Weddings, road trips and luck of the Irish
Wedding festivities, road trip and whistle stop tour
Northern and southern ireland
Our two-week trip in 2013 started in England. We visited family to attend a wedding that took place in Ireland. I’ll be feeding you snippets of our road trip through southern and northern Ireland and why we had the luck of the Irish.
Folk dancing, fertility cake and steam fairs
Even though we’ve been to England many times before, it always surprises us with something fascinating.
As we drove with Karen and Clive from Manchester airport to Ambleside in the Lake Districts, the scenery looked magnificent. Typical green pastures demarcated with dry stone walls was breath taking with the sun shining down on it. In the countryside cows grazed, lambs frolicked and horses lazed. I always wonder if they’ve ever worked out the length of all the dry-stone walls put together. Meticulous fortifications rolling over the hills and through the valleys.
Here and there a beautifully painted traditional gypsy caravan, probably parked illegally along the side of the road, but still beautiful to look at.
We stopped for lunch at the Maypole Inn in Long Preston. After lunch we could hear music outside. Traditionally dressed English folk dancers called Morris dancers were fluttering their hankies while they did fancy footwork with bells on their ankles. They entertained us and offered us fertility cake, not that it would work on silver haired travellers. Apparently the cake has a robust phallic implication.
We had another sunny day in England and spent it at the Chipping steam fair. It takes place over three days, showcasing old steam engines, vintage cars and various antediluvian modes of vehicles. We found it very interesting.
We stopped for tea at an old-fashioned rural inn, The Inn at Whitewell. The scenery along the way once again stunned us.
We knew our luck wouldn’t last and in typical British fashion it rained. We spent the day on our own while Karen and Clive fetched Dale from the airport, They also hired larger vehicle for our road trip through Ireland as there would be seven of us at times. Paul and I strolled around Ambleside, dodging the rain.
For more photos of Ireland & the UK click on the button below.
For heaven’s sake! Don’t squash the wedding cake!!
We had an early start and drove to Frodsham to fetch a significant fragile traditional symbol for a wedding – the wedding cake. It was our job to get it to Ireland. Stuffed amongst our luggage, I hoped it would get to the wedding in one piece. Actually, it was sturdily (or was it precariously) placed in what we trusted was a safe place. At this stage we had enough room, as there were only five of us in the vehicle.
We drove in a southerly direction to Holyhead in Wales and boarded a ferry to Dun Laoghaire in Ireland.
Don’t ask me to pronounce the names of the towns in Wales and Ireland, never mind spelling them. The ferry crossing went smoothly and as we touched land in Ireland, we were met by someone from the wedding party. We gave him our fragile parcel in one piece – just saying! It would be his responsibility to get the cake intact to the wedding venue. He was driving directly to Donegal where the wedding was taking place. We were taking a detour for a few days and I’m not sure if the cake would have survived.
We had a quick glance at Dublin and had lunch before we drove to Drogheda where we spent the night. All our accommodation was booked in advance, so we had to make sure we reached our destinations each evening.
We stopped at the Boyne Valley at Newgrange and found this Stone Age Irish tomb fascinating. At the entrance a roof box allows the mid-winter sun to illuminate a passage and chamber by the winter solstice sun (only for about five days – that is if it isn’t cloudy then).
Ireland scenery is spectacular; the country houses striking. Whenever I see Queen Anne's Lace, I will think of it growing against the hedges on the side of the road. Summer in the UK is also delightful when it is still light at 10.30 pm!
We travelled north to Londonderry where we would spend the night at a Bed & Breakfast. Naturally we had to have 11 o' clock tea and stopped at Eileen's Tea Room at Castleblayney. Their carrot cake was delicious. Not that there was anything wrong with the other cakes and pastries devoured by our group. They were all yummy.
Of course we had to take a detour to Giant's Causeway, northeast of Londonderry. There are about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, caused by an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills. Anyone who has been there will agree with me – it is phenomenal. The weather was kind to us and we could enjoy the gorgeous view. I also worked off that carrot cake when I climbed to the top of the cliff via the steep steps. We could even see Scotland faraway on the horizon.
