Retracing footsteps of Giants
WE continue the Tweed Valley Travellers account of a tour of the UK by Jill and Denis Hallworth.
“From Stanraer in Scotland, we boarded one of the largest fast ferries in the world and after only two hours we arrived in Belfast, then headed toward the coast of Northern Ireland to the Giant’s Causeway.
“Some energetic people walked while others took small buses to reach the rocks.
“At Derry a man waiting at the restaurant heard our Aussie accents. He said he had a brother in Melbourne.
“We later discovered he was John Hume, a former Irish politician, founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and recipient of the 1988 Nobel Peace prize, Ghandi Peace Prize and Martin Luther King award, the only recipient of the three major peace awards.
“Our guide next day was a curious mixture of Irish and Chinese parents – a Buddhist talking about the Catholic-Protestant Troubles.
“We saw evidence of bullets having hit the buildings, heard of the sadness of the people and saw the series of 12 Bogside murals, which are the most prominent political murals in the world. Many buildings in Derry were vacant and most shops have steel shutters. Despite the peace agreement it is still not a happy place.
“Entering the Republic of Ireland we passed through Killibegs, a seaside village with a large fleet of ocean-going trawlers, through Donegal to Belleek Pottery, noted for the fine woven style of pottery. We saw the factory and firing kilns, the artists where flower decorations are made petal by petal.
“At Sligo Country Club, not far from Carrowmore Cemetery, is the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland spread over 3.8 sq km in the shadow of Knocknarea and located on a low-lying gravel ridge. Each monument stands on its own little eminence.
“Academic vandalism and modern gravel quarrying have left only about 65 sites. Dominating the district is a huge cairn on the top of Knocknarea some 40,000 tons of rock known as Misguan Maeve, 10m high and 55m across at the base.
“There was scenic countryside on the way to Kylemore Abbey built as a hunting lodge in 1871 now the home of Irish Benedictine Nuns.
“At Moycullen the Connemara marble factory was popular with the ladies as special qualities make it suitable for jewellery.
“The Burren area is a strange rocky region only useable where rocks are not at the surface.
“Bunratty Castle and Folk Park located in 26 acres where the castle houses exquisite 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries and works of art.
“Rural and urban life in 19th Century Ireland is recreated in the park and visitors witness the lifestyles of the poorest subsistence farmers to that of the gentry classes.
“There is a full Boeing 385 aircraft housed at the Flying Boat Museum at Foynes.
“At the Ring of Kerry (or Iveraugh Peninsula) the spectacular beauty is beyond question. No wonder the mystical and unspoilt region has attracted visitors for hundreds of years. Scenery includes pretty coves, rough hillsides, and steep mountains.
“At Blarney Castle some of the group kissed the Blarney Stone, not an easy feat.
“Cork City has the second deepest harbour to Sydney and was the last port of call for the Titanic.
“Waterford is a city of pretty streets, mix of old and new. But since Waterford Crystal has been affected by the financial difficulty, a town with some problems. We could purchase items, but this may not continue much longer.
“On the way to Dublin we stopped at the Irish National Stud where we saw the impressive care and security of stallions, mares and foals. Many winners of the Melbourne Cup were born here.
“We were in Dublin for the All Ireland Hurling Championship final between Kilkenny and Tipperary and saw the game on TV.
“This is a lovely city with many Georgian buildings protected against redevelopment.
“We visited Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains, a fascinating monastic settlement with ruins including churches, graceful round tower and sites associated with the life of St Kevin.
“Back in Dublin the Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript in Latin containing the four Gospel of the New Testament with various prefatory texts and tables. It was transcribed by Celtic monks 800AD, a masterwork of calligraphy and represents the pinnacle of insular illumination, widely regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure.
“We also explored the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park, Brazen Head pub (Ireland’s oldest pub dating to 1198), Guinness brewery founded in 1759 by Arthur Guiness and St Patrick Cathedral.
“We finished our visit to Dublin with a night out at Taylor Irish Pub, great food and fun.”
Next week it is on to Wales.