This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

A Celtic Carry On - Part 9

Yes, It’s that time again, another missive from the Emerald Isle, which can mean only one thing. Yes, it’s raining - and pretty hard at the moment too and with the wind lashing away as well we’ve had to batten down the hatches - or close the roof vents anyway. I don’t think it will last too long though, and as I type it’s already showing signs of easing up.

So, what’s been happening? Well, the gap between this and the last blog might suggest not a lot. And that’s sort of true.  We’ve two weeks here and this is our ‘chill-out’ period if you like. Because the rest has been SO hard work I can tell you! Yeah,right. Ok, let’s go:

Sunday saw us leave Cong and head up and across to Lough Arrow, here in the south of County Sligo. We didn’t take the shortest route, deciding to stick to the more major roads but it was worth it.  Once again, the site was easy to find - although a 5 mile drive from either of the lake along a pretty narrow road is necessary - and by midday we were getting set up. It’s a small site - Adults Only - with some great views too, but I haven’t been around it with the camera yet so you’ll have to wait until the next part for the pics.

There’s very little to report from Monday or Tuesday - I concentrated on doing the last two blogs and we had our first look at the town of Boyle whilst hunting out a Supermarket. Late Tuesday afternoon we went and sat on the jetty on the lake just across the road. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon, though I managed - foolishly - to get burnt. Should have known better.

Tuesday night, after a quick meal out we stopped on the way back at the ‘local’. We’d passed it on the way in with the caravan - but with a couple of petrol pumps rusting away outside we had assumed it had closed up. Not so. It was very much open for business and doing a decent trade too. Through the back is also the local shop, which having had a very brief glance seems to sell all the essentials and more. A great find and, once again, pictures in the next blog.

Wednesday, and me with a burning red torso soaked in Nivea we were back on the sightseeing trail, stopping first at Sligo town.  There’s a nice walk along the river between two of the bridges and the town certainly wasn’t short of traffic, but a number of empty units indicated tough times.

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A few K’s to the west of Sligo is Rosses Point, and the road to it hugs the river estuary. A statue looks out to sea and represents the anguish of those with loved ones on the high seas and waiting for them to return safely:

At the end is a beach and perched above is a campsite with some truly lovely - though perhaps on occasion blustery - views.

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The evening brought with it some burnt offerings from the bbq, washed down later with a couple at the ‘local’. It’s largely bypassed by tourists it seems - but is clearly popular with locals and fishermen. In fact the busiest the roads are around the lake is in the evening! From what we’ve heard though the lake’s resident trout are proving pretty elusive…

Thursday brought with it the promise of more dry weather - at least in the morning, so we set off for a drive around some of the lakes vantage points:

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Neighbouring Lough Arrow, is the smaller Lough Key and we followed the signs to the so called viewing point. You get a view of sorts - the N4 road can be seen clearly below, but a decent view of the lake is partially obscured by greenery and was not worth a photo. A sculpture of a bloke on a horse warranted a couple of clicks though, inspired by some local battle in 1599. It was quite impressive.

Next up, we returned to Boyle and first to the Abbey on the outskirts of town. You can look at a lot of it from the outside by a sensible admission fee saw us handing over a few euros for a look around inside too.

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We stopped for a sandwich at a little cafe in Boyle - but there was lots of homemade cakes, sponges and pastries on offer too and it seemed rude not too. Jeez I’m getting fatter by the minute. I decided to work some of it off in the afternoon with some intense reading in the recliner.

Friday was another ‘day off’. We had planned - after looking at the forecast - to do nothing more than sit on the jetty by the lake. We took the recliners down there and I, having read a few pages of a book settled in to a pleasant nap.

I stirred, a while later with the sun beating down, and what I though was a tractor bearing down on me but  further investigation - actually opening an eye - revealed nothing more than the fact that now The Portly Partner was in the land of nod. I decided that some music would make a better soundtrack to the scenery than his snoring and stuck some headphones on.IMAG2773

A regular visitor to the pier was Lucy - a six year old Golden Retriever, who had great fun jumping in to the lake to fetch a stick. Her owner has a caravan on site and has been over from Wicklow for a few days fishing - without much luck he tells us.

