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.

Re-caffeinated at last

We left Cong with some trepidation. We had struggled to map out the next few days adequately, with Mr Snail resisting the idea of going to Terryglass Quay (due to Portumna Marina being closed for development) due to the known presence of “No Overnighting” signs. Eventually the struggle became too great and so we pencilled in Terryglass anyway but not without raising his stress levels.

I had emailed the Waterways to check what exactly the situation was but had not received a reply by the time that we set off.

We drove down to Galway and experienced our first stretch of Irish Motorway (M6). Along the way were signs that Spring had truly set in and there were trees in blossom and hosts of daffodils and lambs. It has been so warm that we have had no heating on in the van  for days past – not day or night. In fact the previous night had seen the internal temperature in the van at 16 degrees Celsius in the small hours, and us uncomfortably throwing off the bedding in order to keep cool. Not that it has been sunny – not at all, it has mainly been dull, or wet or dull and wet.

We had to pass through Portumna to reach Terryglass and decided to go and look at the Marina to see how things were progressing, in order to report back to various interested parties and groups on Facebook. Unfortunately, we failed to find the marina before finding ourselves on the far side of Portumna.

Vincent at Terryglass

Happily, Terryglass Quay was more readily found. The unwelcoming signs are still there and Mr Snail was not in the least bit happy. We parked up out of the way and took the dog for a walk.

There’s a good cemetary in the village but I had no time to explore

On returning to the van I found my reply and was delighted that it told me that “Waterways Ireland do allow campervans to stay overnight at our facilities on a short term bases.  I have attached our Voyages and Visits publication and you will find information on pages 32 of the facilities available. ” 

We breathed out and settled in. Then we went to The Derg inn for dinner.

I liked Terryglass. It is a lovely little village, very peaceful and very neat and clean and tidy. It has the regulation two pubs in the regulation side-by-side configuration,

Twin pubs

The school is in the heart of the village and there is a large area for parking.

Vincent in Terryglass

The village holds a few delightful surprises to reward the wanderer. We visited two Holy Wells – the one for the eyes (only has efficacy in May) and the one for the head (seems to work any time of year.) Both had cloots, mainly of the paper napkin or hanky  type and only a few of those, nothing as impressive as Munlochy.

The Quay is a short walk away from the village centre and has street lighting all the way, The Marina area is also well lit (possibly too well lit for van sleepers.)  There are Public Conveniences (locked) as well as the facilities block  (card operated – cards from the Derg Inn/Shop) for the leisure amenity users. There are picnic tables and recycling bins. No off the lead walking anywhere that we could find in the vicinity of the village.

We passed a quiet night with no disturbances and just the sound of running water to lull us to sleep.

Excellent coffee at the Derg Inn, by the way. I was well in need of a shot of proper caffeine after so long on campervan instant.

Quietly does it

The beach

It remained warm but largely wet whilst we stayed at Acton’s. There was little wind and on our second night when we opened the rear doors to access the boot, a host of flies moved in, attracted by the light. 

We slept well on both nights in complete peace, quiet and utter darkness. It was grand,

I was all for stopping at the Eco Beach site for another night but Mr Snail was suffering itchy feet again. Our destination was Cong, home of The Quiet Man (well, the film location at least.) Mr Snail set about emptying and filling tanks and I gazed at the sea in hope of glimpsing more dolphins. I tried to take photos and I think the light was a little better than when we arrived but nothing came out startlingly better than previously.

Vincent on site

We went to Lidl in Clifden for supplies and found it strangely quiet, with scarcely a car in the car park – leaving lots of room for Vincent. 

We left, turning left onto the N59 and soon found out why the shop was quiet, for it seemed that not only the whole of Clifden but half the world itself was at a pony sale just down the road! The yard was full and there was a market on – the road itself was lined with cars and trailers and horseboxes.

Sudden mayhem on the road

Had I known, I should have loved to be in there with my camera but of course… there was nowhere for Vincent to park.

We continued.

We had read that there is a campaign ongoing to support the upgrading of he stretch of N59 from Clifden to Galway and that many feel it is in a poor state. It wasn’t tip top but certainly better than some of the road we have travelled recently. Anyway, we soon turned off to travel East, passing another sale on the way.

We saw some amazing scenery but with very few chances to stop and capture it for the scrapbook blog. This was a shame as the combination of low cloud with sunshine playing across the landscape provided some stunning scenes. Grabbing shots through the windscreen whilst on the mood just does not do justice.

