Friday & Saturday 18/19th October 1991 310 miles
We left home at about 8.40 pm after several days of very blustery weather and a busy day for me with Lord Tony Pandy coming to school to open the new teaching block. Our ferry was due to leave at 2.45 am (a mistake by us, as we had thought that we had booked an afternoon ferry), but we decided to leave plenty of time to allow for any hold-ups. In fact the journey to Pembroke was straightforward, the M4 at first being extremely crowded. With the help of tapes to pass the time and keep us awake, we made our way to Pembroke. The ¾ moon was shining from a clear sky, lighting up the clouds in a magical way, often with a ring of colour around it. We stopped at Swansea at about midnight, and ate a sandwich. Adrian went to the loo and I was later to wish that I had two, but couldn't brave the wind! We stopped once or twice to snooze – I found it quite comfortable on the back seat – and arrived at Pembroke at about 1.00 am. First of all we drove into a sort of goods yard, saying "B and I" and the watchman came out and told us to "follow the signs" (which is what we had done). Then we found the ferry terminal, with just half a dozen cars there before us. By now it was tipping with rain and we put off going over to the terminal building and took our travel sickness pills – to be taken two hours before travelling. We were still swallowing them when a man came to the window and asked if we had been across to the building. "No" we said. "Then do you know that the ferry is delayed until 6.15? There is a problem at Rosslare harbour"!!
No, we didn't know, but later found out that a boat had rammed the landing stage, all the boats were having to land at one stage only. Hence the delay – but if only he had arrived before we had taken the pills!
There was nothing we could do, so we got our sleeping bags and settled down – me on the back seat and Adrian in the passenger seat – hoping to rest a bit and we did in fact sleep quite well, until I was aware of voices and engines running and lights all around us and realised that things were moving. It was only 4.45, still pouring with rain and the car was all misted up so that we couldn't see out. We were just aware of cars moving all around us and instead of six cars there appeared to be hundreds – all in disarray and rushing forwards in a haphazard fashion, reminding us of the disorganisation of the Greek (to Italy) ferry in years gone by, or in more recent times of the strike at Dover. It was not pleasant to wake up in this situation, but Adrian woke up enough to drive the car through the police check (no passport check, but he had a good look at our passports, just the same), then more queues and waiting until we got onto the boat.
Once on board we found a large lounge, where the seats were not the most comfortable and it was quite cold. Adrian went back down and got the blanket (luckily) but we wished later that we had got the sleeping bags too as it remained cold.
We settled into our seats, (at the rear of the ship – although I thought we were at the front) and stayed there for the whole of the journey, sleeping most of the time. Only towards the end did we feel slightly unwell (the pills had worn off and it seemed too late to take more) although the ship was going up and down and the going could be called rough! I got up towards the end of the voyage, got as far as the loo, then came back quickly and sat down again! It was nice to see the sun shining down on the sea. We docked at about 10.30, and saw the broken harbour. Adrian wasn't surprised as it seemed a feat of seamanship to get in from the rough seas through the small gap to the harbour. We now had to berth by the remaining dock and this took some time.
We left Rosslare Harbour around 11.00 am feeling in need of breakfast or at least a cup of tea, but found nothing in Rosslare Harbour or in Rosslare itself. Here we followed a small road along what turned out to be a "cul-de-sac" and just led to a golf course, on a spit of land looking back over the water to Wexford. We watched curlews and saw two men digging (for bait?) wearing waders. We returned to Rosslare and had a quick look at the beach (the area reminded us of Brean in Somerset).
Still finding no cafe we ate a banana (tasted wonderful) and drove into Wexford. Here we parked (disc only) and asked the traffic warden, who smilingly said that British cars didn't need a disc. We quickly found a "cafe" – very busy – but we tucked into sausage and chips (a true "brunch") then set off on a tour of the bustling little seaside town.
We were really looking for a map of larger scale than the one we had, but had great difficulty and had to be content with one not much better than the one we had! It was still very cold and blowy, as we set off slowly westward to the "Hook".
We stopped again to snooze, then I very much needed the loo and we found one in "New Ross", then continued to the "Hook", where we drove to the lighthouse. The sun was making a wonderful yellow light on the sea.
It was now getting late, so we made our way back through Fethard to Rosslare Harbour and "Elmwood", where we were booked in for the night.
