I left Norwich on Friday and headed down the A11 to meet Geoff and Ginny, friends from way back when, at a hotel near Stanstead. There, we had coffee that extended into a most enjoyable lunch, sitting next to the duck pond. Unfortunately, the hotel was right under the flight path so it got a little noisy periodically!
Afterwards, it took an unbelievable 5 hours to reach Weymouth. I was anticipating the M25 and M3 being slow but hadn’t considered the time I would arrive at the Winchester bypass and the consequent traffic. To say I was pleased to arrive in Weymouth is probably a slight understatement but the journey served as a reminder as to why I choose not to live in England anymore.
Saturday was spent in a far more relaxed manner. After a leisurely breakfast, we drove out to Lulworth Cove and walked to the next cove, in the opposite direction to the one all the tourists were taking to toil up the steep cliff path to Durdle Door. It was a good decision, as we met no one else on the track itself and the only people in the cove seemed to have arrived by boat.
Admiring the view of Lulworth village
Lulworth Army Camp is nearby
Empty coastal path
Walkers toiling up the cliff to Durdle Door
Low tide has uncovered the rocks
We sat on the beach for a while, eating our sandwiches and admiring the chalky cliff faces and the unusual stratified rock formations. When it looked as though it was about to start raining, we set off back to Lulworth, where it was now extremely busy. As ice cream is an essential part of any visit to the seaside, we queued up with everyone else so that we could indulge ourselves (blackcurrant and cream is highly recommended!).
Sunday saw me on the move again. This time, I was flying to Knock (Ireland), from Bristol to stay with my sister. The journey was, once again, quite slow, and I only just returned the hire car in time. (Following the GPS lady’s instructions, I had also managed to bypass the petrol station that I would normally have used and ended up driving some distance to find another one. Sometimes, it is not wise to follow all her advice!)
Bristol Airport was the busiest I had ever seen it but everything went smoothly and it wasn’t long before I was airborne. It is only an hour’s flight, so the transition from the beautiful sunshine of England to the cold and grey of west Ireland was very quick. The weather has been variable ever since. We have had a couple of trips into Sligo and one to Enniskillen in ‘The North’, but, otherwise, time has been spent relaxing at home, which is also needed from time to time.
We did manage to get a couple of visits to the beach but Strandhill was a bit too wet and wild when we arrived for our walk so we sat in the car and ate ice creams instead! However, Russ, Minnie (the dog) and I went for a lovely walk at Dunmoran on Friday afternoon when the sun finally came out. The beach is very long and is part of Sligo Bay so we could look across to the mountains of Donegal. It was very revitalising. And Minnie enjoyed chasing a stick! Sadly, there were no ice cream shops.
Rose had to go to Sligo this afternoon so,I took the opportunity to get a massage whilst she was doing her errands.
This particular massage was shiatsu therapy, which I hadn’t had before, so it was a very interesting experience. After sitting on a chair and having my back and neck thoroughly worked on, I then lay on the floor for the massage to continue. I became a little alarmed when I realised the therapist was standing on my feet but all was well! It wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as it sounds or as I expected and I am just hoping it does some good.
Afterwards, I strolled around Sligo for an hour or so whilst waiting for Rose, stopping at a very nice cafe by the river for coffee and a scone (a late, very ‘healthy’ lunch!). We then went to the supermarket (again) before heading home, where we arrived at about 6pm.
Russ had started preparing dinner and we had Spanish omelettes to use up some of the many eggs that their chickens produce prolifically.
The day started very gloomily but, as the morning progressed, the sky cleared and it became another beautiful day. Rose and I spent almost the entire morning on the internet trying to book cars, flights etc etc so I now have the next couple of months organised, (Dorset, Portugal and then France) but there were one or two frustrating (or one could say extremely irritating) moments during the course of the morning, as websites wouldn’t do what we wanted them to do!
This afternoon, we were very domesticated and baked cakes, which is something I, at least, enjoy doing and haven’t done for quite some time. Russ had gone fishing and whilst we watched the most appalling programme imaginable (Made in Chelsea and so bad it was laughable), Finn cooked dinner.
