Ireland Part 4 : Giant’s Causeway and Coastal Castles

Wednesday morning we woke before the alarm and it didn’t take long packing up as we now had it down to a fine art. It did help that it was dry so the awning and all the outside water containers didn’t need much of a wipe down.

With just under a four hour journey ahead we were off the site by 9.30am the roads were pretty much clear and with what was now a regular occurrence, they were trouble free and smooth and we were on our way to Drumaheglis Marina and Caravan Park.

We crossed from Eire to N.I. and the road markings and signs changed back to what we had at home. We’d got used to the European feel of the roads and travelling in kilometres but now we were back to miles.

The site appeared to our left and once through the electronic gate we drove down the long driveway towards the marina, a waterside view had been booked, it looked good so far so we were really looking forward to it.

Pulling up outside the main office we could see the rivers edge to our left and caravans directly in front of us. Once booked in we found out we had pitch no.4 which apparently had the promised waterside view. No, no way, not at all.. unless we stood on top of Pod and that wasn’t happening. As if this wasn’t upsetting enough it was directly opposite the small row of shops and the cafe and when we say directly opposite, it was no more than 8 – 10 metres away.

Now, some may say we might enjoy the attention, close proximity to the shops and the attention to Pod but no, even we have our limits, so after a little discussion with the staff and a bit of jiggling around we were given a wonderful pitch further into the site which was surrounded by woodland.

Once settled we made ourselves aware of the facilities and during the walk round we discovered holiday Pods named after characters from The Lord of the Rings, plus an outside gym which had a good view down to the marina and waters edge.

We also discovered the washing/toilet facilities were free along with the wifi, all good news, plus the weather had brightened and the next 24 hours looked promising.

The thought of a dry, bright, windless day ahead couldn’t be missed so plans were made for the next day and we were going to try and get to a few of the prime visitors sites, on the cards we had Giant’s Causeway and The Dark Hedges, with the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in reserve, if the weather held out.

1pm was to be the next reported downpour so we would need to get a wriggle on and it started with an early night.

Woke at 6.30 and were out the door and off the site by 7.30. First port of call was only half an hour away, The Dark Hedges, well known as an ancient beech tree lined road but now more famous for its scenes in The Game of Thrones. Only thing we needed to do was get there before the daily traffic hit, pictures taken would need to be people and car-less, unless strategically placed, but there wasn’t going to be time for staging so it would be the case of being dropped off with camera at the ready and shoot away.

Eventually found it after taking a wrong turn, blinking satnav again. LB jumped out and MrB drove off out of sight, there didn’t appear to be any other people with cameras so all looked good. LB then spent the next 15 minutes running up and down the road like a loon looking for that special shot, a few involved dodging early morning locals who by the look on their faces were used to this spectacle.

Mr.B in his Dacia appeared through the trees and as he pulled up to let LB in both noticed others arriving with cameras, tripods and families in tow. We couldn’t have timed it better.

Next stop Giant’s Causeway, well known to all for its uniquely formed columns from a volcanic eruption and its myth connected to the Irish warrior Finn McCool and the Scottish giant Benandonner.

Wasn’t more than half an hour away and another thing that worked to our advantage was being members of the National Trust, the Causeway was covered by it and it wasn’t going to cost us another penny, brilliant.

We arrived at 8.30 and drove straight into a very large but empty carpark, took a while to find a member of staff but eventually found one putting out signs, membership cards were flashed and entry was gained.

Once passed the visitors centre we walked the single track road down towards the sea and as it wound round the coastline the incredible sight of the causeway came into view.

Fingers had been crossed for it to be people free and it didn’t look too bad at all, there were about half a dozen people and these were slowly leaving and walking back up the road to the visitors centre, it really looked like we would have the place to ourselves, awesome.

The sun came out as we clambered up the rocks, it was slightly surreal as its one of those places we’ve seen many times on the tv and is on everybody’s wish list, it was hard to believe we were actually there.

Once up on the main section that tapered out to sea we turned a full 360 deg and low and behold there wasn’t anybody to be seen, the sun was still out with a heavy breeze blowing inland and the sea was pounding against the world famous hexagonal rock columns.

Camera came out as well as a live piece to Facebook, truly spectacular place and one of those special moments in time which will be remembered for ever.

We finished taking pictures and sat for a few minutes revelling in the scenery when we spied a large green bus slowly making its way down the road towards us, our five minutes of solitude was coming to an end and the causeway would soon be under siege.

Few more snaps were taken and we left the columns and began a walk up to the Amphitheatre, quite steep but the views once up there were wonderful, no sooner had we began our walk down we were met with hordes of people on the way up, the path was a little narrow in places so some careful passing took place.

As we passed the causeway on our way back up to the exhibition centre more and more people were arriving, we were so pleased we’d made the effort to visit earlier, it made such a difference to the whole experience.

On the way up we passed a rock formation known as the camel, can you spot it in the picture? We didn’t, but now we know its there that’s all we could see.

Once at the top of the hill we entered the centre and were incredibly impressed with the layout and the information on offer, very interesting and educational for all.

Entry to this was also covered by National Trust membership and had we had to pay the £10.50 each (£9.00 on line) it would have been worth it but believe access to the causeway can be gained for free via the Red Path but there would be no entry into the exhibition.

The sun was still out and as the weather was in our favour we decided to make a dash to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, if we were lucky we could get there and across the bridge without getting drenched.

Following the coast road round we soon found the entrance to the bridge and drove down a very narrow, steep road to the carpark, this was free and once directed to the lower carpark we began the short walk back up to the main carpark and the information kiosk.

At this point we again discovered National Trust membership covered entry and meant we didn’t have to hand over £7.00 each, more pennies for lunch we thought.

Tickets were obtained and we discovered that we had a 1 hour window to use the bridge and as our allotted time was running out we decided to forgo the leisurely stroll to the bridge taking in the sights and save it for the return trip.

The path twisted its way along the coastline and once down some steep but wide steps we joined the queue for the bridge, from here we could see the rope bridge and the island to which it was connected.

We waited as people came off the island and then it was our turn to go on, it didn’t take long for it to move along and once on there a few snaps were taken with one hand whilst precariously hanging on with the other, we were so pleased it wasn’t any windier, but guess if it had been, it would have been closed.

As we were not under the protection of the coastline the wind was a little stronger and unlike some we didn’t step too near the edge, one big gust and we didn’t like to think where we’d end up. On looking back to the mainland we were taken aback by the colours along the coast, from the deep blue of the sky, the emerald green of the hills and the almost mediterranean aqua blue of the sea, it was glorious.

Soon came time for our return trip across the bridge and we duly queued till it was our turn, no more than 6 were allowed on it at any one time so taking pictures was done with a bit of craftiness in mind, that being.. the last of the six ;).

Back up the steps we went and called into the craft shop and cafe, we couldn’t resist the salmon with scrambled egg and lemon drizzle cake, good job we did too because as we sat down the heavens opened and rain was lashing against the windows and side of the café. We sat munching away merrily as people ran past us in t-shirts doing there best to shelter in the doorway of the shop.

It eventually passed and by the time we left it had died away completely, after a short walk along the coastal path we returned to the car and were soon on our way back to Pod, it had been a great day with lots achieved in the few hours of dryness we had been blessed with.

Friday arrived and we decided on a drive further along the coast, once breakfast was out of the way we set off to Glenarm Castle and Walled Garden, love castles and like the idea of a walled garden, always reminds one of us of The Secret Garden, a fabulous book read as a child and a wonderfully adapted version watched as an adult. Never too old for a classic.

Satnav did its usual trick of taking us to the wrong entrance but with a little forward thinking we found the main entrance and parked. The gravel path took us to the garden and once we paid our £6.00 each we entered a world dripping in copious amounts of colour. The flower beds were flourishing, all the trees were in leaf and the lawn was in the process of being cut.

As we walked along a slight breeze was cutting through each section, bringing with it the smell of flowers in bloom and freshly cut grass.

Not many people were in the grounds and we found a wooden bench to settle on, it would of been so easy to doze in the warming sun with the sound of the lawn mower whizzing away in the background but we managed to pull ourselves away for a walk around the grounds of the castle.

This meant leaving the walled garden, we were reluctant to do so but eventually we followed a small group towards the castle which is lived in by the Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and their family. The path circled the castle, which looked more like a house depending on which view you had and evidence of a young family living there was visible as slides and climbing frames were easily seen. Ancient trees which had in their prime been a canopy over the driveway had been cut back and gardeners were busily at work tending to the surrounding borders.

We eventually returned to the walled garden and felt ourselves being pulled again to one of the benches, it was so peaceful, sitting with eyes closed, listening to the wind through the trees as the sun gently bathed us in its warmth, it was bliss. Ultimately the time came to move on as tummies were rumbling so with one last walk round we left and returned to the car, it was the best £6.00 we’d spent and had it been at home we would of returned gladly, many times.

Carnlough wasn’t far up the coast and once there after a drive round we decided on The Londonderry Arms, mainly because there was parking outside. It looked ok from the outside, didn’t bowl us over but decided nothing lost if we didn’t at least have a look inside and we were so pleased we did.

Wood panelled walls with cloth laden tables and smart waitered service, all looked good and once the food arrived it continued to get better. Vegetable spring rolls and a chilli dip for one and chicken and chill wrap with chips for the other, very good and nice size portions.

Drive back to Pod took us through some beautiful countryside and along the way we past many a turf farm with their goods all neatly stacked and drying out. Interesting fact we discovered is that Ireland contains more bog than any country in Europe, except Finland.

Back at Pod dinner was eaten and the dreaded fact that our penultimate day would soon be upon us was discussed and a decision was made to visit Dunluce Castle and Portrush. It would be our last full day and we didn’t want to travel too far as upon departure from the site there was a lot of driving ahead of us.

Woke on Saturday to patchy clouds which the sun was doing its best to tear through and a lazy breakfast was had sat in the awning watching the world go by. After our usual ‘mornings’ and chats a couple informed us they’d done a tour of the site and they had decided we had the snazziest outfit, amidst laughs thanks were given and a suitable compliment was returned, stating they were the most friendly couple on site, we eventually said our goodbyes wishing them well on their adventures.

Dunluce castle was found on the coast and we paid £5.00 to enter the grounds of the castle. Once in we called into the visitors centre, very educational and would appeal mostly to the young. From here we began our tour of the outer castle ruins, the video shown in the centre had provided us with some great information and we took great delight in identifying certain features that ordinarily we would never have been able to. 

Crossing the bridge onto the outcrop we were surrounded by the high brick wall and in the centre was living accommodation and a beautiful pebbled courtyard, all were in excellent condition considering it has been in existence since the 15th century.

Once we’d done a circuit of the castle and been up spiral staircases to small windowless rooms and sat in the bay window looking out to the coastline we left the castle itself and took steps down to the beach, here we found a cave that went under the castle and out to sea, all very mysterious and we wondered what its purpose was, other than letting our imagination run away with itself with smugglers and the like.

Next stop was Portrush and en route we came across a triathlon in progress, so some swift manoeuvring was required between cyclists one way and runners in another.

Car park was found on the sea front and it was also the transition stage for the triathlon, cycles were racked up in a sectioned off area and runners were on the beach in the final stage of the competition, how that must of felt, running on sand as it surely must have zapped them of any remaining energy.

Ice creams were bought and we watched and clapped the remaining runners as they crossed the finish line, most looked very fresh and crossed with a final 20 meter sprint.

Lunch time was calling so after a walk along the front we stopped at Cafe 55 Bistro, Prawn salad and a club sandwich was ordered and eaten whilst watching a wedding take place in slightly surreal circumstances.

It was a fairly busy day, kids were playing on the beach, running in and out of the water and families were around enjoying the sun. Others were passing by, walking along the prom in different directions and two cafes were full, supplying visitors with refreshments of all kinds. There was also a little old man with his electric guitar and amplifier blasting out music from Cliff Richard and the Shadows, all this going on whilst the bride and her ‘maids arrived in a VW Beetle and Campervan, who then promptly disappeared through the crowds and up the stairs of the sea view cafe.

By the time we had finished lunch they were on their way out again, the children from the beach had disappeared and were replaced by the happy couple having photographs taken, the guy with the guitar was still strumming his stuff and on a rerun of his repertoire whilst the wedding guests in their finery mingled with the public who had stopped to watch.

