Ireland

Home Up Ireland 2

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Following the great success of our touring trip to Scotland in 2002, this year we took a similar holiday in Ireland, taking in the South, South West and West. Whilst we weren't as blessed with fantastic weather, we had a very enjoyable trip with interesting places,  beautiful scenery, comfortable places to stay and great food.

6th July 2003 - South West Walesi3.jpg (89164 bytes)

i1.jpg (61432 bytes)We left home during the morning to make our way to Fishguard in Wales, from where we were to take our crossing the following morning. On arriving, we took a walk around the harbour and the breakwater. We stayed at a small B&B, Glanmoy Lodge, just a few minutes from the harbour. It was rural and quiet, just what we wanted, and we were given coffee and a chat about the area on arrival. Our host,i4.jpg (79793 bytes) i2.jpg (80388 bytes) Alan, was very helpful and recommended that we visit Strumble Head before dinner. I'm so glad we did, it was a most beautiful place with views of the coastline on 3 sides and we there were only one or two other people around. We noticed 2 people sitting in their car reading. 

We had an early dinner at a very quiet pub called the Hope & Anchor, an old-fashioned sort of place that had loud Spanish music playing which did seem rather incongruous, although put us in holiday mood! The food was excellent and service very quick as there was only 1 other person eating. We were out by 7.30pm and made our way back to the B&B. It was a struggle to stay awake but we did - for the regular evening's badger-watching. Alan has been encouraging badgers into his garden for some time - they're very fond of peanuts, raisins and bread. Every night they appear and can be watched from the conservatory, just a couple of feet away. He has a channel on the TVs so you can watch for them to appear. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera in the excitement, but they were fascinating to watch. There were two, one of which was clearly an old fighter, and they were joined later by a third. 

7th July - County Waterford

We'd chosen to take the crossing on Monday as the cost is far higher at weekends. I booked through www.aferryto.com/ after much research and got a reasonable price for the fast crossing to Rosslare aboard the Stena Lynx, which takes 1 hr 50 mins. Parking on board was weird, rather like a multi-storey car park, where we kept going round and round, which necessitated some people, including us, having to reverse down part of the way out. The crossing was pretty smooth although walking around was difficult. I spent the time reading as there wasn't much to see and the only space on deck is a small one for smokers. 

On arriving in Ireland, we were struck by the fact that main roads have a sort of hard shoulder area used for overtaking - i.e. if you see someone behind you wishes to overtake, you pull across to the hard shoulder and they go past. It seemed to work very well except on the rare occasion that the person in front seemed oblivious to the fact someone behind was desperate to get past. Something we did find curious was the fact that although distances are measured in kilometres, speed limits are in mph! Fortunately it wasn't the other way round or lots of people could find themselves with speeding tickets. 

We drove to Waterford where it was drizzling for the duration of our visit so we didn't take our planned walking tour. Instead we lunched on a bar of chocolate and our first real Irish Guinness which was lovely. After a short walk, we visited the new Museum of Treasures housed in the Tourist Information Centre. This was very informative and well presented, if a little crowded with student groups. We didn't have time for much else, so headed for Tramore and our first Irish B&B, Glenorney. I knew that Tramore was a seaside resort but hadn't realised quite how tacky it would be. Fortunately our B&B was just out of town and not in the slightest bit tacky. It has 6 letting rooms and is very comfortable - we had a huge bed, being 2 singles zipped together. I guess it was purpose built and during our travels we did find that the more modern properties were generally more comfortable even if they weren't so traditionally 'charming'.  

The town was a little far for us to walk into for dinner (or I should say, walking back - uphill!) so we took the car and drove around a bit. It was rather misty so we couldn't see much of the lovely beach for which the area is renowned. We found a restaurant called The Pine Rooms and had an excellent meal there before returning for an early night.

8th July - County Waterford

Glenorney does very good breakfasts - I resolved never to have a traditional Irish one when there was an alternative, so had pancakes. The weather was dry but dull but sunshine was promised for later so first we visited the Waterford Crystal visitor centre which is a huge place. We were just in time for the guided tour, which proved to be very interesting, followed by a lengthy browse around the shop. The tour did explain why the pieces cost so much and we greatly admired the skills involved but in fact the complicated cutting isn't something I particularly like so we were looking for simpler pieces and found them in the John Rocha collection, buying a set of wine glasses and a candlestick. Also a cut glass beer tankard which gives great lifting exercise when full, it's so heavy!i6.jpg (75912 bytes)

i5.jpg (80880 bytes)In the afternoon we went for a walk in the Tramore area, walking  by the cliffs where possible (not for long) and were amazed to see people diving off high boards and swimming. It really wasn't very warm, even with the sun shining.           

We were also surprised to see so many new properties  being built, mainly large dormer bungalows in big plots. The walk was around 4 or 5 miles but was nearly all along the road so hard on the feet, and by the end, it was very warm with some welcome i8.jpg (94849 bytes) sunshine. After a brief rest we set off again driving into the town and walked along the seafront eating ice creams admiring the beach which is 3 km of wide sand popular with surfers. However, even when sunny there was a heavy mist coming in from the sea. In the early evening we came back into town for dinner,i7.jpg (84764 bytes) choosing the early bird menu at the Waterfront Restaurant - at 21 which was excellent value. The Waterfront is a lovely place, very spacious and with views out to the (albeit very misty!) sea and we were amazed at how quiet it was. Our waiter was from Russia and told us that this time last year they employed several staff but now he's the only one. We could only conclude it's a bit too classy for Tramore as the food & surroundings were very good. 