Irish wedding festivities
Day 6, 7 & 8
The next three days were allocated to the wedding. Our nephew, Rowan was getting married. We drove from Londonderry to Strabane where we picked up a few items for the wedding and then drove to Loughe Eske, just before Donegal. I could easily spend some time here to escape from the rat race. The setting is beautiful, and not only for weddings.
We stayed at Ardeevin Country Guesthouse. It overlooks Loughe Eske, a beautiful lake with glorious vistas towards the mystical Mountains of Bluestack and Sligo. If you’re romantic and like old world charm, then this is for you. Beautifully decorated rooms right in the countryside. I won’t even mention the breakfast. Such a huge selection to choose from that would keep you going without having to eat throughout the day.
We had a short amount of time to explore the area, before the pre-wedding celebrations began and Paul and I were introduced to the bride, Sadhbh and her family – we’d never met them before.
Day of the wedding
Rowan and Sadhbh said their vows in St Agatha's Church, Clar, Donegal Town. The reception was held at Harvey's Point at the edge of the lake. I won’t bore you with family matters and details of the wedding, but of course it was a beautiful wedding. I’ll sneak in a picture or two and you can see for yourself if the wedding cake was squashed! It rained in the morning before the wedding, and an icy wind was blowing but inside it was cosy and warm.
Have you ever been to any Irish celebrations? They know how to party! I don’t think we stopped eating, drinking and celebrating with three days of celebrations. It felt like every meal was a joyous special occasion.
The Irish love their music, dancing and singing. We had tremendous fun.
Post wedding celebrations
I think we all needed to recover from the wedding, but the celebrations continued with more eating, drinking and being merry (and some karaoke sung by the younger crowd).
Legendary Londonderry city - Derry with many names
We backtracked through Strabane to Londonderry. It is confusing because one ‘crosses a border’ although it is hardly noticeable. County Donegal is in Ireland, but Strabane and Londonderry, which is Northern Ireland is part of the UK. Regarding currency, Northern Ireland uses Pound Sterling and Ireland itself uses the Euro.
Londonderry or Derry as it is often referred to was most interesting. We took a guided tour on the historic wall that rings the city.
Our guide was humorous and informative. Derry had a troubled but interesting past as well as conflict with its name. The river Foyle flows through Londonderry and is navigable for 16 kilometres inland and was used for export, the main product: people. Now its purpose is more for pleasure cruises. That made me think, it’s still people.
While we strolled, runners were slogging away at the Walled City Marathon. For their efforts they were given an enormous medal, virtually the size of a small plate! I’m sure if they weren’t tired yet, they would have been exhausted by carrying that massive thing around after the race.
I will concede, some of those hills were steep enough to walk up, let alone run up. There were also a few entertaining characters to see, so maybe that kept their mind off the hard slog.
We took Stan and Chris, friends of Karen and Clive to the airport and once again we went back to Strabane and on to Galway.
Ireland’s scenery is just breath taking and I could spend days exploring it. We covered a huge distance to get to Galway and I would love to have seen more of that part of Ireland, but time was running short. We wanted to see the Cliffs of Moher, but it was not to be. We had to ensure that we would get to Dublin within the next few days to drop Dale off at the airport for her flight. In Galway we stayed at a mass tourist hotel, that was packed to the brim because it was a bank holiday. We arrived quite late and were exhausted so didn’t even have time to explore Galway’s pubs.
Limerick, Ring of Kerry and Killarney
Killarney was our destination for that day. We had a quick stop at Limerick. Unfortunately they were renovating the castle so we missed being able to walk through that but we admired the small town and it’s lovely bridge.
Close to Killarney the area became more mountainous. Each bend took us into scenery which left me speechless. The Ring of Kerry made up for not being able to see the Cliffs of Moher. It was misty at times, but when the sun came through it was spectacular. Beautiful bays with sand and not only pebbles.
We had a delicious seafood dinner in Sneem while being entertained by a small tour group. They listened to their tour leader telling them about the widget in Guinness. As Clive had just finished a Guinness, he broke open the can and passed the widget around. The tour group was delighted to see it.
