Tag Archives: Ireland

Travel: Ennis, Ireland

Ireland 2007–Ennis

Ennis is in the southwest of Ireland and we stayed the night after our long drive through the Burren. Its Gaelic name is Inis. We found a little B&B a little farther out of the town center. All the Irish towns have the oldest buildings at the center and the newer more moderns ones the farther out you go. The streets were once built for carriages and are narrow. If there is any parking, people usually just drive up over the low curbs and you have to drive around the cars. This was true of Donegal town too. Ennis was set up as a one way, with the sidewalks widened and penant shaped streamers through the streets. There was some sort of game, the local team or something that was winning but I can’t remember what.

Rose Cottage, our B&B, wasn’t a cottage but had a small dining area as well as a wee pub downstairs with quite lovely and clean rooms upstairs. The food seemed kind of Americanized so we went into town and found one of few restaurants open. The food there was extremely good, one of those higher end restaurants. I believe it was called the Town Hall, denoting what it once used to be.

After dinner my sister and I wandered up the street to a cute little pub. There were people playing inside but as opposed to an organized band they were more just jamming. A fiddler or two, I think one on bodhran but it was very low key and background. I don’t even remember much about that pub.

The next day we wandered about the town, which still has many medieval buildings, and did some shopping. I think it was my favourite town for the looks and being just a pretty place. The streets all gently curved and the shops and pubs have an old feel. This town had the most medieval feel of the towns we had been in. There were many interesting shops and I wouldn’t have minded more time there. We found our way to the Ennis Friary by asking the Garda (the police) since we somehow couldn’t find a street that went through and it turns out there is the old friary, the ruins, and the new one, which is still in use. Of course we wanted the ruins.

Ennis Friary was built in 1240 making the town a religious center. It was a Franciscan center until the expulsion of the monks in the 1800s. It’s a fine example of gothic architecture, with remains of the cloister walk and many walls with the skeleton of the windows left. Some windows, side by side, would have a different design from one to the next. The floors were festooned with old tombs, leaving no space to walk that wasn’t over someone’s grave. I found that tombs older than about the 1700s were unreadable. Many were set in the walls and the O’Brians and MacMahons were families of note in the eiarly days of the friary.

The friary has some great sculptural images, with a monk, a skeletally thin Christ, and a virgin Mary as some of the plaques and such embedded in the walls. The Creagh tomb was large and ornate, in better condition but then it was put in, in 1840 and incorporated some elements from the 1500s. Overall, the friary was in good condition, for a ruin. I really wished these old churches still had the stained glass. It’s a bit hard to imagine what they would have looked like in their full glory, with the bright hues of glass, candles, wooden ceilings and floors, rushes perhaps, and walls not yet pitted by age and weather in rebellion.

When I get back to Ireland I want to spend more time in Ennis and exploring around the town.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under art, cars, Culture, driving, history, Ireland, life, religion, travel, weather

Dysert O’Dea, Ireland

We accidentally found Dysert O’Dea (pronounced O’Day) as we left the Burren, in county Clare. Dysert O’Dea was in the guidebook as having this wonderful doorway. But it was at the end of the day and Oct. so as we drove up to this rather small castle, we knew it was closed. There was a guy sitting in a Hummer like truck parked at the front of the castle, built in 1480. He was nice enough to move out of the way so we could take pictures.

Then he told us where the high cross and church were that we might very well have missed if we’d driven out. We drove to a cattle gate and pulled to the side of the road. This was a real farm road so in some ways it was much bigger than the hedge and stone wall encroached main roads.

Ireland 2007–Dysert O’Dea

The castle was newer than the church which was newer than St. Tola’s high cross and the ruins of the tower, which were from the 12th century. The cross holds an carving of Christ and of a bishop (St. Tola) who founded the monastery centuries before, I believe.The doorway was in good shape and very cool with all the faces. Each one was different and some human, others animals. There was a whimsical simplicity to it, and an individuality that made me think some of those faces represent particular people of the time.

I’m not sure if we were in the Burren anymore or just out of it but there was such a distortion of time for us looking at the maps. A map of all of BC and a map of Ireland are the same size on paper. But a one-inch distance on a BC map could be 2 hours of driving, whereas on the Irish map it’s probably 15 minutes.

