Archive for the 'Ireland' Category

The lighthouse

T’is holiday season in our house so expect (hopefully) lots of these kind of posts. The usual photo taken at arm’s length of me standing somewhere sunny looking smug, with an ocean in the background. Like this one

Though that was a whole 2 weeks ago so I’ll try and stay more contemporary.

My charming Brother and Sister-in-law (AKA Morsies) got us a voucher for our wedding enabling us to stay in one of these places.

We chose this one.

Mainly for location. It’s way out, almost as far south as you can go. If you go straight south, you don’t really hit anything till you hit Africa.

We were staying, not in the lighthouse but in the little house to right of the idiot’s finger.

I’m sure everyone has a pair of these porcelain dogs somewhere in their history

Even more excitingly, I got a surfboard and we managed to spend 3 days in the water enjoying the surf.

I have surfed before. Though rarely successfully. I have since discovered that this was largely due to the poorly made purchase that I made in NZ. A lovely board but about 2 foot too short for me. It’s somewhere still in NZ (i think), the last I saw it I think Jason had it, and he’s in Aus now, so maybe it’s doing the rounds!

The one I have now is 8ft and is surprisingly easy to stand on.

Note how fast a shutter speed you need to catch me standing on a board

Lighthouses are of course all automatic these days. This was the view from our bedroom. One night we left the shutters open to have the beam shining in; 5 every 20 seconds or so.

The house used to be home for the last keepers of the lighthouse. Them and their 15 kids! The son still maintains the current lighthouse and house.

My Jedward hairstyle gives you an idea of the wind you have to deal with. Not a place to try spitting into the wind

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Ram’s Island

Yeah I know you’re all bored sick of Coney island.

Well we found a new one. By found I don’t mean we actually found it. It’s been there for a while now, and we’ll not be first to claim discovery or anything…

Sorry if the screen grab is a bit small. But you can see that Ram’s is a fair bit bigger and further out than Coney is.

My only knowledge of it growing up was that it was full of rats and no one went near it.

Apparently the environment folk had someone working all over the lough for 18 months solid solely to rid the islands of rats. Quite the job really.

The birds are flourishing there now, a sure sign that there are no rats left.

We started out at Gawley’s gate, which seemed to be a pub with a jetty and launching point out the back of it. It’s covered in cloud on the google map so I didn’t mark it

The best bits of these trips are the trees. Something like what Ireland might have looked like, an awful long time ago. There’s not many places like that left so it’s nice to see them.

It was a good 15 minute walk from where we landed to the “populated” end of the island

This jetty isn’t in regular use…

The whole walk was covered like this. the indents you can see are our footprints. Very cool.

Every now and again you find old remnants of previous structures. The website has some interesting stuff on the history. One of the most interesting bits is that the lake used to be 6 acres up till recently when the lough was controlled and lowered and it’s now 40 acres

The bit Simon’s standing on would have previously been the shore and the rocks were piled up to stop erosion.

It had at one point been a landscaped garden as the daffodils here give tell to. The flowers are missing because there’s a current population of rabbits there that have a liking for them. They’re trying to work out how to control the rabbit population without causing some other ecological niche to go out of kilter.

the round tower is apparently fairly old. As they tend to be. It’s been patched up here and there.

The story goes that the Americans put the hole in it while using it as target practice in WW II when they were based on the shore about half a mile away. So much for cultural heritage…

The joys of canoeing on fresh water is that you don’t have to worry about your canoe washing away on the tide

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The main jetty is to the right

The whole place is largely volunteer maintained. There’s a guy who stays there in a moored old barge every weekend with his family and does a lot of work at the place.

Hopefully we’ll camp there at some point, but you have to wait till after June and the birds have finished their laying and all that.

Ode to my family

Now that we have a fairly well functioning house we have began to receive guests as they say in the trade. They may not say that but i think they should.

