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Hi thereReally enjoying your commentary, informative and entertaining.
Not sure if you realised, but you kind of followed the 'French Road', albeit in reverse. This is the route that the French Army and Irish rebels took in 1798. The French landed near Killala, defeated the local yeomanry in Ballina, and founded the short-lived Republic of Connacht. Following another victory over the British Army at Castlebar, they outwitted the pursuing British army, travelling through Counties Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim, before meeting a tragic demise at Ballinamuck in County Longford. Thomas Flanagan wrote the superb factually based novel 'The Year of the French', which is still in print.
Google 'Tour De Humbert Route' for more information. I've travelled the route several times, certainly takes you off the beaten path, through some really nice parts of the country.
Day 8, Weds, 10 October:
Another Cold, foggy morning. During my traditional walk-about, I took the opportunity to photograph much of the interior, exterior and the grounds that surround Belleek Castle. There had been a group of about six men in the dining room when we retired for the night, but they apparently had not stayed over. It appears that we were the ONLY over-night guests -- though the owners and some of the staff live in
We were treated to a delightful breakfast -- just the two of us and our waitress / chef and I wandered about the large dining room, relishing the architectural touches. There is a large balcony / loft -- about ½ the size of the dining room -- that is accessed via a spiral staircase made almost entirely of shipwreck salvaged oak, that I found particularly fascinating. It is normally unused, as the spiral stair is EXCEEDINGLY awkward for the wait staff to maneuver, encumbered with platters, etc. It would probably make an EXCELLENT dance area, though, give Irish Hotel penchance for hosting weddings!
Since we only NEEDED to make our way to Ennischrone (or Inischrone), in County Sligo -- a mere 9.7 miles !!! We opted to Explore the North of Mayo, in greater depth. Exiting via the Gate House, we drove back into Ballina searching out the R315, toward Killalla. A short ways North of Ballina, we detoured East, to
Rosserk Abbey -- or Friary. I really enjoyed wandering about here -- both downstairs and up -- as well as the peaceful solitude we had, as we had the place entirely to ourselves, but something about the atmosphere Creeped Out my wife. She spent most of our time there, sitting in the car. It really WAS still cold and foggy, so
Exiting Rosserk, we turned North, on the Old Road and checked out Moyne Abbey -- from a distance -- and, a lone, wandering cow ! -- before continuing North, to rejoin the R315, into, Killalla, now on the R314. While here, I took the opportunity to revisit the Round Tower (Last seen on the 2002, Grey Blur tour! ) and then drove out, onto the pier, to take in views of the harbor.
This road winds through wild, North Mayo bogland and was a delight to traverse, in spite of (or, BECAUSE of, the rapidly thinning fog ). We drove through Ballycastle and then along the coast, to Ceide Fields .
The wind REALLY whips THROUGH the hills there -- as it races landward from the sea and the views are to DIE FOR -- on a Clear day. This morning was NOT it, though. We could barely see beyond the shore as we made our way up the hill from the car park to the uniquely formed Museum building! It apparently cleared up SOME while we toured the exhibits inside, though, because once we made our way UP to ground level, it was fairly clear and bright (though, still somewhat grey) as we walked along the hill-side, outdoor area. We could ALMOST see the Donegal coast clearly, but it was still too cold and windy to REALLY enjoy the scenery
Returning to the Visitors Center, we availed ourselves of the opportunity to take a rest room break and to grab a snack at the café. Total time spent there was in excess of two hours.
Back on the road, we returned to Ballycastle and then followed the R315 South, into Crossmolina, where we turned East, onto the N59. We passed through Ballina, crossed the River Moy and continued NE, until we turned off, to the NW, on the R297, and shortly thereafter arrived at the Ocean Sands Hotel, in Enniscrone (as its know, Locally), or Inishcrone (as it is OFFICIALLY known)!
We checked into our 2 bedroom, self-catering apartment without a hitch, fully unloaded the car for the first time in almost a week and began the LENGTHY process of doing laundry Those European washers and driers MAY be models of water and energy efficiency -- but they sure AINT quick!!!
We garnered some information about the upcoming Clan Rally, snagged a GREAT meal at a nearby eatery and picked up a few groceries, before calling it a night.
More To Come
Help Us to Help You. The more you tell us about your plans (dates, interests, budget), the better we can tailor our advice to suit!
Michele -- Abocurragh was a DELIGHT!
In addition to updating my report, I ALSO performed a MASSIVE update to my FLICKR account -- Uploading pictures through Day 8 of our Trip
AND adding sets of photos for each of the 42 Round Towers that I have visited -- so far ... Though I'll likely need to RE-VISIT three of them to get closer pix
I placed them in separate 'Folders', to make it easier to 'Pick and Choose' what might be of interest to see ...
Still have a TON of pix to Upload, though ... 20 Days' worth -- To be Precise!!!!
Pix are here -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/itallian_chauffeur/
And, As ALWAYS, More To Come ...
"Ireland Expert" Michele ErdvigClick links for Michele's Book or Custom Ireland ItineraryVisit Michele's Irish Shop for unique Irish gifts and beautiful photos of Ireland.
Day 7, Tuesday, 9 October:
Day broke cool -- No, COLD -- but bright. There was even a light frost coating the car! We walked about the grounds after breakfast and attempted to lure two magnificent horses down to the fence, but they werent having any of it. We departed, once again, about 10 AM -- Are you beginning to see a PATTERN to our traveling style?????
We drove into the outskirts of Castlebar, on the N60 and then, turned South, on the N84. We continued South, following signs to Ballintubber Abbey -- well signposted, EXCEPT for the final turn as the Abbey is shielded from the road by a thick stand of brush and trees! What a TERRIFIC place! The oldest, Continuously used Abbey in Ireland -- even during Penal Times, after the dissolution (and destruction) of the Catholic Churches, Abbeys and Monasteries, stubborn Priests and parishioners continued to Sneak Onto the grounds -- holding Mass in the unroofed chapel for centuries. Now, nearly completely restored, the church is a sight to behold. The naturally formed, rock sculptures set as Stations of the Cross are worth seeing -- just on their own. I cant recommend this place highly enough!
