737-741: An Inspired Perspiration!

737 – Thursday 1st June 2017:  Aye Aye Skye

Collecting the emergency laundry, we turned the van into a mobile dryer.  Farewell briefly to M&S as we shall see them in about 2 weeks at a motorhome meet in Brin, near Inverness. 

We headed for Mallaig to catch the ferry to Armadale in Skye.  We could’ve taken the free bridge but it would have been a 3 hour detour instead of a 15 minute jaunt down the road.  Fortunately someone on the site had warned me that they had been turned away from the ferry as fully booked for that day, so I’d pre-booked our crossings to Harris too.  We arrived too early, so parked up and wandered into the small supermarket and a second hand book shop … always a lure.

On the ferry, which was similar to those in Norway, where you can stay in your vehicle, I was able to catch up a little on some shut eye … having not fallen into a fitful sleep until 4.00 the night before.  Poor Oscar had been ill numerous times and kept prowling trying to get comfortable.  Lucky James slept through it all!

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Leaving Mallaig.

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I had visited Skye a hundred years ago with a boyfriend.  British Rail had a February offer – for £10 you could travel anywhere.  Mark and I thought of the furthest place we could get to for a long weekend and trained overnight to Fort William and onto Skye.  All I remember was that we saw people camping … in snow.  

We stopped at Talisker Whisky Distillery … a small site with small parking.  Jez straddled the pavement whilst J went in and purchased the last two tickets for today at 3.45.  Having recently been to Bushmills Distillery (and J to Jamesons) in Ireland, we pretty much knew the process, but it was very interesting to taste the effect of peat smoke drying the barley.  The Talisker had a definite peaty pong and taste.  Good though, that production still takes place here and at full capacity.

Still being shattered, we parked up in a lay-by with another 4 vans and James cooked, washed up and walked Oscar.  I was in bed by 8.30!

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738 – Friday 2nd June:  Hairy Harris 

Our ferry to Tarbert on Harris was not due till 2.00, so we stopped off at Portree, the main Skye Town.  It is given over to tourism with craft and gift shops, but we managed to buy what we wanted … meat for the freezer, a capo (thingumybob for the guitar) and some surgical spirit to harden up …. J’s fingers!  This ferry was more like a small English Channel ferry … you could not stay in your vehicle, BUT there are dog friendly zones inside and on deck.  So Oscar got to come too.

A fellow motorhomer gave us some great advice about Harris and Lewis and told us about a great beach with overnight parking not far from where we headed … so a slight detour and yes the beach at Luskentyre is truly magnificent.

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Leaving Uig on Skye.

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View down to the firth where we are headed …

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… and we’re not the only ones.

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Luskentyre Beach stretched for miles and changed colour in the estuary as the tide ebbed.

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739 – Saturday 3rd June:  A Planning Day

K ran on the firm sand of the beach whilst J preferred the hilly tarmac road.  A slow start on such a beautiful environment … eventually we headed into Tarbert – the only TIC on Harris.  A really helpful lady … she told me where all the Harris Trust free / wild overnight parkings are (you are requested to donate £5 to the Trust), where all the campsites are and which have chemical toilet facilities.  She advised me to book campsites for emptying our black and grey waste as they only provide these facilities for resident motorhomers and not all campsites have black waste services.  With all the lovely spots she recommended, we have again come to the woeful conclusion that we are NOT going to be able to take it too easy and we will not see everything.  So we headed not too far to Tarbert to a viewpoint she recommended with views over the island of Scalpay and the ferry into Tarbert.  Room for one large motorhome … US, picnic tables, views and a bin :).

So a planning afternoon ensued and campsites booked … mobile and phone signal here as we were close to a mast.  Supper was partly Margaret inspired and partly a fellow blogger inspired, as both had slow cooked beef.  I tend to avoid beef as I find it chewy, but slow cooked it is so tender, so I pressure cooked a cheap topside joint … beats roasting which turns it to shoe leather – scummy with enough to last 3-4 meals.  

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Our bench and table – perfect for views and an Oscar kiss.

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The other direction and you can just make the arrival of 4.00 Calmac Uig – Skye ferry.

