What a great excuse to visit Ireland, James and Kate’s wedding in Ballygowan just south of Belfast. Matt and I headed off from Brookwood for the long drive up to Holyhead to catch the ferry across the water to Dublin. We thought it might be a nightmare as when we arrived at Holyhead we were told that the high speed ferry crossing was cancelled……..but luckily enough we were able to jump operators onto Irish Ferries and arrived in Dublin 2 1/2 hours later. Still cat naps were the way forward as we’d spent the night driving having left Brookwood at 12am. Once in Dublin we had to drive through the town centre to pick up the motorway to drive up towards Belfast. It seemed strange crossing the boarder back into Nothern Ireland as the only way to know was that road signs changed. We eventually made it to the Hotel to dump our stuff off and head to the bar for a much needed beer. We then met up with James for his last night of freedom and a chance for me to catch up with James’s family. The evening ended fairly early and James showed no sign of stress for the fact that he was to be married the next day…..what a man of steel.
We were all up bright and early the next day with a couple of missions to accomplish……one head off to the swimming pool for a quick dip, followed by a sauna and two drive over the local country side trying to catch up with the man with the swords (James and Kate were having a guard of honor!). Once that was complete we all then headed back to Le Mons for lunch and to catch up with Ed and Claire who were driving up from Dublin to meet us. Once suited and booted we headed over to the church for the wedding but late as usual we had to overtake the horse and carridge carrying Kate to the church…..phew!
The wedding went ahead and both James and Kate looked stunning! The guard of honor looked good as James and Kate walked down the church steps to a crowd of on lookers….ie us!
Once that was finished Matt, Ed, Claire and I headed back to Kate’s parents house to sort out the car parking duty which we’d been assigned. This was especially fun with Matt’s walky talkies he’d brought with him. The reception was conducted under a huge marquee which included a stage for the unknown band. Dinner was cool and we all mingled with James and Kate’s family and friends. What then followed was what I can only describe as chaos with the introduction of a Kalee (Ah, so that’s what the stage was for….doh). It seems with the mix of alcohol and high spirits turned us all into a bunch of mindless morons. How difficult can it be to follow a couple of dance moves………..very I tell you. It was emencly fun weaving, dodging and laughing round the dance floor trying to remember the next move. The evening seemed to go by in a flash and the next thing I remember is heading back to our hotel with Ed, Claire, Pete and Matt for a quick nightcap and then waking up….
The next day were headed down to the pool for a swim and another sauna before heading over to Kate’s parents house again for the afternoon lunch. There were some sore heads that day I can tell you, especially from James’s Dad Rod…..perhaps the video of Rod the night before might come in handy for blackmail purposes. 🙂 We ate lunch and had a couple more beers before heading off from Ballygowan to aim north towards our next destination the “Giants Causeway” and the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede. We made a quick pit stop in Belfast to drop off James best man Pete so he could have a wander before catching his flight back to blighty and then headed up the coast road to Bushmills. I must say the view was fantastic along the coast which was helped by the nice weather! From around the Ballycastle area you can see Scotland around the water which looked calm. Would quite like to sail around here one day! 🙂
We arrived late afternoon at the B & B we were staying and got changed before heading into town for a couple of Guinnses which at the first pub were good but the pub wasn’t! We then moved onto the other in the village and settled for food and further beers. The sleep was well needed after the long drive and to prepare ourselves for the walking and fun the next day.
We headed off to the rope bridge first at Carrick-a-Rede which was only just down the road from our B & B. After a short walk along the cliffs we arrived at a gate and some very steep steps down to the bridge itself which sways 30m above the rocks and water below….gulp. We had a little look around the island and then headed back along the bridge via another short walk back to the cars. Another short drive later we arrived at the car park for the Giants Causeway.
