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Ireland, August 2006
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Two weeks travelling around the south of Ireland in our camper van with Liz, William and George.

Sun 13 Aug 2006
Left home at 11, an hour later than planned, stopped to fill up with diesel, then found out that today was the day of the Charity Shield. We shared the M4 with Liverpool and Chelsea fans on their way to the Millenium Stadium. This slowed us down some more, but I could see we were still not on for a Howie and Jenni style race for the ferry. We pulled into Pembroke Dock ferry port at 1:58, two minutes before check in was due to close and half an hour before sailing. George was relieved to see the size of the ferry. He hadn't wanted to bring any cuddly toys in case they fell in the water - I think he was picturing something like Sean's sit-on-top kayak which we had been on together a few weeks before.

We were amongst the last few vehicles on and we sailed just ahead of time. The ferry wasn't very full and the boys enjoyed the soft play and cinema. Out on deck it was sunny with a stiff breeze and a noticable swell. We had a meal in the cafe, then went up to the sky lounge - great views as we docked.

It took us a little while to disembark at Rosslare
, then we headed north to Wexford . We stopped briefly to get some Euros from the cashpoint, then took the R742 north to find a campsite by a beach - Kilmuckridge. The whole area seemed to be full of static caravans - not very scenic, but a few minutes walk took you through the dunes to perfect sandy beach as far as the eye could see. We went for an evening stoll. George was tired but he and William still managed to get wet in the sea. Waves were crashing in and it didn't look too welcoming for tomorrow.

Mon 14 Aug 2006
After breakfast, straight down to the beach with wetsuits and body boards. The swell had calmed a little but it was still exciting in the sea. William had his first wipeout and George stuck to running along in the foam. Back to the van for lunch and we left at 1pm, heading north to the Wicklow mountains.

We picked Glendalough from the Lonely Planet guide and so had everyone else. Very picturesque, but a bit crowded for our taste. We looked around the monastic ruins then drove up to the upper lake. From there we followed one of the walking trails up past some waterfalls and were soon away from the crowds.

We drove over the Wicklow Gap, west to camp at Donard. The weather was changing for the worse. The site was nice with plenty of space for the boys to run around and a stone circle for them to climb on. In the village was Toomey's Bar - ideal for a drink after tea, my first pint of real Irish Guinness.

Tue 15 Aug 2006
A wet morning so we deciced to get some travelling done. Down to Carlow
with a very brief stop to look at Browne's Hill Dolmen (from the road, at the far side of a wet field full of cows). Then on to Kilkenny where we stopped for a few hours to wander around the town and castle grounds and do some shopping. We took the scenic drive to Cashel where we visited the Rock of Cashel and the boys ran around as knights shooting "enemy cows" through the arrow slots.

An evening drive took us past Tipperary, Limerick and Killaloe to the Mountshannon Camping Site on the west side of Lough Derg in County Clare. It was still raining but we had chosen this as somewhere to spend a day without travelling. Got my laptop out for the first time and was amazed to find a net connection courtesy of www.mountshannon.net.

Wed 16 Aug 2006
Cycled north along the lake towards Whitegate, exploring the side roads but failing to link them together. Found a nice spot by the lake for some lunch. Then back to Mountshannon for a wander around the harbour, a quick drink in the pub and a visit to the maze in the park opposite.

Thu 17 Aug 2006
A busy day. We left the campsite reasonably early to get across to the Burren. Just driving through from Ennis gave a good impression of this wild landscape. We stopped at Aillwee Cave
and took the tour which the boys enjoyed once they got used to the dark. Then up to Ballyvaughan and around the coast road, stopping at Fanore for lunch. This little surfing beach is great, with limestone pavementrunning right down into the sea. The boys played for ages with the water rushing through the narrow channels. Continuing along the coast, the boys were both asleep by the time we reached the Cliffs of Moher, so I quickly ran across from the carpark to have a look. They are impresssive cliffs, but unfortunately, with 700,000 visitors per year the safety measures make it difficult to appreciate them. The new path is ten metres back from the edge and behind a 1.5 metre slate wall. The only way to get a real sense of the scale is to disobey the signs and get nearer the edge.

When I got back to the van both boys were awake so we headed straight off to catch the Killimer/Tarbert ferry across the Shannon. I caught a glimpse of some dolphins on the twenty minute crossing. Then down to Listowel, where we stopped for a good meal at the Horseshoe Bar. Onwards through Tralee and Killorglin to the Friths' place in Glencar . We phoned to check we had the right gate then set off down the bumpy track. It soon steepened and I took it very steadily down the rocky track, avoiding the steep drop to our left. Soon we were down and saw Emma, Tom and Ben waving at their gate. We drove through, brushing branches overhead. Though not steep, a slight climb and some mud meant I was sliding around. I reversed out and took a run up. I got futher, but came to a halt with a crunch. I'd forgotten that the awaning stuck out slightly on the left. I'd slammed it into an overhanging birch bough and completely smashed the mechanism. We tried various approaches - trimming back some of the branches, moving rocks and reversing, but we couldn't get into their yard. It looked like we'd have to park up at the Climbers Inn just up the road, so I turned round to try getting up the steep hill. I got almost halfway before the front drive wheels started spinning. The engine had enough power but the weight was all wrong to get enough traction. I reversed carefully back down. It looked like we'd have to stop where we could and sort things out in the morning.

