Hi all, from a sunny, yes SUNNY! Downpatrick. In fact, apart from Sunday, when it poured pretty much all day, the weather has been kind to us. We’ve had a great time so far too - we staying with friends and even Patsy is having a rest from her labours.
Those with a passing knowledge of geography will note that we have now left Ireland - the Republic of Ireland that is - and are now installed in our friends house in County Down, Northern Ireland. We’re here until Saturday, when the journey back home begins. It’s frightening how quickly the time has passed to - but I guess that’s a sign that we’ve enjoyed it - and we certainly have. Anyway, time to get caught up. A bit.
It didn’t stop raining on the Saturday - in fact it rained all night and was still at it Sunday morning too. We hung around for a bit but eventually decided that the awning would have to go in the car wet and put up in Dublin to dry out, as we wanted to get going. Of course only an hour or so after we loose folded the drenched awning in a ground sheet and on the back seat of the car, the rain eased. Typical!
The journey to Dublin - some 120 miles or so, couldn’t have been easier - however it was a little strange suddenly seeing traffic again as we approached the outskirts of Dublin. The site was easy to find, being just off of one of the main arteries out of the city, and we even managed to avoid the M50 ring road, finding, what proved to be a very handy shortcut.
I’s a council run site, and the biggest we’ve been on on this trip bay far, but the welcome and service from the young lady on reception was no less welcoming or helpful than we have become used to. Just over 3 hours after leaving Lough Arrow we were getting the legs down.
The weather was kind to us - in fact it couldn’t have been much better - the sun was out and the wind had got up. Perfect weather for drying out an awning. we inflated it, loose pegged it and within an hour and a half it was bone dry and back in the bag. It’s also for sale if anyone is interested.
Monday, saw our first look around Dublin - at least since we were last here over 12 years ago. The local Bus company - imaginatively titled ‘Dublin Bus’ call at the site every hour or so and will transport you in to the city for €3.05 - exact fare, cash only. Alternatively, a hop-on/hop-off tour bus calls at the site in the morning on the way into the city and charges only €2.00. You can guess which one we used!
The city was pretty quiet when we arrived - it was a public holiday here after all - and we wandered around somewhat aimlessly, at least until we found a cafe offering a suitably priced breakfast. With caffeine and cholesterol levels suitably boosted we set of again, first around the north of the river - O’Connell Street and around, where you’ll find many of the usual chain stores.
The ‘Floozy in the Jacuzzi’ water feature in O’Connell street has been replaced by ‘The Spire of Dublin’ - a 400 feet high stainless steel pin. Predictably Dubliner's have re-christened it - Stiffy at the (river) Liffey and Stiletto in the Ghetto are just two of many.
We crossed the river and had a wander around Temple Bar. Clearly public holidays are taken more seriously here as a lot of the independent shops remained closed. We checked out the grounds of Dublin Castle too before crossing back over the river and watching the world go by.
The tour bus didn’t return until 4:30pm and we were at the stop in plenty of time. In truth we could have taken an earlier bus had we not been such cheapskates but we weren't the only ones as there were a number of faces form the campsite loitering about. Summoning all my reserves of willpower I resisted the lure of the pub right by the bus stop. Just!
Back at the site, it was a lovely afternoon, so we cremated some chicken and burgers on the bbq and made the most of the sun. The site is very pretty - hedges separate large spacious pitches and trees line the roads through the site. As well as the usual electric there is water and waste hook-up on all pitches and free wi-fi though that was a little intermittent. Sadly the facilities were not so great. Showers were extra, which is not unusual in Ireland but the water flow was poor and they were barely tepid on some days. Neither were they particularly clean. We ended up using the on-board shower. Not only is it the most expensive site we have stayed at, but, given it’s location to the nearby ports it’s also the first and last stop for many campers in Ireland and they could well get the wrong impression of campsites in Ireland. A pity but there it is.
Tuesday, saw us back in Dublin, but this time with more of a plan. Trinity College was first, Dublin’s prestigious and premier educational establishment. There was a fair bit of work going on including the painstaking relaying of the cobblestones in an area of the main courtyard. It was impressive enough but, as in a number of college’s in our old home town of Cambridge - (and Oxford too) 60’s built ugly additions to the site try and detract from the beautiful architecture of the original buildings. Why did they do this? Talking of Oxbridge, we overheard one of the tour guides explaining the nationalities that make up the students of the college. Just 2% from England he said - and most of them are Oxbridge rejects! I’m not sure the Master of Trinity would be too pleased to hear that!
The book of Kells is housed here in the old library, but the queue was pretty long and we decided against joining it.
Moving on, St Stephen’s Green was next, a pretty park through at the other end of the busy pedestrianised thoroughfare of Grafton Street and a little oasis in the hustle and bustle of this busy area of Dublin.
Lunch was now making it’s way swiftly to the top of the agenda as we paused in the pretty Powerscourt Shopping Centre but we ended up with burger and chips in a fast food chain around the corner but not before stopping for the statue of Molly Mallone, predictably renamed by locals as ‘The tart with the cart’
The Temple Bar area was last on our list and was definitely more lively than the day before. Temple Bar’s pubs and bars are well known and a popular destination for stag and hen parties, but plenty of interesting Independent shops tempt you to part with your cash as well.
We were early again for the bus and this time the lure of a pint became too much. We got a taste of Dublin’s Bar prices too. Ouch!
The next two days saw us back in Dublin again at various times. On Wednesday, we picked up a couple of friends at the airport then dropped the car off at the site, returning in by bus for a trawl around Temple Bar. It was fun, but in no way cheap. If you’re ordering things like gin & tonic, always specify which gin you want otherwise you’ll end up with the most expensive one.
Sadly too, whilst most bar’s in the city had proved as friendly and welcoming as their country counterparts, there was one that was the exception to the rule, and I’m ashamed to admit it was a gay bar too, and am even more ashamed to admit that this is not unusual. We only stayed for one, then moved on to somewhere more welcoming.
On Thursday we met a little earlier for a late lunch, but with everyone feeling the effects of the previous days activities a little - on the body AND the wallet - we took it easy.
So, Friday morning and our time in Ireland was at an end. I must admit to feeling pretty melancholy as we pulled out of the site and on to the ring road for our journey north. We’d had such a fabulous time but it had suddenly all passed so quickly and it seemed only fitting that, as we crossed the border in to Northern Ireland - it started raining!
Right, nearly there. Check back soon, for the last part of a Celtic Carry On from County Down, Northern Ireland.