Pumphouse Point

We recently ticked another item off the bucket list with a much anticipated weekend at Pumphouse Point. Here is a bit of history; Tasmania has relied on hydro-electricity since the early 1900s. In the 1930s, Lake St. Clair, the deepest freshwater lake in Australia, became the focus of a new pumping station. The water would be pumped from the lake and stored, to be fed to nearby Tarraleah Power Station as needed. Construction began on a 5-storey pumphouse, 900 feet out in the lake, to house four huge water pumping turbines and was completed in 1940. Sadly, after all this effort, the site was never used and after being decommissioned in the 1990s, was placed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register for its significant industrial heritage. Parks & Wildlife Service were appointed caretaker and thoughts turned to tourism opportunities. After unsuccessful tenders by two different developers, Simon Currant, a man with great vision, secured the lease in 2004 and a decade of hard work saw Pumphouse Point brought back to life in 2015. Our first glimpse of the pumphouse was thrilling, the imposing edifice was minified by the expanse of nature.

1.the pumphouse2.the pumphouse

Lake St. Clair is as pristine today as it was when Europeans first arrived in 1832. The original inhabitants, known as the Big River Tribe, called the lake Leeawuleena, meaning ‘Sleeping Water’.

3.Lake St.Clair

We were greeted at the reception lounge with the question, “would you like a glass of Tasmanian sparkling wine?” Not a difficult decision to make. Our bags were then loaded onto a ‘flume buggy’, similar to a golf cart, and we were driven the 240 metres along the flume to the pumphouse. The drivers reverse all the way along (there is nowhere to turn around at the end) and we sat on the back with a perfect view of the approach.

4.the pumphouse

Our room on the middle floor captured the afternoon sunlight

and had everything we could possibly need. The kitchenette (with two fridges and a coffee machine) was laden with sumptuous Tasmanian produce, beer, wine and cider, all at very reasonable prices.

Hidden behind what at first appeared to be a mirrored wardrobe was the ensuite with industrial tapwear, all natural Australian products and the biggest shower head I have ever seen. We discovered when we turned on the light, the mirror wasn’t a mirror at all.

10.ensuite

The three floors of the pumphouse have four rooms on each, as well as options for lounging. The ground floor lounge has a bar and wood heater, one of the original turbines is visible through a glass panel in the floor. For some reason I didn’t take a photo so have procured one from the website.

13a.ground floor lounge, pumphouse

The lounge on the middle floor was right next door to our room, almost an extension of our private domain. The walls of rough sawn Tasmanian Oak boards added to the cosy ambience,

14.lounge, middle floor pumphouse

it was difficult to concentrate on reading with so much beauty just outside the window.

15.view from middle floor lounge

On the landing between the middle and top floors, there is a small library of books and board games.

16.library

There are another six rooms in the Shorehouse.

17.The Shorehouse

Formerly used as the substation for the facility, the art deco exterior has been preserved

18.The Shorehouse

and some of the original features have been blended with the contemporary furnishings.

There is no shortage of seating in the ground floor lounge, all with stunning views across the lake. A perfect place to relax with a purchase from the bar.

21.The Shorehouse22.The Shorehouse23.The Pumphouse

There are no bar staff, it works on an honesty system. You select your preferred tipple, write it on the list and settle the bill on departure. Once again, we found the prices surprisingly reasonable, certainly not the over-inflated dollars you find in a hotel mini-bar. A stylish extension to the Shorehouse sets the scene for a superb evening dining experience

26.dining room, The Shorehouse

and, of course, another view of the Pumphouse.

27.the pumphouse

Dinner is a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow travellers, tables of six or eight are filled at random and conversation never wanes. The menu differs each day but always fresh Tasmanian produce from Coal River Farm. We started our Friday feast with pumpkin, roast capsicum & paprika soup with thyme & parmesan flatbread. Soup and dessert are served individually, main course is a shared table experience. I was otherwise occupied, choosing another bottle of wine, when main course was served so you will have to imagine braised Cape Grim beef shin with rosemary & orange jus, confit baby potatoes, broccoli gratin and Tasmanian hot-smoked salmon with crème fraiche & capers. My apple & brandy cake with salted caramel walnuts came with a special embellishment and a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday to You’.