Sunday 20th October 102 miles
After a good nights sleep, we awoke about 7.45 and after a cup of tea in bed, forced ourselves to get up and ready for breakfast. We shared our breakfast table with a couple from Washington State USA. While we were sitting there a young thrush came and crashed into the window.
We left "Elmwood" at 9.40 and headed west, trying to follow the smaller roads, but the combination of an indequate map and variable signposting, made this difficult and at one point we found ourselves coming in the opposite direction to where we should be going!
Soon after this we passed "Nevilles Garage" and through the dirty windows could make out six vintage cars, just sitting there gathering dust! Adrian couldn't believe this and we spent some time with our noses pressed against the window, peering in. There were other things such as an old bike, motor bike and steam engine – and to think that we had driven past it yesterday and not seen it! It was at Hilltown, just before Wellington Bridge.
We continued through Wellington Bridge.
Then on through Arthurstown to the ferry at Ballyhack across the River Barrow to Passage East, southeast of Waterford.
It was very picturesque and the ferry didn't hang about, but a bit expensive at £3.50.
We took the scenic route to Tramore where we stopped and had a quick walk along a sand spit, but everyone else had come for their Sunday morning walk, so we didn't stop long and returned to Tramore where we had lunch in a pub – The Seahorse. Adrian asked for a ploughman's and the girl looked puzzled and offered cold meat salad! In fact I had deep-fried mushrooms and Adrian had hot bacon salad – quite cheap but not fantastic. When we first arrived, the radio was on loudly, which I didn't like but this was soon superseded by television, as the Rugby International between Ireland and Australia was about to start. All eyes (except ours) were on this, including those of groups of children who had come in and were drinking coke. We looked across to a coal fire and quite enjoyed the atmosphere.
From here we drove along the coast to Annestown, stopping just before to walk along the beach of an attractive cove. The day was much milder than yesterday, but mostly dull and with a little rain. We stopped several more times after this at pretty little coves and harbours and enjoyed the lack of people. Then on through Bunmahon.
The scenery reminded us of Wales or Cornwall and also the Isle of Man. We took a minor road and just before Stradbally we stopped at a pebbly cove where several men were rescuing a sheep which had got through the fence and was stuck on the cliff. The men had a long ladder which they climbed up and succeeded in freeing the sheep, which ran back up to join the others in the field and then the four people drove off in two vans. At Stradbally, where there was a lovely cove.
A level crossing in Wellington Bridge - on Google Streetview in 2019 it is just the same!
Boat Strand harbour near Bunmahon
We came to Dungarvan and thought we had better find somewhere to stay, as there were no "big" places after this. We had some trouble finding the house we were looking for (again a detailed map would have helped). It was called "Seaview" and when we did find it, it certainly did have a fine view and from our room we can look back down to Dungarvan and far beyond. A young girl showed us in, in the absence of her mother. The room was much smaller than last night's and not so well appointed, with a separate bathroom across the corridor. No tea/coffee facilities here (shame) and initially the room was very cold and Adrian cursed not bringing the fan heater. However the heating soon came on, which was a vast improvement.
We had planned to eat at a pub just along the road – Egon Ronay recommended Pub of the year. As we were leaving the house we saw the husband with his young grandson, who asked if we were going to listen to the music in the Marine bar, which was a bit further on. We bore that in mind for later and drove off to "Seanackie Bar and Restaurant". We had been to see it earlier, so knew that it was a dark, strange little place, but when we asked "can we go through to the restaurant" we were told that the restaurant was closed, there was only bar meals – soup, open sandwiches and dessert. As we had only a very light lunch we were looking forward to a good tuck in, so we were rather dismayed to find that the nearest place for this was back in Dungarvan – 5 miles down the windy hill. "Murrays was nice" she said. We arrived back in Dungarvan square (for the third time) and looked for Murrays. We looked on the tourist information but couldn't see it (we did see an advert for "Seaview" where we are staying, which we didn't see before). Eventually Adrian asked an old man, sitting on a seat and when he finally understood, he pointed us down a nearby road. We walked the length of the road and saw nothing except "Robert Merry – Grocer" and joked about buying a tin of baked beans for supper. Feeling rather dismayed, we were wondering what to do, when a group of people walked into "Robert Merry – Grocer" and it dawned on us – not "Murrays" – "Merrys". We followed them and sure enough it was a restaurant (not a grocers). Thank goodness for the other people – who were the only other people there at that point. It was rather an "upmarket" restaurant with French titles to the courses and quite expensive. The amazing thing was that the radio was played as the music, which, with a Terry Wogan soundalike, wasn't much fun! The meal was quite good, even if the wine was "red" or "white" and by the glass!
