Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The Trees in Eire - week 2

Tues 8th May

After an extra overnight stop at Tree Grove - after dosing Graham up with medication we headed for Waterford and beyond.
Decided to stick to the motorway and get to our next site in good time for Graham to rest up.

Arriving in Waterford  town we thought we would find somewhere to park up and have an amble around the place and have lunch.
However we might have wanted to see Waterford but Waterford did not want us - every carpark had a height limiter on the entrance - they must be a bit snobby about campervans messing up the place!

So onwards and on to our destination a site just outside of Dungarvan on the coast. We stopped over by the harbour in Dungervan but unfortunately it was rainy and windy so it was not looking its very best - but it looked a charming place. It also had a lovely small supermarket where we found provisions for lunch.

On to the campsite - a large family site with access to the beach . We parked up overlooking the sea near a collection of fixed mobile homes reasoning it would be quiet as not many would be occupied this time of the year. Also it looked like the owners had placed a sign on a tree just for Graham.

The view from the van.
The sign said NO PLAYING HERE - that’s the ticket says Graham.
We had lunch in the van and as there was a break in the weather took a walk along the beach. People were actually swimming, it’s not swimming temperature! The Irish appear to be a very hardy!

On our return as Graham rested up -( he is feeling very under the weather) there was a lot of noise from one of the mobile homes opposite - all the family appeared to be placing the entire contents of the place outside - must be spring cleaning we thought.
A little later there was the rumble of a large truck with a new mobile home on a trailer. It parked immediately behind us and proceeded over the next couple of hours to move the existing mobile home off the pitch and replace it with the new! All the time the engine was running and there was much hammering etc. So much for a day of rest for the invalid!

Carol decided to do the washing and headed off to the laundry room.
On the wall of the amenity block were signs -No ball games, no water guns, no scooters , no skateboards, no go carts - anything which is fun basically! Dogs must be on a leash at all times. 
On the wall of the laundry room was a sign that users of the washing machines and tumble dryers should stay with the machine throughout the wash as they could not take responsibility for any loss if items. The washing machine took a €6.50 token , the dryer a €1.20 token for 5 mins - of course 1 token is not enough. There were no chairs to sit on. Carol sneeked off for half an hour and on return sat on an empty washing machine whilst the the clothes dried in the dryer. To have hot water in the sinks for handwashing it was a 25 cent token  - use of irons or plug sockets were with a 25 cent token. Apparently to help the environment. Showers were a 1 euro token. What a rip!( The tokens are purchased at the Reception - imagine the number of containers needed for the various types.)The showers were fixed small headed ones which probably would offer just a dribble - if we were a family staying for a week it would really get on our nerves - but the family part of the touring site was packed - guess the Irish just accept this is the norm.

Score for Casey’s Caravan and Camping Park, Clonea - 7/10 - too many extra charges and rules, the reception staff could have told us a new mobile home was due to arrive opposite us,the nearest toilet block was closed and it was a 10 minute walk to the next - which if you had to return to the van because you forgot the issued  key to the door was a right pain!
Needless to say we would not return and from now on we will probably stay away from the large family sites - good location or not. 

Weds 9th May.

We took our leave on another rainy day and headed for Cork. 

There’s something we’ve been keeping from you: Our leisure batteries which provide us with electricity are dying, and not holding their charge. We discovered this the day of our departure (they were OK on the practice run in Norfolk a week before, and we were busy with French visitors the day before so didn’t have time to sort it out). We can’t leave them on charge all the time as there is a burning chemical smell but when we turn the charger off they only last 4 hours or so. We have sourced a battery supplier in Cork marina which should be able to provide new ones. We drove through stunning scenery which would be fantastic in good weather. Sadly O’Connell’s did not have in stock the required batteries but could order us some - it’s complicated - they need to be a specific physical size but a decent output and capable of multiple discharges. We decide to check out Halfords on another retail park but they also did not have what we required - so we telephoned O’Connell’s and will have to return on Friday to pick them up. (we don’t want to risk going on to more remote places not fully armed).

We continued on to Clonakilty where we will spend a couple of nights at Desert House Camping which is a small touring park on a Dairy Farm overlooking Clonakilty Bay - just the job!

Thanks to Dave and Ann a lovely Irish couple from Bray who gave us this recommendation whilst parked next to us in Kilkenny.
Hello also to Ken and Paula who also parked near us in the Kilkenny site. Their home is in Malaga Spain, but were touring in a hired motorhome to see if it was for them and also visiting Ken’s elderly mother who was in a home nearby, and so loved their rather enthusiatic Springer Spaniel Dexter - that they had brought him over to see her for a visit.
We parked up and walked into Clonakilty town. A pretty town with lots of shops, pubs and restaurants - definitely on the tourist trail.

