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Ireland 2018 - Across to the East Coast then Home

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Across to the East Coast then Home

With just six days left before our ferry crossing it was now time to head east so we drove on good minor roads to Corofin and the attractive town centre of Gort, then through low forested hills to Portumna, a popular boating spot on the Shannon at the head of Lough Derg. We reached Birr for lunch and had a stroll around the centre with a large castle behind high walls and some attractive tree lined Georgian streets. Continuing east we drove through Kinnitty where the map showed a pyramid apparently ten metres high in the churchyard but we didn't find it. Skirting the Slieve Bloom Mountains, popular for motor trials, mountain biking and hiking, we reached Tullamore, passing the famous Tullamore DEW Irish whiskey distillery, and continued further north for a night stop at a campsite by Lough Ennell.

Birr terraces
Birr town centre 
Birr town centre
Lough Ennell
     Lough Ennell evening

As it was rather drizzly we pushed on to the large and busy town of Drogheda then on to the coast near Termonfeckin where we filled up with diesel - and picked up a leaflet to win a house in a raffle! Taking the coast road alongside a bleak empty beach we reached Annagassan where a few motorhomes were parked on the quayside, but decided to continue north bypassing Dundalk to reach Carlingford, and pulled in to the private aire at the marina. As it was now sunny again and we were parked by the greenway overlooking the lough, we decided to stay for a second night.

Carlingford leprachaun
Carlingford Leprachaun

The next morning was sunny and warm so we walked into the centre of Carlingford which had several castle ruins and bars. Apparently it's a popular town for hen and stag parties. We had a look at the Fairy and Leprechaun park before returning to the van for lunch. In the afternoon we explored the greenway cycle path which runs for several miles beside the lough with fine views across to the Mourne Mountains. In the evening another Weinsberg Caracompact motorhome turned up at the aire. It was a rental van from a dealer based in Belfast and we compared notes on merits of our van.

Leaving Carlingford there are no bridges across the lough until Newry, although there is a recently resumed car ferry across the mouth of the lough at Greenore. We drove around to Warrenpoint and Rostrevor, taking the road over the Mourne Mountains to Hilltown then up into the hills to the Spelga and Silent Valley reservoirs and down to the coast at Newcastle, a small seaside resort, for a walk along the modern promenade. The car parks at nearby Murlough Nature reserve had height barriers so we drove on beside the coast to take a very narrow lane to St Johns Point with its distinctive yellow and black lighthouse.

St Johns lighthouse
St John's lighthouse

Continuing through Ardglass where there was an aire (with a height barrier?) we decided to head for the Delamont Country Park overlooking Strangford Lough, and stayed at the C&CC campsite for the night.

We called in to Rowallane Gardens (NT) the next morning then across the countryside covered in small rounded hills, known as Drumlins and formed in the last ice age, to the towns of Ballynahinch, a Protestant town with union flags everywhere, and on to Banbridge where we visited the modern F E McWilliams art gallery and sculpture park. After a pleasant hour or so we drove through Tandragee, famous for its Tayto Castle potato crisp factory, which can be visited at certain times, and on to a Camping Club weekend meet at Loughgall Country Park.

For our last day before catching the ferry at Belfast we drove through Portadown, a strongly divided town where they were building massive piles of pallets ready for the annual July bonfires. We headed for the Oxford Island Nature Reserve and Discovery Centre on the southern shore of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the UK covering 151 square miles, for a pleasant afternoon in the warm sunshine.

We discovered many towns both in the north and south had the familiar Irish expression "Safe Home" on signs on their boundaries.

   Carlingford gateway
Carlingford gateway

Carlingford bar
Carlingford bar

Carlingford marina
  Carlingford Lough

Newcastle promenade
Newcastle promenade

Strangford Lough
Strangford Lough

Banbridge - F E McWilliams art gallery
F E McWilliams Art Gallery Banbridge

Safe Home sign

For our last night we stayed near the village of Aghadee, at one of the few C&MC Certificated Locations in Northern Ireland before the 25 mile drive to Belfast to catch the 10.30 ferry to Liverpool. We watched it leaving as we approached the terminal! After several phone calls we discovered that Stena had brought the sailing time forward due to technical problems but they didn't have our email or mobile number. We had booked through the Camping Club but (due to data protection rules?) our contact details hadn't been passed on with the booking. Luckily we were able to get on the Cairnryan sailing which left at 11.30 but had a long drive home so stayed overnight at the Englethwaite Hall C&MC Club site to break the journey. (We did get a refund on the fares.)

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