Killarney is a typical tourist town but still charming.
Smooching the Blarney Stone
Who can see the Blarney Stone without giving it a smooch? Yes, of course it is a tourist trap and many people will object for hygiene reasons, but you can’t travel all that way and not be part of this Irish oddity. My question is, can you believe the myth that it will give you the gift of the gab? Hmm… we shall see.
I have to admit you need to twist yourself into a knot to get to the stone, but at least you weren’t dangled upside down by your ankles over the edge of the castle, as they did in the past to accomplish this ceremony.
We spent the night at Waterford, which is renowned for its crystal. Another picturesque town on the banks of the Suir. A beautiful view of the river that we could see from our hotel room.
That evening we walked our feet off looking for a restaurant. Most of them were closed but eventually we found one with lovely food. Afterwards we realised if we’d turned left instead of right, we would have seen enough open restaurants near our hotel.
It’s all baloney after a pint or two of Irish Guinness
Back in Dublin, the Liffey with its canals, reminded us of Amsterdam. It has a cosmopolitan feel to it but with a large dollop of Irish.
I’m not a beer drinker or connoisseur, but throughout our trip I even had a few small ales. A stout, however, was not something I would drink. After touring through the Guinness brewery even I could appreciate this dark ale. Yes, of course we learnt how to pull a pint.
Ireland is filled with lyrics, myths and legends, and even… phallic symbols. There is a contentious structure next to the river in Dublin. This huge spire points up to the sky and has acquired an interesting name: Stiffy by the Liffey. This spike is regarded by some as a phallic symbol. Is that baloney, or what?
Ferries and farewells - the last few days of our trip
We waved our goodbyes to Ireland and Dublin and took the ferry back to Holyhead. Watching the ferry dock, it still astounded me by its sheer magnitude like the ones we’d been on before from Dover to Calais. I can’t help but think of the ferries in Africa and its neighbouring islands. They have far more character but they certainly aren’t as reliable, spacious or safe.
We left the hire car in Darwin and drove back to Ambleside. On the way we had dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was delicious! We were all exhausted after our road trip and went to bed as soon as we got home.
We woke up to a beautiful day once again and walked around Windermere. It was a perfect way to end our trip. At Waterhead we caught a ferry to Wray Castle, then walked to Ferrynab. Once again a ferry took us to Bowness Pier where we had tea and scones at St Martins. A third ferry carted us back to Waterhead, each ferry different. The long walk was exhausting but we loved it, breathing in the beautiful scenery.
We had a few hours at our disposal before we had to be at Manchester airport. We shopped at Lakelands, one of my favourite shops – full of kitchen gadgets. I had to restrict myself though! Our last lunch was at a quaint pub outside Manchester. It was situated next to a canal, with beautiful canal boats; another one for the bucket list - a canal boat trip.
Ireland at its best
Luck of the Irish and a proverbial pot of gold from the leprechauns
We had the luck of the Irish with the weather. Only two days of rain in the two weeks we were there. We saw Ireland at its best and everyone said it was unheard of.
Compared to other countries, Ireland is quite small, but it still takes time to get around, because of its winding narrow roads. Karen and Clive made the trip interesting for us and we didn’t drive much on freeways or highways. They pre-booked the accommodation as well. I adored the houses in the countryside.
We didn’t see all of Ireland, although we did a round trip, but if it wasn’t for the wedding we might never have seen any of this beautiful island at all.
Free Internet was unheard of for us and was freely available in Ireland. It did vary though, and sometimes took ages to download images. I’d far rather be sightseeing.
None of the Bed & Breakfast accommodation and hotels were unpleasant, but of course the best was Ardeevin. Most of the others had character, though.
Who doesn’t love the Lake Districts? I love ambling along in Ambleside and other villages. There are many walks - short strolls or long invigorating ones.
The steam fair at Chipping was a treat. I’m not an engine fan, yet I still enjoyed it.
The English and the Irish countryside, with the sun shining on it can only sparkle!
Ireland Road Trip Map