Our trip to the British Isles
September 14 to 19
Ireland to Liverpool, England
a full description of towns and sites visited see Towns
For a full description of towns and sites visited see Towns Visited
Saturday, September 14
The trip across St George’s Channel from Wales to Ireland was long – 4 hours. Eventually Lois and I got Dawn and Loris Spencer, daughter & mother, into a game of dice. Turns out that Loris was familiar with it, and called it Zonk, a good name. Lois and Dawn each won a game.
Caroline briefed us on Ireland: 3.5 million population with an additional 1.5 million in Northern Ireland: total on the Island – 5,000,000. A few years ago Ireland (southern) was 98% RC. The government is the Dial (pronounced doll). Not good drivers – very impatient – highway deaths greater than 400 per year. More than 450 suicides a year. Ireland is an important dairy country – milk, cheese, butter; there is a lot of farming. The Duke of Wellington was born in Ireland – something he tried to forget. Once when reminded that he was an Irishman he remarked “that if a man is born in a stable it does not mean he is horse!”
After we got off the ferry we traveled on a 3 to 4 mile wide coastal plain, very flat, with pastureland, sugar beets, hay, trees and grain. Houses are of stone or cement block faced with mortar. Lots of hedges, palm trees, horses, cows and sheep. The hedges are not trimmed. We were on N25, a good road. House prices here for 3 bedroom, bath, kitchen/sitting room is in the €170,000 range. Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city, dating back to the 8th century.
One thing that caught my eye both in Ireland and the UK is the wiring of the old houses, especially Terrace Houses (row houses). The electrical wires run on the outside of the buildings with no protection from the elements, accident or vandalism. They are not in metal conduit – just the plastic coated 14/2 or 12/3 or whatever they use. Seems a bit dangerous to me!
We got to the Hotel Grand in Tramore at 8:20 and had a supper of roast pork. Called New Brunswick and talked to daughter Kim and granddaughter Serena.
Sunday, September 15 to Thursday, September 19
Next morning did a brief stop at the Waterford crystal outlet then west toward Cork on N25. Just west of Waterford the fields were larger, barbwire used more to separate plots, some steep valleys, sheep and cattle. At Dungarvan lots of tidal flats, then a long hill where at the summit fog decreased the visibility to 200 – 300 metres. Reforestation here but looked in need of thinning. The forested areas were interspersed with farms. Hedges more common, smaller fields.
We drove through Youghal (rhymes with ball), an interesting historic town. It was here that Sir Walter Raleigh first brought potatoes and tobacco from the New World; he had estates in this area. There have been movies filmed here, the best known being Moby Dick. The grain in this area has been harvested, and we passed a housing development where the houses are being built with concrete blocks. Very likely they will be faced with mortar. The roofs at this point are not complete, just wood trusses showing. They will be strapped and covered with tiles. Passed through Cobh and Cork, and had our lunch at Blarney Castle, as well as a time at the Blarney Stone.
Had a snooze after Blarney and awoke to see lots of reforestation and a mountainous area: according to the map they must have been the Boggeragh Mts, 2000 feet high or so. Then into County Kerry and downhill for several miles. The hills are very rough, green, many rocky outcrops, trees in the hollows. Then farming again and the city of Killarney for a loo stop at The Outlet, a lovely mall but few stores in it. The upper floor had no shops at all. From Killarney we started The Ring of Kerry, and were back in Killarney the next day at 10:12 AM after spending the night in Waterville.
From Killarney we headed for Limerick, mostly on N21. The Kerry International Airport just before N21 has the right to be called International because it has one flight a day to England. There is one runway at the airport! Some housing developments in this area, and more farming. Stopped at Adare for lunch, then through Limerick, drop some of the busload at Bunratty Castle and the rest went on the hotel at Ennis. Some roadwork being done here – a new interchange for N18 and N19 highways. There is a fairy tree on one of the proposed off ramps and it is bad luck to destroy a fairy tree, so the plans for the interchange were altered to bypass the tree. Superstition is very strong in some places! Caroline said that a week or two before, someone cut the tree down with a chainsaw. Woe unto him!! In Ennis after check-in we wandered around the shops, then picked up supper ingredients at Dunne’s – mixed salad, liverwurst, cheese, buns and beer.