740 – Sunday 4th June:  The Sabbath in Hushinish 

We had been warned that everything closes on the Sabbath.  You are even requested not to hand out washing and children’ playgrounds have signs requesting that they are not used.  I’m not religious, but I do like the marking of the end and start of a week, although here may be a tad too restrictive.

Knowing all the visitor attractions would be closed, we headed for Hushinish Beach, which a few people had recommended.  We had been told that although the road was only 14 miles, it would take 45 minutes … I didn’t fancy facing too much oncoming traffic, despite the numerous passing places, so we set off at 8.45.  it was a little hairy in places as it was literally van width with the ground sloping away from the tarmac.  As I drove, I had to be mindful of the long wheel base and where the rear wheels would follow!  Our new Bradt Outer Hebrides (liking the Bradt format and have just ordered some used ones from eBay for our Autumn Balkans trip :)) guide book states ‘the road twists and turns simultaneously’ and ‘this feels like the road to nowhere, the kind you might expect to encounter at the bottom of Patagonia’.  Quite!

Along the route, we missed the old Norwegian Whaling station … will look out for the tower on the return.  Lord Leverhulme, Unilever money, invested heavily in Lewis and Harris.  He bought the old whaling station with ‘the well intentioned plans to create employment.  Although machinery was overhauled in 1923 and three new vessels purchased to catch whales in the Atlantic, the scheme haemorrhaged money.  This was due to Lord Leverhulme’s unusual business plan: he intended to produce oil but, turning his eye to the traditional smokers of the islands, mused on whether smoked whale meat and whale sausages could be exported to the interior of Africa.’  Wonder why this business concept failed!

We also passed what is claimed to be the world’s most remote tennis court!  And Amhuinnsuidhe Castle.  Built by the Earl of Dunmore in 1868 after several people commented on his modest dwelling at Rodel.  I wonder how he reacted to his son’s finance who claimed his house was smaller than her father’s stables!  I am really liking this guide book for these little snippets.

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Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, with Jezn’belle, who travel with us.  The road crosses right in front of the castle, now a hotel  Apparently, no locks on each room on a point of principle, and dinner is a 3 course set meal with all the residents on one long table.

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Another ‘where we are headed’ shot.

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A traffic jam en route!

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You don’t mess with those horns, so I took it mega slowly.

Breakfast on arrival and then we set off on a walk to beach described as one of the most beautiful and remote (another theme here), but along with several other walking parties, missed a turn and found another stunning beach.  Ho hum, it was a fair old clamber and slither up and down, with some cliff edges, but we only got one drenching.  On the return J had his inspired perspiration … had we any cream on board?  An Irish Coffee?  Oh yes!

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The island in the background is Scarp and was inhabited until 1971.  Whilst the water width is only 400 metres, it can be very rough and the island can be cut off for days.  A story goes (this great guide book again) that in ‘late December 1934 .. a woman pregnant with twins went into extended labour.  An 85 year-old midwife delivered the first of the babies but insisted the mother be ferried across high seas to the mainland to deliver the second twin.  She was driven to Tarbert and onto Stornoway.  She finally gave birth to the second twin two days later, on a different island, and in a different year’.

Another snippet about the island … ‘Gerhardt Zucher, a German rocket scientist, had persuaded the British government to fund a research project to deliver mail … to the island.  The plan was to attach mail to a rocket and launch it across the waters … in July 1934, a rocket stuffed with thousands of letter marked ‘Western Isles Rocket Post’ spectacularly failed to deliver, exploding at the first attempt … The British Government then deported him to Germany, deeming him a ‘threat to the income of the Post Office and security of the country.’  

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Look, what a big one!

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Well, are you gonna throw it or what?

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741 – Monday 5th June: The Bridge to Nowhere

We left Hersinuih – one of the best ‘wildings’ – do we know any other kind? No. Back on the ‘hairy’ road which didn’t seem so scary the second time – still took 45 minutes for 14 miles, though… on to Tolsta and the “Bridge to Nowhere” – Lord Leverhhulme built a bridge too far. But stout reinforced concrete in 1925 – maybe BS 5400 wasn’t around then – oh dear, work sneaking in – “out damn spot, at once”!   The museum was shut, so on to the Laxendale campsite – for some unexpected ‘fingerprince’ – more of that anon…  

 

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Are overnight pitch 🙂

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The traffic jam on the way out … a whole family, who would not move.  J got out and braving risked a goring by waving his arms about … not budging!  Only the horn finally induced a sedentary bovine move.