Afterwards we set off for the Marine Bar a 60's looking dive full of an assortment of people, but soon after we had settled down, someone began to play the guitar, and a pleasant evening was spent listening to Irish and other music by this chap and a young girl on the accordion. A couple of other girls and the chap all sang songs during the evening and it was very convivial. Around 11.00 pm they put across the shutters and carried on as normal. We left at 11.30, but there was no sign of letting up!
Monday 21st October 83 miles
It was a grey morning when we awoke, but we still tried to take a photo of the view out over the water.
We were entertained at breakfast buy tales from the landlady, who had just returned from a five-day trip to Paris with "Town and Country Holiday" people (Town & Country Holidays are the group of B&B's that we have vouchers for during our stay in Ireland). They had left – 80 of them – on Wednesday to supposedly catch the Rosslare – Le Havre ferry, but it was their boat, on its incoming journey, which had rammed the jetty and received some damage, so after hanging around while a diver examined the boat, they were all sent to a hotel for the night and next morning caught a ferry to Fishguard, then across Wales and England by coach to catch the Dover to Calais ferry – not a good start to a five-day holiday! She didn't think much of the French breakfast, just a roll and croissant – or lunch "a bit of lettuce in olive oil and the Irish hate lettuce"; then "stew I'd call it, although I'm sure it had a fancy name – just a few bits of meat in gravy. And on one day just pasta with it, no potatoes!".
After this entertainment (to the accompaniment of the radio news turned up loudly), we left, again at about 9.30 and made our way to the Gaelic speaking area of Ring. The morning was fine, but a wonderful half rainbow ended in the sea – the lighting was wonderful and I could almost feel the presence of the crock of gold at the end of it! We drove to Helvic Head, where the sun came out and it was quite beautiful as we walked down to the little cove, reminiscent of Watermouth. There was a little fishing harbour and the fishermen were bidding for crates of prawns – I wondered if they would be speaking English or Gaelic, but they're swearing was definitely Anglo-Saxon!
We climbed up to the vast cathedral and had a peep inside at some magnificent stained glass windows. We returned by a very steep hill, lined by houses of varying degrees of decoration, then bought some stamps in the Post Office at the bottom. We returned to the main road and into the outskirts of Cork – what we saw was not very pretty and we quickly made our way to Blarney. We immediately saw that this was quite a touristy little place, bustling with people but more by good luck than judgement we found ourselves at the Castle and paid our money to go in. We were keen to "kiss the Blarney Stone", but perhaps luckily, we didn't know what this entailed!
The grounds of the Castle seemed to be going through a time of reconstruction. We followed the path up to the castle and made our way up the steep, dark uneven steps to the battlements (I wouldn't like to be here in peak season – as two people couldn't pass on the steps and one would have to stand back in a black recess to let the others pass).
I was quite pleased with myself for making it to the top, not being fond of heights. Adrian pointed out some gaps by our feet, with just one bar across to stop you falling down the 80 feet or so to the ground. We hadn't realised that it was by one of these "gaps" that one had to kiss the Blarney Stone – lying flat on your back pulling yourself back and out over the "gap" to kiss the Blarney Stone with your head bent backwards and upside down. A little Irish leprechaun of a man dressed all in brown sat beside you and guided you, but didn't help. Amazingly I found myself lying there for my turn and the gentleman saying "Madam, it is the stone at the bottom" and "grab the bars Madam" and I'm proud to say I made it! Adrian went next – luckily not first or I might not have made it!
We enjoyed our walk around the ancient "stone garden" after that, but didn't try the wishing steps – about 20 uneven steps which one was supposed to walk up and down backwards with eyes shut – apparently!
We continued over the Pass of Keimaneigh until we reached Glengarriff where we stopped for lunch in "John Barry's bar". Adrian at last saw "Ploughman's platter" on the menu, so ordered it – it was pleasant enough, but no bread!, so he had have some of my thick chicken sandwiches. I had an Irish coffee, which was pretty good.