As it was a perfect evening and we had hardly set foot outside the door all day, we decided to go for a walk up the lane and we were very glad we did as it was even more beautiful outside than it looked. There was no wind and the air was very clear so we could see for miles.
Today was an exceptionally lazy day, even by my current standards! Rose was working in Sligo all day, so I stayed at home and chatted to Russ, did one or two domestic chores and read. In the late morning, we battled the very strong wind to take Minnie up the lane, keeping an eye on the gathering rain clouds along the way.
I was leaving Sligo today and, after a leisurely start, we then had to rush to catch the train to Dublin at Coloonay, as we had started looking at Rose’s art work just before we were due to leave. Not good planning!
Russ drove us to the station and we caught the 11am train to O’Connell Street. The sky was looking decidedly grey when we left but, after a very smooth and relaxing journey across the country, we arrived to find blue sky in Dublin. As we were staying in Dun Laoghaire, we had an additional trip on the Dart train to Sandycove, which was the nearest stop to the B&B Rose had booked. After a short wait in Dublin (enough time for a cup of coffee!), we were off again and travelled all along the coast, past the ferry terminal, to our stop. Once there, it was a short walk to the Ferry B&B, where we were welcomed and shown to our large room in the slightly old fashioned establishment.
We couldn’t waste the day, so we immediately set off for a walk along the beach front. The wind was quite strong and cool but the sun was hot as we strolled along, admiring the view and the houses.
Some of the gardens were spectacular and I was surprised at the presence of cabbage trees and other varieties of plants that are prevalent in N.Z. There were a large number of container and oil ships out in the bay and, when we reached Forty Foot, a number of very hardy swimmers going into the sea, which appeared to have quite a swell.
We wandered as far as Dalkey, where we walked around the small harbour to a point on the far side where an enormous number of seagulls were perched on the rocks.
When we arrived, we realised that there were also a couple of seals (or maybe sea lions – I can’t tell the difference) in the water. We stood, absolutely riveted, for the next 20 minutes, watching, as the sea gulls and seals fought for the fish that must have been plentiful under the rocks. Time and time again, one particular seal dived for fish, almost at our feet.
It was chased off periodically by a dog that was rushing from rock to rock, barking and generally being driven demented by the seals, but the seals, of course, were not going to be thwarted by a dog, and were far more interested in their dinner. Unfortunately, much to my annoyance, my camera battery died, right in the middle of all this activity, so I didn’t manage to get a close up picture.
After all this excitement, we walked back to Dun Laoghaire and the mundane world of Tesco, where we decided on salads, strawberries, raspberries, stilton and a bottle of wine for a picnic in our room. It was excellent, we ate too much and felt sick afterwards, but it was a good end to the day.
At 6.30am, we woke to the sound of running water and it wasn’t due to the torrential rain outside either! There was a steady stream pouring onto the third bed in the room, which luckily for us, at least, neither of us had chosen to sleep in. A bit more unlucky for the owner, however, as, by the time we woke up, the mattress was very wet and would take some drying out. Having put a bowl under the stream, we went back to bed, as there was nothing we could do at that point.
At breakfast, our host, Eamonn, was very chatty and said we could move to another room, whilst he sorted out the leak, which seemed to be coming along the wall (although goodness knows how it leaped from the wall onto the bed!).
After this excitement, we ventured out into the rain and caught a double decker bus into the city. For this, we had to have the exact change and no notes. The bus company is obviously working on the assumption that every tourist arriving in town is aware of the fare amount and has coins, which is extremely helpful (not)! Rose therefore had to ask one of the other passengers if they could change a note for us as we were 10 cents short of the required coinage. (The fare was 3.05 euros each, which seemed a most peculiar amount and caused us to wonder how they had arrived at that particular price point.) Apart from that, the ride into town was uneventful and we had a good view from the top of the bus as we drove along.
By the time we reached the city, the rain was easing and the sun was attempting to shine, which is just as well as we had planned a day of walking. We got off the bus somewhere near the National Gallery and walked along to Merrion Square, where artists were displaying their work along the railings. We were both particularly taken by one mixed media artist and we stopped to chat to her for quite some time, as it was an area in which Rose was especially interested.
