Thursday, 26 June 2014 – Day 22 – Trip to Belfast

 

Thursday, 26 June 2014 – Day 22 – Trip to Belfast

Was a sleepin this morning until wakeup call at 7.00 and taxi came and took me down to the City Centre to join a minibus tour to go to Belfast.  It was raining so no photos, BUT even if I could have taken any, couldnt have as converter didn’t connect properly so was disappointed.  Have to wait for some kind passengers to send me some that they took in between showers.

We had a lovely driver Liam and we headed off to Belfast.  Our first stop was at the Eileen Hickey Irish Republican History Museum.  This was a museum with heaps of stories and memorabilia of the troubles that Ireland had.  Eileen has since died of cancer on 2 February 2006 and her husband still runs the museum.

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We then drove down past memorial to the hunger strikers and then to the Mural Wall. This was a wall where there are lots of different murals about the troubles that Ireland has had over the years.

It was then down to the Peace Wall that is a type of “graffiti” so in we wrote a message on it.  It was then down Shankill Road where in the past there were drive by shootings and shootings.  There were 31 people killed and they had no political affiliation.  They had their throats slit and were done by the Shankill butchers – 4 were butchers hence their name.  It is quite sad, as the hatred has gone on so long and evidently had nothing to do with religion – just that. There was the anger bred into the generations and the trouble went on for many years.

We passed the Big Fish Laganside, Belfast.  This 10 metre (32ft) Salmon was commissioned to celebrate the regeneration of the River Lagan. The outer ‘skin’ of the fish is a cladding of ceramic tiles decorated with texts and images relating to the history of Belfast.  The artist, John Kindness, is one of Northern Ireland’s  best known artists.

We then continued our way to the Titanic Museum.  Not enough time for the tour, so I decided to stay on.  This was a fantastic building and so much to see and learn about the sinking of the titanic.  We all know about it.  I the caught a taxi down to City Hall and rejoined the tour.

Our next stop was in Downpatrick. to St Patrick’s Cathedral.  This was a presbyterian cathedral.  St Patrick’s grave is here.  It was then on to St. Patrick’s Centre. This was very interesting as we were told a about St Patrick and then shown a simulated helicopter over Ireland and the travels of St Patrick’s life.  Learnt a lot and the scenery shown in the film was spectacular.  We then passed through the village of Dundrum where Bram Stoker, writer of Dracular came from.

Then on to Spelga Dam.  This is quite a large reservoir set in rugged surroundings in the heart of the Mournes, near the source of the River Bann, supplies water to the Portadown and Banbridge areas.  Just along from the dam, is “The Magic Road” or Gravity Road.  A car, bus or anything that can roll, will apparently roll uphill on this short section of road near the dam.  The driver of our van, turned off the engine and it started to pull uphill.  We also poured some tea and used my water bottle to demonstrate this unusual phenomenon.  Gravitational anomaly – optical illusion.  Whatever the explanation it was an interesting experience.

After the dam, the countryside was forests of spruce and pines. We passed a dear little house that belonged to an old man who dressed up like Santie and thrilled the many children that came out to visit his house that he lit up. He has evidently raised many thousands for charities.  It was then fast forwarded for Dublin, passing the spot where Lord Mountbatten was killed.  We arrived back in Dublin about 8.00 and then Sandy, a girl from Melbourne, and I went down to the area called Temple Bar and had a silver service meal. It was then into a cab to take us both back to our accommodation.  Late night to bed after an interesting day.  Not as spectacular as the other couple in Ireland.

 

 

Wednesday, 25 June 2013 – Day 21- Trip to the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, The Burren & Galway Bay

Wednesday 25 June 2014 Day 21 – Trip to Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, The Burren & Galway Bay

Got my wake up call at 5.30 and taxi to the Dublin Heuston railway station to catch the train at 7.00.  We set off the same route that I did yesterday passing through the lovely lush pastures. It is a really agriculture area with lots if cows and sheep.  We passed once again through Newbridge, Curragh and Kildare. The train stopped at Portlaoise, on through Templemore and then another stop at Thurles.  We changed trains at Limerick Junction so the next part of the trip will be all new.

We arrived in Limerick shortly after 9.00 where we joined our Railtours Ireland coach. Limerick has a population of about 90,000 and its city charter was granted in 1197AD, making it older than London!  As we cross the River Shannon – Ireland’s longest river – there are views of King John’s Castle.  The castle was competed in c1200 and marks the origins of the city. Limerick’s most famous author, Frank McCourt, grew up here and was the setting for his book, Angela’s Ashes. Limerick is also the birthplace of celebrated BBC radio DJ Terry Wogan and Hollywood star, Richard Harris.

