Ireland and the British Isles Part 4

Ireland and the British Isle Part 4

Now I haven’t said anything yet about the typical breakfast in these different countries. There were few choices other than the English or Scottish or Irish breakfast and they all consisted of the same things. There was ham that had been fried up like bacon, sausages that were extremely bland unlike our flavorful sausages here in Wisconsin and eggs. In Scotland you could add haggis to the menu. Haggis, according to Wikipedia, “is a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach.”

Otherwise, as far as food choices, not much to choose from. Needless to say we quickly grew tired of bacon and sausage. England is known for its fish and chips so while I was there I tried it at least three times on this trip and I have to say I was a little disappointed. It tended to have a fishy smell and not a lot of flavor,

Back in Dublin we rented another car and headed west-northwest again. The other side of Dawn’s family came to the states from Roscommon County in central Ireland. It rained throughout our drive to the town of Roscommon. When we arrived we tried to find the ruins of Roscommon Castle and Roscommon Abbey. While we were looking we spotted a very large church and made our way toward it. We eventually pulled into the parking lot. As we prepared to take pictures cars began pulling in and parking. We realized it was Sunday and that service must be coming up. So we decided to go to church. It was a Catholic church. We sat through mass and afterwards took pictures of the inside.

Roscommon Castle
Roscommon Castle

We found the castle and the abbey and paid our respects and then proceeded on to Boyle, which is also in Roscommon County and a town associated with Dawn’s ancestors. On the way there we took a side trip to Strokestown to visit the Irish Famine Museum.

In Boyle we stopped for the night at the Abbey House Bed and Breakfast next to Boyle Abbey and on the Boyle River.

The only other people spending the night there were a group of cousins, a lady and her husband from Colorado and two ladies from Chicago area. One of which we discovered owns a timeshare on Lake Wisconsin. They were traveling with a private tour guide that would take them wherever they desired so they were mixing site seeing with ancestor chasing and a family wedding.

The next day we headed north to Sligo and on to Donegal. The ancestors of my grandmother on my mother’s side came from Donegal County and particularly a village called Inver.

We checked out a few of the communities listed in a family history of the Rogers family.

Inver Cemetery near Donegal Bay.
Inver Cemetery near Donegal Bay.

Inver was a small village located on Donegal Bay. What a beautiful area! I can’t believe my ancestors left to come to Upper Michigan. I’d  love to learn the family history and their reasoning.

We were desiring some time along the water so we found a road that went down to a public beach. We walked and walked checking out shells and taking in the views. We were pretty much the only ones on the beach. A lady on a horse rode by at one point and another lady with two dogs came through at another but that was it.

A rider on horseback on the beach at Donegal Bay.
A rider on horseback on the beach at Donegal Bay.

As we made our way back to the car a young black lab-mix dog appeared out of nowhere. He ran up to me and stopped about 15-feet away, picked up a stick and brought it over and dropped it at my feet. I can take a hint. I picked it up and threw it. He ran and got it and brought it back. I did it again. After a few times I deferred the game to Dawn and the two of them played chase-the-stick all the way back to the car. As we prepared to get in the car he waited at the head of the road waiting for us to follow. He stayed until we got in the car and then disappeared. About three quarters of a mile up this one lane road to the beach there he sat in the driveway leading to a house and he sat there until we were past before disappearing into the yard. We jokingly decided it was an ancestor reincarnated as a dog that just wanted to say hello.

Dawn throwing a stick for our "ancestor" dog.
Dawn throwing a stick for our “ancestor” dog.

We then went to Killybegs, a fishing town, where we had lunch. Then it was back on the road again, still headed north with a destination of the Giant’s Causeway. However we got sidetracked one more time as Dawn spotted a little town on the map just a few miles off our route called Carrigans, and while that’s not exactly Carignan as our last name is spelled, it was close enough. We couldn’t resist.

It was another tiny village. But there was a pub called the Carrig Inn so again we had to stop for a pint before heading on.

Outside the Carrig Inn.
Outside the Carrig Inn.

We then followed the coastal causeway until finally we stopped for the night in Coleraine in Northern Ireland just a few miles from Giant’s Causeway.

Giant’s Causeway is spectacular. It is made up of n estimated 40,000 columns of basalt rock from volcanic eruptions about 12-18 inches across and most of which are six-sided. It was formed by a freak happening of nature when the rock formed but it covers a long section of scenic coastline.

Dawn sitting on one of the hexangular stacks at Giant's Causeway.
Dawn sitting on one of the hexangular stacks at Giant’s Causeway.
A look down the bay at Giant's Causeway.
A look down the bay at Giant’s Causeway.

