The Big Ireland Tour

The Big Ireland Tour

An turas Eire mhor


Wednesday, June 23:
the day has come, the time of waiting is over: vaccation! Two weeks without a phone, no more Tesco-rates, weird expectations, work mates with last schedule changes...

We've planned a trip around this island to see some places you've heard in songs, seen on tv, heard about in stories like Galway, the Cliffs of Moher.

Leg 1: leaving Cork to Galway via the Shannon Airport on the N20:

relaxed... no stress, 100Ks on the clock, the engine purrs like a lazy cat close to the fireplace, the sun is shining, SUMMER in IRELAND, what a timing! One hour later we arrive at Shannon International, years back it was Irelands only international Airport. But now with Cork and Dublin, which cover the europeen routes, Shannon looks to me like it was back in the 60th: No Stress - take your time ;-)

Ok, where's the head? Gotta get rid of the moning coffee and then - back on the road again.

20 minutes later, back on the N18, an alarm went off: water temperature much too high - 120 degrees! "What the f***??" Shift gear to neutral, Alarm lights, hard shoulder, kill the engine, open the hood and - wet all over!
Ok, this is not the right spot to check the engine and since we're close to an exit we left the N18.

Where is the bursted pipe??? All are ok, but where does the water come from?
A couple of hundred meters away is a roof peeking through some leafs and bushes.. there should be a house, let's walk. We've asked the youngster for some water and the heading to the next repair shop, "...it's a mile down the road in Newmarket on Fergus".
We've got the water and refilled the system, the meter said "below 90" degrees and so we started the engine.. no problem!?
Slowly, driving in the low RPM-range, we're heading to that village. 200 meters... 400... 500 the needle passes the 90 degree mark - S***!!! Kill the engine, let it cool down and start again. A local jogger tried to help us but since he's not Merlin... "no, we'll make it to the garage but thanks anyway".

At the garage: "Hi, how are you?" - "I'm fine, but my car 's not; I guess the waterpump has had it!"
We surrounded the engine, checked here, rattled there, burned our fingers, "... but not today, we have to much work." To make a long story short: we found a B&B (http://www.hunterslodge.ie) and stayed there for the first night instead of Galway, as it was planned & booked. "Hon, do you have the Courtyard number? We have to chancel our booking there."
But since this is a holiday trip: no stress, "relax, we'll have another Guinness!"

The next morning, after breakfast, we walked to the garage and... the hood was open and the new pump already in place, wow! A test drive showed that the thermostat was broken, too. "One more hour to get the part and fix it, that 'll be all".
We took a walk 'round the village and when we came back the car was finished. We payed the bill, much less than expected, hit the road again and the meter stopped at 90 degrees - great work!

Carefully, one eye on the road, the other on the gauge because of the temperature, we hit the Cliffs of Moher.

Did I say that the sun was shining like mad, no breeze and the car felt like a greenhouse?
Hey... this is Ireland! It's supposed to be cloudly, windy, some rain! It's no fun if the sun is always on your side of the car and you have no blinds!

To make things worse there is a footpath from the parking lot to the view point... uphill!
Since we sit at our desk all day our legs were "unwilling" to do their work, we felt every muscle but the view was worth it, spectacular!
Due to the weater busses over busses have arrived already and so this was the center of Europe: French, German, Spain, Italiano... hard to tell which language was missing.

After one hour we've been on the road again heading for Sligo (never heard of), passing Galway - no stop! - and entered Charlestown at the N17. "The next B&B is ours!"

A german girl opened the door and "... yes, we have free rooms!"
We parked the car and headed back to the center for some dinner and some beer. There was an eye-catching chinese reataurant and we entered. The dinner was fantastic, we were filled and so: "Which pub, this one next to us or that one over the street? - We take the one around the corner!" which came out to be a very good choice: just three to four guests watching soccer and us having our cool Guinness, jep!

After a while the locals started talking to us and it ended with free beer & cigarettes ;-) After 4 hours I was glad to find my bed.

Next leg: Bushmills
Day 3, after another irish breakfast, we're on the road again.

By the way: road... we're some sort of "spoiled" by german standards and used to normal roads; roads where two cars can pass each other without scratching the color off the doors by bushes and trees.
Here in west Ireland between Shannon and Sligo, most of the streets are far below that standard: 50...100 meter straight - curve, bordered by trees 'n' bushes, not knowing / seeing what comes next, like a bending river, narrow, a real challenge.

We came around one corner doing 90Ks to find some cattle in front of us!! June had her share of fun with the places of interest and I... Isle-of-Man-ralley!! Our car really has good breaks!