We now set off on the Beara ring, following the coastline and some wonderful scenery. Sometimes the mountains were bare and bleak, looking like just vast slabs of rock. Other times the rocks were reminiscent of Hartland Quay, as earth movements had pushed them up with vertical strata. In other places there were patchwork, fertile strips of land. Again we made several stops to absorb the peace and tranquillity – the absolute quietness.
We had noticed several attractive gardens landscaped with trees and shrubs – something we hadn't seen before this.
We stopped many times to take in the splendid views particularly near Ballingeary. It can best be summed up as mountains and water, but the water was so still, that the reflections of the autumn colours in it were breathtaking.
At Castletownbere we took the road northwards to the north side of the peninsula and followed the coastline back to Kenmare. We had stopped to view a heron - yesterday on Fota island, north of Cobh, we had seen herons, curlews, oystercatchers and more.
At Kenmare we found a bed and breakfast place and had an ensuite bathroom (luxury) and a rather barren yellow painted room, but with room to move and certainly several points up on last night's! (Still no tea or coffee, so we had to resort to the Sherry!)
After a bath and diary writing etc, we set off to walk the half mile or so into Kenmare. We left our room key and enquired about the front door, but were told there was no problem, it would be open (at least, we thought that's what she said – we couldn't really understand a word and she might just as well have been speaking Chinese). It was very dark, although a full moon and the road was narrow with high hedges and far more traffic than we would have imagined. After joining the "main" road to Killarney, there was much less traffic and the road was wider, with room to walk at the side. A little dog had joined us, but luckily left us in the town. It was a fine still evening. We found a great many eating places and settled on "The Coachman" and sat in the bar type place, but enjoyed an excellent meal of prawn cocktail (all prawn and very little lettuce) followed by local sole (for me) and steak for Adrian; then Creme de menthe ice cream (Adrian) and coffee and Irish mist soufflé (me). It was very quiet, with Irish music being played as background music and we had a very enjoyable meal, then followed the trek back to the house, where – – – we found the door locked! It took a couple of rings on the bell before the same girl appeared apologising, saying they had seen the car there and had locked up early – that's what I understood – Adrian didn't understand anything! And so to bed!
On the beach at Rosslare
The Hook and lighthouse
Tim O'Leary's Garage at Fethard (sadly no longer there)
We passed a Gypsy Caravan
Neville's Garage, Hilltown and some of the old cars
The ferry terminal at Ballyhack & looking across to Passage East
Adrian at Stradbally Cove
Our view from 'Seaview'
Fishermen at Helvic Head harbour
The Cathedral and steep hill in Cobh (Cove)
Dodgy pictures 'kissing the Blarney Stone' - remember it is 80ft down to the ground
Looking down from beside the 'Blarney Stone'
Looking across to the 'Blarney Stone'
Rosie in the grounds of Blarney Castle
Looking up to where the 'Blarney Stone' is
Reflections near Ballingeary
Images of the Beara Peninsula
Wednesday 23rd October 103 miles
A day which started grey and cold, but soon turned to sunshine and clear blue sky, for most of the day. A full moon had shone from a clear sky during the night. We had woken several times during the night, but it was 8.15 before we awoke.
We were the only people having breakfast, served by the strange Irish Colleen whom we couldn't understand! She turned on the radio (football News) and Adrian told her we didn't need it so she turned it off, but immediately we heard a man's voice asking why and turning it back on again. She explained that the radio had two speakers and that she preferred music but "he" wanted the talking. Later "he" must have gone, because we had a music station, interspersed with all the talk. We had a choice of breakfast this morning and both chose scrambled egg, and Adrian had bacon too. We followed this by different Irish soda bread.
Again we were on the road by 9.30 and proceeded to drive around the "Ring of Kerry". It was a beautiful looking back to the misty mountains of the Beara, where we had been yesterday. At one point, just before Castlecove, we stopped and explored a wonderful sandy beach. It was divided by rocks into several beaches and looked out onto islands and other headlands and was quite beautiful. The sun was warm and we had the place to ourselves.
After this the road went inland a bit. We had passed numerous coaches doing the "Ring of Kerry" drive.
Just near Glenbeigh we passed "Kerry Bog Village" – half a dozen old Irish houses and various old pieces of farm equipment making up a small Museum. We decided to stop and have a look and found it quite fascinating. Each little house had a peat fire burning and there were notices explaining about peat and its importance – we had noticed piles of it beside the road. In others old artefacts really brought the little old huts alive. They happened to be 'having a photographic session', taking photographs presumably for postcards and this carried on while we wandered round – the old chap sat with his pipe by the door and another with a violin and two young children delighted in being covered in mud, to look the part for the pictures!
