Monday, June 20
We left our Brecon Beacons National Park car park where we had a restful night and headed towards Tiverton in Devon, travelling through the beautiful Welsh countryside which makes us very homesick for New Zealand as we get glimpses of the Pastoral scene that is very easily found in New Zealand.
We arrived in Tiverton and went straight to the office of Courtside Conversions and told them that we were keeping our current motorhome and had decided to proceed with the airbags all round with the expectation that will no longer scrape the bottom of the rear of our motorhome and were going on or off the ferry, or bottom out when we have to go up a steep hill. We booked this in to happen on 1 August so now we have 40 days to visit Northern Ireland and other destinations probably around Scotland.
During the three days the installation will take we have booked a rental car which will wander around the south of England with his very narrow roads which are more suitable for a Smart car!
Were travelling north along the M5 is leading us towards the Midlands and we had decided we have enough driving for the day so we asked the GPS for the closest Caravan Club Campsite and found one at Cheltenham on the racecourse which is also a club side, right next door to the park-and-ride so we booked in to the campground for two nights to have a little bit of a rest after being on the go every day.
Of course keeping in with the English tradition we had rain this afternoon but in Wales this morning we had a beautiful blue sky and find weather.
Wednesday, June 22
From the Cheltenham campsite we headed north on the motorway to the Midlands, wherever that may be, and we said our Garmin GPS with the postal code of Kurt and Lynda Kovich, silk Route club members, incidentally last time I tried to get to their house it was with the tom-tom GPS some five years old and it would not take in the postal code complete, and looking at the root I travelled last time I ended up nowhere near their house, so it was a delight this time for the GPS to take his right to their entrance on one of the narrow road and villages, then it was just a matter of backing in across the narrow road through the gateway and we were out of the traffic, fortunately they have a large enough garden to take our motorhome, their motorhome, a lot of lawn trees and garden, not like the terrace houses we often associate with England.
We had a delightful afternoon with them and met their Kiwi daughter-in-law and granddaughter, their son who has a wonderful first name of Ivan, flies in tomorrow so will meet another day.
Thursday, June 23
We left Kurt and Lynda's house sometime after they had left for Wimbledon, I hope the tennis was good, and we put ourselves on to a Toll motorway north to Manchester and after paying £10.50 we eventually arrived in Manchester and the GPS took us right to the doorway of Roger and Sue Shuttleworth who are travelling with us to China next year.
They have done very many trips around the world in all forms of transport so they were very well organised for the Chinese junket and we discussed ways of getting to China is beginning to look like the route through the Ukraine is the most practical. It was raining all the time we were there but we did manage to get a glimpse of their lake and admire the work they are doing on the landscaping between the house and the Lake.
It is time to be on the road again driving towards Carlisle, and becomes a point when it is time to stop and we found a Caravan club motor camp within 4 km of making that decision, was the Lake District, so the surroundings were beautiful and the price appropriate.
Friday, June 24
We left the campground early and carried on with our GPS setting for Carlisle, about 10 miles out of Carlisle we pulled into a petrol station and parked, would you believe, beside an English Caravan with the New Zealand motor caravanners club emblem. We jumped out of the motorhome and was soon talking to Clive and Muriel Sandham from Takapuna in their new Swift motorhome that they're shipping back to New Zealand in six months time, we had a chat for about an hour before we decided it was time to be on our way towards Stranraer.
So we set our GPS for Stranraer and followed it faithfully and it took us down a side road, no we did not look at the road signs except to see that the road was going to BalmcLellan so we again visited the “town of McLellan” before we thought was time to head back to the main road and get on the road that we wanted to go on, which was by the sea, it turns out that our road for 10 km longer which is why the GPS was winding us through the little one way roads or Scotland.
So we were back on the main road and soon saw a sign for the village of Kirkcudbright, and that is the location of the remains of the McLellan Castle, sorry no relation, and sorry no roof, just the walls. Well after all that McLellan excitement and was back on the road to Stranraer and it was a matter of looking for somewhere to stop for the night, we looked at quite a few Lay bys and finally settled on one right by the sea just before the village of Creetown.
Saturday, June 25
We left the noisy overnight camping spot on the side of the road and drove to Stranraer, while actual fact I set the GPS to a town in Northern Ireland and wanted me to go to the ferry port at Innermessan, but no all the information said Stranraer so to Stranraer I went ignoring the GPS.
Eventually after a lot of messing round I found place to park, went to the ticket office and found out the next ferry was 8 PM that night, but if I went to Innermessan the P&O line would be selling at 1:30 PM, so lesson number one, do not argue with the GPS it knows better!
Eventually we got there, bought the ticket, paid an extra £4 to charge it on my credit card, this is only ever happened and the super cheap shops in Asia, so there's a first for England.