Leaving Ballintubber, we headed back, North, on the N 84. Somewhere along the road, we turned off, to the West on a Local road that connected us with the R330. Turning NNW, we followed signs to Aghagower, for yet, ANOTHER
Round Tower . I REALLY enjoyed this visit -- both the setting, the Village Park nearby -- AND the Ground-Level entrance (Unbarred!!) that allows you to actually stand WITHIN the Tower and closely examine the construction and inner levels! The interior floors -- like the Cap and upper courses -- ARE missing, yet the bracing corbels are still in place, making this a magical place.
Back on the road, we drove North, through Westport and into downtown Castlebar. Back in the Republic, I took advantage of the presence of a Tesco, to buy a new SIM card for our Spare phone (Like Tony, we have 2 Phones! ). The card was free, with a 10 euro Top Up. Also, while in Castlebar, we dropped into Material Needs -- the shop designated by the ODubhda Clan Gathering, for Clan-Related goods --Mostly, mugs, shirts, key chains and Hoodies -- emblazoned with the ODubhda coat of Arms. We ordered four mugs -- 2 for us and 2 for gifts and then meandered into an Indian Café where we enjoyed a pleasant, Irish lunch.
We departed Castlebar on the N5, passing turn offs for Turlough and the Museum of Country Life, heading into Swinford. Just West of town, I made a short detour to the North, to visit the Round Tower of Meelick. Here, there are a number of interesting Slab Stones, as well.
I drove along the N26, through Foxford and I added ANOTHER, brief detour, West -- taking the R318 to the R310 and then, a short distance North, on the R315. This took us across the Land Bridge, at Pontoon, between Lough Cullen and Lough Conn. In addition to the terrific scenery, it afforded me a visit to the Titanic Memorial, in Lahardaun -- long, a Place of Interest-- given its significance during the Rebellion of 1798.
After a brief stop, we retraced our route to Foxford and then, on into Ballina . Entering town, we followed signs to our booking at Belleek Castle Hotel. This Manor House was pricier than Breaffy House, at 109 Euro, B&B, but I think it was well worth the extra. Particularly, when CURRENT prices are now in the 160-190 Euro range!!!! Besides, the building has ODubhda connections, making our stay there that much MORE significant.
It is a VERY impressive place. Unlike Breaffy House, in which the original structure only houses the Common Rooms -- and the rooms are a modern, contemporary, Add-On, Belleek is a much smaller building. What you see, is what you get -- a Tastefully Restored, Majestic, Stone Manor House, sited high upon a hill, surrounded by acres and acres of grass and woodlands. From the moment you push open the 3-4 inch thick, wood-slab front door, it is readily apparent that you are entering into a richly appointed, elegantly (and, a bit, Quirkily) decorated, Stately, 19th Century Home of the Elite.
It literally oozes with history.
The staff was warmly welcoming, as if we were old friends, arriving for a visit. Our upstairs room was large and nicely fitted - the attached bath was equally large. Surprisingly (the structure being so massively built) they have free Wi-Fi THROUGHOUT -- a nifty and rather costly trick, I might add, as it requires the installation of multiple repeaters throughout the building.
Since it was so early, we secured directions from one of the employees and made our way to Attymass -- a nearby village. This was another of those, High On My Long Time List places. Not so much because of the Father Peyton Center -- dedicated to the Rosary Priest, but because, years ago, I had rather arbitrarily settled upon the village as the setting of the Ancestral Home (in 1798) for my semi-fictitious account of my wifes family history.
Sometimes, Truth IS stranger than fiction! The Village was all that I had envisioned -- and more. The Father Peyton Center was also an interesting addition -- having been built, unbeknownst to me, even as I casually placed finger to map and said, Here. Ill place them, here, in Attymass.
After a brief visit to the center and a reconnoitering , I drove us back, into Ballina and parked just off town center. We wandered about town for a bit, did a little shopping and grabbed a light meal, before heading back to Belleek. It being still rather early, we drifted downstairs to the sitting room, opposite the Armada Bar, and sat before the roaring fire. I hated to waste the moment, so I ordered each of us a Gin and Tonic and just kicked back and relaxed.
ANOTHER good day !!!
Day 6, Monday 8 October:
Morning broke, grey and overcast -- with fog draped upon the drumlin hills like woolen tufts. Abocurraghs entrance was BARELY visible from our upstairs window. After another breakfast that couldnt be beat (This one served in the rear conservatory), my wife retired to the room and I set out for a Walk About. The hedges bordering the drive were painted with intricately laced, dew-shimmered cobwebs and made for some interesting photos.
I meandered down to the end of the driveway, paced by a small flock of VERY large sheep (They were the size of calves! ), that seemed to think that I might be about to add food to their road-side trough. One of them snorted angrily and stamped his front hooves, repeatedly, once it was determined that I had no intention of doing so. All together, I spent over a half an hour wandering about -- long enough for the dense, high fog to thin and drift down, toward the ground. It almost seemed to flow - like a silvery, woodland stream -- winding along the narrow road, bubbling against the edges of the raised, hilly fields. It was a surreal, peaceful time and is doubtless, one of my favorite, Fermanagh memories.
Back at the house, I loaded up the car, settled up and said our farewells. We were on the road by 10 AM. Today would be a Make Up day, I had decided. A day to retrace our steps, somewhat, in order to visit areas of missed opportunities. I headed South on the A509, along the Western side of Upper Lough Erne ( Which, perversely, is SOUTH of LOWER Lough Erne! ) , until just below Derrylin. There, we headed NE, on the B127, crossing the Upper Lough and making our way into Lisnaskea and then turning South, again, on the A34. I followed that through Newtownbutler and into Clones. I parked in the town square and took photos of the
High Cross and some of the fine, old buildings and then followed the road signs for the N54, to another brief stop at the Round Tower.