At 8:07 on Tuesday we left Ennis heading for Killenoe, Nenagh (nee nah), Dublin. We passed houses, lots, estates, etc – many are surrounded by stone walls. Farms tend to have a courtyard with buildings on three sides and a stone wall along the road. This is true for many parts of the British Isles. Farmyards are often paved.
Killanoe is the birthplace of Brian Baru, High King of Ireland in 1314. Between Ennis and here we saw unused land, pasture and farmland, and it is fairly flat. Lake Deng, the second largest lake in Ireland, is long and narrow with farms stretching back from the lake toward the mountains, which are rounded with forests extending up the sides. We crossed the Shannon which flows in and out of Lake Deng. There is a cathedral at Killanoe dedicated to St Flanans.
On N7 east to Dublin we passed a range of high hills called the Silvermine Mountains – no silver here but there was some gold, but not enough for commercial mining. At the border of Clare and Tipperary is the town of Nenagh, which has a 12th century castle. We come into the Golden Vail in Tipperary – the main dairy area of Ireland. The land is very fertile with good grasslands and grain production. There are ruins of castles, churches, houses all along the way.
Came to Kildare, about 50 km from Dublin (12 noon). Congested traffic area. A new bypass is being built and it is needed. St Bridget, a national saint, was born in Kildare; she was a companion to St Patrick. East of the city is the Currah of Kildare. I am not sure of its meaning but it does have to do with horses and steeplechase or racing. There is a huge stadium here that we drove past. Very flat land around here. The Irish Army has its headquarters in the Currah area. Dublin – 43 km.
Arrived at Dublin and drove along the Liffy River which flows through downtown Dublin. A bit dirty looking. At least 20 bridges cross it and two more are being built. As it is only 100 – 200 feet wide, bridge-building is not a major engineering feat. The banks of the Liffy were contained between concrete sides. We stopped at 1:00 on Nassau Street and had lunch at Kilkenny’s restaurant, soup, bread, butter and free and unlimited ice water. The soup, bread and butter we had to pay for. I bought a 2 CD set of Eric Bogle at the record store beside Kilkenny’s. After lunch we picked up a guide and had a tour of the city, which was interesting. After the tour we went to our hotel at the Dublin airport – a Holiday Inn – arriving at 5:30. No supper provided but we had rolls, liverwurst, cup-of-soup and cookies, washed down with tea and/or whiskey. After supper Lois and I walked to the air terminal with Peter and Shirley Felsch, a couple of Australians who also like to walk.
Next day we spent in Dublin and on the 19th left the hotel at 7:50 AM and went to the ferry dock in Dublin, and by 9:15 were en route to Holyhead, Holy Island, Wales. We sailed on the Ulysses, the largest passenger ferry in the world. She was launched in Finland March 2001, is 50,938 tons, 167 feet from keel to top, 12 decks, 41,808 horse power. Her capacity per trip is 1342 cars, 240 articulated trucks (tractor-trailers), and 2000 passengers and crew. She sails two round trips each day. The trip took from 9:15 AM to 1:00 PM – 3¾ hours.
It was sunny and warm when we got to Wales but soon clouded over. From Holy Island we passed over to Isle of Anglesey and then across the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Strait to mainland Wales. Bangor is on the mainland side of the Strait, and we switched from A5 to A55 here, and drove several miles along the coast of Conwy Bay. That was a nice drive with the hills going right down into the sea and three tunnels along the way. We were on a dual carriageway with tunnels for each direction. In one case the rail tunnel was directly below the left lane of the carriageway. There were lots of trees along this route – reforestation, of course. One plantation on a low mountain had the trees planted in the shape of a cross in memory of a WW II pilot who courageously and deliberately flew his badly damaged bomber into the sea rather than crash into the village on the mountain. The pilot did not survive. There is a flat coastal plain - an agriculture area - between Abergele and Chester.
We arrived in Chester at 3:10 and left at 4:30. Chester is in England, but right on the border with Wales. After our stay there we went on to Liverpool on M53. At 27 miles from Liverpool we saw refineries, a nuclear power plant and other signs of industry. Probably this is Ellesmere Point on the River Mersey. Then farmland – mostly grain - until we came to the subdivisions of Liverpool. There was a motorcycle accident on M53 on the southbound lanes. The docks along the Mersey were soon in sight, and then we went in a tunnel under the river and on to the hotel.
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