It is famous for Black Pudding - so we called in to a traditional looking family butcher and bought some for tomorrows breakfast - it cost 83 cents (black pudding must be the cheapest thing in Ireland - apart from ‘tatoes that is) but as we only had 50 cents in change or a 5 euro note the lovely butcher took the 50 cents - what a kind man!

A van meal and an early night - Graham is still feeling rubbish but will keep taking the tablets!
Tomorrow is supposed to be rain free - fingers crossed. We have the choice between a stupendous beach and a restored ring fort, both within cycling distance. 

 Thurs 10th May

Awoke to the sign of overnight rain and light drizzle ( is this the soft rain the Irish describe?)
Had a van cooked Clonakilty black pudding, tomato and fried egg breakfast - a part Irish you could say! Can’t say we were blown away by the black pudding it had funny grainy/ seedy bits in it (barley?), perhaps an aquired taste.

As we ate Carol admired our wall hanging/ flower container - she found it in the utility room back home and thinks it may have been a gift from Japan from when Ben was teaching there. After not really finding anywhere suitable at home it will now be a permanent van fixture - Carol thinks it looks splendid! There is a plastic tube tucked inside where you can put water to keep a few blooms in. It will be stocked up with whichever wild flowers are to be found during our trip. Carol really enjoys seeing the variety of wild flowers on our walks/ cycles through the countryside but alas has left her reference handbook at home. Little things....

After brekkie we got the bikes out and cycled to Liosnagcom. The only 1 of more than 30,000 ring forts scattered across Ireland that has been reconstructed on it’s original site. Apparently it has a souterrain and a central thatched hut - giving a vivid impression of life in a 10C defended farmstead (Lonely Planet 2006) We cycled up hill and down  dale taking a wrong turning as norm - and took direction from a friendly local. It looked like the signage had been removed. When we got there it was a tad underwhelming - no longer open to the public and when Graham trespassed for a closer view showed evidence of vandalism. We don’t think it had seen visitors (well human anyway) for a while. Shame, but at least it was free.

Ummm ... the scenery was very nice en route and we passed a potty mouthed farmer in a quad motor trying to round up some sheep shouting you ******g b***h to one of the sheep which we thought was a little ungrateful given all the lambs around.

So back to the van for a spot of lunch and then on to the next recommended guide book sight.
Inchydoney Island beach, supposedly one of the nicest beaches in the area - a small island linked to the mainland by a causeway - which we could not distinguish from the main road as we cycled to it.
The route took us along Clonakilty Bay and the tide was in - the first time we have seen it since we arrived. There was a fair amount of birds to spot including curlews and the view towards Clonalkilty was lovely.

A few kms later we arrived on the Island to see the beach ahead of us.

It certainly looked like one of the loveliest on this stretch of coastline to us. The pictures don’t do it justice, it was gorgeous. Atlantic rollers, dunes, seawater lake behind. Superb!

The focal point is Inchydoney Island Hotel and Spa (255€ a night b&b). A luxury spa with a thalassotheraphy pool - apparently - we cycled around the guest car park and then walked along the beach.
It was fun watching the surfers and body surfers attempting to catch the waves - the place being the home of theWest Cork surf school.

Graham surfer watching.

Another shot of the beach

The rocks were covered in wild thrift ( think that’s what it’s called - C)

Very pretty.

Back to the van for dinner - we contemplated visiting a pub - De Barra’s (for the yet to have pint of Guiness) which is famous for being a regular haunt of Noel Redding , bass player of Jimi Hendrix Experience fame until his death in 2003. The pub holds an annual Noel Redding Experience festival weekend which is to be this weekend but sadly we will be elsewhere, and Graham is feeling a little shy with his Shingles rash which has now spread to the prominent nose, so perhaps another time...

Score for Desert House 8/10 - great location, again shower facilities basic, laundry room just a row of sinks. Would stay again due to ease of walking access to a lovely town.

Fri 11th May

Throughout the night it *****d it down with strong winds rocking the van, atmospheric.
However we have a mission - after a quick breakfast - no part Irish today! - we headed back to Cork.
The nice man at O’Connells Batteries let us use the workshop to take out the drivers seat and take out the offending tired batteries and replace with new. Half an hour, job done. It turns out one battery was completely dead and the other was just completely knackered. 

