A Travellerspoint blog

Haggis, Hairy Cows and Highlanders

all seasons in one day

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13th July 2008

Tina, a friend, and I have just spent time in Ireland and flown across the Irish Sea to Glasgow. We have organised to collect a car only to find that our Australian Travel agent has forgotten to organise the car even though we have paid for it. We have no choice but to move across to the Avis counter, rehire and repay another $832.00 fee for another car which is a bigger car and a lot more expensive. A pitfall of travelling but I will email the Travel Agent as soon as I get a chance to get near a computer. It takes a bit of time and patience to figure out how to get out of Glasgow and across the Firth of Clyde onto the road north. Glasgow seems so grey and dirty after Ireland, it is one of the main shipbuilding and engineering cities in Scotland, sitting on the River Clyde. The mountainous countryside, after we cross the Firth is breath-taking and we find many places to stop and take photographs and gaze at the beauty. Just outside Fort William on the narrow highway there is a car accident and we are stranded on the road for over four hours leaving us to arrive in the town reasonably late and after the pub meals have all closed for the night. We have booked into the Fort William Youth Hostel and neither of us feel comfortable with a certain male staff member so make sure we have a chair pushed under the door to keep it closed as there are no locks on the doors. The view from our window across the waters makes up for the shabbiness of the building. It has been a very exhausting and long day so an early night, if you could call midnight early. The showers are also very interesting and I fully expect to find hidden cameras—creepy!!

13th July 2008

Tina is awake early and ready to move on without breakfast so we locate the McDonalds and settle in to the foggy views of Ben Nevis known as “The Ben”. Our first stop is at Fort Augustus and some amazing canal locks on the Caledonian Canal. The next part of the drive is very interesting around the Lochs and a stop off to see “Nessie” in her small pond—so lifelike it could make a person actually believe in monsters. We stay awhile at the Tourist Centre and pick up the Scottish presents to take home, which includes some small bottles of different whiskies. A drive around part of Loch Lomond, past the remains of the Urquhuart Castle which overlooks the waters of the Loch, past some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery. The drive takes about an hour but it’s a relaxing little detour. I even get the chance to dip my hands in the famous freezing waters. We break the day’s travel at the ruins of the Involochy Castle; one of the few Highland Castles to survive largely unaltered since the wars of Independence of 13th and 14th centuries. It was built on the banks of the River Lochy and we are able to climb on it giving us a chance to have a good look. It is early in the morning so we are the only visitors in the area. On to the Lochaber WW2 Commando Memorial and some breath-taking scenery. Another unplanned stop at Glenormiston and a quick walk to Columba’s Well, a Holy well said to be used in the 6th century by St Columba. As we approach the Skye bridge the Eileen Castle with its loan piper comes into view. The next part of the drive is over the Skye bridge across Loch Alsh joining the mainland to the Isle of Skye - the homeland of the MacLeod and MacDonald clans. The coastline of Skye is a series of peninsulas and bays, far flung homes and crofting communities, narrow roads, windblown sheep and Scottish cattle sheltering among the hedgerows and crops. After we book into “Cliffe House”, a B & B which is perched on the cliffs overlooking the waters of Kyleakin Harbour, we drive to the other end of the Isle to visit the grave of the infamous Flora MacDonald. The wind is so cold and strong it takes all our effort and strength to get out of the car and walk the short distance up the hill to the black houses, the traditional house of the Hebrides, and the small quiet Kilmuir cemetery. The views from this height are fantastic with McQueen’s Needle rising in the distance. Our meals that evening are at the 16th century Kings Arms Hotel, a large white rambling hotel overlooking the harbour and bridge to Scotland. I ordered a meal of Haggis, a traditional Scottish dish, but very disappointed to see they cut it off a roll. While we are waiting for the meal to arrive I run into the Trafalgar tour director from my 2005 Irish/Scottish trip—a lovely and unexpected surprise as he has since moved to America.

14th July 2008

Up for a cool morning walk around the water edge and across to the ruins of the castle. Our day will be spent at Drummossie Moor, the heritage site of the Culloden battle, which has been upgraded since my last visit. There is so much history associated with this area. The site is part of National Trust so my entry is free. Tina stays and has a look around the new visitors’ centre while I go for a walk to the top of the English and Scottish battlefields, past the clan grave markers and the memorial cairn. It is hard to try and imagine what carnage must have taken place back in 1746. I would have liked to have spent some more time on the battlefields but we still want to visit the Clava Cairns - Bronze Age burial mounds. They are so intriguing yet eerie.

15th July 2008

The only thing that I do not like about staying at B & B’s is that breakfast is served around 8am and this makes the day start later than I would prefer. We have a long day’s drive but it’s time to stop off at the Crannog Centre to view the Loch dwellings, dating back some 5000 years, which are found throughout Scotland and Ireland. The day’s drive is down through the centre of Scotland, past the Murray clan lands, Menzie Family Castle, Taymouth Castle, Edinburgh and Stirling Castles and on to Melrose and Selkirk, the land of the Grieve and Munro Clans. We have booked into the Melrose Youth Hostel for three nights so have a couple of very busy days ahead of us. The Hostel backs onto the Melrose Abbey where the remains of King Robert the Bruce are buried and cared for by Historic Scotland. Melrose is surrounded by several small villages—Bowden, Darnick, Gattonside and Newstead. We find a lovely sea-faring pub in the historical village and frequent it regularly over the next few days. Access to most places in the village is via a hill. The hostel is an old family home and we have been given a room to ourselves so we can stretch out and catch up on some urgent housework jobs.

16th July 2008

Our first stop of the day is Selkirk, home of the Grieve family. We engage in the usual search through the town cemetery where there are so many familiar names for both Tina and myself. I take heaps of photos and then move on to the Jedburgh Abbey, a ruined Augustinian Abbey founded in the 12th century and situated just twelve miles north of the Scottish/English border. It was well worth the visit as the building ruins are spectacular. Our next stop is at Peebles, a much nicer town than Selkirk and not as steep and hilly. It has been a long day so we head for home.

17th July 2008

We sleep a little later this morning, with rain through the night; have a quick breakfast and start the drive to the Carluke area, where Tina’s Scottish ancestors lived. A change of direction and we end up in Canwraith, the home of the Lockhardt clan and we locate the Lee Estate—home of the Lockhardts of Lee. Tina was so excited as we never expected to find the estate and lands. We are denied access to the castle and the Laird which just puts us both into fits of laughter as we never even guessed we would get that far onto their lands. They must have been thinking what yobbos we were!! A stop at Carstairs and Cawdor Cemetery and again all the familiar names for both of us. It is a little unsettling to know that centuries ago both our families were living and working side by side and possibly related to each other. Tina has always declared that we knew each other in a past life— she may not have been far off the mark! While we are in Lanark we visit St Marys Church and again the family names are everywhere. It is getting late and a storm is approaching so we head for Melrose but somehow we end up on the outskirts of Edinburgh. This is not what I had in mind as I have seen the traffic in this city and I want no part of it. With a bit of ducking and diving we get around the city and are back on track as we head home. I know Tina would have liked to have seen Edinburgh but not if I have to drive there. We take time to have a pub meal at the “Ship Inn”. The sleeping arrangements prove to be an interesting night as we have two German ladies in the room and double bunks. This will be the last time I will share a room with strangers in a Youth Hostel while travelling.

18th July 2008

It is till raining and we are away by 7.30am. We have a long drive ahead of us to the seaside village of Kirkcudbright in the Dumfries on the Southwest coast of Scotland. This is the home of the Mitchell family, the maternal side of my husband's family, his mother being Jean Mitchell. The morning air is cool and crisp so great for a walk. We locate the historical Society and with the help of an attendant I come away with a lot of photos and information to take back home and the research. We still have a long way to go so we take a quick pub meal at the Kirkcudbright Bay Hotel and we make our way back towards Carlisle on the border. We drive through the narrow, hedged lanes until we reach the Border village of Gretna Green, famous for its runaway brides. A walk through the wedding chapel and the Blacksmiths buildings and we purchase the last of the Scottish presents for the family. We are only a few miles from the border. We bypass Carlisle and the MI and head towards the Lakes District.

Another country, another blog.

Posted by Rianda 21:42 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland Comments (0)

The Faces of Pharaoh

sunny

19th September 2009

The Qantas flight from Germany via Heathrow arrives in the early hours of the morning at the Cairo Old International Airport to a very warm, humid and busy Cairo, it is the end of Ramadan so the streets are packed and it is worse than peak hour. Chaos reigns. The tour guides meet me inside the Customs area and we manage to get through the pushing, shoving crowd of men at the front door, it is really scary and I am in the middle of this crowd trying to avoid the hands, drag my case, make sure no extra hands are in my shoulder bag and keep an eye on the guide and where he is going. No help is being offered by him. I wonder if this trip is not a good idea. He takes me outside and then down into a very dark tunnel and all of a sudden I am a little fearful of where him and the mate are taking me. I suddenly see the car park lights and feel much better and a little more in control. All visitors are not allowed in the airport and only males were in the crowd but they must wait for their relatives/friends arrivals outside the front door. Again chaos as no one appears to follow the traffic rules- if there are any rules. They toot, drive without their lights on, whole families perch themselves on the two seater bikes, no helmets, no seatbelts, no lines on the roads to separate the traffic but then again there are no traffic rules and cars duck and dive. Cars look like they are unregistered and covered in dinks and dings. I just sat there with my mouth wide open and not quite believing what I was seeing. The trip took about 60 minutes to the Oasis Resort and another surprise. Every street corner has an armed Tourist Police guard and all Western Hotels have them on the front gates and in the Hotel foyers. A little frightening at first. I am showed my room and I hit the bed as I am just so tired and know I have to be in the foyer next morning at 8am. After a light breakfast I meet up with the two Ipswich people who flew in from Italy the day before, a Trafalgar guide, Mohommad, meets us and we head to the airport again to collect the rest of the Tour that have just flown in. I have spent the last 5 weeks in Europe with my husband who has chosen to fly home alone. It is still early and the heat is incredible - around 45 degrees. After we collect the tour we head to the pyramids and Egyptian museum which houses the Gold Mask of King Tutt. No cameras are allowed. Interesting to see the building is not air conditioned and so many priceless artefacts are on display, the room that holds the mask is the only room with heating control. The crowds are horrendous and we just have room to file in and have a quick look and back out. By this stage we are all starting to wilt but more pyramids to visit and see before we can head back to the hotel. The filth is horrendous and hygiene is nearly non existent and dirt everywhere, and then there are the vendors. The pool at the Hotel is very inviting and I am looking forward to a very early night but the tour decides to go and see the Light Display at the pyramids - a bit over dramatic and not worth the money.

20th September 2009

After breakfast we head to the tour bus as we are going to the main Pyramids and displays. The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact. Around the pyramids are men and children begging /touting for business and they are very insistent and will not accept NO, sometimes you need to be very rude to them. Camel rides for hire but I decline and they do not allow photos of their camels. We make our way through the countryside and the heavy traffic and stop at St Georges, the ancient Greek Orthodox Church and Convent perched on a rock outcrop. Such a dainty little church and Convent. The day is so hot and dry, sand and more sand everywhere. A quick visit to the Cheops Boat Museum which requires special little bootie shoes to be put over our shoes. The museum houses a Khufu ship which is an intact full-size vessel from Ancient Egypt that was sealed into a pit in the Giza pyramid complex at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza around 2500 BC. The ship is now preserved in the Giza Solar boat museum. The Khufu ship is one of the oldest, largest, and best preserved vessels from antiquity. Onto The Sphinx of Giza, a limestone statue of a reclining or couchant sphinx, a mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head, that stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile. The face of the Sphinx is generally believed to represent the face of the Pharaoh Khafra. An interesting time inside a perfume factory where we sample many varieties of perfume but I am not tempted. I feel a little overpriced. The bus takes us back to the hotel where we have free time after lunch but we are warned not to go outside the Hotel grounds as it is not safe for westerners to walk around on their own.

21st September 2009

A 3am wakeup call and we put our luggage at the door as requested by the staff for a pickup, we have a flight to Luxor. The hotel has prepared a prepacked breakfast box and then straight to the bus and the airport. The flight is about an hour and we arrive after a very interesting take off and even more interesting landing - not sure where ther pilots got their flying wings. A bus ride to the Valley of the Queens which is located on the West Bank of Luxor near the Valley of the Kings, The Valley of the Queens is the place where wives of Pharaohs were buried in ancient times as well as princes, princesses and various members of the nobility Nefertari’s tomb, Ramses II favourite wife, is the most famous attraction. The tomb is said to be one of the most beautiful in Egypt. 50 degree heat, I have a look around but need to go back to the bus and the girls are all feeling the heat so I gather them together and warn them to stay close, we start the walk through the crowds of male hawkers. It is really scary as they keep touching you until I become very rude to a couple of men. This is something I do not normally do but I have had enough of these guys. I have never experienced such intense heat. After everyone is back on the bus we head to the Luxor Temple. This temple is a large Ancient Egyptian temple complex located on the east bank of the River Nile, it was founded in 1400 BCE during the New Kingdom. We wander around among the pillars of ancient stone and then off to the Nile and a cruise up the river, we all disembark on the other side at a rather expensive looking hotel where we are to stay. The Nile is a very dirty river with sections of fast flowing waters, small islands, shallow waters and rocks with kids swimming and cattle bathing in it, logs and bits of timber and rubbish floating in it. After we settle into our rooms on the 9th floor with exceptional views of the Nile, some of the tour members and Maryanne and I head to the outside bar for a nice cool drink and to watch the sun setting over the Nile, a lovely end to my 55th birthday. After a meal we find the night show and the Swirling Dervish Dancers, they are exceptional to watch.