After that, we walked through the park, headed for St Stephen’s Green and inadvertently stumbled across the Little Museum that I had read about and thought might be more manageable than one or two of the other bigger museums. We first had a coffee in the cafe downstairs (have to get the priorities right!) and then went into the museum, which is located in an old Georgian house.
The first room was filled with cartoons depicting the Viking history of Dublin, which was extremely readable and amusing and, upstairs, there were two rooms of 20th Century memorabilia. Whilst we were there, a guide conducted a tour, explaining some of the history of Dublin and pointing out particular items of interest in a very theatrical fashion. He was not only informative, but also very entertaining.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around. Neither of us could be bothered to look at shops (of which there were many), so we stopped at Carluccios for afternoon tea and dessert (delicious) and then strolled through Temple Bar and looked at the Icon Walk, which I had also read about and which was in a very peculiar and dubious looking alley, which was rather unexpected.
After this we crossed the Liffey over Halfpenny Bridge and walked up to The Spire and O’Connell Street. By this time, our energy and enthusiasm were waning somewhat, so we caught another bus back to Dun Laoghaire, where we visited Tescos again for picnic food, and then headed back to our room.
After a bit of a rest and recuperation, we decided at 8.45pm that, as it was such a lovely evening, we should go for a walk along the waterfront. It was quite a cool and bracing walk, as we went right to the end of the pier, where there were, in fact, quite a number of people strolling/jogging/running. It was most enjoyable and we were very glad we had made the effort.
We had no water incidences in our new room this morning, so didn’t wake up until a bit later. After breakfast, we planned to get the Dart train to Malahide, which is on the other side of Dublin. However, when we arrived at the station, there wasn’t a train for another 35 minutes so, the unusually helpful and fairly witty ticket man suggested we bought an all day pass for the train and went to Howth first, as there was a train due in a few minutes. So, this is what we did.
Howth is right at the end of the Dart line and is a seaside fishing town, which we both really liked. After leaving the train, we walked along the west pier, where there were a large number of fish shops (tempting for me but not the vegetarian Rose), and fishing boats moored alongside. At the end, people were fishing and we spotted a couple of seals in the water, although they were nowhere near as close as the ones we had seen at Dalkey.
We wandered along the waterfront, stopping for a coffee (yet again) and then on to the end of the east pier, where we had a good view of Ireland’s Eye island, where there are reputedly gannets and puffins. As we didn’t take the boat trip, we couldn’t confirm this.
By this time, it was well after lunch, so we thought we would finally head for Malahide and the cafe in the castle. This required a trip back a few stops on the Dart and then catching another train.
Once at Malahide, it was an easy 15 minute walk to the Castle. However, we were somewhat horrified at the prices being charged for food, so we got a takeaway tea and spinach roll from another little cafe and went and sat in the Castle grounds to eat them.
Afterwards, we decided that we didn’t have the energy to look round the castle or the walled garden, (the whole purpose of coming) which also required an additional entry fee, so we had a quick wander in the grounds and then headed back to the station and caught the 4pm train back to Dun Laoghaire. This was a very pleasant journey as the route passes right through the City and along the coast on the other side, so we had a good view all the way along. It became quite crowded though after the City stops as commuters returned to the suburbs after work.
We arrived back at the B&B just after 5pm and relaxed for a while before going out to eat, having decided to have a change from Tesco’s salads tonight. We had checked out the restaurants a couple of days ago and had already decided on an Italian restaurant around the corner. The food here turned out to be plentiful and quite tasty but also very rich (my stomach suffered later!) and the staff were quite offhand, which rather spoilt the occasion. Afterwards, we took another bracing walk along the pier before returning to the room and bed.
Just for a change, it was cold, grey and wet today but as it was a travel day, it didn’t matter too much. I caught the train from Lydney to Bristol Temple Meads, the bus to Bristol Airport and then the Ryanair flight to Knock, where I arrived at 4.15pm. There was, of course, a fair bit of waiting around to do, particularly at the Severn Tunnel Junction station, where I had to change trains, and then at the airport, but as I had plenty to read it wasn’t a problem.