We then headed off to Killarney - alert to any picnic opportunities. A brown sign with a picnic table design a few kms out promised but as we turned off the main road in the direction indicated another sign stated it was 31 kms away - what! Back to the main road we continued on in despair - in France every other km has a picnic spot off the road - we ended up in a church carpark  at the side of a very busy main road and ate our picnic lunch in the back of the van as the traffic thundered by. Those of you who know Graham can understand how traumatic it was for him!

We arrived in Killarney at Fleming’s White Bridge Park about 2.5 km from Killarney at about 3.30 pm and chose a nice quiet pitch in lovely park surroundings...

And had a lovely cup of tea.

We then cycled into Killarney. We were so surprised - expecting another Kilkenny - the place was quite big with a serious traffic problem!

The town centre was filled with souvenir shops, big hotels, tour booking booths, music pubs and restaurants, tourists ambling vaguely around or drinking beer at the various bars/cafés. The roads through the town were clogged with traffic. Not a restful place at all. Leprachaun fridge magnets, Ireland baseball caps, Peat bog incense burners, Shamrock underpants, anything with Guinness on it, glasses, drink mats, mugs, you name it, it’s all here, as you gaze into overpriced restaurants and pubs promising “traditional music” coughing on diesel fumes mingled with the piped “Irish music” on street corners. Maybe we’re being a bit harsh but Killarney roads have definitely been built for coaches not pushbikes.

There is the start of  the Killarney National Park  a 10.2 hectare park south west of the town - including beautiful lakes and leading to the Muckross estate, donated to the state by Arthur Bourn Vincent in 1932 and it is there we will hope to spend the day tomorrow before commencing our tour of the famous Ring of Kerry.

Sat 12th May

Woke up to sunshine which was a nice surprise as we expected it to be cloudy. Had breakfast al fresco on our patio area at the rear of the van. We are in an area with just 1 other campervan - a millionaires pitch as Graham would say! We have our own toilet block the only thing missing is that the showers have not been opened yet - we don’t mind as we shower in the van in our little heated shower room.
The area nearest the entrance is full of campers all on top of each other for the sake of a few more hundreds yards.. we don’t understand it but aint complaining!!

For our day trip today we cycled to the Killarney National Park. Killarney you have redeemed yourself - what a magnificent place - acres and acres of woodland surrounding enormous lakes. An impressive country house - Muckross House with beautiful gardens - all free ( apart from house entrance). Muckross Abbey. A waterfall. Lakeside tea room. Boat trips for hire. Jaunting Cars for hire ( horse and cart)

The view of one of the lakes as we approached Muckross House.

Muckross House as it would look in it’s hey day - actually it looks very much the same today

Tourists are still offered Jaunting Cars as they call them.

Those less physically inclined can be taken around the estate by horse and cart.

We cycled on to this lovely waterfall.

And then cycled another few kms to have lunch at the tearoom.

Another lake view..

And returned back to an evening of warm sunshine ( if you shelter from the biting wind)
Had a tapas night in the van - otherwise known as leftover eat ups - before listening to the Eurovision Song Contest on the radio - yes we are that desperate! And plotted our route for tomorrow as we commence the famous and no doubt very busy Ring of Kerry - wonder how many coaches will overtake us!

Score for Fleming White Bridge Killarney 9/10 - just a long walk into the town - about 10-15 mins by bike - and the stated local pub was attached to a hotel on a very busy road. We were impressed with the park like location and the very friendly and obliging reception staff. En route we saw the other campsites on offer, and, if coming again, we would stay here over the others.
Sun 13th May

Sunny with a cool wind as we set off on our Ring of Kerry Tour. Driving anti clockwise as advised with the flow of the coaches but as we only set off at 11am we did not see one coach! - I imagine they set off at 9am so we must have been hours behind them.
The northern part of the drive is not described as the most picturesque - that will be driving down the west - but it was still a great drive with views of mountains, rolling countryside and rivers.
This was from a viewpoint called Mountain point - by this time the weather was clouding over - but you can get the feel of the place.

We continued along until we got to the car ferry point at Cahersiveen - hoping to find a picnic spot (Graham loves a picnic! - free, good food, good service). However the wind drove us back and we ate our sandwich in  the van with a promise of tea and cake once we reached the Skellig Experience centre on Valencia Island, which can also be reached by a bridge which we decided to cross as it was very near the centre.

View of the island from the car ferry point.