22nd September 2009

Another very hot day and an early start to the tombs and museums of Luxor. Luxor has often been called the world's greatest open air museum, as indeed it is and much more. The number and preservation of the monuments in the Luxor area are unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Onto the temple of Karnak which comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings but is actually three main temples, smaller enclosed temples, and several outer temples located about three kilometres north of Luxor, situated on 100 ha (247 acres) of land. Karnak is actually the sites modern name, Its ancient name was Ipet-isut, meaning "The Most Select (or Sacred) of Places". This vast complex was built and enlarged over a thirteen hundred year period. The architecture is incredible and to think it is of such an old age. We go to the Stone Palace for lunch., the heat is incredible. The guide picks us up later in the afternoon when it has cooled down and we go to a paper factory where I purchase some parched scripts to frame when I get home to Australia. We also go to an Alabaster factory where I make a couple of small camel purchases and then a jeweller but the items are very expensive and the staff are very pushy so I head outside to the bus to wait for the others. It is too congested inside. Last on the stops is a Bazaar and what a fiasco. Again I do not wait in there too long - I really do not like bartering with the shop owners - what an eye opener.

23rd September 2009

We fly out of Luxor at 8.30 am, about 40 minutes late but this is quite common in Egypt, the next plane is waiting for us in Cairo and then another 2hr flight to Istanbul and a Turkish guide is waiting for us at the airport. The next part of the tour is to commence.

Posted by Rianda 20:19 Archived in Egypt Tagged egypt cairo pyramids pharoah Comments (0)

The Land of the Anzacs

sunny

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23rd September 2009/b]

We fly out of Luxor at 8.30 am, about 40 minutes late but this is quite common in Egypt, the next plane is waiting for us in Cairo and then another 2hr flight to Istanbul and a Turkish guide is waiting for us at the airport After our arrival it takes a further 2½ hours to get through customs and pay for a visa, now we are running very late and the guide is not happy. The end of the holiday season so everyone is trying to get back home and of course there is only one custom booth open. We head to the Centrum Hotel where we are staying, I feel much safer in Turkey than in Egypt. The hotel is situated in the centre of the older part of the city and near the water so much cooler but very noisy, I go for a walk to the town area after tea as the shops are always open to a very late hour. At least you don't have to barter here and the shop owners don’t pester as much.

[b]24th September 2009

Early start for a walking tour to the Saltan Ahmed Mosque. My knee length shorts are too short and I appear to be showing too much leg so have been offered a blue wrap around skirt to put on before I can enter the mosque. This historic mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior. It was built from 1609 to 1616 during the rule of Ahmed. Its surrounding buildings contain a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice but the Sultan Ahmed Mosque is still popularly used as a mosque. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque has one main dome, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The design is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque development. We then wander to the Hague Sophia, a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum. It is stunning inside with ceiling paintings from the 7th and 9th century. At the Topkapi Palace we stop for some lunch and have free time to wander around the grounds and the Baghdad Pavilion which was built in 639 by the architect Koca Kasim. This pavilion is eight sided, and surrounded by marble columns supporting a broad overhanging roof line, in a circular portico, the lower walls are of marble and the upper walls of tiles. The mother - of pearl and tortoise shell inlay work in the doors, window frames, and closets in the interior are excellent examples of Turkish workmanship. The wall spaces throughout are totally covered in tile. From the heavily decorated dome hangs a gold - leafed sphere. Seating divans line the wall insets covered in velvet fabrics. The solid bronze fireplace blends with the massive tile bird figures on either side. After lunch we walk to the world renowned Kapalicarsi Grand Bazaar, it is much bigger but not as pushy as those in Luxor. There are so many stalls but so many are selling the same or similar items. I just browse and buy nothing. Across the walkway from the hotel is an open air restaurant so we sit on the large cushions displayed and order a meal. Turkey is known for its cats and kittens, they are everywhere but we have been told not to touch them—it is so hard not to pat them.

25th September 2009

Another early start by bus to the Battlefields but think I feel we should have started earlier as it is a five hour drive and this will only give us a very short time there before we have to catch a ferry. Really looking forward to the visit as I have two family members who are buried in the Gallipoli cemeteries, it is like a pilgrimage for any Australians. A chance to catch up on some lost sleep and a quick stop at a restaurant overlooking the olive fields. The Gallipoli Peninsula is located in Turkish Thrace, the European part of Turkey, with the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles straits to the east. Gallipoli derives its name from the Greek meaning "Beautiful City”. It is especially famous for the failed Allied offensive on Turkey in 1915 in World War I known as the Gallipoli Campaign. You can sense the excitement as we get closer and then we see the ANZAC monument above the waters edge. All we want to do is get out of the bus and dip our toes in the water and waste some time on the beach. The guide is getting a bit upset with us as we all casually take our time getting back to the bus. No one wants to leave as we have not had much time there and this was the main reason for my being on this tour. Onto the Beach cemetery, a small cemetery situated at Hell Spit, was used from the 25 April 1915 until near the end of the campaign. The cemetery was very dangerous as it was within range of the Turkish gun called “Beachy Bill”. The tour members help me find my family member and I place a small cross on his grave and then we search for Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the man with his donkey. He was one of the soldiers at Gallipoli who used donkeys and mules to assist men with leg wounds to reach medical assistance. After he died from a sniper shot, he became an Australian icon for his work. We now move onto a few other smaller cemeteries and the trenches at Chunuck Bair, then the One Pine Memorial. At the Lone Pine Cemetery on the Gallipoli peninsula, a solitary pine was planted in the 1920s to symbolise the original Lone Pine. This tree was inspected in 1987 by an Australian botanist and confirmed to be a Stone Pine. On the walls of the memorial is mentioned Private John Martin, died at the age of 14 years 9 months, KIA at Gallipoli. From here you can see the views of Suvla Bay, absolutely breathtaking. Onto the Turkish memorial and a quick look around. Then a dash to the Gestas Ferry which will take us across to Canakkale where we are to spend the night. The water is calm so the trip across is smooth. The guide is not happy with us. Our Iris Otel (Hotel) is built on the beach so lovely and so peaceful.

26th September 2009

We start at the City of Troy which was both factual and legendary, in northwest Anatolia south of the southwest end of the Dardanelles and northwest of Mount Ida. UNESCO World Heritage listed in 1998. The ruins, the symbolic replica of the Wooden Horse. The Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the subterfuge that the Greeks used to enter the city of Troy and end the conflict. The horse is rather large and you can go inside and have a look out one of the several openings. From here we walked to the ruins to view the excavations which have revealed several cities built in succession and the diggings are still current. The day is starting to warm up so glad to get back to the bus and onto the next archaeological ruins of Pergamon Acropolis, the Sanctuary of Athenia, the Temple of Tragan and the Pergamon Theatre. Pergamon was an ancient Greek city in Aeolis, currently located 26 kilometres from the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus. Today, the main sites of ancient Pergamon are to the north and west of the modern city of Bergama in Turkey. On the way to the hotel we stop at the Turkish Education Weaving Class, the girls fingers are so nimble and so quick at what they do. Then the big sell of their carpets, some are $6000. I am not interested in purchasing but it was lovely to just watch the girls for awhile but we are soon ushered onto the bus again, the Turkish guide is determined we are not going to disrupt his itinerary again. The fields are full of Olive trees.

27th September 2009

Last night we stayed at the Otel Axan (Hotel) and after another early breakfast we are on our way to the ancient City of Euphesus where our walking tour takes us through many ruins. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city built on site of the former Arzawan capital and later a major Roman city, on the coast of Ionia, near present-day Selçuk. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era. In the Roman period Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor. It is recorded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among the ruins are the Temple of Artemis (Diana), who had her chief shrine there, the Library of Celsus, and its theatre, which was capable of holding 25,000 spectators. This open-air theatre was used initially for drama, but during later Roman times gladiatorial combats were also held on its stage, with the first archaeological evidence of a gladiator graveyard found in May 2007. The Library of Celsus, the façade of which has been carefully reconstructed from all original pieces, was originally built c125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an Ancient Greek who served as governor of Roman Asia (105–107) in the Roman Empire. The Temple of Hadrian dates from the 2nd century but underwent repairs in the 4th century and has been re erected from the surviving architectural fragments. There is much history here one could stay all day but we are hustled onto the bus and the next tourist stop which is the House of the Virgin Mary and situated at the top of a very steep hill. The House of the Virgin Mary, is about 7 km from Selçuk, and is purported to have been the last home of Mary, mother of Jesus in the Roman Catholic tradition, based on the visions of Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich. It is a popular place of Catholic pilgrimage which has been visited by three recent popes. There are armed guards everywhere. We slowly descend the hill and onto a leather factory, again very expensive and the attendants are very pushy which I do not like so have a look and go outside and wait for the tour. Onto the hotel Aksan in Kusadai which overlooks the Agean Sea and is absolutely beautiful. An amazing sunset for our last evening in Turkey, tomorrow we cross the waters to the Greek Islands. A walk down a very steep hill to the town, a lovely meal beside the pool and an early night as we have an early morning ferry to catch.

Posted by Rianda 19:48 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey istanbul soldiers Comments (0)

The Land of my Ancestors

England, Ireland and Scotland

all seasons in one day

Today is 25th May 2005 and since my sons gave me a few days holiday in Tasmania for my 50th birthday I have been yearning to travel and started to plan this trip overseas some time back. I am awake, excited and ready to go. Andrew has been given the job of driving, Russell, and I to the Brisbane airport, leaving at 5.15am to catch the 8am Qantas flight to Sydney and then the International flight to Hong Kong and London. My flight is a Frequent Flyer flight, so much planning for so long it seems unreal that we are really going at last. A change in the flight time to Sydney when we arrive at the domestic airport and we are rushed through to a waiting flight, giving us little time for farewells. This will give us extra time in Sydney to go through customs and being our first time we are not too sure what to expect. This part of the flight is only an hour. Upon landing in Sydney, we follow the directions to the transit bus which drives us across the tarmac to the International Airport and through customs. It is much easier than I had expected, they recheck and rescan Russell’s passport but all appears to be OK and we head through the gates and scanners to the International side of the airport where we can relax for about an hour. Time for a cuppa and a look around the Duty Free Shops. This is all new to us. We fly out of Sydney on a Qantas “Longreach” plane at 11.10am and will arrive at London Heathrow Airport in about 22 hours. The plane is reasonably comfortable with Russell and I near the window seats and a gentleman on the aisle seats which becomes interesting every time we wish to stretch the legs. Each seat has a small TV screen on the back and your own personal remote control (male heaven), you can choose what you want to watch from a list of six movies, music or sport channel and also track the plane as it travels. Two meals are served and any drinks we request during the trip. We are like little excited children.
Our flight arrives in Hong Kong at about 7pm (Australian time) and we have a break until 11.15pm. Hong Kong is two hours behind Australia; London is approximately 9 hours behind Australia so our times are very mixed up for a few days. We settle for a cup of coffee ($36HK/$6 AUS), can’t even read a paper as they are all in a foreign language. We take a walk to the Duty Free area and it is like being in a large shopping centre. The time in Hong Kong seems long as we are both tired so decide to lay on some unoccupied seats and try to catch a bit of shut eye before we fly out, the airport is not very busy at this time of night. The next leg of the flight is with British Airlines. The hostesses offer the passengers another small meal and then turn off the lights and we are soon all asleep. It is not a relaxing sleep as it is rather uncomfortable to sleep in a sitting position but we feel reasonably better when we are woken for breakfast before landing.

26th May 2005
The flight into London takes us over the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben arriving at 5.15am and it is a fine, cool but overcast day. We go through Customs with no dramas. I find the airport is rather grubby but not busy at this hour of the morning. There is a 30 minute wait for the Alamo Car Rental pick up bus to take us to their depot situated on the Perimeter Road, then paperwork to be filled out and a car size upgrade and we then head to the car park to collect the car and start our holiday. After more paperwork exchange at the rental gates and onto the Perimeter Road with the help of their map but we discover our sense of direction is terrible but guess it will improve. The first drama is the roundabout, which is rather large and several exits, go around it several times as we have trouble finding the exit for the M25, we end up taking the wrong exit and go South instead of East and end up in Staines so find another roundabout and turn around. An hour later we locate the M40 freeway and are on our way to the Buckinghamshire area. Tempers are a little short at this stage as there are large road works being done on the roads out of the airport so new direction signs and broken existing signs, workers, equipment and side roads everywhere. The traffic is horrendous and this is outer London. We stop at High Wycombe for a short break, then to Princes Risborough, a quaint little English village town with cobbled stone roads and footpaths, thatched roofs and some very old houses and Inns. There is a market place in the centre of town, as there is in most of the villages, and stalls being manned by some elderly ladies so stop and ask for directions. They query the names we are researching and when I tell them “Wooster, Eggleton, East and Rogers” she just laughs and tells me that these names consist of about 80% of the present village population. It is lovely to know I still have relations living in their ancestor’s birth town. Our next stop is the Baptist Chapel where most of my family have connections, not realising that in England the Church yards are also the grave yards so it’s a surprise to see a clutter of graves and headstones at the entrance to the Church yard. An even bigger surprise when Russell reads out the name on the headstone.
“Sarah Eggleton died 1839, also John Eggleton died 1844"
This couple are my GGG Grandparents so I am a little shocked to find this grave as I never realised they were buried here and I wasn’t looking for them. We then start to check all the graves and so many have familiar names from my family research. Our next stop is to Monks Risborough where several Eggleton family members have history with the village and medieval church where they were christened in the 1800's in the 12th Century Aylesbury font. St Dunstan’s Church is 15th Century and again the headstones show family names, more East names this time. The church still has the heavy wooden front door and original christening font, and both are still in excellent condition. We continue the drive north to Aylesbury where a break is required as jetlag is starting to catch up with us so a walk and a small meal is sufficient. A short drive to a small village, Wendover, in the middle of my research area, where we decide to book a room in the local and very old “Red Lion” Inn . Lots of atmosphere.