Which means we managed to go from Carrowmore in the rainy morning, to Dunguaire, Kinvara, Ailwee Caves, Poulnabrone, Burren, Carran Church, Dysert O’Dea castle and church all in one day. We were getting into the very tail of the day. We rarely stopped for lunch. After Dysert O’Dea we drove to the town of Ennis and found a place for the evening.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, driving, history, Ireland, life, people, religion, travel

Burren, Poulnabrone Dolmen and Carran Church

After we left the Ailwee caves we wended our way through the Burren. There are rock walls absolutely everywhere, and then the Burren stone with plants in each hardened rivulet. The walls are of stone stacked vertically or horizontally, some mortared, many not. They could be ten years old or a thousand years old and speak of the ruggedness of the land. We actually passed a sign for an old, stone, ring fort but because there were so many walls we couldn’t find it, as it was inseperable from the rest of the walls. We also went down a wrong road and then had to backtrack. We only knew we’d reached the same spot when we came across some white bagged hay (or something) since the hills looked so much alike. They also reminded me a bit of the Okanagan in BC with the rolling, pastoral hills.
Ireland 2007–Burren, Poulnabrone Dolmen & Carran Church

We had to drive around a few sheep. They proved why they have remained at a low rung on the evolutionary ladder. Some didn’t bother to move. Others would run frantically along the road (all with their butts dabbed in green or red paint) and then stop and chew. It’s like their wee brains went, Ack! A metal monster! Oooh, look nice greens to chew. Two second memories, I tell you.

I’ve already gushed about the Burren but there is a sense of such age and endurance in this area, and beauty mixed with the severity of the landscape in spots that I can certainly see how tales of fairy folk would spring up. Poulnabrone was down one road and we almost missed it too, except it stood a little above the hill. This is called a portal tomb because it looks to be a doorway, perhaps to another realm. This megalithic structure dates back 5000 years and has stood against humans and elements all that time. The ground around the dolmen was amazing and I would definitely see this again for its sheer alieness and stunning landscape. Walking  was a bit treacherous and required looking where you were going but there was all sorts of flora growing in those dips and furrows.

The day was winding down but we still had an hour or two of sunlight. As we were driving out of the Burren we found Carran Church. I couldn’t find much infomration on the church but I’m guessing it’s at least 400 years old (part of it is 15th century) and it’s near Ballyvaughn. One of the pictures shows the brown signs that marked scenic or historical sites. Not a big ruin, it was near someone’s home so I pulled into the driveway (remember, no shoulders on these roads) and took some pictures. The wall had the usual stone stile to climb over. I also met some stinging nettle (through my yoga pants) when I went around the outer wall. Ended up with a burning thigh for a few hours.

Of all the areas in Ireland that we visited I liked the Burren best. The bays near Kinvara were of the deepest blue and it was just so peaceful and pretty in its own way. And onward we went. We were yet to do Dysert O’Dea before we called it a day.

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, driving, environment, history, Ireland, life, memories, myth, nature, travel, weather

Dunguaire and Ailwee Caves

Ireland 2007–Dunguaire & Ailwee Caves

After Carrowmore, on Wednesday Oct. 3, we headed toward the Burren. It was raining in Carrowmore but the weather was wonderfully clear and fairly warm once we hit the west coast. Here is where the maps screwed us up quite a bit. Dunguaire was shown as being on the other side of Kinvara, a small little fishing village. But instead it was right at the edge of the village. Nothing was really placed correctly so we had to ask as usual. Outside of Dunquaire castle was a cute little bird just singing his head off. It really set the joyful atmosphere of the place.

Dunguaire castle was closed, as of the day before, alas, but the water was beautiful, a deep azure and choppy. I would definitely go back to actually see Kinvara the next time around as we whizzed through it. It took meandering along very curvy roads and a few wrong turns to find the Ailwee Caves. These were carved by underground rivers millions of years ago. European brown bears were thought to be extinct in Ireland for the last 1200 years but they found bones in a hibernation spot that date back only 1000 years. Still it’s sad to think how many large species once populated Ireland and were wiped out in the past 5000 years.