We had a last walk along the front and lingered a little longer, knowing it was our last evening we didn’t want to return to the car and head back to Pod, but ultimately the time had come and the drive back was a little quieter than normal.

Dinner was eaten and showers had, plans were then made for the next day, our departure. Everything would have to be put back properly for the journey home and hopefully a dry awning too. Bed then called for the last time on our Irish trip.

Sunday arrived all to early and we set about packing Pod up, awning was dry so the whole experience was a little less painful.

 The slow ferry was booked for 8pm so we weren’t in any particular rush and we were on the road for 10.30. Traffic was light and we arrived at the port a good 6 hours early, we took the chance and queued up in the hope there would be spaces on the next available ferry and thankfully there were. Cost us an extra £47.00 but it was worth it and it was the Superfast X.

Once we were on board and secure in the bowels of the ferry we waved goodbye and departed the beautiful isle of Ireland at 3.10pm. The journey was spent having lunch and finding a comfy enough chair to relax in, most had been taken up and people were fast asleep, hidden under coats and bags of all different shapes and sizes.

The Welsh coast soon appeared and by 7pm we had docked at Hollyhead, once all passengers had been given the green light to return to cars we joined the throng and were soon off the ferry and on our way home.

16 nights had been spent on Irish soil, South and North and we had had a ball, met some lovely people, travelled some wonderful roads with incredible scenery, stayed at immaculate caravan sites and eaten some delicious food, go raibh maith agat Ireland, love to you all and we will be back.

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Ireland Part 3 : Eagles Flying and Pigs on a Mission

Saturday, up with the alarm at 7 and breakfast devoured whilst listening to what was left of the wind, it was still hanging around and would make taking the awning down a little tricky but not impossible, this was eventually done by unhooking the awning from Pod and bringing the awning down to its knees ‘so to speak’ before taking the guy lines off fully. 

Everything was packed up and away in Pod and our four hour drive to Knock began. Again, great roads all the way but the satnav let us down miserably, we were slightly more prepared this time but still managed to miss the entrance and ended up at where the satnav was determined to take us.. a school carpark. 

Not too far from this error was a Garda and he kindly directed us back the way we had come and were told to look for an entrance near the bus stop. 

This we duly did and found it blocked by an electronic barrier, a conversation was had through the intercom and once we’d confirmed our name and booking the barrier went up and in we rolled. The large open carpark area was a little deceiving and we guessed this wasn’t it so followed our noses round to the back and found the entrance to the site. 

Booked in easily enough and the facilities were explained, free wifi and free showers so all looked good so far. We drove round and finally decided on a pitch in the middle of the upper area and as this was also a rock hard concrete pitch we decided to pitch as we had at River Valley, Co. Wicklow, that is the awning on the grass, the grass looked in really good condition and it didn’t look like drainage would be an issue, besides a soggy ground was preferable to spending another evening grappling with a flyaway awning. 


Once set up we walked into the village, the shrine for which Knock is primarily famous was only a few 100m away, it is said that this was where an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a group of villagers. As we strolled down the main road it became apparent that something else was occurring in the grounds of the church because there was a very large group of people congregating around a bench in the carpark. The road was also lined with motorhomes and vans which appeared to have been abandoned in any space available, even those completely blocking any right of way.

We had to go and see what all the commotion was about and went into the grounds of the church through an open iron gate.

As we walked nearer we could see a very tight group of people of different ages who were all stood at different levels and using anything at their means to do this, from small walls to park benches and a lamppost stand in the centre. 

All were straining with their arms extended high and holding mobile phones in their hand. The buzz of conversation was inaudible and after a few minutes observing this extraordinary event we walked around the grounds then continued with our walk up the main road. 

Once back on the main path we again passed the group who were now turned in our direction, looking up to the sky. We of course looked to see what they were looking at but couldn’t see anything as we were blinded by the sun breaking through the clouds.

We continued on and made a mental note to google the event later, there were at least a few hundred people here and with them and the number of mobile homes in the area it must have caught a local news papers attention if nothing else. 

A few groceries were bought and after passing lots of outside stalls and small shops selling water containers and small religious figurines we arrived back at Pod and set about making our version of an Irish stew. 

 Now, a lot of research went into doing this properly but there were many versions around, from the very basic that were cooked twice, strained and then eaten, to more complicated ingredients which took half the time of the former. For us, as long as the ingredients were all Irish grown, including the meat, then it was an Irish stew and boy did it go down well. 

Those free hot showers were very welcoming and then spent an hour on the free wifi before climbing into bed with the rain and wind still battering the side of Pod, we doubted this would bother us this evening as we were both ready for a well deserved good nights sleep. 

Sunday arrived and we could hear the church bells calling people to Mass, they weren’t particularly loud but we knew they were there. Weather wasn’t looking good for the day so took the moment to scour the internet for information about the incident in the church grounds yesterday, after checking the local papers we found a few articles which reported a young traveller whilst in Portugal at another shrine had been told he should go to Knock where he would see the Virgin Mary, this had obviously spread through their community and resulted in the mass visit to Knock yesterday, as to whether it all came true it didn’t say, but suppose that is down to a persons own prospective on the incident. 

Our attention turned to looking for something to do, so after a little research on what was available in the area we opted for a drive out to Sligo and on the way back call into Eagles Flying, a preservation society for birds of prey and anything else of an animal nature that needed protection or nurturing of some kind. This would work out well as EF were only open for 2 hours in the mornig and two hours in the afternoon, we just needed it to stop raining so the birds could be seen flying outside and not in the indoor arena that was mentioned.

Off we went and after just over an hours drive we arrived in Sligo in the pouring rain. Parking was paid for and as we walked through the town centre it appeared that most of the shops were closed, we presumed Sunday trading laws were in place and after a walk to the sea inlet we turned and went on the hunt for somewhere to have lunch and dry off a little. 
We found The Belfry, looked like a gastro type pub from the outside, so in we went. On opening the inner door we found ourselves in a dimly lit bar area with a few locals sat at the bar who were in deep conversation of a colourful nature whilst watching the horse racing on the TV, that in itself was unusual because any pub we normally walk into has either the news on or football. 

A table was found not far from the bar and a chicken club sandwich was ordered along with a seafood chowder. Both arrived whilst we were doing our best to understand parts of the conversation taking place at the bar, not to be nosey, just to be able to identify a few words being exchanged. 

Sandwich went down a treat and the chowder was exceptional, the mussels, fish and prawns were nice and chunky and left you tasting the saltiness of the sea.

Didn’t take long to dry off and once the bill was paid we made a dash through the rain and back to the car. Back on the road we hoped the rain would just stay off for an hour, that’s all.. one little hour, long enough to see the display on offer at Eagles Flying.

We loyally followed the satnav and found ourselves down winding hedge lined roads and nearly passed the entrance on the way, once in we turned right onto an area of rough ground and decided it must be the carpark as there was a sign clearly saying leave your car and walk up to the entrance, only disabled owners were allowed any further in their cars.
It was pouring it down and as we were the only ones there with minutes to go to the start time of 2.30pm we came very close to driving away and thinking about it for another day, but then another car drove into the carpark and stopped a little further onto the waste land. A quick look and nod at each other and we made the decision to wrap up and make it as fast as possible to the gate, we had no idea how far it was but thought we were already wet so a little more couldn’t make much difference. 

A small wooden shed came into view and once there we stuck our heads in through the hatch, our eyes eventually adjusted to the dark and we saw its male occupant jump up from a desk and take the few steps to the hatch. Both arms were placed on the counter and a huge grin with smiling eyes greeted us with a ‘how are ya in this lovely weather’. At a guess we’d of said he was in his fifties, tanned with greying hair and didn’t have a particularly strong Irish accent, giving the impression he’d travelled. 

We paid our fee not sure what to expect and as we crossed the threshold the heavy rain became drizzle and the fun began. We love remembering this bit, it was fantastic, like entering another world.

Within 10 metres we were stood outside a row of huts all displaying birds of prey of various sizes, all were sat majestically on a perch and either giving us they eye or preening themselves oblivious of our arrival. 

 From there we turned to move further into the park when we heard ponies neighing, as we looked across a large open field we saw two miniature ponies trotting over at full speed. They were oblivious to another group of birds on perches to their right and a flock of chickens who were directly in their path, they seemed to have one mission in mind and that was to reach us.

Once they did they greeted us with a muzzle in our hands and a nudge for a pat on the head, this was gladly given as who could refuse something so small and loveable, as we walked on more people were coming through the gate and they moved their attention towards them.
The staff were very informative and passed on vast amounts of information about the birds, such as how they came to be at the centre and where they would originally be found, they were able to answer any questions thrown at them and their passion for preservation was very evident. 

From entering we’d passed eagles, sparrow hawks, vultures and owls plus many other breeds and eventually wound round to a large open wooden seating area, there were bins strategically placed with a few large umbrellas placed inside, if the heavens opened we would be making a grab for one of these.

Once sat a talk was given which was both very educational but fun at the same time and appealed to the very young in the audience as well as the older, it started to rain so umbrellas were grabbed and we all huddled beneath them whilst the talk continued and an explanation of the display was given, with a slight caveat attached, that if it rained too heavy the birds wouldn’t fly and we would have to go indoors, think we can safely say we all had our fingers crossed it would be outside, much better in an outside arena. 

Out they came, one by one and through the expert handling of the staff each bird had a story to tell and gave an incredible display which wasn’t just around us but involved audience interaction on a major scale. Each bird flew between us, round us and landed amongst us. 

During all this, much to our amusement, not more than 4 metres away chickens were roaming around and were occasionally chased and squawked at by what looked like a very angry cockerel, slightly surreal experience. 

It was awesome, the knowledge and passion displayed was incredible, conservation and understanding of these incredible birds was clearly the main aim of the talk and the display, the children within the audience will hopefully have gained a love for them and not a fear which sadly many people have and destroyed them without a care. Hopefully this will apply to adults too, as they can be the harder to convince as have set views. 


The air display eventually came to an end and we were reminded of the petting zoo, we were undecided about going as these are usually best attended by children, but hey, we were here, so why not. Turned out to be a great decision. Just wish I’d recorded it.

The ponies from before had arrived in the arena and after saying hello again they began to walk off in the direction of the petting zoo and we all followed, you had to be there to see the funny side. 

They took us to what looked like a large metal cattle shed and we all walked in through the open double doors, on the right were pens with goats and pigs of all shapes and sizes, along the back were chinchillas and down the left side we had foxes, rabbits and an albino hedgehog, in the middle were rows of wooden benches with the ponies and a dog mingling in between. 

All good we thought, very noisy too, as they all wanted attention and food if there was any on offer, then the unexpected happened, someone let all the pigs out, from tiny potbellied ones to a huge 12 year old saddleback.  

Well, it looked like bedlam, pigs, ponies and a dog going in and out of the pews, some attempting to going under the benches and a few succeeding, others were nearly walking off with them and others were making a run for the door, many pottered around the children and adults, obviously on the look out for a nibble or two.

We did our best to stay out of their chosen route but no matter where we turned we were either shoved out the way by a pig on a mission or we bumped into a pony strutting their stuff through the shed.

It was at this point we saw a member of staff in the middle of it all, he didn’t look panicked and was in the process of showing the hedgehog to anyone who was interested, we then realised this was a petting zoo with a difference and we loved it. 

It was brilliant, fantastic interaction yet again between all the animals and visitors, it was so funny to watch the pigs charging all over the place, the ponies nudging the pigs out of the way and kids and adults alike having a ball in the middle of it all, whilst the fox was being cuddled and the hedgehog stroked and fed.

We eventually had to leave and slowly but surely forced ourselves out of the shed and along the road out and back to the car, it truly was a memorable experience and we didn’t shut up talking about it for the next few days, we couldn’t recommend a visit highly enough.

Monday arrived and we were a wee but shattered, we’d done a lot of driving and just as much sightseeing so we decided to have an ‘admin day’, this for us was a food shop at Tesco where the necessary and a few treats were bought and then once back at Pod the laundry was done yet again. 

 This time it was 4€ each for the washing machine and the dryer. Once that was done the day was spent listening to golden oldies from Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash to name just a few, all this whilst enjoying a few beers followed by a good old snooze in the chair in the fresh air and sun, when it made an appearance. Batteries were recharged and we were ready for the next day. 