27th May 2005
We have the usual problem finding the entrance to the freeways and drive round in circles for a good 30 minutes and backtrack several times. In our dilemma to finding the motorway we stop at a very interesting town of Amersham or Elmodesham which is mentioned in the Doomsday Book so the village has very old and quaint little shops and buildings. The main street is a very long street with all the shops joining each other and some are very unusual. There is the usual market place in the centre of town and in the middle of the road. A brief visit to St Mary’s, a Norman Church dating back to 1100AD, the churchyard has some very old headstones and very unusual designs, and some are positioned above the ground and are round rather than the square design. After several more directions from “locals” we find the Marlow Bypass and the M4 and we continue a further 60 miles to the Chipping Sodbury exit No.18 and take a break at Old Sodbury, the older part of the area and the original village. A large number of the town buildings are heritage listed. A rest at St John’s the Baptiste Church which is positioned on top of the hill and great views from behind the church. There is no access to the church so we continue our drive to Chipping Sodbury. In the 18th century the Pincott family lived in this area and through to Bristol. It is a lovely but an unusual town with the market square which is the focal point of the town. We had a lunch break at “George Inn” in the centre of town but a mix up with our orders so end up being there much longer than we had planned. The Inn refunded one of our meals and gave us a couple of free drinks because of the long wait. It was very interesting to see the Catholic Church tucked away in the main street between two Inns, not like a church but a building. It was originally a church, and then converted into an Inn and in the 20th century it was returned to the Catholic Church. Access to another St John the Baptiste Church was not possible as there was no minister around to unlock the doors. The second St John the Baptiste church was surrounded by old tombs. Some were round or square and some above ground. I was not sure if they still contained the remains of coffins or were empty. We continue onto Yate. It was interesting to see that the footpath runs beside the road and continues between the villages. The villages are not far apart. There are also bus stops/shelters at regular intervals between the villages so it must have several bus services each day. We had some difficulty locating a B & B or Inn that has accommodation so decided not to continue to Bristol and we pull into the “White Lion Inn” in Yate. The Cotswolds are a range of hills in south-western and west-central England and an area of outstanding beauty. St Mary’s is a very old church dating back to 1066AD but it is not as financial as others. It still has the original stone floors and stone staircase (over 1000 years) which once led to a bell tower but has now been closed off. The bells can still be rung but the vibrations shake the tower so are now only rung for special occasions.

28th May 2005
Another day and there is a cool breeze and overcast, this is common for an English summer day. We travel north to Gloucestershire and the towns of Gloucester and Stafford. We found the M5 North after a few detours and some mistakes, we are getting better with directions and map reading. We arrive in the city of Gloucester to an extremely cold, cutting wind, the weather is so different to yesterday. We park in a Park & Pay area in the Historical Docks area but nothing is open until 10am which is common practice in England so we walk to get our bearings. It is such a lovely old town and we end up at the Gloucester Cathedral. It was built in 1089AD and started as a Benedictine Abbey but was abolished by King Henry V111 in 1540AD. The Cathedral contains the tomb of King Edward 3rd, the Quire (Choir) where the Monks prayed and sang and is still the heart of the Cathedral today. It is quite magnificent for a 1000 year old building. It has a lot of scaffolding around it as it is being cleaned. This is the case with a lot of the larger churches and older buildings in England. Our arrival in the city has coincided with the yearly Dick Whittington Medieval Festival event and parade, so there is heaps of stalls and a parade with people all dressed up for that era. There is even a Town Crier. We continue back to the wharves via the Gloucester Gaol. It is still used for high/serious offenders, strange to have it in the central part of the city with the old stone walls surrounding the buildings. In the Dockyards there is a tiny little church from 1840. It was and remains a Church of England Extra Parochial Chapel and today is heritage listed. The drive on a secondary road takes us through such lovely countryside as we head to the 1048AD Worcester Cathedral. It can be seen from some distance away. The Cathedral houses the tomb of King John of the Magna Carta fame, Prince Arthur’s Chantry, 12th Century Chapter House and several medieval Cloisters. This time we participate in a tour of St Wulfstan’s Crypt and walk to the top of the tower, the city, countryside and Severn River views are breath-taking. I never realised how unfit I was. We drive for some distance and decide on accommodation at the “White Lion Inn” which is situated on the border of Wombridge, Oakengates and Wellington. These are the three main research areas for the Charles and Washington families.

29th May 2005
After getting our directions from the Inn owner we make our start to Madeley, a small village on the outskirts of Telford. This town is where my GGG Grandparents, Elizabeth Price and Samuel Charles, were married in 1816 in St Michael’s Church of England. The church dates back to the 18th century and it still has the original minister’s pulpit and communion stand from the original church which was built around 1500AD. There is a large graveyard at the rear of the church with a large number of Prices buried but we could not locate Samuel and Elizabeth’s grave. The cemetery consists of several very interesting headstones: Rev John Fletcher, Edward Davis 1686 (oldest stone) and the communal grave of “the 9 Men of Madeley” who were killed in a pit accident in 1864. We push onto Ironbridge where there is a magnificent iron bridge over the Severn River. It was the first to be built in the world and built by Thomas Pritchard in 1773 . We park the car and pay a donation to the Lions Club and commence to walk across. The town is rather small and the buildings are built against a hill so parking is a problem, the town is starting to get busy so we do not stay around very long. Onto Bilston/Eccelishall/Wednesbury area on the outskirts of Birmingham, a surprise to see these places are working class industrial suburbs and not an area I would like to linger in. After directions from a Real Estate Agent we locate 41 Vale Street and find the original row of buildings are still standing. This address is where my GG Grandmother, Jane Charles (nee Washington), died in 1904 so it gives me a real eerie feeling to see the home my gg grandmother lived in. Onto John and New Street, addresses where Jane and Steven Charles lived in 1851 and 1881, but these houses have since been demolished and replaced with multi storey flats (housing commission), then Tipton Street where my Grandfather, John Charles was born in 1881. On one side of the street the original joined houses still stand but the other side has now been replaced with parkland and newer units. We have had enough of Birmingham and so now we head towards Rugeley on the Eastern side of Birmingham. This small town is the home of cousins, who are also descendants of Samuel and Elizabeth. We have never met, only corresponded through the post. A short drive to Cannock Chase where a German WW1 prisoner of war cemetery is situated. It was so interesting that we will go back the next morning for another look but this time with my camera. There is a family Wooster and Parkin soldier from New Zealand buried there. The graves are extremely well cared for and well maintained. Situated beside this cemetery is a German Military Cemetery but it is closed so cannot gain access. Next visit I will have a look.

30th May 2005
It is raining and rather cold this morning, we go straight to Lincoln to have a look at the Lincoln Cathedral which was completed in 1072AD. It took 20 years to build and houses several tombs of Archbishops, Saints and Kings. It is the 3rd oldest in Britain and much larger than the other two that we have visited. It is walking distance to the Castle where they were holding a Medieval Day with various Medieval contests, canon firing demos in the castle grounds and they put on several other interesting displays. The canons are very loud so guess there were a lot of very nervous pigeons living in the castle in the early days. A very interesting walk around the perimeter of the castle wall. There are graves in the round tower and also a magnificent view of the area and the cathedral. After a good break we continue our trip east towards the coast to Hundleby/Spilsby to visit a Wooster cousin, we have only met and chatted via email.

31st May 2005
We leave Hundleby and onto an Air Museum which is situated on the air field site which was the base for the Dambuster Squadron in WW2 and the display presently houses an original Spitfire and Lancaster plane and an excellent display of memorabilia. Onto Tattersall’s Castle and the Holy Trinity Church of England situated beside the castle. Only the remains are left of the church so not used for services and now just a public display. The red brick Medieval castle was built by Ralph Cromwell but now controlled by National Trust so we make use of our Australian membership and gain free entry. This Castle also has a moat and the views from the top of the building are spectacular so worth the climb, the countryside is so green. The graffiti on the walls of the castle date back to Cromwell’s days. We continue onto Nottingham, Robin Hood country, and the suburb of Arnold where Russell's cousins live.

1st June 2005
Overcast, raining lightly and cool, the houses are all warm inside so hard to tell what the temperature outside is like. The day is spent in the town centre at Nottingham Castle and Castle Museum. The museum display is very interesting and extends over two floors of exhibits. We break for lunch at “Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem”, the oldest pub in England 1189AD. There is so much history and atmosphere in this tiny building. Nottingham Castle isn’t like a castle, more private residence for royalty as the original old castle was destroyed by fire and decay but they have some very interesting underground caves and tunnels leading to King David’s Dungeon. A very good tour and excellent tour guide so worth getting drenched with rain, an enjoyable and relaxing day.

2nd June 2005
We head towards the motorway and Sulgrave Manor in Northampton. Sulgrave Manor was the home of the Lawrence Washington and family, an ancestor of George Washington and possibly Jane Washington, my GG Grandmother. The village is so lovely and “English”, beautiful cottage gardens, old thatched houses with stone porches, sundials, mullioned windows and wrought iron sign posts, even salt boxes positioned on the sides of some roads and lanes. A quick stop at the 14th Century Church, St James the Less, here lies the eldest Washington son, newly restored family pews, the original Washington oak chest, several memorial brasses to Lawrence and his family. The manor is a few hundred years old and was bought as a joint project by the British and American governments so houses much history and original oil portraits of George Washington painted by Gilburt Stuart, the greatest of American painters, some of the paintings are originals and very rare. The grounds and lavender gardens are magnificent and well cared for, lots of clipped hedges and a sundial dating from 1579AD. On the terrace beneath the wall, which was erected from the timbers of the original Tudor house flies the flags of the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. After a relaxed wander around the grounds we start the drive to the M1 motorway and Cambridge. This city is a university city so most of the students ride push-bikes and there are special bike tracks on all the roads so driving becomes like dodgem cars. We carefully repack as tomorrow we hand back the car and then go for a long walk around the area, end up at Cambridge University so take a short cut through the grounds, probably my one and only time I will ever set foot in this well-known university. Lovely buildings and grounds.

3rd June 2005
Soon after breakfast we leave and head towards Castle Camps and Shudy Camps area, usual dramas finding the freeway, takes us about 40 minutes through several lovely little, quiet villages. This is where Russell’s ancestors lived be-fore migrating to Australia so very nostalgic.
Castle Camps is so green and fresh and a real English feel about the place. The All Saint’s Church of England is about 1100 year old, the pulpit and font are originals, as are the internal roof rafters. The graveyard in the surrounds of the church house a lot of family names.Beside the church is a very old building which was the original schoolhouse but to be demolished soon as it as been deemed unsafe, it would be nearly as old as the church. This church is now a mix of Anglican/Catholic as is the case with a lot of the smaller village churches in England apart from the high Churches. After leaving we continue to Shudy Camps and another All Saints Church but this one is closed and we are running short of time so have a look around the grounds and check out the grave names, again a lot of familiar names. We now head towards the M1 and London, only 2pm and the traffic is building up very quickly. I have to really concentrate on the traffic and maps as it is very easy to miss an exit. We finally find the perimeter exterior road and drop the car off to the rental car premises and catch the airport bus back to Heathrow so we can catch the underground to the centre of London. This proves to be quite a drama! I am very glad that I packed the bags completely last night as everything happens so quickly once you enter the rental grounds and you do not have time to think. The whole process takes about 5 minutes - unpack the boot, attendant checks that we have filled the car with petrol, checks the car for damage, checks we have everything and signs us off and we are left standing as the car is driven away, the interchange bus is there waiting. Heathrow this time was extremely busy. We head for the tube but haven’t a clue where to go so trying to figure out the payment system and which line to take proves very interesting. Heathrow to Earls Court is the Tube and then to High Kensington a Circle Line but we are not aware that they are completely different lines. We drag our cases onto the train and it was like peak hour in Brisbane and no one will give you a hand, let alone directions. After we get off the tube we are completely confused as all the trains still appear to be going the same way and our tempers are getting a little frazzled. I ask directions but I manage to get a Frenchman who speaks very little English so try someone else who explains the tube to me and it all now makes some sense. There are 2/3 levels to the tube and the Circle Line is a surface line so up we have to go up. No escalators and the lifts are not working so we have to carry our bags up three flights of stairs which becomes very interesting with people pushing and shoving and the bags seem to have gotten heavier since we started 10 days ago as well as a backpack and shoulder bag. Another lady helps me with my bag. There is a wait of a few minutes to pick up the next train but after a couple of stations we realise it is the wrong train so out we get again and the next one takes us directly to High Kensington Station which is only a couple of stations away. I never realised how claustrophobic I was. The walk to the Olympia Hilton Hotel where we have an overnight booking is much longer than anticipated. The brochure that was given to me in Brisbane states that the station is only about 300 metres from the hotel but it is more like three kilometres, raining and peak hour traffic so very glad to see the hotel neon sign. Everyone is mad in London and pedestrians don’t believe in waiting for the traffic walk signs to change so surprised there aren’t more people hit by traffic. The traffic “Walk” signs change much quicker than in Australia and probably just as well. After we sign in and give the clerk all our particulars we are given the door card and away we go to the 4th floor, rooms are very tiny with an even smaller ensuite with a bath. We find baths are quite common in England, sometimes no shower at all. It is still drizzling rain but quite warm so we dry quickly. We walk towards Earls Court and the area just smells of money but is a very Australian tourist area.