We left the N54 / A3, taking a Shot Cut on the R197, through Belturbet, where we turned South onto the R201. After a bit of confusion, I finally located Drumlane and its Round Tower .
We continued on the R201, meandering Westward through Cavan and Leitrim -- making our way through Mohill and Carrick-On-Shannon. From there, the R370 brought us into Frenchpark, where the N5 brought us NNW, to join the N17. We enjoyed a late lunch at a very nice café, right at the corner of the square, in Ballaghaderreen, mid-way between Frenchpark and the N17, but, sadly the name escapes me. I REALLY need to Up My Game, when it comes to note-taking!!!
Once on the N17, we headed South and made our way to Knock. After an hour or so there, we continued South and connected with the N60, West, just outside of Claremorris. The N60 brought us directly into Balla. The Round Tower there is easy to find, although the directions given are a BIT confusing. There is a large Car Park in the center of town and the Tower stands within a raised, grassy area WITHIN the Car Park. Continuing on the N60 (toward Castlebar) the turn off for Breaffy House Hotel is hard to miss. The building and grounds were VERY nice -- and at only 82 Euro B&B -- the hotel was really good value for money. We spent an additional 11 Euro 90 for a soup of the day and a pannini -- neither of us interested in driving into town, nor particularly hungry after our hearty breakfast and our late lunch -- which was quite decent and reasonably priced for being In House.
I Good Day -- 153 miles driven, but nicely Broken Up with stops along the way. The weather had held -- though grey and cool, it was mostly bright and dry. Cant ask for much better than that -- particularly, in October!
Day 5, Sunday, 7 October: While Beaufort House and its owners were warm and welcoming, staying at Abocurrah Farm was akin to returning Home to Family, after a prolonged absence. I genuinely felt as welcomed as a revered family member might be. Our upstairs, double and single bedded room boasted a HUGE bathroom and comfy beds and Free Wi-Fi. The only drawbacks were the lack of a useable Mobile phone signal and the wild, remote, countryside location -- Although, in truth, that SAME lack of connection and remoteness were also two of its major ASSETS!!
Good on you, Michele. Fair Play, for having found such a GEM! I will DEFINITELY be returning here. My wife is STILL talking about the breakfast Porridge!!
My ORIGINAL plan had called for 3 nights in Carlingford and 3 in Fermanagh, but a Principal lure here was to visit Devenish island. In October, the ferry only runs on Sat and Sun, though, so I modified everything to a 2, 2 and 2, in Down, Fermanagh and Mayo. That structure worked out very well, over all, BUT
Silly Rabbit -- STILL not allowing for the Faeries Laughter!
After inquiring as to our plans, our gracious hostess made a few, discrete phone calls and reluctantly informed us that the Ferry to White Island was not running at all -- And that the Ferry to Devenish WAS running, but had been booked for a PRIVATE party and therefore was unavailable!
Ireland is NOT a cruel place, though. She seems to have ways to console the inconsolable, to humor even those who lack Good Humor and to compensate those who are willing to accept Her quirky beneficence. We set off, subdued, under grey, overcast skies, following the shambled remnants of my Plan. We drove into Eniskillen, crossed over the bridge and made our way north along the shore of Lough Erne. We even passed the turn off to the Devenish ferry -- clearly marked --but veered away from the Lough, to head toward Omagh.
It was THEN, that Ireland smiled. With every mile, the sky brightened, until there was nothing but blue sky and puffy, white clouds around us, as far as the eye could see! It seemed a No-Brainer to capitalize on the good weather and idle away a few hours at the
Ulster American Folk Park! My wife considered it a Highlight of the trip and listed it as a Must See, when we bring the Grandchildren to Ireland.
After a few hours and a refreshing, late lunch, we drove back toward Lough Erne and continued our circumnavigation of the lake. Our next significant stop came at Boa Island, following the signs to locate Caldragh Cemetery. Though badly worn and damaged, the FIGURES here are QUITE impressive. The Lusty Man (although, PROBABLY a female ) is the smallest and most worn. It was moved here, from its original location on nearby Lusty Beg Island (Hence, the name ). The Janus was broken and incorrectly reassembled -- the mid-section -- found after the stone was repaired -- lies on the ground, alongside. Considered to be Pre-Christian, Pagan Celtic, the archeological significance of these stones belie their humble, unheralded setting.
Continuing onward, we dropped into the Belleek Pottery Visitors Center, about 20 minutes before their scheduled closing time. After a bit of shopping, wandering around and a bathroom break, we continued along the scenic eastern edge of the lake, through the slowly dimming twilight. We dropped into Letterbreen, the nearest shopping town to Abocurragh Farm, scored a few munchies and then retired to our room for the night.
It was a very good day, despite the disappointments. A peaceful, laid-back kind of day.
A relaxing day.
Isn't Carlingford a lovely town? I'm glad you enjoyed it and the cousins did too. Yes, the wind does tend to be very pesky in Ireland. Glad to hear you enjoyed your 60th milestone in Ireland. Where else?
FYI: Dont think that I mentioned it, before, but the Cousins that joined us in Carlingford for our S U N filled time, were S and U -- Father and Mother of the Bride from our April trip --
Scenes From A Wedding -- and U's slightly younger sister, N.
And, yes, I realize that it is a very WEAK pun
Day 4, Saturday 6 October:
Day broke, Clear, cool and sunny. We met briefly with the Cousins, before they rushed off to return to Cork. Had another terrific breakfast and chatted briefly with some of the other guests -- most of whom were from England and who had come to Carlingford to attend a wedding. Said our Good-byes to the Caines, and were on the road by about 10 AM.
