Published: May 3rd 2012September 30th 2011
Let's us hit the Road
Just picking up the car at the airport. Silly kids.
London (Ashley's holiday)
Time in London was a whirlwind as usual. The highlight of the first night was tea at Fortnum & Mason's and a guided tour of Buckingham Palace where we saw Kate's wedding dress. It was stunning to say the least. But during our time in the big city, we also went to a jazz concert in the crypt of St Martin in the Field (now, that was a neat setting for a concert), the stage version of Legally Blonde (which was really, not surprisingly, corny) and The 39 Steps (which was a hilarious story of murder and intrigue set in the 1920s or 30s). I highly recommend it. We also went rowing on the Serpentine in Hyde Park and had breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien which is a delicious Belgian bakery/cafe.
After a few days in London it was time to head to Ireland. I have to preface this part of the blog by saying Ireland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and everyone should visit at some point.
We flew into Belfast, picked up our rental car and started driving up the north coast.
We stopped in a wee town on the water for a snack and met a nice couple who were trying to tire out their puppy by playing fetch in the ocean. They recommended a nice place to stay for the night in Cushendall. We found a nice B & B and a restaurant called Harry's Bar which seemed like a pub from the outside but was more like a bistro inside. The food was certainly the best I've had in a long time. We started with some scrumptious stuffed mushrooms and Ashley had lobster ravioli as a main. It was simply amazing!
Another year must have passed us by as Dan's birthday was upon us once again. He always seems to be having a great adventure on his birthday. Hopefully, we can keep this tradition going. From Cushendall we drove north and found some ruins and a cute little beach house seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We also took the ferry to Rathlin Island in search of puffins. Alas, we had no luck in our pursuit. Instead we found lots of rain, wind and cows (cow paddies included). Luckily the weather only improved for the rest of the
Lean into it
The wind was sort of a theme on this trip.
week. We battled the wind and walked across the 4 km wide island and found a lighthouse. We tried to find more interesting sights but the weather was just too oppressive so we went back to the ferry.
Back on the mainland we stoped at Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which isn't for the faint of heart spanning a 60 meter gap. This was a daily routine for local fisherman in days gone by, without the wonders of modern day construction. The tiny island offered great views and a chance to defy death. We were also able to make it out to the Giant's Causeway, where we just sat and admired the view as the sun went down. The way the strange shaped columns disapear into the water, makes for quite the place to sit and ponder the more wonderous things in life. It was really peaceful and beautiful.
The next day we discovered the beautiful White Park Bay, which happened to be the picture on the cover of our guide book. If there's one thing we can waste time doing, it's wandering up and down a beach for ages. There was a small white washed building close to the
I'll take the High Road
At the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge the ladies dared the stroll high above the water.
beach which used to be the hostel but is now protected by the National Trust. It would have been so neat to spend a night there, but there is one just a few minutes up the hill. Driving a little farther we enjoyed lunch on the grounds of Dunluce Castle. Although, we didn't go into the castle, there were plenty of grounds to wander around and enjoy the sun. We walked down toward the shore and then up to a look out point, where people could potentially have been keeping a look out for invaders in the past. From Dunluce we started driving inland toward the Bushmills distillery. Ashley isn't a fan of whiskey typically but she thought she should keep an open mind and try different types. Taking a tour of the distillery was a good opportunity to do just that. The guide took us through the distilling process and we got to try a whiskey at the end. Ashley opted for a hot toddy, which was a soothing mixture of whiskey, water and spices. After Bushmills we went across the street to the Spar for some snacks and found Tim Horton's coffee! It turns out some Spar stores
Just keeping it on
A bit breezy above the Giants Causeway.
across Ireland serve Timmie's which was most unexpected. Most of the day was spent driving; we made it down to Belleek which is famous for its pottery. We found a rather unsalubrious inn above a bar. Unfortunately, it seemed to be the only accomadation we could find. But we enjoyed a drink at the bar and chatted with a local who was more than a little hard to understand.