A couple went out for a ride in their inflatable kayak - which looked great fun, and a German family stopped for picnic later on in the afternoon. Whilst the legs and arms got a good dose of vitamin D, the torso, which was still glowing had to remain covered. By late afternoon we decided we’d roasted enough and  returned to the site which was even hotter. There were ice creams in the shop freezer though which helped……

We’d been given directions to a pub restaurant just a few miles away overlooking Lough Key and that was our intended dining venue. It was in a great location and I’m sure this went some way to explaining the prices on the menu. We had one drink, left and drove the short distance in to Boyle and stopped at the first pub that advertised food - The James Clark in St Patrick Street.

And what choice it was too. Nothing fancy - which suited us - but good reasonably priced home cooked grub, served with a smile. A simple combination to get right you would think but one that so often fails at home. We returned absolutely stuffed and only found room for one pint in the local on the way back.DSC_0007

Back on the road again on Saturday and out west to Ballina, passing through Bonniconlon on the way, which brought with it the sight of petrol pumps on the roadside, something we no longer see at home.

A busy bustling town awaited us in Ballina, noted for it’s Salmon fishing and indeed there were several fishermen in the river waving their tackle about, although in the short time we watched them, there were no takers.

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A drive along took us along the road to Ballina Quay and then further out on the coast was the seaside town of Inishcrone - or Enniscrone depending on what signs you read. A great looking beached backed by sand dunes and clearly popular with families.

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We continued east in the rough direction of Lough Gill just outside Sligo but decided we were all sceneried out for the day and called back at Ballymote  for  a fry up and a dawdle around the nearby supermarket.

Saturday evening saw again in the local which was even busier. It’s easy to see how much more important this place to the local community than just being a pub and how invaluable  amenities like this are to rural areas. Something we’re only finding out at home when it’s too late.

Right, there we are. Up to date again, and the time is really flying by now. Don’t expect a blog for another week or so - hopefully the weather will be kind to us and we intend to enjoy it!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Celtic Carry On - Part 8

The recollections of our stay in Cong continues…

So, after the exertions of the afternoon (sitting on a boat), some sustenance was called for. The Crowes Nest pub in Cong was the venue of choice and once again I was able to avoid chips. By having pizza……

The remainder of the evening was spent in the ‘van. With no telly, the radio has got a work out and RTE Radio 1 has proved the most popular background accompaniment.

Friday, and it was cloudy and drizzly of course, so we hatched vague plans to head straight in to Galway for a look around, but Gerry had recommended a drive that would take us through Joyce Country and  some apparently stunning countryside. Galway could wait until later we thought and we set off after breakfast.

The southern end of Lough Mask came in to view first, but a stop at a designated picnic area didn’t yield much in the way of decent photo’s. Further on Lough Nafooey came in to view and the road hugged the side all along it’s northern edge. The road was by now down to a single track and places to stop safely for photo’s were limited, but there was no denying it’s beauty and it was as pretty as the Gap of Dunloe down in Co. Kerry but without the horse shit.

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Sheep were running wild but the didn’t appear overly concerned by our presence:

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We could have continued on the loop and eventually returned to Cong but instead turned right and headed out to Leenane which sits in Killary harbour.

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Further up was another viewpoint where the channel continued, eventually out in to the open sea. There was just a hint in the sky that the weather might be improving too.

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Further west on the N59 and across another Lough the stunningly beautiful Kylemore Abbey came in to view. It looked even more impressive closer up from the car park but we decided not to go in as we still planned to get around and down to Galway.

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The town of Clifden was the next stop - and in fact we looked at a campsite near here when we were booking up the trip. We’d more or less decided it wasn’t as central as Cong for getting out and about but it then turned out that they were full for one of the nights anyway. We stopped for an hour or so, most of which was spent caught up in the traffic of the one way system and looking for somewhere to park. It was a busy bustling place and great for exploring the far west of Ireland no doubt.DSC_0052

We were heading back east now, still on the N59 as Ballynahinch Lake came in to view on our right. Again, very photogenic and a large pull in opposite a row of shops was busy with cars, campervans and coaches.

A large statue seemed to be begging to have it’s picture taken so I duly obliged. Behind it was a stone and marble display seemingly requiring same. Of course, in a country steeped in history such as Ireland, you would think that the statue was dedicated to some ancient figure with the object behind erected to commemorate some special event. Well, the plaque tells you that the statue does depict Connemara - Son of the Sea (apparently) and was built just 15 years ago by the shop across the road “For no apparent reason” - except to attract camera wielding tourists presumably! The plaque on the thing behind was equally er, informative. Again, one for the tourists but a great way of getting people to stop right outside your shop!

