us your Bush

I ran early from our pitch – I’ve been trying to practice slower running to build stamina before speedework – and it is working. K did her Pilates. I did my regular Khairdying and it was a success, thankfully. K:  so thankful to loose the skunk stripe in the middle of my head!  We walked to the town for the distillery (oldest in the world) tour – a bit disappointing with some lack of detail, family background, etc. But, we both tasted – and I drank my old favourite – Black Bush!  At least the distillery is still producing, unlike Jamesons and Smihwicks.   In fact, it was bought by a Mexican Tecilla company and the plans are to double production.  Town walk with lots of boarded up shops.  We stopped at a bar for another glass  .. very limited choice, so K chose port, having spied a bottle lurking in the corner … think the barman may have wanted to get rid of the bottle as it was huge! 

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723 – Thursday 18th May: Causeway Rambler

An early bus to the Carrick a Rede rope bridge. Suspended 100 feet above the gorge – I went first and almost turned back when I saw the sheer drop – narrow rope bridge – trying not to think of “Galloping Gerty”as I crossed gingerly!   A quick look at the island and back to the mainland – scariest thing I have done for yonks!  K breezed it, naturally.  She saw the Kittiwakes nesting.  So many tourists there, Asian and American mostly.  We must have been asked about 20 times if ) had crossed the bridge … no not allowed and he would not have liked it anyway!  The Giants Causeway is Northern Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction – no wonder!  Read Oscar’s report below – I won’t steal his thunder…

Walked for 2 hours to White Park Bay – fabulous rock formations and slippery seaweed….  I photographed a very ‘nimble” cumulous. Then the Causeway Rambler bust to the Giant’s Causeway … when asked where to by the driver, K instantly responded Cribs Causeway … a shopping mecca in Bristol! Again so many people here.  A little know fact is that the National Trust try to get you to walk through their multi million pond visitor centre and charge £5.50 for the privilege, but the actual Causeway is owned by ??? Heritage and is free … just go through the arch!  Sneakily there are signs up stung your ticket will be checked on exit … by whom exactly?

A quick pub visit and then – bus home via Causeway Rambler. Oscar was knackered and I wasn’t far behind – another BBQ and the end of another great day out. Due to pressure of booking , we had to move pitches to the lakeside – with swans and ducks…. 

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Everything today was determined to be stunningly beautiful.

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The bridge was built every summer for local salmon fisherman who stretched nets from the point of the island.

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Look – no hands!

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No apologies – so many pix.

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People atop this one.

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The shack was once a Youth Hostel on White Park Bay, but had to shut due to vandalism :(.  Would have been an amazing place to stay.  But with Jez we’ve no need of it’s like.

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Giant’s Causeway.  National Trust at the top would charge you £10.50 to walk through their visitor centre, but you can avoid this and walk freely, as the actual site is managed by ?? Heritage.  The most visited attraction in Northern Ireland … and everyone was here!  I’d been told I would find it disappointing … but I didn’t … just wish fewer people.


Oscar’s Diary

Hi there – avid readers – all 9 of you – but, who’s counting?  Now my owners ( beautiful people – for Muggles – Potterspeak, again) – like innov8. They call it “CPD” -“Contiguous Processional Devilment”!    Sometimes it works and other times – well, let’s say – it’s a good effort.  They have given me “Kongs” – a basic ball filled with frozen sardines… They forgot to measure the circumference of my tongue!  I cannot get the little feckers out – so they spoon it for me – why not put the nice fisywishys on a plate, for heavens sake!   

They took me to this place called “The Giants Pawsway” – well, the Giant’s dog had huge paws to walk  all the way to Scotland on the giant rocks… No facilities for dogs – why?  20 people stopped to ask if I had crossed the Bridge – many Oriental folk got me to pose for photos – obviously for the Hong Kong Spaniel Corporation!   With all this wet weather – at least K and J are letting my fur grow.

But no more sardyKongs, please? 

