So the tour of Ireland was to start with a Rainbow that was not to last. I left work in a meeting at 5pmish and headed up to collect Big-L from Penkridge as soon as I could. The problem being the darn stop start traffic. I collected Big-L at just after 6pm and headed back onto the motorway. Things were still as bad. So above Stoke decided to refuel the car and cut across the A roads in desperation of catching up some time. By 7:15pm we had just got around Chester and still had another 140 miles to do. This was one occasion I thought we were definitely not going to make a ferry.
unfortunately we where meant to book in at Holyhead at 8pm and have to go the ticket office to claim our tickets. Luckily the roads cleared and the journey was made to the port before the ferry had left. At 8:45pm we pulled into the port parked the car and ran into the ticket office. We apologized for being late but hoped they still let us on the ferry. The lady behind the desk looked most disturbed. For she new that there was no ferry. She asked us for our booking form which we gave to her. Oh dear you seem to have booked it backwards! No way - yes way you've booked the 9pm ferry FROM Ireland TO Holyhead, you've also done it through an agency for a cheap ticket so they could not alter it. This would leave is a bit stuffed as the agency closed at 8pm according to the information they had sent us!. Its not often you find helpful people these days but in this case these people were. The next ferry was the slow one at 2:30am AND was fully booked! She did however rearrange the ticket so that it would be valid for Friday at 2pm! Next door at Irish Ferries they had a ferry running but not until 3:30am! They could fit us on and it would be £178.00 for a single ticket. Back to the other ferry line. They had now made a decision that if someone did not turn up for the 2:30am ferry and if we parked our car in the crisscross hatch area by 1:30am and if there was space they would call us over and we could go on that. And so be it we got a new booking reference that wasn't via and agency and all we had to do now was wait. Now how could we burn a couple of hours! And they had also rearranged the ticket for our return journey to be at 4pm on Tuesday night.
So it was off to the nearest pub for 2 hours or until they kicked us out. Its not often I'm grateful for a manky pub but this place was a godsend. A few hours in this grothole with some descent jukebox music put on by the locals. At kicking out time we head for the not so near Mc Donalds. Here we ate and had a warm coffee until well it was kicking out time. We made our way back to the port where we had parked the car hours earlier in the cross hatched area.
When there was no cars left a chap came over and asked if we were on standby, we said yes and he told us we could get on then. We were off and on so to speak. Thankgod for that only 3hours 30 minutes to go on the ferry now. I can't say that there is that much to do on the ferry for 3 and half hours. The worst thing was we had been let on last. What people seem to do is get on first then find the best bench seats to sleep on. Now such luck for us as there was none left!
We got a table and a coffee to warm us up after hanging around the car for an hour and opened our guide books. It was no good all we really wanted to do was sleep and in Dublin we had nice beds in a nice hotel awaiting us, Grr! after roaming around the ship for a while I found an area that was closed off and dark. Here there was some bench seats. Hey no one would find us sleeping in here. I went back and got Big-L. Perhaps this was this biggest mistake cuz he slept and listened to him snore. He was also blowing our cover so to speak. Mind nobody came to move us. By the time we got to the Dublin port it was day light. We got in the car and headed off towards the hotel we had booked. Although we had got some sleep I was still totally shagged so the plan for Friday was to change. We would book into the hotel room and sleep until about midday. In fact when we got the the hotel and walked up to the reception we at first confused the guy. We asked if we could book in and he told us that it was a bit early to book in and normally we'd have to wait until midday. When I piped up thats alright our room was booked for last night. That was alright then and handed us the key to what I can remember as being the biggest Ibis room I think we have ever had complete with two very large double beds and a great shower room.
At about midday we got up and headed to the Wicklow Mountains which just start a couple of miles south of Dublin. We managed to find a shop that was open (it being good Friday and nothing meant to be open) and a cash machine before heading deep into the mountains. We followed what is known as the military road R115, a scenic route through the mountains and past Sally Gap.