We decided to buy some rolls and eat lunch outside – easier said than done!
We came to the western end of the island and drove through the Coomakesta Pass and the little "resort" of Waterville – hardly anything there, just various assorted houses, none particularly attractive. We found no bakers, but tried a general store – full of schoolchildren munching their lunch, but nothing like sandwiches or pies.
We continued north and came to the little down & out town of Cahersiveen – a long straggle of decrepit 50's looking shops but again no bakers in sight! We got sandwiches from "Kevy's takeaway" (now a Fish & Chip shop) – a right dump of a place and the sandwiches weren't much better. Then we had to find somewhere to eat them. By now we were on the northern side of the peninsula – not so attractive and hard to find a beach. We eventually followed a long stony track and came to a beach – pebbly, but quite attractive and isolated.
Whitesands Beach, Castlecove
An unnamed beach on the North Kerry coast for lunch
We now headed for Killarney. It was still sunny and warm. We reached Killarney and realised we didn't know what to do, so tried the Tourist Information. We succeeded in buying a local map (for 50p) and realised that most of the area around Killarney is a National Park, and a good bit is mountainous and inaccessible. We drove south a bit to a park entrance and decided to have a walk. We were accosted by one of the many "pony and trap" men (jaunting cars they were called) but said no and walked first along a wide track and then a long narrow path beside a lake, forming part of the nature trail. It was beautiful in the late afternoon sunshine and very still and quiet.
Peat by the side of the road - 'a little earlier'
Adrian at the Kerry Bog Village
We eventually arrived at Muckcross House, where there were more "jaunting cars". We asked how much to take us back to the gate, but were persuaded to have a ride up to the waterfall first! So off we went in our horse and cart. We saw the beautiful Kerry cattle with their pure black shiny coats and also numerous rabbits, quite unperturbed by us riding by!
Our walk along Muckross Lake
We were charged £12, but it was about three quarters of an hour altogether and it was 6.00 pm when we reached the car. We then quickly set off and found a place for the night – in the "farmhouse" leaflet, but very much like the other places we had stayed in.
It felt chilly at first, but soon warmed up – like other places the heating was only switched on after we arrived. We were given the key of the house when we went out, as the owners were also going out and were leaving the back door open for themselves! We drove back into Killarney and looked around the various eating places, choosing one called "Allegro", which actually wasn't a good choice as the emphasis was on quantity rather than quality and it was pretty crowded with no personal service. It was semi-Italian, so they didn't even sell beer – only lager – so we made do with a fairly large half carafe of Italian wine, then later removed ourselves to a pub for Adrian to enjoy his pint of mild. However both the television and radio were going in different ends of the bar and I was glad to get back to the house to sleep!
Us on the 'jaunting car' and Rosie by Torc Waterfall, Kilarney National Park
Thursday 24th October 123 miles
We were on the road again by 9.30, after a good breakfast (we turned the radio off!). The day was very grey and unfortunately stayed that way, which meant that we couldn't enjoy the "Dingle Peninsula" as much as we should have done, as visibility was poor and it felt cold and damp, although it was dry. A couple of times we saw sunshine on the hills, but it didn't reach us.
We drove up to Farranfore and then west to Dingle, stopping first by a long sandy beach at Inch, where we had a good walk. Further along on the Inch peninsula, lots of cars were parked on the beach and we used our binoculars to see the large group of people, who we presume were fishing.
The road went inland a bit to Dingle itself, where we stopped and tried to phone about tomorrow's ferry. We didn't get through then or on two subsequent tries – or once to an answerphone message, but finally Adrian did get through and it seems that the ferry is running as normal i.e. 8.30 pm and not midnight as on the other days.
Soon after Dingle we came to Ventry and stopped, as it was lunch time and tried a large bar (huge and cold!) which could offer us only a sandwich, which we accepted. As we sat down a grey bearded man with a very English accent came to speak to us. We had noticed him outside with some people on horses. He looked and sounded like Eliza Doolittle's father in My Fair Lady, although he told us he was born in Wales, but went to school in Streatham. He had lived here 23 years he said, after working in Ireland for J Arthur Rank, making films (he didn't say what he did!). He seemed a bit of a con man to us but said he spent his time working with horses, buying and selling them and doing the tourist stuff in the summer.