They tell me I will see Boppy and Poo soon – Yippee!  And of course Shags and Mags, too… Maybe Kensey also in the summer – I am a truly pampered pooch – life is good here at Jez Holiday Home…

Hidey Ho, then for now….

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707-717: Fridge Flights of Fancy

707-710 – 2nd-5th May 2017:  Kilkenny

We found a friendly campsite on the River Nore outside Kilkenny – Dan’s the man there – 30 minutes walk to the city.  I hadn’t been here for 40 years and explored the Cathedral, music (Irish traditional),  Smithwicks brewery – tasting too. We were so taken by Kilkenny – we stayed for 4 days instead of 2! 

A little history …. Kilkenny is a city.  The smallest in Ireland and apparently locals are a little sensitive if you call it a town!  It was the unofficial capital of ireland in the Middle Ages.

Back to Camac Valley Campsite on 5th – for early start for moi on 6th.

 

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View as we walked into Kilkenny.

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Coffee stop in one of the narrow streets full of bars and eateries.

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 Roathe House – Ireland’s best surviving example of C16 Merchant’s house.  now a museum.

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Inside St Canice’s Cathedral.  The second largest medieval cathedral in ireland.  It was defaced by Cromwell who used it to store horses and troops.  Alice Kyteler’s (more anon) brother saved himself by paying for a lead roof … it proved too heavy and collapsed.  Kilkenny is also known as the marble city as much of it was built using local black marble.  Well, it looks grey until polished.  The church is home to a fine collection of floor grave slabs and Medieval tombs when life sized effigies of the interred were carved.  J paid to go in, whistle I sat outside with Oscar.  When I went to pay, I was told J had spent so little time, I could go free.  Nice.  

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This grave slab is thought to be the father of Alice.  I know the song “Who the F is Alice” comes to mind!  The story of Alice is that she was widowed 4 times and all to wealthy men.  Perhaps it was jealousy but she was convicted of being a witch and condemned to death.  English nobility who were friends smuggled her away to London where she was not heard of again.  Her poor maid, Petronella, was burned at the stake in her stead!

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Effigies of Piers and Margaret Butler 1539 – The Butler family owned the castle from 1391 until 1935. 

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Stone chair of St Keiran embedded in the wall from C13.  In the C5th, he is said to have visited Kilkenny and challenged the Chieftains to accept the Christian faith.

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A boozy long lunch at Kyteler’s Inn, where the with Alice was born.  A superb rambling building….

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… We returned the next night for more food and music.

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I asked Dan the Man of the campsite if we could cycle along the river to Bennetsbridge … No, path not suitable and about 15 stiles, but he offered to give us a lift up there so we could walk back.  He dropped us at the old flour mill that is now a working pottery … some lovely patterns but not for us at EUR24 for a mug!

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One of the 28 man made obstacles along the river walk … not a mere 15!  So pleased we’d asked if it was suitable for bikes!

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We’ve seen a few derelict mills.  It was a 9km walk where we did not see another sole … just lovely.

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The Smithwick brewery tour was quite interactive – these portraits of Smithwick’s talked to us … Harry Potter-esque.  In 1710 the first brewer, a Catholic, was forbidden to own a business, so he had a Protestant sleeping partner.  It was centuries before he bought the business outright.  When Smithwick sales out stripped Guinness, it was sold to Guinness in the 1960’s.  More recently Budweiser was brewed here, but now nothing.  Sad that it is just a tourist attraction after centuries of brewing.  It was the same story at Jameson’s – the original distilleries are too small and inefficient.

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J had a ‘senior paddle’ to taste Smithwick’s ale, pale ale and the new Blonde.  I managed to ‘lift’ the shapely pale ale glass … naughty but Kerstin would be proud.

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The Black Abbey, dissolved by Henry V111, and turned into a courthouse.  Roofless post Cromwell and then restored in 1866.  I admired this window to a local chap working inside … The traceries (stonework) date back to C12.  The glass was designed by a German Jew who was killed in WW2 and all the plans went with him.

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St Mary’s Cathedral C19, but some wonderful mosaics inside.