We continued our journey along this route taking a stop at Glendalough. Here there is a monstraic site, 2 lakes and a waterfall. Seems a lot of Dubliner's come here because for the large parkland. Once back on the road we continued down the military road towards Aghavannagh but this second part of the route was not so scenic or just perhaps just as scenic just more of the same which gets a bit tedious!
We keep going until we get to Kilkenny where we park up have a quick look around Dunne Stores and site outside a cafe with a cuppa. Its around 5:15pm before we actual head into town and decide to head for the castle and park. We just get in before they want to chuck us out as it closes at 5:30pm! We wander the streets for a bit before getting back in the car and heading of to the Rock of Cashel.
Here on the Rock is another castle, closed due to time. But in the distance of a misty field is Whore Abbey. I'm off for a walk although Big-L is not so impressed. In fact its a rather shabby ruin with a graveyard round the back which is obviously still in use by some but not many. Now its got to be said that the signs in Ireland are well crap. They often don't point in the right direction and on this occasion I was left thinking hugh. Apparently Cork was 32Km away. At around 100Km that would be under half an hour. 2 hours latter and we are still getting there!
We pull up to our hotel in Cork and park the car in the complementary in town car park. Luckily the hotel bar is open, although to residents only (remember its good Friday here so pub don't open). We head out to get a quick pizza round the corner at a eat in take away. And my is it a great pizza. Yummy before heading into the bar for some beers and live music.
Saturday we get up to a great breakfast and if your up for a it a swim in the pool and some exercise in the gym. Not us though we have plenty of walking to do around the town. We head into the center wandering what to do. For the first sight to see I pick the Red Abbey which we have problems finding because of signs pointing the wrong way and B because there is not a lot left of the Red which is surrounded by other churches you keep thinking is this it? Mind it did mean we found the resting place of Nun Nagu Naggel or something like that. From there we headed to the Elizebethan Fort which has a viewing platform, which apparently according to a local wasn't open yet although they have been building it for 5 years on and off and it looks finished! Next on the line up was St Fin Barte's cathedral followed by a walk to Fitzgeralds Park. The day was a warm sunny day and it was time for ice lollys and cold drinks. We left the park by the furthest point over what is a rather rickety and shakey bridge. Later during the day we learn that the bridge is in fact called the shakey bridge!
From here we go to the Cork City Goal for a tour around the old cells and a old radio museum after. We then walked to St Anne's Church. The great thing about this place is you can play with the church bell's. There are even numbered tune sheets to play from. I played and played and played. Until the ropes had burned through my one finger that is. We went to the top of the bed tower for some views of the city. On the way up though you have to put on some ear muffs as part of the journey through the tower takes you past the bells! From the church we head to the English market were we take the weight of our feet and have another cupper. We nip into HMV and buy loads of CD's as they are so cheap here and then head back to the hotel to pick the car up.
Big-L wants to go to some place called Cobh which is located some miles out of the city. It was where the Titanic last left before she sank. In the town is a bar / restaurant where a Irish lottery winner converted it to have the bar and restaurant exactly as the original in the Titanic. I looked forward to having out dinner here but surprise surprise it was closed. We had a look around but there was not much here so headed back into cork to get a night time picture from up the to hill in the city....
and then onto somewhere to eat. The very nice place opposite our hotel could not sort us out until 10pm which we could not wait for having done all that walking all week. As it happened I noticed some place down a grotty alley way. But the place itself wasn't grotty. In fact it was a great place to eat. Very busy, very friendly, great portions!
In fact I had so much to eat here I felt sick. Not that it stopped us going into the pub afterwards. However I could not finish my first pint. More live music was on offer though but I was just too tired.
I got up had a shower and wandered if Big-L was ever going to get up. I went down to breakfast myself and ate a hearty breakfast and wrote some post cards to Andy. Big-L eventually joined me. Neither of us used the swimming pool or the gym but there again after all the walking yesterday we did not need to! We packed checked out and got into the car and headed of to where Big-L was directing us to Blarney Castle. Now I had no idea of why he wanted to go here but all became clear as we queued up the staircase to the top of castle. At the one end is positioned a stone.
