A Travellerspoint blog

May 2010

DEVIL'S BIT & LISMORE CASTLE

David had a one day locum in the village of Borrisolane, between Thurles and Nenagh. So back on the road again, but it was nice to break the journey between NCW and Wexford, and we stayed in a B&B on a farm overlooking the Devil’s Bit.
The farmhouse with the Devil's Bit carved out of the hill in the distance

The farmhouse with the Devil's Bit carved out of the hill in the distance


According to local folklore, the Devil was carrying his wife home in a wheelbarrow after a heavy night out. He could not push her over the mountain, so he took a bite out of the mountain to make a passage through. The chunk that he spat out landed 50 km to the South and became known as the Rock of Cashel. The cross to the side is to neutralise the influence of the Devil.
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We spent the rest of the week in Wexford at a cosy B&B called St George’s, which was relatively cheap [€25pp per night] but had everything one needs. The proprietor, Michael, was so friendly and helpful, which added to the pleasant sojurn there. We were very close to the original town wall and Selskar Abbey which both date back to mediaeval times, and the high street with many shops to browse in was just a few minutes walk down the road.
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Looking towards Wexford Town from the bridge over the Slaney River

Looking towards Wexford Town from the bridge over the Slaney River


Once more the weekend involved a long trek back to NCW, so we decided to take a different route, towards Dungarvan, over the new Waterford toll bridge.
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We then turned inland and happened upon the imposing Lismore castle on the way. The castle is the family home of Lord and Lady Burlington and though not open to the public, the grounds are.
IMG_2313.jpgIMG_2296.jpgIMG_2298.jpgThe riding house entrance to the castle

The riding house entrance to the castle

The lower, more informal gardens are resplendent with spring blooms of magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias. All this enchantment had Sandi hopping about like a mad March hare, capturing as many floral memories as possible.
IMG_2272.jpgIMG_2274.jpgIMG_2277.jpgIMG_2281.jpgIMG_2284.jpgIMG_2294.jpgIMG_2292.jpgThis stately avenue of yew trees is where Edmund Spencer is said to have written the Faerie Queen

This stately avenue of yew trees is where Edmund Spencer is said to have written the Faerie Queen


Sculpture by Anthony Gormley who sculpted the Angel of the North overlooking Newcastle-on-Tyne

Sculpture by Anthony Gormley who sculpted the Angel of the North overlooking Newcastle-on-Tyne


IMG_2289.jpgIMG_2288.jpgApple blossoms

Apple blossoms

The upper garden is a 17th century walled garden, surrounded by defensive walls.
IMG_2309.jpgIMG_2307.jpgThe contrast of "guns" and "roses", with flowers growing on the battlements

The contrast of "guns" and "roses", with flowers growing on the battlements


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Our last locum was in a country practice at Fethard-on-Sea, on the Hook peninsula in Co Wexford. The practice was very modern and well organised, albeit quite isolated geographically. We were accommodated in a cute holiday cottage with full amenities. A wonderful respite for stretching out, hot baths, and relaxed cooking.
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The hook Peninsula is very rural, with cultivated fields and cattle farms all the way down to the Hook Light-house, built in the 13th century, which makes it the second oldest working light-house in the world.
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We took an afternoon to explore the JF Kennedy Arboretum located near the original Kennedy homestead. The extensive grounds are magnificent with about 4500 species of trees planted in groups. Unfortunately Sandi sprained her ankle near the beginning, so dispatched David back to the van to fetch the Helichrysum oil. Within minutes of applying a few drops the swelling and pain subsided, so much so that Sandi managed to hobble around a fairly extensive area of the park and still appreciate its beauty. The wonders of Nature - aromatic medicine and surprisingly fragrant magnolias - what more could we wish for!
IMG_2321.jpgIMG_2322.jpgIMG_2323.jpgIMG_2324.jpgIMG_2326.jpgIMG_2327.jpgCherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms


Magnolia trees

Magnolia trees


IMG_2333.jpgThis magnolia had the scent of roses

This magnolia had the scent of roses

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Before leaving we drove up to the top of Slieve Coillte, from where one can see the whole peninsula, Waterford harbour and the Barrow river up to New Ross.

