Tuesday, 8 May 2018

May in Ireland 2018

Can you believe it - it has been 2 years since we’ve had a Rex campervan adventure. We’ve spent 2 years getting our holiday hone in Surgères up and running  and now we're ready to get back on the road!
We will set off from Holyhead, Anglesey - for Dublin on the 2nd of May ready to tour Eire during the month of May. As on our past Scotland trip we have found a music festival - so will be heading to Kilkenny for the Rhythm/Roots festival which is 4 th - 7 th May. We have booked 3 nights at Tree Grove campsite and tickets to a gig on the eve of 5th May. Memories of Stromness linger but we’re ready to embrace our Irish experience - bring on the craic!

Tues 1st May
Today we made our way to Anglesey - Holyhead for an overnight stay at Pen - y- Lynn campsite just outside Holyhead to allow a quick departure to catch the ferry at 8am tomorrow!
Guess our first Irish breakfast will be on the ferry.
Arrived about 6.30 pm after a leisurely drive from Beverley. Drove on to the campsite - found a pitch and hooked up for our overnight stop. No signage whatsoever re how to contact the owner or how the facilities worked as  we just parked up in horizontal rain.
There were 2 sheds  ressembling beach huts - 1 for ladies and 1 for gents - these contained a loo and a sink - no sign of shower facilities. And that appeared to be the sum total of the facilities.
As it was blowing a hooley we ate a van meal - Yes the famous £10 meal from Tescos! And very good it was too. Had a small nightcap and an early night. 
Score for campsite - 8/10- great location for ferry, generally clean and well maintained but minimal facilities.

Weds 2nd May
Up and at ‘em for 7am ready for a 7.30 check-in at the ferry port.
As we drove out of the site Carol received a text message - the ferry departure was delayed until 9.30 am - problems catching up from the gales the day before.

No worries we found a large Tesco and did some last minute shopping - including another meal deal - woo hoo!and then had a full Welsh breakfast in the café to compensate for the disappointment of the delay.
On arrival at the ferry port as we checked in we were given a voucher for 2 full Irish breakfasts on the ferry as compensation! Typical! “Have another” said the cheery check-in person - sadly we couldn’t manage it....

Arrived in Dublin just after 1pm and made our way to Enniskerry where we picnicked in the courtyard of Powerscourt gardens and house.  This Palladian house was set in magnificant formal gardens with a view of the Great Sugarloaf Mountain. Originally a 13th century Anglo- Norman castle - the current house was commissioned by Richard Wingfield the 1st Viscount Powerscourt in the 1740’s. It was gutted by a fire in 1974 and renovated.
It now has an impressive garden centre, upmarket café and shops. We experienced our first Irish day of ‘4 seasons in 1 day’ - with periods of sunshine, cloud and wind but the hail drove us into the shops sooner than Graham would have liked. ( shame! - C )

We then drove through Sally Gap. One of the most spectacular drives through the Wicklow Mountains National Park to Rathdrum for our 1st night in the Republic. We drove through mostly single track roads with blanket bog and heather both sides - the gorse in full flower with Mountain views around us. Fantastic! Sorry our photos didn’t show what we saw - so decided not to include here.

We stayed at Hidden Valley Holiday Park just a 10 min walk from Rathdrum. It was set in a lovely valley surrounded by trees, overlooking waterfalls with it’s own lake. 1st day’s mileage 53 miles.
Score for Hidden Valley -  9/10 - a well maintained park with lots of activities for children such as mini golf, playground and pedalos on the lake.
Apparently it was fully booked for the bank holiday weekend 4th - 7th May. Just think it’s a bit mean to charge a euro via a slot machine for every shower! We chose to use the van. (think this is the norm in Ireland)

Thurs 3rd May.

We headed off to see a bit of the south east - intending to stop for lunch in Enniscorthy - described as an attractive market town on the west bank of the River Slaney, - famous for a rebellion against the British in 1798.

We parked up by the river and went in search of an Irish artisan bakery to get some freshly baked rolls for our lunch. Sadly as we wandered around the streets which to us resembled a rather worn Scottish border town (sorry Duncan) rather than an Irish jewel - we found not such a shop. Pound shops, hardware stores, pubs, takeaways, and many meat shops (butchers) to name a few. However I must mention the superb Smythick’s hardware shop - what an amazing emporium. It sold everything, lights, kitchen appliances, paint, tools - serious tools like circular saws, garden equipment, electricals. It reminded me of Briggs and Powells in Beverley in my youth.( Graham)Upstairs was the bits and bobs department and I remember going in to buy various resistors, diodes and transistors. They had every colour combination available plus advice on soldering techniques, and if you bought something, they’d actually help you afterwards. Anyway, back to Smythicks, we bought a hoselock tap connector because we left ours on the tap in Wales. Later on the next campsite (Morris Castle Strand) we didn’t need it because the previous occupant had done exactly what we did and left their tap connector on the tap. Thanks, so now I have a spare.

