A Travellerspoint blog

Carlingford

Another leisurely start to the day...packed up and on the road at 11am...the one hour drive took just over one and a half hours...the place we're staying at didn't feature on the gps, and the instructions given could probably have had a bit more detail. Consequently, quite a few U-turns were performed en route, and we got a good look at the surrounding area! Not a bad thing, because it's just gorgeous around here...it did come as a bit of a surprise to discover that we had "crossed the border" and are actually staying in the Republic of Ireland! But can still see Northern Ireland across the canal, and it doesn't even need to be a clear day to do so!
Our cottage, Old Essmore Cottage is gorgeous...with some very low door frames (look out Ben!), but all the mod cons, and we arrived to a lovely table full of scones and cakes! Settled in, the drove into Carlingford village...it's a medieval village, very old buildings (with more low ceilings!) and lots of narrow one way streets. We found the Carlingford Arms (Pub!), had bar snacks and beer, and waited for the live music to start. Turned out not to be good traditional Irish music as we'd hoped, but not bad. Tata spotted an ice cream shop across the road as we were leaving, so that was an unplanned dessert!

Monday

Girls day out!
Another grey and drizzly day, so the girls headed out and left the boys to nap all day! We went to the Outlet Park in Bainbridge which we had spotted on our way here (about 30 mins away). Borrowed a wheelchair for Jo, which Janae drove...often over some bone-shaking cobbles, but no damage done! Found some bargains, then got hungry...
Headed back to Newry (10 mins from the cottage), and went to The Quays shopping centre...commandeered another wheelchair...this one was trouble, as it had big wheels, so Jo could propel herself...worse than shopping with a child...she kept disappearing, and was difficult to find as she was so short! At one point, I had lost both her and Janae...searched the entire mall, then got a message (thank goodness for free wifi!), to tell me she was UPSTAIRS! Hadn't thought to look upstairs!
Before we knew it, it was 5pm, so headed back to the cottage. Went out to PJ OHare's pub for dinner, based on good reviews on trip advisor. Didn't disappoint...lots of lovely seafood, all sourced locally, and cooked perfectly!

Tuesday

Good Grief...I see sunshine! It's surrounded by a lot of clouds, but still...
Mid-morning, I set off with the kids to walk the 7 km track into Carlingford...a great track for cycling and walking along the coastline. Very pretty.
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Janae and I wandered around the village while Ben got a haircut (at the barbershop...a room out the back of a pub!) then we met Jo and Tata for lunch...we went to liberty Cafe for lunch (mainly because it was right next door to the Sweet Shop!). Another great find!
Then up the road to the Skypark for Ben and Janae to climb and zip along the high rope courses (and me as supervisor and photographer!)...spent the whole afternoon there...it was a fantastic course, and the instructors were awesome.
There was a group of over 30 school kids there, and Ben and Janae joined the group doing the most difficult course right at the end. One poor boy ended up on this course by accident and was petrified. The banter between the boys was hilarious...they couldn't believe how confident Ben was, and called him a crazy New Zealander...I kind of agreed with them - he had no fear at all!
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Our last night here...We went back to PJ O'Hares for dinner...I had the seafood linguine again...it was soooo good!

I have thoroughly enjoyed staying here...it's a fantastic place...lots of character, lovely friendly people. Janae and I agreed, if we had to live in any of the places we've been, we'd both choose Carlingford! And I'm sure it would be even better in Summer!

Posted by MaryMcKeowen 14:07 Comments (0)

Belfast

A leisurely morning, packing up and leaving our Portballintrae home around 11am...I had gotten up earlier in the hope of going for a walk, but it was a bit wet AGAIN! Drove just over an hour, dropped our bags at our Belfast home, and headed to the Titanic Museum. This was fantastic...started with a history of Belfast in general, then how the Titanic was built, with lots of information about the workers and the conditions they worked in, through to the launch, and stories of the backgrounds of many of the passengers. Then of course, hitting the iceberg, the following enquiries, and accounts from survivors. All very well done.
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We drove to the city centre in search of another chemist for Jo...ended up parking too far away, so Janae and I went walking...what a cool vibe in the pedestrian area. Could easily have been very distracted, but kept reminding ourselves that we were on a mission! Success of sorts at the second chemist...wipes rather than a spray, but hopefully they'll be more effective than just using water to remove the tape!