We were quite glad to get back to the warmth of the car although when we got outside we realised we hadn't paid, so Adrian had to go back in. The lady who had served us was now outside with the "horse man" seeing to the horse's shoes. This place has a long flat sandy beach, but wasn't particularly pretty and had an eyesore group of caravans. The man did say that the place gets packed out in the summer.
We continued west and stopped and explored a lovely sandy and rocky cove near Slea Head called Coumeenoole Beach . The water was incredibly clear and was a green turquoise colour.
After this, we're not quite sure where we were as the roads didn't tie up with any of our three maps and all signs were in Gaelic. We were following the "Slea Head Drive", but only halfway around was this sign posted in English. We were directed near the supposedly holy Brendan Mountain – it would have been more impressive if we had been able to see it!
We eventually returned to Dingle and passed again the little craft village we had stopped at previously, but very little was open, so it was a no go. After this the road went north over the Connor Pass (the Brendan mountain prevented one from driving right around the peninsula). This rose to 615m and was quite a hairy pass. Unfortunately when we stopped at the top it was a "La Rhune", and we couldn't see a thing! It appeared that the mountainside fell vertically on either side and in fact when we stopped a bit further down where visibility was slightly better, it did look quite dramatic.
We drove back eastwards along the north coast, stopping once to walk on another flat sandy beach near another grotty caravan site. The beach was interesting, with a stream running across it (lovely for children) and some pretty wavy shells like the top of oyster shells.
At Blennerville, just before Tralee, we stopped at a "Windmill Visitor Centre". This had a fine windmill in the process of being restored, but was also a small Museum – mostly about the Irish emigrants who left from here after the potato famine in the mid-1800s.
The cold misty weather seemed to fit the situation and we really could imagine the poor starved people leaving from the bleak quay and think of the dreadful future that lay ahead on the long voyage to America.
We managed to mostly avoid a coach load of American tourists who had just arrived and it was now 6.00 pm as we set off for Tralee and found our last bed and breakfast place – pretty bleak and uninspiring with a tiny room. The first room we had been shown was much larger, but the shower and loo were down the corridor.
We set off to find somewhere to eat in Tralee. We found it a pretty bleak place – lots of people, lots of shops, but nowhere nice to eat. We wandered the streets for a while, ending up at a Chinese restaurant we had passed on the way in. It was upstairs and we managed to push open the door, brush past the dustbin and an old bicycle and up the stairs. The restaurant itself was quite pleasant and we were served by a pleasant waitress, but there was far too much for us to eat!
Afterwards we managed to phone Simon and then found a bar with music (Sean and Paul) not Irish music but quite pleasant and full of people. A little old leprechaun of an Irishman in brown jacket and trilby, came in and tried playing his large tambour (Irish drum) but after some time was escorted out by the Barman!
Friday 25th and Saturday 26th October 419 miles
We were off just before 9.30 this morning, after a special effort to get organised for the homeward journey. A bit late, the lady gave us the illustrated book about "Town and Country Houses" – interesting to look at in retrospect!
We headed cross-country towards Tipperary, as we thought we ought to visit there on our way back. We went via Castleisland, Ballydesmond (an almost pretty town) and Newmarket. The day was grey and misty and stayed that way all day, but the landlady had insisted what good weather we were having and that it's usually much colder now (the Irish must be made of hard stuff!)
We noticed the vast number of cars pulling trailers of milk – usually stainless steel containers, but one or two churns behind tractors – all on their way to the "creamery". We had noticed "Danger, Creamery" signs before and now realise their significance.
We continued via RathLuirc (Charleville) and Kilmallock to Tipperary.
There was nothing very exciting here, as we might have imagined. We walked around an old-fashioned market selling diabolical clothes and carpets, but also chickens. There was also a cattle market in progress. We walked up and down the High Street, and found that we were parked outside the only eating place. This proved to be quite a good place – very busy, but efficient and the food seemed good. We both had thick vegetable soup, then Adrian had pizza. I had toyed with the idea of having curry, but was glad I didn't when I saw the curry and rice complete with mashed potato, swede and mushy peas!