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In the Castle Grounds, where Prince Charles has just been photographed with a sliothar and hurley (hurling ball and stick to me!) and was in the papers.

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The bag contains some Donegal wool … I am a knitting maniac now!  And two picture frames we had converted to Perspex so they won’t shatter if they fall off the wall.  This pic is a shop in Tralee, named J Clune.  A friend of Delia’s had spotted it in an antique’s market and give it to J at his Dublin birthday bash.  It has pride of place … above the bog!  Actually the only bit of wall large enough ..

711- 713 – 6th-8th May:  Medical for James and Fridge

OK readers – what’s considered an early start?  Howsabout 2:30 am???  Flight at 6:00 am – walk to bus at 3:15!  I was so earlybird that on my walk – the Saturday night party at the Green Isle Hotel was still in full swing… A ‘domestic’ going on outside – “Pleeze don’t leave me” from husband as wife walked to car?  Gatwick at 8:00 – and Ash Vale for sleep…..  Trip was for the medical to get my over-70 driving license for Jez.   Wonderful opportunity to have supper with Sinead and Shane in London – on the South Bank – memorable meal.  I was pushing out Zzzzs at 9:00 pm.

Monday – all complete by 10:00 am and back to Gatwick to complete the whirlwind journey. In the meantime, K had been cleaning, had coffee with sister-in-law Amelia and investigating a repair for our fridge – not looking good so far…  K:  Perhaps I should not read forums so much … both the ones I use had suggested that since the fridge vents had been cleaned by our supplying dealer mid April, it was likely to be dirty gas, blocking pipes and destroying regulators.  I drove to a reluctant (difficult to get him to agree to look at Jez) motorhome dealer outside Dublin.  He was at pains to be alarmist and explain all the dire consequences of dirty gas to every part of our gas system and said he would not touch our van due to the later issues that could crop up.  Cripes!  Someone on Motorhome Craic forum suggested we try Leisure Technical Services in the North … he could see us on not until Thursday.  Feeling low with a sense of doom and £ signs in form of my eyes!  

714 – Tuesday 9th May:  Dogheda Not

K here:  I telephoned the Tourist information to find out where we could park Jez.  On arrival the carpark had a height barrier.  Back on the phone … the second suggestion also had a height barrier.  So we aborted and headed for the coast as I had seen a wild parking spot there.  We parked up outside yet another car park’s height barrier and I joined a local couple for a dog walk.  As we passed a small area of statics, the gent (and he was a gent) asked a local where J and I could park up for the night … Tom, as he introduced himself offered to let us stay at the end of the statics’s strip … but we sailed slightly past the the end of the road and parked up just outside the now demolished fisheries.  We really ought to have been on electric for the F/F, but with two ice packs and a frozen water bottled … fingers crossed I would not have to do a massive defrosted cook off.  And this area was too lovely to pass up.  J joined me on another walk (lucky Oscar) and we found the long beach round the head.  We were only disturbed by a few walkers, birds and some passing freight ships and yachts.  Idyllic.  

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How about this for a peaceful spot.

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 Passing traffic!

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Maiden’s Tower and Maiden’s Finger (yes all it needs is a couple of boulders at it’s base to be another part of anatomy!).  The local couple told the tale that the women folk would watch for the return of their fishermen from the told of the tower.  Our heroine understood from the flags on the fishing ships that her man had perished.  in anguish she jumped from the top of the tower to her death, leaving a finger caught in the stone wall.  

715 – Wednesday 10th May: Dogheda Yes and MK’s

A further phone call to the Tourist Information and the good lady had been doing her homework for us, identified a surface carpark with no height barrier.  Drogheda, here we come.  Now the good folk of Drogheda were not big fans of Oliver Cromwell in the 1600s – he captured the town and slaughtered 2,000 inhabitants.  Not sure why but the Irish seem to think that the Brits totally love Cromwell, I know he established Parliament, but he was quite brutal.  Today, its a commuter town for Dublin 30 miles to the south.  It is a pleasant town … not architecturally stunning but the history is interesting.  It also has not one, but two St Peter’s Churches.  