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We continued east on the N59 which would take us right in to Galway but a glance at the clock showed that time was getting on and we decided to delay our visit. We turned around and on the way back spotted the bridge that was used in ‘The Quiet Man’ film.

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Turning off we headed north  with the gorgeous Maumturk mountains away to our left, eventually re-joining the loop that would take us back to Cong. With the sun now making it’s presence felt (at last) we paused for more photo’s, this time  at the north western tip of Lough Corrib. Just when you think you’re starting to get all ‘sceneried out’ along come views like this. It was just wonderful.

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A late afternoon burst of sun saw the recliners come out back at the site. It was chance to get to know our neighbours around us, who were predominately Northern Irish and gave Trev a real run for his money in the chin wag stakes. this was without doubt one of the friendliest sites we’ve been on. Everyone speaks and you won’t get away with a quick ‘hello’ either. Of course the weather helps - when you can stand and have a chin wag without getting soaked it’s so much better!

Grub & grog o’clock was approaching, so after freshening up we headed back in to Cong to sate our appetites.

The rumours - circulated by Gerry - were true and Pat Cohan’s Bar had reopened with new owners and a refit. We felt it our duty to investigate and it was doing well on it’s opening night. It was busy with both locals and tourists and the Guinness was flowing - not least in my direction.

There was no food so we went around the corner to Lydons for a gut busting burger and chips.

Saturday and it was dry! Yes! After breakfast we fired up Rosie and pointed her in the direction of Galway. We headed straight for a car park and emerged into a rather bland shopping centre. A short walk away however was the Latin quarter, a much more atmospheric area with independent shops lining the narrow streets rather than bland chain store outlets.

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Some streets were devoted almost entirely to bars and one could imagine the atmosphere at night. Street performers entertained the crowds. Well, most of ‘em:

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We paused for coffee by the river at the Spanish Arch then walked around by the harbour.

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Next up was the seafront promenade at Salthill where we procured and consumed lunch and cheated the local council out of the 20c they charged to use their idiotic toilet cubicles.

Another lazy late afternoon back at the site enjoying the intermittent sun, then it was time to get spruced up for our last evening Cong. We had toyed with the idea of going to the nearby Lodge at Ashford Castle. They did both more formal and pub style dining so we slipped - or in my case squeezed - into jeans for the first time since we finished work at the end of June. I have to tell you it felt a little odd.

Having got reasonably tarted up we then changed our minds and headed into Cong and one of the local boozers for some pub grub. The newly re-opened Pat Cohan bar was now serving food and we decided to try it out - and very glad we did too. Not the cheapest, but very, very tasty and the service was friendly. But then that’s the norm in Ireland and another reason it’s a great place to visit.

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No sooner had we arrived in Cong than it was time to leave. We only had 4 nights here - so three whole days really - but it seems longer, simply because we’ve crammed so much in. Seen so much, learnt so much and met so many great people.

The site itself was great and in a fantastic location. All the usual facilities you’d expect - grass pitches throughout  and plenty of room for both caravans or motorhomes and tents. For those that prefer a more solid roof over their heads, there is a hostel on site or the B & B is across the road. There are also houses to rent in the village itself. So, great for caravanners that have friends that don’t - or vice versa! Wi-Fi was free as it has been throughout our trip.

Had Hollywood and John Wayne et al not come over to make The Quiet Man in 1951 it would still be a great place to visit. But when, back in 1985 a guest of Gerry & Margaret's hostel mentioned the film and brought them a copy did they see the potential benefits of promoting Cong using the film.WP_20140720_005

Fan still flock to Cong - Quiet Man Crazies as they are known affectionately - and bring huge revenue to the area, and this is down to Gerry & Margaret who work tirelessly to promote the area. They’ve received awards and recognition of their work from Tourist Boards and Tour Companies and rightly so. Gerry’s enthusiasm is infectious and I’d love to have some of his energy.

It was a real pleasure to meet them - they really helped make our stay a memorable one. Cheers!

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Click for The Quiet Man Campsite, Hostel, Michaeleens B & B and self catering cottages.