The weekend was again spent in NCW, but we discovered we could cut out quite a long stretch, via New Ross, by taking the ferry over Waterford harbour. It was expensive at €16 return, but shortened our trip by 50km each way, which at this stage we gladly paid, as the countless hours in the van, on the pot-holed roads, have long ago lost their rustic allure. We missed a turn on the way, so ended up barrelling along very narrow twisting country lanes for quite a distance [enough to put Sandi's back into spasm again!] We had planned to explore the Ring of Kerry and West Cork for 2 days before catching our ferry back to the UK, but plans changed as David had agreed at the last minute to go back to the same practice in Fethard-on-Sea for a day's locum on the day before we leave. So we took a slow drive back, visiting Killarney, driving over Moll's Gap to Kenmare and then onto the main Cork road.
The lakes of Killarney

The lakes of Killarney

We nearly knocked one over!

We nearly knocked one over!


Lake high on Moll's Gap

Lake high on Moll's Gap

Mountain sheep

Mountain sheep


Our last full Irish breakfast was had in a farmhouse B&B overlooking Bannow Bay. It was here that we discovered our first real toilet duck!
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The hedgerows are now full of white blossom, called Blackthorn, which produces sloe berries.
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Although the daffodils are starting to fade, the tulips, primroses, grape hyacinths, gorse and glorious trees filled with blossoms are appearing in gay profusion.
Cheerful, yellow and plentiful gorse

Cheerful, yellow and plentiful gorse


Primroses are peeping out between the grasses on the verges

Primroses are peeping out between the grasses on the verges


After finishing work for the day [the last patient arrived late!] we drove to Wexford, where we treated ourselves to delicious seafood chowder, Banoffee pie, and fortifying Guinness, before retiring for the night in the van [parked in the street]. Other than traffic, and a few early morning revellers returning home from the pubs, the night was uneventful [thank goodness, as we didn't fancy disruptions like the one experienced in the French Aire].
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Early the next morning it was "Farewell to Ireland", onto the ferry towards Wales, England and home to Cape Town on 3 May!

Posted by davidsandi 02:30 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

IRISH HOUSES, ROADS & CURIOSITIES

Being back in Ireland after a year, the same curiosities still amaze us.

Firstly the houses - which are either small, old and quaint, or large, opulent and brash. The small, old cottages may be linked together in terraces in the towns, or stand alone in the country. Mostly they are the shape of Monopoly houses. Inside they are very modest, with tiny rooms and low ceilings, with people spending most of the time in the kitchen with a smoky, open fire.
A humble cottage in Borris

A humble cottage in Borris


A terrace of cottages in Miltown Malbay

A terrace of cottages in Miltown Malbay


These humble terraces were built before the Celtic Tiger boom and have very small rooms inside. Note the pebble-dash finish which is very popular in Ireland

These humble terraces were built before the Celtic Tiger boom and have very small rooms inside. Note the pebble-dash finish which is very popular in Ireland


A bungalow; a single storey dwelling, also with pebble-dash finish

A bungalow; a single storey dwelling, also with pebble-dash finish


All the houses, which have been built during the boom times [Celtic Tiger] in the past 15 years, are large and modern. It seems as if the architects all over Ireland work from about 5 basic plans, with a few minor variations. Nearly all houses follow rectangular shapes with high pitch roofs and dormer windows. One seldom sees curves, pillars or balconies. There is an Irish saying: “The Irish used to have 12 children and lived in 2-roomed houses; now they have 2 children and live in 12-roomed houses.”
A typical Co Clare dormer with granite frontage and corner flagstones

A typical Co Clare dormer with granite frontage and corner flagstones


This 2-storey house shows how big the average house built in the boom time is.  Note the ubiquitous lack of garden and trees

This 2-storey house shows how big the average house built in the boom time is. Note the ubiquitous lack of garden and trees


The plastered walls are very often left grey by choice, although this may appear to look unfinished