We woke up at a reasonable time in order to take a tour of the Belleek Pottery studios. The people who work there are incredibly talented and they have to train for such a long period of time to be qualified in their craft. They produce immaculately detailed, one of a kind pieces. We cut across country on our way to Galway. Without really knowing what it was, Dan insisted that we go to the Marble Arches Geopark. It turned out that it was a limestone cave system that has been made accesible to visitors. The 'way in' was typically by boat, but the water levels were too high so we had to walk down the 'exit'. We spent almost an hour below ground and learned quite a bit about
Yup, only a giant
Makes you wonder why they have an edge like that, but slowly descend into the sea.
how the caves were formed and how hard they were working to maintain them. Some of the neatest work was where the roof came really low and there was no ledge to walk on; they built a walkway through the water (so we were walking on the river bottom with water on either side). One really neat optical illusion was Atlantis; the reflection of stalactites that was so clear it looked like towers under the water. Although we had planned on avoiding most cities, and to stay in the picturesque countryside, we succumbed to Galway and were glad we did. Once we found a cute B & B to stay the night, we walked along the water to the centre of town and did a self-guided walking tour, ending up in the maze-like, cobblestone pedestrian shopping area. We stopped for a wee beverage in a small pub and continued back to the B & B to settle in for the night.
We drove a lot the following day first stopping in the Burren (Big Rock) to have a look at a megalithic wedge tomb and Caherconnell Fort; a ring fort. It was mostly just the tumbling walls and lumps
Life is good
At the Giants Causeway.
that would have been inner buildings, but it had an old style lathe and other interesting things around the visitors centre. We also had a chance to swing by the Cliffs of Moher, where you can see puffins if it's the right time of year. Alas, we were out of luck again. Although, we didn't see any wildlife, we did get to see the awesome views. Although, the cliffs are a natural sight, they are well protected with an environmentally friendly visitor centre and fencing to prevent visitors from going to close to the edges (but we did witness people climbing over the barriers which probably wasn't the most clever thing to do). That night we ended up at a B & B near Tralee. This had to be one of our most entertaining B & B experiences. First of all, the woman who runs the place let us into the dining room so we could eat our picnic dinner and we chatted with her for hours (or so it seemed). She could talk about anything. She had her young daughter come and play us a song she was learning on the violin. We also spoke to her son for
a little while about work in Alberta because he had a friend who was working in the oil fields in Canada. After our dinner she kindly made a us some tea before heading off to bed. She was just as chatty the next morning despite having to open her cafe in town by 9am.
That day we drove the Dingle Peninsula. We drove along the north coast first and found Brandon Bay which is a long, sandy beach, where the surfers like to go (apparently). The sun was out and we were strolling along toward the water. What could be better? As we drove through the mountain pass to get to the other side of the peninsula we pulled over for a photo op of Brandon Bay on one side and the south side of the peninsula on the other. We could see both sides of the peninsula from this specific pull out point. The rest of the day we drove along the peninsula. The farther we went, the more windy it got, until the most westerly point, which was sunny and bright. Along the way we found Slea Head where we went for a walk on the beach.
Weave that Basket
Some of the dainty work done at Bellek Pottery.
The water looked really rough and cold that day and crazily enough, there were 2 men trying to swim in it. Who knows what they could've been thinking. Near the end of our drive on the peninsula, we took a walk around the town of Dingle, on the lookout for some fresh seafood. We found a shack that looked like they should sell cheap(ish) seafood, much like the seafood shacks you can find driving along the west coast of the States. Unfortunately for us, it was ridiculously expensive; however, we did find a pub that had (reasonably priced) seafood and it was Amazing!! It was lovely fresh salmon, cooked to perfection. The name of the restaurant eludes us, but it's on the main road of Dingle town.
And that was near the end of our trip. The following day was our last. By the end of the day we had to drive back up to Belfast to catch our early morning flight back to Edinburgh. We thought we’d break up the day by stopping at the Rock of Cashel on the way north. Unfortunately, it was raining most of the day and we got a bit wet because most
Just a few more samples of the fine work done at Bellek.
of the Rock doesn’t have a roof. I don’t remember a lot of the history but according the Wikipedia, the Rock was the seat of the Kings of Munster (a historic area of Ireland) for several hundred years and it one of the best examples of medieval architecture in the Europe. I enjoyed it, but it’s safe to say I would’ve absorbed more information had it not been raining causing me to be more concerned with how wet and cold I was. That’s a risk you take with Ireland though. It’s stunning in rain and sun, but more bearable in sunny dry weather. We spent the rest of the day navigating our way on the Dublin ring road and driving the remaining way up to Belfast, where we stayed the night before catching our 25 minute plane back to Edinburgh.
There are more photos below