Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Week 3 continued...The Trees in Eire.

Fri 18th May.  On the road to the Ring of Dingle.

On the way we passed through Annascaul where we saw the pub which used to belong to a Kerry polar hero - Tom Cread. He was a member of Scott and Shackletons expeditions to the Antarctic in 1901-04, 1910-13 and 1914-16. He also served in WW1 and retired in 1920. He declined to accompany Shackleton in 1921 (sensible chap). He opened the pub The South Pole, married and had 3 daughters.
His name lives on in the Crean Glacier on South Georgia and Mt Crean in Victoria Land,Antarctica.



  
Sat 19th May

Today we headed off to complete the Ring of Dingle - we set off to go through the Connor Pass the highest pass in Ireland, however despite our campsite owner stating it was a must - we had to turn back on approaching a sign stating no vehicles over 2 tonnes - we’re  3.5 tonnes, or over 1.8m wide - we’re 2.3m wide or over 7m long - yey! - we’re 6m long. Not wanting to be the first campervan to block the pass we reluctantly turned back !
However, as one door shuts so they say... it did lead to us discovering the amazing beach of Kilcummin - following the Dingle Surfing minibus we parked up on the beach. Enormous Atlantic waves promised Surfing heaven.



Whilst the novice surfers took instruction.



And in they go, into waves twice their height. It wasn’t long before surfboards had cut loose from the ankle straps and were blowing across the bay quicker than the owners could swim.

Graham has decided he’d like to be a Surfing Dude - so watch this space! Not sure he’d suit the Hawaian shirts and the ponytail goatee combination - but we’ll see..

On to Dingle where boats promised definite sightings of Fungi the resident Dolfin - it was very busy and after a windblown picnic near the Harbour we headed off on the Slea Head road.
Slea Head on a good day offers some of Dingles best views - however the weather was becoming challenging, and so were the narrow hairpin roads. Now the Dingle Peninsula is signed for the clockwise direction, but some people don’t look at signs and therefore hold up all us law abiding responsable campervans by meeting us head on round a hairpin and then refuse to back up.




On to Dunquin where the view was more forgiving


We then headed off towards the Blasket Islands visitor centre,
What a gem of a place - a fantastic centre recording the history of life on the  most westerly islands of Europe. The last islanders left for the mainland in 1953. Some of the islanders became famous writing about life on Great Blasket - recording in Gaelic.
In later years many of the younger islanders emigrated to America - in particular Springfield, Massachusetts.
The centre was extensive with a theatre (which wouldn’t look out of place in a university) offering a film of life on Great Blasket, lots of art work on the walls - paint and photography and all sorts of interactive stuff - worth so much more than the entrance fee. And a great coffee shop / dining rooms of canteen proportions with lovely views.

A view from the centre




And a view of the island from the centre



We decided to cut short our tour as the weather came in - we didn’t visit the famous Gallarus Oratory - deciding to take a short cut back to the Dingle road and then on to the campsite. We think we got a good idea of what the Dingle peninsular can offer. 
We both agree that the mountains offer great scenery but we prefer the beaches as there’s something therapeutic about walking with the sound of waves nearby. Each to their own....

On return to camp we discovered that out electric water heater has broken - no more van showers unless we can find another gas cylinder as we’re on our second and last one and need the gas for cooking. Lots of petrol stations sell gas, but not the little ones that fit our van, more domestic, holiday home sized.

Sun 20th May

Windy and rainy through the night. We will be heading northwards from Co Kerry to Co Clare to The Burren area today but as 2 days of rain is predicted not sure if we’ll see any of it! Endured the campsite showers which were lukewarm and no heating - missing our bijou van shower already!
Score for Anchor Caravan site 9/10 - would have been a 10 but for the showers and cold water dishwashing facilities. It was very well maintained and has a fab games room/tv room.

We travelled via Tralee and onto Tarbert where we took the Shannon ferry over to Killimer (slowing at every petrol station to ogle at the gas canisters).





The sky becoming increasingly greyer as expected.
Onwards to Ennis where we tried to stop for lunch but failed to find a parking spot - so headed to the village of Corofin our overnight stopover point. 

By now the rain was settled in - after a very late lunch - 3pm Graham headed off to explore the village whilst Carol chose to stay in the van and write up the blog and surf the net for Royal Wedding related gossip!

The advantage of a village location means that on a rainy evening you can retire to the pub opposite - in fact it was a gift - a fitting evening to eat traditional warming Irish food.



And Graham had what he has been yearning for - Irish Stew with a Guinness 



Ahh! Superb. Note the Carol left her salad.( it was balanced on a pile of spring onion mash and beef and guinness casserole!)