The plastered walls are very often left grey by choice, although this may appear to look unfinished


New housing estates are very uniform in design

New housing estates are very uniform in design


We have hardly ever seen a vegetable garden or flower garden in any of these modern houses. According to some of the Caredoc drivers, the Irish are lazy gardeners. They seem to prefer gravel or concrete around the house, with sometimes a lawn or a few ornamental, spruce trees. We seldom, if ever, see trees growing near a house. Some do however have large swathes of daffodils fanning the driveways or lawns during spring.
Many houses in Co Clare favour a variety of colours. Featured here is the typical entrance with stone walls curving in towards the front gate

Many houses in Co Clare favour a variety of colours. Featured here is the typical entrance with stone walls curving in towards the front gate


A conservatory provides a welcome variation to the otherwise rectangular shape

A conservatory provides a welcome variation to the otherwise rectangular shape


Almost every house has some granite frontage

Almost every house has some granite frontage

We wonder whether the fondness for stone in the frontage of most houses represents an attempt to cherish the Irish heritage of building houses in local granite. There may be just a trim of stone around the door, or corner flagstones, or a full frontage of stone. A few houses are built entirely of stone and would then have a brick trim around the windows and doors.
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This old farm cottage near the Cliffs of Moher is made entirely of stone - even the roof

This old farm cottage near the Cliffs of Moher is made entirely of stone - even the roof

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Sadly, signs of the current financial crisis are everywhere to be seen, with 360 000 houses reported as empty, all around the country.
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It is interesting that the styles of architecture, stone-work and paint-work are the same throughout Ireland - grey, grey, and more grey. There seem to be no regional characteristics or variations, ,except perhaps in Co Clare, which had more houses that were painted in muted or bright colours.

The other thing that never ceases to amaze us, is the state of the roads everywhere. Mostly the roads are narrow and winding, with little or no shoulder to lean into when heavy trucks approach [which is frequent!]. Last week David had to scoot so far to the left, to avoid a truck passing in the opposite direction, that the side mirror was whacked, which was quite scary for Sandi, as she sits on that side.
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It certainly is a danger to pedestrians and walkers, as side-walks are rare. It is sad to see elderly people trying to get out for some exercise along the roads, being forced into hedgerows or ditches by passing cars.
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Potholes are everywhere and difficult to see and avoid, especially if filled with water. Some of the roads have been repeatedly patched or thinly resurfaced, only to fall to pieces again during the recent long spell of icy weather. All quite treacherous in fact, and quite reminiscent of some of the crazy Transkei roads at home.

Unlike the British and the French "services" where one can stop to refresh, eat and use the loo, there is nothing in Ireland along the major routes. We had to develop "camel bladders", use hedgerows or the bucket in the van, as toilets are very hard to find! The same applies to shops and shopping centres, so unless one is prepared to stop for food or drink, which is expensive, it's "knyp, knyp, nip, nip" until reaching home turf.
Dotted around the country, along the sides of the roads, are some eclectic steel sculptures such as these.
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Some of the Irish expressions never fail to amuse: “now” is used for everything, “I am busy in the minute”, “Bye-bye—bye—bye—bye”, “slippy roads”, “scaldy urine”, and “will” instead of “shall”. "After" is a word often thrown in to sentences e.g. "I'm after getting a sore throat" or "I'm after going up the hill now". Some more delicious Irish names, which tickle: Eabha [pron Ava], Meadhbh [pron Maeve], Tadhg [pron Tige(r)] and Sadhbh [pron Syve].
“Kil” is the Celtic word for church, but in Co Clare alone we counted 18 out of about 30 villages beginning with Kil-. Kilrush, Kilkee, Kilmurry, Kilfearagh, Kilbaha, Killimer, Kilmihil, Kilmaley, Killadysert, Kilmutty, Kilshany, Kilnamana, Kilkichen, Kilbeacanly, Kilartan, Kilcolgan, Kilnefora and Killaloe. In Co Kildare and Co Waterford, one finds the mother-of-all: a town called Kill.

Posted by davidsandi 02:29 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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