Fri 18 Aug 2006
I slept remarkably well and after breakfast I got to see the Friths' house. It has no electricity but the peat-burning range in the kitchen keeps it warm and provides lots of hot water. The boys were happy, running round with Tom and Ben.

Mark had arrived back during the night and we assessed what we might do with the van. We needed a tow to get out, but if we could make the last 50 metres to their house it would be best to be stuck here until we were read to leave - their van could transport all eight of us for days out. The leaning birch bough was the real problem - Mark quickly sawed it off - there are plenty more trees around the house. With that clear and another run up I soon had the van up by the house. A friend with a tractor was contacted and arrangemnets for a tow were made for a few days time.

That sorted, we prepared for an afternoon at the beach. We went over Ballaghisheen, got some shopping and lunch in Cahersiveen then headed west, past the Valencia meteorological station to a small beach on St Finan's Bay. Golden sand, clear water and views out to the Skelligs. This is one of the best local surfing spots and there was enough swell to make 18 inch to 2 foot waves - just right for William and Tom (and me) to have some fun.

Back at the house we had a candlelit meal of beef casserole.

Sat 19 Aug 2006
Today we decided to go for a walk from the house. We followed the River Caragh upstream through some ancient woodland then crossed over to join the Kerry Way. We followed this west for a short while before striking up through the forest. The going was rough but we soon reached a vantage point with a view over the glen, where we stopped for lunch. From here Mark returned to put a shoulder of mutton in the oven while the rest of us found a way down through the cliffs, back to the Kerry Way. We followed this north to Blackstones Bridge, playing hide and seek along the way. This was tick country and it took us a few days to find them all, but the final score was William 3, George 1, Liz 1, Mark 1. We returned to the house along the riverbank, past the stations and shelters for salmon fishing.

The kids had an earlier tea and the adults had a civilised meal of mutton once they were in bed.

Sun 20 Aug 2006
The weather was noticably milder and after some faffing about we decided this would be a good day for me to go to the mountains while the others went to the dunes at Rossbehy.

I had decided on the Coomloughta horseshoe so I cycled up the road, past Lough Acoose, for about 8km to where a track leads up to Lough Eighter. I pushed up most of the first steep section but once around the corner I could ride most of the way to the lough, where I left my bike (1 hour). For the longest climb of the day I took the heather slope north-east where a faint path showed the way. I drifted to the left of the main ridge to get some shelter from the wind and by 550m I was in the cloud. Once I reached point 747m the ridge was well defined and I followed it easily to Skregmore where another party were having some food. At the summit of Beenkeragh the wind was strong so I didn't stop long.

I checked my compass frequently as I started on the arete towards Carrauntoohil as I was heading more westerly than the map suggested. But the path was obvious and it soon swung south. When I was in the lee of the ridge I could hear voices ahead of me, across the Eagle's Nest. The ridge was narrow but with no real difficulties. I caught up with the voices on the final slopes to the cross on the summit of Carrauntoohil (3 hours).

A good path lead south down the broad slope and I could run for the first time. I peeled off right to stay on the ridge towards Caher and was soon on my final summit. After a short steep climb over the west top I took a good stony path down along the north-west ridge. The slope became less steep at about 600m and the stone gave way to peat. After the recent dry weather I could avoid the wet until the foot of the ridge where I had to cross a short section of flat bog to get back to my bike (4 hours).

The ride home was almost all downhill except for a short climb up to Lough Acoose. I knew the others wouldn't be back yet, so I stopped off for a quick pint of Guinness at the Climbers Inn (4:30 hours).

Mon 21 Aug 2006
The tractor was booked for this evening so we decided to have a last day on the beach. We went west, through Waterville and stopped for lunch at Loher staigue fort. This has been rebuilt so the boys all had great fun running up and down steps and along the walls. We then went south, over the top to Darrynane Bay near Caherdaniel. Tom was scathing about the smallness of the surf but he, William and Ben still had some fun in the waves. I went in briefly, but agreed it should be bigger or warmer.

When they had had enough of the beach we went for a walk around Abbey Island before heading back to Waterville for fish and chips in the Fisherman's Inn(?)

Back at the house I repacked the van to try to get some weight over the front wheels. Pat arrived with his tractor (but not his thicker rope) just before 9pm. He doubled the rope he had and we hitched up. He pulled away and we went smoothly until I let the clutch out, the rope slackened slightly and as the tension came again it snapped. We decided we should double the rope again and tow the van as a dead weight. This simplified things for me - I just had to steer and be ready with the brakes should the rope snap again. It worked very well. There was some slight slip from the tractor wheels on the steepest part of the hill but we were soon up by the road. We quickly repacked, loaded the bikes, said our thanks and goodbyes and we were on the move again, heading for the Beara Peninsula.