And the weather wasn’t nice either - windy and overcast and cold. Muttering to each other in disgust we got back in the van and continued to drive in search of the said artisan bakers shop - scouring shops as we drove through villages but not finding any - we continued on to our overnight campsite in Co Wexford just a few kms from Kilmuckridge - Morriscastle Strand Holiday Park. Today we travelled 66 miles. This site is just behind sand dunes on a deserted beach. There are a smattering of empty caravans and 2 other motorhomes on the 250 pitches so we have a choice of pitches. Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday and the site is fully booked - the single track access road will be interesting on our exit!

After a van prepared sandwich ( Tescos sliced bread!) - we had a bracing walk along the 20 km long beach of Morriscastle ( well we walked for just over an hr). Situated just a few minutes walk over the dunes from the site  it was practically deserted. We do like a beach walk  - and returned to the van refreshed.

Another evening in the van - the weather remaining very windy, cold and showery. And the telly won’t work here in Eire - the search for channels shows Estonia, Slovakia, all other european countries but no Eire ! We just usually watch Newsnight you understand - never silly quiz programmes (C) or Place in the Country property porn( G)...Thank goodness tomorrow we head for Kilkenny and the Rhythm/Roots festival to save us going stir crazy! We have to talk to each other ...!  

Glad we pre booked our site this weekend because the owner of this site says it is also fully booked tomorrow for the weekend  and it had 250 touring pitches! Score for Morriscastle Strand 7/10 - lovely beach access but rather poor facilities - 4 showers for 250+ people! There appeared to be lots of facilities for families- tennis,football - looks like a shop and takeaway was being prepared for the summer season and we guess in the Summer holidays it would be full of contented families.
Fri 4th May

The sun is shining! Well mostly...

We had a short walk on the beach after breakfast and then set off for Kilkenny where we will be staying 3 nights for the Rhythm and Roots festival.
We left to the sound of a troup of children whooping delightedly in the sand dunes in readiness for the bank holiday weekend.

We drove via Wexford - and then onwards as there were no convenient parking spots and on to New Ross.

New Ross is the home of the replica Famine Ship Dunbrody - which sailed from New Ross to America and sometimes Canada during the potato famine in the 1840’s. We had a guided tour with Jim accompanied by a couple of actresses who portrayed a poor passenger travelling steerage and a first class passenger who dined with the captain. The steerage passengers shared wooden bunks - whole families practically lived in 6ft  by 6ft bunk throughout the 4-6 week voyage ( 6ft by 18ins per adult, 6ft by 9 inch per child and nothing allowed for a toddler/baby]with only minimal food supplies and only half an hour each day allowed on deck to prepare a meal if the weather allowed. The tour included imagined film footage and also at the end there was a hall of fame of famous American decendants of the emigrants. Of course we know that British landlords and the British penal law system were the cause of the hardship so we tried not too be too consumed with guilt as we progressed through the tour. It was extremely well done though. It appeared many of the visitors were Americans we guess doing an Irish roots tour.

We had a rather delicious lunch in the café - our first meal out this trip! ( hurrah ! - C ) - well apart from a Tesco breakfast and not sure that counts...

However New Ross also has a traffic problem and is not the prettiest looking town so we left after the tour, taking about a 10 mile circular lost the route trip until we managed to locate the road to Kilkenny!

One thing that has struck us on our journey thus far is the lack of traffic. Captain Slow( G) is always looking in the mirrors ready to move over to let the workers pass but there is very rarely any. The clue to this may lie in the ship we just visited. Around 1840 there were about 8 million inhabitants in Ireland (Republic). Now, they are just coming up to the 5 million mark. 

Below is the motorway en route to Kilkenny - and No, the traffic wasn’t all behind us, there are two lanes.

On to Kilkenny where we will stay 3 nights - hurrah says Graham spared a couple of days driving!
The campsite is delightful - we managed to secure the furthest pitch overlooking farmland with some of Dan, the owners, horses grazing in a paddock next to the van under a clear blue sky. Looks like we may be able to have dinner al fresco tonight as the sky is clear and the sun is shining. Life is sweet!

Sat 5th May

Another warm and sunny day.
Rode our bikes in to Kilkenny City - 10 mins away. Kilkenny is full - of tourists, hen/stag parties, music festival goers and locals all enjoying the sun and by the sounds from the numerous bars - the craic!
First stop - the ticket office to pick up our tickets for the gig tonight - opposite the Kytelers Inn (where the gig will be) Carol wandered into a record store to enquire where the ticket office would be - “Tis is I!” -said the cheery chap behind the counter - that was easy. 

The gig was sold out - we are to see - The Deep Dark Woods from Saskatchewen, Canada, where there are a lot of woods, dark and deep.

