Sunday, July 27, 2008

Trips on the drawing board

Next weekend we will be tripping around the west coast of Ireland with our tent for four nights. The joys of hubby working pt and having a flexible boss! I've been trying to check out camping grounds as we've never camped in Ireland before despite living here for the past 11 years. We haven't even been down that coast either. Anything linked to the caravan club charge upward of Euro 24 per night for a pitch but I've managed to find some modest but adequate sites between 6-10 Euro - much more sporting.
We hope to visit Castle Coole in Enniskillen - I really do intend making the most of this NT membership, Drumcliff Celtic cross in Sligo (birthplace of W.B. Yeats), Connemara National Park, The Burren and Cliffs of Mohr which will take us down as far as County Clare. I'd like to visit the lakes in Killarny but time does not permit.
We will be trialling our new tent which we hope, current non existent budget permitting, to take to Europe in September.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Around Ireland - Mount Stewart

Monday it was dry so we decided to head to County Down for the day. Hubby is off Monday's and usually takes Miss T for therapy but things have been closed for the July holidays.

First off we visited the Ark Open Farm. They are now taking Tesco Days Out coupons so I paid with them which was very handy indeed. Every quarter, the points you accumulate are converted into shopping coupons. If you chose not to spend them in store, you can quadruple their value for travel, dining or days out - so £2.50 becomes £10.00. Earlier on in the month we went to the Ice Bowl and the kids did bowling, skating and romped in Indiana Land - all paid for with my coupons. Makes it easier to shop there, although I'd rather support a local organic farmer's market - if we had one.

After we'd seen the animals, fed the lamb, stroked the chicks and played in the park, we went for a walk through the grounds of Mount Stewart - another National Trust Property. I thought it would be best not to drag the little ones through the actual house as we can only fit Gracie's chair into the car which left our 2 year old on foot and bubs in a sling.

Lakeside walk with Temple in the background

We love walking through gardens and the lakeside one was stunning. Dotted throughout were a lot of New Zealand natives - ponga ferns, club palms and the pohutukawa to name but a few. Very nostalgic. I was surprised that they were suited to our climate.

club palm

Ponga Ferns

Pohutukawa or 'New Zealand Christmas tree' is found in the North Island of New Zealand around the coastal areas. It blooms from November to January but peaks mid December, hence the nickname. One year we visited the Coromandel in the North Island and they were putting on a fine display.
Cj and I walked through the formal gardens en route to the car which very pretty too.

As usual, I took way too many photos but seeings I like flowers, I'll put yet another slide show on my blog! As sole author, I reserve the right to bore my readers with whatever takes my fancy.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Around Ireland

If the housing market picks up and we get our house sold, this summer could well be our last one in these parts. So, we plan to make the most of it and take day trips all over ... that's if it stops raining long enough!

I joined the National Trust so hope to check out all their properties and visit the beaches and Giant's Causeway on the north coast. Further afield we may drive south to Kerry and Clare, taking the tent with us. In saying that, the cost of diesel is crazy here - over £1.33 (roughly $2.70 ish US) per litre and set to rise.

So watch this space ... weather and fuel prices permitting of course.

A couple of weeks ago the kids and I took a walk around Ardress House which is near our home in County Armagh.

Believe it or not, this used to be a farmhouse. I think the owners must have had delusions of grandeur or something, as it has been extended in all directions in neoclassical fashion. Note fake wing at front. No European bureaucratic rubbish in these days. We can't even convert our roofspace without having to almost rebuild the entire house.

There is a fantastic old cobbled farm yard to the rear, complete with chickens and a couple of peacocks which EJ thought were amazing although they took one look at him and fled. Mustn't have fancied being rugby tackled by an over enthusiastic two year old. The out buildings are unpretentious and date from around the 1850's. The equipment is simple and built to last. I reckon that I could have lived back then :)

Next week we hope to make the most of our membership and call in on the Argory (another NT property) which is a couple of miles further up the road from this one. Armagh is known as Orchard County due to the milder climate and fruit produce and dotted all around the countryside are large houses and estates like this one. Makes our teeny wee house feel like a garden shed!