The caves were quite large and there were deposits forming stalagmites and stalactites. White fossils graced the brown and black stone. But they really rushed you through straight out of and back into the gift store of course. There wasn’t really time even to take a proper picture and for the price they charged (not an OPW site) they could have given a few more minutes.

We drove through the Burren (or Burren), which looks like a volcanoe blorped out mud millions of years ago and then it solidified. There’s a picture in here of this and you can see the top of the hill is grey, just like the mud. Because of the stone the Burren was written about through the ages as being inhospitable with no land to grow on and yet people lived there. Rock and rock walls abounded.

Driving into this area reminded me a bit of the Okanagan in BC. It had a certain craggy austerity in parts but I loved this area. Tomorrow, more of the Burren and surrounding area.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, driving, environment, history, Ireland, memories, nature, travel, weather

Slieve League and Carrowmore

On Tuesday Oct. 2 we bopped around Donegal for part of the day, using an internet cafe, seeing Donegal castle (which we drove around three times because we couldn’t find it behind the trees and the wall, and then couldn’t find the parking), and doing a wee bit of shopping.

I tried to call a woman near Carrick on Shannon. I’d been given her name by a friend but the one thing we never mastered were the phones. It was a phone booth on the street. I tried punching the number. I tried putting money in. I tried various buttons on the phone and only got the long distance operator who I couldn’t hear anyways for all of the traffic. So we never did see Bee, but then we didn’t pass through her area. Of course in retrospect, it was probably only a half hour from where we did drive.

Slieve League was past Killybegs, a small fishing town west of Donegal. We drove out and it was a meandering drive along or near part of the coast. This is tweed country; lots of sheeps and a few tweed shops that we stopped in, partially for directions. So we drove and drove and weren’t sure if we there so we asked a man, dressed in that classic Irish farmer attire of cap, tweed jacket, baggy pants and wellies In Ireland the standard greetings is “How are you doing?” This man was walking along the small village road. I believe there might have been a total of 20 cottages at most and it was at the end of nowhere. I don’t know if that was Killybegs or not. I think not but I don’t know what that village was called.

He said we were on the right road for Slieve League and as it turned out it was only about five minutes past that village, and dead ended there. We were high on cliffs and below was a long reddish sand beach. It was a long hike down the stairs and would have been a long sweat up. We didn’t go down as it was getting late in the day. We could see a couple of people sunbathing down there.

As we drove back we found the sign to the Bunglass Cliffs.  Since the guy at the tweed shop had mentioned them we decided to go check them out. I’m sure if my sister realized what we were getting into she would have run screaming.

We drove through a village as tiny as the one at Slieve League, passing dogs, goats and chickens all running about the road. We rounded a corner where the family working in their yard kind of stared at us like we were mad. Then began the ascent. I’ve lived in BC and Alberta all my life. We have mountains, the Rockies, and some mountain roads are treacherous switchbacks. This was something else.

At first it wasn’t too bad but then it wound higher and higher. And then we were on a hairpin where you looked across to the other side of the hairpin (about 75 feet away) with nothing but cliffs down the curve. My sister, who is terrified of heights, said not a word, breathing heavily and grasping the car door handle so tight I thought she’d take it off. I could hear it squeaking but didn’t dare look. And she was on the outside edge.

It was in fact fairly treacherous. I was only going about 5km and if we’d met someone coming the other direction, I’m not sure what we would have done as the road wasn’t big enough for two. Then there were the spot where suddenly we were looking straight at the sky. The car was at more than a 45 degree angle facing up. I had to take it on faith that there was road on the other side and crept over the edge. We didn’t stay up there very long. My sister was a bit too nervous and once you saw the view in a few moments (and the sheep) there wasn’t much else to do. However, the Bunglass Cliffs are the highest cliffs in all of Europe so my sister had a right to be nervous with the height. And I have to say my heart was beating a little fast on the way up. It was easier going down and a pretty good view.

Names like slieve, killy, kil, bally, carrow, bun all mean something specifically in Gaelic, such as hill or bay or mound or… I have no idea what Killybegs meant or Slieve League but there are a few place names that have the similar beginning.