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All that remains of the whaling station … we spotted it on the return.

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The Lewis Moors dropping into the sea … prone to wind!

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The Bridge to Nowhere.

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The view from the Bridge.




 

730-736: Ayr’rival in Scotland and Arisaig

730 – Thursday 25th May:  ‘Ayr We Come’

Today would have been Nicky’s 52nd birthday – Jimmy and Ian were kayaking to celebrate the day – always spent as a fun day.

We overnighted in Bentra Golf Club car park, an official aire.  Not knowing when our next shower might be, we made full use of the services.  But, a 1:30 am awakening!!!  Belfast Ferry at 3:30 am – driving in thick fog – in the widdle of the might!  Oscar:  “What are my owners doing? I hardly had my head down and they were crashing and banging all over the shop! – a bit of dogsideration, please!”  We landed at 6:00 at Carnryan and bolted for the nearest wild spot to kip for a few hours…Zzzzzzs…   Ayr beach was the next stop – wilding by the beach – stunning spot. Evening came and we supped a glass outside Jez – just along from us a lad with a beer was was fined £40 for drinking in public – a bit unfair?    Apparently some councils in Scotland have banned drinking in public places and the police can be a little dogmatic in applying the law.  Our wine glasses promptly went inside.  A sunshine afternoon and evening – very warm.      

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Does anyone know what variety of jelly fish these big buggers are?  There were a hundred of them on the beach.  Fortunately Oscar showed no interest.

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The view from our door!  One chap I spoke to said he spends all summer parked up along this beach – we can see why.

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731 – Friday 26th May: The Hottest Day

We had planned to head up towards Troon to meet up with Dan and for the best ever fish and chips, but he was up to his eyes in moving house / van, having just purchased a Rapido … finding things he’d forgotten he had!   With the hottest day of the year – 27 degrees Sentmygrade forecast, we decided not to move!  I didn’t wear sun lotion or my hat – and got dehydrated with a dodgy tum… I should know better…. Oscar fur cut by the gorgeous K… on the pavement outside the van.  A good breeze seemed to make the volumes of cut fur ‘disaparate’ – Harry Potter again.  Lots of passersby stopped to admire Oscar or for a chat.  Oscar swam a few strokes – first time ever!  K wadded in, called him and he minced in so far … scratched her legs in trying to get close and then he tried to pull K out of the water catching her hand with his mouth!  What a Local Hero.

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Trying to entice Oscar to swim. 

732 – Saturday 27th May:  Heading North to Midgesville

Long driving day – stayed outside Fort William in the North Face car park facing Ben Nevis – not tempted to climb.  Megamidgesville – who tried to share our bed!  During the evening and the following morning we watched bods arrive and kit themselves out with serious walking gear.  K took Oscar for some really pretty marked walks along streams.

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Would not ordinarily post a pix of our duvet cover … but this is the result of spraying the inside of the van.  They’re so small they even get through our fly screens … apparently you can buy midge mesh.

733 – Sunday 28th May:  This Must be the Most Beautiful Campsite Location in the World!

A quick descent into Fort William for a shop and diesel, driving past tourist tat shops belting out Scottish music and the odd kilted tour guide.  

Oscar – “We had arranged to meet Poppy and Boo at Silver Sands campsite on Monday (and M&S too!) but we arrived a day early so the owners could wash themselves and their laundry – why bother? It’s only clean dirt after all…”

This is one of the best sites ever – the views are fantasmagonical!   The campsite is on a small headland with beaches either side and lots of islands dotting the inlet.  The owners John and Karen are extremely helpful and hospitable …. it was almost a pleasure to hand over our money.  We were treated to one of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen.  Every second the shades changed hue.  K later  discovered that the couple from another blog she follows were also on this site, one of their fav’s.  Such a shame to have not realised and especially as the wine flowed that night on their pitch!  They posted some stunning pix of the area and sunset using a drone – https://adventuresinamotorhome.com/2017/05/31/our-annual-pilgrimage-to-scotland-may-2017-part-1/

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734-736 – Monday 29th to Wednesday 31st May:  Oozing Time in Arisaig

Mags and Shags arrived on time – mega wet hugs, as we were just back from a very rainy walk, followed by a meal chez elles.…  over the next few days we chilled, chatted, walked ….  can’t believe how the time just oozed away.  Helped by the views that change very few minutes:  colours on the water and hills and the effect of the tides.

