A Celtic Carry On - Part 10

Hi again, it’s our last day in Lough Arrow - well, not in it obviously, and our preparations to depart tomorrow - i.e. taking down the awning - have been halted because, yes, you've guessed correctly - it’s raining!

So, with the rain gently tapping on the roof  and the ‘van vibrating to a jack  hammer - or maybe it’s Trev’s snoring - its seemed a sensible time to try and bash one out. A blog that is. Oh honestly!

To be honest it feels a bit that the main part of the trip is over, for tomorrow we move to a site just outside Dublin. It seems that all the wonderful scenery, relaxed way of life and genuine unfettered hospitality may well be behind us. Now don’t get me wrong, I like cities, but I’ve got so chilled and attuned to rural Ireland and all it has to offer - which is a lot - an awful lot - that I’m a little reluctant to leave it. Still we have five days to give Dublin the Nonsense! treatment as well as to meet  up with a couple of friends from Brighton before we head up to the North to catch up with more friends in Downpatrick for just over a week before joining the ferry over to Liverpool

Our second week here has been no less enjoyable than the first although we haven’t actually done that much - in fact if the weather had been better we’d have done even less. I’ve done a lot of reading - there’s several shelves full of books here - and I’ve  happily managed to find the latest issue of ‘Private Eye’ too.

We’ve had a few trips out - the beginning of the week saw us in Carrick-on-Shannon, located - believe it or not on the banks of the Shannon river. Lovely looking flats overlook the quayside - and judging by the boats bobbing around there IS some money about by, apparently many of the flats are empty. The town centre was pleasant, but not exactly bustling on an overcast Monday morning. There are several retail parks located on the edge of town and it brought to mind Holyhead in Anglesey. Some will recall we were there a couple of years ago and commented at the time how a proliferation of out of town retail parks had ripped the heart out of the town centre there. I hope they’re not making the same mistake here.

Anyway, an excellent discount shop provided the opportunity to procure some bits and bobs and the newsagent nearby was the no doubt grateful recipient of a couple of euros out of the Nonsense! kitty for a copy of ‘Private Eye’ - the first place I’ve found that stocks it since we’ve been over here.

On the bridge coming in to town you will find padlocks fastened to the steel support wires. Writing on the padlocks suggest marriage - but if anyone knows exactly what it’s all about please let me know.

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Mary from the site pointed in the direction of a couple of smaller lakes  - Lough Bo, and the smaller Lough Nasool, also know as the disappearing lake because every 25 years or so, it well, disappears. It looked pretty low to me but locals in the pub tell us that it’s the highest it’s been for 40 years.

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At the cross roads to the Lough sits a now dilapidated caravan - and that apparently was a common site years ago. Now we’re not talking about our travelling friends here. There’s no large orange gas cylinders or plastic kids trikes scattered around outside. No, fishermen used to bring their vans here for somewhere to stay when not waving their tackle about on the lake - and caravans could be seen in lay-by’s and the corners of fields too. There was no worries about vandalism so they just left them here. Mary was telling us that when their initial application for a caravan site was turned down  - they went out and photographed all these ‘vans littered about to support their appeal. It obviously worked, and we’re so glad it did!

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Surprisingly for us we’ve managed to avoid fast food joints - well until this week anyway. Any burgers we’ve indulged in have been in pubs, so clearly that doesn’t count! However, if you find yourself over here and in need of a quick scoff you’ll do a lot worse than a chain called Supermacs. We had a steak baguette and chips with the usual half gallon of fizz to accompany - but the quality was far superior to anything we’ve ever had at McDonalds and their ilk. Good value and Irish owned, so more of your hard earned will be staying in the local economy too.

Which brings us nicely to the pub. Well, no it doesn’t particularly but that’s what I’m going on about next anyway. We’ve spent a few evenings in here - and nearly always stayed longer than intended. There are some wonderful characters in here - including a few ex-pats who have some wonderful stories to tell. Originally a tiny one room bar, Des’s also functions as a shop and there are still a couple of petrol pumps outside, now unused but there IS still some petrol in one of the tanks should someone be desperate. It even functioned as a school for a year when the one nearby was being renovated in the 60’s.

Thankfully some pub chain has not got hold of this place - and hopefully they never will because they’ll destroy it’s quaint charm. It’s more than a pub however - the sense of community is palpable - and as we’ve discovered, a good source of cream crackers for some late night cheese and biccies to satisfy those post beer munchies!

Des passed away some years ago, but the place is now ably run by his widow Mary - a nicer woman you couldn’t wish to meet - and her son Connor. Shamus helps out several nights a week. All have been so friendly and genuinely interested in our trip. We’re heading back tonight for our last visit and are really going to miss it.

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We will miss the site too. Different again as they all have been and - not a typically friendly Irish welcome this time but an English one. Terry & Mary have owned and run the site for the last seventeen years or so building it up from scratch - literally. It has cracking views - Lough Arrow at the front and a valley at the rear where we are. There’s all the usual facilities - a large shed laid out with tables and chairs and a fridge by the tent area and the main block houses the reception, toilets and showers - which, I might add are the best of the trip so far, immaculate and free. Upstairs are a couple of rooms allowing them to offer Bed & Breakfast too. Again, caravanners and campers can enjoy a holiday with their non-caravanning friends.

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There is a club room too. Here you will find books to swap as well as leaflets and maps on the area and the TV.

Saturday afternoons they fire up the BBQ. Just bring your grub and grog and they’ll do the rest. Weather is not a barrier as you can see!

Wi-Fi is available  and breakfast is offered to those not in the B & B and having sampled it this morning can tell you its is very nice. It’s a good meeting point at night too. Campers gather for a chinwag and a drink or three, and we called in last night after the pub. In a scene reminiscent of another age, all the woman sat at one end up the table and the men sat around the fireplace! Again, chat was easy as everyone is so friendly.

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Terry & Mary get a lot of repeat business - they already seem to know almost everyone that pulls up - which suggest they are clearly doing things right, in fact at times it’s less like a caravan site and more like a family. It’s great that they are so well though of and they’ve undoubtedly put an awful lot in to this place to make - and keep it what it is. Whoever they eventually pass the reigns to has got a VERY hard act to follow.

Right, it will be Sunday by the time this is published. Check back soon for a look around Dublin and then the final part from Downpatrick in the North. Any maybe, just maybe, some sun!

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