Saturday night, and the reason we stopped off in Belfast...Donna Taggart's concert in Ulster Hall. I was so excited when I saw she was doing a UK tour while we were here, and the fact that it was at Ulster Hall made this the concert to aim for. We headed into town early to have dinner nearby before the show...alas, there were a whole lot of other people with the same idea. There was another concert on tonight that had 9,000 people going, so there were a lot of people about! No room for us at the first 5 restaurants we tried, but then found a fantastic one (The Allotment) and had a lovely meal.
The concert was just superb...the Ulster Hall was beautiful, and the sound excellent...as a bonus, Donna was presented with a double platinum award for her lovely song, Jealous of athe Angels. We were even groupies afterwards, and had a chat and a photo...she was amazed that we had come from NZ to see her!
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Belfast has certainly changed since my brief visit in the early 90's, during "The Troubles"...back then, there were checkpoints everywhere and a very strong police/military presence. Seems less now than everywhere else we've been! Kind of wishing we'd had longer here now, there's such a neat vibe to the place, but will definitely be back!

Posted by MaryMcKeowen 13:32 Comments (0)

Bushmills

After a long day travelling...

We left Aviemore at 9am...I took the first shift driving. Just over 3 hours to Glasgow...stopped off to find a large chemist in the hope that it would stock the tape removing spray. I found it rather difficult driving through the city centre in our big van...finally found a car parking building...but the van was too high for it! There was a park on the side of the road opposite the building, so I stopped there, consulted google maps, which told me there was a chemist 9 min walk away, and I went walking! Bingo, got what we needed, so that made it worth the detour.
Decided to get out of Dublin and stop for lunch at a service area along the way...turned out there weren't any! So, straight on to Cainryan to catch the ferry to Larne...we were on the fast ferry, so a two hour sailing...just enough time for a feed and a nap, and presto, we were in Northern Ireland!
Drove for just over an hour to Portballintrae, a couple of miles from Bushmills. Found our house no problem, a lovely big beach house, and the best thing...a Nespresso machine! The coffee has been pretty awful so far (I've considered giving it up several times...but then I get a headache!), so this was a much appreciated bonus. After 8pm now, removed the dressing on Jo's leg, where the skin graft was taken, smothered it in cream, wrapped it in plastic and left it to sweat overnight as instructed.

Friday

The big reveal of Jo's leg...phew, it looks good ?, so can be left uncovered now.
The kids and I headed out for a walk to The Giants Causeway, 3 miles away. A lovely walk along the rugged coastline, then a couple more miles once we got to the start of it, but so spectacular, it didn't feel like a long walk at all. Included in the admission price was an audio narration...in addition to choosing what language you wanted, you could choose whether you wanted the adult, family or geological version. Ben chose the geological version (at least he chose the English version, although there were times it looked like it might as well have been in a foreign language!) while Janae and I listened to the family version. This was very good...a mixture of the old folk tales of the formation (the story of the giant Finn McCool!), with a grumpy geologist interrupting to rubbish the stories and giving his boring sensible version in easy-to-understand language! Had lots of fun climbing over the rocks and taking lots of photos...
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Jo and Tata picked us up from the visitor centre and we went to The Bushmills Inn for lunch...this had come highly recommended from a few sources, and didn't disappoint. In fact it was so good, we booked in to go back for dinner!