Breakfast was eaten whilst we made plans for the day, we felt like a walk along a beach and decided on Bertra Beach in Westport. It had good reviews and was a Blue Flag beach as were most, if not all the beaches in Ireland. 

It was just over an hour away so off we set and it was easy enough to find, we passed Croagh Patrick on our right and if we’d of thought about it we should have left earlier and done the walk up there too, but this was about a relaxing walk along a beach as it was our last day in Southern Ireland before heading up to Drumaheglis in Northern Ireland.

Car park was free and the sun was out, there were only two other cars there and the beach was empty, perfect. Once out of the car we walked on up the beach which was a mix of sand and pebble, the sea was on its way in and the wind was picking up as it came in off the sea, we were still on the Atlantic coastline but it was no where near as strong as down south.

We turned to walk along the dunes and then back onto beach and as we walked along the shoreline a very wet looking retriever came bounding over, at this point we made the bad decision to throw stones for it, unaware that this meant he would be our companion for the next half hour as we continued our walk around the peninsular. 

He was great fun and very grateful for every stone thrown and we were extremely grateful when unbeknown to him, whilst he was cavorting in the water a curious seal popped its head out of the water not 3 metres behind him. 

All this whilst his owner who was some 100 metres or so away shouted his name ‘Charlie’ in vain. The poor woman in the end had to walk all the way back up the beach to collect her wayward dog, she reached us full of apologies and eventually managed to entice Charlie away as she disappeared from sight, still shouting his name. 

 Lunch was calling so we continued round the beach keeping an eye out for more seals and eventually reached the car without seeing anymore, it was a beautiful bay and beach and in the height of summer we could imagine how busy it would be.

Driving along the road we searched good old google for a place to eat and we found The Tavern Bar and a Restaurant, reviews were good and as we arrived it looked ok. In we went, staff were friendly enough so we sat and ordered food. Lamb shank for one and fish for the other. 

 Within minutes the meals arrived and to one of us this didn’t seem right, takes more than a few minutes to cook chips, never mind the fish and lamb. But we tucked in and the lamb went down very well, can’t say the same for the fish and chips, so much so they weren’t eaten. Chips were oven chips and the fish was greasy, not what we’d come to expect of the eateries we’ve tried. 

Once back at Knock we sat in the awning with a view down the site and planned our route for the next day, our trip to Ireland was slowly coming to an end and the following day we would be up early, packed and off to Drumaheglis Marina and Caravan Park.. check it out in Part 4.

Posted in Accessories, Awning, Beaches, Birds of prey, Caravan, Caravanning, Church, Conservation, Eagles, Glamping, Ireland, Photography, Raptors, Sight seeing, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ireland Part 2 : Wild Atlantic Way and the Blarney Stone

Low and behold we woke to a dry morning and more importantly a dry awning, plus it was Pods 2nd birthday and would be celebrated later. A 7 a.m. start on the cards for us but necessary as we had over 4 hours drive in front of us. Rain may have stopped but the wind had picked up a little and you’ve heard the phrase of ‘divorce by awning’, it came close and we’re not even married ..

Nevertheless, Pod was eventually packed up but it took a little longer as everything that had been on the ground was covered in mud so needed a quick wipe over.

On the road for 9.30 and on our way to Glenross Caravan and Camping Park. We travelled along motorways, N and R roads with ease, hardly any traffic and roads in great condition, the other great addition was local radio, it was fab listening to folk music but as for the presenters we couldn’t understand a word they were saying, not because of their accent, it was to do with the fact they were speaking Gaelic.

Satnav did its usual trick of giving us the wrong location and we ended up down a very narrow uneven road, after about five minutes we decided that this couldn’t possibly be right and did a three point turn in the driveway of a derelict cottage. Once back on the main road we carried on for another 50 metres and low and behold found the site.

Funny thing was that the guy in the office had watched us turn and travel down the wrong road but there was no way for him to tell us differently.

Information relating to the site was given and after giving our thanks we chose a pitch with a view down to the coastline and Dingle Bay, pitches were again concrete but this time round we decided to pitch on the concrete, including the awning and try to secure the awning by other means. Trial and error but it was worth ago, only problem was the wind had picked up even more and it was going to be fun trying not to look complete fools if we ended up chasing the awning across the site.

With a bit of patience and planning the wind didn’t beat us, everything was soon set up and the awning was pegged down with every guy line we could find, the wind had turned to strong gusts and whilst one of us hung onto the awning for dear life the other pegged it down.

As the base of the awning wasn’t pegged it would need a little extra grounding so we drove down to the shore line and came face to face with the Wild Atlantic Way, no mincing with words here we thought, it was wild and it was the Atlantic ocean. The awesome power of it was clear to see and hear with the combination of the strong winds and high waves bashing into the rocky coastline.

After being blown around during a short walk we eventually picked up some sizeable stones and once back at Pod these were soon piled round the outsides in the hope that along with the guy lines these would stop the awning from doing a scene from the Wizard of Oz.

During our drive we passed a few pubs so now all was in order with Pod we decided to take a chance and leave her unattended for an hour or so whilst we partook of a beverage or two, sole purpose to wish Pod a happy 2nd Birthday of course.

We picked the Towers Hotel in the centre of Glenbleigh and soon had a couple of pints of Guinness in front of us, the pub appeared popular with the locals and whilst sat discussing our plans for the following day we noticed some sat with a pint of milk with their meals, we’d seen this before and it seemed to be the norm between young and old and not the stereotypical view of the Irish, very healthy indeed.

We eventually moved from the pub and into the local take away. Pizza and chips were bought and we then made a mad dash back to Pod as the food was piping hot and we wanted it to be eaten that way. This was easily demolished and enjoyed whilst watching a wonderful sunset from the back of Pod.

 Showers were next and they worked out well, a whole 8 minutes for 1€, we felt quite spoilt, the showers were powerful and hot and not wanting to waste even a second once done with we stood idle under it resisting the urge to tap our feet whilst waiting for it to finish. Individual showers we hasten to add, just conferred once back at Pod.

Woke to a windy but dry morning so we decided to explore more of the coastline and the Wild Atlantic Way, after consulting a map provided by the site we began the tour by heading in the direction of Portmagee, the route there was along the WAW designated route and took us along narrow winding roads which were lined by tall dense hedgerows, the return of the rain didn’t help as it cast a thick low mist preventing us from seeing anything beyond the hedges and down to the shoreline.

We rolled into Portmagee and cruised around looking at the small multicoloured terraced cottages that lined the harbour, rain was doing its best to obscure anything further than the car windows as we crossed the bridge over to Valentia Island, it is accessible by ferry further down the coast but we fancied the bridge and the option to arrive anytime, doubt very much that the ferry was running today anyway because on crossing we noticed the sea looked a tad choppy.

Our little site map provided us with information on a couple of walks so the first on the list was Bray Head, this was right on the coast, once in the carpark the wind had turned the rain horizontal and those who were attempting the walk looked like they were battling a tornado with one step forward and two steps back. Needless to say we didn’t even get out of the car, we’re usually game no matter the weather but lots yet to be seen and we didn’t want to spend it looking like we’d been dragged through a hedge backwards.

On round the island we drove, along the coast, past the lighthouse and into Knightstown. Rain and mist surrounded us and as thought there were no ferry rides today, we’d half hoped we’d be able to get a boat ride to Skellig Michael which housed an 8th century monastery and where after a 12km boat ride there was something in the region of 600 steps to climb, but this wasn’t possible on this visit.

We continued our drive round and eventually ended up at the bridge which had brought us to the island, once back over we continued along the WAW and ended up on the Sellig Ring, another circular route of the area. This route took us into St. Finian’s Bay and even though the wind could easily of knocked us off our feet one of us got out of the car to do a Facebook live moment, had to be done to be believed and even though the footage is there on our page, should you wander over to it you can’t hear a word said but you will see a woman doing yoga on the beach whilst her loony dog runs round having a fine old time.

From here we went onto Ballinskelligs, a lovely golden sand beach on which we observed two women running out of the sea and up the beach to their cars, both were laughing and falling over, not sure if it was from the exhilarating swim they had just had or the realisation they were both mad for doing it in the first place. Seems these Irish woman are made of sterner stuff, explains LadyB too ;).

Waterville was our next stop and the rain had reduced itself to drizzle, a walk along the prom followed and a fab little statue of Charlie Chaplin was found, there was even a queue forming to have pictures taken with him, apparently it was a favourite holiday place of his.

Tummies were beginning to rumble and after having a five minute wander through the Comedy Film Festival Centre we called into O’Dwyers for lunch, full Irish breakfast for one and homemade vegetable soup for the other, all went down very well and on leaving the weather had remained much the same, great shame really because the coastline we had seen had been wonderful but had the sun come out it would have been breathtaking. Maybe next time.

The drive back took us through the countryside, there were fields rolling away in every direction and all of various shade of green, some were emerald rich in colour and you couldn’t help but stare as the breeze slowly wafted the tall slim grass, mesmerising.

Back at Pod pictures were downloaded and scrutinised and we had a right old giggle over the footage taken at St. Finian’s Bay. Dinner time was soon on us and the multi cooker came out again for Chilli, veggie sausage paella, delicious.

After a potter round Pod we made plans for the next few days, Blarney Castle and the stone was our next day out but we had to fit some boring stuff in too, this for us was the laundry and required tokens for the site washing machine, these were available for 10€ at 5€ each for the washer and dryer, easy enough we hoped.

Off we set for Blarney Castle, 2 hour drive ahead but it passed quick enough and the weather seemed to be more mixed than just a continual down pour. Carpark was next to the castle entrance and was free which was good to see, we found a spot easily enough and as two coach loads had just arrived we decided to find somewhere for a bite to eat.

A short walk into the village and we saw a few places that looked good but opted for the Muskerry Arms, huge place inside, seating went all the way through the back and was also available upstairs, we grabbed a nice little table near the bar.

Food ordered and whilst we waited for its arrival we scanned the bar for the list of Irish whiskeys on offer and boy there were a few. Above the archway into the rear of the pub was a very large black board listing 43 named whiskeys of varying age and value and the prices per shot ranged from 3.75€ to 495.00€ ! amazing.

Lunch arrived and was easily disposed of and the time came to walk back to the castle in the hope the queue had gone down. As we turned the corner what should draw up metres from the entrance, a coach, from which people poured out onto the road, they were all congregating on the pathway and we took this opportunity to speed walk to the entrance and made it just before they turned and headed in our direction.

Payment of 15€ each was made and we were told there was a 1 1/2hr wait to kiss the stone, it’s primarily what we had come to do so this wasn’t an issue and joined the queue at the bottom of the tower.

The queue moved along nicely and we could clearly see people above us leaning backwards over the edge and ‘doing the deed’. Mad really, all kissing a huge rock embedded in the wall because in 1446 a block of carboniferous stone was built into the battlements of the castle and according to which version of the legend you believe, those that kiss it are endowed with the gift of the gab.

We passed a small shop and a unit set up to receive/print pictures of the kissing in progress, you know, like the ones you see at amusement parks usually with faces screwed up with expressions of varying forms of horror and/or surprise. 

 Once passed we entered the ground floor of the tower and saw two local young looking lads who were playing musical instruments to an extremely good level, say instruments because we’ve no idea what they were, they seemed to be doing quite well out of it as tourists were literally throwing money at them.

Up we went, staircases wound there way through the structure and some were so narrow and low Mr.B struggled to get through and others turned back, we guessed due to the claustrophobic feel.

We eventually saw daylight again and the sun was even out which would make the experience a lot more pleasant, it had taken 45 minutes to get to the top so not as bad as we’d been lead to believe. 

 Slowly edging our way along we began to see people going through the process, there wasn’t any hanging around though, sit, bend back, grab the rails, kiss the stone and up. The guy who was sat next to the stone wasn’t taking any messing and had everyone up and out with lighting speed and opposite him was another man who clicked the camera with the same systematic rhythm.

Our turn arrived and Mr.B went first; down, over, grab, kiss and up. LadyB just managed to snap a picture and the same was repeated on her turn, it was good to see that this was allowed and if a memento of the occasion was wanted you didn’t have to buy one.

The trip back to ground level took you down a different spiralling stone staircase with the opportunity to stop and step off into different rooms of all shapes and sizes.

Once out and onto the main pathway we decided to head over to the Poison Garden, had us wondering as to what could possibly be grown. 

