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

monochrome Melbourne

In 1973, Paul Simon released the song, ‘Kodachrome’ and I distinctly remember his notion that “…everything looks worse in black and white.” I decided to put this to the test on a recent trip to Melbourne. I have always found something fascinatingly enigmatic about monochrome photographs, perhaps it’s the invitation to look closer to discern images less obvious. The London plane tree below our apartment window does seem to lack something without the verdancy,

1.London plane tree

and the food looks a little less enticing.

2.ale & pork crackle

We wandered along Southbank, the late afternoon sunlight glinting off the water. The bar on Ponyfish Island seems to be perpetually crowded.

3.Southbank Pedestrian Bridge & Ponyfish Island4.Ponyfish Island5.Southbank Pedestrian Bridge

It was a perfect evening to be out on the Yarra

6.rowers

or to sit with a beverage and just observe.

7.wine

Friends, lovers and loners were enjoying the ambience,

as the sinking sun danced on the leaves of the plane trees.

The next morning, we crossed the pedestrian bridge

13.Southbank Pedestrian Bridge

pausing halfway to capture the view upstream.

14.Yarra River, Princes Bridge

The buildings are just as impressive without colour

15.Eureka Tower16.Melbourne skyline

and the reflections mesmerising

17.Southbank18.Southbank19.Southbank

as we strolled along Flinders Walk.

20.Flinders Walk

We passed Sandridge Bridge, The Travellers sculptures telling stories of past immigrants to Australia.

23.rowers24.Sandridge Bridge & skyline

Someone had kindly left birdseed for our feathered friends.

25.birds

The rowers were being pursued by a lone gull – or so it seemed.

26.rowers

I wonder if this cormorant could smell the fish at the Sea Life Aquarium across the river. He looks like a statue against the abstract motion of the water.

28.cormorant27.Sealife

Not far past Seafarers Bridge

29.Seafarers Bridge

we reached our destination – DFO, South Wharf.

30. DFO South Wharf

Interestingly, when Paul Simon recorded his concerts in Central Park in 1982 and 1991, he changed the lyrics to “…everything looks better in black and white.” You can decide for yourself.

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

Edinburgh

After leaving Inverness, we drove over the Grampian Mountains, with the intention of visiting Balmoral Castle. The snow became heavier

and as the temperature plummeted to -5ºC, we decided to head straight for Edinburgh instead. We arrived as the sun was setting

4.Edinburgh

and found a hotel we liked the look of. Unfortunately, they only had a room for one night but recommended another place for us. We were told it was opposite a big building, we couldn’t miss it. After driving past three times, we finally found Ashgrove House, but couldn’t see anything across the road in the dark. After a marvelous curry and a good night’s sleep, I opened the curtains and, sure enough, the Donaldson’s School, a residential and day school for the deaf, was certainly a big building across the road.

5.Edinburgh

Our accommodation was lovely, in the attic room of this beautiful Victorian villa built in 1868.

6.Ashgrove House

A short walk away, Edinburgh Castle loomed magnificently over the town.

7.Edinburgh Castle

Built on volcanic rock, there has been a royal castle on this site since the 12th century,

8.Edinburgh Castle9.Edinburgh Castle

with royals in residence up until 1633.

10.Edinburgh Castle,Half Moon Battery and Palace Block

The view from the castle over Edinburgh and beyond was stunning.

11.Edinburgh12.Edinburgh

As we left the castle, we caught a glimpse of the Firth of Forth between the buildings,

13.Firth of Forth

before setting off down the Royal Mile.

14.Royal Mile

The Scotch Whisky Experience was tempting but, as Michael isn’t keen on whisky, we opted for the 3D Loch Ness Experience instead.

15.Royal Mile16.Royal Mile

After treating ourselves to a pair of gold celtic rings, our keepsake from Scotland, we celebrated with a pint and bacon sandwich at the Royal Mile Tavern. I have seen condom machines in women’s toilets before, but never scotch whisky flavoured, nor with the advice to refrain from driving while using the product!

The old tenements and alleyways were fascinating

19.Edinburgh

as we made our way to the far end of the mile and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Queen’s Gallery is an art gallery that forms part of the palace and exhibits works from the Royal Collection.

20.Edinburgh

The palace as it stands today was built between 1671-1678 and is the official residence of the Queen when she is in Scotland.

21.Palace of Holyroodhouse

The fountain is a 19th century replica of the 16th century fountain at Linlithgow Palace, just 15 miles away.

22.Palace of Holyroodhouse fountain

We wandered back to the new town, absorbing the spectacular architecture of the Edinburgh skyline

23.Edinburgh24.Edinburgh25.Edinburgh26.Edinburgh27.Edinburgh28.Edinburgh

and the undying traditions of Scotland.

29.piper

The next morning, we detoured to Dalmeny to see the Forth Bridges before leaving Edinburgh. The magnificent railway bridge was opened in 1890 and is the second-longest single cantilever bridge span in the world.

30.Forth Railway Bridge31.Forth Railway Bridge

The 2.5km suspension road bridge was opened in 1964, six years after work began.

32.Forth Road Bridge33.Forth Road Bridge

We didn’t drive across it, instead heading in the opposite direction.

West Wales

Following our exploration of Cilgerran castle, we found a lovely place for lunch in nearby Cardigan.

1-castle-kitchen-restaurant

I thought it would be nice to buy a cardigan in Cardigan, but I didn’t. Instead, we strolled along the River Teifi

2-river-teifi3-river-teifi

before continuing our drive north. Not far from Aberystwyth was our inviting B&B, Awel-Deg, at Capel Bangor.

4-awel-deg

The views were stunning across the gorgeous Rheidol Valley.

5-rheidol-valley6-rheidol-valley

We walked to the Tynllidiart Arms for dinner

7-tynllidiart-arms

and sampled ales brewed at the smallest commercial brewery in the world. Bragdy Gwynant is a five foot square former men’s toilet where, since 2004, beers have been brewed for the Tynllidiart Arms.

8-bragdy-gwynant

The next morning, we detoured to Devil’s Bridge. There are actually three bridges built on top of each other, the oldest dating back to the 11th century. The stone bridge was then built in 1753 when the original became unstable and the most recent iron bridge was constructed in 1901.

9-devils-bridge

The bridge is at a point where, before reaching the River Rheidol, the River Mynach drops 90 metres down a steep and narrow ravine.

10-devils-bridge

As we descended the steps

the bridge rose above us.

13-devils-bridge

At the bottom, the water created wonderful waterfalls as it cascaded through the confines of the gorge.

14-devils-bridge15-devils-bridge16-devils-bridge

According to legend, the original bridge was built by the Devil. He was visiting Wales and came across a lady whose cow had wandered across the river and she couldn’t get her back. He offered to build a bridge in return for the soul of the first living thing to cross the bridge. The next morning, the lady returned but she tricked the Devil by throwing bread so her dog went across first. The Devil wasn’t happy and was never seen in Wales again.

17-devils-bridge

We continued our drive north through Snowdonia National Park, 823 square miles of stunning landscapes,

18-snowdonia19-snowdonia

as we headed for the coast.