Ireland 2007–Slieve League & Carrowmore

We then started beetling south to outside of Sligo. We wanted to do the Carrowmore passage tombs and thought we would go that far for the night and have a head start in the morning. Regretfully I saw nothing of Galway. We made an error this night by being far too late in travelling. It was dark by the time we ended up in the vicinity and I think we were near Lough Arrow (lough means lake) because there was coast on one side. But it was so dark we couldn’t see a B&B anywhere and finally found a small pub/tavern with rooms upstairs. It was dirty and cold (no heat), the shower didn’t work in my sister’s room and the rooms were so small we had to lift our suitcases over the bed. We did find a little restaurant farther in (if we’d known we could have checked that area for rooms) that had fairly good food. Many places did a combo course of appetizer and/or dessert plus a main course, so for 25 euros it was okay. The food was decent too but never that cheap in Ireland.

In the morning, Wednesday, we trotted off to Carrowmore and with the customary few wrong turns (though not many) found Carrowmore just as it was opening. It rained quite heavily while we were walking through the fields. These are small mounds or rings of rocks, and a few dolmen tombs. Not as impressive of Newgrange, still I found it interesting and the number of graves brought such a sense of time and history. We finished in under two hours, soaked to our knees, so we changed in the bathroom and then drove on. This was the wettest day we had in Ireland and we dropped Queen Maeve’s tomb from the walks as it would have been 45 minutes slogging through the rain.

Still, overcast sky and the wet gave very rich color to all of the photos.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, driving, environment, food, history, Ireland, memories, nature, travel, weather

Bushmills, Dunluce and Donegal, Ireland

Our day started with Kinbane, then Carrick-a-Rede, Giants Causeway and somehow we went on to Bushmills (the town & factory) for a tour. Why? I don’t care for whiskey (Scotch is different), my sister’s a celiac and can’t touch any wheat product. A momentary leave of senses perhaps?

Although Bushmills has been making whiskey since 1675 and it was interesting on how they use bourbon, port and errr, one other type of barrel to age the stuff, and although we got a shot at the end of the tour (I also got my sister’s) it was still kind of a waste of time. There really was nothing to take a picture of unless I wanted to do an article on whiskey making (and maybe I should have taken more). But I took no pictures and had my sister shoot this only picture (and bad one) of me in Ireland with the mega bottle of booze.

Ireland 2007–Bushmills, Dunluce Castle and Donegal

So we did the tour, and then it was getting late in the day, about 4:00 and we found our way to Dunluce Castle… to see them locking it up. It was perhaps our biggest regret. If we’d missed the Bushmills tour that we weren’t that enthused about we would have had time to explore the castle. And this castle had a cave. How cool is that? Alas we could only peer from the locked gates.

Dunluce castle was held by the MacDonnells of Ballymargy fame and was destroyed by a fire in 1641. There was a cave beneath the castle besides the passage under the bridge. I would have loved to explore that are.

Our last stop was driving on to Donegal town. The pictures of Donegal and the castle are actually from the next day as we arrived with enough time to do our usual. We popped into the Reel Inn, had a drink and asked the bartender to suggest some B&Bs. It also turned out they had live music that night. So we crossed the bridge right outside the door and not believing everything was so close, continued driving up the road, to realize we’d gone too far. We turned around and then found several B&Bs just down the road. We stayed at the Bridges.

These B&Bs are nothing fancy on the outside but quite large houses inside with usually 3-5 bedrooms and a large dining room. Bernie, our host, had two cute little kids (never met the husband) and there was only a common bathroom though many B&Bs have ensuites. My sister and I each had our own room, which gave me a reprieve from her snoring. (It’s funny that whenever I had to wake her in the middle of the night to try and get her to stop snoring, the first thing out of her mouth, even half asleep, was “I am not.” Like I had nothing better to do in the dark of night.)Bernie also washed our clothes for a few Euros each. A very nice place to stay.

So that night we went off to find dinner (quiet on a Monday). Many pubs have dining rooms upstairs. We began to notice that service in Ireland is different than Canada. They’ll serve you but never come back and you have to hunt down the waiter to get your bill or they’ll literally let you sit forever. I don’t remember the name of the place but I had a mediocre chicken curry with not a speck of vegetables. but true to form it was a huge portion on rice. I ate it all and then they brought me a megasize bowl of French fries! I didn’t eat any, being quite full. But there was that Irish thing for potatoes again.