The Trafalgar Tour of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland: 4th June 2005
The bus is waiting for us at 7.30 as we are the first to be collected by the tour guide and our drive. Two more hotel stops to collect the remaining tour travellers, the group comprises of Americans, Canadians, New Zealand and Australian people and there are 48 passengers on the trip. The tour starts out the West of London and on towards Stonehenge, the home of the Druids and a World Heritage site, an unbelievable site to see. Around the fields are mounds of dirt covered in grass, some small but others quite high and these are the old burial grounds. The closer the mound to the Stones the more important the person and if a local farmer finds one in his paddock he must fence it off and report the find to the Government authorities. Today we see the remains of a prehistoric monument that was in use as early as 3050BC but no one is allowed near the stone structures as there are wire barriers. Of course the heavens open up as we are walking around the stones and our raincoats are still in the backpacks so end up looking like drenched rats. Stonehenge is owned and managed by National Trust of England. A quick walk around the stones and back to the shelter as the rain is starting to get very heavy; I sure hope this is not a forerunner of days to come. We continue onto Salisbury, one of the ancient holy places of England, where we have a sixty minute lunch break/free time so we go for a walk to the Cathedral. There is scaffolding up around the outside as they are cleaning the grime off the walls. The Cathedral is a bit smaller than others that I have seen but has such beautiful coloured windows, the oldest working medieval clock in the world (c1386), the Chapter House houses one of the four surviving originals of the Magna Carta. William Longespee, half-brother of King John and adviser on the formation of the Magna Carta was the first person to be buried here in 1226AD. Salisbury Plains is a very religious area and the belief that it is where religion started in England. Onwards towards Plymouth and the first overnight stay of the tour. Plymouth is still the largest Naval Base in England and today has two nuclear ships in the harbour. A large number of our ancestors started their migration from this harbour. A night walk to the harbour, the 1720 Lighthouse, Navel Fort (still in use) and several monuments and War Memorials on the edge of the harbour commemorating Drakes voyage from here to attack the Spanish Armada in 1588, the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from here to establish the North American colonies in 1620, the Tollpuddle Martyrs - farm labourers who dared to form a union, were transported from here to Van Diemen’s Land, beautiful views of the bay and surrounds. We continue to the centre of town but there are only nightclubs open and I feel the town is very seedy, lots of loose rubbish floating around and young people hanging around corners.

5th June 2005
Shortly after breakfast we are on our way to Cornwall and Devon, the land of Arthur and Merlin, the peninsula with its own traditions, language and legends. The day is fine so far but cool. Our first stop is England’s premier beach which is a laugh - stones instead of sand, drizzling rain by this time, windy and freezing cold, English beaches are pebbles/stones and some are sand packed hard so when the tide goes out it turns to mud and slush. Onto Michel’s Mount at Penzance (musical - Pirates of Penzance) which is connected to the mainland by a stone causeway and only accessible at low tide, the rocky pyramid rises 300 ft from the waters of Mount Bay which is opposite the ancient town of Marazion. It was originally the site of a Benedictine Priory and today topped by a 14th century castle. The bus then continues to St Ives which is our scheduled lunch stop. This seaside fishing town is what I have seen on postcards and travel books and is a quaint little village on the bay, the only way we can access the town is on foot or a special bus that trips up and down the steep hill and narrow streets all day. No buses or larger cars are allowed down the hill, there is nowhere down there that they could turn around and it is far too steep and narrow, so all park at a special area at the top of the hill. Our first stop is a pastry shop to try a famous Cornwall pasty. They are much larger than I had expected and I am not real fussed on them as they are quite dry to eat, We then walk to the harbour to mingle with the tourists and seagulls which are much larger and whiter than the Australian variety. The tide is out so it is possible to walk across the harbour to the other pier and back through the side streets. This area has a lot of little market type shops and artists residences/shops in the narrow, windy side lanes. We start our drive back to Plymouth giving us some magnificent views along the imposing coastline. The night tour is to the Moors to see the Moor ponies and a meal at the famous Inn. There are about 2000 ponies on the Moors and each year they are herded and the new babies are branded, they belong to the people of Plymouth. The night is bringing in a low, thick, sinister mist or fog and you can hardly see in front of you so the drive is very slow, very eerie. We collect the local guide, Peter Wakeman at Dartmoor; a small town near the Moor Prison and make our way to the Moor Inn, a 400 year old Inn in the centre of the Moors where Peter starts his tales and yarns, some are very interesting and we then start the very slow drive back home through the thick fog. I would not like to drive on this land at night as it would be so easy to lose your way and there is so much quicksand in the area

[b]6th June 2005
The day clears to a nice day for our entry to Wales. We are soon on the M5, past some castle ruins and we soon arrive at Glastonbury -home/burial place of King Arthur. A short stop at the Abbey ruins and a demonstration by an Abbot Monk into their daily life routine, St Patrick’s Chapel (an alms-house chapel from 15th century), St Marys Chapel dating from 1186AD and the first building erected after the Great Abbey fire of 1184AD, a descendant of the Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree which traditionally flowers every Easter and Christmas are all situated on the grounds and several other chapel ruins, an interesting site regardless of how religious you are.
Onto Bath and a visit to the old Roman Baths commenced c60 when Romans began to develop the baths as a spa and a centre for pagan worship. Every building, new or old, in this delightful city is made of Bath sandstone blocks; the same stone that the Cathedral is built from, the front of the Cathedral shows a ladder and angels climbing their way to heaven. We have four hours in the town so I spend a bit of free time on my own walking around the Bath Gardens which backs onto the Avon River so a lovely quiet area with the river punts and ducks and swans. The gardens are in the changeover season so all the spring flowers have finished and the striped deck chairs are out in the sun for those that wish to just sit and watch. As we approach the bridge crossing the Bristol Channel from Bristol to Wales the driver puts on CD of Welsh singers, such lovely voices. The bridge across the bay is long but we are soon entering Wales. The tour has booked our evening meal at Holy Brush Inn, a small village restaurant outside Cardiff but getting there proves to be a small problem, the only way there is over a very narrow bridge and much too narrow for the bus. The driver attempts the crossing but we are certain to get stuck so they try another entrance and again the bridge is too narrow. The only solution is to exit the bus and walk up the lane and the bus will collect us back on the opposite side of the bridge after our meal.

7th June 2005
The hotel is situated on a man-made lake which is full of ducks and other wildlife and management have placed seats around the edges, we take advantage of this and go for a walk before settling in the morning bus. There is another optional tour to Cardiff Castle, the other passengers have a free morning in town. This castle belonged to the eccentric but rich William Burgess who owned most of the coal mines (Rhonda Colliery) in the area as well as the docks to handle the coal. The mines and houses in the Ipswich area are named after his mines and the Welsh towns. His living quarters in the castle are very ornate and a little “over the top” but his wife objected to living in this castle so he had “Koch Castle”, a summer castle similar to those Castles in Europe built for her.
On to Pembroke - the land of the Corgi - and we have a free hour before the ferry to Ireland is due to leave, not enough time to sightsee so just a walk up the main street. Once at the Pembroke Docks we wait in line as we all pass through customs, no personal checks and just waved through and onto the loading dock and then the ferry which is to take us to the Emerald Isle. The ferry is quite large but not the largest in the group, we have a three hour trip and it is calm so a good ride across the Irish Sea to dock at Rosslare late on a sunny and warm afternoon, it feels like I am coming home. Similar to England in the countryside except the houses are more colourful, England’s houses are all a dull colour. Our motel at Waterford is on the River Seur.

8th June 2005
After breakfast we go for a walk but find we go a little further than expected and return to the bus to find everyone waiting for us and a round of cheers from everyone. The tour makes its way to the Waterford Crystal Factory Showrooms to view the finest crystal in the world. Some lovely crystal and other bits and pieces but extremely expensive and not a wise purchase unless we planned to post it back home immediately. We continue the drive to Cork, an area founded by St Finbar, and then the Blarney Castle. My O’Sullivan people are from this area and Skibbereen is not too far away but a detour is out of the question. Somewhere to visit on my next trip. We have a three hour stop at the castle built in 1446AD and a visit to the Blarney Kissing Stone is a must and the main reason for the visit. A climb of a few hundred steps to the top of the castle and then a contortionist act to get to the stone but manage to kiss the required spot and a photo for our trouble. There is not much else to see at the castle but a lovely quiet walk into the village and a nice meal and drink and a visit to the Woollen Mill to buy some souvenirs before we leave for Killarney in County Kerry and some breathtaking scenery. We arrive there a little early and an optional tour, this time a ride in a horse and buggy to Muckross House and gardens built in 1642. This was not an expensive extra and I managed to get the front seat with the driver and “Paddy” the horse so an excellent view and an easy understood commentary except for the Irish brogue. The ride takes us through extensive areas of natural oak and yew woodland, past lakes of Greenland geese, wildlife and fauna, the red deer which are the only remaining deer in Ireland, a Famine
wall left over from the Famine days - the workers built the wall and were paid in food instead of money. It is amazing to think they are still standing after such a long time.

9th June 2005
Our drive today is to the Ring of Kerry, a famous circular scenic route of 115 miles around the Iveragh Peninsular with the best section lying between Kenmare and Killorglin, stopping at the cliff top Scariff Pub for coffee, absolutely beautiful scenery and heaps of photo stops. The lakes are so blue and the hills so green, such a contrast. We continue the drive upwards to the pass to view the Marion Shrine and the 200 year old fort at Staigue then onto Sneem and lunch at Molls Gap, back down the hill to Killarney stopping at Queen’s View. On our journey home we detour to a special graveyard, Reilig A’Tsle An Gorta 1847, a famine graveyard from 1847. It is so sad to see the monument to those who died during the famine and in the graveyard there are a few single graves and a mass grave. My O’Sullivan and McQueeny people were forced from Ireland because of the famine. The remainder of the journey home is spent in silence. An evening meal at the Beaufort local inn and the evening band consists of four men, a comedian and two young female dancers. The designs on the girl’s dresses are outstanding; they put their heart and souls into their dancing. They entice the audience to come up and help with the “Broom dance” and Russell is chosen – is it because he is in the front row or because he is so vocal!! He surprises me with his agility. One of the singers is Thomas O’Sullivan from County Cork and I find him a very interesting man – an Irishman that does not drink. It is only a small room and they shut the doors to keep the noise out of the main part of the pub. In Ireland it is still legal to smoke in the bars as well as bring in their dogs so glad of an interval, the outside doors can be opened and some fresh air.

10th June 2005
We stop for a small break at Adare on the River Maigue where there are rows of thatched houses and the remains of a 15th Century Franciscan Friary. Onto Limerick in County Clare and the Bunratty Castle, one of Ireland’s surviving Tower houses and the stronghold of the O’Brien Clan from around 1425AD. The Folk Park is a living reconstruction of the homes and environment of Ireland of over a century ago, rural farmhouses, village shops, cobbled streets and Bunratty House with the formal regency gardens, similar to the History Parks in Australia. Not overly fussed with the park. After the park we now have a long drive through the Burren Lime Stone desert, the largest area of Karst Limestone in Europe and then onto the Cliffs of Moher (meaning Mother). Rising 660 ft above the Atlantic Sea on the spectacular sea cliffs edge near Haig’s Head stands an old stone fort ruin called Mother O’Ruan or O’Brien’s Tower. The coastline is very similar to the coastlines of Victoria and the Nullarbor area. Before we stop in Galway Bay at the Days Hotel, we visit another very lonely graveyard which houses several Carrawmore tombs.