Went round the corner and went through security, both Luda and I were patted down, to make sure we had no guns or whatever, and then we were directed round the corner to Lane number eight and we called him behind a small panel van - station wagon and had the Aussie flag plastered over it, so we had a chat with the Aussie that was wandering around Europe, by himself, in this extremely small van that was not designed for that purpose he is putting it to.
The two hour trip on the ferry, a meal was available, I set the GPS for one of the towns around the coast and shortly after the ferry docked we were on our way, road is very similar to England, beautiful coastal scenery, but no way to stop to take a photo, eventually found quite a large car park so we backed the motorhome into that and hope the road will be quieter than last night.
This morning we set off North driving round the coast of Northern Ireland, it soon became obvious that it was a Sunday because almost every church we passed had what appeared to be a full congregation, by the amount of cars parked on the road, had one church there were cars parked on both sides of the road about a kilometre, I guess they worked on the philosophy that there should be no cars on the road because everybody should be in church.
There are obviously Catholic churches, we passed some churches that were totally empty, and we presumed that they were Protestant churches!
We passed through Ballycastle, stopped to look at the rope bridge, that crosses a chair some 20 m wide and 23 m deep. The bridge was originally a working bridge in enabling salmon fishermen to cross to the small rock outcrop that now of course it is to Tourist attraction. It was on to Ballintoy, and decided to spend the night in a large car park at Dunseverick about 3 km away from the Giants Causeway.
Monday, June 27
We left the car park and drove to the Giants Causeway, we were told we could not park there and were referred to a park and ride town a few kilometres away so to that location we drove!
I decided to stay in the motorhome and Luda took the shuttle bus to the Causeway, and whilst she was away the two New Zealanders we met last year in Riga from Winton in the South Island recognise the motorhome and stopped by for a chat.
When Luda arrived back, was on the road again to look at Dunluce Castle, rather draughty in its present condition with no roof windows or doors and just down the road found a large shopping centre where I was able to buy a Vodafone dongle, it only had a UK card so was only going to be useful for a couple days whilst we are in Northern Ireland, but with the last earthquake in Christchurch there was a lot of e-mails I had to read and reply to. So we spent about two hours in the car park, first trying to get the dongle to work on my computer, I already had a piece of Vodafone software, which of course was out of date for the current dongle, so that had to be removed and when the new software went in the computer could not find it, so I had to put the dongle into our other computer, take the software off it with a memory stick, reinstall it on my computer, and then still the damn thing would not work.
So I installed on the old computer, set up my e-mail properties in the old computer, and then the thing worked! So I worked on all of the e-mails I was waiting for, then later I removed all of the Vodafone software, again, reinstall the software, it still would not work, so I put the dongle into a different USB port and then, as the saying goes, I was cooking with gas! (Or it started working)
The next stop was the Mussenden Temple, this was built in 1785, by the eccentric Earl of Bristol and Protestant bishop of Derry, he based the design of the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli outside Rome.
We drove on towards Londonderry, felt it was time we stopped, the height barriers everywhere on a lot of car parks, so we took the coward's way out and went into a motor camp, which was set up mainly for mobile homes, or they call them holiday homes in this country.
This idea that that imported from America of mobile homes as a blight on the landscape, In America the people that live in these parks filled with these things are call “Trailer Trash”, you come to a beautiful piece of coast and here are these things in rows and rows and rows of painted, sheet metal boxes, it makes me long for the jerry-built New Zealand batches, or cribs, at least they had a little bit of colour and variety to the landscape.
Tuesday, June 28
So we left the campground, I set the GPS for Ramelton in Ireland and we set out to cross the border!
It was a total fizzer, there was no border, you have to look very carefully to see that you are part of Northern Ireland, the most obvious sign was the change from miles per hour to kilometres, and where you can see prices, they were in euros!
So we carried on driving through magnificent scenery and headed for the coast all route out to the Fanad Peninsula and tonight we are camped, on the beach, beside the Atlantic Ocean at Fanad Head.
Wednesday, June 29
We're left the delightful parking spot beside the Atlantic Ocean and drove the 7 km to the head land that featured a magnificent lighthouse out on the edge of the rock. Driving back to get back on the route we were driving around the edge of a high hill and there in front of us were two beautiful golden sand beaches in a magnificent setting. As Luda got out of the van to take the photos, the people in the car and that was parked beside us and asked if she had ever seen a more beautiful view, for peace amongst the Irish, she said no.
We then carried on our drive around the “Atlantic drive” or that's what the signs called it. Again magnificent scenery at every corner, and the strangest thing was seen so far since we've been in Ireland, is the magnificent new houses that had been built everywhere, even, what I would call, out in the country! In some places it was very hard to find some of the older houses, of course she did in the villages but today's viewings of houses have been almost all new.