Let me out!

The weather seemed to be getting ever warmer and we were soon treated to the sight of Camellia bushes in full and glorious bloom (no, no photos, couldn’t stop…)

We found an approximation to a lay by – full of road surfacing material but enough space for Vincent to squeeze in

Lough Corrib

Lough Corrib

Lough Corrib

It took me a while to register the fact that I was seeing heather in bloom… in February

When we arrived at the Cong Caravan Park we found it very quiet. Very quiet as in totally empty. We received a warm welcome however, with what has become the usual apology regarding refurbishment works. Refurbishment or not, at least the water is on and the showers (included in the price for once) in operation.  

We are parked on hard standing in a quadrangle surrounded by tall Leylandii. There is a children’s play area between us and what we though would be a very quiet road. The road leads to one of the castle entrances and most specifically to one of the hotel/bar/restaurant areas plus giving access to the grounds and walks. It is really quite busy. Behind us is some kind of sports ground and this generates a level of associated noise from ball-kicking etcetera. Mainly however the dominant sound is of birdsong and we passed a quiet night. Lighting levels are enough to get to the facilities but not too bright for sleeping.

The facilities are adequate but far from luxurious. They are  badly in need of updating. Cleaning is suspect (my shower cubicle had long strands of dark hair clinging to the walls.) The cubicles are small, with little room to move and no seating arrangements to aid dressing and undressing. Showers are push button operation and deliver around 30 seconds of a decent flow at a good temperature (heeding the instruction to press all the buttons on arrival and wait for the water to get hot before undressing. This is key… as it is yet another chilly and unheated block. Skimpy shower curtains (cut down, possibly to make one curtain do two cubicles, and frayed) don’t quite stop the water from spilling into the dry part of the cubicle so one’s trouser bottoms get soggy when struggling to dress standing on one leg. There is no extraction either so the facilities feel very damp and claggy after showers have been used. Used shampoo bottle left in the shower, fragments of used soap everywhere (no liquid soap dispensers), a towel dangling (no hot air dryers) – nothing feels really pleasant or entirely sanitary to me but this is probably entirely psychological and extra-squeamish of me… though I checked with Mr Snail and asked what he thought of the facilities and he has the same sense.

Ashford Castle

Dogs on leads on site. Quiet road at access is not as quiet as it looks, care is needed. Main road into Cong is very busy. Dogs on leads in Castle grounds. Waymarked trails from the village are marked as “No Dogs.” Mr Snail found a wood to walk in about ten minutes away on the way into Cong and let Nell off the lead there. Not the best site for doggy travellers.

There  are red squirrels in the woods.

The site is just outside the village and is adjacent to Ashford Castle. It is  a short walk via the road into Cong, or a slightly longer but more pleasant stroll through the castle grounds. 

That’s the one! and apparently the boss cannot wait to get inside

We walked down with the dog, in the expectation of a pint of Guinness. The pub that I had picked out on our drive through looked just the biz and apparently was the one used in the film.

Oh, let me in, I’m thirsty!

Yes, just the ticket. Hand me my Guinness… but… wait, what is this?

CLOSED!

Closed! So we tried another establishment. Could we bring the dog in, please?

No.

None of the pubs would let Nell in. They all serve food and apparently Irish Govt regs preclude dogs from entering such premises.

We found one where we could sit out in the drizzle and have our pint with our canine companion.

My pint, at last

…and it was good

I find it fascinating that a whole Irish village can build its whole economy on a single Hollywood movie and one that was made so long ago.

Most places were however closed for the winter – but, really, a pub closing for the season? Perhaps I had better get over that… and move swiftly on.

Despite so little on offer there were tourist coaches arriving both yesterday and today and plenty of people about, especially within the castle grounds.

We were not alone overnight, a veedub camper arrived in the evening and then another one turned up today, so now we are three.

I tackled the laundry finally this morning. After having passed by on several opportunities due to the hefty €4 price of a wash… I have ended up having to pay €6 for my wash and another €6 for my dry!!! That was painful but is, I suppose, slightly mitigated by not having to pay €3 for a shower of a morning.

One of many creature cut-outs around the village. I wished that there were a pair of them. I could always use Photoshop…

We’re going to Tipperary tomorrow! Co Tipperary, at least.