       We did a clamber up and down rocks to the Local Hero film beach – but came back via the road which seemed really short in comparison.  A film K watched years ago and has forgotten, but we will download.

One evening saw the deadly game of cards “Danish Barsteward” – Margaret threw wine over Shirley which caused her to strip naked and dance on the table (I averted my gaze) – but who are these ***tards, anyway?  The girls were a pittle lickled… a dry day followed.   Oscar – “Do all dog owners get wissed? I really must speak to Robby and Moo about heir owners – and Skatherine and Seamas!” 

Shirley and I played golf – in the most beautiful surroundings on the planet Earth!  One Tee had a sign up “Where would you rather be anywhere else in the world?”  Actually, in the sun – nowhere.  My game didn’t quite match the scenery – but, it’s only a game? Shirls won by a narrow boreen – but we enjoyed it and the company – cheers Shirley!  M and K were doggyshitting – sorry, sitting…  K managed to spill some duck fat on the sand just outside our door and Oscar managed to eat a fair proportion of it … we won’t describe the effects both ends, but needless to say K had a disturbed last night here, clearing up and putting on an emergency duvet cover and rug washing machine!!!

What a life, eh?……..

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J on a post Golf cider, but the girls are on rehydration … I gave my husband moral support with a Leffe!

IMG 8291Extreme knitting in nearly extreme winds. 

IMG 8294 Heading off on another dog walk – literally paces from our pitches.

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724-729: Final Antrim Days

724 – Friday 19th May 2017: Dark Hedges & Six Mile Water

A busy morning to make the most of being on a campsite with electricity and services … knowing we had to be off by 12.00, and they drove around to check who was still there!  So J got a much needed hair cut and Jez a sweep out … K a shower and Jez all services done.  A stop at the Dark Hedges included a coffee at the hotel  / golf complex.  And then onto our overnight parking just S of Antrim on Six Mile Water … Jez’ parking fro the next two nights nearby was Seven Mile Straight … a bit of theme going on there.  The reason for this parking was to be near the overnight parking for me to get a flight home.  It was a super quiet spot with information boards about how the river had steamed and clanged to the manufacture and treatment of flax to be used in linen. The walk is called the Mill Trail.   I missed them, but a local dog walker told me there were otter playing.

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The Dark Hedges were 150 beach trees planted by a house owner to impress his neighbours, but only 90 remain.  It is now a public road; fortunately not busy as visitors dart into the middle (us included) to take pix.   The lower branches have been pruned which adds to the intertwining feel.

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725 – Saturday 20th May: K Flies home and J to the Pub

Another walk for O along the river and then we set off, early for us, to our parking for James, Oscar and Jez, whilst I was away.  Now we all do silly things sometimes, and this was one of mine.  J cannot drive Jez at the moment (uninsured as issues with his 70 year old and 3.5+ ton driving license).  I booked my overnight flight home with no thought of how I was to get to the airport with J unable to drop me.  So a very generous local came to my rescue.  I’m a member of the Irish motorhome wild camping forum, Motorhome Craic (they helped us out big time recently with the fridge not running on gas) and I posted asking for any suggestions of where we could park up with public transport links to Belfast airport.  The chap, Ally, who runs Motorhome Craic, instantly said we could park over at his … only a few mins from the airport.  He runs a caravan storage and has lots of space.  An absolute result.  We arrived at 9.30, my taxi arrive late, but it did arrive and I headed off to Gatwick.  James was told about the local pub and he headed off there … it was dog friendly and Oscar was the star of the show AND there was live music playing all afternoon … J only left as he had to give Oscar his dog’s dinner.  