There was a mix of locals and tourists, some were easy to spot, Dad taking the family out for Sunday treat, while others in walking gear were tourists (some from our camp site). We noted to the pub owner that the tourists were ordering the Irish Stew and the Specials, whilst the locals went for the pizza, he replied yes, well pizza is more exotic when you’re used to Irish Stew every day.

Score for Corofin Camping - 8/10 - the basic facilities were quite adequate and the location just the job!

Mon 21st May

Woke to torrential rain - that means - van cooked hot breakfast! Had a van Huevas Rancheros - left over spicy sausage casserole with a fried egg -delicious!
Then set off through the central Burren area - a vast rocky outcrop of limestone - think Malham Cove in Gods own county immortalised by Steve Coogan in The Trip, but 4x as much area! Yorkshire had 20% of such a landscape - and Eire the rest!  We still think Malham Cove is more impressive.

Drove through leaden skys on to Caherconnell ring fort - bigger than most stone ring forts - it was built in the 10thC AD by a high status family and was continued in use through to the 17th C.

The fort attraction had a good film theatre which explained the archeology of the area and the lifestyle of the early occupants of the fort. Buy a booklet for 6€ and you get free entry. But we don’t need a booklet each, says Meanie. Ummm, Ok I’ll let you both in for 6€, enjoy yourselves, says the attendant in so typical Irish-welcoming-fashion.

It had an even better shop and café - in which we took refreshment and bought a lovely Arran jumper for Carol.

Onwards to Poulnabrone Dolmen - also known as the Portal Tomb - one of Ireland’s most photographed ancient monuments. Built over 5000 yrs ago - excavated in 1986 -the remains of 16 people were found - buried between 3800 and 3200 BC.


We drove through miles and miles of the limestone scenery 


Here Graham is drawing attention to the straight lines in the limestone, caused by weaknesses in the rock together with rain penetration.
And wild flowers grow in the crevices - apparently there are many kinds of rare flowers found on the Burren - I found a voilet and a pink name unknown one - 



And on to Galway and then on to the coast of Connemara.
What a contrast!
The rain had stopped and the sunshine arrived.

We drove on windy coastal roads until we arrived west of Roundstone village at Gurteen Bay Campsite.
The site is right on the beach and we pitched up with a few other campervans on a grassy stretch over looking the beach and jusr 30 metres from it. Glorious.



Later on we sat and watched the colour changes as the sun set over the same bay view.
   


Tues 22nd May

And 6am the next morning - lucky Carol woke early!



And as the sun came out - a glorious day


We decided to stay on an extra night - to give Graham a rest from the driving and “Carpe Diem” and savour our lovely camping spot.
We cycled the 3kms in to the delightful fishing village of Roundstone - did a quick reccy and then teturned back to site for an al fresco long lunch - with wine ...  that sort of long relaxing lunch.






After a while Graham decided he wanted to explore the area further - a little too further for Carol - so off he went and Carol settled down to some chill out reading in the sunshine and blog writing. On the map, the cycle ride looked mega interesting and was super quiet consisting of bog and loughs, and I hate to say this but, lots of rubbish on the roadside, LOTS. Water bottles, drink cans, sandwich wrappers, even a mattress, for God’s sake.
On Graham’s return we took a pre dinner walk 


Graham braving a paddle - it was *****y freezing!

Score for Gurteen Bay 10/10 location, 5/10 for really worn and basic facilities.

Off to further explore Connemara today and overnight somewhere else.
We are bringing our stay to an end a few days early - Graham has to get back for a Golf Match ( Grrr - C)
So just another 3 nights to go....


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Week 3 The Trees in Eire - Part 1.

This weeks post seems very long - so have split it in to 2 parts.

Tues 15th May.

As the last photo on yesterday’s blog shows - our stunning view was gone on waking today.
No worries we are travelling on to Glengariff to explore the Breara peninsular. After a lovely bacon sandwich - van rules - poor weather = hot breakfast , we headed back on the Ring of Kerry towards Kenmare. Needless to say the views were more atmospheric than stunning today.
Compare a view from yesterday.



To on the road today


Actually this is the road between Kenmare and Glengariff - around 500m altitude (a bit like the high Yorkshire Dales) and which was very hilly, rocky, with tunnels through the high bits. Very different to the Ring of Kerry road.
 It was misty and raining throughout the journey.
To cheer us up we decided to have a coffee stop at roadside tearoom at Molly Gallivan’s 200 year old farm and tea room.