11th June 2005
Our first visit is to the Galway Cathedral, a modern 20th century Cathedral but with lovely coloured windows, only a short visit as mass is ready to commence. We are going to visit the Connemara Stone Factory, they are waiting for us having opened especially for the visit. Beautiful green stone made into so many different objects and pieces of jewellery. Some beautiful countryside and lastly onto a famine road for a short drive. They were known as the “roads to nowhere” as they were built during the Potato Famine of the 1820’s and paid for in food, same idea as the Famine Walls in Killarney. The next stop is at the extravagant Kylemore Abbey on the banks of Lock Fee and still being used as the final step for young ladies and gentlemen before they go across to finishing school in Europe. All the tourist side of the venture is manned by the students and this is part of their education, their manners are exemplary. The Abbey originally belonged to the Monks and Nuns of the Benedictine Order. After a meal we continue to Sligo, a port town near Drumshambo in County Leitrim, the area where my McQueeny ancestors lived during the 18th/19th Century. As we drive we pass a mountain known as the Reek, Croagh Patrick rising 2515ft through the mists and it is believed that is the area from where St Patrick chased the snakes. Saint Patrick is said to have spent 40 days on the summit in 441AD fasting and praying for the people of Ireland. Since early Christian times a pilgrimage has taken place every July when the devout climb the mountain in the footsteps of the saint. On the summit is a Celtic Hill Fort and a dry stone oratory, one of the oldest churches in Ireland. Situated at the base of the hill stands a bronze monument to the Great Famine depicting a “Coffin Ship” with skeleton bodies in the rigging. A cruise down the River Shannon with scones, tea and entertainment provided, it was so lovely to sit back, relax and watch the swans and other birdlife for awhile. Very relaxing afternoon.

12th June 2005
A detour to the 10th Century Drumcliffe High Cross and Round Tower. The cross is all that remains of the Monastic settlement founded by St Columba in 574AD. In the church graveyard lies the Irish Poet, W.B. Yeats who spent most of his childhood in Sligo . We now start our drive into Northern Ireland which is part of Great Britian, no passports are required and onto Londonderry/Derry. Derry or Londonderry is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland[and the fourth-largest city on the island of Ireland. The name Derry is an Anglicisation of the Irish name Daire or Doire meaning "oak grove". In 1613, the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I and the "London" prefix was added, changing the name of the city to Londonderry. While the city is more usually known as Derry, Londonderry is also used and remains the legal name. The old walled city lies on the west bank of the River Foyle, which is spanned by two road bridges and one footbridge. Derry is close to the border with County Donegal, with which it has had a close link for many centuries. The person traditionally seen as the 'founder' of the original Derry is Saint Colmcille, a holy man from Tír Chonaill. The guide for today’s walking tour is Rowan McNamara, a very interesting man, he is Irish - Chinese decent, a Buddhist and has been trained as History Teacher/University Tutor and he is from Southern Ireland. Even more interesting is that he is married to an O’Sullivan girl from Skibbereen, the town where my family come from. He insists on calling us all his “little lambs”. He takes us along the old city wall which gives us a spectacular view of the old and new parts of the city, a lot of ruined area due to the troubles. It has been drizzling rain all morning so also cool and windy. I have the feeling that the locals do not like the tourists wandering around, so much graffiti but in the Catholic side of town there are some of the best mural paintings on the walls and billboards that I have ever seen and all in the name of Religion and Politics. It is not an area that I would like to wander around on my own. While in the town and some free time I go for a walk to the River Foyle to photograph a monument to commemorate the spot for the Point of Departure for the Penal Law Emigration. The Impact of the strict Penal Laws shocked many Ulster Presbyterians to emigrate to areas of North Eastern America such as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Boston and Philadelphia. The timber in the memorial is some that was salvaged from the original docks on the river. A German Naval boat “ Westerwald” is also docked in the harbour.
Onto County Aintrim and the Giants Causeway, a National Trust site and unusual cliff structures. This monumental terrace of steps, some 300 ft high stretches into the ocean on the Nth Antrim coast between Port Ganny and Port Noffin, a result from gigantic outpourings of volcanic basalt some 60 million years ago, on a clear day you can see Scotland and today is not a clear day. The Finn MacCool walking trail continues up the next cliff face and the photographs taken from this height are spectacular. At the top of the hill is an original old primary school which is still in use, National Trust took over the site, to stop people or developers putting up more buildings or houses. The only buildings are a tourist centre, video viewing building which outlines the geological history of the causeway and a small café. We start our drive to Belfast through lovely Glens and countryside. The guide takes us through the IRA section of Belfast, showing us bombed out areas and buildings, some fences with graffiti and barb wire on them and even though the area is patrolled with armed police, an area we are warned not to frequent after dark. We are staying at the Europa Hotel in the centre of town, a hotel that is in the Guinness Book of records as having been bombed the most times, not a real secure thought, the room is on the 11th floor so a great view of the city.

13th June 2005
Today it is the Parliament buildings, St Marks Church which was the family church of C S Lewis, Harland & Wolff dockyards, the builders of the “Titanic”, St Matthias’s Church which was a garrison church founded by Baden Powell, City Hall - a striking classical Renaissance style building of Portland stone built to commemorate Queen Victoria giving the city status to Belfast in 1858, Customs House, St Anne’s Cathedral built in 1848 and the burial place of Lord Carson, the leader of the opposition to Home Rule who died in 1935 and much more. The day looks fine and cool as we make our way out of Northern Ireland and onto Dublin, capital of Southern Ireland. A 90 minute tour is quite good, takes us around the town area, canals, Parliament House, Customs House completed in 1791, Protestant Christ Church Cathedral built in 12th century, Trinity College of 1592 and which houses the Book of Kells, Molly Malone known as “The Tart with a Cart”, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle, breweries, parks, and historical buildings and back to the Hotel Mespitall on the Grand Canal. Dublin is also the headquarters for The Mercy Religious Order, tucked away in the main area is a little Hughenot Cemetery from 1693 with headstones and graves but we cannot gain access. The night cabaret is a Dinner and Show and worth every euro, singers, dancers and a comedian.

14th June 2005
The following day we decide to hire a rental car and drive south for about 20 mile to the small village of Einniskerry in County Wicklow to locate “Powers Court” where Russell’s Buckley and Hicks people migrated from in 1847 during the Potato Famine. We are surprised to find that Powers Court is a large family estate which is on the surrounds of the village and was the main source of employment and somewhere to live during the famine era. The house is massive and the grounds and gardens absolutely breathtaking. The estate is now open to the public and houses some speciality shops, a golf course, some privately owned units and a large resort being built on the lower reaches of the estate. It has different gardens, a pet’s cemetery, lakes and heaps of walking paths as well as a café and tourist area. The walk through the grounds is so peaceful that we could stay all day but want to have a look at the local church and village before driving back to Dublin. The church is not open but the vicar tells us that the original wooden church was in the grounds of the estate and this would have been where the family worshiped and the parish from where the Hicks family were given the farewell bible when they left the area in 1847, the prayer book which Russell now holds in his possession and so precious to us. As usual we cannot locate the main road back to the city and go the scenic route but drop the Fiat car back to the rental company and catch a taxi back to the Hotel for a well-earned sleep.

15th June 2005
We are leaving a little earlier today as we need to board the ferry back to the England mainland. This time the ferry is much larger with eleven deck levels, cinemas, bars, restaurants, viewing decks, a variety of shops and a large screened TV on board so all Australians watch the Queensland State of Origin football match. A good calm trip across the Irish Sea and we disembark at Holyoake Island off Wales, again no passport checks at the Custom area, and drive towards the ancient city of Chester. There is a long high wall around part of the city, relic of the old Roman days so a walk partly around the wall and then a visit to the 1000 year old Chester Cathedral. In 1092AD the Cathedral was a Benedictine Abbey, there is so much history in this city that you could spend a lot of time just browsing. This is the town where my Great Great Grandfather, William Bowden, and his family lived before migrating to Australia. Onto the Beatles city of Liverpool and our accommodation for the night is the Marriott Hotel at the old airport. The internal of the hotel has been redecorated in the airplane theme and even though an old hotel the renovations have been recent. We haven’t done much today but tomorrow is a mystery tour which should be good as the Beatles music era is our era.

16th June 2005
From the Docks area we collect the Tour Director who is a twin for John Cleese from “Faulty Towers” and a personality to match. The first stop is the 20th Century Liverpool Cathedral set high on a hill overlooking an old cemetery and park which is only accessible through a tunnel, some fascinating old headstones. Now the best part of the tour and we retrace the Beatles fame to Cavern Pub, Penny Lane, Sgt Peppers Inn and many more famous landmarks made famous through their songs. A very interesting observation as we travel through Liverpool is the colour of their rubbish bins - purple - it is the colour of the Liverpool soccer teams mixed together and this was the end result. We collect the remainder of the tour and continue to the M6, through some beautiful countryside, over the Cambrian Mountain range to Lake Windermere where there is a cruise waiting for some of us. This is the largest lake in the Lakes District, drizzling rain but still a pleasant couple of hours. Windermere was the headquarters of the Windermere Iron Steamboat Company so there are some large homes and hotels around the lake’s edge; the lake is 10 miles in length. Before we head to our accommodation for the night we stop at a lovely little village of Grasmere, home and burial place of William Wordsworth (1850, his wife Mary (1859) ) and his family members. The rain is starting to get heavy but this does not stop us walking to the church and graveyard, a warm cuppa in the local café or a visit to the Peter Rabbit and his Friends shop, full of memorabilia. Close by at Ambleside over the Stock Ghyll, a brook or small creek, is a 16th Century Bridge house, the world’s smallest house, and still in it living an elderly man. It once housed a family, this way the family did not have to pay land tax as his house was over a creek and water. It is starting to get late so we continue to the Swallow Inn on Gallows’ Hill in Carlisle, a border town, it is not a great hotel to stay in, very run down and a great “rabbit warren” of rooms and hallways.

17th June 2005
We start again in the Lakes District and a surprise as we detour to Hadrian’s Wall, left over from the Roman Days, take time out to photograph and walk parts of it and then continue to Gretna Green, known for runaway weddings. We are now in Scotland. A little disappointed the Wedding Chapel has become so touristy, there is a wedding taking place so it is closed off for some time. A tour of the original Blacksmiths Shop, Chapel and accompanying rooms. Beside the bus is a field with some Scottish Highland cattle, one is black with a white band around its stomach and the other looks like a long haired Yak, they are known as Moolies. Onto Glasgow, a very large city and we are staying at the Radisson Hotel in the centre of town, a lovely posh hotel but very close to the “red light area”. Our meal tonight is at one of the best restaurants in town - ℒ27:00 each - the meal and service are excellent but the seating is on stools so no backs and very uncomfortable. Not sure if the reason behind this is just a modern/yuppy look or so that the customer will eat and leave and not dawdle around. If the reason is the later then the plan worked as we were back at the Hotel by 8.30pm. Grabbed some of the Aussies and went across the road to the pub and a drink as Glasgow is very lively at night and entertainment stays open long hours.

18th June 2005
Only a short drive and we are in the Scottish Highlands, mist and drizzle. We stop for a cruise up Loch Lomond, so peaceful and quiet. Onwards to the historic town of Fort William in the shadows of Ben Nevis, today there is no visibility so we just have to guess where the mountain should be. This is an old seaside town with quaint little shops and heaps of whiskey sales, so many different types. A short drive through the forests to the docks at Mailaig where we are to catch the ferry to the Isle of Skye (Isle of Mist) the home of Clan McLeod. The ride is about 30 minutes and we discover they serve the worst cup of coffee we have ever tasted so most of it goes over the side. A drive from Ardvasar to Portree to the Hotel at Kyleakin, stop for any supplies as all businesses are closed on Sunday on the Island, the predominant religion is Free Church of Scotland and the only activity performed on a Sunday is a visit to the local church. The King Arms Hotel is a very old National Trust listed building and rather impressive as it sits on the foreshore, it has Scotch patterned carpets, a bit of a rabbit warren, no showers but has such character and so lovely, we are on the second floor and facing onto the beach so feel I will enjoy the stay. Before tea we go for our usual walk to the pier and the castle ruins, After a lovely meal, a Canadian couple and us take a drink across to the foreshore and sit there for a while as the sun goes down, so peaceful and quiet. In the distance you can see the bridge which joins the island to Scotland, this bridge when first built charged a very high tariff but this has since been lifted and the drive across is free, thus attracting more tourists.