After lunch, we headed to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. I had recollections of this being a bit terrifying last time I crossed it, so thought I would just stand by and watch the kids, but as it wasn't very windy today, (mmm...and strangely, the bridge was a lot shorter than I remembered it to be!), I did go across. Another stunning walk along the coastline from and back to the car park.
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Next stop, Bushmills Whiskey Distillery...we got there 10 minutes too late to do an official tasting, so just did our own by purchasing from the restaurant (problem solving 101!)...time for the 10 year, the 12 year and a hot toddy, then home for a power nap before heading back out to dinner!
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The Bushmills Inn had stepped it up a notch for dinner...it was very posh - exceptional service and food...especially impressed with The jelly and ice cream Jo and Janae ordered off the kids menu!
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Posted by MaryMcKeowen 14:59 Comments (0)

Scotland

Aviemore and beyond

A non-eventful drive up...rained often (every time I put my sunglasses on!), but at least there were no traffic jams. We arrived in Aviemore about 6pm. Very happy with our accomodation, just on the outskirts of the village. Settled in then back into the village for dinner. The first park we found that would fit our big beast of a van was right outside Macdui's...turned out to be a great choice! Local beer, entree of haggis, neeps and tattie stack, more local beer, can't remember what I had for a main. Heard bagpipes as we were leaving, across the road for a listen...yep...definitely feel like I'm in Scotland ?

Monday

An overcast day...is there any other weather in the U.K.?! Unfortunately the weather forecast suggested this might be the best day we're going to get...so, decided to go catch the funicular up cairngorm mountain. This is new since I was here last...25 years ago we went up on the chair lifts ( I can still recall it being a bit chilly!). Unfortunately it was worse than chilly this time! I had dressed for rain rather than a freezing wind! The views were spectacular, even with limited visibility. There's a viewing deck at the top, but only a few hardy souls were brave (silly?!) enough to go out there.IMG_1124.jpgIMG_1133.jpgIMG_1136.jpgIMG_1145.jpg
The kids found a climbing wall at the bottom...fortunately it was a horizontal climb rather than a vertical one, so I was quietly confident it wouldn't end in a trip to yet another A&E ?
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And yes, there was a grand total of 3 people wearing shorts on the mountain today, and I knew all of them!
We went back to the village to do some shopping...first stop Mountain Warehouse, which is like macpac and Kathmandu, but a lot cheaper. Coming into this shop when you're frozen to the bone is a bit like going supermarket shopping when you're hungry! Everything was so cosy and warm...let's just say, I'm confident I won't be running out of warm clothes again on this trip!

Tuesday

Headed up to Inverness late morning...spent an hour looking around the town, then headed to the Loch Ness Centre to unravel the mystery of Nessie! We walked through the exhibition, seven themed areas which went from explaining how Loch Ness was formed, through some of the eye witness accounts of sightings and all the tests they have conducted on the loch up to the current day...very well done and interesting stuff.
Drove further round the road to Urquhart Castle. This area is so pretty...watched a short film about the history of the castle, then outside to walk around the ruins. Stunning Scenery (weather was blowy with a touch of rain just as we'd finished!).
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Then we headed for Inverness airport (just so we knew where it was for later!), then to a restaurant nearby..."Ozzy's"...it had takeaways one side and Fine Dining on the other. Since we had time to spare, and we're feeling celebratory, we went for the fine dining option! Very nice.
Then to the airport, with plenty of time to make some "posters", watch tv and use the free wifi...Jo due to land 9.45pm...woohoo!!!
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She arrived on time, very worn out from her travelling, but happy to be out of the hospital. 45 min trip back to Aviemore, and straight to bed! The team is complete again ?