You have to get on your back pull yourself over a gapping hole that has a hell of a view down. Lean your head back and kiss the stone. Luckily I wasn't wearing my contact lenses today and they insisted on me taking my glasses off so it perhaps wasn't so bad for me. We went for a walk around the garden to find the Wishing Steps, The Witches Kitchen and the Druids Cave. All very exciting and well worth seeing!
From Blarney castle we headed off to the south western part of Ireland towards Clonakilty down the N71 before turning off down the scenic route via R597. Down here was Drombeg Stone Circle so we pulled up and admired the stones, the circle, the well and the boiling pot. It was well worth the stop. We hopped back into the car and carried on towards Skibbereen where we stopped for a sandwich. And what a mighty fine sandwich it was too. The filling was not so much filling as food stuff everywhere. Yep this was one messy sandwich due to the amount they had tried to cram in. Perhaps they had seen how big Les is. From here we followed the road to Ballydehob where we hooked a left onto the R592 to take a look around the most south western peninsula of Ireland. We followed this scenic route towards Toormore where again we changed direction towards Mizen Head.
Now Mizen Head is most exciting. Here there is the famous white arch bridge (news to me) and a light. I think its meant to be a light house but without the house bit. There are some buildings by the lantern, which house a make shift museum. Ok so there are some good views of the cliffs and the crashing waves but thats about it until you have the chance to clime the famous 99 steps back up. So we took these 99 steps instead of the easy walk back to the car. From here we headed up the northern route of this peninsula towards and past Bantry, hanging a right at Glengarriff to do the Bera Route. Time was pushing on now so we where going to do as much of this as possible before it went dark and then move onto where our hotel was booked at Galway.
We headed down the R572 coast route taking in the scenery, the beaches, the rocks. At the far end is a turning which you can take to the farthest point Garnish Point. So we took it. At the end of this road and I mean the end is a cable car to Dursey Island. Its a cable car mind for either the drink or completely insane as it looks in such a state of disarray only the foolish would use it. So we didn't. The other notable point here is a sign post which points towards Moscow. Going by the road signs of Ireland mind I do not believe it either actually points in the right direction or the 3310Km marked on it is correct. We double back on ourselves to the road junction and headed off round the northern side of the coastal scenic road. As the sun was going down we picked up some speed round the worsening road which was becoming more twisty and up and downy. It was around this point at around 80 that a rabbit decided to play chicken and run infront of us. Slammed on the anchors heavily with our faces to the screen Big-L advised that somehow the rabbit had got away with it as he had seen him get fully across the road, the lucky old thing. We picked up speed again and set off down the R571 past Feoramore. Suddenly out of the blue the engine no longer seemed to be driving the wheels. I changed gear a couple of times to no avail and gulped, looked at Big-L and announced 'I think we have broken down'. The car came to a complete stop on a bend in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, at 9pm, on a Sunday Bank Holiday. Thankgod I bought that breakdown insurance cover and picked up my mobile phone.
They would be with us in 90 minutes and by golly they were on the dot. Unlike England virtually everyone who passed us stopped and asked if they could help. And one local not only helped us pin point where we were for the breakdown people but also towed us to the next pub! We had a chat to the tow truck driver and at some point during the conversation had mentioned that we were heading to Galway which according to him was roughly 4 hours away! He loaded the car and we all got in. Now having talked tot he breakdown company he would probably take us to the nearest garage (his presumably) and then a hotel to book into until the car is fixed. I did ask at one point where his garage was located to be told some name I had not recognised on the map. And so be it we let him drive for nearly an hour before he virtually hand break turns into a garage in a town in the middle of an isolated town. Looking around I see my car has not fallen off the back! The driver gets out and so do we. We expect to see him take the car off. But no, at this closed garage he reaches for the diesel pump and fills up! We look puzzled. He shouts that should keep us going for a while and then climbs in and so do we. It is at this point we ask exactly where are you taking us? To Galway where you have that hotel booked. I asked weather he had called the breakdown firm to confirm the car couldn't be mended at the roadside and what his plan / agreement was to do with us. No he hadn't. I suggested he called them before we went any further. The conversation seemed top go well and off we went again - to Galway 4 hours away. I passed out eventually, I remember waking up to see the police had stopped us and then must have fell asleep again until he woke us up just outside Galway. He asked if we knew where the hotel was and we didn't know exactly although we had a rough map. The hotel was hard to find, it was located in the center but its name on the side of the Building was not very prominent. He drooped the car off and left it infront of the hotel. To our surprise there was a lot of people on the streets and coming out of our hotel, it was 2:30 am and for us it was time for bed.