Relaxed and replete, we strolled back to the Pumphouse under a clear, star-filled sky.

31.The Pumphouse at bedtime

I could happily have stayed in bed and watched as the rising sun created an ever changing palette across the water

32.morning view from room

but breakfast beckoned. A self-serve affair, there was plenty to choose from including home-made baked beans, crispy bacon and a range of cheeses to make your own toastie. Or you can cook your eggs just the way you like them.

On the subject of food, you can order fresh crusty bread any time of day. We had a loaf delivered to our room for lunch which we devoured with cheese and olives while watching the world go by from the lounge.

36.house made fresh sourdough

After lunch, we set off to discover some of the walking tracks around the property. Why walk when you can ride a bike?

37.bikes38.view from Frankland Beach

Across the bridge near reception,

39.bridge

the trail leads to Sunset Seat, a secluded spot with a rustic bench to sit and enjoy the sunset.

40.Sunset Seat

We were a little early for that but had a great view of the Pumphouse from a different angle.

41.the pumphouse42.the pumphouse

Further along the trail, we found Basin Seats, another lovely spot to sit and contemplate,

43.Basin Seats

overlooking Derwent Basin to Manganinni Island.

44.Derwent Basin & Manganinni Island

On the eastern side of the basin, a pontoon sits at the end of the track in St. Clair Lagoon. We had intended taking a dinghy out on the water but the wind had picked up and we weren’t too confident of our rowing prowess.

45.dinghies, lagoon

It would have been the perfect way to spend an hour or two, drifting around in the peace and quiet.

46.lagoon47.lagoon48.lagoon

Back in our room, we realised we could see Sunset Seat across the water.

49.sunset seat from pumphouse

We returned to the Shorehouse for a beverage before dinner where we were, once again, presented with fabulous fare. Starting with chickpea & swede soup with parsley oil and thyme & parmesan flatbread. We shared plates of Coal River Farm pork belly with spiced apple puree & cider reduction, baked cauliflower with caramelised onion, tahini & sesame seeds, green beans & Coal River Farm feta and pressed Cape Grim beef terrine with green peppercorns & crème fraiche. Finishing with dark chocolate, raspberry & cocoanib crunch with raspberry ice cream.

We farewelled Pumphouse Point after breakfast the next day, vowing to return and experience the wonder in winter snow.

53.the pumphouse

Blarney Castle

After spending the night in Cork, we fortified ourselves with a substantial breakfast and headed for Blarney Castle.

1.Blarney Castle

The walk from the car park, crossing the River Martin, warmed us up a bit.

2.Blarney Castle

The castle presented a stunning backdrop for the burnished autumn foliage.

3.Blarney Castle

Across a bridge over the river,

4.Blarney Castle5.Blarney Castle

we stood looking up at the north wall. The original Blarney Castle, a timber hunting lodge, was built in the 10th century and replaced by a stone construction in 1210. The existing castle, built on the edge of a cliff, was completed in 1446 by the King of Munster, Dermot McCarthy. The castle changed hands over the centuries, to Oliver Cromwell in 1646, back to the McCarthys fifteen years later before they lost it again in 1690, then sold to the Governor of Cork in 1703.

6.North Wall,Blarney Castle

The rather elaborate windows, halfway up the wall on the right, are not the romantic bedchamber embellishments one might imagine. They are, in fact, garderobes, the medieval answer to the ensuite.

7.garderobes

We followed the path past the guard tower

8.guard tower

and well-worn steps that led to the dungeons

9.dungeon stairs

before starting our climb to the top of the castle. Our ascent was frequently interrupted to take in the spectacular panorama through the windows.