I realize that I havent said much about how nice Beaufort House was, or how friendly and inviting the Caines were -- but I really shouldnt HAVE to, since it is one of Micheles Personal Picks! Michael is also a Yachtsman and instructs at the Sailing School. Even though I do NOT sail -- and dont particularly enjoy BEING on boats -- I did spend a couple of years, during my misspent youth, as Construction Supervisor for a small, unlamentedly defunct, Yacht manufacturer, so we had a lot to talk about.
He and his wife warmly returned Michele's regards, as passed on by me, and were a delight to spend time with.
We followed the R173 back to Dundalk, but instead of rejoining the M1, I followed through the Roundabouts along Junction 18 and made our way to St Brigits Shrine, in Faughart. My wife was PARTICULARLY interested in this site -- more for the Healing Stones, assorted Wells, Shrines and Stations of The Cross -- and seemed little impressed by the mere HINT of a Round Tower remnant. It is little more than a handful of the original stones atop the foundation ring, and is now incorporated into the surround of the old Grotto. The NEW Shrine was built in the 1930s.
I hunted around a bit for the old graveyard, to see where Edward Bruce (the only Scotsman to be an Irish High King) is buried, but had no luck. Still, we probably spent over an hour here, wandering about the grounds.
We returned to Junction 18 and took the M1 South, to Junction 17 and joined the N53 to the West until we saw signs pointing South, on an unnumbered road, signposted for Iniskeen, Co. Monaghan. The Round Tower here is easy to SPOT, but hard to photograph, as it sits at a junction near village center, but offers NO parking. I DID manage to Double-Park just long enough to snap a couple of quick pix, though.
From there, we followed local roads South, to the village of Louth. The Monastic Ruins here are VERY impressive and lie adjacent to St Mochtas House.
The current village is little more than a wide spot in the road -- though it DOES host a handful of interesting looking buildings -- but, knowing the history of the ruins makes it easy to understand how such an obscure seeming place gave its name to the entire County.
Continuing South, we joined the N2, in Ardee and followed it, into Slane. We turned onto the 51 there, toward Navan. Just before town, finger post signs to the right show the way to Donaghmore Church and Round Tower. The grounds are VERY nice and there are a number of interesting stones, particularly the one dedicated to the Unknown Croppy from 1798.
We continued on the N51 and joined the M3 North, at Junction 9. Shortly after, we paid a 1 Euro 80 Toll and then exited, at Junction 10, to make our way into Kells. After wandering a bit, we spotted the Market Cross in front of the Heritage Center and after examining it, had a late lunch at the hotel in the center of town. After lunch, we made our way to the Round Tower and the other High Crosses. This tower is one of only TWO, which has FIVE bell story windows (the other is in Kildare town) rather than four.
The weather had gotten blustery and even included a micro-shower or two and it was late afternoon before we finally departed Kells and headed North, again, on the N3. It became very clear that my Planned detours to Clones, in Monaghan, and Milltown, in Cavan, were NOT going to happen -- NOT if we expected to make it to our B&B, in Enniskillen, before it got dark!
Michele had advised me that Abocurragh Farm was, Out of town and I THOUGHT I had a Pretty Good idea of how to get there -- but I was QUITE incorrect. To make matters worse -- once I made it to the General vicinity, West of town on the N20, Sligo Road -- I had absolutely ZERO Mobile Phone connectivity.
After reviewing my notes and maps and stumbling about a fair bit there after, we finally spotted the correct turn off and followed it down and through and into the countryside, to our home for the next two nights. A few, ungentlemanly and/or unseemly words MAY have been uttered .
Once I KNEW the location, we were thrilled with the setting AND the B&B, though.
Michele really DOES know how to Pick Em
More To Follow
Bob, mo chara,
a belated Breithla Shona!
How wonderful that your cousins saw fit to celebrate your milestone with ya. You really must watch out for that micro mist in Carlingford! It is quite sporadic.
Newry is home ground for my Gran and her relations still reside just outside of there on family ground.
If you ever get up Downpatrick way again...Keep Denvir's in mind... either as a place to stay or just as a spot for wee bite o' sumting
Glad to know that I am not the only one at whom the Faeries laugh!
Day 3 - Friday, 5 October:
The morning began grey and damp -- It had actually rained, once or twice, during the night -- but the sky gave every indication that it might clear, as it had done the previous day. Enjoyed a delicious breakfast about 9 and set off by 10. I had another, equally ambitious itinerary mapped out for today, so there was little time to waste!
We followed the R173 Coast Road, West, into Newry, enjoying the views of the Lough, as it narrowed into a river, at Warrenpoint and then followed along the wooded riverside, past occasional canal Locks. Traffic in Newry was chaotic and somewhat disorienting, but we eventually found our way across the river and headed East, on the A2. Lots to see along the short stretch of road and there are several, very finely located turn offs, conveniently placed along the way. As we passed through
Rostrevor, one such car park beckoned - just opposite a large, Monolithic monument, signposted as the Ross Memorial.
It is a sobering and world-view unsettling monument -- dedicated to the Fine, Brave, Major-General whom is credited with burning down the White House, in punishment of American atrocities ! !
While we were in the car park, we received a text, advising us that three of the Cousins had decided to meet us that evening, for dinner! This wasnt TOTALLY unexpected, but I had planned the routing of the trip the way I did for several reasons (some of them selfish, I will admit )
After 41 years, Im a fair judge of my wifes travel tolerance -- I had planned to Push those limits during our first three days and then, Ease Off thereafter. I also chose to begin the trip distanced from the Cousins, as I was attempting to minimize the FUSS that I suspected they would likely make, were we to meet, Early On.
In Explanation: Today was my 60th Birthday and the Cousins have historically made it clear that birthdays (particularly Significant ones) are a VERY BIG DEAL. Particularly the three who were coming. I am normally THRILLED to spend time with them, but
It is MY nature to very much NOT enjoy being the focus of Big Deal Celebrations. I thought that The Plan might discourage them.