Next day we got up and went down stairs for breakfast. I called the breakdown company again to advise that we had been towed to our hotel in Galway and that the car had been left outside, and that it it needed to be towed to a garage to have it repaired. First reaction was but its bank holiday Monday in Ireland this could be difficult. Do you have a garage in mind. As if I'd ever been here before. They managed to find a garage to collect the car and they even turned up within 30 minutes to collect it. We advised the hotel reception that our car had broken down so we would need the room for as long as possible. Now the mechanic reckoned the clutch had gone even though I doubted it for two reasons. A I replaced it in February and B you could select gear with the engine running. But hey he seemed insistant it was, which meant the gearbox would have to come off but not until Tuesday when they start work. I could feel the expense building up! Anyway it was now time to explore Galway. Now there are 8 wonders of Galway as follows:
1). The Spanish Arches - This really is a poor excuse of a sight to see. Utter crap.
2). Eyre square - undergoing massive reconstruction.
3). The old walls - located in the shopping mall as a feature. At first they looked like a GRP mock up but at closer inspection it was real brick.
4). The Roman Catholic Church - Ugly as sin on the outside but actually very nice inside and a great organist did some playing while we where there.
5). The Samon Wier bridge - its a bridge and thats all you can say about that.
6). The park on the coast - An uneven grassland on the sea front (not pleasant). oh yeah it has one plant and thats a palm tree Big-L is standing next to on the photo above.
7). McDonagh's Fish and Chip restaurant - In McDonagh's you are guaranteed the freshest of chips and fish and this is the second of the best sights to see.
And the best sight of all
8). The pubs - And when I say sight 8 there are about 40 odd pubs with the ones in the center looking very small on the outside but having the tardis effect inside. This is where you will spend most of you time and here you should find without a doubt the Irish crack!
Well the car wasn't ready by Tuesday night as I expected. And what he didn't tell me on the phone was that although the gearbox was out (he had mentioned that bit), they had found the clutch was ok and were scratching there heads to why the car didn't go. Anyway Tuesday night was spent at sight number 8 (in the pubs). And boy did we make a night of it. We stayed out till the pubs closed and then headed back to our hotel where in the bar was Chris Waddle, Big-L, Graham Norton and some Irish guy from a band. It was 3:30am when we went to bed and I had run out of Euro and had put the last round on the tab! Now I was meant to wake up early to call work and explain why I wasn't coming in. However it was Big-L who woke me up to a big head ache at around 10am. Drossy the first thing I did was contact work. It can't have sounded good (and apparently it didn't) the state I was in. As we wandered around town saying to Big-L do you remember Graham Norton last night he looked at me saying your still pissed. I bought some Irish ties from Dunne Stores and Big-L some more CD's from HMV again. The car was ready by 4pm so we got a cab to the garage. I had a chat to the mechanic and got my credit card out to pay the extensive bill, which was extensive! The car started and we set off for the 9:35 Ferry back to England.
It took just over 4 hours to get to the port which was very well timed. On board we had tea and I had a quick kipp. We left Holyhead waving as we past the Edingburgh Castle and headed for some decent main roads. Its was 2am when I finally got home and wasn't looking forward to the day ahead tommorrow at work. I feel alseep....
Ireland we'll be back to finish you off