Wednesday

Everyone else slept late again this morning...so I went for a walk for a couple of hours along some of the many walking and biking trails in the area. Really nice, but a real test of my sense of direction! I ended up in the village, and popped into the hospice shop...perfect! I found a large duffle bag that will carry our extra purchases that we've made along the way.
After lunch (or breakfast for some!), Jo and Tata dropped the kids and I off at Culloden and they headed back to Inverness for medical supplies not stocked in Aviemore (the spray to remove adhesive tape). That turned out to be a failed mission, as neither of the two large chemists in Inverness stocked it.
Culloden was very interesting. The exhibition centre is fantastic...boards down the centre outlining events leading up to the Battle of Culloden, then each side went into more depth, one side from the Army, the other side the Jacobites. Then there's a film room, where all four walls are showing the battle from different angles...a bit gruesome, depending what wall you looked at! From there, we walked out onto the battlefield...kind of eerie, it felt both big and small at the same time - an incredible atmosphere too difficult to put into words, but a wonderful memorial to the Clans.
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Back home to change Jo's dressing...a bit tricky without the adhesive tape removing spray...a long slow process, soaking the tape, then trying to pull it off gently (and failing at times). Got there eventually, and the wound site looks to be healing as it should.
Went back to Macdui's for dinner...Jo needed her haggis fix! Food was most excellent again and we enjoyed some friendly banter with our waitress. We were discussing how we had so often heard the phrase "On a clear day, you can see....", but the "clear day" was proving to be as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster. Then I had to mention that I hadn't seen any cute fluffy highland cows on this trip, and if I hadn't seen some 25 years ago, I would think they were also a myth! She walked away and came back a minute later to swap our cutlery holder for one with a picture of a highland cow on it! Sadly this was the closest we came to sighting one of these cute beasties!
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Posted by MaryMcKeowen 09:25 Comments (0)

Lakes District

Friday

Friday became a strong contender for the "longest day" award...we had left our London home by 8.30 and caught the tube back to Heathrow to pick up our rental car. It took some time to find our way to the shuttle area, then had a bit of a wait for the shuttle to come, then had to take a number and wait to be called to the counter...it's already 10am and we had planned on hitting the road by 9.30. Bingo, our number got called...then the fun really started! We were informed that the car ordered was not going to fit all our bags (even though the website said it would!), and told we should upgrade...at considerable cost! Long story short, after an hour of negotiations we ended up with a big beast of a van (a Renault Traffic), still at extra cost, but can definitely fit all our bags (plus some!). It is too big for most car parks, and we will have to change our ferry tickets...but at least we could get out of there! On the road just after 11am! We got out of London without any trouble - Tata drove for the first three hours, then we stopped for lunch. Then I took over the driving...almost immediately, the flow of traffic slowed considerably. We crawled along at snails pace, celebrating the few times I got out of second gear (not often!). No reason for the congestion other than it being a Friday afternoon! It cleared after the Blackpool turnoff and we raced along the last few miles. Finally got to the prearranged meeting point for Vicki to escort us to her house in Burton-in-Kendall. Woohoo!!! But wait...A bit of a problem getting our bags out of the van...the boot was jammed shut! Ben had to climb over, get some bags over the back seats, then pull the door apart, but we got everything out eventually.
Vicki had cooked us a lovely dinner (with lots of vegetables!), we'd had a couple of wines, having a good catchup when Ben went upstairs to get something (around 10pm)...we heard a loud thump, bang and then some very loud groaning. He had gone to jump down the stairs, but the low ceiling got in the way, resulting in a big gash in his head and lots of blood that was flowing faster than the traffic on the M6!
Soooo...a trip to Lancaster A&E 30 mins away to get his head glued back together.
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Finally went to bed 1.30am!

Saturday

This morning we drove to Vicki and Derek's cottage in Corney...along some very narrow, very windy, very flooded roads! A very pretty drive but also very nerve-racking! Unloaded the bags again, in anticipation of the repair man coming to fix the boot, and headed off in Vicki's car along more very narrow, very windy roads to Lake Grassmere for a late lunch. The scenery around this area is just stunning, and there were a lot of people out tramping and cycling (totally ignoring the rain...I suppose you have to really, or you'd end up doing nothing!).
Back to the cottage to prepare for a BBQ with the neighbours (who were kindly giving Tata a bed for the night). I needed a quick nap first (Janae's cold has got me!). Had a lovely night...another late one!
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Sunday morning

Time for a quick walk along the beach with Vicki, in the wind and rain! Then time to hit the road...it would've been lovely to spend longer here with one of my oldest and bestest friends. Can't wait to come back...and look forward to seeing the transformation of the cottage (very much a work in progress at the moment!).

But for now...Scotland, here we come!

Posted by MaryMcKeowen 12:46 Comments (0)

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