One last night

Our final stop, was to be at Broughshane. It may have been our last Aire but was in fact the first Aires de Service to be installed in the UK. Broughshane is very forward-thinking.

The journey took us from Donaghadee via mostly main roads, including the motorway, and across Belfast. The weather stayed mainly uninspiring though not too bad. Some rain in the Belfast area cleared as we exited the city bounds and the sun was shining on the hills in front of us. We stopped at the Motorway services for coffee and were very happy to be served a cup of good Lavazza in extraordinarily pleasant surroundings (for a Motorway Services, that is).

Proper caffeine at last

On arriving at Houston’s Mill, we found the borne in an entirely empty car park. Upon the borne was a notice asking us to register at the General Office in the Mill during office hours, or if out of hours, to go to the pub. Tokens to be obtained at the pub or at Broughshane House. We went to the mill and found it locked so walked the short distance into the village and enquired at the Post Office where we might find Broughshane House and made our way there.

It transpired that the Mill had not been the office base since 2011 and that all registrations happen there, in Broughshane House. We suggested an update to the notice at the Aire was in order.

The overnight parking fee is £5 and this includes fresh water and waste disposal. Electricity tokens give ten hours supply for £2. We registered, paid and bought two tokens and then emerged into Broughshane Main Street and the rain.

with our back to the river

Houston’s Mill

The Aire is sited in the landscaped grounds of Houston’s Mill in a small car park there. It sits alongside the Braid River and a smaller stream feeds the river there via the mill race.

There is a pedestrian exit from the grounds onto the main road by the bridge. Across the road a riverside walk begins. Broughshane is a perfect location for travellers with dogs in tow,

Extremely handy

Being ever-so-slightly soaked, we were happy to get the hookup working and some hot stuff inside us. 

When the rain died off we took Nell for a walk along the riverside path, which essentially skirts the village on one side from one end to the other. It was wet. So wet that the ducks were swimming in the puddles on the path rather than in the river. I left my camera behind as more rain seemed imminent. That being so I cannot hold up photographic evidence.  Some of the puddles were so deep  that we did not ford them but plodded through the mud alongside.  It was however so engaging a walk that it did not seem all that bad,

On our return we prepared our meal of Pasta Bake (more of this, later) and were happily chowing down when suddenly we realised that the car park was filling. It quickly overfilled. There were cars and people everywhere. Houston’s Mill is a community resource centre and the local slimming club were weighing in. The mayhem lasted only a short while but we realised that had we turned up at the Aire at about this time, we should have nowhere to park and would have had to go elsewhere, unaware that in half an hour the car park would be empty again. I make this note to aid those who come after!

It was a cold night and we woke to a frost but this quickly thawed as the sun got to work.

Freezing cold!

We were in no hurry to leave on Wednesday morning – Broughshane lies about half an hour’s drive from Larne and our ferry booking was for the 4:30pm ferry. We decided to stay  for lunch and to explore this lovely village further.

Garden Village of Ulster

Broughshane (if Lough is pronounced “lock” then you might think Brock-shane, but no, it is “Brew-shane”) is known as the ‘Garden Village of Ulster’ with the motto ‘People, Plants and Pride growing Together’ and is a completely charming village with what is clearly a highly-engaged community. It is neat and tidy, colourful, and full of surprises. 

Marvellous Bog Oak sculpture

We took Nell back around the riverside path and found it a little less wet in the warm spring sunshine.

Waymarkers on the path

The community have established a Waterfowl Reserve in the wetlands along the river. It features examples of every species of swan. The site is normally open from 9am to dusk, daily but is closed to visitors at the moment – we assume because of Avian Flu precautions – preventing us from enjoying this feature on this visit.

We did enjoy some surprises in the woods though.

Woodland art: “Birds Nest”

The riverside path follows the meanders of the Braid, which is a game fishing river and the anglers were out in force after yesterday’s heavy rain. The path ends at the far end of the village, allowing a circular route via Main Street.

