03.09.2010 - 13.09.2010
We were excited to spend the last 10 days in Cork city, as it was one of the few places in Ireland that we had not yet visited. Exploring the centre of town was like finally arriving in civilisation after weeks spent in the outback! This was partly due to it being a university city, but also due to it being a city renowned as a centre for art and culture. The centre of the old city is on an island in the river Lee, and has a village atmosphere.
The first five days were spent at Killarney Lodge B&B, which provided an excellent breakfast every morning, something David found very welcome on his return from his "red-eye" shifts. As the en suite toilets and showers had been installed in the bedrooms long after the building had been built, they are tiny, and one has to manoevre oneself under the basin to sit on the toilet. Even thinking of drying oneself after a shower, with the door closed, is physically impossible.
We enjoyed the atmosphere and abundant variety of goods in the old English Market, which reminded us of the Biscuit Mill market back home in Woodstock, except that this one has been in existence since 1788. Parking in the city was mostly height restricted, but we found an open car park which cost €7.50 for 3 hours [what can one do except pay up!].
We felt like salmon for lunch, so bought 2 pieces and a frying pan [as our pots and pans had already been packed up] for less than the cost of a take-away. We drove up and down the river Lee looking for a scenic spot where we could cook and eat our lunch, with no luck. So we headed back to the B&B and cooked up our lunch in the van in the rather shabby car park area at the back of the building. Since it was raining we had to stay inside Mr Stubby, but a glass of wine, scrumptious fresh salmon, and a creamy salad made up for the lack of ambience!
David usually managed to get a few hours sleep on his shifts, which gave us time to enjoy the better part of the day. Having explored the sights in the city, we thought it would be good to visit a farmer's market advertised at Hosford Garden Centre, about 30 minutes drive away. We collapsed laughing when we discovered that the said farmer's market consisted of a nun selling crochet handiwork and about 5 other stalls. David tried to take a photo of the nun and her stall, but she refused [citing security reasons?]
David had one night shift in Newcastlewest [NCW], then a Caredoc meeting in Kilkenny, where we finally met some of the lovely Locumotion staff face-to-face, before returning to Cork City again for a further 3 "red-eye" shifts. As the weather was bright, we opted to make a big detour and visit West Cork and the Beara peninsula on the way to NCW.
We drove past Skibbereen and on to the pretty coastal town of Bantry, which nestles in the hills at the inlet to Bantry Bay.
Driving on through Glengarriff onto the Beara Peninsula, we had stunning views over the bay.
We were amazed to see large bushes of tiny red fuschias growing wild all over West Cork! They thrive well in the temperate climate, and are used in branding and marketing initiatives for the area.
Castletownbere is a little town on an enclosed bay.
We searched the town for fish & chips for lunch, but both shops were closed until 4pm.
Crossing the peninsula we could see Kenmare Bay as we descended to a pretty village called Eyeries.
Unlike many of the drab grey cottahes in other parts of Ireland, the rows of cottages here were painted in gay colours.
When we got back to Cork city we stayed at Brookfield Lodge, also near the University.
We visited the little Butter Museum, which displayed the history of the butter industry in Ireland. Nearby is the St Anne's church with the Shandon bells in the clock tower. The tower is locally known as the "four faced liar" because the four clocks always show different times.
The tower is built of red and white stone [sandstone and limestone] which is mined in Cork and is reflected in the flag of Cork.
On Saturday we drove to nearby Midleton for their annual Food Fair. Driving into the town, we saw no advertising or banners for the event and began to worry that we had the day wrong! Suddenly we got to the centre and found the roads closed off and hundreds of people milling about. We think we could teach the Irish something about better marketing! The market was good fun and we bought the most delicious stollen-like artisan loaf filled with dried apricots and raisins, which we hoped to find again, but no such luck yet.
Next day we explored St Finn Barre's cathedral. Finn Barre was the patron saint of Cork in 600 AD and the present cathedral was built in 1870 on the site of his grave. It contains beautiful carvings, floor mosaics and plenty of red marble from the region.
We set off early the next day as we had a 7 hour drive up to Belfast to catch the ferry to Stranraer, Scotland. The 3 hour ferry trip was followed by a 3 hour drive along narrow, dark, wet roads, dodging "artics" and HGVs to arrive in Livingston by 10pm, thoroughly exhausted, but warmly welcomed by our dear friend Bernie who shooed us off to the most comfortable bed on the planet!