After a brief city tour we headed out to Bunratty Castle. The castle was completed in 1425 and after many years of neglect, has been restored to its former glory. There is also a folk park here and many of the buildings – including the village – were dismantled at various locations inthe region and rebuilt brick by brick at their present location.  Even the 18th century church was relocated to its present position using this method.

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We stopped for lunch at O’Connor’s pub in Doolin.  Was a typical Irish pub with lots of coasters, money and other memorabilia on the walls.  Met a lovely couple from Spain.

Had a light meal before heading off to the Cliffs of Moher – amongst the highest sea cliffs in Europe.  We had some time to wander around Ireland’s second most popular tourist attraction.  Set off up a very steep climb on the side of the Cliffs.  Just an amazing place and the views were terrific.  With a few photo stops back down, finally got back on the coach, feeling quite exhausted but pleased I “suffered the pain” as truly lovely.  Once again, I don’t feel as though the photos do them justice.

 

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Yes, I did make the top of the peak in the middle photo.  Slowly, slowly!!!!!!  But I did it.

We then took the coastal road for much of the way to Galway and took photos along the Burren.  This is a national park and the word Burren comes from the Irish Language – it means ‘rocky place’. It is a unique landscape of limestone which was described in 1649 by one of Oliver Cromwell’s men as “No tree to hang a man, no water deep enough to drown him and no soil deep enough to bury him”.  Today the Burren is noted for its diverse flora with few parallels  or indeed, Europe. The country was very rugged out here.  There were lots of  stone walls built during the time of the great famine by prisoners. We passed a cemetery where lots of people died because of the famine.  Also, there were lots of houses built with the stones from the area.

We continued along the coastline to Black Head, passing the quaint coastal villages of Ballyvaughan and Kinvara before joining the main road to Galway.  We had some free time to explore the streets around Eyre Square in Galway and then went into a nearby pub and had a delicious meal of prawns, smoked salmon, oysters and a Guiness.  Met Joan and Germany friend from South Africa.

Was then time to catch the train. We left Galway Station at 7.15.  We returned on a different route via Athenry, Tullamore and Athlone, where we cross the River Shannon once more, arriving back at Dublin at 9.45. Caught a taxi back to my hotel –  Quite exhausted as was an extremely long day and I think I have had my year’s exercise in this one day.  The pain spray, patches, tens machine and painkillers were all put to use BUT it was such a fabulous day and saw such diverse country. Just another wonderful day!

 

 

it was quite a long day but very enjoyable.

Tuesday, 24 June, 2014 – Day 20 -Trip to Cork, Blarney Castle and the Queenstown Story

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 – Day 20 – Trip to Cork, Blarney Castle and the Queenstown Story

Got my wakeup call at 5.30 and taxi arrived at 6.00 to take me to the Heuston railway station. Dublin Heuston was opened in 1844 as the headquarters of the Great Southern & Western Railway and is now the official principal station of Iarnrod Eireann Ireland’s national railway company. I got my travel pack and train tickets and boarded the train at 6.45.  We left at 7.00 and travelled in a south westerly direction, passing some of Dublin’s western suburbs. The countryside in the county Kildare is very lush and lots of sheep and cows and bundles of hay. We passed through the town of Newbridge which marks the boundary of the Curragh (Curra) of Kildare.  The Curra is famous for its racecourse, home of the Irish Derby and there are many stud farms in the vicinity.  The Curra is also the headquarters of the Irish army.  We then passed the town of Kildare and the Church of Ireland cathedral of St Brigid ‘s completed in 1223.  Our first stop was the town of Portlaoise (Port-Leesh-eh!) and is the home to Ireland’s only maximum security prison. It houses individuals who have committed Offences against the state. We passed the town of Templemore – home of the Garda Siochana Training College – Ireland’s national ( and unarmed) police force.  Next stop was Thurles, where the Gaelic Atheletic Association was founded in Hayles Hotel in 1884 – the hotel is still in business today. The GAA is the sporting body responsible for promoting Ireland’s National sports, Gaelic Football and hurling.  Our next stop was Limerick Junction.  It was then on a bit further to Mallow. The final approach to Cork Station is through Ireland’s longest railway tunnel, which is a rather modest 1.2km.

On arrival at Cork at 9.35, we transferred to our Railtours Ireland tour coach through Cork City to Blarney Village and historic Blarney Castle – built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy.  We then had time to do our own wandering.  Went up to the Castle and climbed the 100 odd very narrow steps. Pleased there was a rope handle. It was an easy slow climb.  At the top is where you kiss the famous Blarney Stone.  It is said, if you kiss the stone you are bestowed the gift of eternal eloquence.  It was an interesting exercise!  Had to lay on your back and lean back but you are assisted. Well, I did it and still have my neck and arms still on my body but you couldn’t not do it.