At the other end

We walked back along the street. To confirm my notion of the strength of community here, I noted that I have never seen a village with so many community buildings. 

Plantings everywhere – these had some nice cockerels included

The garden theme runs everywhere and floral plantings abound. Public buildings have plantings – even the Public Conveniences are decorated with Ivy.

Broughshane folk obviously love their Library

Lovingly tended loos

This is The Garden Village, don’t forget

Quirkiness abounds

These “trees” caught my eye

These colourful old tractor seats make a bold feature. I love them

Back at the van, I prepared for take-off and Mr Snail went forth to find Cod and Chips.

Thank you, Broughshane, for your hospitality. We loved your village and we love the fact that you make we motorhomers welcome.

Look – no “NO” ! (and we really appreciate the snail… is he just for our benefit?)

In many ways, I feel that we possibly left the best until last in this trip. We look forward to returning one day soon.

The drive to Larne was short and straightforward and I think Broughshane makes an excellent pre- or post-ferry stop.

That’s it. That’s your lot. From here it was Argos, Ferry, back to Kippford in fairly short order. Nothing much to say about that.

Back in the USSR… er, UK

Having serviced the van at Loughcrew and positively disliking the idea of going cap in hand to request access to the marina yard in order to dump waste, we did not bother to fill and empty and just got away from Carlingford Marina as swiftly as possible. 

It was a glorious morning, bright and sunny with plenty of “seaside clouds” to gaze upon. We were going to cross the border and return to Northern Ireland on our slow journey back to the ferry.

Mr Snail had selected Donaghadee for our next stop in order to add to our list of tested Aires.

The site at Donaghadee Commons is a small sea front unlined car park with public conveniences (not wholly salubrious, reportedly) and a single borne offering two hookups, around 1 Km from the town. Two spaces are marked out for Motorhomes to enable use of the borne and vans are requested to move off the borne point to leave it free after use. It is more of a Motorhome Service Point (as clearly labelled) than a full aire but overnight sleeping in the car park is allowed (free). There is a tennis club adjacent, with floodlighting. Knowing this can assist with selecting a spot in which to park…

Tokens for the borne are available from a bar/restaurant in Donaghadee – Pier 36 – which is happily the first hostelry reached when walking into town along the footpath on the sea front.

Vincent at Donaghadee Commons – follow the path to the left to go fetch tokens or to sup Guinness…

We did not need to service the van and so parked away from the service point. The view across the sea included the Rhinns of Galloway and the Mull of Kintyre, but the Isle of Man was lost in the mist.

The area was extremely busy with dog walkers.

A very well kept harbour

We walked into Donaghadee for  a look around. A little more seaside-ish than Carlingford but far less commercial than Bundoran and overall, quite agreeable. The harbour is handsome. The town is a little hit and miss, with some good buildings and a few coffee shops etc. but signs of being run down and businesses going under.

Quite a good-looking town

Offshore are the Copeland Islands. Not sure why they feature on this “manhole cover” (which clearly on revisiting is nothing of the sort)!

Can anyone explain?

I fancied trying out an appealing-looking pub but we didn’t go in.

Note the Tardis-like litter bin

It turned out that this is claimed to be Ireland’s oldest established pub.

This got me very excited… but turned out to be closed

By the time that we navigated a path back to the pier we were both thirsty, so Mr Snail ventured into the aforesaid Pier 36 to see if dogs were allowed in. Dogs are not only allowed in the bar but Nell received a positive welcome, with several pats and a much-needed bowl of water before we got our Guinness.

It was very agreeable in the bar, with a crackling log fire going, and so when the hail storm began outside we did the only sensible thing and ordered more Guinness… and the menu.

After some Pulled Pork Fritters with Guacamole and a plateful of Buttery Champ fully loaded with Char-grilled Chicken breast, Smoky Bacon, Cheese and Tobacco Onions I was more than ready for a brisk walk back to the van. The storm had passed over, was on its way to Scotland and the daylight was starting to fade – a combination that yielded a wonderful skyscape that no camera had a hope of capturing the essence of.