The Giants Causeway is quite a sight and the story goes that a Irish Giant, Finn MacCool, built the Causeway so he could cross the sea to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner. When he go there he found is fival asleep and, seeing that the Scot was far bigger than he, fled back to Ireland. Soon, Finn’s wife heard the angry Benandonner come running across the Causeway, so she dressed Finn in a baby’s shawl and bonnet and put him in a crib. When the Scottish giant came hammering at Finn’s door, Mrs MacCool warned him not to wake Finn’s baby. Taking a glance in the cot, Benandonner decided that if this huge baby was Finn’s child, then MacCool himself must be immense, and fled in turn back to Scotland, ripping up the causeway as he went. All that remains are its ends – the Giants Causeway in Ireland, and the island of Staffa in Scotland. (Taken from the Loney Planet Guide Book)
One thing for sure was that the wind on the cliffs was quite strong and we all had to be carefull not to get blown over! The walk over the cliffs gave us a birds eye view of the causeway before we decended down the stone steps to ground level. Clambering around the causeway was cool and some interesting pictures were taken! 🙂
Once we’d all taken enough sea air, we headed back to the cars and had to make a quick pit stop at the Bushmills Distillery for a tour around the site and some free tasters. Ed and I jumped at the chance to get into the tasting competition and managed to get a certification for our troubles. Still the afternoon chilled by due to one too many tasters! 🙂 hic
Our next leg in the journey was to Sligo so we said goodbye to Northern Ireland and hello to the Republic (the only way to notice the change is to look at the road signs!). We stayed in another B & B with another fantastic view over Sligo Bay and with the looming mountain Benbulben behind us. Drinks and food in Yeats taven took its toll on us all so we all headed to bed for much needed R & R. The next day we decided we should climb the mountain which took a good couple of hours and several stops to recover.
Man, it was good to reach the top although just when you think you’ve reached the top you can never tell due to all the ridges etc. Still we found the trig point so definately made it! I think we were all glad for the walk down hill although that got interesting in places. Still once complete we couldn’t rest as we had to start the drive to Galway and for me to pick up Phoebe from the airport. Once that was done we headed into the city centre and jumped our bags off at the youth hostel in which we were staying. The town was certainly alive but we managed to find a quiet resturant for food and wine. We managed to watch the end of an Irish band whilst having a night cap but tiredness caught up with us so we all headed to bed in our shared dorm room! Mmmm, I think some people didn’t get any sleep what with the night life outside and the snoring inside. Still that’s where earplus come handy! 😛
The next day we were off again heading further south to Cashel and the supposed “Rock of Cashel” which wasn’t that exciting (Isn’t wasn’t exciting enought to pay to see!). This nights accommodation was under canvas which made a change to B & B’s and we even managed to have a BBQ using the cheap disposable ones. Still they worked and enabled us to eat and drink outside in the fresh air. Everyone headed off to bed early due to the long days driving or was that an excuse because everyone was grumpy! 🙂
The final leg of our wirlwind Ireland tour was the trip down to see Lorna and Ben who are Ed’s Aunt and Uncle who have brought a house near Bantry. What a house I must say with a fantastic view across Bantry Bay! Lorna and Ben made us all feel very welcome but before the beers could begin we had to help the local community by picking up litter around the town. This part of the “Tidy Towns” incentive which happens all over Ireland and was quite amusing with all of us having to wear reflective jackets and litter picking implements. Once we’d picked up as much rubbish as possible we were allowed a much needed couple of Guinsess’s before Lorna cooked us a fantastic meal. 🙂 Eventually the days events caught up with us and we headed off to bed!
The next day we were treated again to Lorna’s cooking with a huge cooked breakfast…yum which went down a treat. Today was a trip down the coast to Sheeps Head and the beach! 🙂 This was especially made fun with a Frisbee and a football which we ran about with on the beach making fools of ourselves. Phoebe, Ed and Claire braved the cold and attempted a swim but it was Phoebe who stayed in for the longest (yeah, but she complained about being cold even when it’s 25 degrees out!) Pheebs and I managed to take a quick trip down to Mizzen Head so I could take another look at the Fastnet Rock. It was strange seeing it from another angle as the last time I saw it was going round in during the 2001 Fastnet Race! 🙂
Stil, several sun burns later we headed back to Lorna and Bens for the usual afternoon Guinness and chilling out admiring the views. We attempted to think about going out for the evening but surcumed to staying in with another fantastic meal….and lots of wine! 🙂 Sleep came naturally after some lengthy conversations at the table…….
The last day for Phoebe, Matt and I had begun but not without a final trip down to Sheeps Head for a walk around and lunch. We said our goodbyes to Lorna, Ben, Ed and Claire (who were staying longer) and made our way to Cork to pick the ferry. The 12 hour crossing was calm and we all managed to get some sleep before the long drive back to Brookwood………..damm should have stayed in Ireland…… 🙂