Silly Rabbit .
Deciding that we needed to be back in Carlingford by 5 PM, I made some quick adjustments to the days Plan. I once again deferred visits to Faughart and Kileevey and eliminated the Ards. I figured that we would still see some great views of Strangford Lough when we visited the Mahee Island site of Nendrum. I also dropped the provisional Plan to Pick Up the Round Towers at Antrim and on ram Island -- having suspected all along that they WERE a bit TOO much. Likewise, Drumbo Round Tower MIGHT be iffy
It was still, All Good. I had made allowances, in The Plan. I could make this work, despite the challenges!
And somewhere, the Faeries LAUGHED .
While we sat there, the sun burst through, pushing aside the clouds with wide patches of brilliant, blue sky and transforming their grey, stern countenance into soft, billowing tufts of white. Light glistened off the azure blue Lough and drew out the dappled hues within the rock walls lining the fields that gleamed in 60 shades of green. We followed the coast, East, through Killowen and inland, to Kilkeel. The A2 rejoined the coast, at Ballymartin and we continued on, nearly into Annalong. My wife sighed, wistfully. Even I acknowledged that it was too glorious a day to remain trapped within the car. We spotted a turn off ahead, signposted for Silent Valley.
We dallied there for a little more than an hour, including a snack break at the café and returned through the farms and fields to the A2, to resume The Plan. We made another brief stop at Bloody Bridge, then pressed through Newcastle, turning North, onto the A50 and then NE, onto the B180 to visit the Church and Round Tower at Maghera.
After a brief visit, we returned to the A50 and followed it into Castlewellan, where we joined the east bound A25.
Inexplicably, we got stuck in traffic in Clough, for at least 15 minutes. During that time the clouds returned and greyed, as they chased away the sun. It began to mist as we entered Downpatrick, interrupted by occasional bursts of rain.
The Center there is easy to find and well sign posted. By the time that I parked at the bottom of the hill, the weather had cleared -- settling into random patterns of dreary grey (but dry) only briefly interrupted by soft, windblown mist. We made our way up to the Cathedral and wandered about, admiring the building and furnishings (despite the knowledge that they had DESTROYED a Round Tower when they rebuilt the Cathedral ). Then we visited St Patricks reputed grave (And -- If Legend is true -- also the burial place of St Columba and St Brigit!) before retiring to the Center, for soup and sandwiches.
It was now nearly 3 PM, so with Great Reluctance, I jettisoned The Plan entirely. Visiting Nendrum was not to be, as much as I REALLY wanted to visit the Round Tower and Tidal Mill. Ah, well Another time, perhaps.
We rejoined the A25, this time, breezing through Clough without delay or difficulty and followed on, all the way to Kilcoo. The weather kept improving, the further West we went, so I turned off onto the B8 and drove through Hilltown, ending up, back in Rostrevor. By now, it was all Blue Sky and sunshine yet again! We easily returned to Beaufort House by 5 PM.
After a quick clean up, I turned the shower over to my wife and made my way downstairs and out front for a smoke -- taking advantage of the magnificent weather, to enjoy the vistas of the Lough, so close to hand. There, just down the road into town, I spot one of the Cousins and I greet her with a big hug. She tells me that I always pick the BEST places - Carlingford is Beautiful -- Someplace that they never had been, or might have thought to visit -- and thanks ME for choosing to spend my birthday here ! !
For a moment, I couldnt speak. My throat tightened and my vision blurred. The wind must have picked up, then - scattering microscopic bits of sea salt and sand about, snatching away my breath and irritating my eyes and throat. That is the only possible explanation that makes any sense to me -- ???
I bring her up to the room to surprise the Mrs. and a few minutes later we join her sister and BIL in the driveway. We head into town for dinner and conversation that lasts until nearly midnight. I honestly dont remember much of the details, like the name of the place, or what we ate. The Cousins had driven up from Cork --a FIVE hour drive -- and needed to return there, first thing in the morning. Beaufort House had been Booked Up for the night, so the Caines had referred the Cousins to another B&B nearby -- Shalom (Which the Cousins rated as Very Nice) and made recs for dining! They had come all that way -- to a place none of them had either been to before, nor had ever considered visiting, simply to spend the evening with the Mrs. and I, on the occasion of my birthday.
About mid-way through the night, I stepped outside, phoned our daughter and listened to the Grand daughters as they sang, Happy Birthday to me. That pesky wind reappeared, constricting my throat and stinging my eyes, so I returned to the table. We remained there until the wait staff politely began to blow out the candles and put up the chairs -- never once suggesting that it was WELL past normal closing time. Then, the Cousins dropped us back to Beaufort House.
It was, I suppose, a quiet night, by tourist standards -- No drinking, no music and no wild, raucous behavior. It came at the cost of giving up on visits to Nendrum, Drumbo and Kileevey Round Towers -- some things that I REALLY wanted to see -- but, I would do it again, in a heart beat -- without ANY hesitation.
It was a GOOD night -- perhaps even, a GREAT night.
If only someone could do something about that pesky, irritating WIND !!
More To Come
Day 2, Thursday, 4 October: My PLAN for today was simple, if ambitious. The simple -- make my way from DUB airport to Beaufort House Guesthouse, in Carlingford, Co. Louth -- with a few detours along the way. Total distance and DRIVING time -- per The Plan -- 79.9 Miles and 1 hour and 56 minutes.
The Devil is in the DETAILS, though. Along the way, meandering on and off the M1, were seven Round Towers and Proleek Dolmen. Planning for stops, I estimated 5 hours, in all, translating to a 2 PM arrival at the B&B and had requested an early check in. Due to our late arrival, we departed the Dooley lot close to 10 AM. All in all though, probably still do-able
Skies were grey, the air was cool, the grass was wet, but it wasnt raining.
