Newcastle, Eire

We left Edenderry early morning and headed for the east coast to embark on our counter-clockwise crusade of Eire. We had no accommodation booked, no firm destination. November in Ireland is not a popular time for tourists. We arrived at Warrenpoint around Guinness time and related our previous days escapades to the very friendly barman. He advised us to stick to the coast as, “there is nothing in the middle worth seeing.” Warrenpoint is in Northern Ireland, separated from the Republic by the Newry River. It was the scene of the deadliest attack on the British Army during the 30 year conflict between north and south. Eighteen British soldiers were killed and six seriously injured by two roadside bombs, aimed at their army convoy. The Warrenpoint ambush occurred on the same day, 27 August 1979, that Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb aboard his boat at Mullaghmore. The pervasive tranquility belies the violent history, the views across Carlingford Lough were stunning.

1.Warrenpoint looking west2.Warrenpoint Beach looking east

I wouldn’t mind living in one of these apartments.

3.Warrenpoint

The barman suggested staying the night at Newcastle, only twenty miles further up the coast. We called in at the tourist information office for some advice on accommodation. Most of it was quite pricey but there was one hotel that was awaiting star status so, for now, could only be considered one star. We were happy to have a look and found the Avoca Hotel, though not terribly attractive from the outside, was clean and comfortable and they served an amazing breakfast the next morning.

4.The Avoca Hotel

Overlooking Dundrum Bay and the Irish Sea, there were no complaints about the scenery, either.

5.Dundrum Bay

Newcastle became a popular seaside resort in the Victorian era following the arrival of the railway in 1869. The gorgeous buildings along Central Promenade are testament to that time.

6.Central Promenade

They all seemed well cared for, apart from one ‘renovators delight’ in the middle of the row.

7.Central Promenade

The Mourne mountain range, home to Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard, lends an impressive backdrop to the town.

8.Newcastle, Eire9.Newcastle, Eire10.Newcastle, Eire

As the sun was descending in the western sky,

11.Dundrum Bay

our thoughts turned to refreshments. We had passed a place on the promenade and returned to ponder the menu. O’Hares had a welcoming, rustic atmosphere

and after a Guinness, we advanced upstairs to enjoy a superb meal. On second thought, there may have been more than one Guinness.

15.O'Hare's Guinness

Lough Ree

With two nights accommodation booked at Edenderry, we consulted the map and decided to explore the middle of the island. Scotch whisky has been my favourite tipple for as long as I can remember, although I have never really taken to Irish whiskey. Tullamore distillery was only half an hour away so a perfect opportunity to educate my palate. We enlisted the help of Holly (the satnav) who, true to form, deposited us on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere and declared we had reached our destination. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we returned to the main road and issued the instructions again. She performed a perfect replay of the first attempt, this time we narrowly missed being flattened by an oncoming truck and we realised Tullamore was not on our agenda after all. Back to the main road, we continued to the town of Athlone. The River Shannon was as grey as the sky

1.Athlone

and, although it is the second most populous town in the Midlands, there didn’t seem to be much happening.

2.Athlone

The 12th century castle was closed for the winter season so we reverted to the usual Plan B – a pint of Guinness and a spot of lunch. After a post prandial stroll through the park,

3.park walk

we followed the river

4.River Shannon

until it became a huge inland lake. Lough Ree (Lake of the Kings) is one of three major lakes on the River Shannon. Thirty-two kilometres long, it is the geographical centre of Ireland.

5.Lough Ree

Myths and legends abound with ghosts of high kings and fallen warriors and, of course, a rumoured lake monster lurking beneath the depths.

6.Lough Ree

Small lakeside towns were picturesque in their autumn colours,

7.Lough Ree

though the marina lay empty, perhaps awaiting some warmer weather.

8.Lough Ree

Lough Ree is dotted with small islands, many have ancient ruins of monastic sites from the middle ages.

9.Lough Ree island

It is believed that when out on the water, the eyes of ancient monks peer through the mist and linger in the air. I was pleased to be safely on land.

10.Lough Ree islands

We left Lough Ree and returned to Edenderry for another superb meal and a pint at Larkins.

11.Lough Ree

introduction to Ireland

On a grey, drizzly November day, we sadly farewelled England to spend the last 12 days of our holiday in Ireland. We had heard so much about the beauty and verdancy of the landscape, we were eager to see for ourselves. We wanted to avoid staying in the big cities on our trip to the U.K. and had managed to do it well so far. Rather than stay in Dublin, we had a B&B booked in Edenderry, about 60km inland. With time on our side, we thought it might be nice to spend a few hours in Dublin before heading west. The Tourist Information Office seemed like a sensible place to start so, after collecting the hire car, we set the satnav to assist us. After a few minutes, it became apparent we were driving back toward the airport and we were shortly informed we had reached our destination on the left!

1.Tourist Information Dublin

The Irish are well known for their humour but we didn’t think it had been programmed into the GPS (which, incidentally, we named Holly. Anyone who has seen ‘Red Dwarf’ will understand). We found our own way into Dublin without assistance but, I must admit, our hearts weren’t really in it. The overcast sky didn’t help, casting a gloomy pall over the city. We wandered along the River Liffey, admiring the beautiful Georgian architecture lining its banks. The Ha’penny Bridge, officially known as the Liffey Bridge, was built in 1816 to replace the seven ferries that crossed the river. The ferries had fallen into disrepair and the operator, William Walsh, was ordered to fix them or build a bridge. To compensate for lost income from the ferries, a ha’penny toll was charged to anyone crossing the bridge for the first 100 years.