We were told by our English friends that Ireland is in trouble with the Eurozone because of all the housing development that has been going on, this of course does not make any money for Ireland because that is all internal expenditure and of course you need substantial exports.
The one thing they seem to have plenty of and that is peat, we see them cutting the peat and really commercial quantities, leaving it in the field to dry, and then bagging it in plastic bags.
We passed several castles, all in magnificent settings, and when we reached the coast at Dunglow we saw a Vodafone shop so purchased another Vodafone dongle, this time for Ireland, with enough time on it for a month, we hope!
It was then on to a Castle Camping Ground, which we saw a signpost towards, eventually we ended up on a one-way road driving around a cliff edge, with no sign of any Castle or even parking area, and when we found a very small layby on the edge of this one-way road with marvellous views everywhere we decided that this was as good as we could get.
Thursday, June 30
It was a peaceful night on the edge of the hillside, waking up and looking at the hill above us, had made us thankful that the spot was not Christchurch with one of the earthquakes because we would have been swallowed up and falling rocks.
I then programmed in our next destination and the shortest way was carrying on the road we had come in on, on up the hill and beyond the rise to who knows what, but having just seen a large rubbish truck coming from that direction had made one think that if it can come from their surely we can go there.
So go there we did, a one-way road for the next 15 km, with a few passing bays, uphill and down dale, beautiful views everywhere with lots of new houses everywhere and lots for sale signs out.
We then saw a sign pointing towards Loughros Bay with a sign indicating it was a scenic view so down another one-way road we went and ended up in a small parking lot on the bay with lots of rocks, and lots of small marine life living in the puddles on the rocks, lots of people were wandering on the rocks looking to see what green life they could find, Luda enjoyed photographing Starfish and crabs, then it was then time to have lunch, turn the vehicle around and head back on the one-way road.
We set our next destination for Malin Beg and again it was a scenic road with lots of glimpses of the seashore and everything was going fine, until we came to a truck and trailer blocking the road for the likes of us. It was a company that specialised in the falling of trees, and they had taken some sort of tree falling vehicle off the back of the trailer, left their vehicles on the road with enough room for a car to pass, but we certainly were not a car.
I blew the horn a few times, and hearing the noise of the chainsaws up the hill I knew we were not going to see anybody no matter how much noise we made. So is matter of out of the car, across the marshy ground until the hill started, climb the hill to the top, and with what breath I had left told one of the guys that eventually saw me, and took his earmuffs off, to shift the B&^%$# truck.
So back down the hill, have you ever noticed is the easier going down a hill that up, he drove his truck down, shifted the parked truck to a slightly better position, and then the two dozen cars, vans, motorhomes were able to get past and go on our way. I'm sure there is a making of an Irish joke somewhere there, would you help me Frank!
We carried on past magnificent scenery, past the peat harvesting fields, again to magnificent bays, with lots of houses for sale. What sort of price was on these houses? One we saw with a great view of the bays and the sea with four bedrooms was €139,000, which while was not cheap was not bad for a new house.
They are quite large flocks of sheep, and the breed was seen so far have had black faces and legs, but of course white wool! Most seem to have their tails, unlike the sheep in New Zealand, but I guess that is because of the warmer climate in New Zealand with perhaps more possibility of flies.
Friday, July 1
Last night as we were settling in about 15 teenagers arrived with a heavy backpacks, had obviously been walking, with a look on their faces when they removed their boots it must've been a pleasure, they eventually set up their tents, they had a cold meal of some sort, I assume because I saw no fires, and it must be a long day because the whole campsite was asleep by about 8:30 PM, we breathed a sigh of relief as we are expecting to hear Irish songs all night.
When we opened the motorhome at 8 AM all the teenagers and their tents were gone almost without a sound, we're not sure what time they left but I assume they had another full day of hiking ahead of them.
We left our parking spot on the edge of the cliff and proceeded back the way we come, then carried on our route south leading the county of Donegal and moving into Sligo. The roadsides are slowly becoming readable with more English along with a Gallic and so being totally Gallic as they are in Donegal.
We did a side trip to the Slieve League, reputed to be the highest sea cliffs in Europe, they were fantastic.
Were still seeing the same number of new houses, and the same numbers for sale, Ireland has a slightly larger population than New Zealand, is about a third the size of New Zealand, and has about four times the density of population to its land mass. However on a Irish Real Estate website they claim to have 218,024 houses for sale were as on Trademe in New Zealand we have 62,000 houses currently for sale so no matter which way you look at it it would appear there are substantially more houses for sale than in New Zealand, if you consider that a norm.
Talking of road signs were noticed a interesting road sign which read “Traffic Calming" it meant two lanes were narrowing down into something less!