Our first stop was literally, just Up the road (R 132), in Swords. In the grounds of St Columba's church of Ireland. Drive into Swords village. Take the first left at the Lord Mayor's Tavern. Drive to the top of the hill. St Columba's is on your left. The round tower is the only remnant of a monastery founded by
St Columba/St Colmcille in 512.
The Round Tower is hard to spot, at first, nearly hidden by trees and the 12th C Belfry. It has a distorted, conical cap and a Cross was added to the top at some point. The church grounds and Groundskeepers Cottage are quite photogenic.
Back on the R132, I turned onto the R127, and followed it into Lusk. The Round Tower here, is Camouflaged -- blended into the much later, rectangular church, acting as one of the four corner towers. From Lusk, I retraced my route on the R127 and merged onto the M1 at Junction 4, paid the 1 Euro 80 Toll, between Junction 7 and 8 and then, exited onto the R152, heading South West, into Duleek.
The Round Tower here, is LONG gone -- only its GHOST remains. Before it collapsed, though, a new church was built that incorporated the Tower. What is visible NOW, is the IMPRINT within the structure that survived after the Tower collapsed. The church is about 300 feet down a side road, just of the Village Green. There are also some interesting burial slabs and a nice, High Cross.
It was now about Noon. We stopped into a café in the village center and enjoyed two Mini-Breakfasts with tea. It was the perfect amount of food, filled the void and gave us a nice Break. Total cost was about 11 Euro.
Returning to the M1, Junction 8, I headed North, to Junction 11 and followed the signs for Monasterboice. WOW! Even the Mrs., who thus far was merely being tolerant of my Quest, was EXCEDINGLY impressed. What a place! In its hey-day (600-1000 AD) this was one of THE most preeminent Monastic sites in Ireland. So daunting was it, that the Norman English built the nearby Mellifont Abbey -- just to diminish it! Other than the Round Tower, there are two church ruins, an OLD cemetery, two early gave slabs and THREE Sculpted High Crosses -- including the over 12 foot, Muirdeachs Cross. We spent quite a bit of time, here.
Returning, again, to Junction 8, we continued North on the M1, to Junction 15. We headed briefly East on the R166 before turning North, on an L Road, following signs for Dromiskin. The Round Tower here is rather odd-looking, with its stunted cap. The setting is within the grounds of yet another Church of Ireland site and includes Great views, the remains of a High Cross and the remains of a 12 C church. The site sits upon a hill, on a side street, just off town center. There is a parking area beside a small Green, upon which rests a Striking stone replica of a Viking Ship. While we were admiring and photographing it, a local woman stopped by and advised us that she was taking around Heritage Trail Guidebooks around for the local shops to display and distribute and she gave us a copy. A VERY impressive display of support for Local Tourism!
Returning to the M1, I re-assessed our progress and dropped our planned visits to Inishkeen (in Co. Monaghan) and to St Brigits Shrine, in Faughart, Co. Louth. It was nearly 2 PM and we seemed to be fading fast -- despite the fact that the skies had cleared and the air had warmed from borderline Cold to Almost warm It seemed as if we had been dragging the Sun along behind us! We exited the M1, just North of Dundalk, at Junction 18 -- (where we discovered the Faughart Roundabout!), but turned East, instead, onto the R173, toward Carlingford.
In spite of our fatigue, I insisted on a Brief stop and turned into the drive for the Ballymascanlon Hotel. Even though we WERE tired, I wasnt willing to waste the Blue sky and sunshine. Despite some misgivings, the Mrs. Reluctantly joined me as I parked in the Hotel lot and followed the signs to see the Proleek Dolmen.
And followed the signs, around and through the rear gardens, into and through the old stable yards and onto and through the Golf Course!!! Do NOT believe that 3-400 metres from the access point in the car park BS, though! It has GOT to be at LEAST a half-mile walk!
But the grounds are gorgeous (on a fair weather day!) and the setting serene and peaceful. We saw and heard almost no one and the unmarked Wedge Tomb was NEARLY as impressive as the Dolmen . Actually, it is REALLY a Portal Tomb -- but why quibble???? Total time spent was WELL over an hour, but QUITE enjoyable!
Back in the car, we were Well and Truly EXHAUSTED (particularly the Mrs ) and, we STILL needed to drove nearly the entire peninsula, following the R173 East, North and then back West, to get to Carlingford. It looked daunting on the map -- but Fate smiles, as it turns out to be only 11.5 Miles! We were at Beaufort House by 4 PM after the briefest of Mutinies, around Grange!
The R173 turns off, there, heading directly (more or less) to Carlingford. Alternately, you can continue forward on the R175, to the shore of Carlingford Lough. From there, the short drive West to Carlingford paces along the shore, offering what Im sure are Stunning views of the Lough. Ill never know, though, as the Mrs. Was having NONE of it. Recognizing how tired we both were -- and how tolerant she had been, THUS far -- even as brain addled as I normally am, I recognized the wisdom of compromising.
Beaufort House was all we hoped it would be -- warm, clean, comfortable and inviting. We had a Family Room, a large, 1 double and 1 single upstairs, with terrific views of the Lough to the front and the mountains, to the rear. I humped up the luggage, and we were asleep within minutes.
About two hours later, my phones alarm rousted us. A couple of quick showers later and we were off, into town, for a quick Orienteering tour, followed by dinner at a pub/café recommended by our B&B hosts. We were back at Beaufort House by 8:30 and retired to the Sitting Room to access the Wi-Fi . After checking emails, etcetera, we returned to our room and performed some preliminary reorganizing of our luggage, prior to hitting the sack, about 10.
Over all, a GOOD day. A well planned and well executed day.
Just as Planned.
More to Follow
So, Im back.
