The Best of Ireland
Mike and Judy Henderson
May 26 - June 8, 2018
I'm going to leave the map at the beginning of each web page so you have a reference as to where we are.
5/29/2018 (Tuesday) We drive to the northern part of Ireland today to see Dunluce Castle and the Giant's Causeway. We left the hotel about 9:30 and drove towards Bushmills, which, incidentally, is where Bushmills whiskey is distilled.
On the way, we stopped at Carnlough for a potty break and a look at the harbor.
Judy and I at the dock area with the Irish flag showing between us.
A little further down the road we could view Dunluce Castle from a distance. I was able to get a couple of pictures with my zoom lens. There were people in the ruins, but we did not go in.
By then it was lunch time, and we went to Bushmills Inn. It was a quick, fixed menu lunch.
After lunch we headed to the Giant's Causeway.
Our tour director made it sound like the path down to the Giant's Causeway was very steep, but it's actually a very easy road, maybe a half mile in length.
Here was one of our first views of the causeway area. It's columnar basalt. See here for more information on its formation. Judy and I had visited Devils Postpile in California so the formations were familiar to us.
Here's a closer look at some of the basalt.
The hill further along the shore shows more of the basalt. There's a trail that leads up to the top of that hill, but we did not have time to hike it.
And, just to prove we were there, here's a picture of Judy in front of some of the basalt.
Then the bus headed back to Belfast. It was still fairly early so Judy and I went for a walk. We crossed the river at a bridge that had this artistic woman reaching for the opposite shore.
And then we crossed back on the Lagan Weir Bridge. The Lagan is the river flowing through Belfast, and the weir is designed to keep the level of the river behind the weir at a constant level, independent of the tide. The river has a tidal zone that extends fairly far inland and when the tide was out, the mud flats were exposed and they were smelly. The weir solved that problem.
This close up of one of the gates shows that it is raised when the tide is out. The flow over the gates is the normal river flow.
We walked further along the river and then returned via a different route. We passed the Albert Memorial Clock Tower and took the obligatory Belfast picture. Due to an engineering error in the foundation, the tower is now leaning in the direction of the river. I understand they have taken actions to mitigate the settling and the tower is now stabilized, but still leaning.
Then we went to a little restaurant for dinner, down an alley near our hotel, Muriel's. And that concluded our day in Belfast.
5/30/2018 (Wednesday) We head to Derry this morning, followed by Lough Erne where we will spend the night.
We had breakfast in the Merchant Hotel. Here are Bob and Barbara at breakfast. I told Bob I'd put him in the blog because he often asks me about it.
We drove through some beautiful green country on the way to Derry.
At Derry we had a bus tour with a local guide. Derry is predominately Catholic and we saw a number of murals that were in support of the Republican cause. The area is called Bogside.
This mural depicts Bloody Sunday, 1972, when British solders shot twenty-eight unarmed Catholics, fourteen of whom died, who were part of a march for civil rights. The man being carried is 17 year old Jackie Duddy, who later died.
Here's a mural of Annette McGagivan, a 14 year old girl who was killed in the crossfire during a firefight between British soldiers and the IRA. She was the 100th person to die in the Troubles and the first child.
After leaving Bogside we went to the old city of Derry, which was walled. Here's a map of the old city.
We took a walk up on the walls.
Looking down at the city, with Bogside in the center of the picture. You can just make out that there are murals on some of the buildings.
There are a couple of churches in the old city. This one is St. Augustine's.
And First Derry Presbyterian Church.
Then we had lunch at Claude's. That's Claude, third from left, talking with Michael and David.
The bus was parked at the Derry Guildhall.
But before we boarded the bus we walked across the Peace Bridge, which is very nearby.
Here I am on the Peace Bridge. Judy said her hair was too windblown and wouldn't let me take her picture.
The guide told us that only 7% of students go to "integrated" schools, that is, schools which are not all Protestant or all Catholic. There still seems to be a lot of sectarian segregation, but from an outsider's view, the problem is not religious but political. The Catholics (generally) want a unified Ireland while the Protestants want union with England, and no amount of integrated schooling is going to solve that problem.
After leaving Derry we went to the Ulster-American Folk Park. It was created by the Andrew Mellon family, and tells the story of the emigration of the Irish from Northern Ireland to the United States.
Associated with the Folk Park is the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, a library and resource center for tracing families who migrated to America and other countries.
Here's Judy at the entrance to the center.
There were a lot of exhibits, but I'll only show a couple. This is a typical Irish house that someone might have lived in prior to emigrating.
And a blacksmith's forge.
We went to the Mellon Center for Migration Studies to pick up some literature on sources for researching ancestry information.
After this, we headed to the resort of Lough Erne, a few miles outside of Enniskillen. It's a generally nice place but the rooms do not have air conditioning. Made for an uncomfortable night.
We had dinner with Bob and Barbara but I didn't take any pictures, but here's a view of the sunset from our window.
5/31/2018 (Thursday) When we were reviewing this tour before signing up, Judy noticed that we were staying at Lough Erne and they had a championship golf course. I contacted them and made a golf reservation for today.
But the morning was cloudy, with light rain. We showed up for our 9am tee-time anyway and headed out on the course. We rented clubs for each of us. Here Judy is getting information from a pro shop employee on where to find the first tee. Note the cover over the clubs. The golf carts in Ireland are known as "buggies". Right now, it's not raining.
As we headed out to the first tee the rain started to pickup - not hard but definitely heavier. On the way to the first tee there was a statue of Nick Faldo, and Judy held his hand for luck.
I asked Nick for luck, also. It was not raining real hard at this point. I have a rain hat and hadn't switched to it yet (I was to switch to it soon:-).
By the time we got to the first tee, it was raining pretty hard. The way the course is laid out, the first five holes are on one side of the resort so you return to the resort and cross to the other side to get to the 6th hole. We decided to play the first five holes in the rain and see if it would stop by the time we finished the 5th hole.
Here's Judy on the first tee. You can't see the rain but it was coming down fairly heavily by then. We both had good rain jackets, but not pants.
Here's the front of the buggy to give some indication of the rain.
When we finished the fifth hole, our pants and shoes were soaked so we went back to the pro shop and told them we'd come back about noon. They didn't have many people signed up to play so they readily agreed.
By noon the rain was just about finished, so we picked up on the 6th hole. Here I am in the buggy on the 6th hole.
Here's Judy on the Lough Erne signature hole (the one they use in their advertising), the 10th. It's a challenging hole. It's easy to land in the water. I went for it from the tee and missed the green - went too long, but it was a great drive anyway, and worth a try. Note that we had taken off our rain jackets.
For the golfers reading this, here's the layout of the 10th hole.
I don't remember which hole this was, but here's a view from the tee-box to the green on one of the holes. It's a beautiful but challenging course. There were very few people on the course so it was extra nice for us. We could take our time and enjoy being on the course.
Another couple on the tour, John and Bonnie, who were playing behind us, said that on the 16th hole a fox came out to greet them. We had been warned before starting "Don't feed the foxes" because they can become a nuisance - but we didn't see any. But here's one of the foxes. (Pictures by Bonnie Booker, used with permission).
They said the fox was not afraid of them but actually came towards them, probably looking for a handout. Isn't he a cutie?
After we finished the round, we had to return our buggy.
It was a good day.
Our adventure continues here.