Posts for October, 2015


A visit to Balmoral (sort of) (Bridge of Cally, Scotland)

Journal entry for Thursday 1st Oct, 2015 (day 619, miles 18099)

Weather wise today was another glorious autumn day, but I needed a new, non weather related title, and Balmoral Castle provided that. About mid morning we pulled into one of the large parking lots to find only a few other tourists. Unfortunately at this time of year the Queen and family are living at Balmoral and hence it is closed to the public, hence no tourists. One cannot even get a glimpse of the place thanks to high fences and forests. Thats why there is a photo of a post card, thats the only way we could get a pic of the castle itself. The area is very picturesque.

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"Glamis" (St Andrews, Scotland)

Journal entry for Friday 2nd Oct, 2015 (day 831, miles 18152)

Nina has been reading about the life and times of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, that was one of the main reasons we visited The Castle of Mey. Well today it was time for Glamis Castle, the then and still family home of the Bowes Lyon family and the childhood home of the Queen Mother. To say that the grounds and castle were magnificent would be an understatement. And of course that response was only heightened by the bright sunny day. It was interesting to tour around parts of the castle, see that it is still in day to day use as a family home, yet see portraits of past Kings of England and other notables hanging on the wall. Not what I have on the wall of my lounge room. Fascinatingly this castle and estate has been in the hands of this family (with changes to the family name along the way due to marriage) since the 1300s. I cannot imagine how that would change ones attitude to "a family home".

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A wee bit of the Dunhill (St Andrews, Scotland)

Journal entry for Saturday 3rd Oct, 2015 (day 621, miles 18152)

We were a bit amazed this morning to find that the Dunhill Cup is being played on the Old Course and that today entry to the event is FREE. What amazing luck. Needless to say we took advantage of this and spent a number of short sessions watching the game, mostly from the grand stand at the 18th, where incidentally (due to the good weather) we saw numerous birdies.

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Forth of Firth Bridges (Edinburg, Scotland)

Journal entry for Sunday 4th Oct, 2015 (day 622, miles 18202)

It was only a short, and easy, drive today from St Andrews to the Caravan Club camping ground in Edinburgh. Not much to comment about along the way just some rural roads and then motorways. However the Firth of Forth and the bridges that span it were a bit of a surprise. The water way itself (Edinburgh sits on the southern shore) was larger than I had expected. It is currently spanned by a rail bridge and a separate road bridge, both of which are impressively large. However the new bridge that is being constructed looks absolutely enormous.

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A little business in town (Edinburg, Scotland)

Journal entry for Monday 5th Oct, 2015 (day 623, miles 18202)

Today was a pretty typical city day for us. Find the local transport into the city (bus in this case) and figure out how the ticket system works then explore the city area including finding the tourist info center, generally get the lay of the land and do a few boring chores - like new batteries for my multi-meter.

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The Castle, and HMY Britannia (Edinburg, Scotland)

Journal entry for Tuesday 6th Oct, 2015 (day 624, miles 18202)

Our priority this morning was a visit to The Castle, and we were not disappointed. It is certainly an impressive building and helps one appreciate that Scotland has a long history of being more than a piece of Britain. Of course the place was over run with other tourists (not just us). I was surprised to find that American sailors were imprisoned in the Castle during the war of Independence and unlike their counterparts from European countries such as France were not treated as prisoners of war but as pirates.

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Tummy troubles (Jedburgh, Scotland)

Journal entry for Friday 9th Oct, 2015 (day 627, miles 18277)

You have probably never heard of the Scots town of Jedburgh, and in truth until Wed of this week neither had we. We arrived here Wed. Nina was not feeling well so we found the local campground and took a spot thinking that a nights rest would solve her problem (a bit of a tummy issue). However it was not to be. So we have now spent 3 nights here. Visited one of the local the doctors twice, had a visit from the regional nursing service and spent way too much time with the local pharmacist. But Nina's problem seems to be on the mend so tomorrow we will recommence the drive south to the ferry to the Netherlands.

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Ferry bound (Tuxford, England)

Journal entry for Saturday 10th Oct, 2015 (day 628, miles 18479)

The next few days will be traveling days as we head back to Europe by ferry, drop the truck with Erik in the Netherlands and fly to Dublin. So probably nothing worth reading. I will still make entries in the journal as a "matter of record". We made, for us, a big push today traveling over 200 miles and getting to a nice little country side campground just outside Tuxford. As you can see we are back in England.

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Blackwell town (Sudbury, England)

Journal entry for Sunday 11th Oct, 2015 (day 629, miles 18618)

Another days driving brought us to a small campground in the town of Sudbury. Interestingly when we told the manager our name (Blackwell) he pointed out that the town was full of "Blackwells" and rattled off the names of a dozen locals who share our name. This was surprising because in my life time I have only met a very few other "Blackwells".