We then wandered back to the Reel Inn for the music though we never got farther than a few feet inside the door. I won’t relate the tale here again as you’ll find it if you go back to the Oct. 2 entry. We staggered into bed, a short walk of a couple minutes from pub to B&B, at 3 am.

The next day we went off to Donegal castle. We couldn’t find it at first and our biggest problem was getting in the car. Being used to larges cities and maps of BC, we tended to misinterpret distances in Ireland. We drove back and forth trying to find the castle, expecting something like Dunluce. Donegal castle was comparatively small, tucked behind a store that sold garden ornaments  and a parking lot. In fact the parking lot was on one side of the Eske River, which is not very wide but I presume was a lot wider during medieval times. From our B&B it was no more than a five-minute walk to the castle.

Originally built in the 1500s by the O’Donnells (probably related to the MacDonnells) they partially destroyed it when they left (were routed?) so that it couldn’t be used against the Gaelic clans. Then the flight of the earls happened and a British captain was given the castle. Basil Brooke added the Jacobean wing which are the kitchen and hall. Some of these castles were so small it was hard to imagine them being seats of power. We’re used to these Hollywood movies that show massive grounds yet we drove by the castle three times without realizing that’s what it was.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, driving, food, history, Ireland, life, memories, people, travel

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway was just west of Carrick-a-Rede. This is all in the county of Antrim, in Northern Ireland. There were tons of people here and like most of the ruins throughout Ireland, there is a cost to see them. The money often goes back to the upkeep of the places. That I even managed pictures without anyone in them is something. They have buses that are loaded up and drive people down the hill for those who don’t want the walk down or the hike up. But it’s less than 30 minutes to walk one way (down). It’s a slow incline but an incline nonetheless, and a good sweat on the way up. This was my third hike of the day after Kinbane (the hardest) and Carrick-a-Rede. I can say my muscles were a bit sore the next day.

The Causeway stones are basalt and due to an ancient (65 million years ago) lava flow as well as hot and humid conditions interspersed with colder air, caused the geometric fracturing of the stones. I believe there is one area like this in Scotland too, but other than that a very unique configuration. The stones are all six sided and broken into layers. Some have tumbled down to form a mosaic of  stone. Others still stand in precarious looking columns.

Ireland 2007–Giants Causeway

The pictures are pretty much self-explanatory. Amazing to look at but we didn’t do the long hike around to the Chimney and the Organ. It would have been a couple of more hours and we had many places to hit. In the afternoon now, there were fewer clouds but a haze had developed.

The Causeway stones are grayish to red where the water has not hit them. But wherever the sea water has licked the stones they take on a black hue. This gives some interesting gradations of color. Signs posted said to stay off the black rocks as the waves could sweep you away. After a similar incident on BC’s coast the year before where people where swept off of rocks, I paid attention. The sea is very wild along here .

Some of the Causeway stones are pitted and eroded by wind, rain and sea. They had been dished by the elements and began to remind me of ancient vertebrae. One of my favorite pictures of Ireland is the one of the Causeways stones (ocean behind me) with the pitted rocks leading up to a hill.

Maybe next time I’ll do some hikes through this area. It’s pastoral and rolling and the variations in green are picturesque. Giants Causeway is definitely worth seeing and seeing again.

Leave a comment

Filed under environment, history, Ireland, nature, travel, weather, Writing

Carrick-a-Rede, Ireland

Today I’ve been felled by the dreaded cold so here is another piece from my trip to Ireland in 2007. All photos on this site are copyrighted.

Still on Oct. 1, travelling west along the north coast of Ireland, we went next to Carrick-a-Rede, which means something like big rock. Carrick is the name of the island and it’s tiny. It has a rope bridge suspended over a churning passage of water. Really, the bridge is twisted tensile metal strands and very sturdy. I think it was updated in 2000.

Ireland 2007–Carrick a Rede

Used by fisherman since the 16th century, it was once just a rope with some wood slats. Down one side, just before the rope bridge is the husk of a building used for the salmon fishery. I believe this closed down in the 80s or 90s as fisheries all over the world have met similar demises. Fishing by boat was somewhat treacherous so the fishermen used Carrick island to fish from. The northern coast is tumultuous, with crashing waves and no matter how alluring the waters look I bet they’re freezing cold.

