WEEK THREE: Bushmills, Dublin, Holyhead and Llanberis

AAAAH. FINALLY, WE WERE getting into the swing of a real vacation in this last week. There were only two hiccups that popped up—a twisted ankle (foolishly not wearing my ankle brace), which is definitely on the mend and not holding me back much and needing to do a little shuffle of accommodations/car rental to adjust for arrival times in Holyhead, Wales.

Note to self: always verify car rental hours before scheduling ferries or any other conveyances (Hertz closes their doors at 1700, ferry arrives 1830—oopsie). And, don’t rush when making new accommodations—be sure everything is right before clicking the “Book” button.

We said good bye to Donegal and Ireland as we wandered up through a zillion roundabouts—even I (lover of roundabouts) was getting tired of them … just a wee bit. We saw sheep, cattle, trees … more sheep and glimpses of shoreline—unfortunately, Gabby chose the fastest route that took us through more inland roads than coastal roads. The coastal route would have been glorious, but it would have added too much time. Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway were our destination for this bit of travel. And it did not disappoint. The weather and scenery were amazing. We even had time to attend church during our short stay in Bushmills. And, no … we did not go to the distillery. Nature was our goal along this lovely bit of Northern Ireland. Click on the photos to enlarge them.Red Telephone Box Giant's Causeway Giant's Causeway Erosion Patterns at the Causeway

From Bushmills, we traveled back down south, touching on the outskirts of Belfast—a huge metropolis—before working our way back into Dublin and our hostel for three more nights. Each time we arrive, we find new things to do—wondering the streets of Dublin. We were checking out the farmers market one block off O’Connell Street when my ankle twisted on uneven pavement—it really pays to keep a keen eye out for uneven surfaces if you have ankle issues  I was not <pout> and it knocked half a day out of our sightseeing.

I’ve been wearing both knee brace and ankle brace since the incident on Monday (hate wearing them) and all is well. It took a couple of days of taxi rides into town before I felt comfortable walking around and by Wednesday, we were back to “normalish” touristing.

The first of the “recovery days” was spent on a Gray Lines tour of Wicklow Mountains and the Glendalough area. The scenery was magnificent, the stops we made had marvellous photo ops … and our tour guide, Richie, was wonderful—a great commentator, full of that Irish “gift of gab” (in a very good way) and fun to chat with. There was plenty of giggles on his tour. The history of the area was told in a way to hold your attention—nothing worse than a dry bit of history to put you to sleep—not with Richie. So glad we made the trip! Click on the photos to enlarge.

GrayLine's Driver, Richie

Great commentator and conversationalist, Richie was our tour guide for the day on the Wicklow Mountain and Glendalough tour.

roof and trees near Glendalough Military Instillation on Glendalough/Wicklow Mtn Tour Glendalough/Wicklow Mountains Creek Near Guinness Lake Glendalough Tower and Graveyard Glendalough Scenery Church and Round Tower at Glendalough

Thursday was ferry ride day into Holyhead, Wales and we had a good time. The Stena Lines is a lovely boat to ferry across the water—and I booked us seats up in the lounge, so it was even better.

Because of the mess-up by moi, we only had the one night in Llanberis, so not a ton of time to wander in Snowdonia <insert huge pout> This is a gloriously beautiful area and deserves multiple days to begin to absorb its beauty. This will require another trip <insert grin> to make sure I get “my Snowdonia time” in. Definitely! Actually, Sandy and I talked about it and decided we’d make sure to spend a few days here on our return trip—after visiting my London friends and before we hop on the ferry to go back to Dublin.

Aaah. One final note: It’s called “Payback”—Sandy was trying to wrangle some horses that decided to come out of a gate that we had permission to open (to turn the car Muddy print on a shoearound) … and one stepped on her foot <insert grimmace> so we’re being super cautious today. Only the front half of the hoof stepped on her foot, thankfully, but the knee-jerk reaction to pull it away may have caused more of a problem …

We did a little look around in Llanberis, but she’s alternately icing it and keeping it elevated. We’ll see how things go—I’ll be catering to her needs as she did to me when I had my little incident.
Llanberis and our hostel (click on photos to enlarge):
Little Cabins at the Hostel View of Hostel Grounds View of Hills of LLanberis LLanberis View from Hostel

And … now, it’s time to get this blog launched so you can read it. Have a blessed Friday and weekend.

 

Celtic Invasion Vacation (CIV): Northern Wales-Part One

THIS WAS A FUN TIME FOR ME–exhausting, but super fun and very memorable! I’d not miss any of it–I’d do it all over again…even the ‘vertical’ portions.

Every year, Marc Gunn puts together a trip to one of the seven Celtic Nations. He’s been doing this for quite a few years. In past years, he has taken adventurers to various parts of Ireland, Scotland (I’m so sorry I missed this!), and France to take in both modern and ancient sights. Since Marc is a Celtic musician (born on St. Paddy’s Day), he always includes personal house concerts, both with his playing and singing and with invited musicians bringing in their instruments and voices to play for us in the evenings. In addition, when possible he seeks out Celtic music in local pubs for his Invaders to enjoy whilst feasting and downing a pint.