Twenty-eight days (mostly) on the ground. Spent time with the wifes family and acquaintances -- both new and old. Had many adventures, planned for and otherwise. Visited 27 never before visited Round Towers and revisited 3 more -- but I had to bypass at least 5 more that were on my To-Do list
Made SIGNIFICANT advances in my quest into Family research -- but I did so from a totally UNEXPECTED source -- and it occurred so late into the trip, that we were unable to capitalize upon it -- THIS trip
Stayed in a couple of TERRIFIC Self-Catering places -- and ONE mediocre one. Over nighted in one over priced and underwhelming hotel, one under priced and underwhelming and three really nice ones. We also stayed at two GREAT Manor Houses. We also rested and recharged in two of Micheles B&B picks, which -- once again -- did NOT disappoint.
The Van Morrison Concert at SligoLive was MAGICAL .
But -- NO Ireland trip is complete (apparently) unless it includes SOME sort of Travel Drama --- And our trip was NO exception.
I bought our tickets on Delta, back in July, using two, $100 vouchers that they issued us the previous summer after they inflicted a litany of woes upon us on our return flight -- including a 20 minute Ground Hold in Atlanta due to REALLY heavy rain. Now, a weather delay like that is NOT the airlines fault -- but leaving our two checked bags EXPOSED to the elements IS -- in MY opinion and seemingly, Delta agreed.
Dont feel TOO badly for them -- they made it back on this trip!
Day One, 3 October: Our flight from GNV was scheduled to depart at 3:25 PM, arrive in ATL at 4:50 and then re-commence at 6:40, to arrive in Dub on 4 Oct (Weds.) at 7:15 AM. BIL was to collect us about 2 PM and drop us at the airport -- a 10 to 15 minute drive.
Given THAT much time to sit around the house before the flight, I naturally spent quite a bit of it online, checking weather, flight status, etcetera Delta PROUDLY advised that I could UPGRADE my Coach Seats on the ATL - DUB flight ( An A330 -- seats 25 A&B) to PREFERRED seating, for ONLY $39 , each. Now, this was the Retirement Tour -- a Celebration -- a little extra comfort, room and rest might be a GOOD THING. So, yeah I pounced.
As P.T. once said -- Theres one born every minute
BIL arrives early, traffic is light and there is no line at the counter, so we spend an uneventful hour, just chillin, before breezing through security and a half hour later, our 50 passenger Delta Connection jet lifts from the runway. The flight was uneventful and brief. We land in ATL early, coming in to Terminal B, about 4:30 . A short, brisk walk leads us to the Tram and minutes later, we are at our Departure Gate, in the spiffy, new International Terminal.
ATL is a GREAT airport. VERY civilized. They have these nifty Fish Bowls -- dedicated, specially ventilated, Smoking Rooms. I gave them that nick name several years back, based upon the fact that they are usually separated from the main concourse by Glass panel walls -- allowing the uninfflicted to gaze in upon the pathetic, huddled mass of 30-50 desperate smokers as they attempt to force enough smoke, tar and nicotine into their lungs and bloodstream to enable themselves to survive, or recover from the depravation caused by a 1 or 2 or 3 -- or, in my case -- a 10 hour flight. Its NOT a pretty sight -- kinda like monkeys at the zoo -- or, fish in a fish bowl.
Theres one fairly near to our Gate. All is well, with the Universe, thinks I, but I am wrong. Forty-five minutes before our scheduled Departure, a Gate Change is announced. No BIG deal -- the new gate is nearby. Its actually Closer to the Fish Bowl! We drift up to the new gate to discover a massive, chaotic, stream of lines besieging the desk -- and, like a Good Lemming, I join it. Fifteen minutes later, the harried young woman I face informs me that there has been an equipment change -- Delta is substituting a 767 for the A330.
I remind her that we booked a two-seat row MONTHS in advance. She frowns, pecks away at the computer, consults her screen and frowns even deeper. She mutters, mostly to herself, OK. I can do that -- but the tone sounds more like she is trying to convince HERSELF -- rather than to reassure ME. She pecks away, some more. Before she can push the Print button, I unleash my final bombshell.
We paid $80 EXTRA, for Preferred Seating
This time, she REALLY frowned -- any deeper and her head might have turned into an Apple Doll caricature of a human head. Her fingers hover over the keys, quivering slightly. I can sense the long line behind me, stirring restlessly. It may only be my imagination, but I SWEAR I can hear the gears rattling in her head, slowly rumbling about. I can almost smell the tang of fresh, barely used gear oil, tinged by the acrid odor of damaged electrical circuits
Her face transforms in an instant, re-inflating into a beaming, smiling, Happy Face. She taps the Print button, confidently.
Youre in Row 20, Seats F&G
A two seat row?
What makes them preferred? I was already booked into row 25 before I upgraded.
Why, she BEAMED, exuding confidence, perhaps tinged with a bit of Pity that I was SO ill-informed. These are CLOSER to the FRONT. Youll be able to exit that MUCH quicker, on Arrival! Perhaps 10 or 12 people sooner?
I sense the crowd behind me, restlessly anxious. I can see the True Believer look of conviction on the Agents face and I shift my mind into Vacation Mode.
Now is NOT the time. This is a Battle for another day.
We strike up a conversation with a Mother and daughter who are making their first ever visit to Ireland. I am on my Best behavior throughout, as the Mother casually mentions that Daughter is a lawyer for Homeland Security
They are planning to tour the North, investigating their Roots. I introduce them to my trusty, old OSI Road Atlas and point out a few interesting sites along their intended route. It helps pass the time, as we pass the time waiting to board.
Once the Chaos of rebooking is finally over, we board and depart about 45 minutes late. FYI -- ALL Seat Gs on a 767 ( Window Seats on the RH side of the plane) rest over a metal Hump that houses equipment. It occupies about 50% of the foot space. In order to stretch out her legs, my wife needed sit at an angle in order to place her Left foot under the seat in front of me. I spend the next 9 or 10 mostly sleepless hours enjoying my Preferred seat .