19th June 2005
After a quick breakfast we go for a lovely long and quiet walk to the castle ruins, everyone in the town is still in bed as there was a music festival on the other side of the island so a lot of traffic and noise during the night. Misty and light rain. The history of the island is very interesting and tied up with the Battle of Glen Coe, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora McDonald. We stop at the local cemetery where Flora is buried, the Black houses that have no chimneys and an exhilarating view of McQueen’s Finger - a point on the side of the cliffs in memory of a race between the Clan McQueen and Clan McDonald and lastly we climb to the lookout at Kilt Rock. After a drive around the other side of the Isle we arrive back in time for a quick lunch and then across to Scotland and Nessie. We retrace our steps to see Nessie and at the top of a hill overlooking Loch Ness stop to take photos of Nessie’s lake. The closest we will see of the Loch Ness Monster is a replica in a man-made pond by the side of the road; no tours will take a cruise on this lake. What is everyone afraid of? We continue to Glenn Coe where we listen to the murderous history of the McDonald Clan. This site is owned by National Trust so we have free entry to the Thatched House, the original hospital for the injured at the battle, and its history. The Moor where the Battle of Culloden was fought on 16th April 1746 and the graves of all the highlanders who fought for Scotland and Prince Charlie are marked by the names of the clans, the site is extremely well set out and would have liked to spend some more time on the Moor but we are on a tight schedule. Newtownmore and the Highlands here we come, we are staying at the “Highlander Motel”, a motel often used in the series “Monarch of the Glen”. The drive through the Highlands is spectacular, misty mountains you could only half view, waterfalls and running creeks, paddocks of Heather not yet out in flower, steep valleys and mysterious crevices, drizzly rain for part of the drive. All of a sudden the village appears out of the mist and hills. At dinnertime there is a surprise, a piper pipes in the Haggis and the Burns poem is read. This is the first time I have ever seen Haggis and I am not real fussed on trying it but it is placed before us so have no choice. I am quite surprised as it tastes like spiced mince not offal as I have been told, served with mashed potato. Afterwards we locate the “Cat Trail” and follow it across the golf course and on to the river, beautiful wild flowers growing; this river is also used in the TV series. So quiet you can hear the water running,

20th June 2005
We head south to Blair Castle, the ancestral home of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl and the Murray Clan for over 700 years. On the tour is a Canadian Murray family and a direct descendant. The white castle is different to the other castles that we have seen and more like a large ancestral home, no photos are allowed inside the castle. At 11am the lone piper starts his walk in front of the castle, a tradition to wake the master of the house. The grounds are beautiful, so green and manicured and the trees and plants well tended, some of the trees would be originals they are so large. Onto Perth where the farmers grow raspberries under large plastic covers and then Dundee and across the Firth of Tay to St Andrew’s, home of FLOG now known as GOLF, the game banned by James 6th. Even though neither of us are golf fanatics it felt great to walk on the fields and paths where the greats have walked and played. I am surprised that the playing fields are not as great looking as some in Queensland, the ground looks hungry even though green. The Golf house is spectacular but only members are allowed in there. There is scaffolding up around the 18th hole area as the Open Tournament is due to commence in a few weeks, I am surprised that they allow people to walk around the course. We have some time in this delightful little village. After we all climb aboard the coach we are on our way over the Tighe River which joins the Atlantic Ocean, to the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, where we will be staying in the Holiday Inn situated next to the Edinburgh Zoo, a very clean city and so much history.
With a couple free hours we go in search of a post Office to post home a tube of maps, this time we get asked the question “do we deliver to Australia?” Not sure where they think we are from, so Russell gives the Pakistani attendant a short history lesson. Postage . Tonight is the highlight of the Scottish section of the tour, a dinner and cabaret, “Scotland the Show”, the sound of the bagpipes, swirl of the kilt, the music and dance of the Celts, food and wine. Again we have the haggis piped in with the chef, the reading of the poem and the piper so a grand entry. I find the Scottish Dancing not as full of life as the Irish, more like ballet as their shoes are quiet and their costumes not as colourful but I do enjoy the bagpipes. On the way home the bus stops so we can see the Castle all lit up on the hill, it seems so lonely and barren sitting up there on its own.

21st June 2005
We leave early for for a city tour, collect our kilted guide with the great sense of humour and booming voice, and away to Edinburgh Castle. The castle is so large and windy that one could spend several hours wandering around; the views of Edinburgh are amazing. The Scottish Crown Jewels are on display but no cameras are allowed inside and the room is heavily guarded. There are so many attractions to see, Mons Meg the massive gun standing outside St Margaret’s Chapel and made at Mons in 1449AD, the colourful Queen’s Guards and soldiers, Argyle Tower added to the castle in 1887, Half Moon Battery from 1571AD, the original medieval Lang Stairs, Governor’s House built in 1742 and still in use today as the Officers’ Mess with the Lodgings for the Gunners Storekeeper in the wings and the magnificent St Margaret’s Chapel from 1142AD and still in use today over 900 years later. Flowers can be left at St Margaret's but only if you have Margaret in your name. King Robert the Bruce guards the front entrance; he was a visitor in 1314. So much history in this Castle!! Our drive through the streets of Edinburgh, the old and new sections of the city are again full of history with the Grey Fryer’s Bobby, Old Carton Cemetery, Livingston’s memorial, the left-handed Royal Mile Stairway, Museum of childhood, Duke of Wellington and Nelson’s Monument (1807)and Time Ball (1852), Church of Scotland Headquarters, National Art Gallery and these are only a few of the sights. So many and so little time, perhaps another visit at another time. Tonight we take a 30 minute drive through lovely countryside to Crammond to the Twin Bridges Hotel and a traditional Scottish Pub meal and a piper with a great sense of humour. He is an elderly man but has a wide range of repertoire including “Waltzing Matilda”. Robert Louis Stevenson stayed in this Inn in exchange for a month’s free accommodation while he wrote the famous “Treasure Island”. The sun going down over the two lovely bridges is a lovely ending to the outings as a group.

22nd June 2005

With the driver dressed in his Football kilt we are away and a coffee stopover in Jedburgh and we are at the Scottish/England border Stone ready to cross over and nearly at the end of the tour. A lone piper pipes us across, the bus silent. We are now on our way to York, a quick orientation tour of the city .The guide takes us on a short walk tour and Russell and I both decide to split as there is so much to see and only a few hours to do it in. He decides on the Vikings City and June, a New Zealand passenger, and I visit the York Minster built in 1220AD and a walking tour of the centre of town including a visit to “Bettys”, well known for her excellent éclairs. The centre is covered in potted plants, some on the ground others hanging, known for Guy Fawkes, ancient walls of York, Church of St Helen 12th century. The York Minster with its massive coloured windows is probably one of the loveliest Cathedrals I have visited on the tour, it is also the only church brochure that I have collected that states it was once a Catholic Church until the reformation takeover and changes implemented by King Henry 8th.

23rd June 2013
This is the final day on the trip and even though I have enjoyed the time I must admit it will be nice to do something on our own and not to a schedule. Our first stop is Coventry at the two Cathedrals of St Michael the Archangel, the bombed remains and the 20th Century Cathedral. During WW2 the city of Coventry was bombed by Germany, the British Government knew it was coming because they had cracked the German code but couldn’t do anything special for defence as this would have shown they had cracked the code so the bombing was with the full knowledge of Winston Churchill and the loss of many thousands of people and buildings including the Cathedral. On the front of the new Cathedral is a very Interesting sculpture of St Michael and the Devil, the original Cathedral is just a shell with several memorials in it but the new one is very modern but no photos are allowed inside so I didn’t stay long. Onto Ann Hathaway’s Cottage and the group photo and a very quick look around, then straight to a lunch break and free time at Stratford upon Avon and Shakespeare country. This is an extremely old village and very expensive to buy into real estate. The whole town is based around Shakespeare as he was born here and buried in the local St Trinity Church. His wife, Anne Hathaway, and several other family members are also buried behind the altar gates in this church. It is a very interesting little place and would have liked more time to have a good look around. The remainder of the drive to the M1 and London is completed in silence, traffic is starting to build up even though it is only early afternoon, rather hot and humid when we arrive but straight to our room after sorting the paperwork and organising a London bus day trip for tomorrow.

24th June 2005
We are soon on our way to the motorway and traffic jams, it is only 2pm and the four lanes are completely full of cars as well as major road works around the entrance to Heathrow making the entry a little tricky. We still have some four hours before departure so make for the Customs area to have our passports checked, we are all of a sudden feeling extremely exhausted. Sunset through the windows and across the landing planes is magnificent as we head towards the departing terminal and the end to a magnificent adventure to our ancestors country, a trip I will remember for a life time. We are home, exhausted but so pleased to have visited the areas of the old ancestral families that I have been researching and to verify the information that I have collected and collated over the years in my quest for family history.

Posted by Rianda 04:50 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged scotland england ireland Comments (0)

Irish Walk 2016

O'Sullivan March

all seasons in one day

IMG_3868.jpgToday is the start of the preparation for a walk of 500 klms from Leitrim in the North to Castletownbere in the South of Ireland, the O'Sullivan March. My Great Grandmother was an O'Sullivan so this walk is a little personal but hoping on some help and plenty of advice during this journey and the preparations. This walk will be for Cancer in memory of my two brothers Lloyd and Kerry so will become very personal as I progress and as the time gets closer. Already I am asking the very important question - can I do it or am I completely crazy, only time will tell.

This walk will take me over some very interesting yet very beautiful country and probably at times very wet and cold. I hope to complete this walk in June/July 2016 and hopefully over 5 weeks. I have already purchased a small camera and a backpack so the start of my item list. Photography is important to me.

I have started the "what I need to purchase" list and have checked out the tracks/walks but would love to hear from anyone who has walked this March or any of the walks that are part of the 500 klms. The more I look the more confused I become.

Do I book accommodation along the way before I leave Australia or find it as I go? I must remember that it will be the high tourist season. I have never done it this way before as I like to know where I will be each night but perhaps time to change my way of thinking. This is hard as I am over 60 so not into backpacking and roughing it. Never have been, I prefer my creature comforts at night.

I have purchased a backpack so looks like I will carry as I go, something I have never done before but guess again I have to change my ideas on what I feel is important to carry in the way of clothes - definitely not a tent etc.

I will try and add to this entry as my preparations progress so any help or advice would be appreciated. Nearly forgot - I start my walking training in 10 days so then I know it is real. No use just talking about it. I will start the fundraising for Cancer in early 2015.

Posted by Rianda 22:44 Archived in Ireland Tagged me walking countryside photography cancer Comments (31)

An Irish Letter to the Grave

I wrote this daily diary of my Ireland travels from 2014 as I travelled the green isle and after arriving home I decided to pen it to my Mother so sit back and enjoy.

sunny

As I pen this final letter to my precious mother I know she will be smiling at me as I struggle to carry on a tradition I have had with her, a tradition of a weekly letter to her regardless of where I was living, a letter to tell her of the family antics and achievements. This letter will be different as it is a letter to the grave; I buried her last week after a long and fulfilling ninety five years. My letters were always full of my travels over the years and this trip was going back to Ireland, the old country, the country of her grandmother and a place she spoke of often. Her grandmother was Irish from Skibbereen in Cork so I feel I am going home for Mum.

My Dear Mother

My first solo trip overseas on my own and I am looking forward to several weeks of travelling which has been in the planning for over twelve months. I can hear you saying “be careful, come back safe.” It is a crisp cool winter Australian morning; a friend is driving me across to the Qantas Domestic Airport to catch the Melbourne flight QF615 departing Brisbane at 10am. Minimal traffic on the roads and I book the case through to Heathrow, London, the attendants query my return ticket as I am not returning with this airline but with Malaysia Airlines. I have passed though the security area with no dramas, something of a novelty for me. The flight to Melbourne departing at gate 21 is interesting as I am seated beside a lady born in Roma in West Queensland and who knew you and your family—we have kept in touch since returning to Australia. The two hour flight goes quickly and we are landing in Melbourne where I am to meet a friend I have known for over 35 years and have not seen for over 10 years. Farewells and I head towards the international section of Tullamarine Airport. I have nearly three hours wait for the QF65 to Dubai departing at 7.30pm and I am already starting to droop, it has been a long day and I still have not left Australian soil. Hopefully I can get some sleep before we land in Dubai, this is the longest part of the flight and I am not keen on the Dubai airport.

It has been a very long and a full flight, arriving at 3am Dubai time. 37° and so glad we are not leaving the air-conditioned airport. I do not feel comfortable in this airport and have a two hour stopover so walk up and down the corridors. You must keep check on the flight departure times on the overhead boards as no flights are paged. When I am not walking I sit, read and try to catch up on some sleep. The next leg of the flight to Heathrow is only about 7 hours, arriving ahead of the expected time; clear customs, collect my luggage and head towards the Ireland departure lounge. The luggage is booked in and I clear customs again, sit and wait, I am scared to shut my eyes in case I go into a deep sleep and miss the last leg of the flight to Dublin. As usual the Dublin flight is delayed time and time again, this is not unusual but eventually we are paged to start the lengthy walk to the area where the Aer Lingus flight is to depart. Jetlag has hit so I sleep on the Ireland leg as I know the hostess will wake me before we land. After landing and clearing customs with no dramas, I locate the transfer bus area, a 30 minute trip to the city. The bus drops me in O’Connell Street around the corner from the Best Western Hotel where I am staying for the next few nights. A smallish room but after a quick meal in the hotel, a shower and I am in bed and asleep. The area where the hotel is situated is perfect for me being a single traveller.

