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

Lake Claremont

The last thing I expected in the middle of suburban Perth was the beautiful conservation area that is Lake Claremont. The reserve covers 70ha and hosts a variety of flora and fauna, including over 87 species of birds. Prior to 1831, the wetland area provided food for the Mooro people. With pressure from European settlement and rising waters, the last of the Aborigines moved away in the 1940s. It is now a recognised site of Aboriginal heritage.

1.Lake Claremont

Although spring had not yet sprung, the birdlife was busy with family raising duties. The Eurasian coot, though attractive, is not particularly colourful. The bright, fluffy chicks are absolutely gorgeous.

2.Eurasian Coot

Both parents share the rearing responsibilities, including teaching them how to dive for food.

5.Eurasian Coot chicks

The Aborigines weren’t the only victims of the rising waters. The once majestic paperbarks that dominated the central area couldn’t survive the permanent submergence.

6.Lake Claremont

The remnants provide nesting grounds for the waterbirds

7.nesting Black Swan

and add another dimension to the landscape.

8.Lake Claremont

The black swan is the official bird emblem of Western Australia, this majestic mother comfortable on her nest mound.

9.nesting Black Swan

Another swan family were out with their youngsters while the Australian shelducks seemed to walk on water.

10.Black Swan with cygnets & shelducks

Pink-eared ducks were resting nearby, they feed by filtering water and soft mud with their specially shaped bills.

11.pink-eared duck

Purple swamphens build nesting mounds among the reeds at the lakes edge,

12.nesting Purple Swamphen

the chicks have feeding lessons in the shallows.

13.Purple Swamphen with chick

The swamphens are mostly vegetarian but will also eat eggs and very young birds.

14.Purple Swamphen

The Australian white ibis is one of two ibis species at the lake. They forage for aquatic animals and are known to eat snakes.

16.Australian white ibis

As we continued our circuit of the lake,

17.Lake Claremont

we found some paperbarks still thriving on the shore.

18.paperbark

This lone Pacific black duck was taking some time out.

19.Pacific black duck

Another family of purple swamphens were enjoying breakfast

24.Purple Swamphen & chick

as we returned to our starting point.

25.Lake Claremont

What a wonderful way to start the day, thank you Jude.

Bolsena

On a hot, sunny day we reluctantly said arrivederci to Il Castagno and set off toward Rome for our final night in Italy. I had looked at the map and chosen a place to stop for lunch on the way, Bolsena. The town was beautiful, the old buildings merged perfectly with the new.

1.Bolsena2.Bolsena3.Bolsena4.Bolsena

7.Bolsena

We parked the car and walked the plane tree-lined avenue toward the lake.

8.Bolsena

Some of the homes were absolutely stunning.

9.Bolsena10.Bolsena

As we neared the lake,

11.Bolsena

we knew exactly where we were having lunch. Trattoria del Moro, perched right over the water, had spectacular views of Lake Bolsena.

12.Trattoria del Moro13.Trattoria del Moro

The largest volcanic lake in Europe has, fortunately, been dormant since 104BC.

14.Lake Bolsena

19.Lake Bolsena

We dined al fresco, the fish was excellent and with the vino and the sunshine, we could have lingered for hours.

24.fish and chips

Instead, we slowly made our way back to the car,

25.The Castle of Bolsena26.Bolsena27.Bolsena

31.Bolsena

trying not to think about the imminent end to our wonderful trip. I think Michael would fit in well in Italy.

32.Michael

We will be returning to Italy next year and will make sure a trip to Bolsena and lunch by the lake is on the agenda.

Loch Ness

The drive to Inverness took us along the shores of magnificent Loch Ness.

1.Loch Ness

The ruins of Urquhart Castle have prime position on a rocky promontory overlooking the lake. Founded in the 13th century, the castle withstood much conflict during its 500 years as a fortress, eventually blown up in the Jacobite rebellion in 1692.

2.Urquhart Castle3.The Saltire

The scenery was spectacular as we followed the banks of the Loch,

4.Loch Ness

the autumn sunlight creating a diverse palette of hues.

5.Loch Ness6.Loch Ness

The landscape on the opposite side of the road was no less impressive.

7.Loch Ness8.Loch Ness

The largest body of fresh water in Britain, Loch Ness is 39km long and over 200 metres deep.

9.Loch Ness10.Loch Ness

We didn’t see the Loch Ness monster but it isn’t hard to imagine something lurking beneath the surface.

11.Loch Ness