Despite ASSURANCES from the Flight Deck that we can EASILY make up the time during our mostly uneventful flight, we disembark in DUB about 45 minutes late and make our way through the Maze -- Up, Down, along the Hall and Up and Down again. Customs and Immigration have the usual long lines and we finally make it to the Dooley counter about 9:15. Thankfully, there are NO surprises, or hassles here -- Though, this year, they DO actually charge me the posted, 25 Euro fee, for Declining the CDW.
Downstairs, awaiting our shuttle, we bump into Mother and Daughter once again as they wait for the Hertz bus. We wish them luck, God Speed and Safe Travels and then part ways.
The Dooley van transports 6 of us. My wife and I, two girls heading down to Cork, for a wedding and two older men heading to Donegal. The girls are Newbies, the men have been to Ireland once before and wife and I are on visit number 16. The driver looks at us in amazement. Im not sure if it was admiration, appreciation, or confusion over our sanity
He keeps up an entertaining and informative banter over the short drive to the Depot, concentrating on the other four, explaining the M50 Toll, warning that there are NO Turns on Red and that Petrol pumps have GREEN handles and Diesel have BLACK -- and NEVER the twain should meet.
We collect a 2012 Ford Focus -- nearly new, barely marked, scraped or scratched. After a brief, but fairly thorough examination, we are off to our first stop -- in Swords.
But, on our way out of the Depot Parking Lot, the two girls heading to Cork narrowly avoided taking us out!
No harm, no foul. Hope their trip ended as well.
End of Rant -- Actual Trip Details to Follow
Thanks! As a work-mate once said -- "Even a Blind squirrel gets an acorn, once in a while!"
Loving the photos!
I love this shot of the Lough
And this one of County Down
Had I thought, I would have contacted my friend Tim Campbell, director at the St Patrick's Centre in Downpatrick, and let him know you were coming...He does wonderful tours!
Great shot of the Chieftain!
Love this photo of Ballintubber!
And this one in Aghagower is wonderful, as well
Bob,Better to have too much info than too little. As long as it fits in your suitcase, who cares? We are just having a little fun with you.
Nice photos. I see one of a bedroom at Abocurragh. How was it?
Second set of photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/itallian_chauffeur/sets/72157631978631478/
In FURTHER defence of my rather LARGE Trip Plan -- This was really SIX individual trips -- rolled into one ...
1 - Explore those Counties (Down, Monaghan, Cavan, Fermanagh and Tyrone) that we have previously either missed or merely briefly passed through.
2 - Attend a Clan Gathering to meet, research and 'Network' with my wife's O'Dubhda kith and kin.
3 - Expand our travel horizons by visiting Paris, Brugge and Brussels.
4 - Spend a week, 'Hunkered Down' in Co Cork, to visit with family and continue our in depth exploration of the region and my wife's O'Driscoll ancestry.
5 - Attend Sligo Live Festival (or at least, the Van Morrison part, thereof ...
6 - Discover and explore as many Irish Round Towers as possible.
It is better to be thought a Generous, Thoughtful FOOL -- than be proven to be an ill-informed, miserly ignoramus ...
At least, that's MY story -- And I'm sticking to it !!
FIRST of the Photos are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/itallian_chauffeur/sets/72157631977589968/
It's the ADD thing -- an inability to STAY focus, with random pushes of EXCESSIVE focus ....
A 10 pound itinerary!! Did you get charged for overweight luggage?
Can't wait for it to begin. Bring it on.
Now that the Retirement Tour has concluded -- and I begin Settling In to my much anticipated status of Retiree -- I felt it might be appropriate to dissect the trip and reflect upon the memories (and Lessons learned) during my Great Adventure
Firstly, This was the Plan -- http://ireland.activeboard.com/t50026233/planning-for-the-retirement-tour/ -- carefully crafted, modified and then, re-created to provide for MAXIMUM utilization of resources, opportunities and available time. It was a GOOD plan --If I do say so myself -- Well crafted, thoroughly researched and intelligently structured. It was appropriate to our wishes and desires and logically plotted. I carefully applied the MANY lessons learned from our previous fourteen experiences in Ireland. I organized Travel Guide Notebooks -- divided into separate volumes for each segment of the trip -- that included copies of reservations, printouts of directions, photos and details of key sites and daily itineraries and Wish Lists. They were then, carefully organized, in order, sleeved within page-protectors. In total, there were SIX binders, some up to one inch thick. In total, they probably weighed about 10 pounds!
Good on Me! Well played, Good Sir! Fair play to me -- And Good enough!
Secondly, some quotes --
NO Battle Plan EVER survives First Contact with the Enemy.
Murphys Law says that EVERYTHING takes longer and costs more.
Leaders make intricate, DETAILED plans and strategy -- But, when the @#&* Hits the Fan -- the Marines have to Adapt and Over-Come.
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Oft Go Astray.
And, a Personal Favorite, from a Ciaran Wynne song --
Its good, though Its good, to have a plan
Wish I had one
Dont mis-understand. The trip was WONDERFUL. There were NO major snafus, problems or difficulties. NO traumas and very Little drama. The time and effort spent Micro-Planning was neither wasted, nor was it unnecessary. What it ALLOWED me, was the opportunity to apply the SINGLE, Most Valuable Lesson that I have acquired from my years spent here, on Michele Forum -- from Michele and the Rest of her Irregulars --
Go with the flow. Let the faeries lead you. Dont let your carefully planned itinerary prevent you from enjoying and experiencing the MAGIC of Ireland -- the REAL Ireland that surely eludes the Bus Tour Folk Embrace the Unexpected and expect Great Thing in Simple Places.
And, Finally -- another personal favorite (from Roger Zelazny) :
Positing the Infinite -- Anything is possible
Details will follow --
Undoubtedly, at my usual, sporadic rate