The next stop was a walk up the medieval mile to St Canice’s Cathedral and a tall (but thin) 30m round tower built between AD700 and 1000- it was used by monks to look out for marauding Vikings and to hide treasures and people. We imagined walking up a circular stone staircase but it was in fact a series of steep ladders with platforms for passing ( squeezing) places! The view from the top though was worth the occasional close squeeze of a passing body. 

We picked up a sandwich for a picnic lunch and headed for Kilkenney Castle. From the outside it looks more like a grand stately home - it is set in about 20 hectares of parkland with gardens, children’s playground and woodland pathways - all free to roam and by the look of the crowds of people a very popular place. We joined the picnickers in the grounds and enjoyed the views and the sunshine.

After another meander we cycled back to the site for a couple of hours respite before walking back in to have dinner and go to the gig.

Had a quite tasty 2 course meal in a pub/ restaurant but when presented with the bill discovered  we had been given a more expensive choice unbeknown to us resulting in a 5 euro supplement and that a pint of lager was €6.40! Paid up feeling that we had been a little ripped off and perhaps paying an english tax -and on talking  to some Irish people they indicated that may well be the case! However they said cheerfully it will be worse post Brexit so guess we should be grateful!

The gig was in a very old pub called Kyteler’s Inn. This is Dame Alice Kyteler’s old house built in 1224 and is a tourist attraction in it’s own right.
Dame Kyteler went through 4 husbands all of whom died in suspicious circumstances. She was tried for witchcraft in 1324. The solid stone basement feels like a dungeon.

The “medieval mile” in Kilkenny centre.

The gig was upstairs in a medieval looking room. The crowd were a good  spirited group of people - of differing age groups - some even appeared older than us! It was fantastic. The group really enjoyed themselves and gave us a demonstration of excellent musicianship and after a serious start brought the house down! 

Sorry Carol could only sneek through the crowd to take this photo!

Needless to say the liquid refreshments (even more expensive!) were also going down a storm. We left just after 10.15pm but another group were due to be playing at 11pm. As we walked past the many many pubs and bars various styles of live music could be heard and everyone was loving it! If anyone fancies a lively music festival in a picturesque small city this is the just the job - just  make sure you start saving well in advance!!

Sun 6th May

Woke up rather later than norm and enjoyed an al fresco van cooked brunch.
After a little sunbathe we walked back into Kilkenny via the castle grounds for another meander and also to visit the Smithwick Experience.

This is a renowned medieval stairway where butter sellers hung out apparently - hence the name.

 Once a brewery founded in 1710 on  the site of a Franciscan monastery, the  brand has now been taken over by the owners of Guiness so the beer is now brewed in Dublin. The site is now used for a tourist attraction which demonstrates the history of the beer and how it is made. Local guides take you on an  interesting  tour including holograms and a video/ hologram picture library ending in a tasting session - Yay! Graham succumbed to buying a Smithwick fleece in the shop - something else to wear on the golf course!
A leisurely walk back along the river by the castle grounds and back for dinner chez nous.
We have thoroughly enjoyed our bank holiday weekend in Kilkenny - the weather obviously a bonus but we found it a charming lively place.
Tomorrow we will head for Waterford and beyond on to Dungervan - to try to take advantage of the last promised day of good weather. Apparently it’s all going downhill on Tuesday!

Score for Treegrove 9/10. Convenient location 10 mins by bike , 40 mins mostly pleasant riverside walk in to Kilkenny. Cheery and helpful owner Dan. Showers again seem rather minimal and we prefer to have used the van facilities. Nice to be situated with ponies in paddocks beside us. 

Mon 7th May

Bank holiday Monday.
We were hoping to head off for Waterford today.
However we spent the day in St Lukes Hospital Kilkenny A + E as Graham had been feeling out of sorts the last few days. Having had a headache for 4 days, a sore red eye and a rash on his scalp for 2 days - we decided to have things checked out. There were seven people in the waiting room (unlike Hull), but we were seen within 10 minutes (unlike Hull), and sent off to an isolation cubicle to await examination. One doctor thought it may be Shingles ( Carol’s diagnosis) - another thought it may be an allergy to something unknown. After 4 hours waiting for blood test results - we really aren’t sure what for and a chest xray - a precaution as the lovely Indian sounding doctor stated Graham was elderly and more likely to have complications! Oh how one of us laughed!...

As Carol mentioned she was off to get a sandwich the Nurse said “go and enjoy yourself in the sun” and brought Graham a ham sandwich and a pot of tea on the house. 

We were finally sent on our way with a prescription for anti viral drugs - in case of Shingles (Doctor 1) and anti hystamines in case of allergy. (Doctor 2) ”Goodbye Young Man “ said Doctor 1 - rather unnecessary we thought... 
By this time it was 5pm and so we drove back to Tree Grove campsite, booked in for another night and then cycled in to Kilkenny to a pharmacy to pick up the medication. €80 - what! - Carol insists Graham takes every single tablet whether he likes it or not! 
Tomorrow onwards to Dungervan, Waterford .... hopefully.

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