My dinner was with the ‘Girls’ and families in Chiswick to celebrate Gill’s birthday.  Only Bron knew I was attending and as I’d had a motorway closure en route, I arrived late and made the big surprise entrance.  Really lovely to be able to chat to the girls, as I’d been too busy at J’s 70th birthday party for more than a passing word.

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726 – Sunday 21st May:  Maddy Munchkin Day

Knowing Maddy is NOT an early riser, I had time to rung amongst some of our ‘stuff’ stored in the Aged P’s attic.  They are in France at the moment, and again, I was able to use and abuse the house! Don’t tell them, but I actually put the heating and water on so I could have a shower!  I’ve made an inventory of our guide books, so I know what to order for the coming summer and the big Balkans trip starting in October, and I found some of the maps I wanted.  I returned the house keys to Clare and grabbed a coffee … Louis is now driving!

Maddy and I had an indifferent pub lunch and then went bra shopping … how is it daughter’s always manage to come away with something???  A late flight back and taxi to join James and Oscar … James had lunched at the pub too today … but no live music.

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Sporting a new fringe, but she really does look more like David than I.

727 -Monday 22nd May:  The 9 Glens of Antrim

A slow and wet start to the day.  And we headed off to Whitehead to do some motorhome services … the water should have cost £1, but the receptionist told us to use the other free hose, nice of her.

We plan to potter around the 9 Glens of Antrim for the next couple of days until our ferry on Thursday 25th.  We stopped at the Glenarm TIC and avery helpful chap issued leaflets and gave advice on where to park Jez, even showing us exactly on the pix on his phone.  We did the red squirrel Walk in Glenarm Forest.  The TIC chap told us that the fish sculpture had been stolen and has been spotted sporting new white paint in someone’s garden.  He’d reported it to the Police who said they could not do anything as it had not been notified missing.  So he’d had to go to the council and get them to report is stolen!  An easy 3.5 km walk through trees and along a river.  The bluebells and wild garlic are just coming to an end.

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We didn’t see any squirrels other than the one J is leaning on.

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Glenarm Harbour where we overnighted.

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Spotted in our car park.  A wedding ceremony ritual?  Chap and bride to be arrived in the back of the flatbed with horn honking …. only to be covered in flour, eggs and ketchup!

 

728 – Tuesday 23rd:  Laragh Lodge & Glenarrif Waterfall Walk

We stopped at a lay-by on the way up to Glenariff to walk up to the Hidden Village – another recommendation by the chap at the Glenarm TIC.  The Village has long been deserted, bar one house that obviously collects its water in a water butt.  What a fabulous location.

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We parked at Laragh Lodge, a cafe / restaurant … another top recommendation, to save paying the £5 per car at the main car park … not sure what Jez would’ve been.  Over lunch we got chatting to the owner … we could stay as long as we liked … he even offered us a hook up.  We ended up having both lunch and supper there … fabulous sea bass with asparagus and a couple of very strong Irish coffees.  During the afternoon we did the waterfall walk.  We reckon this is possibly the best non coastal walk we’ve ever done in Ireland.  Just stunning, especially this time of year.  Progress was slow as I kept stopping to take pix!  And at the end we got a view of the sea.  This area of Antrim is just stunning, but is overshadowed by the well known Rope Bridge and Giants Causeway.  Incidentally, one muppet (being polite) has tried to cut the cable of the rope bridge and the National Trust has had to close it losing a lot of revenue!

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729 – Wednesday 24th:  The Scenic Trail

A longer walk this morning from our Laragh Lodge parking.  This took us steeply up the opposite hill, around the head of the valley and down the waterfall Walk.

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Spot the Belle amongst the bells!

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Coffee and Cake? … possibly.

We reluctantly returned southwards towards Belfast as we would happily have stayed on a Laragh Lodge and walked for the next few days.  A stupid o’clock ferry the next morning at 0330hrs … i must’ve been on an economy drive when I booked that one!  We returned again to a council run aire by a golf course and showered and refilled water etc.  Antrim is most definitely on our ‘must return to’ list.

 

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…..