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Leave the truck with Eric (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

Journal entry for Tuesday 13th Oct, 2015 (day 631, miles 18684)

Yesterday evening we caught the ferry from Harwich to "Hook of Holland", it was entirely uneventful and a comfortable cabin afforded us a good nights sleep. From the ferry we had a drive of a few hours to Erik's house (Erik is the man behind adventure-trucks.com) where we are leaving the truck while we are in Ireland. Thereafter a taxi to a hotel at Eindhoven airport. There were only two surprises in the day. The first was the cold. It was between 3 and 4°C, definitely a sign that winter is on the way. The second was that Arno (Erik's parter in Expedition-Trucks was at Erik's place. We met Arno in Greece in early 2014 after corresponding with him during our 2013 Iran adventure.

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Ireland (Dublin, Ireland)

Journal entry for Friday 16th Oct, 2015 (day 634, miles 18684)

Our Irish experience started with 3 nights in a hotel called Clifton Court, on the river front at the foot of O'Connell Street. We were delighted by the position as it was really in the "center" of things. But it was also a classic "old pub hotel", small rooms, and narrow corridors, but everything worked. Our first evening introduced us to Dublin noise, it seemed that there was a siren or garbage trucks every 5 minutes, we eventually concluded that Dublin is indeed and "active" city and nose was just part of the "active".

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Two lakes (Kilkenny, Ireland)

Journal entry for Saturday 17th Oct, 2015 (day 635, miles 18684)

This morning we picked up our rental car and started the "tour proper". Between GPS devices and cell phones we had no trouble negotiating the freeways around Dublin and then on to some of the narrow country lanes we had been told about. I could tell right from the start that it was going to be a bit of a treat driving a snappy little car on these narrow twisting roads.

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The Butler' mansion (Kilkenny, Ireland)

Journal entry for Sunday 18th Oct, 2015 (day 636, miles 18684)

After a nice hot shower and the included breakfast we walked into the center of Kilkenny to visit their famous castle. Today the castle is almost fully restored to a fine presentation of a Victorian country mansion. The place was owned by the Butler family for about 900 years (though the family had various names through the period) but they abandoned the place in the 1930s and it sat and decayed until locals started an effort in the 1960s to restore it. It is a very interesting peek into how a wealthy Victorian family lived. Today the castle has only 3 of its original 4 walls standing as the 4th south wall was destroyed by Cromwell's army while he was suppressing the Irish uprising in 1650.

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Castle on a rock (Kilkenny, Ireland)

Journal entry for Monday 19th Oct, 2015 (day 637, miles 18684)

Today another castle, this one though in ruin and not being restored but only stabilized. It was a short drive from Kilkenny to Cachel where there is a huge (even in ruin) 11th century castle sitting on a rock outcropping above the town. We had a quite informative tour from a local guide and learned more of the history of who did what in the castle and cathedral than I can possibly remember. Various Kings, lords and bishops built and added bits over the years and then in the 1700s the local bishop decided to abandon the cathedral in favor of a new Cathedral he had commissioned built "down in the town".

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Kennedy's homestead (Waterford, Ireland)

Journal entry for Tuesday 20th Oct, 2015 (day 638, miles 18684)

I found out this morning that Nina "really likes" stone bridges and still water. A bit of a surprise really as you would think there was nothing new to find out after all the years we have been together. But there you are, that explains the bridge photos.

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Crystal and Vikings (Waterford, Ireland)

Journal entry for Wednesday 21st Oct, 2015 (day 639, miles 18684)

We spent the day getting infused with the history and "claim to fame" of the town of Waterford. Waterford Crystal was the starting point. The town has long been famous for the cut crystal creations that originated here. But the financial crisis of 2008 put the Waterford Crystal company out of business. Fortunately it has since been resurrected, but on a smaller scale, so that cut crystal creations are still emerging from Waterford. We got an up close look at the process during a tour of the small production facility right in the heart of the town. I would rate the tour highly as it is technically very interesting.

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Titanic Experience (Kinsale, Ireland)

Journal entry for Thursday 22nd Oct, 2015 (day 640, miles 18684)

Todays destination was the town of Kinsale, but along the way we stopped at Cobh (also perplexingly known as Queenstown) to visit the Titanic Experience. We found Cobh to be a quaint/cute little harbor town, with an amazingly magnificent cathedral overlooking the harbor.

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Dampier, Spanish strategy (Kinsale, Ireland)

Journal entry for Friday 23rd Oct, 2015 (day 641, miles 18684)

I spent today lounging on the bed in our room trying to get over the cold I recently contracted while Nina went touring and exploring around the sights of Kinsale. Now this does not mean that I learned nothing of the history or "claim to fame" of Kinsale as after her day of exploring Nina was only too keen to give me a "blow by blow" narrative. The two big things from the day were William Dampier and the Battle of Kinsale, that took place on Christmas even 1601.