What a sky

Back at the van we sat up front in the cab seats, watching the last of the colour fade and the light go. We sat there long after the distant lights of boats and Scottish lighthouses appeared, observing planes coming in to land at Belfast.

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!

Megaliths and apple pie

The one thing that I wished for most for our Irish trip was to witness an Atlantic storm rolling in and to see the huge breakers. Imagine then my anguish when Doris came knocking, the moment that we left the West Coast for the Midlands.

We spent the stormy night at Lock Rynn, still alone on the site. We were quite exposed to the wind but thought that better than moving to park under the trees. Vincent stood up well to the wind, rocking a little from time to time but was in no way alarming. I was reminded of the night that we spent at Finstown in Brunhilde when the ferry was cancelled due to wind. She bounced up and down all night, leaving the ground and then crashing back down onto her stays with a BANG. 

So happy that Vincent does not behave like that! All the same, we did not get a lot of sleep and were happy to lie in for a while in the morning until the weather settled.

When we rose it was still raining but only breezy and no longer wild. It was near enough midday when we got away, which had given quite enough time for the many fallen trees along our way to have been cleared from the road.

For the main part the weather was not too bad on our journey, though there was plenty of heavy rain about – we managed to miss most of it.

Mr Snail had struggled to persuade the SatNav system to accept the route that he wanted to use and we had some iffy moments along the way but did manage to find our destination without too much trouble. 

The centre lies off a narrow unclassified approach road

We are at the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre and currently on our third night here. The caravan site has, I think, 17 pitches and is attached to the small complex of thatched cottages that house the Heritage Museum, Cafe, Events hall and toilet facilities around a paved courtyard. There is also a gift shop selling mounted photographs, photographic greetings cards and other small craft items and Hostel accommodation. The walk up to Cairn T begins a short way up the narrow road outside the centre. 

Vincent on the site

The site is largely hard core surface, with some grass for awnings. Electricity is included in the pitch price. No drive over waste point but an outside privy provides an Elsan disposal point. The toilet block is shared with visitors to the centre (and I suspect also with the site’s staff) which is not a terrific situation – there are just two toilet cubicles in the Ladies and only one shower. The same is true for the Gents, I believe. There is a Disabled toilet/shower room. .For once, the showers are not charged as extras. Better still, they are not push-button delivery. The water is very hot and the shower is powerful.

The view can be better than this

On the down side, the Ladies shower cubicle is somewhat cramped. A stool is provided. The cubicle is just about large enough to enable one’s clothes to remain dry (ish).

It is good for once to find facilities that have not been done on the cheap and this block is quite a pleasant place to be, although unheated. Relatively classy by comparison with many of the sites we have visited,

Niall, our host, could not be friendlier or more helpful. 

We had imagined having this site to ourselves as we have become accustomed to but this  was not to be and by bedtime we had two sets of neighbours.  More rigs have arrived today and the last time I looked outside, we are seven at the party. There are children.

It is pleasant to have a cafe on site and to be able to get a coffee and cake – we recommend the delicious deep-filled apple pie. However, the cafe does not open until 11am and does not serve anything suitable for breakfast. They should serve bacon rolls – they would make a killing!

We attempted to visit the cairns on our first afternoon here and got as far as the top of the car park steps before the hail started and sent us scuttling back to the van. We were high enough to see some of the view inbetween the showers. Yesterday, when we tried again, the weather was overall better but was more dull and with poorer distant visibility. I tried some photographs but could have wished for a better day.

Quite a climb – see Vincent back at the site – this from half way back down the hill

It was quite a climb. The views were worth it however, even if not at their best.

The landscape is beautiful with hedges, walls and lush, green fields

The “Hag Stone” – a decorated kerb stone at the Cairn

The cairn was once covered in quartz and must have looked entirely spectacular.