Today we went through the city of Donegal and are currently heading towards the city of Sligo and we turned off the main road at Grange and drove towards the beach, it says no overnight camping, at the moment there are three motorhomes on the parking lot so will see what happens.
Saturday July 2
Well morning arrived and there were still three motorhomes camped in the parking lot of the beach were camping was forbidden!
So we beat an escape and carried on our travels south, today at our destination was Westport, it is quite interesting how they have picked up a lot of New Zealand names to use here in Ireland!
Today we saw many more houses for sale, and we're starting to see a lot of old stone houses whose roofs have fallen in, I wonder if these houses were abandoned when the people went to the New World!
We've yet to see any motels, but we are seeing plenty of bed and breakfast, you don't have to drive very far to see a new one, if by some chance you didn't stop when you thought you should have.
Today our route took us through Yeats country, and all of the things associated with that poet. Most of the drive was around a beautiful lake or I should say Lough Gill, there was a beautiful waterfall with plenty of parking and easy access, and a little further on something they called Parkes Castle, it looked a little bit more like a French chateaux to us than a castle, but we won't argue the point.
It was then on to Carrowmore Megalithic cemetery where there are over 62 tombs that they suggest are over 5000 years old. It's interesting that they have photographs of the simular cemetery on the Orkney islands which of course are larger and probably older, but it was interesting.
It was then on to the seaside resort of Easkey, which being a Saturday was overcrowded so we moved on to Ballina which with its new one-way roads and new roads had the GPS totally fooled so we just ploughed on through the old city with the main fishing in the centre of the River Moy in the centre of the city and when we saw we ended up close to the Lough Conn (Lake) we drove down there and parked right on the edge of the lake. We were joined later by a motorhome from Germany.
Sunday, July 3
This morning we set off on a route to Bangor, did a left to Mallaranny and then drove on to Achill Island and proceeded to do a circuit of Ireland's largest island and is connected to the mainland by a causeway.
On the far side of the island is a tourist attraction called “The Deserted Village” as a row of old stone houses strung along the southern slopes of the Silvermore mountain with a very large cemetery at its base, the cemetery appears to still be in use whereas the village was probably abandoned round the time of the great potato famine and probably was certainly hastened when grants for fishing boats became available round the end of the 19th century.
There are a lot of beautiful beaches that we saw as we drove around the island, every little valley that runs down to the sea appears to have lots of houses, and that the houses strung out through out most of Ireland and not clustered into villages like one might expect.
We found a parking area on the side of the road which had a track going up to a little bit of a head land, so here we are looking out over the sea with other 180 ° view of the scenic seascape, 34 m above sea level and close to Dooega on the island.
Monday, July 4
We drove off the head land where we were camped and on round the coast of the island to we joined up with the main road and back over the bridge towards Newport and Westport.
At Westport Guru we reprogrammed the GPS to take his towards Croagh Patrick a sacred hill that Lula thought she might walk up but she was saved by the height restriction in the car park so we had to drive on towards Kylemoore Abbey and we got a wonderful photograph from the bridge and then we carried on the scenic road round the edge of the Peninsula past lots and lots of sheep, old ruins of houses, Hills in every direction that we looked and lots and lots of rocks and stones, it would be a contender to beat Croatia for the amount of stones but I think Croatia still wins.
It is certainly a beautiful country as part of Ireland, perhaps all of Ireland, because almost no matter where we drive this beautiful scenery correctly on a day like today which has not been raining and were almost had some sunshine.
So we carried on a drive through Clifden and just after Carna we stopped and looked at Pierce's cottage, not sure who Pierce was but it was attached cottage with two bedrooms and another small room that was possibly the kitchen. Sparsely furnished and only cost us three euros to see it.
We drove on and shortly after crossed a bridge to a serious fishing river and done a car park for the fishermen as we crossed over the bridge and this is where we are for the night.
The sheep are nothing like New Zealand sheep that I've seen, their body and face are black along with their legs, the wool hangings straight and is not curly so when you see a sheep with a good coat of wool on, it looks like they have a thick woolly overcoat, and then the interesting thing on some of the sheep that I've seen is that they have patches of black as part of their coat. So you'd be up to make a black-and-white jersey straight from the wall from one of these sheep.
The next step that I see is filling with the genetic make up and getting all colours on various sheep so that you have one with red patches, one with blue patches, one with green patches and so on.
Tuesday, July 5
It was a peaceful night beside the trout river and we left all the trout fishermen hoping to catch the big one whilst we headed south to Galway. We sort of expected a large city but looking at the statistics that only about 90,000 so we were through that and now we without any problems.
Again we are driving through magnificent scenery and whenever we saw something brilliant to photograph it started raining, and were a few minutes we are out of the rain into sunshine and then we come across a castle to photograph and the rain would come on again, but then of course that is why Ireland is so green because it gets plenty of rain!