9th July - County Cork

We left County Waterford after breakfast for County Cork and Skibbereen, our next destination. The weather was OK so we took the scenic coast road which was very pretty. We'd found a couple of places to stop but the weather deteriorated badly and was raining heavily so we kept going until we reached Cobh (pronounced Cove) and by luck managed to park right outside the museum, The Queenstown Story. This is sited in the old railway station and is one of the best exhibitions I've ever visited. Cobh, which at one time was called Queenstown in i10.jpg (77701 bytes)honour of Queen Victoria, was the departure point for thousands of people being transported or fleeing famine in the 19th century and was also the last port of call of The Titanic before it set out on its ill-fated maiden voyage.  It is also known for the fact that the Lusitania was sunk nearby in 1915 with the loss of 1198 lives. The exhibition had just the right amount of information, no i12.jpg (86324 bytes)gimmicks, just interesting facts and a great entrance into it which gives just the right atmosphere for what you are about to see, read and hear. After several fascinating hours, we left for the town and found it packed with cars but after driving round a couple of times we found a space and parked. We felt in need of a restorative Guinness so, in keeping with the morning, i11.jpg (97695 bytes)drank them in the Lusitania pub.  The rain eased off a little and we were able to enjoy a stroll around town. As you can see from the the photos below, Cobh is a very colourful town dominated by the Pugin-designed cathedral (which we didn't have time to visit). Despite the rain, we thought it a wonderful place and it's one I would recommend for a longer visit.           

We then drove on to Cork but at the last minute went through rather than stopping as we'd have hit the rush hour and were keen to get to Skibbereen where we stayed at Bunalun Farm. We were amazed at the fact that fuchsias grow wild along the roadsides, making the roads particularly attractive - we found this throughout our holiday, wherever we were. We arrived at 4pm and were greeted by our friendly hostess, Theresa, who gave us tea and delicious i9.jpg (88454 bytes)scones. After a while, we went into town for dinner (just a couple of miles away) and were spoilt for choice with over 20 pubs and lots of restaurants. We were very taken with the colourful town and ended up at Kalbo's Bistro which Theresa had recommended. We were lucky to get a table as it was very busy, despite being quite early. It had a lovely cosy atmosphere and superb food - we tended to eat fish most of the time as we were always staying close to the coast so there was always a good choice. 

10th July - County Cork

The recalcitrant sun came out during our excellent breakfast and ii18.jpg (84851 bytes)n fact we had a perfect day, i19.jpg (78457 bytes) including the weather. We set off for Baltimore, the most southerly inhabited village with plans to take in Mizen Head as well. We didn't get as far as Mizen Head though as Baltimore had so much to offer. I do feel, however, that with all the development going on there, it will soon lose much of its appeal - certainly to people like us. At the moment, it's a small fishing village but the tourist industry is getting in on i20.jpg (92782 bytes) the act. This colourful photo of holiday flats shows the typicali17.jpg (91672 bytes) bright colours of much Irish property. The harbour is delightful and the sort of place where you can watch the goings-on for hours. You can cross to several small islands from here and you can go fishing or deep-sea diving. Needless to say, we did neither. We walked instead, having spotted a tall white beacon in the distance so headed for that. It didn't take too long and our efforts were well rewarded. It's a lovely spot with views across to the sea and neighbouring islands. i16.jpg (71839 bytes)We shared the views with a few cattle, some of whichi15.jpg (76344 bytes) were grazing precariously close to the cliff edge. Once back in Baltimore we headed off for Lough Hyne, a protected sea water lake just inland. It's a pretty place, home to a very diverse population of sea life. We walked around the lake as far as we could (not far) and then tackled the woodland walk up to the top of the hill, almost 200 metres high. It was a lovely walk but having already walked several miles, we found it quite tough-going. It was uphill and the path was very twisting which meant we walked far more than we'd expected. Some of the path had steps - how difficult it must have been for whoever did that work. We finally reached the top and it was well worth the effort. The view was similar that you'd get from a small plane or a balloon. It took us 25 minutes to walk back down (a shorter route too) and it must have taken an hour to walk up. 

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Too tired for further exploration, we went back to Skibbereen to the Visitor Centre with its exhibitions of Lough Hyne and the Famine. It's housed in a restored gasworks and they've done a superb job. The exhibitions were good although there was a bit too much detail on the famine - you could watch and listen to recordings made by actors telling the stories of local folk of the time. It would have been difficult if it were busier as you had to share each viewpoint between several people. There was no cafeteria which was a shame as were in desperate need of a drink so we walked back into town and had coffee and cake. We checked out the restaurants but decided to try Kalbo's again as it had been so good. We returned later that evening after freshening up back at Bunalun, and were lucky to get a table at Kalbo's, but wisely resisted the desserts this time. 

 

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