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After descending, wandered around the beautiful gardens and then down to the village for a Guiness pie and a Murphy’s half pint.  My, when the pie came out, it had two ice cream sized scoops of mashed potatoe and then another plate of vegetables.  I didn’t manage it all even after the exercise.

 

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At 1.30 we were all back on the coach heading for Cobh (Cove) via the city centre and a short city tour.  Cork’s population is approximately 150,000 (Ireland’s 3rd largest city after Dublin and Belfast) and is the only city centre in Ireland that actually son on an island – the River Lee divides and rejoins either end of the city Cente.  It is also home to Murphy’s And Beamish – the Southern Capital’s rival to Guiness.  We had a photo stop overlooking the harbour and saw the juvenile prison and the headquarters of the Irish Navy.  A beautiful view.

We then drove around narrow streets to St Colman’s Catheral.  The interior was lovely in its own right but I have been ruined by seeing the interior of the basilica in Krakow.

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We then proceeded down along the sea front passing the White Star Line offices en route to the beautifully restored Victorian railway station/transplanting terminal.  This is now the Cobh Heritage Cent, home to the Queenstown Story.  When Queen Victoria visited Ireland in 1849, she came to Cobh and the own rename Queenstown in her honour – it was renamed Cobh after Irish independence in 1922.

This was a fantastic Museum.  Cobh was the final port of call of the RMS Titanic and this theme is well expounded.  The centre also houses much information about the Great Famine and subsequent Irish Emigration – 3 million Irish people emigrated from Cobh (principally to the United State) including Annie Moore, whose statue with her two brothers is outside the Museum.  Annie Moore became the first ever emigrant to be processed in Ellis Island when it officially opened on 1st January 1892.  Annie and her two brothers sailed from Queenstown on the SS Nevada on the 20th December and arrived after 12 days of travelling in steerage.

Another interesting story in the Queenstown Story is mention of the sinking of the Lusitania which was torpedoed off the coast of Cork – marking the United States entry to the First World War – and the small number of survivors were bought to Cobh for regular.  On 7th May 1915 the Cunard liner Lusitania was en route from New York to Liverpool, having maintained her Atlantic passage service epistle the outbreak of war.  The liner had 1959 people on boar and when hit by the German submarine U20, the Lusitania quickly listed to one side, making it difficult to launch lifeboat.  She sank in just 300 ft of water. A flotilla of rescue boat were launched and 761 people were saved. The majority of the 1198 passenger who lost their lives were never recovered. The survivors were ferried to Queenstown and accommodated in the local hospitals, lodging houses and private homes. Nearly three days after the sinking of the Lusitania 150 of her victims were buried in mass graves in the Old Church cemetery, one mile north of Queenstown, 80 of them were never identified.

Another interesting story was that in 1791 the ‘Queen’ sailed from Cork harbor. She was the first convict ship to travel directly to Australia from Ireland and carried 159 prisoners. Between 1791 and 1853, 30,000 men and 9,000  women were sent as convicts from Ireland to Australia, sentenced for crimes ranging from petty theft to murder. The authorities regarded tansportation as an ideal means of removing criminals from overcrowded gaols and placing them in a country which needed their labour.

It was a great museum and one needed more time to really appreciate all the stories and exhibits.

At 4.30 we headed to the Cork railway station and boarded our train that left right on time at 5.20.  We arrived bak at the Heuston Railway in Dublin at 8.00.  I got a taxi back to my hotel after a wonderful day of seeing so many sights and learning so much about the history of Cobh.  It was a very well organised tour and would recommend it to anyone who visits Ireland.

 

 

Monday, 23 June 2014 – Day 19 – Trip to Dublin

Monday, 23 June 2014 – Day 19 – Trip to Dublin

David picked me up and drove me to Telford Central Railway Station for me to catch the train to Holyhead.  Had to change trains at Shrewsbury and a very short wait for the next train to arrive.  The trip went through farmlands and lots of little villages where we had several stops. We stopped at the station that has the longest name in the world. It is Welsh! Mad.

One of the stops we had was Colwyn Bay and saw Colway Castle.  Brought back memories as I drove through there last year.  We arrived at Holyhead at 1.15.

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Got driven to the Ferry and boarded. Was a huge ferry and accommodated 2000 people as well as about 500 cars, etc.   Pallied up with Chantelle and Simone who are from Melbourne so that past the time. Was a very smooth sail and arrived in Dublin at 5.30.

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Got my booked in case off and then caught a bus into Central Dublin and had a short taxi ride to my accommodation.  Booked in.  Early to bed as very early start in the morning.