The Irish Odyssey

We arrived at Cairnryan in nice time to bed down in a nearby layby with 2 alarms set for 6 o’clock. Wednesday morning saw us enjoying a fine crossing with breakfasts on board and the time passed quickly as we plotted Suse’s novel.
20130529_111903On a lovely sunny day but with a cold wind, we mooched about the Titanic area, the building itself supposed to represent the prows of the famous ship which had been built there and made of waves. John was disappointed and wouldn’t go to see the exhibition but there was a lot of information quayside about the history of the ship building industry through Harland and Wolfe, who empl0yed 35,000 workers at their peak. As the area is being regenerated it hopes to eventually employ 30,000. It now supports the Odyssey centre, the Titanic exhibition and the Titanic studios and we spotted someone wearing a teeshirt that claimed he had designed props for Game of Thrones, so we imagined the next series being filmed behind those jazzy walls. We had lunch on the riverside and posted a postcard to grandson John.
Once the parking was up we negotiated Belfast’s motorways westwards, intending to reach Ton’s brother’s capsite near Castlebar. Unfortunately, and partly because we didn’t know the name of it or exactly where it was, it proved too far and we were sidetracked by a 20130530_093917Beach Bar at Aurghis Head, where we stayed the night in exchange for spending some money in the bar. John watched the England Ireland friendly while Suse went for a walk along the clifftop.
The next morning we were again blessed with sunshine but a strong westerly. We went to Clew Bay in search of shelter amongst the 365 islands which are drowned drumlins, but had difficulty finding somewhere to launch. In Newport, we were spotted by another kayaker who invited us to to join him and his friend at Old Head. This proved to be a lovely and very popular beach and we rockhopped and cavehopped until the waves got too big. Then we returned and went along the beach, returning rather tired to try some rescues. After offering the 2 Colins tea and scones we set off south, looking for another potential kayak launching spot where we could send the night. In retrospect we missed the better i.e. more interesting kayaking in Clew Bay and Lough Corrib in favour of some company and that was a shame, but the opportunity to link up with local knowledge was too good to miss.
We drive through Connemara and some lovely scenery to Lough Corrib, but struggled to find anywhere to stay the night and ended up in the edge of a field. Not long after our arrival a man with an axe arrived, gave us a cheery (we think) wave and disappeared into the woods. He emerged half an hour later with no sign of what (or whom) he had been up to.
After a peaceful night ‘somewhere north of Galway’, we decided to get the driving done early as even given the distance, it was taking longer than we had hoped.
We had lunch at a Forest Trail, which seemed to be very popular with walkers and bikers, changed some money in Limerick and wandered round the river walk, which is being extended and very nicely too. The motorway standard driving was interrupted by occasional bottlenecks going through towns like Adare, very picturesque, but we didn’t stop. Part of the problem of having a campervan is the difficulty of parking, which makes you tend to keep going. We finally arrived at Killarney at fiveish and agreed we were too tired to contemplate a paddle on the Lough.
20130603_080905We are staying at the event centre racecourse which is nice and flat and has a kitchen, toilet and shower. It’s a long drive and we are both tired and a bit apprehensive about the orienteering but hey ho. Or should that be neigh no.
20130601_155501Day 1 took place in the middle of Inchincoosh Wind Farm, who sponsored the event. Suse was pleased to finish and enjoying a cup of water, watching the finishers when she realised she had come from a different direction from everyone else – in other words, she had missed the last control. So, cup in hand she went back to get it and finish. When John arrived, it turned out that he had also missed out a control, this time the 9th, which was a bit further back but still worth doing. A nicely technical area made easier by the dry weather – it would have been rather unpleasant in the normal wet. That said, Suse did go to the aid of a runner who was up to her neck in a stream she had underestimated.
Day 2 saw us revisiting Crohane and Carrigawaddra, an area which Suse had on her 1994 tee shirt. She rather enjoyed having the elite runners pointing out their controls and routes on her chest. The updated map had been done in two parts with the contours not lining through so her ancient tee shirt was much admired. We got social in the evening and went to the BBQ at the racecourse and stayed for the Shamrock Sessions, a series of talks about orienteering which were very interesting but went on too late.
Day 3 was Crohane Lake , where John had had difficulty in previous years when the level of the lake was very low. This time we weren’t as high and the courses finished through some tough ‘Scottish’ forest which proved pretty unpopular. John DNF’d but Suse toughed it out and finished, last but very pleased, mostly that the new socks and improved taping had worked and there were no blisters!