 First off we passed a cannabis plant in what was the biggest black wrought iron cage on view, there was no way anyone was getting their hands near the plant, this was next to catmint which if eaten by humans ‘could make them quarrelsome‘ and as we walked through it took us past plants like Wolfsbane which is now only heard of in Harry Potter novels, plus Poison Ivy which appeared determined to out grow its cage, it was fascinating to see and to read all the information boards describing the plants history and myths in great detail.

From here we walked to the stables passing very colourful Romani caravans and called into shop for ice creams, we then strolled through and round the grounds, passing the Fairy Glen and main house before arriving back at the castle, have to say, no fairies were seen on this occasion.

The sun had shone for most of the afternoon but the time had come to return to Pod and get on with the laundry, but not before we did a little food shopping whilst on the way back. We’d seen a Lidel en route so it seemed like the ideal opportunity to call in on the way back.

Food bought and once back at the site washing was put on in the laundry room, two sizeable washing machines and dryers were available and through the afternoon they did both jobs admirably.

Dinner was eaten and plans made for the next day and before we knew it it was time to crawl into Pods bed for another good nights sleep.

Friday morning arrived soon enough and it looked like it was going to be a dry day. Muckross Abbey and House was on the menu but first off we had to find a hardware shop that sold outdoor mats. The first site, River Valley, their ground had been so sodden our little doormat had succumbed to the rain and mud, even attempts to clean it had failed and it was beginning to give off a very peculiar odour.

Shop found and mat bought so we carried on with our journey to the Abbey, en route we passed horse drawn carriages parked up in the middle of a roundabout.  

Parking at the Abbey consisted of approximately 10 spaces if you were lucky, not us on this occasion, so we carried on up the road to the main carpark at Muckross House. Parking was free and we were pleasantly surprised by this, the only costs were to actually enter the house and as we were up for exploring the grounds we didn’t need to buy tickets for anything.   

The gardens were incredible, everywhere was in bloom and the paths lead you through the grounds and along secret little paths which ran along the sides of streams and up through the woodland, a very peaceful experience. 

 Our walk took us to the lake and along Loch Lein, if you were quiet you could see the huge fish along the shore as they came up for air and further out on the lake lone fishermen were in their small wooden boats gliding along.

We turned inland and followed the wide gravel path on which we soon saw horse drawn carriages coming towards us, they pranced, almost floated along and as they passed the occupants gave us wave.

After about a mile the Abbey came into view and we entered the grounds and graveyard after reading the notice board with its tale of the monks and the resident yew tree.

A few people were milling around and we entered the monastery to see memorial stones and tombs in all the rooms, this lead us through into a courtyard which was so serine, the stone lined walkway surrounded a wide tall yew tree whose branches were reaching up to the sky and out to the courtyard walls, people were quietly listening to someone playing a small harp and one gentleman was stood next to the tree with head bowed and one hand gently placed on the trunk of the tree.

We took our leave and went up a narrow spiral staircase to the first floor, this brought us out into a large room with a central fireplace, this then had corridors with tiny wooden door leading off in many directions, one side of the wall was lined with small oblong windows which looked out onto the yew tree in the centre. 

 You could imagine in times gone by one of the monks sat contemplating and looking out and down to the tree and his fellow residents pottering around.   

The abbey had been truly spectacular and we were so pleased we’d made the effort to find it.

 Our walk took us the same route back and once at Muckross House we treated ourselves to afternoon tea and the biggest, squishyist cream cakes we could find, yum.

Our drive back to Pod was spent planning tactics for the following day as our time on the south west coast had come to an end and we were moving onto Knock the following day.

Back at the site the wind was picking up and turning into some quite blustery powerful gusts, as the awning base wasn’t tied down we knew if it got any worse we would be in for a challenging evening. Dinner was eaten and yes, we did spend the rest of the evening listening to the wind and on more than a few occasions we were jumping up to grab the awning and prevented it from doing a back flip over Pod, have to say though, our poppers we’d put down the side did a sterling job. 

This went on for a good few hours and around midnight the wind eventually dropped enough for two very tired Podders to climb into bed, the fun would begin soon enough on the following day as our journey would begin up to Knock.. all to be revealed in Part 3.

Posted in Abbey, Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Church, Forest, Glamping, Ireland, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | Leave a comment

Ireland Part 1 :  Glendalough and Waterford Crystal 

8 months in the making and our Ireland trip had finally arrived. Map had been scoured, locations researched and feedback sought, we thought we’d made some good choices in site locations and sights to be seen.

The sites were then booked at the beginning of the year so they were a definite, all the sightseeing locations were a different matter as there was so much to see and do and thankfully not all weather dependant.

Ferry was booked too, Stena Supafast X out and the slow boat back as we didn’t think either of us would be in a rush to come back. Early ferry out though, just before 9am so it would mean a very early start, but that’s when your holiday begins, isn’t it ?

Insurance was renewed and as we’d gone through the Caravan and Motorhome Club we also opted for their recovery package, Red Pennant. That left medical cards to be obtained and money exchanged and that was done easily enough, think we’d covered all our bases but like anyone else we must have gone through things a few more times, just to make sure, of course.

We’re lucky to be able to store Pod at home, so a few days beforehand the fridge was switched on at the mains and by the time we pulled her out for her final check the fridge was nice and chilled and ready to be loaded up with lots of goodies.

Pod and the fridge were loaded the night before which made our life a little easier 4 a.m. the following morning.. yes you read right, 4AM !

Alarm duly woke us at 4 and breakfast was eaten whilst watching the weather report, rain was in play but we hoped for a calm crossing, 3 hours or so rocking from side to side doesn’t do anyones constitution any good, no matter how good your sea legs are.

Pod was hooked up to the car and lights checked, we said bleary eyed goodbyes to those we were leaving behind, knowing full well once we hit the road they would crawl back into their nice warm beds. 

On the road for 5.30 and as you’d expect they were empty which left us with a stress free 2 1/2 hr journey to Holyhead. 

As expected the SatNav worked a dream and delivered us to the port gate, papers were handed over and tickets received and we were instructed to continue on through to security.

We moved forward and joined the queue which was slowly crawling forward towards some rather stern looking faces. Eye contact was made and that was it, we were given the curly finger along with a waving arm in the direction of a bay on the right hand side.

Then out of nowhere a curly mopped grinning middle aged lady wearing the appropriate security garb bounded over and asked to have a nosey in Pod. Couldn’t refuse and we wouldn’t of, even if we’d met her whilst touring, Pods door was opened and her head bobbed round and into Pod with woops of amazement. She was impressed with the layout, size and how much was actually crammed inside, a proper little tardis apparently. Her curiosity satisfied she checked our gas bottle was off and let us move on after directing us to lane 9.

Weren’t waiting long and half an hour later we followed the motorcade up the ramp and into the belly of the Stena Superfast X. Once parked up we left Pod jammed between a 10 tonne truck and a bus full of females on a hen doo.

Second breakfast was eaten in the restaurant/cafe area and after a constitutional walk around the available outside decks we settled into the large reclining chairs for the final part of the journey.

The seas was flat calm and we were slowly leaving the rain behind us, as we entered Irelands waters the clouds moved away to allow the sun to finally break through.

We glided effortlessly into harbour passing a number of grand sailing ships and the two chimneys belonging to Poolbeg Generating Station, quite surreal seeing old times with new.

Once docked and back in Pod we again followed the trail of motor vehicles out of the ship and onto the roads of Dublin. Satnav came out to play and our first site destination of River Valley Caravan Park, Co. Wicklow was entered.

Once off the ferry we found ourselves winding our way through an industrial estate. We had no choice other than to trust the satnav as we didn’t have a scoobies where we were going and having set it to kilometres we went on our merry way.

We eventually turned left at one of the junctions and saw signs for the toll bridge and were a car length from the bridge when traffic came to a stand still as the bridge was on its way up. Brilliant, just what we didn’t need, or so we thought but that flat feeling soon changed as we saw a long thin line of tall ships slowly floating into harbour and all passing under the now raised bridge, wonderful and a great start to our holiday.

Soon set off again and paid 1.75€ as we crossed the bridge and followed the coast road passing a multitude of joggers, cyclists and outdoor gyms. Dublin certainly seemed a very fit city and as it was a Bank holiday everyone appeared to be out enjoying it. Eventually we left the coast road and moved inland slightly and climbed up hill, we bumbled along enjoying the scenery to be told we were no more than a kilometre away.. then metres.. then nothing.

An empty single track lane with nothing on it but a long driveway with some very fancy wrought iron gates leading to some unknown house.

We crawled into the recess of the driveway and out came the Caravan Club directory along with phone coordinates in an attempt to find the site, by this time we were both a little weary and could have killed for a cup of tea and neither mapping device was forthcoming with a location, the annoying thing being the satnav coordinations were from the Caravan Club.

Those wrought iron gates began to move and slowly opened to allow a little blue fiesta onto the small recess in the road, only problem was we were well and truly blocking the cars path. As the car and its occupant were our captives it seemed like the ideal opportunity and a bit of a stab in the dark to ask if they knew of the site, fortunately the lone female occupant did and in her broad Irish accent she pointed us further down the road and told us to keep going, it wasn’t much further.

We thanked her and drove on winding along the narrow road for what seemed an age but we eventually reached Redcross, the highest village in Ireland and then after scanning all the side streets found a pretty innocuous sign and the site tucked away behind the pub, Mickey Finns.

Booked in easily enough and as we were on the adults only section ‘Secret Garden’ we veered to the right of the site slowly manoeuvring our way through the hordes of children gathering around the entrance.

After a circuit of the site we eventually picked a pitch on the upper level, it gave great views down the valley and wasn’t too far from the facilities.

First thing we discovered was the hardstandings were just that, rock hard and concrete, there was no way we could pitch the awning so Pod went on the pitch at a jaunty angle which allowed the awning to sit on the grass. One of the great advantages of Pod being so small, she will fit anywhere.

Once set up, kettle was on and we sat out in the glorious sunshine and hoped it remained for the duration of our stay, have to live in hope, don’t you.

Now, over the past few months we’ve been in conversation with two Pod owners in Ireland and as a result of this they’d made what we saw as a very kind gesture, they decided to join us and stop at the site for a night, so whilst basking in the sunshine what did we see slowly working its way along the row of caravans, yes, another Pod.

Quickly tidied round, not that we’d actually done anything in the half hour since our arrival, but felt the need, first impressions and all that and stood waiting to put faces and bodies to names only seen on Facebook.

Introductions were soon done and conversation between Em, Son and ourselves was flowing nicely, so much so one of the available pitches was next to us and they made the decision to take that one, excellent we thought. But first we had to hand over a homemade Pod pendant which went on immediate display in their Pod. 

We left them to settle in whilst we had dinner and once all done we all headed off the the pub, Mickey Finns, for what else other a real pint of Guinness.

Found a table to the side of the pub and left Son guarding it whilst we went to peruse the alcoholic selection on offer, weaving our way through the small busy tables we reached the bar and after a little consultation between the bar staff and Em we opted for a set of taster ales but we inevitably moved onto the Irish nectar of black gold..Guinness.

Needless to say a few pints went down extremely well, tastes so much better than that sold in the U.K. and it couldn’t have been with better company as stories were told and plans were made for the next few days, including a guided walk from them both through Glendalough, it was a grand end to our first night in Ireland.

Showers were very welcoming and were in a central shared block, each shower was in a small tiled room and they were token operated, one euro a.k.a. one token gave 6 minutes and as neither of us have timed the experience before we discovered it was possible and 6 minutes was ample time, as long as you didn’t dilly-dally.

Didn’t wake till after 10 a.m. and felt better for it, we put it down to the long drive the day before and not the effects of the beer. When we did eventually stick our heads out of Pod we discovered Em and Son pottering around, conversation wound its way round to our plans for the day and we decided to visit their home town of Bray for a walk along the sea front.

As we didn’t know the area and the satnav had a mind of its own they suggested we follow them back, so once they’d packed their Pod up we jumped into our car and followed them back, virtually to their doorstep. Very strange following a GoPod and catching all the passersby staring and gesticulating in many different forms in the direction of the Pod. All friendly of course.

After parking we said our goodbyes to Em and Son and walked the short distance into Bray, we soon caught sight of the sea and just followed our noses the rest of the way. The sun was out again and the large beach was sat in a bay surrounded by tall impressive houses and hotels. The walk along the promenade was about a mile long and for us took us in the direction of Bray Head and the Cliff Walk, we could clearly see the large cross on the top of Bray Head.