The morning light shines through the open windows, grab my sneakers, camera and back pack and head off into the cool but clear morning. The only people up at this time of the morning are the taxi drivers and the street cleaners so feel quite safe on my own. It is such a lovely time of the day for photos so I wander towards the Liffey River at the top end of O’Connell Street, the morning is casting magnificent shadows across the waters. Numerous other bridges span the river. Up the hill into the Temple Bar District, a popular nightlife area, and off Dame Street sits the Dublin Castle, the security is opening the public access gates as I arrive so an opportunity to wander around in silence without the public crowds. There is so much history in these buildings as I quietly walk around, reading the signs and just gazing, the morning seagulls feeding their squealing young on the tops of the chimney stacks. The Dublin Castle was until 1922 the seat of British rule in Ireland, and is now a major Irish government complex, most of it dates from the 18th century though a castle has stood on the site since the days of King John. Hunger has set in so I locate a Costa Restaurant and relax with a coffee, a bowl of hot porridge and the Dublin Times. I slowly head further into the Temple Bar area and the 11th Century Christ Church Cathedral and the churches loom ahead of me and tower over the surrounding buildings. There are a lot of homeless men floating around, some still asleep in their colourful sleeping bags on the sides of the footpaths—a change to when I was last in Dublin. I am still trying to contact an O’Sullivan cousin whom I met on my last visit. I wander up to the dock area so I can take a tour of the Jeannie Johnson Famine Boat or tall ship docked at the Customs House Quay in the old harbour area. A very interesting tour and only six other American people in the tour. The Jeannie Johnston is a replica of a three masted barque that was originally built in Quebec, Canada, in 1847 by a Scottish shipbuilder. The boat performs a number of functions: an ocean-going sail training vessel at sea and when in port the boat converts into a living history museum on 19th century emigration. Further down the waterfront is a very sad famine memorial of life sized painfully thin sculptural figures, standing as if walking towards the emigration ships on the Dublin Quayside. I have walked all day but thoroughly enjoy this vibrant and lively city, its people and sights.
I find Jetlag still has me waking early so head off and this time towards the Four Courts and Market area. The area is a little rougher but I feel quite safe among all the early market workers and massive delivery trucks. I am searching for the Debtors Prison but I seem to be walking in circles and cannot locate the building even though it is clearly marked on the tourist map. I have to eventually ask one of the big burly delivery boys who enlightens me, I am standing in front of the dilapidated building. It is very rundown and covered in graffiti, Irish history falling to bits. I had a look and took some photos as I feel this building will not be around for much longer.

I am meeting my cousin and her husband today outside Brown Thomas Department Store in Grafton Street. Brown Thomas is home to an unparalleled range of designer brands and is a similar store to Myers and David Jones but with a doorman in a spiffy uniform. I arrive earlier than planned as I want to have a look at the street with its buskers up and down the pedestrian walkway and its statue of Molly Malone and her trolley. No traffic is permitted on this part of Grafton Street. After we leave each other’s company I wander back spending some time browsing in the many department stores and novelty shops, every shop is advertising massive sales as it is the middle of the year. I have decided to venture out to Madigan’s Hotel for a meal, live Irish music at the pub tonight so stay and listen for a while. I leave vibrant Dublin tomorrow.

County Wicklow

This morning I am booked out by 9am and dragging my bag up O’Connell Street to where the Airport bus pulls in only to find that it also stops across the road from the Hotel. I am returning to the airport to collect the Avis rental car—a red Nissan Micro. Small but easy to drive and all I require for the next two weeks. I am given directions to the M50 and Bray in County Wicklow, about 20 klms south of Dublin. It is an easy drive around the ring road and the roads all have 110klm speed limits but everyone still rushes past me. I have parked at the beachfront and find a classy looking restaurant for a cuppa and directions. The beach is covered in small pebbles not sand and the water looks rather cold but there are people swimming. I will skip the swim and just watch them. My bed for the night at The Esplanade Hotel is very interesting and looks like it belongs to Dracula with its pointed roof sections but great sea views. The hotel faces the Promenade and sits at the foot of Bray Head and is within walking distance from the restaurants and the Dart Railway Station. As soon as I have settled into my room which overlooks the garbage bins, I can never seem to manage a great room view, I grab the sneakers and backpack and head off to start the 7 klm coastal walk to Greystones. The Cliff Walk has an interesting history; it was built during the construction of the rail line, to allow the movement of men and equipment. The ruins of a small cement block house along the path was once Lord Meath’s Lodge, here there was a toll gate and the public was charged a penny for entry. Just past Lord Meath’s lodge is an area called the Brady Hole, which was a cave notorious for smugglers. It is a lovely walk with great sea views from the beginning to end, birds nesting on the cliff face and different floral arrangements jutting out from between the jagged rocks. The walk takes me around two hours and my aching body tells me how unfit I am. I wander around the village as I wait for the Dart to arrive and I take the easy way back to Bray. The train ride takes about 30 minutes. I walk back to the hotel along the beach front admiring the colourful stripped beach carnival shelters, an ice-cream in hand. I have decided on Fish and Chips for tea and sit watching the late cool afternoon cast shadows across the waters. So peaceful.
This morning a detour to the most magnificent landscaped walled gardens and grounds in Ireland. Along the tree lined entrance this large country estate is where family were born, worked and some died and were buried before the remaining members migrated to Australia due to the famine. Powers Court Estate is near Enniskerry in County Wicklow. Surrounding the vine covered headstones in the cemetery is a large steel fence with menacing looking spikes on top, I would like to have a look but without prior permission I don’t like my chances. I could climb the fence but would probably get thrown off the estate or end up doing myself a serious injury. Instead I stand peering through the bars knowing I have family in there among the briars and knowing I cannot gain access to visit. In the centre of the cemetery are the ruins of the church now covered by vines and filled in with headstones. Probably the original church for the local district. The Japanese Gardens are green with a variety of different bushes and flowers intermingled with moss, Buddhist statues and waterfalls. Around the corner is the Pets Cemetery, graves which house small and large animals that have passed away on the estate. In the grounds as you merge from the house are views of the surrounding Sugarloaf Mountain, fir trees and a large winged horse fountain posing in the centre of the lake. The view makes you stop and gaze. The estate also has a golf course and a large hotel.

County Wexford

I have decided on an early start, light rain falling but cool so nice for driving. I make my first stop at the Irish National Heritage Centre but the rain is so heavy I can only have a coffee and take some photos through the front window. A shame as it appears to be a very interesting display. The centre is home to the Irish Ringfort and gives the visitor a look back into 900 years of Irish history. After a break I am on my way to Wexford, my hip is really aching so pleased to see the signs to Wexford but as usual I cannot locate the accommodation and drive in circles until another driver gives me directions. It appears I drove past the exit several times, just needed to turn at the lovely old bridge crossing the Slaney Estuary River. It is now pouring with rain and quite cool but I have found a great little parking space at the front door where I will stay parked for the next 24 hours. My accommodation is Riverbank House Hotel, a lovely single room for the night, minutes from the centre of the thriving town. A cup of warming soup hits the mark and I settle for a quiet and relaxed afternoon as I need to ease the pain in my hip so I can continue my walking tomorrow. An early night but a rude awakening in the early hours when the fire alarm is sounded accidently by another resident, the alarm is just outside my door and it takes many minutes before it is turned off and I register what has just happened. Should I get up and get dressed or just ignore the alarms, decide on the latter. It is wet and cold and I do not feel like having to drag myself outside to a designated area.
I am out of bed early, grab my shoes and backpack and head to the bridge, the day has cleared to a fine but cool morning. I told the lady in the office the night before that I would be going for a morning walk so they have the back door unlocked for me so I can leave without waking anyone. County Wexford was the centre of the 1798 rebellion against British rule, the town was held by the rebels throughout the fighting and was the scene of a notorious massacre of local loyalists by the United Irishmen, who executed them with spikes on the Wexford bridge. I wander up through the narrow pebbled streets to some notable churches within the town, St. Iberius with its distinctive spires and the Ann Street Presbyterian church. These churches can be seen from any part of Wexford. The streets are eerily quiet as the garbage truck makes its way around the businesses, the street lights still glowing. So many interesting medieval monuments and buildings which are reminders of the towns glorious Viking and Norman past. As the sun comes up over the harbour I head back across the bridge to the hotel and a cooked breakfast which will keep me going for the remainder of the day. I am heading towards the Hook Lighthouse a short drive of about 40 minutes along the narrow coastal roads. There is a bitterly cold wind blowing but the sea views are magnificent. Six tourists take the tour to the top of the white lighthouse. The Hook Lighthouse (also known as Hook Head Lighthouse) is a building situated at the tip of the Hook Peninsula, and is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world, and the oldest operating lighthouse in Ireland. The current structure has stood for almost 800 years. The existing tower dates from the twelfth century and the tower stands four stories high with walls up to 4m thick. The old keeper’s houses have been turned into a visitor centre and a fabulous café offering some mouth-watering homemade cakes. I must keep moving back along the coast taking a few detours and stops. On a narrow side road of the Hook Peninsula are the church ruins of St Dubhan, a small church surrounded by old headstones. The site dates from the 5th century when the monks looked after the nearby lighthouse. My next stop is Loftus Hall, a large mansion on the Peninsula believed to be haunted by the devil and the ghost of a young woman. The Redmond family built the building in about 1350 during the time of the Black Death. In 1917 Loftus Hall was bought by the Sisters of Providence and turned into a convent and a school for young girls interested in joining the order. The staircase in Loftus Hall is one of only three of that design in the world, one is at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean as the Grand Staircase in The Titanic and the other is in the Vatican City. After a quiet walk around the large quiet grounds watching the rabbits chasing each other I start the drive to Cashel through New Ross, Kennedy country. The small town is located on the River Barrow, near the border with County Kilkenny. The 18th and 19th centuries were prosperous times for New Ross with the colonisation of North America, local merchants sailed their own ships back and forth to the colonies usually carrying Irish emigrants. A replica of one of those ships, the Dunbrody, is now berthed on the quay in New Ross and offers visitors to the ship an insight into life as a passenger during the late 19th century.
Most of this drive is on high hedged, narrow back roads with the speed limit being 100klm and someone is constantly on my tail. The Rock looms ahead as it rises above the village of Cashel. My accommodation for the next two nights, “Baileys Hotel” is situated in the middle of town with underground parking a few shops away; I do not plan to take the car out while I am here. This 4 star hotel is a beautifully restored listed Georgian building, old fashioned charm with modern conveniences. A latte and a meal in the downstairs restaurant and then an early night as it is drizzling rain and cold so a good night to curl up with an interesting book.

County Tipperary

The morning is lovely and clear as I start the walk up to the rock also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick's Rock. According to local mythology, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil's Bit, a mountain 20 miles (30 km) north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock's landing in Cashel. Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century. The oldest and tallest of the buildings is the well preserved round tower (28 metres, or 90 feet), dating from c.1100. Cormac's Chapel, the chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh, was begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134. Other notable features of the building include interior and exterior arcading, a barrel-vaulted roof, a carved tympanum over both doorways, the magnificent north doorway and chancel arch. It contains one of the best preserved Irish frescoes from this time period. The pigeons nest in the many crevices in the outside walls with the ancient headstones standing proud overlooking the plush green fields and the church ruins below. The rain has started and a very cold wind is blowing so time to head back down the hill past a very good tourist shop and onto an interesting thatched historical house, a little run down but full to the brim with history and odds and ends. A walk to the Georgian St. John's Cathedral and I stay for a midday Mass.
This is my first petrol stop since collecting the car so it is proving to be very economical, my next stop is Cahir Castle, the largest castle in Ireland sitting in the middle of the River Suir, built in 1142 by Conor O'Brien, Prince of Thomond. The day is grey, overcast and light rain is falling as I make my way towards the M40 and Cork. I feel that I should have bypassed this city, I am booked into the Airport Travelodge which is some distance from the airport, very difficult to locate and a horrendous roundabout to master. You know how I hate large roundabouts. This is not the best motel that I have stayed in but guess it is only for a night and just somewhere to lay my head. I hope to go into town but must walk up a rather steep hill and wait for a considerable amount of time before the city bus turns up and a 30 minute ride into the city, dropping me off at the South Mall near the majestic old Imperial Hotel in the centre of busy Cork. I wander around to get my bearings and end up at the Holy Trinity Church so stay for midday Mass, I am surprised at the number of workers and younger people attending. A quick stop at the famous English Food Market and a wander down along the River Lee with shadows from the buildings being cast across the blue grey waters. It is time to head home as the day draws to a close and a storm closes in. A quiet night as I want to make an early start tomorrow.

