We have some friends in Northern Ireland and some friends currently in Dublin, so decided to take the car over on the ferry and spend a couple of weeks in Ireland. We travelled on a Friday with P&O ferries from Cairnryan to Larne, the drive to Cairnryan from Edinburgh took about 3 hours. The ferry journey was 2 hours, then only a short journey from Larne to Broughshane, which is a wee bit north of Belfast.
So we stayed with Dianne and Toby on the Friday night in Broughshane, the next morning they set us up for the day with a huge breakfast. This fuelled us up for a 6-hour drive to Galway, to the village of Roundstone, where we had booked The Lime House for a week. The last couple of hours of this 6-hour drive had the best scenery: we drove through Westport which looks like it would be a great place to spend some time, along the edge of a fjord at Killary Harbour, and on into Connemara National Park through Leenane.
Our only stop in the journey was at Clifden, just short of Roundstone, to by some provisions. We found The Lime House in Roundstone easily enough as it’s right on the road in and Roundstone is not a big village. The house is 3-bedroom so plenty of space but well-priced being off-season. It was comfortable and pretty well kitted out, with nice views down to the Atlantic coast.
The weather was pretty variable during our week in Roundstone, some days where wet and windy, including Sunday – St. Patrick’s Day (or locally, Paddy’s Day) – when we braved the wind and rain to watch the village procession, which included 2 popes, one in a “Craggy Island” setting (see Father Ted).
The best day was Tuesday, we drove to Clifden from where we did a 16km circular walk on the Sky Road circuit, see a map of the walk. One of the other days we drove to Kylemore Abbey and had a walk round the gardens and a look inside the main building and the chapel. Originally a private castle built in the late 19th C, the building and grounds were purchased by Benedictine nuns fleeing from Belgium in 1920. It’s quite a grand place, the original owner had become rich from textile manufacturing in Manchester. On another day we spent a day wandering round the shops in Clifden, having driven from Roundstone to Clifden on “the bog road“. Otherwise we just hung around in Roundstone: we visited the nearby smokehouse for some smoked salmon, and we kept an eye on the film crew filming an episode of a local (Gaelic) drama in and around town.
At the end of our week in Roundstone we drove to Dublin (about 3 hours mostly on motorway) where we stayed with Angela and Paddy (and Sachin) for a few days. It was desperately cold in Dublin, on the Sunday we all went for a walk around Glendalough followed by a great lunch at Avoca. On another day the two of us caught the tram into the middle of town for a wander round, still bitterly cold. During our time in Dublin, Morag and Sachin did a lot of bonding.
During our time in Roundstone and Dublin, there had been some pretty substantial blizzards in the west of Scotland and the North-East of Ireland, we had been very lucky to miss them all. Many roads that we had travelled on had become impassable after we’d passed-through. Many homes in County Antrim (where Broughshane is located) had been without power for a couple of days.
After a few days in Dublin we headed back north of Belfast to Broughshane with some concern about what the roads would be like. As it happened, all the roads we wanted to travel on were OK. Dianne and Toby did take us out driving one day, onto minor roads where we drove between mounds of snow 6 feet high on both sides of the road. That day’s drive included a short section of the coastal road north of Larne, which is one of the best drives in the UK.
On another day we drove to Ballymena railway station where we did a return journey to Londonderry, so that we could try-out the newly opened Coleraine to Derry section, supposedly one of the most scenic rail journey in the UK (it was good, but we didn’t think it was quite that good).
We were incredibly lucky with the weather on our holiday. We were forced to spend a few days indoors but on the other hand we missed the heavy snow and blizzards that caused chaos around the areas we were passing through. all-in all it was a great holiday. Fantastic to see some more of Ireland, the Connemara area is beautiful, a bit like the Scottish highlands in miniature, and the coast of Northern Ireland has fantastic scenery.