The troupe of Invaders is usually on the small side (6-14 people, including Marc), which allows for a fair amount of leeway when proceeding through his very loose itinerary. If something doesn’t strike a fancy with the majority, perhaps another venue is more appealing…and so, itinerary might be changed. Going with the flow. I like that. So does everyone else.

This year, I drove up from Holyhead (spent the night in Llanfairfetchan–I even know how to say it right–before proceeding), and (after a few wrong turns–remember, no fine-tuned GPS yet in the UK), turned in my car and met up with the Invaders at the Bewely Hotel very near the Manchester Airport the night before the actual tour began. Since we had to wait for the last two to arrive (the morning our group was to head out),

Trekking in Manchester UK

The six of us trekking back to the train station in Manchester

the rest of us (was there really only six of us?) took the train down into Manchester and,

Manchester UK

A glimpse of Manchester, on the way back to the train station.

ill-prepared for the rain that fell, we ignored the rain and did some walking around, sightseeing, made a few strategic purchases and had our

Dinner in Manchester UK

Drying out, enjoying a lovely Italian dinner

dinner (which allowed for us to dry out our sopping pants and jackets a wee bit–it’s only water, right?)…

After picking up our last two Invaders and retrieving the van, we headed out, traversing back down the way I’d traveled, down into Wales–actually, pretty close to where I spent the night when I first came over on the ferry. I could have checked with Marc about the details before I made reservations for accommodations and my car rental to save on the extra travel and expenses…but I did have fun with the group the night before we headed out, so I’m happy with how it went.

Marc usually rents a cottage of some sort for his Invaders and uses it at ‘base camp’, coming back at the end of each day to relax, have dinner (did I mention Marc is an excellent cook and prepares most of the breakfasts and dinners that we had at the cottage for us?) and, at least two or three (or maybe four) nights enjoy our own little personal house concert, whether Marc or one of the guest musician.

This was a delightful little cottage in Bryngwran, with an open floor plan–the front patio had a BBQ and picnic table,

Room at Watermill Cottage

My room, Marc’s bed on left, mine in right.

Patio at Watermill Cottage

Looking through the skylight down to the patio

Watermill Cottage

The partially hidden watermill at our cottage

Patio at Watermill Cottage

Delightful location for a meal…used the BBQ (not seen) for our dinner

the front entry lead into a large kitchen flowing into a dining and living room area, with an en suite bedroom (for two) stashed off on the side from the entry, plus a bathroom. Upstairs had a loft with two beds and two bedrooms (one was en suite), each accommodating two, which was perfect for us. (Sshhh–don’t tell anyone…Marc and I shared a room. Giggle…he was a perfect gentleman–he offered to sleep on the couch, but I said no way, and offered the second twin bed–no reason for him to sleep on the couch where there was a perfectly good, empty bed. Like I said, he was a perfect gentleman.) There was a washer off of the kitchen area…and solar drying (clothesline) on the beautifully landscaped garden patio…I should have done my laundry when we first arrived to allow time for items to dry (but we had off and on rain and couldn’t see things actually drying with the weather we were having), instead, I chose to wait till I left the Invaders and settled into the hostel before doing laundry.

Day One, Saturday, included the scenic drive through the countryside and along the coast from Manchester Airport down to the cottage. (I won’t mention who left their drivers license back in the states…teehee…two of us with licenses did some of the driving.) Our first adventure took us into Conwy (pronounced Conwee) to see their beautiful castle. From atop the turrets I could see the walls encapsulating

Overview of Conwy Castle

High atop one of the turrets, a shot into the castle grounds

Conwy Castle Grounds

From the turrets, looking into the castle grounds

Conwy City from Castle

View of Conwy from the Castle

the entire town. It was breathtaking to see the little hamlet with the great protective ‘arms’ wrapped around it. After touring the castle, we were free to wander the town for several hours before meeting back up. I ended up making my first purchases (a tea towel with wild flower of Wales printed on it, plus some tea and scones) in a little shop, then stumbled upon a local art exhibition, with some very nice works: photography needlework scenery, penwork…all lovely. I ended up with a few items: a bag with an owl (of course, since I’m such an owl fanatic) and a small water colour and/or pen drawn dragon for my daughter…and a bookmark, which I’ll use as a prize/giveaway one of these days. Definitely a town to revisit…

From there, we worked our way to our cottage where everyone claimed their bed/room, unpacked and Marc and one other brave soul went out to shop for our food supplies. I think Marc entertained us with music, but we were all so tired, I honestly don’t remember. Our poor last two CIVers

Marc Gunn, Personal Concert

Marc played many of his tunes for us over the course of the week.

were working on well over 24 hours of travel by the time we all headed to our respective beds…

Day Two and Three (Sunday and Monday) were a blur of activities. For a few days, I failed to note all of the places we visited–I was having entirely too much fun to take the time…I’ve looked at dates on photos and my posts on Facebook to figure out what we did…and I’m still not sure I’ve got it right–lol–think I’ve missed one or two castles and towns…oops–I’ll include them in next weeks blog.