We had my Liz, Simy, Morsies and the dog down for a weekend. It worked out well as we managed to enlist Liz in the garden for the morning achieving more beauty than me and Wylie had achieved since moving in.

They also got the usual tour of Maigh Nuad taking them round the grounds of Saint Patricks College. Thankfully this is both spectacular and long enough that they don’t realise that this is the only bit of the tour. Still it’s more than Portadown has to see.

Despite coming here for over a year I still hadn’t made my way into the chapel yet (though I stil forgot to take any photos so check out these incredible photos by my friend Florian instead) so we put that right too.

There was scrabble – which most importantly I won.

Local boy in the photograph

Most people wouldn’t go to Waterford for a night. We’re not most people.

But it was very nice all the same.

Cheap hotel, good food and a pub that was more like someone’s front room than anything else.

Watched Hunger on the laptop in the hotel room. Stunningly shot. The single shot scene lasting almost 15 minutes is sheer class. Not exactly a laugh a minute but worth watching.

Let the morning pass from breakfast to lunch to the afternoon in the same wee coffee shop taking silly photos of the missus.

Drove to Kilkenny and took more cool photos and sat in a fancy hotel drinking coffee and sneakily using their wi-fi. Found this ad for wedding planning.

It kind of implies that someone has stolen my dreams and is now selling them back to me. No fair.

Canal song – Part 3

We ended up in an Italian restaurant last night. It’s weird how many small Irish villages have really cracker restaurants sometimes. Well fed and waiting impatiently for 10 pm when we felt it would be respectable to go to bed.

Slept till 9am.

Apparently it was breezy overnight. One of the metal gates on the back of the pub had blown off. Or rather the wall had blown off and taken the gate with it.

We had to endure another gruelling carry of the loaded Kayaks down to the river. couldn’t be more than 100 yards but was pulling the arms out of us by the end of it. We are such light weights.

Back in the water for 10.30 am and on our way. The rain joined us. Most upsetting.

By Lunch (which was a cup of coffee on one of the IWAI marinas) the sun came out and made it a very pleasant afternoon.

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While it’s wonderful having the facilities in place, it is a bit of a spoiler on the view to have all the marker posts throughout the waterways just to stop some idiot piling a cruiser into a sand bar.

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It was here that the going got a bit tougher. Up until this point we had been blessed by having the wind mainly behind us and whatever flow was in the canal was in out favour. At the point we turned into the river Erne and had to go both against the flow and against the wind. Not nearly so pleasant.

We did find this very pleasant old cottage facing onto the river.

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Finished in Belturbet about 3.30 pm. Tired and a bit hungry. Good trip.

Canal song – Part 2

Sleeping in tents is something that seemed like a good idea at the time you thought of it. But in general by the time you get round to it you wish you were in your own bed.

Sleeping in a tent on a small uninhabited island in the middle of a Cavan lake seemed like a great idea till it started raining quite so heavily.

Against my usual better judgement (and the 6 quid per mb charge) I used the phone to check the weather. It gave vague promises of a bright spell from 9-10am and then rain till some time in early November. I waited till one of us could wait no longer to get up and pee (it was Phil) then crawled from my sleeping bag to greet the dampness.

Saving grace is the fact that we only planned to spend one night camping. As a general rule only ever spend one night camping. Unless the weather is guaranteed. And in Ireland it’s never guaranteed.

I had such great plans for a lovely cooked breakfast that came to a squelching halt with the rain. The only aim was to get packed up and in the canoes as quick as possible.

Unfortunately with the rain the wind had picked up significantly so our first paddle of the day was a slightly breezy run across the main channel of the lake to get to a bit of shelter on the otherwise.

We did get lost.  Or should I just say that I got us lost.  All these lakes look the same to me really. How should I know. It was only briefly lost. And pleasantly so.

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Once you’re in the kayak with the spray deck on and the kag and a hat you’re pretty cosy. Rain becomes something of an irrelevance.