I’m not sure if they trawled as there does seem to be some evidence of pulleys and such but in any case, Carrick like Kinbane, no longer has a fishing industry.

The walk to Carrick was beautiful. We had great weather and although there in the morning it warmed up quite a bit, especially with the stairs on the return visit. The ocean here was absolutely amazing. The colors in the pictures are quite accurate and it reminded me of the water around the Bahamas, but wilder and colder. The white cliffs are limestone and the rest is basalt I believe. On Carrick island the beginnings of the fractured basalt that makes up Giants Causeway could be seen.

They ask for a donation or fee to cross the bridge, which you pay earlier. I actually had left my pay stub with my sister but had paid it so they did let me cross. My sister, afraid of heights and swaying bridges, stayed behind and waited up the hill. There is a sway to the bridge, which is about thirty feet across. There were two teens with their father crossing in front of me and they decided to bounce the bridge. I waited, not because of fear but because I wanted to take pictures.

This was hike two, after Kinbane but really took only about 45 minutes in all to get to the island and back. The island itself was very hummocky and spongy. They have signs requesting that you protect the environment, which I presumed meant, walk lightly (as there were many people and would be more in the afternoon) and don’t pick anything. There was no set trail and you could walk from one side to the other in probably a minute; it’s that small. All along the way to and from the island is a trail that would make a great hike off the coast.

From Carrick-a-rede you can see the larger rock that they named Sheep Island, I imagine because of its color and shape, and across the water is Rathlin, a much larger island. It’s a rugged coast and I can see any landing, on a storm tossed night probably claimed its share of ships.

Leave a comment

Filed under environment, history, Ireland, life, nature, travel, weather

Kinbane Castle

Ireland 2007–Kinbane Castle

First published on my Blogspot blog in Nov. 2007. All pictures are copyrighted.

On Monday October 1, we left Ballycastle. At our B&B were a family from Seattle. They’d been driving about for two weeks and were on their third week. They said, stop at Kinbane on the way. It’s not very far. And it wasn’t, traveling west near the coast.

 The weather was perfect. A few clouds, sunshine and the turquoise depths of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean made the northern coast of Ireland beautiful. Along the shorelines, wherever the ocean licks the stones, the rocks become stained and black. Farther back from the shore they may white or brown. Craggy and rugged, the northern coast is wild, and whitecaps and booming waves are common.

Kinbane, which means White Headland, was down a long hill. They really didn’t want people to go to the castle anymore. There were bars across the path but easy to straddle. As I moved around the hill, there was a second barricade just before the beach. I squeezed past that one, and it was obvious many had. Along the northern coast are the remains of stone huts used in the fishing industry, which was closed in the 80’s. This is a sad statement on what the world is doing to the fish populations.

I loved the look of this castle, built in 1544 by Colla MacDonnell (of Balymargy Friary fame). It was shot at and partially destroyed at one point, but one of the MacDonnells lived there till the end of his days. Mostly what is left is one of the towers. It couldn’t have been a very big castle but I can see how this would have been a great fortification. Rugged stony cliffs to the sea and steep steps up to the castle by land.

This castle gave me a great appreciation for the hardiness of those people of centuries past. To hike up and down that hill would definitely make one fit. Even though it was a bit breezy, I was quite warm by the time I pantingly reached the top.

The castle and rock itself are now made unapproachable, the way securely barricaded. The structure was originally besieged and with time it has become highly unstable. I loved many of the castles for different reasons but Kinbane had the true sense of a fortification of the most austere type. This was only the first of our stops on Monday, and the first of a few hikes.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, driving, environment, history, Ireland, life, nature, travel, weather

Belfast to Ballycastle

 

Ireland 2007–Belfast to Ballycastle

In honor of St. Patty’s day tomorrow, here is another excerpt from my trip to Ireland in the fall of 2007.

Here we are still on Sunday Sept. 30, going from the Newgrange area to Belfast. We gassed up before Northern Ireland (as opposed to the republic) as they use pounds and that’s even more expensive (at least $2 CDN to the pound). It was the first time gassing up and we couldn’t get the gas flap open on the VW Polo or whatever that piece of crap was. No levers, no buttons and the gas jockey was stymied too. Finally he asked one of the other guys and it turns out you just give it a good push and it pops open. Duh.