The Skellig Experience Centre descibes life on the rocky Skellig Island - the most westerley island in Europe. It was inhabited by an order of monks from about 500AD to the 12th Century. They built a monastery at the top of this isolated rocky island - carving hundreds of steps into the cliff side, and could only eat: fish they caught, birds they caught, birds eggs, weeds. That’s it. They chose a rock with no soil to grow crops or raise cattle to be nearer to God. Today tourists are taken by boat weather permitting (not very often) and left for a couple of hours to explore the ruins - there are no toilet facilities, hand rails etc so it is only for the hardy ( or fool hardy!) 
The centre has an excellent film describing the monks lives - but the café was not the National Trust like delight we anticipated - more a Cozy Kaff - but we enjoyed the cake all the same!

View of Portmagee on the mainland from the Skellig Experience.

We motored on to our overnight stopover site - Valencia Caravan and Camping site. By this time the wind was picking up. There was just one other van on site - the owner of which shouted to us to pick a pitch as the owner was not on site.
After settling in we decided to hit a local pub for our first Guinness. After a quick look at the harbour we walked back to a pub called the Bostons we passed on our way down. Hoping we would not be the only people in there  we were mightly relieved that as we entered the atmospheric bar - it was packed. Looked like the locals sat near the bar and visitors took a seat at tables. We ordered our drinks at the bar - Graham a Guiness and Carol a tasting paddle of 3 1/3 pint samples of local beers.

We were just finishing our drinks when a young couple of Americans came in and with an air of entitlement - sat down and waited. 10 mins later the barman (used to it obviously) went to the table with a pad in hand to take their food and drinks order - and then went back to the bar to pour the pints and then carry them to their table! 
We took our empty glasses back to the bar where a couple of locals chatted to us - joking about the weather being great for the place as the wind picked up and the rain began to tip it down.
Back to the site for a cosy van meal - we felt very priviledged as we watched a French plated car arrive and the occupants struggled to put up their tent in the pouring rain.

Mon 14 th May

Today we left Valencia Island via the car ferry as we left in “soft rain”. Our intention today is to continue to Glengariff, a tropical paradise warmed by the Gulf Stream (Guide book) just below the Kerry peninsula. 

To join the mainland and complete the Skellig Ring which is a scenic circuit just west of the Ring of Kerry. No coaches are allowed -Yes!- so we just need to avoid other campervans on this bit.

After passing through Portmagee  we came upon a “Best view of Kerry Cliffs” site. We paid our €4 each entrance fee muttering under our breath - however the views were fantastic and there were info boards with relevant facts - so we forgave the fee!
There was a recreation of the stone huts the monks on Skellig Michael Island would have lived in - complete with seabirds. There were security cameras in place to prevent anyone running off with a plastic puffin!

At the top there were signs you could camp here for 12€. If only we’d known now we have our new batteries, it would be like camping on Bempton Cliffs but only 20 metres away from the edge!

There were good views of the Skellig Isles - through the mist.

And of the famous Kerry Cliffs

We carried on round the Ring of Skellig, up and up and up on a single track road hoping no-one was coming down the other way - there was no way we were reversing down! Luckily we made it to the top, a radio mast, car park and another stunning view, and ... down the other side. At the bottom was xxxx with a lovely isolated beach where we decided to have lunch. (You can just see a Skellig in the right hand corner)

A bit more remoteness and 20 mins later we joined the main Ring of Kerry again. (For those who don’t know, the Ring of Kerry is a pretty peninsula marked out a tourist route as the Ring of Kerry). Oh boring we thought after the wild views of Valencia and the Ring of Skelligs. How wrong we were. This part of the route is dotted with hairpin bends and viewpoints, some big enough for a coach. We stopped at a few but one was particularly pretty. Atlantic Ocean, islands, beaches, and rocks all in one vista. Graham tried to explain the Skellig view camping option to a German motor-biker who was headed in the opposite direction but I don’t think it went fully in due to language difficulties. However, in looking down on the view we wondered if there was a campsite nearby. Yes there was. The aptly named Wavecrest. Come to think of it we remember this one as one of Dave’s (from Kilkenny) recommendations. Glengariff can wait, we divert into the campsite and choose a place 40m from the sea and feast on the interrupted view all evening.

View from our pitch.

Later on in the evening clouds start their strange formation. They’re quite pretty after a glass of Médoc.

After a good nights sleep we awoke to this.....

Happy Tuesday ! ...on to Glengariff....... 

No comments:

Post a Comment