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....

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