The only difference crossing the border, which was indiscernible, was that the speed limits changed from kilometers to miles, much like driving from Canada to the US. However, the speedometer did not show miles, not that it mattered. If it said 60, people went 120, no matter whether km/h. I just flowed with the flow.

There are fairly major highways between Dublin and Belfast so it was smooth sailing and little getting lost though my sister would laugh her head off every time we saw a sign that said Heavy Plant Crossing. This usually wasn’t on the main highways but we later found out it meant lumber trucks crossing, so in a sense, heavy plants. Our three maps of Ireland were deficient in different ways. The one from CAA only showed major routes and everything is a minor route in Ireland. The best map had roads going where they didn’t, roads missing, and sites not exactly where they really were. You cannot have too detailed of a map for Ireland, even if it is a small country.

So, we drove into Belfast with no city map, a scary prospect after the maze of Dublin. But we found downtown (reminded me of Edmonton with the type of streets and construction going on), drove in circles for a bit and then parked, by sheer luck, across from the tourist information center (a large “i”) so we did some internet posting, then got a map and yes, you guessed it, it was not accurate for Belfast. The woman drew lines to the Crown Liquor Saloon, the only place we were going to see as we were now shy of hanging around in the big cities. But of course she said go this way on a street that turned out to be a one way the other way. And you know what one ways are like when you’re lost. You’re always going the wrong direction. And we drove around and around and around and couldn’t find this world famous Victorian saloon.

Finally I stopped by a taxi and told my sister to ask him. He was so nice that he actually just led us there and then pointed. And still we drove back and forth, because the saloon was under renovations and we couldn’t see it for the scaffolding. Arrrghh! But we found it and it was truly beautiful, with warm wood booths and pillars. The pillars had little carved lions and griffins holding shields and in all, there were only about six booths with lovely wooden doors and stained glass. Each booth had a metal plate that said Matches. We were talking to this man and woman and he said that at the turn of the century that was where people struck their matches when smoking. Ireland (both republic and north) are smoke free environments inside establishments, just like BC.

This guy also regaled us with politics and told us the only reason Dublin was considered dirty was because the tourists litter, not the locals. I kept my mouth shut but later saw what the Irish college crowd is like in Kilkenny and the streets were littered. Belfast itself was very modern in the downtown core. We got lost (of course) getting out and the area we were in was a little rougher, but no sign at all of all the chaos of recent years gone by.

We then drove through to Ballycastle. Bally means “bay,” so we passed many a place name Bally this and Bally that. It is a resort town and we did the usual, park and go into a pub for a drink. This was very much a sports bar and rugby is on every screen (or is it soccer–I mix them up). There was a man at the bar could have been my friend Terri Fleming’s brother; similar hair and skin color, and looks. The Flemings (once Flemish of course) ended up in Ireland by way of many routes and the Scots.

On the outskirts of the town, right beside a golf course are the ruins of Bonamargy Friary. Built around the early 1500s it houses many graves of the MacDonnells, the past chieftains of Ulster and Antrim and is still in the same family to this day. The most famous was Sorley Boy (an Anglicization) and his brothers who ruled and repelled the English. The MacDonnells married the MacQuillans to quell the past Lords of the Route. Turns out the one headstone I took a picture of is rumoured to be the Black Nun of Bonamargy’s resting place, Julie MacQuillan who was said to have made seven prophesies.

From the pictures you can tell it was dusk and we weren’t having any luck with finding the B&B the pub recommended. We went back and tried to call three places but duh, you dial first, then stick the money in and if you’re not fast enough, it cuts you off. And then you have to keep adding coins to keep talking. We goofed so bad the pub owner helped us, and one B&B just called back because we got cut off. Eventually in full darkness we found Clare house, after having to knock on someone’s door and scare them in the dark. We unpacked and went back to town for dinner. Some pubs have restaurants upstairs and I don’t know the name of the place we ate at but it was very modern in design and high end. It was a Sunday so there weren’t a lot of places open. A bit pricey but very good.

It was late and we were tired so we drove back after eating and hit the sack.

Leave a comment

Filed under cars, Culture, driving, history, Ireland, life, memories, people, travel