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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.