If you fancy a visit, be quick – the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre is currently charging low season rates and offering a third night stay for free if you pay for the first two.

The Remoska has been in action again tonight. I made a Cheese Pudding and will be telling all as soon as I can.

We are moving off again tomorrow – heading Eastward. Won’t be long now before we are back to Winter Base.

A slight hiatus

We still have not booked in or paid for our stay here and there has been no sign of the caretaker yet. Guilt did not keep us awake however, nor did the incessant rain. We slept well and it proved to be a peaceful spot with no road traffic noise.

When we rose this morning the day was dry, if not fair. There were kayakers out on the lough and Nell found them most interesting. Mr Snail played ball with Nell and I took some photos of Vincent on the site.

The site is all hard standing – some pitches have grass for awnings etc. There is a new-ish facilities block, picnic tables and barbecue points

Vincent on site at Lough Rynn – the caravan park is fenced off from the boating area

Vincent on site at Lough Rynn

Vincent on site at Lough Rynn – large area for the boating fraternity

When we were on the Galway Forest trip we found that we were unable to open the skirt locker that houses our boots and walking shoes. We settled for putting the walking shoes in the back of the van at that point and then clearly forgot all about the matter. Since then we have been managing with walking shoes and not needed to boot up.

Lough Rynn

Yesterday when we went out in search of a walk we followed the path from the campsite that skirts the lough and goes into a wood. We got only so far before finding the mud and water too deep for us to progress.

Today we decided that we really needed boots if we were to go back into the wood and I reminded Mr Snail about the locker situation. Happily, he was able to open the locker today and the boots came out… still wet from their last use and covered in mould. Ugh.

I am sanguine about my boots as they are synthetic materials and Gore-Tex lined. His boots however, are leather and may need some work to rescue them.

In the woods, the ivy is taking over and running amok

Anyway, that is by the by. The point is that we went into the wood and waded through the point where we stopped yesterday… only to find (a) a shocking amount of litter and (b) that there wasn’t much path after that point before hitting the road (not suitable for walking). 

There is reportedly walking in the grounds of the castle hotel next door but we have been able to confirm this and are reluctant to go wandering there with Nell unless we can have confidence about it, so dispensed with that option. We came back and made coffee.

The rain has settled back in again now and is set to worsen as Storm Doris passes through, We are warm and cosy in our little van and I have the Remoska on, cooking some comfort food. We shall weather the storm and tomorrow hopefully we shall have better weather for our journey on to Loughcrew.

Water, water everywhere

East and North today. Preparing to return to the ferry next week.

The huge meal that we had eaten at The Derg Inn last night stood us in good stead this morning and we were able to get away from Terryglass good and early, for we had a long way to go. With no need  for breakfast, no waste to drop and no water available to fill the tanks with, we were off by 10:00, which is early for us.

We had woken to teeming rain and that was largely the story all day. It is almost bedtime as I write this and the rain continues unabated.

Today has been the most boring drive of our holiday thus far. Dull, dull, dull… driving in heavy rain on mostly uninspiring roads, with no views due to low cloud and precipitation. And then there was Tesco. *sigh* Well, these things have to be done and we are now stocked up for a few days.

We found a viewpoint car park without height bars in which to have our lunch, We could see, dimly through the rain, something of the intended view of Lough Ree. It was good to be able to stop without feeling like undesirable miscreants for once. 

There have been long stretches of straight flat road today. The first caused us to enquire whether the Romans had been here but it quickly became apparent why the road was so straight when we realised that we were passing through the most enormous BOG. More bogs followed, with their own straight stretches.

Also today we have found the HGV traffic. Until now we have seen few commercial vehicles but we have certainly caught up with them today.

Tonight we are at Lough Rynn and have an entire 20 pitch caravan site to ourselves. No photos yet, due to that interminable rain. Maybe tomorrow we can explore a little and take a look at our surroundings. We will be here for two nights, or possibly three.