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St Lawrence’s Gate C13:  Dogheda was one of Irelands largest 4 walled towns in min C15.  This is pretty much all that remains.  The guide books tells me that it is in fact a Barbican, a fortified structure to defend the gate.

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Magdalene Tower – the bell tower from a C13 friary.  King Richard II accepted the submission of the Gaelic chiefs in 1395.  Peace only lasted a few months.  And it looks like this spindly structure should not have lasted as long as it has.

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Cadaverous Medieval wall tomb (not James!!!)  in the graveyard of the Catholic St Peter’s Chuch.  It was in this church that Cromwell burned the spire, killing 100 people who had taken sanctuary inside.  

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The Catholic St Peter’s houses the head of Saint Oliver Plunkett … Archbishop who refused to leave his people but then his head left his body in London in 1681! 

My Goddaughter and niece Mary-Kate lives near Banbridge and she, Michael, Daniel and baby Amelia welcomed us into their home and provided the driveway for Jez and our sleepover. Wonderful meal by K and lots of family chats during a top evening…

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A gorgeous pic of Mary Kate and the baby.  Sadly Daniel was not up before we left.  But he helped with the cooking, played with bubbles in the washing up sink and I read him a few stories.

716 – Thursday 11th May:  Leisure Technical Services Trumps All

Our next shot at fridge repairs was LTS near Banbridge (Dromore) – and they came up trumps (not the ‘Donald’ kind, thankfully… ). They quickly identified that the gas was getting to the fridge burner, so all this talk of dirty LPG was misleading.  A part removed, showed signs of a burn out at the back.  Tomorrow, they may have the part – so a campsite with electric hookup for the freezer at nearby  Oxford island on Lough Neagh was the overnight for us.  Fabulous walking around the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles . BBQ in the evening after warm sunshine – sitting out in the heat – Oscar and I used sun lotion!   We could easily spend a week exploring this area of Northern Ireland – another time, definitely.  K:  I should mention that the camping gave us a 10% discount for the cafe… was that another full Irish James?  

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A wildlife haven, so lots of hides.

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Our walk was through wild flower meadows and different woodlands.  When we texted Mary kate to tell her where we were staying, she replied with OMG – that is our favourite place.  We can see why.

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717 – Friday 12th May:  Fridge Fixed and Wilding Again

Excellent spot for running – K back to running after a hamstring problem.  A slow breakfast and a walk in the best park in the area – Lurgan.   LTS fixed the fridge – and seriously debunked the myth about ‘dirty’ gas – but filters fitted to our tanks, for extra care.  And LTS will process the warranty claim for the fridge part and the filters and fitting only cost us £100.  A superb result.  

At last – a return to ‘wild’ camping – where?  The top of a mountain in the Sperrin range – called Eagle Rock. Remote, no phone or internet signal – gorgeous views – until the heavy mist and rain surrounded us!  Almost Harry Potter-esque spooky – the ‘forbidden forest’ – and Hagrid’s cottage could be around the corner. You can tell we’ve been listening to the audio books while driving – excellent tales!!!  Soooo quiet here……

In the morning, we will travel to Magilligan Point for more ‘wilding’ and sea walking – possibly better weather – but we have all the wet gear we need.

A good life?  “The Good Life”, indeed…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

698-706: BIG Number Birthday in Dublin

698-706- Monday 23rd April – Monday 1st May 2017:  Dublin And Family

A bit of a summary as we’ve not been blogging!

Ferry from Rosslare – we were a rather late arrival – bow doors opened as if by magic. Next morning, K collected hire car using the nearby Airport hopper bus.  On my actual birthday, we drove to Enniskerry and I had a fantastic full Irish breakfast (first on over 6 months) in the local hotel (where I was barred for too much drinking as a camping young adult) and then walked the Scalp hill/mountain and  collected Kerstin from the airport – then straight to a pub in Bray pub with some family – a good night was had by all…….