It was dark already so we decided to travel a short way then stop for the night. We pulled of the road in the small layby at the top of the Ballaghbeama Gap.

Tue 22 Aug 2006
Having travelled up in the dark we were hoping for some views in the morning, but we woke to find ourselves in cloud. It cleared a little as we had breakfast and we were soon on the road to Kenmare. After a short stop we crossed the river onto the Beara Peninsula and drove to the campsite a short way up the Healy Pass, near Laugagh. The view was spectacular, with mountains, lakes and the sea, but the weather was very changeable. We had hoped to go for a walk from the top of Healy Pass, but by the time we were ready for an outing the rain was persistant so we settled for an afternoon in the van. Liz and I read while the boys played happily with the Lego.

By 4:30 the rain had diminished so we decided to gobut more for a short bike ride to Glanmore Lake and back.

Once the boys were in bed I rode up to the top of Healy Pass. It's a very well made road, the same gentle gradient all the way. It was virtually dark as I got to the top and my lights were mysteriously not working so I coasted down in the gloom, taking care to avoid sheep.

Wed 23 Aug 2006
A walk in the mountains was a possibility again, but when we drove to the top of Healy Pass the weather was not encouraging so we continued to Glengarriff. The road down was even better than the way up - the same gradient but more curves.

Glengarriff was good. We wandered through the village to the playground, then back along the shore path. We had some lunch and an icecream then walked around Seal Point. We were just heading back when we spotted a small rock, just offshore, covered with seaweed and 11 seals. We watched them for a while. They seemed happy to simply lie in the sun and occasionally wave a flipper.

We were now on the way home and decided to get some miles in, over the Pass of Keimaneigh to Ballingeary, then down the Lee valley to pick up the N22 to take us quickly past Cork. We tried to find a campsite near Youghal but one had gone and the one still going was a bit cramped. We decided to continue to Dungarvan and booked into a large site on Clonea Bay. This was right beside the beach, but the boys were more attracted to the playground full of other kids.

Thu 24 Aug 2006
After a lazy morning in the campsite we continued east along the coast road and soon stopped for lunch at a small beach near Dunabrattin Head. We scrambled on the rocks and through a cave to another small beach. We then took the Passage East ferry into Wexford and on to Rosslare. The campsite we planned to stay at no longer took tourers so we parked up in a beach-side carpark with a pub just over the road. The boys played in the sea, then after tea we walked along the beach and I had a final couple of pints of Guinness.

Fri 25 Aug 2006
We were up relatively early to catch the 8:45 ferry. It left slightly late but after an uneventful crossing we were on our way back down the M4 and home.



Thu 17 Aug 2006
William climbing on the Burren.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 17 Aug 2006
William and George at Fanore, where the limestome pavement runs into the sea.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 17 Aug 2006
George at Fanore.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 17 Aug 2006
William at Fanore.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 17 Aug 2006
William at Fanore.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 17 Aug 2006
William and George at Fanore.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 17 Aug 2006
The Cliffs of Moher.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 17 Aug 2006
Liz, William, George and our camper van on the Shannon ferry.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Mon 21 Aug 2006
Ben, William and George at the Loher staigue fort.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Mon 21 Aug 2006
William and George running around the Loher staigue fort.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Mon 21 Aug 2006
William and Tom at the Loher staigue fort.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Mon 21 Aug 2006
William, Ben and Tom at the Loher staigue fort.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Mon 21 Aug 2006
George at the Loher staigue fort.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Mon 21 Aug 2006
George in the doorway of the Loher staigue fort.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Mon 21 Aug 2006
George in a doorway of the abbey on Abbey Island in Darrynane Bay.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Mon 21 Aug 2006
Emma, Ben, William, Liz and Tom walking back over Abbey Island.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Tue 22 Aug 2006
Our camper van parked up at the top of Ballaghbeama Gap.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Tue 22 Aug 2006
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Tue 22 Aug 2006
George on a cycle ride to
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Tue 22 Aug 2006
Sunset over our camper van.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Tue 22 Aug 2006
Sunset over our camper van.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 24 Aug 2006
William, Liz and George in a cave
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 24 Aug 2006
William and George in a cave
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 24 Aug 2006
Our camper van seen through a cave.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 24 Aug 2006
William playing with driftwood.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 24 Aug 2006
George with Otty the Ostrich - a piece of driftwood.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 24 Aug 2006
Liz and George on the beach
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Thu 24 Aug 2006
Our camper van waiting for the Passage East ferry.
Ireland, August 2006 2006



Fri 25 Aug 2006
William and George asleep in the camper van on our way back home through Wales.
Ireland, August 2006 2006
Copyright © Mark Bailey 1987-2007