Lunch time was calling and as the smell of fish and chips was wafting in our direction we joined the small queue on the seafront and duly bought said fish and chips, these were provided to us in brown paper bags, no plastic bags here and we thought it was a great idea, all recyclable. After finding a suitable spot on the promenade we sat and watched the world go by whilst we devoured our very tasty lunch.  

Eventually we began our walk back along the prom and just happened to pass ‘Ginos’ home made Italian ice-cream, delicious stuff indeed, black forest gateau and hazelnut heaven, don’t think we’ve ever tasted ice-cream as good as this. Walking back to the car we decided we liked Bray, it was so clean, fresh and well looked after and if the rest of Ireland was like this we were in for a treat.

Once back at the site we drove up to Pod and considered moving her round, that is putting her square on the pitch, awning to, but no sooner had we thrown the idea out of the window the heavens opened and thank goodness we had, because the heavens didn’t just open a side door they opened the main gate and boy did it rain, we’d of been like drowned rats to say the least.

The rain passed soon after and we spent the afternoon pottering round Pod, enjoying the peace and quiet of the site and the view down the valley and over the hills to the coast.

Soon came time to get our wonderful multi-cooker out to play and a previous success of roast chicken, potatoes and veg along with sea bass was soon being demolished. Great little buy the multi-cooker and we hoped it would be our main cooking item whilst away.

A walk through Glendalough with Em and Son was on the cards for the following day so off to bed we went and woke with the sun peeping through the lining of the pop-top roof.

Sandwiches were made and we met up with Em and Son at 8.30 at an agreed location about a third of the way there.

4€ allowed us into the car park and we then followed Em round to find a space near them, it seems Em is as bad as MrB.. or is it a man thing, where they drive round for 5 minutes looking for the nearest spot only to find that if they’d parked at the first available one they’d of been out of the car and on their way probably at the same time.

Anyway, once out of the cars we had a giggle about the multiple choice of parking spots then rucksacks were on and off we went following the path towards the old monastery, once near we decided to take a closer look, we stepped off the main path and crossed a small wooden bridge into its grounds.

It was very picturesque and as we were early we had the place to ourselves. Old and worn gravestones which were barely legible were surrounded by dark green tall grasses and colourful wild flowers, all under a deep blue cloudless sky.

The remains of the monastery stood high above it all along with a tower that reminded us so much of the fairytale Rapunzel. Beautiful place, if we could have stayed we would of but we had much more to see so back on the main path we went.

This took us to the lake and we went to the right of it and upwards, it took us through the forest with its variety of tall evergreen trees, these eventually faded away and we were then on a wide stone path winding through an old quarry.

Upwards we continued with the smattering of a light shower for company, this soon died off leaving us to reach the turning point dry underfoot. 


As we turned to walk back along the other side of the valley we crossed water logged moorland which was only passable by walking over reclaimed railway sleepers. This was fun, especially when you came face to face with someone travelling in the opposite direction, etiquette unknown, so generally ‘passing’ was done by mutual nods and hand signals.

We then came to the view-point Em and Son had told us about and it was spectacular, the wooden platform reached out from the the outcrop and took in the length of the valley, all the way down to the lake and beyond, there wasn’t a cloud above us and the dark blue of the sky melding with the varying shades of green on the hillside along with the stream winding down the centre like a main artery was just incredible.

After a quick bite to eat we began the decent, wooden steps and stones took over this stage and we eventually entered the forest, it was surprising how quickly it darkened and the sun failed to even peep through due to the denseness of the surrounding trees, plus, due to the rain the walk down was slightly treacherous as the steps were covered in the fallen pine needles from the trees above.

By the time we reached the bottom the path was full of families with children dogs and bikes in tow, all travelling in different directions, we had definitely picked the right time to tackle Glendalough. Picnic benches were in sight so we managed to grab one as a group were in the process of leaving.

Once seated coffees were bought and food came out of our rucksacks, midges also joined us, they were annoying as they nibbled away but no way as big or as ferocious as their Scottish counterparts.

The day had been perfect in both company and weather, heavy rain that had been reported as possible never made an appearance.

As we sat at the table under the trees more people and families began to arrive and those not fortunate enough to grab a table put blankets out on the large lawned area and set about laying their picnics out around them.

Kids rode past on bikes and scooters and a family were in the midst of a game of hurling, the fastest game on grass apparently. Glendalough was certainly a popular place.

Soon came time to pack up and say our goodbyes until our paths crossed again as the following day was to be spent in Waterford and the day after that we were moving on to our next site. We’d had a ball with Em and Son and our first few days in Ireland couldn’t have gone better, pity we couldn’t take them along for the rest of the trip, but maybe that’s one for the future..

We drove off in separate directions and once back at Pod we felt a little deflated so walking boots were put on and we went for a mooch round the outskirts of the site.

A leisurely walk took us past a field of donkeys happily munching away on grass and a gnarly looking old fella of a sheep, he was quite happy to say hello but the donkeys weren’t up for it. We then passed the pedal go-kart circuit and the archery centre, would have liked a go but the queue didn’t appear to be going down.

From there we followed the path as it past through an orchard of blossoming pears and apple trees, then onwards toward lodges on stilts, very interesting design and wouldn’t have minded a nosey but doubt their occupants would have been best pleased with two unknown faces squashed up at the windows.

Eventually we returned to Pod and before showers and bed the multi-cooker came out to complete a firm favourite of chicken and chorizo stew, delicious.

Monday arrived and the weather was taking a turn for the worse as rain made an appearance and looked set for the day, typical. Not that it was going to stop us as we sorted ourselves out for a trip to Waterford.

M11 was empty and a joy to drive along, very well maintained and so clean, no rubbish along the hard shoulder, just lots of green fields. After an 1 1/2hr drive we arrived in Waterford and found a carpark just around the corner from The House of Waterford Crystal. Paid the 4€ for parking and as Waterford Crystal was on the ‘to see’ list off we tottled towards the shop. Calling it a shop doesn’t do it justice, it’s as big as a major high street store and as glamorous to boot.

Once in we discovered they have a tour of the factory so we signed up for that at 13.40€ each. Next slot was in 20 minutes so we used the time to walk round the shop, our jaws dropped on a couple of occasions, price being one of them but mainly for the workmanship and detail that went into some of the pieces.

Time came for the tour and once our small group had been gathered we all headed off out of the shop and into the factory which was next door.

Our guide was as expected very knowledgeable and took us through the whole process, from the designer moulds for commissioned work to the blowing and shaping of the glass.

From there we moved onto the blowers, cutters and engravers. Considering they were each surrounded by a few visitors from the group the concentration on their faces was clearly there and how they completed the work without hurting their hands was incredible.

We then moved onto completed works, amongst which we saw a wonderful tribute to 9/11 and from there we all went into the shop to spend a few pennies. Needless to say we came away with a few gifts for our nearest and dearest.

It was a fabulous experience, learnt a great deal about Waterford Crystal and it was a privilege to see such masters at work.

Once out from under the shelter of the shop we were under the torrential downpour that surrounded the coastline, we did a little window shopping an eventually found ourselves in the Gingerman Pub, mainly due to a suggestion made by a local shop keeper. Was a great suggestion and we were soon seated and ordered Guinness beef hotpot and Seafood chowder, it didn’t disappoint at all, extremely tasty and good value for money.

Still raining when we left the pub but we made a valiant attempt at walking along the front, didn’t turn out to be a good idea as by the time we had walked 20 metres we were both sodden and doing our best to keep our hoods up so the decision was made to abandon the idea and return to the car and Pod.

Rain remained for the rest of the day and the grass under the awning was starting to turn into a bit of a quagmire, drainage appeared to be a bit of an issue, that is, none existent.

We spent the rest of the evening cosied up inside Pod, after showers bed time called and we fell asleep hoping it would stop raining long enough for us to take the awning down dry in the morning. The time had come to move on to site number 2, Glenross Caravan Park on the south west coast and continue our adventures and sightseeing trips which will all be told in Part 2 of our Irish Adventure.

Posted in Accessories, Awning, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Church, Forest, Glamping, Ireland, Lakes, Lochs, Mountains, Photography, Sight seeing, Travel, Traveling, Walking, Waterways | Leave a comment

Scarborough unveiled and Podders discovered

Time has come again for a little Pod adventure. Our map in the conservatory was starting to look a little uneven, that is the east and south east side was looking very flagless and bare, so after a small debate on where to start filling it in we decided to try and work our way down the coast, starting with Scarborough.

Neither of us have been there and after a little of the usual internet research it seemed to have everything we liked. The Yorkshire Moors nearby to discover, a beach to walk on and coastal villages to explore. We then had to decide on length of time and location and went for 4 nights at the Camping and Caravan Club site on the outskirts of Scarborough, it looked ideal, it was then booked and a done deal as a deposit is required, unlike the Caravan and Motorhome Club.

The day arrived and as we weren’t allowed on site till 1pm there wasn’t a rush for us to get up early and get out the door but we eventually left around 10.30 giving us a good 2 ½ hours to get there.

Weather was a bit none dis-script, the forecast for the east coast was overcast and cold whilst the west coast was sunshine and warmth, typical you might say but we’ve learnt its what you make of it and we were away in our ‘bubble’, bliss either way.

We skirted Leeds and went round York, traffic was pretty light and soon had Scarborough within our sights.

We hit the dual carriageway just outside of Scarborough and whilst nattering away LB just happened to look up and over the other side of the road to see something neither had ever seen on any of their trips away.. another GoPod, well, between the raised eyebrows, yelps, pointing and staring at the look of concern on MBs face she eventually managed to say ‘look a pod !’.

MB whipped his head round just in time to see it motoring along the road, LB fumbled with her phone and managed to grab a lopsided photo whilst yelling at MB to move his hand and stop waving, caught just in time, evidence was needed, who would believe us otherwise ? Once taken the image was checked and all was good, even managed to catch the lady driver in her pink hat waving back in return.

The rest of the journey was spent giggling and in mild shock and as we drove into the grounds of the site a few minutes after 1pm we thought that would be it and we would never see another one, unless at a future Powwow.

There were a few ‘vans in front of us but it didn’t take long to get everyone moving along. Our turn came and the warden on his bike asked if there was anywhere in particular we’d like to be. He explained the layout of the site and we decided on a sheltered part, not too far from the facilities, we thought his gesture was a nice touch, after all he could have taken us in any direction.

We picked a lovely pitch, bit strange too as they were hard standing but hidden under grass, once on there we couldn’t resist catching a picture as Pod always looks so small and unless you’ve seen inside one you wouldn’t believe how much of a tardis they were.

Pod was levelled, bed made up, awning erected and it soon looked like we’d been there for days. Time had come to have a mooch in the area so we decided to head into Scarborough but first checked out the bus route. Big fail, we’d of been able to get into Scarborough but the buses stopped running between 4 – 5pm and didn’t run on weekends, as we didn’t know how far it actually was the car came into play. Turns out it was only 10 minutes away in the car so any future treks into the town could be done with a good half hour or so walk.

Once into Scarborough’s northern bay we passed the railway and Peasholm Park and were soon driving along the seafront down the coast, the sea was all the way in and there weren’t too many people about so there was plenty of parking by the time we reached the southern part of the bay.

We walked past the colourful amusement park and along the front, sea to our left and arcades, kiss-me-quick hat shops and take-away outlets to our right. The smell of the sea drifting over the break wall mingling with the freshly cooked donuts and the musical sounds of the arcades is a childhood memory many have and we’re no different.

Only thing to spoil it was the incessant noise of the hundreds of seagulls and we haven’t exaggerate on the number, they had not only nested in the rock face looking out to sea but also any available building space along the front, this plus all their ‘deposits’ shall we say marred our experience a little.

As we slowly ambled along taking all this in we couldn’t help but notice an unusually modified mobile home parked up on a side street. We edged nearer and as it looked like nobody was home a quick picture was taken to peruse later. Not sure what caravan was used to create this masterpiece but it looked loved and lived in.

Once we passed the people on the donkey rides and others playing on the beach we walked up through the tiered garden towards Britains oldest surviving cliff tramway, in great conditions and had plenty of custom for only 90p one way.