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Mizen Head (Goleen, Ireland)

Journal entry for Saturday 24th Oct, 2015 (day 642, miles 18684)

Today we were off to Mizen Head (or there about), the most south westerly point in Ireland. We followed The Wild Atlantic Route, a series of narrow picturesque coastal roads (maybe lanes would be a better description). As promised the scenery was really quite good, ocean, beaches, farmland and all with some bright sun(with a little rain tossed in to make us feel at home). At one of the beaches we passed we were more than a little surprised to see a surfing school operating with as may as a dozen students rugged up in full wet suits (including hoods and gloves) trying to stand on their boards in a 2 foot surf.

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Winter wood shed (Goleen, Ireland)

Journal entry for Sunday 25th Oct, 2015 (day 643, miles 18684)

We spent the day in Goleen a somewhat windswept little place, really a modest seaside fishing village that has not tarted itself up for tourists very much at all. We spent the day watching the large tidal changes along the shore, walking around the village and generally relaxing. To my mind the highlight of the day was discovering that the derelict truck on a corner in the main street was being used to store firewood. I guess it is the nature of people in "remote" places that they "let no resource go unused".

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Sheep and goats (Glengarriff, Ireland)

Journal entry for Monday 26th Oct, 2015 (day 644, miles 18684)

Today we started our trek up the west coast of Ireland. For those that don't know (like me before I got here) the west coast is composed of a series of peninsulas (or maybe old fjords), but any way pieces of land that jut out like fingers into the North Atlantic. These happen to be some of the scenic highlights of Ireland and today we proceeded North from our "most South Westerly" spot to the first of these "fingers" called the Sheep's Head Peninsula

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Green tunnels and a big hole in the ground (Glengarrif, Ireland)

Journal entry for Tuesday 27th Oct, 2015 (day 645, miles 18684)

The Ring of Beara was todays mission, a route that traces the coastline of the Beara Peninsula. We set off in overcast weather with periodic showers but by the end of the day the sun was out and shinning brightly. The Irish countryside really looks picturesque in the sun.

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Priests Leap (Glengarrif, Ireland)

Journal entry for Wednesday 28th Oct, 2015 (day 646, miles 18684)

The weather was not so kind to us today and as a result we had a somewhat wet and windy drive over a local mountain pass called Priests Leap> Local legend has it the the name derives from an episode in which a priest leaped from the pass to avoid capture. More factually though there are records of this name going back to 1600. The name "Priests's Lepp" is to be found in the Desmond Survey map of Glanerought barony, compiled around 1600.

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Beare repeat (Kenmare, Ireland)

Journal entry for Thursday 29th Oct, 2015 (day 858, miles 18684)

The sun was out this morning so we decided to do a repeat of the loop around the Beare Peninsula (it is a sign of how small Ireland is that we can decide on the spur of the moment to repeat a whole days drive). So todays photos are also a bit of a repeat, but in better light. However the sun did not last and by the time our loop was over and we were headed into Kenmare, where we would spend the night the rain was back.

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Dear oh deer (Portmagee, Ireland)

Journal entry for Friday 30th Oct, 2015 (day 648, miles 18684)

It was pi...ng down rain this morning as we set out towards Kilarney, Kilarney National Park and an attraction called Muckross House. The house is famous as a place where Queen Victoria spent two nights as the guests of the Herbert family during her 1849 visit to Ireland. The Herberts apparently spent 6 years preparing for that visit and commissioned all kinds of upgrades and decorations to the house. As a result of the expense (and other poor financial decisions) the family eventually went bankrupt and had to sell the house. One of the decorative features of the house are a large collection of deer heads (some stuffed and some just skeletons) displayed on the walls of many of the rooms. During the tour we learned that deer are now rare in Ireland and there is only one herd of red deer remaining in the country. They number about 800 and reside in the woods around Muckross House. Well we nearly had the misfortune to tell the guide that there were now only 799 as just before we arrived at the house a large red deer buck bounded across the road no more than 6 feet in front of our speeding car. We came within a few seconds of having a large lump of venison in the front seat with us.

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Skellig (Portmagee, Ireland)

Journal entry for Saturday 31st Oct, 2015 (day 649, miles 18684)

So what in the hell is skellig. That is what I was wondering last night after checking in at our B&B in Portmagee. The wifi password was skelligs, every second business in town had the word skellig in it's name and the major local attraction was Skellig Micheal. I did not find the answer to that question until we visited (you guessed it) The Skellig Experience building this morning, where one of the attendants told me (that many tourists ask that question). "skellig" means "rock". Skellig Micheal is one of two nearby rocky precipitous islands that in the years before 1000AD was the home to a community of early christian monks who carved a life on the steep cliffs of the island. We did not get to visit the island (too late in the year and in any case tours of the island are being scaled back to protect the ruins). But we did get a sense of the amazing achievement of those early christians builders. No photos - so follow the link above to get some sense of the place.

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