County Donegal, on the map upper left corner, still Republic; we stopped for gas the first time and the cutie behind the counter told me... what? the price, the time, the weather??? I asked her 3 times but her accent was just too strong, we had our fun ;-)

Next stop: Airport Derry (known to the rest of the world as Londonderry).
Looks like the Cork airport in size but.. no planes! After entering the building we've been greeted by some people with "How can I help?" - "No thanks, we just look for some coffee".
As a frequent flyer my eyes scanned the interior (nothing unusual), the monitors with the flight schedule (no flights... nada, niente, nix!) and... no passengers!
"This airport is still closed?" Ok, than we don't have to wait / queue at the loo / head / toilet (how do they call it here?).

Now we approach the coast. More & more often we saw the Atlantic between the hills and trees, we're close to our final destination: Bushmills.

The SatNav didn't find it but I saw the map of the area some days before and so we hit our target spot on: the destillery! But first stop at the B&B, a 100 meters down the road. (http://www.lismarbandb.com)
We haven't prebooked online but we've got our bed, parked the car and went for the guided tour at the destillery,".. the first and oldest one in the world (1608)" as the girl said.
Due to the alcohol vapor no pictures were allowed in the production lines & storages... cameras & mobiles OFF!
At the end of the tour we had some Whiskey tasting... yummy, can I stay here?

Part two: Giants Causeway (www.giantscausewayofficialguide.com or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant%27s_Causeway)

Beside all of the tourists, it was what I had expected:
Sixty million years ago Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity, when highly fluid molten rock was forced up through fissures in the chalk bed to form an extensive lava plateau.

"The dramatic cliff like edge of the plateau forms the Causeway coastline. The larger fissures, through which the lava flowed, can be clearly seen as bands of dark rock which cut down the cliff faces and jut out to sea. There were three periods of volcanic activity which resulted in the flows, known as the Lower, Middle and Upper Basalts." (more... see the web site)

There is a bus service for one pound each way and since we had no idea about the distance we've bought two return tickets.

The first part was the funny one: very steep road down to the coastline; I don't wanna walk this way! At our destination we left the bus and stood in front of the solidified lava, a very impressive sight. It's a huge area and the pictures don't show it but this former fault line streches all the way to Scottland up to Loch Ness; must be a hell of a party 60 million years ago!

The lava flew several times and so you have several layers of it, clearly visible if you know what to look for. (more at http://www.qub.ac.uk/geomaterials/weathering/causeway/geologicalsuccession.html). Did I mention the steep rise on our way back? Since so many tourists were waiting for the trip back we've decided to walk! Wow - how many muscles does one leg have???

Last day: home

Have I told you that the weather was hot, damp.. NOT IRISH ???
The rolling greenhouse we call a car heated up once the last cloud vanished and now we got the sun through the front window and had no way to block it!

Next stop should be Mt. Slemish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slemish).
Tradition holds that Saint Patrick, enslaved as a youth, was brought to this area and tended herds on Slemish but that place also was not in our SatNav! At home I made a route printout but noone thought about checking this... ok, another missed opportunity.

We drove through Belfast on that sunny (!!) day, past our former workplace (Hi guys!) and the City Hall and struggled our way out of the "dirty, old town"... I love my SatNav; you can book an adventure trip or... buy a Navigator ;-)

Next stop should be Downpatrick in County Down (wasn't there a song 'bout County Down??) but that place was also NOT in my SatNav - we get used to it. Knowing what the map looks like we programmed it "free hand" and finally stood in front of Paddy's grave.

Now let's get some souvenirs for the boys back home: Grolsch (http://www.grolsch.com/age.php)

It's hard to buy in Cork but we've seen it in several stores in Northern Ireland, but every store we've checked on the way home, and it were a few!, no Grolsch!

Last chance would be Newry, so we stopped again and found... an Iceland (http://www.iceland.co.uk).
If you've ever lived in Northern Ireland or the UK you'll know what I'm talking about. But there's one problem: have I mentioned that it was untypically hot for Ireland... summer, sun, sand & beach????
How to cool the frozen goods with no cooling box? We checked Dunnes but... no colling box, just bags.
Ok, let's skip the rest of the tour, let's get home before the meat "melts".

We left Newgrange, which was my favourite place (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newgrange) and Johnny Fox (http://www.jfp.ie/hooley_show.htm) for a later trip and ended up home at 1700 and after 800 miles.

 

Last word: thank you, June, for that idea; luv ya!