Thursday, October 31, 2013

We've been to BallyK!

Yes we did! We went to Ballykissangel - remember the show? And yes, that's Fitzgerald's Pub right there! I'm sure I saw Brian Quigley driving up the street!
 The town is actually called Avoca and is set in a very picturesque little valley in County Wicklow. It was raining quite a bit so we didn't get to explore the village very much but we did spend quite a bit of time in another place here....
 My idea of heaven....shelves and shelves of yarns, the smell of lanolin, gorgeous colours...
 more colour and yarn...
 and these....
 producing these....yes we were at Avoca Weaving Mill which has been making handwoven goods since 1723. Today the looms are power looms, which means they're automated but still need human assistance to ensure everything is working properly. You can walk through the weaving sheds and watch each process - fascinating.
And these gorgeous throws are ready for the finishing process - washing, brushing, fulling.
 All the metres and metres of fabric which comes off the looms is inspected by hand for faults and repaired.
 And just in case you're wondering - yes I did buy something. It's very colourful, naturally! A gorgeous rug which may be just for decorative purposes when we get home to the heat!
And just further up the road from Avoca was this lovely place which has been our accommodation for the night - Woodenbridge Hotel. Beautiful setting nestled in under the hill with a running river under the bridge and pine trees all around.
Today we return our car and head into Dublin fair city for our last few days in Ireland.
Love to all xx

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wild Weather and Moving On.

The wild weather has been and gone. It wreaked havoc across the UK and created some bad weather here in Ireland which we sat out in Ennis. Thankfully yesterday we were able to continue on our journey south and east although with some revised plans. We did backtrack yesterday morning and saw the Cliffs of Moher before we headed east. They are very spectacular and the conditions at the cliffs were still pretty wild. One man was blown over by a gust of wind and it was very difficult to get decent shots as the wind was so strong I couldn't hold the camera very steady. The spray was coming up from the sea - a pretty mean feat as it's a long way down! 
 The shiny patches in the the grass in this shot is the grass being laid flat by the wind.
 We then headed east. Unfortunately we had to decide that going further south was probably going to mean we would be rushing too much, so we didn't get to go down to the Ring of Kerry. We headed for Cashel which is about half way across this part of Ireland.
This morning we walked up through green fields to see the Rock of Cashel. It has a fascinating history dating back to the 4th century. It's been the home to kings, bishops and monks and sits high above the surrounding area. It was bitterly cold there this morning even though the sun was shining brightly.
 It's surrounded by rolling hills and beautiful agricultural land - the best in Europe apparently (according to our guide).
 There is significant preservation work going on to ensure that the buildings don't erode and decay any further. Amazing amount of money being spent on it to preserve what is still there. This gorgeous gothic church had secret steps and and walkways in the walls so the treasures could be secured and protected from enemies when they approached. It was a real fortress as well as a place of worship. You could walk right around the building and to connecting buildings without ever stepping foot on the ground.
 The cows were coming home....literally!
 The round tower where a watch was kept to protect the inhabitants.
 Cashel is a very pretty town.  

Tonight we are near Wexford on the east coast. The landscape is very different here to the west - such big changes in small distances. Tomorrow we head north from here and have one last night before we head back in to Dublin and return our car. Then it's four nights in Dublin fair city before we start our way home. Where has the time gone?
Hope you are all well at home. Looking forward to seeing everyone soon - but I've a few more Guinness to drink before then!!!
Love to all xx

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Leaving Roundstone.....

Hello again - it's been a few days and there's a few things to catch up on...
We left Roundstone this morning to the promise of wet and windy weather - more about that later.
Our last few days in Roundstone we spent exploring some of the lovely places to visit. Our first stop was Ballynahinch Castle which is now a hotel although open to the public to explore the grounds and eat at the restaurant. There are some beautiful walks around the lakes and rivers.
 The river walk takes you past gorgeous places like this.
 Salmon country!
 Ever seen the show 'An Idiot Abroad'? I have a contender for the next series....
 Deep in the woods. I was expecting a leprechaun to pop out at any moment - but no, nowhere to be seen!
 This little bird sang to us as we were getting back into the car. What a lovely little chap!
 On the way back to Roundstone - Connemara is a stunning region.
 We also visited Kylemore Abbey which is probably the most beautiful building I've seen here in Ireland in the most amazing landscape - nestled at the foot of a mountain with a lake at the front. And this Victorian walled garden with six acres of plants, trees, etc.
The estate has a very long and interesting history. It was originally built by Henry Mitchell, an Englishmen, who fell in love with Connemara on a holiday. He was a very clever man who designed many innovative things for the castle and gardens including hydro electricity to light and warm the castle and underground heating for the gardens so they could grow all sorts of exotic plants. 
 It is now the home of Benedictine nuns who moved into the estate after their nunnery in Belgium was bombed during World War One. They ran a boarding school for girls for many years which only closed in 2010. Now the nuns run the estate as a tourist attraction and they have done a wonderful job of restoring the castle and gardens to their former splendour.
Stunning spot to live.
 There's lots of fun things for little kiddies to play with in the grounds....anyone know the number for that TV show?!
 Yes, he's still following me around....
So we are now in County Clare in Ennis, south of Galway. As I said we left early this morning to the threat of some severe weather coming - heavy rain and winds, so seeing the Cliffs of Moher today was off the agenda. The trip down was wet but not too bad. We found a nice hotel to stay in and as we were getting our gear out of the car the heavy rain started. By the time we reached the front door we were drenched - just like we had been hosed off - literally! And within an hour it was clear! This weather is seriously changeable! Tonight it's falling down again, so we will have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.
We are down to the last week here in Ireland. A few more days with the car and then four nights in Dublin.
Love to all at home - thanks for following us on our travels. xx

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The view from here....