We then set off towards Waterford, on the main road passing through Caher, Clonmel and Carrick, the weather being too dull for us to see much of the views. After Waterford we tried taking a side road hoping that we might find a ferry marked on one of the maps, but what appeared as a single road with a small road going off to the river on the map turned out to be a conglomeration of small roads passing farms and lots of "out of town" houses. We eventually reached the main road again at New Ross, then took the road down to the John Kennedy Arboretum. It was now 4.15 and the arboretum closed at 5.00. We didn't find anywhere to pay but enjoyed a brisk walk around part of the park before heading for Rosslare.
It's a long way to ....
Our route passed Wellington Bridge and Adrian remembered "Neville's Garage" full of old cars just a bit further on and couldn't resist seeing if it was still open. It was so we spent a happy time looking at cars and talking to (presumably) Neville's son and finding that there were 15 'model T' Ford's in total all waiting to be restored! (sadly, although Neville's Garage is still there, the 2019 Google streetview image shows this part of the 'showroom' to have been knocked down).
We followed the smaller roads towards Rosslare, getting behind numerous tractors, often with loads of turnips or similar. At Tacumshane we unexpectedly came across the windmill we had read about – much smaller than yesterday's and supposedly the only one in Ireland (that sounds Irish!).
We passed Lady's Island and came to Carne, on a road which seemed to go on forever. We drove to the beach and had a last run through the sand dunes on to the sandy beach. On our way back we passed "The Lobster Pot", which our landlady had recommend on the first night. After deliberation, we decided to have a bite to eat. The place was very attractive and full of character and we enjoyed our last snack – Adrian had seafood chowder and I had crab claws in garlic – each with a heavy brown roll. Now it was time to head for the ferry and we arrived about 7.20 for the 8.30 departure, but hung around the until about 8.25, when we were quickly loaded and left almost on time. We had an uneventful voyage – much calmer than on the way over and after a drink and a read, we both got some sleep. Adverse tides meant that we were about 40 minutes late arriving at Pembroke (about 1.30 am) then a nightmarish drive home, stopping for frequent naps and it was still dark when we got to Hermitage at 7.00 am.
Rosie at the John Kennedy Arboretum
Some more of the cars in Neville's Garage, Hilltown
The windmill at Tacumshane
We were shown to our very pretty flowery room and got settled in, then walked up to the "Devereux Arms" where we had quite a nice meal – quite reasonable, but we found wine very expensive (£5 for a half bottle of table house wine). We moved into the bar adjacent to the restaurant and found it very smoky. Someone was setting up loudspeakers, but we waited until gone 10 o'clock and nothing happened, so as we were feeling rather tired, we walked back to our room.
Trees emerging out of a low reservoir near Macroon
We drove cross-country to Ardmore, where we had a short walk on the flat sandy beach – it reminded me of one in the Gower. There was a submerged forest on this beach. We had noticed large fuchsia hedges in abundance and also (mostly Saturday and Sunday) beautiful magenta coloured nerines growing in gardens and tubs, although there were very few other flowers and most gardens looked pretty bleak.
We drove through Youghal where we didn't stop, but there were nice views alongside the mouth of the Blackwater River, to Cobh (Cove), a town on "Great Island" in Cork Harbour. The town had a feeling of Douglas on the Isle of Man, among other places and rose steeply to an ornate and magnificent cathedral, famous for its carillon of bells. We heard it chime 1 o'clock as we arrived, then had lunch in a little cafe overlooking the harbour, as the fishing boats set sail. This cafe, like just about everything, was "tatty" and half finished.
We stopped at the entrance and bought another map – bigger scale but still hard to read – and an "I've kissed the Blarney Stone" T-shirt. We saw that there was a bed and breakfast place right near the entrance and decided to try it. The outside of the building didn't give the impression of the tattiness inside. We were welcomed by a lady – Bridget Murphy – probably in her late 60s and reminding us of my mum with her colouring and homeliness. She propably thought her rooms were wonderful, but we had a 4ft bed pushed against the wall; no hanging space, a sink, and a chair, which if you put anywhere, you couldn't get past! There was a door to a loo and a shower was fitted into the bedroom beside it. Everything looked 50s and not touched since! There was a £3 supplements for these facilities! (On the first night it was £4 and there was just no comparison!) Still the lady seemed friendly enough and we left to look around the touristy shops, including Blarney woollen Mill and enjoyed looking, but didn't really buy anything. We saw a number of eating places for later, plus a pub with Irish music.