At the Severn Tunnel, there wasn’t really a waiting room, just a few covered seats on the platform, so it was a bit chilly. The girl sitting next to me wrapped herself in a blanket that she conjured out of one of her many bags, so she was well prepared, unlike me.
My sister, Rose, and her son, Finn, were waiting for me at Knock, as was the blue sky and sun and we had a beautiful drive to their home along the narrow lanes of the Irish countryside.
Russ and the dogs came to greet us when we arrived and we spent a very relaxed evening. It didn’t get dark until after 11pm which is quite disruptive to the body clock!
The sun was shining brightly this morning when Russ went fishing for the day and Rose, Finn and I drove into Ballina to do some shopping. We were out for a couple of hours and then had an exceptionally lazy afternoon, chatting and reading.
Unbelievably, there was yet another blue sky when I woke up this morning.
As Rose was out all day today, I spent all morning talking to Russ about everything from poetry to drugs and then we walked down to a neighbour’s house, with Minnie, one of the dogs, to go and water her plants. By this time, the wind was quite cool but the sun still shining. There are some beautiful views across the fields towards the sea from their lane and it was a beautiful day.
The day dawned not quite so bright and beautiful but at least it wasn’t raining! Rose and I set off just after 9am for the drive to Ballyvaughan, which was about 2 – 3 hours away. We headed along the bog road towards Knock and then joined the main road as far as Galway before turning off to travel to the coast and Kinvara and Ballyvaughan.
We stopped at Kinvara for a coffee and a quick look at the town and then ate our sandwiches on a seat by the harbour. By this time, it was quite grey and a bit chilly, but still not raining!
We then decided that we would go to the Burren Perfumery, which is somewhere Rose had wanted to visit for years, on the way to Ballyvaughan. This involved quite a twisty drive through some narrow lanes in The Burren and we would never have found it without the directions and sign posts. It was certainly a little off the beaten track! Once there, however, it was very peaceful and quite delightful (and not too crowded, given that it was a Bank Holiday).
We had a walk around the garden and then sampled everything in the perfumery shop, without actually buying anything. After that, a cup of tea and piece of cake was required before we headed off again towards Ballyvaughan. (We did wonder what beat the Guarda were on that they could enjoy afternoon tea at the Perfumery. It must have been a quiet afternoon!)
We arrived at the B&B, which was a little way out of the village, at about 4.30pm and, after we had checked in, decided to go for a walk.
Our hostess advised us that the Woodland Loop would take about an hour and was a good walk, so we drove back into Ballyvaughan, left the car and set off.
Two hours later we were wondering whether we were just very slow walkers or she had meant it took an hour to run the track! However, apart from being unprepared for a hike (who takes their handbag on a hike?!), it was very enjoyable, with a perfect temperature, blue skies and beautiful scenery.
Once back in Ballyvaughan, we stopped at the Hyland pub for dinner, where we both had a balanced diet of soup and chips, (seafood chowder for me and leek and potato for Rose) before returning to our room for wine and reading before bed.
The sky was looking a little ominous this morning when we awoke. After a hearty breakfast (full Irish breakfast for me and tepid pancakes for Rose), we drove into Ballyvaughan and had a look at the craft fair, which was small and, not surprisingly, totally tourist orientated. The town seems to be full of B&Bs and there are tour buses going through almost continuously. We also checked out the cake stall in the pub, bought a couple of slices of carrot cake for later, and then continued on to drive around the coast towards Fanore Beach.
The road was very narrow, twisty and busy and the landscape became bleaker and bleaker and greyer and greyer as we approached Fanore. We parked at the beach and had a lovely stroll along the sand/rocks and even though the weather wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, beach weather, there were a number of people walking along, as well as a few hardy souls in the water. The coast apparently is very good for surfing but the surf certainly looked a bit messy today.
We were there for quite a while and then continued our drive along the coast towards the Cliffs of Moher. By this time, despite the large breakfast, we decided it was at least time for coffee, if not lunch, so we were lured in by several signs along the way for the Stonecutter’s Cottage. This proved to be an excellent choice and we both had soup in a very cosy cottage (funnily enough) with extremely helpful and friendly staff.