After a mooch around the shops we eventually worked our way back down to the seafront and discovered that parking was free after 6pm, this probably accounted for the buses not running in the evening. We also couldn’t resist an ice-cream from Harbour Bar Ice-cream Parlour, huge, full of flavour and really good value for money, took a while but by the time we got back to the car there wasn’t much left.

Once back at Pod dinner was cooked, steak, stir-fry and pasta sauce was on the menu and it went down very well sat outside under the awning whilst watching other ‘vanners walk by as the stars came out on a clear moonlit night.

Showers were next on the menu and they didn’t disappoint. Some may say a little small and dated but they were spotlessly clean and by heck the showers were hot, powerful and were very welcome as the block didn’t seem to have heating.

Temperature had dropped some what so hot water bottles had already been strategically placed for optimum bottom warming and once back at Pod we were soon snuggled under the duvet and fast asleep within minutes.

Woke to a dry day but we weren’t convinced it would remain that way, after breakfast we made plans for a trip to Robin Hoods Bay, half an hours drive up the coast we soon found it and all without the satnav, very daring decision some may say.

Found a small carpark at the top of the Bay and once we paid the minimal fee we began our walk down the steep winding road towards the harbour. 

Some of the houses were built out of the rock face, others had narrow footpaths between their apposing neighbours doors, if they were to reach out from their doorsteps they could probably have given a warm handshake. Each had made the best use of the space on offer with some wonderful architecture to show for it.

The sea was in again, seemed we needed to improve our timing if we were ever to get onto a beach. Right on the harbour front was the Old Coastguard Visitors Centre, it was free, so in we went. Small but plenty to read and many activities for the kids to enjoy, some adults too..

Once we left the centre we wound our way through the village, taking unexpected turns along ever decreasing stone paved paths where each building seemed to tower over us as the paths became narrower. Most appeared to be holiday lets but would like to think some were owned and lived in by the locals.

Lunch time arrived and after a steep walk back up we stopped just short of the car at the Fish Box and tucked into fishcake, pie and chips, delicious.

Next stop was Whitby, few more miles up the coast we went and once off the main road we turned in the direction of the Abbey. Up the hill we went and turned into the carpark at the foot of the Abbey and found the first available space.

A rye grin then came over MBs face as he pointed to the other side of the carpark and said ‘look’. Well, who would have thought it possible, never mind in a carpark.. another Pod ! Unattended but hitched/locked to a car, it was definitely a GoPod, a newish one too by the looks of the unmarked shiny hitch.

It was quite funny watching people strolling over for a look and to take pictures, made us wonder what happened around our Pod when we weren’t on the site. Of course we had to join the crowd and grabbed a picture for ourselves, that all important evidence 😉 .

Paid a few pounds for the parking and again to enter the Abbey grounds and the exhibition/shop. 

 Rain made an appearance along with the occasional gust of a biting wind. We took shelter in the ruins and wandered between the tall limestone arches and pillars reading the display posts as we went along. The rain did its best to get in the way of taking photographs but with a little jiggery-pokery they didn’t turn out too bad. If the rain had stayed off and it had been a clear day the views over Whitby and out to sea would have been incredible.

By the time we made it back to our car, the visiting pod, its car and owners had gone, so we didn’t get the chance to say hello and if it hadn’t been for grabbing a photo we doubt anyone would have believed we’d seen it, not everyday you see a pod at all, never mind in an Abbey car park.

Back down the hill we went and found a car park not far from the pier. Once wrapped up we headed for the pier and on the way we saw the RNLI museum so had to call in. In here we learnt about HMS Rohilla which had been a hospital ship and in 1941 struck Whitby Rock, after two days she eventually sunk killing 85 people.

Next stop was the pier, the sea was in, again and with the high winds it managed to breach the wall and surprise a few passing people with a bit of a soaking, needless to say we had our eyes peeled but enjoyed the braising walk up to the end of the pier. Once there we turned and the view was amazing, all of Whitby could be seen with the Abbey off in the distance, it must have been an incredible sight in its day.

Time came to head back to Pod and once there the new multi cooker came out to play. Because one of us a pescatarian and the other a carnivore cooking the same meal can be slightly tricky, but so far we’ve adapted well but felt like bringing a new dimension to it, hence the multi cooker.

The base was filled with chicken thighs, new potatoes, various veg and all smothered in a herb sauce, then a tray was placed over this and for the last 20 minutes sea bass wrapped in foil slowly steam cooked away. Turned out incredibly well but need to keep looking for one pot meals than can be varied a little to cater for both of our tastes.

Bed beckoned and once snuggled in bed watching the next days weather report, which looked promising, we decided to spend the day exploring the northern part of Scarborough and to walk in to make the most of the area.

We slept well, funny thing being we always seem to sleep better in Pod, maybe on this occasion it was all that wonderful fresh air that blew in from the coast.

Thankfully we woke to a dry day and once breakfast was out of the way we set off up the road into Scarborough, first we passed the railway deciding to call in on it on the way back, first port of call was Peasholm Park. We’d heard some wonderful stories about it and couldn’t wait to explore.

As we entered the park we did a left and walked towards the main part of the lake. As the path circled the lake we passed pedalos but were disappointed to see they were only available at weekends, we continued round to see the waterfall cascading down one section of the island. The bridge over to the island and its Oriental Garden and Pagoda wasn’t open so yet again it looked like we would miss the park at its best.

We continued on and passed the bandstand which was situated in the middle of the lake, this looked a little sorry for itself as it was encased in bird droppings and seagulls with their young were everywhere.

Our walk then took us through the gardens, these were lovely and so well maintained. Many different species of plants and trees surrounded the well marked pathway. We passed someone with his remote control boat on one of the smaller ponds and we soon found ourselves at the Lilly Pond, the whole walk had been very peaceful and because of the surrounding tall trees the air within the park remained still and none of the noise from the roads that circled the park penetrated its tranquility.

At the Lilly Pond we turned and on the way out we passed very friendly squirrels who it seemed had become accustomed to being hand fed, as we completed our route we discovered we had done a complete circle of the park and although we were disappointed to not see it at the hight of its popularity, including the ship battles, we thoroughly enjoyed it and it went a good way to recharging our batteries. Point of note for us was to return in the summer season to see the park in all its glory.

Once we left the park we could see the sea not too far away and walked up to the breaker wall collecting an ice cream on the way. We couldn’t make our mind up if the sea was on its way in or out, but either way it was a powerful beast battering the defences that surround the bay.

We could here the toot toot of the train coming from the miniature railway and within a few minutes we were at the train station looking at the times for the next available trip, the next wasn’t due for 15 minutes so we walked on through to discover the open air concert stage.

It look great, ideal for those intimate performances, everyone, those stood and those seated would have had a birds-eye view of whom ever was on the stage, definitely one to keep an eye out for.

Strolled back to the station and bought our return tickets for our journey which was 7/8th of a mile, we couldn’t resist a huge tub of sugar loaded sweets for the journey out and hopefully back.

We soon took our seats on Neptune and in total, including us there were 5 people on board, brilliant. Off we went, toot tooting as we went along and within 10 minutes we had reached Scalby Mills. We could have stayed on and returned but after speaking to the conductor he suggested a few pints at the pub up the hill, who were we to refuse such good helpful advice.

Off we went and after passing the sealife centre we found the pub called ‘Old Scalby Mills’. A couple of pints of Boon Doggle and Thwaites later we wound our way back to the train platform to await our train.

Few minutes later the toot toot could be heard off in the distance and it didn’t take long for it to wind its way along the track, round the corner and into our line of sight.

Neptune unhitched itself and was soon on the turntable doing a full circle to be joined at the other end of the carriages. This time we decided to film our journey and used Facebook live to do the task. We sat at the front, right behind the driver and waved at all and sundry as we moved along the track. For those who wish to see this endeavour you can find it on our Facebook page 2B’s in a Pod, we had a right giggle and we’re convinced the ale enjoyed in the pub added to our jolly demeanour.

We’d had a grand time discovering another part of Scarborough and our half an hour walk soon brought us back to the site, it was great to see Pod waiting for us, we soon had the kettle on, feet up and chilled chatting about our wonderful day and all the giggles we’d had along the way.

Night time came around again and we had our last day ahead of us, where had the days gone and why does a week of work never go this fast. Never the less, a search of the area was done and Flamborough Head was on the cards for the next day.

Another wonderful deep nights nights sleep was had and we woke to another dry day, we may not have had the sunshine of the west coast but it was dry and we counted our blessings on this.

Flamborough Head was a half hour drive down the coast, looked like it was going to remain dry so only warm clothes needed.

Soon drove through the small village and discovered a large carpark and café, 2£ to park for the day so we made ourselves welcome, we clocked the toilet block on the other side too, always handy to know.

A footpath went both left and right along the coast but the first place we had to see was the cove below us, the sea was out for the first time so after passing a rather dilapidated tractor who we didn’t feel too sorry for because he got to spend the rest of his days with a glorious view down the bay and out to sea, many would pay a fair penny for the view.

After walking past a few boats decked out in fishing gear we soon had our feet on the soft, fine sand. The only thing to have made a mark before us was a second tractor who had moved a boat out to sea, to be fair this tractor looked like it might be joining its partner in crime soon as we were amazed how it managed to move at all, as it was incased in rust, salt and sand.

The caves then came into view and once beneath them you could see the wear and tear the sea had caused, nearly said damaged, but its not, nature will have its way and whether ‘we’ are at fault as well, that’s another story.

We hopped over the rocks and wandered between the small rock pools and eventually found ourselves near the arch that showed you the way out of the bay, walking under the arch brought us out to even more caves that seemed to line the entire coast as far as our eyes could sea, the temptation to continue and explore was real but as we weren’t sure if the tide was on its way in or out we thought it best to make for the beach.

Back up on the main path we decided to continue down the coast and try and make for the Lighthouse, the path was easy enough to follow and at one point we entered a nature reserve.

Now the path we took was along the coast, little hairy in places and not for anyone who has a thing about heights, fortunately the wind wasn’t very high so we felt quite secure, we could image though if a gust of wind came along some may struggle, for those still wanting to do the walk there was also a path that cuts out most of the rock face.

Seagulls, Gannets and Oystercatchers were in abundance, the noise carried way down the coast and followed us all the way to the Lighthouse, Puffins are also supposed to be in the area but on this occasion we didn’t catch sight of one and yet to be seen by either of us.

Passing the golf course on our right we soon reached the Lighthouse but before having a look round we decided it was time for lunch, just something light we said, a sandwich we said, no. Well that was what was asked for but what was put in front of us was much greater and very delicious too. One had huge chunks of chicken rammed in the roll and the tuna melt ciabatta was scrumptious, this on top of chips went down very well.

After numerous cups of fresh tea we eventually managed to pull ourselves out of the chairs and walk towards the Lighthouse, views from its point were wonderful and as the day was clearing the views extended some way up and down the coast, only thing to be seen were seabirds darting in and out of the bays and their many hidden caves and alcoves.

Our walk back took us the same route and we noticed that the sea was on its way in, bashing against the rocks and forcing its way into the now half sunken dark caves.

Our day wasn’t over yet and on the way back, after being prompted by a follower, we decided to call in at Reighton Sands, we eventually found a small carpark near a static caravan site and took the steep concrete path down to the sea.

We found ourselves on a large pebble beach and as the sea was on its way in this was the only part we could see, from the many great reports we’d been given we knew this couldn’t be it, so after climbing up and over a small ledge we were met with a fabulous sight, yes the sea was in but you could clearly see the huge expanse of a protected sandy beach, how wonderful.

We sat a while and took it all in, our last day was nearly at an end and at this point the clouds cleared from around us and the sun came beaming down, perfect.

The sun remained out all the way back to Pod and allowed us to enjoy our last evening in the awning, beer in hand, with feet up as the sun slowly set and this wasn’t long after taken over by the moon in a clear starlit night.

Morning arrived way too soon but the time had come to pack up, we’d had a great time and had many a giggle along the way. Discovered a part of the east coast neither of us had visited before and beautiful memories had been made, that’s what it’s ultimately all about, isn’t it ?..

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Church, Glamping, Photography, Scarborough, Sight seeing, Stately home, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking, Yorkshire | Leave a comment

Back to the outdoors with a tarp in Chirk

Quarter of the way through the year and plans for Pods adventures are going according to plan. From Scotland to Wales, England and Ireland we seem to have the UK pretty well covered this year. Even to the extent of a few ‘off grid’ trips which are to some extent still in the planning stages but will eventually open Pod up to us being totally self sufficient and giving us a whole new travel experience.