The wind however is a different story. Trying to cross a lake with the wind even a few degrees off your direction leads to a constant battle to keep the canoe going in a straight line.  Couple that with the waves cast up by the wind and it actually becomes really quite hard work.

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It never really brightened up all day but I must say it was almost nicer because of it. All my memories of Fermanagh have grey skies in them and it seems only fitting that Cavan should be the same.

A grand total of 3 and a half hours after starting out we arrived at Ballyconnell, (hardly very long paddling is it? I realise that, if you wanted a blog on endurance kayaking then you came to the wrong place) promptly missed the best stopping point and had to struggle back upstream against the wind to make it to the marina.
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So two men walk into a bar in ballyconnell dressed in shorts, sandals and life jackets and ask for a room for two. No wonder we got funny looks.

We also had to carry two canoes down the main street (it’s not very main) to get them to the pub we’re staying in. Pretty sure that’s not something that happens every day.

The shower you have after a couple of days living in your own filth is always the best one. The shoulders are begonnign to feel the strain now a bit. Most pleasant surprise is that a pint of guiness here is only 3.20 euro. Pleasantly surprised compared to the 4.50 euro in Dublin. Maybe I should move here.

Canal song – Part 1

[Before I even start, my dearly beloved Canon IXUS died, the lens won’t come out. 5 years isn’t bad for all the water, sand and dirt it had thrown at it. So all the pictures are from the iPhone and of dubious quality]

So it begins again. Off on another trip. Off on another paddle in the Ireland rarely seen. Kind of like lesser spotted ulster except without Joe Mahon.

This trip started as me and wee Phil wondering what to do with a week’s holiday at then end of September with him just back from 2 months saving lives (and maybe even the world) in Africa.

The original plan was to canoe from Lough Erne in Fermanagh all the way to Limerick. This was perhaps slightly ambitious.

It then became a 5 or 6 day trip to Athlone and then 4 days to Carrick on Shannon and now it’s 3 days from Ballinamore to Belturbet. Good call I say.

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Took us about two hours from portadown to find Ballinamore. Down roads I’ve never driven before. Always a good experience.

Just as we’d organised supplies and got a bite of lunch the rain came on. Typical.

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Though the silly misly type of Irish rain that makes you nervous that it might start pissing down any minute.

The shannon-erne waterway has a remarkable history. Originally planned to revolutionise industrial transport in the 19th century. In it’s 10 operating years it carried 8 barges. Not exactl profitable for having dug a 60km canal though the west of Ireland.

It’s introduction came just as the railways exploded onto to the scene. Hardly a fair fight. It took us just over 30 minutes to drive from the beginning to the end of our route that we planned 3 days for.

It got reopened for the tourists – mainly Germans (it seems) in rented cruisers in 1994 and seems to be popular enough to still be running.
The locks are automatic controlled by little pass cards and control panels. All very exciting. But we realised after the first one that it’s probably easier just to carry the canoes round them.
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I thought I’d go gentle on phil to start with and we only had 6 mile or so for the first day, especially as we only started at 3 pm.

Tonight we’re camping on church island. A tiny place a few hundred yards across in the middle of Lough Garadice (never entirely clear if the Lough is meant to come before or after it’s name). There’s an old (proper old) broken down church and that’s it.
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Lit the BBQ, drank some coffee and set the camp. Wonderful really. Just needs to be a bit wamer and it’s perfect. There’s a marina a few hundred yards across the lough and earlier a band was playing 80s rock classics at a quite phenomenal volume. The wind carried it well.

Read a good third of Gilead in one night by the light of the gas lantern and pondered how different a life we lead compared to a hundrd or so years ago. And indeed how different a life we lead compared to the majority of the planet.

22.45: Curled up in the sleeping bags hoping sleep comes easy and the zombies don’t rise from the graves of the abandoned church and gouge out our eyes while we sleeep. Not sure that’s gonna help me sleep thinking like that.

Incidentally – finally got the new David bazan album. About flipping time.


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November 2017
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