There is a very humorous legend about a giant that goes with the area. It seems that at some time many years ago a giant and his wife lived there. Immediately across the north channel just 26 miles away in Scotland there lived another giant. On clear days the two giants could see each other and they would yell across the water. As the years passed the two grew to dislike each other. Legend has it that one day the Scottish giant, who was the larger of the two giants, quickly built the causeway and he ran across the north channel. The Irish giant saw him coming and told his wife to quick dress him up like a baby. Out in the yard was a cradle the giant had been working on. The baby giant ran to the cradle and climbed in. When the Scottish giant entered the yard the wife yelled, “You better not wake my baby.” The Scottish giant stopped when he saw the baby hanging out of the cradle and thought to himself, “If the baby is that big, the father must be huge.” He turned and ran all of the way back to Scotland, knocking all of the middle column of rock back into the seas as he ran.

Dawn sitting on what is known as the Giant's Boot.
Dawn sitting on what is known as the Giant’s Boot.

From there we traveled to the rope bridge that connects the mainland to a small island. But we only viewed it from a distance as it was a mile and a half walk to get to it and with Dawn being extremely afraid of heights we both knew she wouldn’t cross it anyway.

We traveled south through Belfast and stopped for the night in Banbridge.

The next day Dawn wanted to look for a linen factory. She uses waxed linen in her basket making and was under the impression that it was manufactured in Banbridge. We were directed to Ferguson Linen Factory. Upon inquiry there we were told that they were one of only a few linen companies still in existence in Ireland and yet no one there had ever heard of waxed linen. We bought some of their goods anyway.

Next stop was Newgrange. Newgrange is classified as a megalithic passage tomb built more than 5,000 years ago by Neolithic peoples. In all there are 39 mounds throughout this area. Most are small, but three are very large. Newgrange is one of the larger ones. These places are considered to be places of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance. They were built before the pyramids and before Stonehenge. Newgrange contains an inner chamber where the cremated remains of the peoples were stored. A narrow passageway leads about a third of the way into the mound to the chamber. It was built so that at sunrise on five days around the winter solstice the chamber is lit up for 15 minutes by the light of the rising sun. It was an incredible experience to visit this site.

The main mound at Newgrange.
The main mound at Newgrange.
For five days around the winter solstice at sunrise, sunlight illuminates the corridor to the middle of the mound
For five days around the winter solstice at sunrise, sunlight illuminates the corridor to the middle of the mound

We also visited Knowth, a second and largest of the mounds. They have found evidence of inhabitation on this site for more than 6,000 years, including at one time having a castle of a king built on top of it.

It was time to go back to Dublin.

We found our hotel and settled in. The following day we took a bus tour of the city, the same as we had done in Bath and London. We hopped off in a couple of different spots. One was Trinity College where the Book of Kells is kept. The Book of Kells was created around 800 A.D. by monks at Columba Monastery. It a manuscript of the gospel books that is illustrated and ornamented in grand style.

The arch leading nto Trinity College.
The arch leading nto Trinity College.

Back on the bus the tour took us past the famous Guinness Brewery. Eventually we hopped off in the Temple Bar district. The area is made up of an assortment of pubs and restaurants and shops of every type. We got some lunch and later found a pub called Oliver St. John Gogarty’s Pub that featured live Irish music. What an enjoyable afternoon. A few pints of Smithwicks didn’t hurt things either.

Guinness Brewery.
Guinness Brewery.
Temple Bar.
Temple Bar.

The next morning we returned our car and caught the plane for home, tired but pleasantly so at that.

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Ireland and the British Isles Part 3

Before we moved on we made one more trip with Deanna and her parents to Bury St. Edmunds not far from Brandon. Bury St. Edmunds is a quaint town that twice weekly has a very large open market including just about anything you wanted from fresh produce and baked goods to clothes, tools, antiques and souvenirs.

Street musicians performing outside a pub in Bury St. Edmunds.
Street musicians performing outside a pub in Bury St. Edmunds.

Kenny and Ann, Deanna’s parents were to fly back to the states the following day and as of that morning the airports were yet to reopen from the volcanic explosion. As it turns out the airports opened later that day and they made it home just fine.

About noon Dawn and I headed out north to find Hadrian’s Wall. The Roman’s were big on walling everything in or out whichever you desire. When Hadrian conquered England he was unable to conquer Scotland and so the first thing he did is have his men build a series of forts all along the border between the two countries and then he built a wall all the way across England to keep the barbaric Scotts out of his newly conquered country. Construction began in 122 A.D.

We had read about the wall in National Geographics and thought it to be quite interesting. We drove that day to Newcastle Upon Tyne just inland of the east coast of England and not far south of the Scottish border.

We spent the night in a typical mid-rate motel and the next morning started in search of the wall. We found some signage and followed it but we didn’t see any wall. As it turned out there are only small pieces of the wall remaining and they’re scattered around here and there but they had created a hiking trail where the wall once stood. But we wanted to see wall.