All that said, it is baby steps, as over the next few months to a variety of degrees we hope to integrate some of our ‘self sufficiency’ into our trips away. We don’t just want to rock up in Scotland for example and not have thought daily living and other tasks out.  

So, first step was to lighten the load and simplify any accoutrements that we take along on our trips, our next jaunt was to Lady Margaret’s Park, Chirk and was the perfect opportunity to experiment. Minimalism was about to take over so the awning would be the first thing to be removed and be replaced with a tarp, also the portapotty removed as it took up valuable easily accessible storage, on this occasion we’d use the sites facilities, even for those emergency midnight trips if necessary. The table and clothes airer would also be coming out, along with the upright bin which was to be replaced with a weather proof, air tight container that could be stored under Pod if necessary. We even rethought our use of large, bulky towels and replaced them with microfibre ones in the hope they would live up to their promise of drying us adequately but ultimately dry quickly for the following days use. These were essentially all the items we kept in the awning.

Replacing the awning with the tarp would be the main challenge, as the awning offered so much living space plus kept us warm and dry when the weather turned for the worst, but come what may, rain, wind, snow (still live in hope on that one) we would deal with and cope with the limitation of being in a small confined space to live, cook and sleep. Hopefully any issues would be minor and if anything else be easily resolved, but if not resolving it would be a challenge we would revel in, as always.

The tarp is one we bought for 30.00 off ebay and was initially bought as a porch extension for the awning and for use as emergency cover when out kayaking. With a little sewing magic and trial and error concerning addition straps and loops we, and we say the royal ‘we’ on this one, we sewed awning bead and spare webbing on at various points under and along the tarp. Once done, the tarp along with two poles from the awning and spare guy lines were packed away inside Pod. It’s on YouTube for those who wish to see it in action.. along with Mr.B.

The day of departure arrived and Pod looked empty, but Poddington along with a homemade Pod decorative keepsake came too, have to have some home comforts don’t you? Mr.B checked Pods tyre pressure and we soon had the car hooked up and were on our way to Chirk.

Pretty uneventful trip and just over an hour away for us, we thought Lady Margarets Park could be a bolt hole if it promised everything the research had shown so fingers were crossed.

Arrived a few minutes after 12 and once booked in we were given a sheet with the available pitches. Didn’t take us long as we took a left just after the office and found ourselves in a lovely circular wooded area. If we’d carried on down the road we would have come to a more open area.

Only two vans on this section so we pretty much had the pick of pitches, we chose one that allowed the sunset to go down behind the trees and hopefully we’d get to enjoy it later when we settled down in our big comfy chairs under the tarp

Once Pods legs were down and she was levelled off the kettle was on. We couldn’t believe the weather, the sun was out, no clouds, windless, all we could hear were the birds in the trees and see rabbits and squirrels running around not far from Pod, perfect. Only thing left to do once the TV and water supply were connected along with the bed being made up with the slats and food stowed away was to get the foot stools out and relax with a huge mug of tea and a few Jaffa Cakes. Who’d have thought 1 hour earlier we’d been trundling down the motorway along with all those going about the hustle and bustle of their daily business.

Mid afternoon and it was time for a bit of exploring. Pod was locked up and we walked out the main gate and up the road which took us into Chirk. Along the walk we both noticed a very heady smell of someone baking a very rich chocolate cake, this soon identified itself as the old Cadbury chocolate factory, still producing cocoa and hot chocolate but now rebranded under Kraft/Mondelez. We continued along to the village but slowed somewhat to take in as much of the delicious smell as we could, so much so we were nearly hyperventilating by the time we reached the main road.

And this point The Hand pub was across the road from the junction, we decided to walk on a little to see what else was on offer and we discovered the usual array of shops and a local butchers which sold a good selection of meats. Eventually we turned and walked back towards the pub. It didn’t look particularly inviting from the outside but we thought we’d go in and have a look, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Pleasantly surprised is the least we can say, lovely big red leather chesterfields were arranged around two lounge areas, along with comfy looking high back chairs and large soft cushions scattered around.

We settled ourselves into a large sofa and as our bottoms sank into the chair they kept on going.. they were so soft the chair almost enveloped us, probably in an attempt to keep us there, believe us though, they didn’t have to try too hard. Two pints of guest ales were ordered, Darwin’s Origin and Shropshire Gold, both for under a fiver.

Few pints later we looked out of the window and could see darkness descending, it was time to get back to Pod and get dinner under way. Our walk back was slightly slower and as we entered the site and turned towards Pod dusk had surrounded us. Pod looked tiny without the awning but still very impressive. Quick flick of the LED light switch under the tarp and Pod looked great, the light didn’t escape to pollute the night sky, its downward light only emanated along the floor giving it a very euphorial look, if that’s possible with an object. Maybe it was those beers..

Dinner was done and we ate under the tarp, there wasn’t a breath of wind and all around was so still. There was a slight nip in the air but an extra layer soon sorted that out, we stayed there for quite some time planning our next day and until that nip became a chill.

Showers beckoned and we got to use our microfibre towels for the first time, they were brilliant and worked much better than the shower cubicle chosen by one of us. Trouble with that is once you’ve set your stall out you don’t want to go shower hunting so you just make the best of a bad choice. They block is clean and generally well kept so all was good in the end.

Chairs and footstools were stored under Pod and the airtight bin was secured with a clipped strap, didn’t want to find its contents visited by any of the wild locals and it strewn across the site, that wouldn’t have gone down well. Our magical towels were secured with their clips and hung over the straps we had sewn under the awning, it alllooked pretty tidy, we’re not overly fussy, just like to keep things ship shape.

Hot water bottle had been done before showers and it was nice to climb into bed and find that warm spot. The thermal wrap was up so no matter what happened outside, we were snug under the duvet and in for a good nights sleep. 

Woke to the sunlight peeping through the small gap in the blind, if we hadn’t done that there wouldn’t have been any light penetrating and a very long lie-in would have been had. Pod is just too cozy sometimes. Breakfast was eaten alfresco, slightly cloudy but again windless, perfect for us. Wish we’d just record all this visually as words sometimes are hard to find to express the bliss of the moment without it sounding corny.

Chirk Castle was on the cards for today and as it’s a National Trust property entry for us would hopefully be free. Picnic lunch was prepared and packed and we set off on foot towards the entrance to the grounds. The entrance, for those on foot is just outside the site and is the exit for those who visit the castle in cars.

For those that take this path, beware ! Because for those in cars we seemed to be invisible and if we hadn’t moved out of the way smartish one or both of us would have had a longer stay than planned and the view from inside any hospital isn’t what we’d planned on. But take this out of the equation the walk up to the castle was past the gate house and some incredibly detailed gates then along a narrow tree lined road, mostly peaceful as there wasn’t a soul to be seen. After about a mile we reached the castle and continued past it to the office to register our arrival.

Once done, tickets in hand we took the path up to the castle entrance and entered wondering what we would discover inside. Firstly, we entered a large courtyard entirely lined by the castle walls, the flag of Wales fluttered away in the far corner and a seating area near the café spilled out into the another corner.

Up the steps we went and into history we walked, the rooms were decked out in memorabilia through the ages and as you walked up the main staircase we got the feel of those who had walked before us and had lived in this wonderful castle.

From room to room we wondered and as always the ceiling drew our attention, the detail of which we will never see again.

The library was smaller than most establishments of this kind but the enthusiasm held by the guide from within was wonderful. The love of the books he had under his care poured from him and we were held there under his spell whilst he told the story of some of those held on the shelves around us. His wish, as well as ours was that he would get the display cases he had requested and some of those books would be opened and their contents shared to all.

From here we walked up the tower and then down the winding stone steps to the dungeon, brilliant experience. Then off to the café for a cream tea which went down very well.

The gardens were next on the list and whilst there we visited the laundry, a great piece of history and made us thankful for our electronic devices we have today. Our walk then took us to Hawks House, a beautiful thatched structure set at the back of the formal garden. We’d quite happily have lived in that, never mind the castle, this is where we sat to eat our picnic and much to our enjoyment we were joined by a robin and a field mouse. The robin we could deal with but the mouse had us holding our breath, not daring to move whilst it spent a short time hunting around for scraps the robin had left.

Our time at the castle was coming to an end so we took the same route along the winding road back down to the site and Pod.

The evening was spent sat outside catching up with news and chatting to those who ventured past. That nip was still in the air but dinner was eaten outside in the fading light of the day. It was great as we were the only ones mad enough it seems, to sit outside, everyone else was closed up in their little boxes, missing the outdoors and all the wildlife that was mooching about the site. Grant you, we had so far been blessed with the weather and should it take a turn for the worse, the tarp would be no place of refuge, we would be in Pod and all the hatches battened down, but whilst dry and calm we couldn’t hide in Pod.

Our last full day arrived and the sun was again making an appearance, today we planned on discovering the canal and aqueduct which also ran along side the railway, no picnic lunch though, we were going to seek out a pub somewhere along the way and have a bite to eat, we’d done a little research and found The Boathouse, we just had to figure how to get to it.

We set off on foot again and within a few minutes we’d crossed the bridge and were on the footpath down to the canal. Within a few steps we were already walking towards Chirk Tunnel, 421m long and very dark. In we went, during our research we’d read that some take torches in but we decided to go for the scary option in stead and just clutch onto the handrail that runs all the way through.

Off in the distance we saw lights bobbing towards us thinking it was a small group walking through, no, as these lights got within 10m of us whilst being blinded we discovered it was one man with three torches, one on his head and one in each hand. Once he’d passed us and our eyes adjusted to the darkness we were very grateful for the rail, it looked like it had been there a long time and we did wonder how anyone would have managed had it not been there. We’re sure that pre health and safety they found a way.

The light at the end of the tunnel grew bigger.. sorry, but when else would we get the chance to say it.. and we came out in a wider section of the canal, as the tunnel is a one way system it was the ideal place for those to queue and wait their turn. Sharing this space was a barge fully kitted out as a sweet shop, a brilliant idea with the option to go where ever needed. Ice creams were bought and we continued on towards the aqueduct.

The water flowed along the aqueduct and again barges queued to use it, whilst above on a higher bridge trains whizzed by. An amazing piece of engineering as between entering the tunnel and exiting the railway had switched to the opposite side of the canal.. or had the canal switched to the other side of the railway?

We continued on up the canal, moving from Wales to England, passing picturesque cottages and barges floating by but we eventually decided to turn back and try and find this pub. Once again we were in the tunnel and soon out the other end, we walked on along the wide well worn footpath which was lined with tall bare trees and we eventually spied it across the other side of the canal.

Another tunnel loomed ahead and we were again immersed in darkness, not as long as the first though, Whitehouse Tunnel at 174m. Once through we climbed a footpath up to the bridge and crossed over. A short walk along one of the lanes brought us to the pub.

Once in you see the bar first and beyond that there’s a pool table and seating area, round the far side are the doors out onto the decking area which gives a great view down to the marina and the canal.

Lunch was ordered along with two guest ales, Tekau 10 and Station Bitter. During a conversation with the manger turns out the Tekau is brewed in Oswestry 6 miles away and the brewery is owned by a New Zealander, the 10 refers to its anniversary and the name is taken from the Maori Haka.

Food arrived and it was delicious, roasted peppers, feta cheese for one and a steak pie in a very buttery sweet pastry for the other. Good value and portions were great too. We could have stayed and enjoyed a few more drinks and the view but we needed to get back before dark, we decided not to take the canal back and as there were no street lights along the lanes we didn’t want any mishaps.

Back at Pod we relaxed under the tarp and a light drizzle decided to surround us, the position we had the tarp in was just right, big enough for two chairs and two footstools. We could have eaten under the tarp but we decided to test Pod out for when the tarp wouldn’t be possible and we didn’t have the awning with us. This meant cooking, eating and spending the rest of the evening behind Pods door. New experience for us as we have always had the awning.

Chairs were put away under Pod and the door was closed as we said goodbye to the outside world. Now, Mr.B is in charge of washing the dishes and LB is the cook, works for us so far so why mess with it. On offer this evening was quorn chilli and rice, as long as Mr.B stayed out of the way, ie: on the bed it would work out fine and it did, only issue was the bin. We would need a small receptacle for whilst encased in Pod during bad weather as it would be totally impractical to keep opening the door to use the bin if the weather was playing Mary-hell outside. Issue identified and easily enough to solve. Dinner was eaten once a suitable position was found so no issues there as a huge throw was on the bed to protect the duvet and could easily be removed and shaken out at a suitable point in the evening.