It was done in the style of a home around the time of The Famine. There was a visitor centre with a recreated room , but also many small shops at the rear of the place selling Irish artisan knitware, pottery etc.
The two (male) staff were dressed in waistcoats and neckerchiefs like in a period drama and far too irishly cheerful for us grumpy yorkshire folk. We asked which one was Molly (they looked vacant as though this was the first time anyone had asked them that) and ordered a capuccino and a coffee with hot milk. No capuccino so two coffees. Molly One shuffled his feet and asked what we meant by hot milk. “It’s milk heated up”, said Graham. More shuffling ... “in a microwave, just to stop the coffee from getting cold”. Ah, said a relieved Molly. 
We sat in the very dark tea area - a bit like a Nellies (Old Beverley Pub) and actually the coffee was very good, hit the spot with a Guinness cake. We imagine the next time someone comes in for a coffee Molly will cheerfully ask with his new found skills whether they want hot or cold milk with it.



And Carol succumbed to buying a wee artisan ceramic dish with a sheep handle as Graham muttered that it would be much cheaper elsewhere.
It will be a lovely souvenir of a really strange place - a German couple who also stopped for a warm drink left with looks of bemusement.


Said wee dish with nuts served before dinner later with a pre dinner drink - how civilised!
 
We arrived in Glengariff just before 2pm - so pitched up at Glengariff campsite - 2 kms out of the village and had lunch in the van as the rain continued to pour.

Around 4 pm the weather looked to be improving so to prevent us going stir crazy we headed into the village on the bikes.
The site had a menu at reception advertising Fish and Chips in the site Bar - hurrah a night off  van  cooking to look forward to!
We walked along the village street which looked a little worn - perhaps not fully ready for the season yet.
We found the ferry quays - we hope to visit the famous Garinish Island tropical gardens tomorrow if the weather bucks up. In the meantime we took a short walk through some woods with nice views of the small islands of the coast. This would really lovely in the sun.

Then back to the site - to see that the menu had been taken down and for the receptionist to inform us the bar was only open at weekends!  Mon dieu! Luckily we have the remnants of a Tesco value meal - gammon with a long sell by date - so we can look forward to another van  supper ...... Oh joy (C)

Weds 16th May

Woke to blue skies - hurrah!
Carol decided to shower in the site facilities and was very impressed - a new large shower room with wc, sink and large shower with great hot water! The last time we’ve seen showers as good as this was in Scotland in 2013 - so a big well done to Glengariff Camping.

After packing a picnic lunch we cycled to the Bluepool ferry.
What a stunning place to catch a ferry. When we came last night the tide was in and the moonlike rocks were submerged. Much nicer this morning.





A pleasant 10 min crossing with pictureque views we passed a house that once belonged to Maureen O’Hara the actress and a colony of seals basking in the sun.

Garinish Island also known as Ilnacullen was a barren outcrop until Annan Bryce with his wife Violet decided to create an Italianate garden on it in the early 20th century. He commisioned the English architect Harold Peto to design the garden. It is planted with exotic plants which thrive in the micro climate - there is a walled garden, an Italian garden, a Grecian style temple, a “jungle” area leading to a 19th century Martello tower built to watch out for a possible Napoleonic invasion. An area called Happy Valley. The whole place is spectacular.
There is also a sweet cottage built in the 1910’s and extended by Annan’s son in the 1940’s - called Bryce House. Originally the plan was to build a grand mansion incorporating the Martello tower as a music room but the family fell on hard times - having to sell their London home and live in the cottage on the island - Roland the son still managing to fund an extensive extension.



We had a fantastic(free) tour of the house led by an enthusiastic young guide called Maeve. The house has been left as it would have been at the time - the cottage part very Arts and Crafts style and the ‘40s extension rather up to date for it’s time - with a master bedroom with ensuite! Many family objects and paintings decorate the rooms - stuff which would have been rescued from grander days before they had to sell up. The family had an outstanding Scottish gardener Murdo Mackenzie who remained in charge of the gardens until 1971 well after the death of Roland Bryce in 1953 when the house was gifted to the state..The housekeeper Maggie remained in the house until the 1990’s. Mauve spoke with affection about the whole family and stated that even in her 90’s Maggie  would take herself by boat to the mainland accompanied by her terrier dog to midnight mass at Christmas. In it’s day the house was visited by the great and good - including prime ministers, authors, painters including George Bernard Shaw. 

This is the Italian Garden


And the view from behind the garden




The walled garden



The Grecian temple


And the view from the temple


We spent 4 hours there and could have spent more - a beautiful place. The views of the surrounding countryside and hills were fantastic from it’s highest points.We climbed to the top of the Martello tower but our photos didn’t do the view justice.

Back to the site where we enjoyed sitting out by the van in warm sunshine sheltered from the wind. What a difference a day makes! 
Tonight off to have dinner in Glengariff - probably at Mccarthys Bar - Carol has fond memories of reading a book by Pete McCarthy about his quest to have a drink in every McCarthy Bar in Ireland - now Graham is feeling a tad better we could follow his footsteps for the rest of our trip!