Next stop was the Cliffs of Moher. Here, there was a large charge to walk along the cliffs, which we were reluctant to pay, as well as a lot of people, so drove a little further on and then followed a car that had turned off down a lane towards the sea. Amazingly, at the end of this (several kilometres of even narrower, twisty road), an enterprising Irishman had turned his front garden into a car park for which he was charging 2 euros, as opposed to the 6 per person in the official car park, so that is where we parked.
We then walked up to the Cliffs of Moher coastal walk, which is a track that passes right the way along the top of the cliffs. The car park was full so obviously a large number of people knew about it even though there were no signs off the main road.
By the time we started the walk, the sky was looking very black and it was obviously raining in the distance. However, it was good to walk and actually see the cliffs (just) without being with the coach loads of tourists at the other end of the track. We walked along for about 45 minutes but when the rain started in earnest we turned around and came back. Despite having jackets on, we were both fairly wet by the time we got back to the car. As it was then about 5pm, we drove straight back to the B&B to find some dry clothes.
Our hostess had told us of a jazz and barbecue evening in one of the local pubs and we intended to go to that. However, when we arrived, it was in an open courtyard, the place was packed with people and the band was most certainly not playing jazz, (Dire Straits and the ‘Sultans of Swing’ not being my definition of jazz), so we went to the same pub as the previous night, where it was warm and the food was good. After that, it was back to the room, like the boring ladies we have become, for wine and a good book.
The morning dawned nice and grey. After another very large breakfast, we drove along the archaeological trail up to the limestone plateau of the Burren and made our first stop of the day at the Portal tomb at Poulnabrone.
We rushed ahead of the coach party that arrived at the same time and had a wander around the extraordinary landscape. The tomb itself dated from about 3000 BC and it was amazing how the plants grew is such a barren place.
After this, we went back to the Perfumery and tried a few more products before making the big decision about what to buy. We had to have coffee and cake to assist!
After making major purchases, we meandered along the road a little further until we reached the Hazelnut Chocolate place that we had seen signposted. This was a bit more disappointing as there was little to see, the chocolate was very expensive and, even more importantly, there were no samples to try, so we didn’t stay very long.
We continued our drive along the road until we reached the coast and then took a detour off the main road to Flaggy Shore. Here, we checked out an art gallery and the beach, which looked too bleak and hard to walk along, so we drove around the estuary and rejoined the main road heading back towards Ballyvaughan.
Our walk today took us along the beach at Bishops Quarter, which had a lot of rocks, low tide and also looked quite bleak, the weather still being a bit on the grey side. However, we both enjoyed the stroll in the fresh sea air.
We arrived back at the B&B at about 5pm and had an hour or so to relax before going out to dinner, which we intended to have at an Italian restaurant which had an early bird menu. The food was very good and we felt extremely full afterwards but, somehow, somewhere during the course of the evening, we were subtly manipulated onto the main menu by the restaurant staff, the result being that the bill was much more than we anticipated. This left rather a bad taste (no pun intended) for both of us.
As is the way, now that we were leaving, the weather was much brighter today. After our last large breakfast, we packed up and headed towards Galway and home. The countryside certainly looked a lot more attractive and less bleak with some blue sky and sun.
We drove back along the coast to Kinvara and then joined the main road into Galway, where we decided to stop for an hour or so to have a wander around. The hour or so turned into 3 somehow, as we walked through the pedestrianised centre, with its many buskers, had a hot chocolate and then strolled along the waterfront to the marina. Naturally, there were one or two shops investigated along the way, as well!
By the time we returned to the car, it was about 2.30pm and so we just managed to avoid the school traffic. Apparently, the roads are always congested at peak times, so it would have taken a lot more time and patience if we had got the timing wrong.
We made one stop at a supermarket and arrived home at about 5pm by which time we were back to grey clouds and, coming over the bog, some very torrential rain. We had spotted the very large black cloud from quite a distance away, (it was difficult to miss!) so were not surprised at the deluge.