I know we could make the seats up and put the table in place but that’s not us, we like the camper van feel to Pod, our breaks away are little adventures and we like the feel of it being different, not for everyone, we know.

We’d survived being confined in Pod and before we knew it the time came for showers and bed, our last day had come to an end as the following day meant home.

Glorious sunshine greeted us as we opened Pods door and once breakfast was out of the way it didn’t take long to pack Pod up. The LED light was packed away in its own little case along with the TV in its new padded holder. No awning to take down and pack and no table to dismantle, the tarp was down and in its little bag within minutes. Ideal for those one or two nights stops we had planned.

We’d had an absolutely fabulous time at Lady Margaret’s and the weather couldn’t have been any better for our trial run ‘tarping’. Using the tarp had reminded us why we had Pod in the first place. Yes, the awning has its uses and purpose in bad weather but as it only has one poorly positioned window you can feel very cut off from the outside and isn’t that the point of caravanning, glamping or podding ? To be outside, in the elements, seeing and experiencing the outdoors, a step up from camping.

As we set off home we felt more at ease with the off grid trips we have planned, there’ll be no TV or facilities to use and we know there will be other issues along the way but its an adventure, the unknown and we like a challenge.

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Bridges, Canals, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Glamping, Modifications, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Travel, Traveling, Wales, Walking, Waterways | Leave a comment

City Tour and Eyes Opened

Out comes Pod again. Off to see family down Bristol way and the great thing about having her, like any mobile home, we get to stay in the area we want and be in our own comfortable, cozy environment. Our ‘bubble’. No abiding by B&B rules or costly hotel bills.Within a few minutes we had her out of Pods Place, there’s a slight gradient but not an issue and between the two of us she was soon hitched up to the back of the car.

Rear lights were checked as always and off we set to Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park, adults only apparently something never experienced before and didn’t really expect it to be any different. Site is situated below Bristol and to the west of Bath, just outside Bishop Sutton.

Off we set and were soon on the motorway heading south. There was a little bit of drizzle to contend with but nothing too bad, the weather forecast warned us of minus temperatures over the next few days and possible snow so anything was possible but we liked to think we were prepared for anything.

3 ½ hours later we rolled into the site, for the last 100m it was a one way system so we had to keep our eyes peeled for the site entrance, there was no need to worry as we were met by a a large green sign informing us of our arrival.

20 metres in we were met by a barrier and another sign instructed us to park on the left and make ourselves known to staff on the other side of the barrier.

This was done and we booked in without any problems, we were then informed that they would be sighting Pod on the designated pitch, not us. Now, we had read the literature before booking and it did say this was done, but foolishly we believed it to be an optional thing, you know, for those who may not be that confident at reversing. No, it was mandatory, company policy.

Speechless and slightly taken aback we stood and watched a small motorised tractor crawl through the barrier and pull up beside Pod and its driver began to unhitch Pod from the rear of the car. At this point we both woke from our frozen state and MrB strode to a position where he could monitor and observe every move, this had never happened before, so we were at a loss of how to deal with it other than to let the warden get on with it.

We waited in the car and watched Pod drive past us and at this point we followed it through the barrier and up the site the 25 metres to our pitch. Very surreal moment following Pod up the path.

It was however slightly ridiculous to watch, the poor embarrassed tractor driver reversed Pod in and at this point MrB could’t take it anymore and jumped out of the car, thanked the warden but asked him to unhitch and we would finish off sighting Pod.

We were then reminded that cars were not allowed to remain at the pitch and once unloaded had to be moved to the main car park, this we also knew and wasn’t a problem.

Pod was levelled off with our little spirit level and we began the process of ‘moving in’.

First off the thermal wrap went on, then the awning. We decided not to use the guy lines which fit down the side of Pod and rely totally on the popper system we had devised. We had to do it one day, just to test it properly, so this occasion seemed as good as any.

Bed was made up with the slats and cupboards filled with food. Ariel and TV were soon up and running too. The clothes had already been placed in the wardrobe before we left, that definitely saves time.

Aqua role, water waste unit, table and chairs were set up and within an hour it looked like we’d been there for days.

After a spot of lunch in Pod we decided to go and investigate the local pub, The Red Lion. Our mission on this occasion had a purpose, as on booking the site we were given the option of a reduction on our stay or a free main course from the local pub aka The Red Lion. We decided on the the meal as on reading reviews via tripadvisor the food seemed to have a good rating.

We walked back up the one way road and at its junction, across the road, was the above said pub. Looked inviting enough from the outside, so in we went.

To the left was an area for the TV and to the right the main bar area with a dinning area set further back with a lovely open fire, the pub had about half a dozen people in but whilst we perused the small selection of guest ales it slowly started to fill up as Rugby 6 nations was on the TV, Wales v England.

We sat on the only bench near the bar, enjoyed our pints of Fullers London Pride, Gem and Sharps Doom Bar and people watched as more and more poured in, they were all geared up for the battle which was due to commence on the TV. As the game began to build and after a few more pints we decided to finish watching the game back at Pod. The pub had a great vibe but it just needed re-jigging a little, would loved to have walked in and seen comfy old sofa’s and chairs up near the fire place with a little subtle lighting to add to the mood. As it was, it was nice, it was definitely a local mans pub and we would be back to check out the food.

Quick dash back down the unlit one way road with torch in hand we were soon back inside Pod, for those that have read our past blatherings, this is a lesson learnt.

TV and small fan heater on we sprawled ourselves across the bed and settled in to watch the last half of the game, and boy what a game. England pulled it out of the hat and won (sorry Wales) !

Shower time came around and after putting a hot water bottle in the bed we set off with towels in hand to try out the facilities. Eight doors leading to eight individual wash rooms, looked good so we each went into one and were met with a shower cubicle, sink, toilet, hand dryer and hairdryer, quite a lot to pack in and depending on which door you walked through you either had lots of room because of the small hallway or a suitably sized large cubicle.

All worked perfectly well and we were both soon back at Pod, that hot water bottle had worked wonders as we climbed into bed. We didn’t use the heater either as the thermal wrap seemed to be working a treat at keeping any chills at bay. Weather was checked just before lights out and it threatened to snow as temperatures had dropped below zero.

Would be great to wake to a foot or so of snow and it was a nice thought to fall asleep to as we snuggled down under the duvet.

Sunday morning arrived, but no snow, some may say that’s a good thing but it would have been fun.

Monday had been set aside to visit family so we chose today to have a look on foot on what was on offer in the area. The site was situated not too far from Chew Valley Lake so big coats, scarfs and hats were donned and off we went along the road. We soon came to a side road and within a few metres we were amongst the trees and over a small footbridge and within sight of the lake.

The well worn path was easy enough to follow as it wound its way along the lake edge, we passed a few people out for their Sunday stroll, all with kids, dogs and grandparents in tow.


The sun attempted to break through the clouds and every now and then the wind picked up to remind us we were extremely pleased to be wearing thick gloves and wooly hats.

We eventually reached ‘Salt and Malt’, a café and fish & chip shop. We loved the recycling approach; everything,  also not cheap but the battered sausage and chips were extremely hot, tasty and warmed us through nicely whilst we sat on the picnic bench and watched the world go by.

A slow walk back took us along the same route and as the sun was dropping down below the sky line the temperature started to drop and the wind began to pick up with an nice icy bite attached.

Kettle on once back at Pod and prep began for our evening meal. On previous trip we’ve opted for quick cook food, that is stuff out of a jar, you know, sweet & sour, spaghetti bolognaise, chuck the protein with the sauce in one pan and the carbs in the other. Well, this time round LB had a change of heart and decided to take on the challenge of cooking a decent meal on a two ring burner with all fresh ingredients and she did it. Worked out cheaper too. On offer on this trip out we had Quorn Singapore Noodles, Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff and Quorn Chicken Rice Stir Fry.

Night before we had Stroganoff and it was deliciously creamy, tonight’s delicacy was Singapore Noodles, again tasted great and it just went to show what’s possible in Pod.

You’ve probably noticed the vegetarian theme, one of us is a meat eater and the other pescatarian, whilst away in Pod the carnivore becomes a flexitarian in reverse. Google it, you’ll get what we mean.

Dinner out of the way showers were had and once in bed we fell asleep whilst planning our next day out.

Wind had picked up through the night, we woke occasionally as it buffered against the awning but by morning light it had died down. The poppers down the sides of Pod and the awning had worked brilliantly, the awning hadn’t budged once so we were extremely pleased with our little modification.

Today was family day but before meeting up we drove to Ashton Court and went for a wander through the grounds. The sun made an appearance between the ever present clouds and as we walked along the heat could be felt on our backs as it seeped through our clothes and warmed our bones. 

The house looked splendid in its bright mustardy colour as it sat high in its grounds peering down the hill taking in all of Bristol. This was a weekday and there were still plenty of people around, could imagine the weekends being packed and why wouldn’t it be, fabulous place to have on anyones doorstep.

Last stop for us before family time was Clifton Suspension Bridge. Costs a pound each way, we paid one way and parked so we could experience it in the car and on foot.

An amazing structure and a testament to the price paid by many in its making. It’s a great shame its creator Isambard Kingdom Brunel never lived to see it finished.

Before we knew it the day came to an end, why is it holidays go so fast, maddening to say the least.

Tuesday arrived and off to Bristol Museum. Free to enter, but donations welcome, most seemed to be around the 5 mark. Absolutely love museums, so many lives lived, stories to tell and history to be seen. The draw on this occasion was an original gypsy caravan kitted out in its original interior. Cast iron hob and fireplace, beds and storage, must have been very heavy to pull and a very different way of life.

After a few hours of immersing ourselves in the past we moved onto Bristol Cathedral, again free to enter. Beautiful architecture and so peaceful, a wonderful place to stop for a few minutes and collect your thoughts, you have to look up too, you don’t know what your missing, there’s more than you think up there.

Our last evening arrived and it was the perfect opportunity to use our discount voucher at the Red Lion, table was booked for 6.30 so off we went. Once through the door all heads turned and it went quiet, we had the distinct feeling we’d interrupted something but no matter, in we went and up to the bar to order a pint of Sharps doom bar and Gem. Conversation soon struck up again between the locals and we sat ourselves down in the bar area to enjoy our pre dinner drinks. More people began to stream through the door and it became quite clear it was the locals local, everyone new everyone, it was great to see such a close community.

Meal time approached so we moved to a table near the fireplace and ordered. The menu was limited but we always see this as a good thing, you just know its freshly made and not chucked in a microwave in order to feed the masses. Pork belly for one and risotto for the other followed by cheesecake with the thinnest base ever seen and a chocolate trifle to die for, good food and great value for money.

A few more pints later we stumbled our way back to Pod, before climbing into bed we checked the weather for the following day, nothing worse than taking down a wet awning, the forecast promised differently but only the morning would tell.

Guess what, it rained, but on a good note the re-waterproofing of the awning we’d done a few weeks earlier had worked a treat, no drips which was excellent.

Due to the rain it took a little longer to pack up, nothing major, we just like to wipe everything down before its packed away. That way next trip is ready to go, see, always planning the next adventure.

Last thing to come down was the awning and low and behold the rain had stopped. So with a dry cloth and due to the reproofing it didn’t take long to get the rain off and the awning packed away.

Now, at this point we were supposed to try and catch one of the site wardens and get them to move Pod to the carpark, we didn’t. Within seconds we had Pod pulled out onto the main path, minutes later she was hitched up and lights checked so we were off. We didn’t do a total runner, conscience got the better of us, once in the carpark an attempt to find a staff member to explain and maybe take a telling off was made but no one was to be found, so we said our goodbyes to the site and hit the road to head home.

Bristol is MrB’s birthplace and somewhere LB would never of thought to visit. It had always been seen as a city just like any other, but how wrong. It would seem no city is the same as any other as they all have a story to tell, some history hidden somewhere, also Bristol was much greener than thought.

So, although wandering through the UKs wonderfully treasured countryside can never be underestimated, the mistake would be not to consider touring cities to find their own hidden gems.

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Awning, Caravan, Caravanning, Church, Glamping, Lakes, Modifications, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking | Leave a comment