Actually just looked and this is not the same spelling - oh well - near enough!
Had a lovely meal including locally caught Bantry Bay mussels to start and fresh today Hake. The bar is attached  to a hotel so we enjoyed nosily observing the American, French and Russian residents as they interacted. Can’t resist the snatched conversations of others!...
Score for Glengariff Camping 9/10 - friendly site with good facilities - just too far out to walk into the town and we were attacked with midges the last evening!

Thurs 17th May

Today we will drive the ring of Beara. We set off just before 11 am heading in the direction of Castletownbere.
The scenery was fantastic as we drove along the coast with the high hills the other side. Pass the highest Sugarloaf (think every region of Eire has one of these) and Hungry Hill.
A view coast side.



We headed for the furthest point where Eire’s only cable car carries people across to a small island called Dursey Island. Evidentally the submerged rocks and rip tides make a ferry too restrictive and dangerous so they installed a cable car to get across. (Why go across in the first place I’m not too sure). Nowadays the traffic is sheep and walkers. Sheep take preference over walkers.

Before we got there we called in to a lovely community centre with café which called itself Cable Car Café. Actually it was not near the cable car and did not have a view. After a lovely warm homemade chocolate brownie and coffee, - on advice of a sweet Irish lady and her husband who were returning from Dursey Island the road was too narrow for a campervan and we’d be better to bike down. They assured us the road down was relatively flat. Well it may be relatively flat in a car but not on a bike! About 3 miles later up hill and down, mostly down - the pain is always in the return - we arrived at the cable car to find a large parking area filled with cars and several larger-than-ours campervans - What!!

The views down were lovely though, and we were glad we biked - some of the best views of the holiday.



As the cable car had stopped for lunch we had lunch from the mobile café - as Graham had forgotten his wallet - we shared a portion of chips and 1 sausage (deep fried) - all the change in Carol’s pocket could afford. Graham commented “this is the second meal out we have had in a row” - Carol choking on her 1/2 sausage tried to agree.
We ate our feast near this sign overlooking the cable car.



We watched the cable car arrive from the island.




On the rather strenuous ride back (for Graham - Carol has her battery!), Carol spotted this use of a Mark 1 cable car as a chicken hut. You can see the development work on the Mark II version was well worth the investment.



We continued on stopping off at Allihies where there was a copper mining museum and café. In the 1800’s the landowners the Puxley family found copper deposits and developed mining which at one time numbered a workforce of 1300 men, women and children. Experienced miners from Cornwall were brought in.Working conditions were dangerous and unhealthy. By the 1960’s the last mine was closed. The museum was uninspiring - just a room with information boards but the tea and cream scone was great!



The evidence of a mine in the distance as we drove by.
We continued on travelling through rugged countryside and beautiful coastline and passing through pretty villages.

This village is supposed to have been use for many films







After completing the full ring of Beara we settled on staying over at a farm site just north of Kenmare.
A basic small site with a view of the sheep and lambs....aww....




Well until a late arrival of a thumping great lump of an Austrian campervan mountain blocked the view!

Score for Kenmare Camping 6/10 - convenient stopover, actually the only stopover, the facilities in the old barn were a tad rustic!

Fri 18th May

Today we set off to the Dingle peninsula  passing through the lovely looking town of Kenmare - unfortunately too far from last nights stopover farm site to find a McCarthys Bar!



En route we completed the east side of the Ring of Kerry on the road back to Killarney, passing the outstanding view of Lady’s View. Queen Victoria’s lady in waiting (one of) said it was the finest view in the realm, actually, her boss’s realm. It is very very nice, and it brings into focus the lochs, sorry loaghs, that feed all the way into Muckross Lake, where we cycled round in week 2.





A couple of views along the way.

From Killarney we drove on to the Dingle peninsular and headed for the Inch spit -  a 6km long sand spit that runs in to Dingle Bay.
A location for the film Ryan’s Daughter.
We were delighted to see you can park right on the beach.






We headed off for a walk with Graham offering encouragement to Carol like to a toddler - “look we’re nearly there”
An hour and a half later we returned to the van with Carol’s knees protesting.
Had a lovely cup of tea overlooking the beach and the latest surf school recruits - they’ll be nithered when they take their wetsuits off!



 Another rather hazy view as we left.



Graham had driven so much yesterday so we decided to just set off for this nights campsite Anchor Caravan Park on the north of the peninsula near Castlegregory. We’ll see how the weather fares tomorrow with the aim of doing the Ring of Dingle and returning to the campsite for another night.