Next day (Thursday), we did a walking tour of Dublin city. Kerstin and I toured the Jameson distillery – and tasted their produce – a few times! She liked it with lime and ginger…  The Brazen Head welcomed us for lunch with an outside heater!

Another magic day in Baile Atha Cliath…my spiritual home.

Friday – Kerstin went alone to Dublin sightseeing – we stayed by the van and did some jobs – K cooking. Kerstin enjoyed herself so much that she was quite late back – and she is always ‘laid back’!

The excitement is mounting – for the second big party tonight – 70 is only a small number, isn’t it?  Collected salmon from Clondalkin and then to the party house (Delia and Liam’s) in Cabinteely. Food prepping and Oscarwalking… Huge surprise when Sinead and Shane arrived – with Sarah!!!  Out of the blue, completely!   My first ever girlfriend at age 13 – Mary Garrihy (King) travelled all the way from Ennis to be here – we last met 30 years ago but always keep in touch for birthdays.  Blind wine tasting organised by K and K – much mirth ensued.  Not too late to bed – in our Jez on the roadway outside. Oscar was bemused at so many people in our gathering – but huge thanks to everyone for coming along…

Sunday, we cleaned the house – and Liam discovered our Karcher window/surface cleaning tool – we decided to buy one for them as a thank you gift – he’s been cleaning windows ever since – Delia is happy. There’s an old song – “When I’m Cleaning Windows” – Music Hall history.  Back to Camac Valley campsite – and suitably tired – a nanny nap for all, including K9…..  Supper – Bed later for J – K and K stayed up until 2:00 am – playing cards and working their way through wine and Grand Marnier – and my birthday chocolates!!!  K:  We did score them so he knew exactly what he’d missed … we saved him the one we neither of us fancied too!

Monday early – K brought K to airport and returned our hire car. A chilled afternoon.

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It might be expensive at EUR27 but Camac Valley Campsite is our Dublin home with large fully serviced pitches.

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James’ actual birthDAY and started with a full Irish!  Or English or Scottish!

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A birthday walk around the Scalp – so named due to the rocks and gorge.

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Yes we are on the right path.

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I knew about the Sugar Loaf mountain (every country seems to have one), but here there are the Great and Little Sugar Loafs and also a wee Sugarlump!

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Meeting up with some of the family in the evening..

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Kerstin working her way through different beers.

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A walking day out with Kerstin around Dublin.  The President’s Palace is in Phoenix Park and we saw the cavalcade.

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Kerstin was unimpressed with the sheer number of ‘original and best’ tour busses.  She has a thing against the little tourist trains too.  Funnily enough the next day she used the hop on hop off bus which transported her from the campsite and as no-one asked for any money, she managed to get a free tour!

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Kerstin and James toured the Jameson’s Distillery … although no distilling is still done here, they enjoyed the tasting.  They were given Jamesons, Johnnie Walker Black Label and Jack Daniels to compare.  A revelation to J – he has always been fond of Black Label, but reckoned Jamesons came out top.

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Kerstin decided the best way to drink it was with ginger ale and lime.  Meanwhile … I was freezing my butt off in a outside cafe next-door!

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Lunch to warm us up at the well known ancient Brazen Head Inn.

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Again outside … Oscar, what we suffer for you!  And you get your own glass!  But they did put the heater on for us and made a fuss of Oscar.

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Are we lost?  And still cold?

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James’ 70th BIG number birthday party in Dublin was held in sister Delia and hubby Liam’s house.  We did a blind wine tasting.  Kerstin placed a sign over the sink!

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And she wrapped and labelled all the bottles … I could not have coped without her.

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A gift from Stephen and Diedre – S had come across the photo from Tralee in Kerry.  You can just make out the J Clune over the door.  We’ve replaced the glass with perspex, just in case it does fall off the wall!

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J’s niece, Mary-Kate supplied the most amazing cake … it had a motorhome and a map of Europe on it – with red dots to show where we have travelled  so far.  Sorry not a large image as my camera died.  Not sure if J is about to praise it, pontificate or weigh it!