We stopped for a late breakfast in a tiny little town. There we discovered that not far away there were the remains of one of the forts built by the Romans so we decided to pay it a visit. The fort covered about a five-acre plot. There were three main areas plus the baths that were built down by the river. We spent quite some time walking the grounds. Toward the end of our stay there we did find about a 30-foot piece of Hadrian’s Wall that extended out the west side of the fort. That was enough to satisfy us.

hadrians wall

The old Roman fort included the remains of a Roman bath along the river.
The old Roman fort included the remains of a Roman bath along the river.
Dawn sitting on the only portion of Hadrian's Wall we were able to find that day.
Dawn sitting on the only portion of Hadrian’s Wall we were able to find that day.

So we went back to the car and headed for Scotland. We drove west until we met up with the main highway near Carlisle and headed north toward Glasgow. It was still early, mid afternoon when we got to Glasgow so we decided to keep going toward our destination of Glen Coe.

North of Glasgow we were soon traveling along Loc Lomond, Scotland’s largest lake. We stopped frequently along the shores to enjoy the scenery and take pictures. Finally we stopped for the night in Crianlarich and spent the night at the Crianlarich Hotel. The area around there was noted for hikers and mountaineers as we were getting into the highlands and from the hotel you could see snowcapped peaks not far off.

Beautiful Loc Lomund, Scotland's largest lake.
Beautiful Loc Lomund, Scotland’s largest lake.

The following day we proceeded on to Glen Coe. I had seen Glen Coe on one of Rick Steve’s travel shows and liked what I saw so I wanted to see it in person. Glen Coe is both a small village and the name of a very scenic valley that extends about 10 miles through the highlands. That particular day was by far the worst weather we ran into on the entire trip. It was only about 50 degrees with light rain and gusty winds. But the beauty of the valley outweighed any of the discomfort the weather threw at us. There were waterfalls around every bend it seemed and gorgeous mountain views.

A waterfall flowing through Glen Coe.
A waterfall flowing through Glen Coe.
A view down the valley of Glen Coe.
A view down the valley of Glen Coe.

We stopped at the visitor’s center in the village of Glen Coe to learn more about the area. Glen Coe is also the site of one of Scotland’s worst massacres.

The name Glen Coe is said to mean Glen of Weeping. It is often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland. The valley was formed by the glaciers and is about 7.5 miles long.

The massacre at Glen Coe happened early in the morning of Feb. 13, 1692. The massacre began simultaneously in three settlements along the glen—Invercoe, Inverrigan, and Achnacon—although the killing took place all over the glen as fleeing members of the MacDonalds clan were pursued.

Members of the MacDonalds clan invited troops from the kings army to stay in their homes the previous evening. Thirty-eight members of the MacDonalds clan from Glen Coe were killed by the guests who had accepted their hospitality, on the grounds that the MacDonalds had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William and Mary. Another 40 women and children died of exposure after their homes were burned. Another testament to the inhumanity of man.

We began our journey back south through the valley once more and then decided to try and see some of the Scottish coast. Navigator Dawn found a road that would provide us a glimpse of some of it and we worked our way along the coast of a large bay, of which we never did discover a name, and eventually back to Glasgow. Again it was only mid afternoon so we traveled south of the city and eventually stopped for the night in Abington.

The next morning we traveled south with Liverpool as our final destination but Dawn wanted Scottish souvenirs first so we stopped in Gretna Green, a tiny town, but with a nice little shopping center aimed at tourists. Gretna Green was the last Scottish town before reentering England. We wandered through the shops and eventually hit the road again.

At Gretna Green this arch made by holding hands is often a place where couple are married.
At Gretna Green this arch made by holding hands is often a place where couple are married.

We arrived in Liverpool around noon. We again had reservations on the ferry, this time to go back to Dublin but we didn’t need to check in until 8 p.m. We were only two hours from Caernarfon Castle in Wales, which we missed the first time through, so we kept on going and soon found ourselves in Wales.

The courtyard of Caernarfon Castle.
The courtyard of Caernarfon Castle.
Looking out of Caernarfon Castle  down on the village.
Looking out of Caernarfon Castle down on the village.

is rich n history as well. King Edward built the castle when he first conquered Wales on a hill above the village so the villagers would always be reminded that he was in charge now.

The castle is one of a few that is still in good enough shape to walk through the entire building, up into the turrets, through various rooms. Stairways were very narrow with pie-shaped steps were barely wide enough for your foot. Ropes acted as handrails. It was an adventure to say the least, interesting, but still and adventure.

The castle is the centerpiece of a walled city as well with shops of every type within the walls. We had a late lunch at the Black Boy Pub.

Back to Birkenhead to catch the ferry. Things were far less hectic with far fewer people wanting to ride. We resigned ourselves to not having a berth for the night and agreed we would sleep in the recliners. Except when we checked in and made our way to the main passenger deck there were no recliners, just regular chairs and they weren’t the least bit comfortable.

Dawn requested a cabin and we agreed to pay extra if they had one. A short while later we found ourselves curling up for the night in our berths.