It was 5.30 pm and we would have liked a tea or coffee (none in the room again) but decided to try a Guinness in one of the bars. Adrian decided afterwards to revert to the "mild" which he has been enjoying. I wanted to phone home so we waited outside the only phone box for about half an hour, by which time I had sent Adrian back to unload the car. I tried several times unsuccessfully to phone (I've heard this before somewhere!) and as the phone box had no light I couldn't check the code. In fact it was wrong, but back at the house I found that there was a pay phone! However it gobbled our money so quickly that I hardly said anything to Simon and lost more money in trying to ring a second time, so felt rather disgruntled.
I wrote our a few bargains sized postcards of Blarney Castle and posted them as we walked across to the Castle Hotel restaurant, where there was an all in menu for £7.50. Then followed a most delightfully unexpected evening. The meal was good, served by a very genial young waiter and with pleasant background music. The unexpected part was the three other groups of people eating there – all American, but from different parts of America, all unknown to each other, but we soon joined in their conversations and shared their amusement at some of their experiences with road signs, right-hand drive cars etc. All were so nice but very different from each other. One couple was from near New York. He had been born in Staines, but left when he was six years old, as his father was an engineer with Campbell's "Bluebird" team and went to America and stayed. They were returning to relatives in Iver and had an aunt in Hillingdon. The wife was supposed to have Irish roots, hence the reason for their trip. They were staying in the hotel and went off tired to bed, but the other two groups joined us later at "Muskerry Arms", where a huge room was given over to an evening of Irish music (£1 raffle ticket entry). We were entertained to non-stop Irish jigs and reels, lots of people getting up to dance – the dances were like many we know, but performed "on the hop" at about 10 times the speed. There was also a young Irish girl in her pretty costume who performed several Irish dances (shades of Janet McKenzie and Scottish dancing!)
The other people were; Ken and Joyce and their daughter Kathy from Atlanta, Georgia. Kathy worked for Delta airlines and they were over for five days! They were extremely genial. So were the other couple from California – she reminded us of Lois and our friend Judy. We all exchanged addresses at the end of a tremendous evening and we made our way back to our little room – it was luckily 11.45, as we had completely lost track of the time and the doors shut at midnight. We slept quite well despite the heavy old blankets – most of which we threw off. Oh for a duvet!
Observations of Ireland 1991.
(NB. These were written in 1991 and by 1997 lots of things had already changed)
Saw lots of railway lines – but no trains.
Railway level crossings all seem to be manned (lots).
Houses built everywhere – seemingly no planning restrictions.
On the peninsulas in the West there is much random building – at the present rate they will be ruined within 20 years.
All houses built of concrete blocks and painted various colours – all uninspiring. Few gardens.
There is no obvious desire to renovate old cottages – a new bungalow is usually built next door.
Affluence indicated by size of walls around house.
Nerines in gardens – particularly South East.
High fuchsia hedges along roads.
Few self-service garages – most garages in small towns/villages – classic 50s.
No double white lines on roads.
There is a general lack of cars outside towns.
Generally few big container lorries only vans/local transport lorries.
Once off main roads total lack of signposts.
Give way signs say Yield – we even had a "Prepare to Yield" sign. In Gaelic speaking areas they said Geill Sli
Milk is taken by churns/tractor or trailer tanker to local creameries – no milk tanker lorries.
Little industry outside major towns.
Telephone network by overhead catenary cables all along side road – little underground network.
Few of the restaurants had "pipes" music – had local radio stations as music. Most of our landladies insisted on turning on radio four 9 o'clock News.
Taste and conservation are words of the 80s – much of Ireland is still in the 50s.
Some would say that most of the big towns "had character" – we would say they are pretty decrepid.
Most people were friendly – most waved as you passed.
There were beautiful bays all along the coast.
We thought the weather was very average – no rain but the dull most of the time – everybody we met told us how lovely the weather was!
Finally Ireland reminded us of East Germany, both now having all the trappings of the 90s, but the people are living lives of many years before.
Hermitage to Southern Ireland and back - 1991
This was our first trip to Ireland at the October half term in 1991. We were both still working, and the journey there was very fraught. It was by car and we were staying in B&B's. It was not part of our original Road Around Britain, but we have included it, because our 1997 diary mentions it many times, and it covered the same area in Southern Ireland. Also it shows how much it changed in 5 years and how much it must have changed since.