Curry in favour

Curry-cooking and van life do not sit happily together. Who wants their bedding reeking of curry, when all be said and done. Mr Snail however …

Spicing things up a bit

It was absolutely tipping it down when we left Loughcrew on Sunday  morning. Teeming, wet, horrible weather. It did not bode well. We were off reasonably early as the Megalithic Centre opens at 11:00 am and sits on a single track road. To avoid meeting traffic coming to the centre we wanted to be off by 10:00. So, heavy rain or not, Mr Snail got on with the task of emptying waste and filling water.

Luckily the rain cleared up before long and we had sun and cloud and occasional showers, with real cloudbursts visible at times and wet roads giving evidence of their passing.

We were planning to stop at Newgrange on our way to Carlingford but somehow managed to miss the way. We had seen a large brown tourist sign indicating a right turn for Newgrange but there was no turn evident for us to use and the following junction was not signed for Newgrange at all. We found ourselves approaching the motorway with no sign of the place at all. Luckily there was a retail park right by the roundabout and we tucked ourselves in there to regroup and to buy some lunch from Lidl.

A quick look at a map showed that we should have turned right at the crossroads that was not signed for Newgrange. A weather check showed an incoming Atlantic Storm with warning of heavy rain and lightning.

By the time that we had bought and prepared lunch, Storm Ewan was with us. His visit was brief but impressive and I was mightily relieved to be parked in Lidl’s car park and not driving on the motorway.

The rain was already easing when we got under way again and by the time that we reached Carlingford Marina the sun was shining on the Mountains of Mourne.

Carlingford Marina has long provided an informal overnight parking spot but has recently undergone works to provide proper Aire facilities, so imagine our surprise on arrival to find that the “Aire” remains a narrow hard core strip alongsde the access road.

The overnight parking at Carlingford Marina

It is a narrow strip at that. Vans are supposed to back in but anything of any length would need to park diagonally in order to fit. We had pulled on straight whilst we went to find out where the new facilities were… as we were alone for the night it seemed unnecessary to turn about 90 degrees.

The Marina Office, supposedly open 9am – 9pm was closed and locked and we were left wondering what to do, with no sign of the new parking and water and waste facilities. We headed back to the van to consider what to do next. On our way a man approached, asking if we were looking for hm. Were we? I didn’t know; he offered no name or status. Mr L spoke up “We might be. we want to park our motorhome overnight.”

it transpired that this was the man that we needed. It also transpired that: there was no new Aire, just the place we had temporarily parked in; that “You’ll not be needing the showers and toilets as you have your own (but I’ll show you where they are anyway)”; “You are entitled to one bag of rubbish only.”; and that if we wanted to fill water or empty waste we would need to find somebody in the morning to unlock the gate and allow us into the Marina yard.

Not the warmest welcome received on our travels, I must say.

Carlingford Marina charges €10 a night for parking and limited access to water and waste. Electric Hookup is restricted to emergency use for battery charging – again it is necessary to ask for someone to unlock the access. Showers and toilets are available.

The Ladies facility, shared with Marina users, has two toilets and two showers. The block is unheated and is very cold indeed.  It is probably the most beautiful facility I have seen – a visual delight in white and as clean as a new pin. Oddly, the shower cubicles are provided with bar stools (quite useless for aiding dressing). It feels a bit like being at an old-fashioned swimming baths as the shower cubicle has one short shower curtain on the shower and another on the outside of the white tiled cubicle. A Mira shower gives control of flow and temperature but takes an age to warm up.

Apparently the Gents do not fare as well, with a lukewarm push-button shower and communal changing facility, They too have a pair of shower cubicles, but one toilet cubicle and two urinals. Mr Snail also had use of a bar stool but not the Hollywood-style glossy-white and mirrors treatment.

The outlook from the Aire parking is across the harbour and Carlingford Lough to Northern Ireland and the Mountains of Mourne. It is a beautiful view possibly marred by all that rigging, depending on your personal viewpoint.

Excellent Indian Cuisine on site

The Marina is a short walk, about 1 Km, from the charming town of Carlingford with its plethora of eating and drinking places. However there is no need to make the walk as there is a Café Bar and an Indian Restaurant on site.

Running off the site is the Carlingford to Omeath Greenway, which Nell thought to be fantastic. We Snails appreciated it too, we always like parking where Nell can get out for a walk with little fuss or difficulty. In fact, we wasted little time after parking in getting our boots on and harnessing up the dog.  The weather was still iffy, with rain coming and going and the view across the lough in constant flux.

NI on the far side of the lough, behind the rain
Occasional patches of sunlight playing across the hills
Resulting in some lovely rainbow effects

The weather picked up a little in the afternoon and we were able to walk into Carlingford and keep dry whilst seeking a Post Office. The walk along the main road is largely along a large lay-by and there is a hard shoulder marked off along the kerbside. It is not ideal however and I would not like to attempt it with young children in tow. Nell was hard enough work. There are good views though.

Carlingford is a charming, highly historic, and visually colourful and appealing town. It won our hearts immediately.

I have been trying to find a comparison town in the Uk from my memory but failed. Carlingford has much of the charm of Whitby but none of its occasionally tawdry nature… It does however share its hilliness! Mr Snail says perhaps somewhere in Cornwall but I have never been there so have no example. Anyway – my kind of seaside, with no Amusements but loads of character and colour and a fishing village feel to it, although it also has a kind of Continental vibe in places.

We found a back street route return to the Marina, which felt much safer and provided my camera with further delightful details to snap.

We had found a very promising-looking restaurant  smelling fabulously of garlic and debated whether or not to return for our dinner but elected in the end for the Sitar back at the Marina.

First we road-tested the ablutions. Brrrr!

Freshened up considerably, we strolled over to the restaurant. We were not disappointed. How many restaurants can boast a view of the Mourne Mountains? The food was fab too and by far the best Indian meal that we have had since leaving Yorkshire, way back in 2002. Both the premises and the food were light and modern in style . Service was smart and friendly. I had a hard time in choosing between several “new-to-me” dishes but plumped for the Himalayan Chicken and, for once, the pilau Rice.

Now, I never order Pilau Rice and always have plain Basmati because Pilau is so often just not… Pilau. I loathe those dishes of multi coloured rice that have no flavour. This night though, some instinct drove me to order the Pilau and I sensed that it would be alright. It was perfect. A perfect surprise. The Himalayan Chicken was a surprise too – it was green. Extremely green; creamy and sweet.  I enjoyed it and would have it again but next time I would order a vegetable side as it was just meat and sauce. Mr Snail had the Nag Puri, which he describes as delicious and like a kind of spicy version of Butter Chicken.

Aire users receive a 10% discount in the restaurant.

We will be very happy to return to Carlingford one day and perhaps to stay for a while. We probably would not use the Marina Aire again. We would certainly  revisit the Sitar though!