It had been an enjoyable 3 days catching up with old friends and rivals and enjoying the orienteering in fine weather. Now it was time to move back into kayaking mode and we headed out towards Sneem, in search of the chalet where we had stayed 35 years ago with a 13 month old Joanna who took her first steps there. 20130603_191421We didn’t spot the approach lane on the way so continued to Sneem itself and spent John’s birthday in a pub overlooking the river. We had already spoken to someone from the rowing club and okayed launching from there the next morning.
Unfortunately we had the tide against us so it was a long hard hour and a half paddle to the mouth of the river. We saw waves breaking at the headland and decided we didn’t fancy that, so stopped for lunch. It was going to be too long a paddle to get round and back to the bay where we thought the chalet was so we made do with exploring the islands and turning back before the tide changed. DSC01692We flew back in and treated ourselves to ice creams. When we eventually found the chalet it had been rechristened Sadie’s Lodge and the adjacent land bought up by someone who could afford a new road, high walls and a big house with CCTV as well as their own harbour. 20130604_163136We took some photographs of the chalet which didn’t appear to be occupied at the time.
Our route east took us over the Caha hills from Kenmare to Glengarriff through a series of tunnels with a height restriction that allowed us just inches to spare. We hoped their measurements were accurate! They were. 20130604_173036It was a lovely drive but the road was very slow and we stopped in Glengarriff for the night. There were signs everywhere saying campervans couldn’t park – I suppose they have a lot of them in the season, so we parked in a side street opposite the cemetry and went out from a slipway in the main bay the next morning.
There were boat trips to the lovely gardens on Garinish Island, which we had visited on a previous trip, so we went round the bay, struggling to find anywhere to land as it was all rock. As we rounded Garinish, we waved to the ladies from the bus trip who had watched us launch – I think it made their day, knowing who we were! Eventually we found a rock where we could snurgle in through the seaweed to have our picnic lunch.
From there we headed towards Cork via Inchigeelagh, home of previous Shamrocks, and checked out Creedon’s pub, which someone had told us had gone bust but looked ok to us, and the GAA field which had been the camp site and finish one day. We also found a fantastic garden centre called Future Forests, built from intriguing bits of wood, and bought some rescue trees, picea, Scots Pine and Eucalypt. It was going to be a long drive to Dublin but at least we were on motorways or motorway standard and our average speed probably doubled. We bought a chippie in Cashel and had a wee wander up to the Rock, then drove on searching for an overnight camp spot. Again we just had to pull off the road and again a local appeared and dived into the woods beside us, emerging later with no sign of what he’d been up to.
The roads then took us round Dublin and in to the Ferry terminal so with time to spare we parked up and walked round the revitalised dock area. Sadly, despite the money spent during the reign of the Celtic Tiger, there were unfinished buildings and empty shops. We had lunch in the car park and then checked in, only to discover that the trip comes with two free meals!
It was a long crossing but we had books, puzzles and plots and we watched a film called The Vow on the recommendation of some young Australians. There were hardly any passengers on the trip, but a lot of containers.
Docking was interesting. LIverpool docks run through a series of locks 12.5km long to allow 24 hour activity despite the extreme tides. The ferry sailed up the estuary then reversed into a lock where it tied up while the water level rose. Then the gates opened and it passed on for quite a way through a sort of internal dock to Gladstone Dock No. 3. This is apparently standard practice and took over an hour.
20130607_090336We missed the ferry car park where Sandy Van Rossum had said we could sleep but were very lucky to spot the park for Anthony Gormley’s Another Place statues just a few minutes away. You could hear the docks at work all night. In the morning the place was full of runners and people using the gym equipment. We walked out to see Gormley’s statues but the bay was full of jelly fish and the tide coming in fast.
From there we found a B&Q and after an long wait, were amazed to be able to buy the long sought after replacement glass for the damaged cold frame. Then we had lunch at Hilda’s and carried on up to Emily’s. It felt like the holiday was over once we were back in Scotland but on Saturday we borrowed a wheelchair and took Mum out to Rouken Glen for lunch and a trundle round the garden centre. It was a lovely day and we all enjoyed relaxing.
Sunday saw us orienteering again at Auchingarroch. Neither of us distinguished ourselves but the forest was not very nice and the overprinting too dark to see against the dark green. Having spent 2 minutes at the start just trying to see the course on the map it didn’t get much better.
Monday saw us doing a bit of gardening at Merryvale Avenue then heading home. The holiday really is over when you get back to work and find your email has been spammed with 28,000 emails.

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