We are now in Roundstone, County Galway staying in our cottage for a week. We are right on the quay and this is more or less the view we wake to each morning.....gorgeous!
From the cottage we walk up the road to O'Dowd's Pub - famous for it's seafood. And the Guinness is pretty good too!
Afternoon walks around the village find all sorts of treasures - churches, donkeys, back laneways, locals out walking their dogs!
Night from the harbour - we were lucky enough to have a very clear night to get some good shots. A local fisherman came up behind u whilst we were down on the quay and commented "You can't possibly be getting any good photos down here at this time of night" in his thick Irish accent. I think he may have thought we were a little odd!
And here is our new friend who followed us home one afternoon. The dogs here lead a charmed life wandering around the village and chatting to anyone they come across!
We are just up the road from Roundstone at Clifden at the moment having coffee and food so we can use the free Wi-Fi. There's none in Roundstone! 
See you for now. Love to all xx

Saturday, October 19, 2013

County Galway

Good morning to you from County Galway. This country just keeps getting more beautiful! We are currently in Spiddal on the Galway Coast in a lovely pub where we stayed the night. Yesterday was rainy and windy as we drove down here but it didn't take away from the beauty of the coast - in fact I think it makes for great photos! 
After we booked in to An Cruiscin Lan pub I went for a wee walk down to the harbour. Windy and choppy but gorgeous. Little boats bobbing about in the water.
 Looking out to the Aran Islands. A bit misty to see them clearly today.

 The black boat at the back on the right was being lifted out of the water and there were a lot of locals down at the harbour watching. 

 Right next to the harbour - which is just a block back from the main street - there is an old graveyard with this building which I guess is an old church. There were a few celtic crosses still standing.
 Gorgeous old trees covered in moss in the graveyard.
 And here's the pub we're staying in - cute?!
 Oh, and that boat they were lifting out of the water - there it is going down the main street!
So today we head to Roundstone - another coastal village not far from here - where we have a cottage booked for a week. Not sure how we'll go for internet access there as there isn't any in the cottage. 
Hope everyone is well at home and not suffering too much in the heat. We've heard and seen the terrible news about the bushfires in NSW. I hope that any family you have in those areas are safe and well. 
Take care - til next time. Love to all xx
PS Lorri - check the comments box on the last post xx 
Thanks everyone for staying in touch on here and Facebook - technology makes the world a small place and it's lovely to hear from you as we travel. We appreciate the time you take to contact us xx

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dunluce Castle

Before we left the Causeway Coast yesterday we visited Dunluce Castle which sits precariously on the edge of a cliff that plunges straight down to the sea below. There are stories that one night part of the kitchen fell into the sea taking several servants and that night's dinner - but as we discovered yesterday that's just a story, but a good one! A different part did fall into the sea though and the castle was abandoned not long after - I would have been gone straight away!
The castle dates back to Medieval times and was once the headquarters of the MacDonnell clan. It was originally owned by the MacQuillans and was fought over several times. There have been archaeological digs that date the castle and surrounds back to the 14th century.
 The inner castle is accessed by a narrow bridge which would have originally been a drawbridge with guards protecting it and firing on any invaders. There are sheer drops all around this inner part of the castle.

 Little windows provide snippets of views to the surrounding coastline.
 Looking west - spectacular!
 My Lord?! Nah - just James again!
 Outside at the top of the hill, we found a friendly cat....
 who lived in this wee cottage!
Now where's the bloody leprechaun?!

Hello from Ireland

Well, Hello from Ireland. It's taken a few days to get on to some reliable internet service but tonight we are living it up in Sligo at the Clarion Hotel - and yes there's free wi-fi that actually works! 
So we arrived a few days ago and began our drive north to County Antrim - where my ancestors lived many years ago. But that's a story for another day.
After a night in Newry at a lovely pub - with our first taste of Guinness in the old man's bar - Yum! - we headed to the very north to our accommodation for the next three nights. And there it is below - oh and that white car? that's our Renault...!
 The views were nothing short of spectacular from every way you looked. We were out in the quiet countryside near the small town of Bushmills - which was a lovely change after the busyness of Paris.
 Sheep and cows in the fields were our neighbours and birds swirled around in flocks each morning over the cottage and farms.
 On our first afternoon the light was gorgeous.
 And there was a gorgeous sunset.

On our second day we went to The Giant's Causeway and were lucky to have clear skies and great weather. The day after was miserable and raining.
 This is such an amazing sight and although we were there with a bus load of school kids and other visitors, it wasn't too crowded and I managed to get some good shots.
 There are wonderful myths and legends about how this coastline was formed - much better than the cut and dry geological stuff!

After our big walk along the coast we needed a little sustenance so headed into Bushmills to the famous whiskey distillery. Such an interesting process to make whiskey - who would have thought? and it tastes pretty good too. Good enough that we had to buy a bottle to bring with us and have a little nip now and then!
The Irish people are very welcoming and friendly, and we are really enjoying this part of the world. Tomorrow we head further south into Galway.
Until our next posting, love to all. xx