County Cork - Family and Friends

Leaving the city is much easier than my arrival and I am on the exit highway with no traffic problems. I have decided to take a few detours so I can see the Timoleague Franciscan Friary, dark clouds are collecting over the extensive ruins. The ruins are open to the public and there are a large number of ancient headstones surrounding the ruins so I wander through the different areas until the storm reaches the ruins and has us all running for shelter. The village is close and I walk up the narrow pebbled streets to the Trimoleague church on the hill with a very interesting Famine memorial at the bottom of the steps. After the storm clears I move down the coast road to the Old Head at Kinsdale. An early lighthouse was established here in the 17th Century and the area is noted for being the closest land point to the site where the HMS Lusitania sank in 1917. The dramatic cliffs of the headland jut out into the Atlantic Ocean and they rise several hundreds of feet above the water with its towering cliffs. As I meander along the narrow road and down the peninsular I stop off at St Marys Catholic Church, the Leap where several of our O’Sullivan, O’Driscoll and O ’Donohue relatives are buried. This church was built during the famine times. As I continue into Skibbereen I feel I am home again, this is my third visit and the home of your grandmother, Ellen O’Sullivan. The village always looks like it needs a little TLC but I feel comfortable here, I have family here even if I do not know them and never will. I locate the B & B “Bridgehouse” where I will stay for the next three nights and I feel I have just stepped back into an earlier century. A massive large Convent key to the door, nic nacs everywhere, flower petals on the bed, fresh bunches of flowers in every nook and window sill, red satin curtains draped at the head of the bed. The communal bathroom has the largest bath I have ever seen and again furry, hairy creatures perched on the sides. The owner is lovely but a real flower child. I wander down the narrow street to High Street, cars and trucks barely missing each other, residents, tourists and children wandering all over the road but it appears this is a daily occurrence. As the streets become quieter and the workers leave for their homes I wander down to the West Cork Hotel for a Guinness and a meal, I have stayed here on a previous visit and it is a very welcome place. I move the car closer to the accommodation and I settle for the night. I wish I had booked into the white hotel.
As the morning sun is rising I head off for a walk before breakfast, down past the hotel and across the River Ileen, stand and watch the large numbers of birdlife floating along the water and trying to hide among the reeds. It is such a peaceful time of the day. After a light breakfast I head to the town roundabout and onto Russagh area where your G Grandparents had a farm. Russagh area is still farming land and the remains of the once busy Russagh Grain Mill is now a popular Hostel, brush, flowering trees, and fields cover the surrounding landscape. It is a strange feeling to know I am walking the same lanes that our O’Sullivan family walked so many years ago. I continue to drive not knowing where the narrow road is taking me but soon I am in the fishing village of Baltimore, home of the O’Driscol clan. I have been here before but feel I need to have another look at the family castle, Dun na Sead, which stands on the hill overlooking the calm harbour and the many colourful boats and wandering tourists. The castle has been recently renovated but the inside displays much historical information about the Pirates and sacking of the village in the 1600s. Many of the inhabitants which survived the pirate’s invasion of the village fled upstream and founded the village of Skibbereen. On the outskirts of the village is the cosy, popular pub “Casey’s of Baltimore” which sells the best homemade scones and cream I have tasted in some time and from here I wander down to the Tullagh church ruins and the old graves mainly O’Sullivan and O'Driscoll family.
My next stop is Castletownshend, a short distance from Skibbereen and situated on the Castlehaven harbour. To reach this harbour you must manoeuvre an extremely steep hill past the castle and St Barraihane’s Church but worth the walk along the water’s edge.

The next water stop is Lough Hyne, a marine lake with several Holy wells and the ruins of St Bridget's on the shores of the lake. Castle Island is situated in the center of the lake where the ruins of Cloghan Castle, once a fortress of the O'Driscoll clan, are still able to be seen from the shore. A short drive back to Skibbereen as the rain clouds build over the green fields, I stop off at Abberstrowry Cemetery, a graveyard full of burial pits and mass graves of the great Famine 1845 – 1850. A cemetery full of our relatives. The graves and dilapidated headstones, some standing, some lying on their sides, some on the sides of the slopes overlooking the River Ileen flowing past, the large grassed area where tens of thousands of bodies lay together, so many sad stories.

The morning has started cool but surprisingly fine, no clouds on the horizon so the drive to Schull is enjoyable. I am going to meet some new Goggin relatives, my 3rd cousin and the first Irish contact on this line of the family so very exciting. I have some very vague directions, who in this village would know this family? The family has lived in the area since the early 1800’s.The shops are starting to open their doors so head towards the post office and the owner sets some directions for me and off I go. The country roads are winding and tall hedges rush past, I hope I do not get lost as I could drive in circles for ages and not know where I am, my sense of direction is terrible. I am searching for a yellow house with a blue car in the garage. I take a chance at the crossroads and for once it was a good decision, the house looms over the crest. What if they don’t want to see or accept me, now I am starting to be a little afraid. Approach the front door with some in trepidation but all this is blown away when John answers and holds out his arms for a hug. This welcome I have found all over Ireland – family or acquaintance. A cuppa, lots of family history and more relatives arrive before a decision to walk up the hill to the Goggin House which now houses the cows in winter time. This house is where John and his parents were born, where your grandmother would have visited and possibly slept and where her parents would have visited. I saw photos of this house and the area some 10 years ago and it has always been on the wish list to visit even if only to feel my Great Grandmothers presence. It is such a peaceful place and full of so many lovely family memories. The day continues in Schull with a lovely meal and then a walk along the harbour waters to the cemetery and its ruined church still standing proud in the middle among the headstones, some famine graves and possibly where your Great grandparents are buried. John’s brother is buried there so after placing a flower on his grave he wanders back to the village the way we came, we will probably never see each other again, I stay on and wander around and so many family names stand out. I would love to stay longer but storm clouds are building and I do not want to be caught in it. After arriving back in Skibbereen I go to the local Butcher O’Sullivan to see if he can help me in any way but it appears he is a new comer - only been in the area for the last 20 years. He gives me some more family contacts which I will follow up on when I return home. It has been such a full day and I am exhausted.

I am not happy having to leave Skibbereen but would not be happy having to stay any longer in the B & B, I start the drive to Bantry arriving in time for the Friday street markets. Plenty of parking in the town area as the crowds have not built up so very relaxing just wandering around the much organised stalls with a fresh coffee in my hand. The last few days have been hectic and exhausting but very fulfilling. Onto Glengarriff via the O’Sullivan Castle, Carriganass Castle near Kealkill, all that remains are ruins but open to the public. Carriganass Castle tower was built in about 1541 by clan chieftain Dermot O’Sullivan Beare. This is our castle……. A short distance from the castle is the Kealkill stone circle and some standing stones so worth a stop, through the cow paddocks avoiding the muddy patches and the stones stand proudly looking out over the fields and castle ruins. The sea is just visible through a dip in the hills. A short distance from the castle and the stones is a very peaceful lake and settlement, Gougane Barra, a small church built on the island and the ruins of some 6th century monastic cells. A very holy piece of ground and picturesque location.
As I continue onto Glengarriff and settle into my accommodation the day is drawing to a close. I remember the village from a previous visit to Ireland. It is a small friendly place on the junction of the Beara Peninsula and always seems to be partially covered in cloud or misty rain.
I have a few very busy days with the O’Sullivan family, this is their area, this is our area. I head off early to meet the Clan Chieftain at Dunboy Castle, an impressive reminder of the O’Sullivan Beare Heritage, situated outside Castletownbere on the headland. He is a real character but accepts me as family. The village is situated on the beautiful deep water Berehaven Harbour with easy access to Bere and Dursey Island by either ferry or cable car. While the Chieftain is explaining the O’Sullivan history we are joined by another O’Sullivan family from Queensland so it seems the next best thing to do is to retire to one of the local hotels which is owned by family, they are everywhere – a lovely feeling!! A quiet drive back up the peninsula stopping to take some photos, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are blue and peaceful. So much has happened in the last few days it will take some time to sort in my mind.

I am leaving early and driving west to Kenmare through the valleys and over the Mountains, cool morning and a very heavy low fog is hanging around, some tunnels to manoeuvre, a bit scary as the head lights on the car are not the brightest. Cross my fingers and hope I get through and out the other side, the tunnels are single lane. I feel it wise to stop at Molly Gallivanes and the Druid’s View at Bonane and wait for the fog to ease, a very interesting 200 year old farmhouse with a short walk reaching up the hill which shows you through the different simple country lifestyles of early rural Ireland. A very good display for free entry and magnificent craft rooms packed to the rafters with items crafted by the locals. Across the road is the imposing pine Druid figure looking across the green valley to the mountain peak “Barra-Bul” where a Cairn on the summit marks the resting spot of an ancient chieftain. I pass the Bonane Heritage Park where the Ring of Beara meets the Ring of Kerry but I have a lot of driving yet today so decide to continue to Kenmare. The fog has lifted. This picturesque little town is rather busy being Sunday so masses and church services in most churches in the town area, parking is limited. Heaps of quirky little shops and restaurants serving gourmet food. A haven for walkers. I must keep going as it is now early afternoon and I am to meet up with the O ’Sullivans in Castletownbere later in the day so drive down the west side of the Beara Peninsula, spectacular scenery, stone circles, clear blue lakes and heaps of history but I am unable to spend much time in the small colourful villages. I am in Castletownbere in time to meet up for the last time with our new family. The drive back to Glengarriff takes me a little longer as I make several stops to just gaze out over the water and the steep hillsides with the stone walls stretching along the road sides with its sheep straggling the hill sides. Hungry Hill towers above all at the half way mark.

County Clare

Before I leave this morning I visit the local church cemetery where most headstones are O’Sullivan, have never seen so many in one spot. There is a light fog but not as thick as yesterday as I once again head towards Kenmare where I turn off towards Killarney. The pretty little village of Adare is my first stop for the day; I have been here before but always enjoy the visit to the village with streets lined with small thatched houses and tourists everywhere. It has started to rain so keep driving to Limerick, avoiding the city traffic and turning off the motorway towards Ennis, a market town. The boutique hotel where I am staying is within walking distance of the city and its medieval narrow pebbled streets and laneways. The River Fergus meanders through the town which is known for its trout and salmon, home to much birdlife. My reason for wishing to stay at this town is so I can visit the magnificent Cliffs of Moher stretching majestically along the Atlantic Coast, housing the large numbers of Puffins who live in colonies at isolated parts of the cliffs. I walk-up to O’Brien’s lookout and then climb further up the coastal walk, the climb rather strenuous but the views memorable. My next stop is further down the Loop Head Peninsular to the Lighthouse sitting on the cliffs edge overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and standing guard. A drive along the rugged coast and back to Ennis with a few photographic stops and I am back in Ennis before the rain starts.

County Roscommon

After I leave Ennis I head to Roscommon but never make it, a few detours and I stay on the back roads then decide to head straight to the historical walled town of Athlone in the Midlands region, close to the centre of Ireland. After I locate the beautiful hotel on the banks of Hudson Bay and settle in I then head back into town, the hotel is about 15 minutes form the centre. From the bridge which spans the Shannon River, can be seen the 13th Century Castle and the Church of St Peter and Paul, lovely inside with large stained glass windows. Close to the Church is the Reilig na Mainistreach Abbey Graveyard where all the old headstones stand upright against the fence and making a pathway to the middle of the ruins of the old Abbey. Within sight of the ruins is an excellent example of a Famine-era workhouse which now houses several youth groups. There is so much to see in this town but I head back in time to watch the sun setting and casting its pink shadows over the still waters of the lake. Peaceful as some children play on the grassy verge, pelicans and white swans float by. Tomorrow I head to Dublin.

Today Trim Castle on the banks of the Boyne River is deserving of a visit, interesting example of a Norman structure. I wander for a few hours before getting directions to the Hill of Tara - “easy directions you cannot miss the Hill” I am told. An hour later I am still driving in circles and cannot locate the road, nearly ready to give it a miss when an elderly couple point out the hill just up the road. Not sure how I missed it but it is not what I was expecting. I have read so many books over the years which mention this Hill so it has always held a fascination for me but I feel a little disappointed. I am here so up the hill I walk, it is a very warm day. Part way up the hill is a church/visitor centre surrounded by old and current headstones and standing erect on the top of the hill is a standing stone believed to be the Lia Fail or the Stone of Destiny.
It is time to head back towards Dublin, I am not looking forward to the traffic congestion and with my lack of directional sense I could end up anywhere but at the Airport where I need to return the rental car. I surprise myself and manage to safely handle the trucks, traffic lights and motorway and arrive at the car rental depot with no big dramas. My last night in Dublin.

Home Sweet Home

An early flight across to Heathrow to meet up with my Malaysian Flight home via Kuala Lumpa. A few panicky moments when I check my home phone texts and receive the news that the Malaysian Flight 727 has been shot down over Russia with no survivors. It is too late to change airlines but I take this sort of chance every time I climb aboard a plane, this will not stop me travelling. A few hours break in Kuala Lumpa and we board the last flight, the plane is not full so I can spread out and try and get some sleep. Seated beside me is a young lady from Roma, I now feel I am heading home.
Cold and raining when we land in Brisbane, through customs and family is waiting.
The trip back to your family’s lands is over but I will return to Ireland again.

What is it that keeps me wanting to go back? Is it family or their friendly ways, their way of life or just Ireland?

Posted by Rianda 02:04 Archived in Ireland Tagged landscapes bridges churches countryside blogs diaries Comments (0)

Creogh Patrick Climb

all seasons in one day

JULY 2011

I had seen this mountain from the bus on a previous trip and me being me and probably someone saying I couldn't do it, but this early morning saw me standing looking at Creogh Patrick as it loomed above the fog and early clouds. Yes, I can do this - I think. I have never climbed before but surely it can't be too hard. Whoever told me that?
The first part of the climb isn't too difficult with a lot of rocky track. The climb is starting to become straight up and I have just realised that there are two parts to this sacred mountain, from the road you can only see one part of the mountain and this section is not too hard to climb. The paths are covered in rocks and quite slippery. A lot of walkers have passed us but they seem in such a hurry but I prefer to take it easy. Russell encourages me on - I probably would have given up by now if he wasn't with me.
The summit is close and I can see the monument at the top. At last we have reached it, so cold and windy but no rain, it can be no more than a few degrees.
The fog rolls over and we can see no further than our hands but this does not last long and it is clear again. Spectacular. Sitting on the summit is a small white chapel and a section covered in stones which is dedicated to St Patrick when he spent time on this mountain. The views to Clew Bay are fantastic.
The climb down is much quicker and most of it is spent on my rear end and sliding. No wonder accidents happen. At the bottom of the pathway is a large white statue of St Patrick, it is believed that from this mountain is where St Patrick chased the snakes of Ireland.
The round trip has taken us over 5 hours, I am exhausted and every bone in my body is screaming at me but I am glad that I have completed the climb.

Posted by Rianda 04:20 Archived in Ireland Tagged mountains Comments (0)

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