10.Blarney Castle

13.view

There wasn’t a lot of breathing space in the passages, I can’t imagine running along them dressed in a suit of armour.

14.Blarney Castle

The narrow, spiral stone steps finally ended at the top of the castle. Looking down, we could see where the three floors would have been in the main living area.

15.standing over the main room

The pigeons are the only ones on lookout these days.

17.pigeon lookout

At the top of the tower is the infamous Blarney Stone, believed to give anyone that kisses it the gift of eloquence. At one time, anyone wishing to kiss the stone would be at risk of plunging from a great height but there are now railings to hold on to and some underneath to break the fall.

18.Blarney Stone

Even so, we didn’t join the queue to bend over backwards from the parapet, there is only so much blarney one needs in life. Besides, the Blarney Stone has been named the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.

19.Blarney Stone

The magnificent view from the battlements was well worth the climb.

20.view from the battlements

Once back on terra firma, we discovered Rock Close, a garden landscaped in the 18th century around existing stone monuments.

21.Rock Close22.Rock Close

It’s easy to believe the tales of Druids and Fairies in this mystical place, the senior Druid Priest was reputed to have lived in the Druid’s Cave.

23.Druid's Cave Rock Close

We would have liked to spend more time in this enchanted garden but time was ticking on.

Legend has it that there is a witch who will grant wishes to those who can walk up and back down the wishing steps with eyes closed (I didn’t get a photo of the steps, nor did I try this). In exchange for this gift, she is provided with firewood for her kitchen. I didn’t get a photo of the kitchen either, but we did see the witch stone. Some believe it was the Blarney Witch who told McCarthy about the power of the Blarney Stone but it remains a mystery how she became entrapped in the rock.

27.The Witch Stone

Devonport

We haven’t spent a lot of time in Devonport since moving to Tasmania, despite living only a half hour drive away. On the banks of the Mersey River, Tasmania’s third largest city has undergone quite a transformation in recent years with exciting future developments in the pipeline. After spending some time at Mersey Bluff, we lunched at The Harbourmaster Café. The building on the left is the original, heritage listed harbourmaster’s cottage that has been tastefully extended to house the dining area.

1.Harbourmaster Cafe

The décor has a quirky nautical theme, half a rowing scull is suspended upside down from the ceiling.

There was plenty to choose from on the menu but we couldn’t go past a Tasmanian scallop pie.

4.scallop pie

Across the water, the Spirit of Tasmania rested ahead of another overnight crossing of Bass Strait,

5.Spirit of Tasmania

destination Port Melbourne a few hundred kilometres away.

6.mouth of Mersey

There is a walking & cycle path along the river that enticed us to negate some of the calories consumed at lunch.

7.Harbourmasters Cafe

It turned out to be a very interesting stroll, with many surprises along the way. An unassuming rock is actually a memorial to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the naming of the Mersey River in 1826 by Edward Curr, chief agent of the Van Diemen’s Land Company.

8.memorial

From Vision to Reality, a sculpture of bronze poppies, is a fitting tribute to the man who pioneered the Tasmanian poppy industry. Stephen King was the director of poppy research and production for Glaxo in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s. Unreliable English summers led him to seek an alternative location for poppy production and, after studying climate data, it seemed Tasmania was the answer. Since 1966, poppy cultivation has been concentrated in Tasmania where 50% of the world’s crop of legit opium poppies is now grown. Stephen King received an OBE in 1979 for his services to the poppy industry and the sculpture was erected by the poppy growers association in 2003.

9.From Vision to Reality

The path wends its way through well-kept lawns dotted with magnificent trees, their autumn foliage carpeting the ground.

10.tree

Mussel Rock is a popular fishing spot, named, not surprisingly, because of the array of molluscs found nearby. The beacon was erected in 1896 to guide vessels into the river.

11.Mussel Rock

Bronze busts of Joseph and Enid Lyons have pride of place at Roundhouse Park.