Cemetry Grounds on Church Island

Picturesque shot of cemetery

Snowdon Mountain

A view of Snowdon Mountain

Church Island at Low Tide

Church on the little island between Menai and Britannia Bridges surrounded by Menai Strait (in a portion called The Swellies because of dangerous whirlpools)

WWII Bunker

Cute little seaside town had a bunker nestled into a hillside.

Seaside View

Nearing the end of our guided tour, resting in a seaside village

In the midst of a sheep pasture, the view is breathtaking, the history told intriguing.

In the midst of a sheep pasture, the view is breathtaking, the history told intriguing.

Gates and Turnstyles

Lots of livestock to keep contained, so plenty of gates and turnstyles to get through. Note the detail of ironwork.

The Henge Burial Chamber, Wales

Our guide, Willym explained the lore, facts and some of the traditions behind the burial mounds.

A House Concert

Jonny Dyer and Vicki Shaw graciously played for us.

Deep in Snowdonia NP, Wales

A pristine lake (Llyn y Dywarchen) is our reward after a short climb.

Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan Concert

Together, these two harmonized to make fantastic music for us, well past the time they planned to quit. Amazing duo!

We made quite a few stops (photo ops and ooohs and aaahs) on this first day of real exploring of Wales. We wound through the gorgeous, mountainous Snowdonia National Park. Outside of Scotland, it has the tallest peak in the UK…and the views are breathtaking, to say the least (and Day Three held even closer inspection of this magnificent region). The SavNat provided (TomTom) was not working well, so Kevin, the one person that had a smart phone with GPS was giving directions from the middle of the van. There was plenty to see. We ended our day with a bit of music by our fearless leader, Marc Gunn. Wonderful.

Day Three (Monday) was filled with cultural and natural history, with our guide, Willym. In addition to more beautiful sights in Snowdonia, there were hills to climb, gates to go through, and more climbing…all while we heard about the history of the area. Not the dry stuff with someone spouting off facts that fall on deaf ears. Our guide led us out to fields to explore cairns (burial mounds), up trails, into dales, across brooks. (I’d say I easily logged an average of five miles each day.) Delightful. I’m not a history buff, but definitely enjoyed taking in all I heard and saw. That night, we were privileged to hear the harmony of two wonderful musicians: Vicki Shaw and Jonny Dyer. They were fantastic! (I’ll tried to attach a clip.)

Day Four (Tuesday) was ridiculously fun…and exhausting. It started with a mead tasting in Llanberis. It was deliriously

Meadery Owner

The owner of Snowdon Honey Farm and Winery, is wearing one of my book wristbands

Mead Tasting

We tasted many very different (and delicious meads…

fun and took more time than planned. Many of us went away with arms full of goodies (I for one was trying to figure out how my purchases would make it back home unscathed…(they did make it intact, thank you very much…)

We were to meet a storyteller “near” the National Slate Museum and had to rush across the river to get there. Well, we took a few wrong turns (no biggie–it really was a beautiful area), Marc called our storyteller and he gave us directions for us to follow. We traveled a well worn trail up into the hills, passed a hospital (for the slate company back in the day–part of the museum, and beautifully preserved), continued to walk up, and up…down…and up. I think there was more verticality to this walk than I’ve ever seen, and my knee (and very out of shape muscles) protested. I was the ‘weak link’ in our party of eight and I finally got to the point, when they were unsure whether they needed to go up further or turn down, following the river, that I stopped. I begged them to check and see which way we needed to go before I took another step. They were sweet enough to oblige me and forged ahead, down the hill. Yup, the right choice. I slowly followed. And was rewarded with the most beautiful little encampment I’ve ever seen. A little village of quaint, and quite unique buildings.

Thatched Lodge

Here, we are resting from our weary jaunt, but soon, we would settle into the lodge for a wonderfully told story.

Sod-Roofed Cottage

So many of these little cottages are a delight to the eye and mind.

Our Storyteller and Marc

The village in the background as Marc and the Storyteller chat

Carpentry Features with Reflections

The rustic, yet intricate carpentry details were fabulous. Our CIVers (including your truly) are in the reflection of the window.

Storyteller at Cae Mabon

In the large thatched lodge, our storyteller spins his yarn…

Thatched roofs, a Hobbit home, rammed earth building…all nestled amongst beautiful trees, next to a babbling stream. My fatigue melted away. And our storyteller was superb. Well worth the trek.

After our trekking, storytelling and a bit more sightseeing was done and we were munching on snacks in Llanberis, looking back up into the area we’d been traversing, well…I videoed Marc’s reactions, but his comments are not repeatable in this G-rated blog. (I’ve tried to upload another video I did showing the distance we traveled, but it hasn’t worked so far.) All I can say is…

Far Above National Slate Museum

…looking across the river into the town of Llanberis (photo taken from somewhere above and to the north of the Slate Museum Hospital)

Oh! My! Goodness!

I’ll continue with the last half of our trip next week…until then,

Slainté and peace be with you on this fine day.