2.The Ha'penny Bridge

The Ha’penny was the only pedestrian bridge across the river until the Millennium Bridge was installed in December 1999 to, obviously, commemorate the new millennium. The bridge further upstream was originally built in 1676, then known as Essex Bridge. Over the years, flood damage and pier collapses meant a rebuild and in 1874 the bridge re-opened as Grattan Bridge.

3.Millenium Bridge and Grattan Bridge

The main thoroughfare is downstream from the Ha’penny Bridge. Built between 1791-1794, the bridge was originally named Carlisle Bridge, a very impressive granite structure with a stone balustrade. The bridge was reconstructed and widened between 1877-1880 and re-opened in 1882 as O’Connell Bridge.

4.O'Connell Bridge

Not really knowing what else to do, we opted for a quick Guinness before making our way to Edenderry.

5.Ha'penny Bridge Inn

After navigating endless roadworks, we arrived at our B&B, Auburn Lodge, relieved to be back in the open air.

6.Auburn Lodge, Edenderry

We had seen signage for The Grand Canal and decided a walk was just what we needed. The canal was completed in 1804, connecting Dublin, 124km through the midlands, to the River Shannon. Closed to commercial traffic in 1951, the canal is now popular for recreational use.

7.Grand Canal, Edenderry

Edenderry is the home of the first car manufactured in Ireland in 1907, the Alesbury. There were very few cars built in Ireland, I wonder if this was one of them?

8.car wreck Grand Canal, Edenderry

The path closed in, surrounded by lovely autumn hues and falling leaves

9.Grand Canal walk, Edenderry10.Grand Canal walk, Edenderry

before returning to the water. Old stone bridges dotted the canal, more reminders of a bygone era.

11.Grand Canal, Edenderry

Refreshed by our walk, there was only one way to end the day. A short stroll into town on a crisp, clear evening for a fabulous meal at Larkins

12.Larkins, Edenderry

and, of course, a Guinness or two.

13.Larkins, Edenderry

Mary Arden’s Farm

After soaking up Shakespearean history in Stratford-upon-Avon, we drove three miles to the village of Wilmcote to the family home of the great bard’s mother. Mary Arden lived with her parents and seven sisters until she married John Shakespeare in 1557 at the age of twenty. Mary Arden’s Farm is a working farm and portrays 16th century life. Costumed workers complete the scene and we really felt we had stepped back in time. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust bought the farmhouse in 1930 and refurbished it in the Tudor period style.

1.Palmer's farmhouse

The funny thing is, in 2000 it was discovered that the house actually belonged to a neighbour, Adam Palmer, and it was renamed Palmer’s Farm. The rooms have been beautifully preserved.

The Arden family house had been acquired by the Trust in 1968 as part of the farm without realising its significance. A more modest dwelling, some of the timber framework has been replaced with Victorian brickwork but the original features date back to 1514.

6.Mary Arden's house

The outbuildings have been maintained, providing comfortable shelter for animals and vehicles.

7.Mary Arden's Farm

The evidence of hard manual labour has been retained,

10.millstone

the outdoor Tudor oven could have been the prototype of today’s pizza ovens?

11.Tudor outdoor oven

We wandered past the birds of prey, patiently waiting for their moment in the spotlight.

The boss was in her office making sure things ran smoothly.

16.the boss

Of course, I fell in love with the donkeys.

Michael fell in love with a couple of birds. He learned the way to win a heart was with a nuzzle rather than a stroke. Apparently, birds see the offering of a hand as aggression.

The occasional dead chick works, too.

23.peregrine falcon

Into a barn for, not surprisingly, a barn owl experience.

24.barn owl

No prizes for guessing who volunteered to don the glove.

25.barn owl

No nuzzles this time but the reward was the same.

28.barn owl

Avon amble

Having explored Shakespeare’s birthplace and home town, it was only right we would visit his place of rest. On the banks of the River Avon, Holy Trinity Church is the oldest building in Stratford. Dating back to 1210, much rebuilding was undertaken between 1465 and 1491. The original wooden spire was replaced in 1763.

1.Holy Trinity Church

There were many fascinating gravestones, these two seemed to be connected in some way.

2.gravestones

I could find no information about Catharine Gill who died in 1868 at the age of 71 (on the right of the photo). However, I found that Abigail Insall, (on the left), who was buried in 1869 at 80 years of age, had lived in this gorgeous semi-detched early Georgian Town House at 4 Tyler Street. I liberated this photo from Google maps.

3.4 Tyler Street

The interior of the church was breathtaking

4.the nave and font

with several huge stained glass windows.

5.stained glass windows

William Shakespeare was buried in 1616 in the chancel alongside other members of his family.

6.the chancel

During services, priests had to stand, which was particularly hard on the older ones. Small hinged seats, called misericords, were installed in the 15th century so the priests could rest, yet appear to be standing up. There are 26 of these misericords and each one has three carvings on the underside, only visible when the seat is folded up. There are no religious scenes but an interesting array of bawdy, theatrical faces – a reminder of the devil’s presence and his search for wayward souls.

7.carvings on misericord seats

The impressive pipe organ dates from 1841 and has undergone several restorations.

8.the organ

Leaving the church, we wandered along the banks of the River Avon enjoying a different perspective of Holy Trinity along the way.

9.Holy Trinity Church10.Holy Trinity Church

The magnificent stained glass window in the chancel was more subdued from the outside.

11.Holy Trinity Church from the east

Autumn leaves littered the path

12.River Walk

and the geese were out for an afternoon walk.

The Tramway Bridge was built in 1822 to carry the horse tramway and is now a footbridge across the river.

15.Tramway Bridge

100 metres to the east, road traffic crosses the river via Clopton Bridge. Built in the 15th century to replace an earlier timber bridge, the reflections from the 14 pointed arches on a clear day would be amazing.

16.Clopton Bridge