12.Enid & Joseph Lyons

Joseph was the Premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928  and went on to be the tenth Prime Minister of Australia from 1932 until 1939 when he died in office. He is the only Tasmanian to have been Prime Minister and the only Australian to have been both Premier and Prime Minister. Dame Enid became a politician in her own right and, in 1943, was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Six years later, she was sworn in as the first woman Cabinet Minister in Menzies’ Liberal government. Enid was the first woman to receive damehoods in different orders; the Order of the British Empire in 1937 and the Order of Australia in 1980. As if that wasn’t enough, Joseph and Enid had twelve children, residing at their homestead , ‘Home Hill’ in Devonport.

The Victoria Parade Cenotaph was originally erected in memory of the fallen soldiers of World War I and now commemorates those who served in other conflicts in which Australia was involved.

15.Victoria Parade Cenotaph

Next to the cenotaph is a seemingly simple fountain.

21.fountain

On closer inspection, the water spouts from a solaqueous fountain. The shadow on the dial made by the stream of water tells the time. As you can see, we were there at 2pm.

22.solaqueous fountain

A little further along the path is a memorial wall commemorating the 22 servicemen from Devonport who were killed at Gallipoli in 1915.

23.ANZAC Centenary Commemoration Gallipoli Campaign

Standing alone on a rocky outcrop, Spirit of the Sea has been the source of much controversy even before it’s installation in 2009. The 700kg bronze statue was erected at the mouth of the Mersey and public opinion has been divided, so much so, the artist and his wife left the state. According to the description at the site, the sculpture reflects the elements of wind and sea and, facing the mountains, represents the connections between man, the sea and the land. I don’t really have an opinion either way but I think it would be nice to beautify the area and make a feature of the almost invisible water jets.

24.Spirit of the Sea25.Spirit of the Sea

Mersey Bluff and lighthouse were silhouetted against the wispy sky in the northwest.

26.Mersey Bluff

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall bears a white marble replica of the Long Tan Cross and honours those who gave their lives between 1962 and 1973 during the Vietnam War.

27.Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Wall

Just beyond, at the end of Victoria Parade, is a restful avenue of Norfolk Island pines. Between the trees, each plinth bears a plaque to commemorate the seventeen Tasmanian servicemen who did not return from the Vietnam War.

28.Norfolk Pines memorial

There is more to Devonport than meets the eye, we shall return soon.

Dingle

Leaving the Cliffs of Moher, our destination was the Dingle Peninsula, the westernmost part of Ireland and all of Europe. Rather than stay in the large town of Tralee, considered the start of the peninsula, we continued on to Dingle and found wonderful accommodation at Benner’s Hotel. I will always remember the delicious meal we had, the best duck breast I have eaten before or since.

1.Benner's Hotel

Next morning, after a short stroll around the narrow streets lined with colour,

6.Dingle7.Dingle

we set off to discover the peninsula. Slea Head Drive is a 47 kilometre loop, starting and ending at Dingle, that takes you right to the western edge of the country. The road is very narrow with occasional passing points and so, is driven in a clockwise direction. The scenery was spectacular from the outset.

8.Slea Head Drive

Our first stop was Dunbeg Fort, the ruins of the dry-stone structure, built around 800 BC, hang precariously onto the sheer cliff.

9.Dunbeg Fort10.Dunbeg Fort11.Dunbeg Fort

Used until the 11th century, the expansive views of Dingle Bay would have given plenty of warning of invasion. The rocky coastline looked very substantial

12.Dunbeg Fort

but much of the area consists of earth rather than rock. During fierce storms in January 2018, parts of the fort tumbled into the sea and it has been closed to the public ever since.

13.Dunbeg Fort

Near the fort there is a group of clocháns, fascinating beehive huts built from stone without mortar to create the ‘beehive’ appearance. Thought to date back to the 11th century, these huts were once family homes.

16.Clochain14.Clochain15.Clochain

The view from Slea Head lookout was breathtaking, although the mist obscured anything beyond Dunmore Head, the westernmost part of the peninsula.

17.Dunmore Head from Slea Head18.Slea Head

The loop road took us to a most fascinating place, Gallarus Oratory.

19.Gallarus Oratory

The 8th century Christian church is amazingly well preserved, the dry-stone walls having repelled the elements for over a thousand years.

Inside, the solidity of the walls becomes apparent around the only window, directly opposite the entrance.

22.Gallarus Oratory

Outside, there is a stone column, carved with a Celtic cross and an inscription in an old Latin script used between the 5th and 10th centuries.

23.Gallarus Oratory

There was such a feeling of peace around us, I imagine it would be quite different with a coach load or two of tourists in the warmer weather.

Mount Brandon seemed to dissolve into the clouds as we meandered our way back to Dingle. The second tallest mountain in Ireland takes its name from St. Brendan the Navigator who, according to legend, spent forty days on the mountain preparing for his voyage in search of the Garden of Eden in the 6th century.

26.Mount Brandon

It’s easy to see how Johnny Cash was inspired to write Forty Shades of Green on his visit to Ireland in 1959.

27.Dingle Peninsula28.Dingle Peninsula29.Dingle Peninsula

 

The Burren

Much as we would like to have stayed in Galway a few more days, our time in Ireland was limited and there was so much more to see. Driving southward, we were once again surrounded by enchanting scenery. Scattered farmhouses wrapped in green, stone-framed pastures overlooked peaceful waters.

1.burren road2.burren road

Just outside Ballyvaughan we encountered Irish gridlock and spent some time chatting to the farmer. We will never forget his name, it was Michael Cannon.

The landscape changed the further we drove into the region known as The Burren.

6.ruins, the burren

The great expanse of limestone karst covers around 160 square kilometres in County Clare, the rock has been dated back to the Carboniferous period, around 350 million years ago.

7.the burren

The water soluble limestone has eroded over the years and formed the channels, known as ‘grikes’ and blocks, known as ‘clints’. It’s hard to believe that when people first inhabited this area 5,000 years ago it was a lush forest. Clearing the land for farming, along with time, grazing and erosion all contributed to the appearance of The Burren.

8.limestone karst, doolin9.limestone karst, doolin

We were too late to see the array of wildflowers that bloom among the rocks in spring but there was evidence of life in unexpected places.

10.fern in limestone karst

We strolled around the quaint coastal village of Doolin with breathtaking views from the harbour.

11.doolin harbour12.doolin

Once part of the mainland, Crab Island is a renowned surfing location, though not today. The building is the remains of an 1830s constabulary outpost.

13.crab island

Further across the water, the Aran Islands are just visible. The group of three islands sit at the mouth of Galway Bay and can be reached by ferry from Doolin.

14.aran islands

There is a path along the cliffs from Doolin to the Cliffs of Moher, about an 8km walk with green fields on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other.

15.doolin cliff walk

Not to mention spectacular scenery along the way.

16.cliffs, doolin

The Cliffs of Moher, on the southwestern edge of The Burren, are 14km of vertical cliffs rising to a height of 214 metres at the highest point. O’Briens Tower stands on that headland, built in 1835 by landowner Cornelius O’Brien as a viewing point for tourists. From Doolin, we could see beyond the tower, all the way to the rock formation known as  Hag’s Head at the southern end of the cliffs.

17.cliffs of moher, o'briens tower & hag's head

We left Doolin to have a closer look at the cliffs, passing a contented local on the way

18.doolin local

and a rather impressive edifice on a nearby hill. The 16th century Doonagore Castle has been in the same family since the 1970s and is their private holiday home. The views would be astounding.

19.doonagore castle

We finally made it to the Cliffs of Moher in all their majesty but time was ticking on and we still had no idea where we would be spending the night.

 

22.cliffs of moher