Central Ireland Sights

After Dublin, we headed west across Ireland’s interior and came across some amazing sites.

Bru Na Boinne – these massive, grass covered mounds with interesting stone inscriptions were mysterious and thought-provoking. We were told that they are 5000 years old.  We were allowed inside one of them and it was amazing.  Although these ancient people only used simple tools of wood and stone, the expertise they showed in architecture, engineering, art, and astronomy is beyond belief.  It is not known exactly who or how these structures were built. Dating about 3200 B.C., these mounds were built about 1000 years before Stonehenge and 600 years before the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt! The hill at Newgrange is 250 feet across and 40 feet high. It’s almost unbelievable that five-ton rocks were brought 12.5 miles, rolled up a hill to make this structure that weighs 200,000 tones total, and it still stands,waterproof and complete to this day.


All the mounds were used as possible burial chambers,  the larger ones as possible ceremonial places of worship as well as being utilized for storage and hiding places when necessary..


They have recorded 40 mounds in total ,covering an area of almost 2000 acres


Entrance to

Entrance to the Knowth Mound.  The most interesting aspect is that during the winter solstice sunrise, the sunlight shines directly in the front door, down the entrance hall and onto the alter in the center in the mound

Trim Castle – this hauntingly beautiful castle ruin is the biggest Norman castle in Ireland. It was completed in 1220 and was meant as a powerful reminder to the Irish natives of the power of the Norman domination.

Interior of Trim Castle

Interior of Trim Castle

Trim Castle was once used as backdrop for the movie Braveheart

Trim Castle was once used as backdrop for the movie Braveheart.


Clonmacnoise – This impressive site contained seven churches varying in date from the 10th century to the 17th century. It is the home of a beautiful High Cross; the ringed head was carved from one piece of sandstone around 900 A.D.  The cross stands 13 feet high and is ornately carved. There were many grave-slabs with different inscriptions and different forms of crosses. The largest church on site, the cathedral, was originally built in 909, and was greatly embellished in the 1400’s. with vaulted ceilings and carved archways. One of the archways over the doorways was especially beautifully carved with three saints: Dominic, Patrick, and Francis.

Aerial photo (from Google images) to better appreciate the size and structures.. Notice the   two towers.  The one in the foreground was  struck by lightning. We were told that the monks took that as a sign from God that they needed to keep the height of their towers  to shorter heights;.  they then used the fallen bricks to construct the second tower.

Carved grave stones

Carved grave stones

Center of one of the 7 alters/churches.

Center of one of the 7 alters/churches.

One of 4 large markers that have been moved inside and replicas put in their place out side

One of 4 large markers that have been moved inside and replicas put in their place outside to protect the originals from the elements.  (see photo section for additional pictures)


Off to Ireland

After our drive around the Scottish Highlands, we headed west in the direction of Ireland.  Taking the two hour ferry ride from Cairnryan to Larne, we directed our efforts to reaching Dublin.  Once in Dublin, we setup camp on the outskirts of town and used our camping spot for a home-base for four days in order to see all the city has to offer.

Dublin home base

Dublin home base

Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, has reminders of its moving history on every corner, from its dramatic statues to the names of the streets and squares Dublin remembers its fallen heroes and it’s fight for independence. This city has beautiful early Neoclassical buildings, ubiquitous pubs, lively shopping areas with musicians playing freely, and large grassy parks. It is also home to the  original Guinness brewery and Jameson’s distillery.




Guinness is the cheapest beer in the pub? This is a great country! Guinness plant in the background.

The people of Dublin were especially helpful and generous. We have met a number of locals that are willing to go out of there way to help, give directions, or tell us about their favorite sport – Hurling (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmzivRetelE) or Gaelic Football (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEAbWrdB9XU).  Watch the videos and get an idea of how passionate the Irish are about these two sports.



Famous Temple Bar – Dublin heck their webcam here http://earthcam.com/world/ireland/dublin/?cam=templebar

Trinity College has long been Ireland’s most prestigious college, so it was interesting to learn that it was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I to establish a Protestant hold in the town.  Originally only rich Protestant males were admitted, in 1903 women were allowed to apply as were Catholics.

The mostly Georgian (Neoclassic) architecture was beautiful, and they even had a “Berkeley Library”!  We also enjoyed watching a cricket match on campus in the light rain.


Entrance to Trinity College

Trinity College Plaza

Trinity College Plaza


Even the road to Dublin has to wait for milking time

Pitlochry Walk in the Rain

We arrived on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, stopped by the information office, and from there decided to take one of the many walking paths around this hilly Highland town. We chose the (three miles one way)  Edradour path through the hills. About half way up this largely uphill walk it started it started to rain lightly on us. We were not deterred since we knew that just three miles ahead we’d find a beautiful old distillery in which to get out of the rain, and to enjoy a tour.
Along the way we took a small detour to see “Black Spout” , a wonderful waterfall. As we made our way to the top of the hill, we were surrounded by low rolling hills in every direction    It seemed like there was not another person around for miles (who would be hiking in the rain but us).  Soon we came to a clearing and found the beautiful old distillery. In fact, the Edradour Distillery is one of the few independently owned distilleries left in Scotland. In fact, we also found out that the distillery is closed on Sundays!  It being Sunday, we walked back through the fields to town, getting to repeat our walk on Monday.



Edradour Distillary, Scotland's smallest

Edradour Distillary, Scotland’s smallest

Original stills still in operation.

Original stills being used to this day.


Discovery of Crossraguel Abbey

We happened across one of Scotland’s most complete medieval monasteries. It was founded around 1250 and occupied for about 400 years. It conveyed to us, a sincere sense of peace and spirituality. The craftsmanship of this abbey was impressive as well, with carved stonework decorating each building.

As it was the middle of the week, we wandered alone through the ruins, allowing us a glimpse into what monastic life may have been like.

We entered through the imposing gatehouse and into the cloister, from there we marveled at the still intact chapter house with its incredible vaulted ceiling and canopied chair for the abbot. The windows were impressive with intricately carved Gothic arches. The floor was also carved and inlaid with crosses and designs. We followed along the back gardens to the cookhouse, individual living quarters (each with private latrines), a warming room, and barns.

The church itself still stands to its full height and exudes a sense of respect and spirituality.  The choir was a masterpiece!  The sacristy chamber’s ornamentation gave us a glimpse of the kind of carved stonework that must have once there, but now vanished. This vaulted room had ribs decorated with flowers, animal and human faces.  The windows themselves were inspiring with their ornamentation.

The gate house was still standing and we were able to climb through the dark spiral stone stairwell all the way to the fourth floor and then to the rooftop outlook.

Our visit was definitely awe-inspiring with a new appreciation for the expert craftsmanship of the times, and the complexity of a large medieval religious house.
It is amazing as you think that this was built over 300 years before Columbus even set sail for the Americas.



Sacred ruins overview taken from the roof top of the gatehouse.   Amazing!


The Abbot’s  residence.


The imposing gatehouse


Abbey wall taken from inside the main courtyard. It is amazing that the windows are still intact.


Looking out the window of the chapter house, that included the office of the abbot and is the location where church business was conducted. Amazing stonework still in place.


Watch your step, its a long way down. No wonder the average life expectancy during medieval times was rather short.



Scotland Rural College Visit

While attending the Scottish Royal Highlands Show, Jeanette and I were lucky enough to run into a gentleman by the name of Fraser Wilson. Fraser is an instructor of Agriculture Engineering at the Scotland Royal College (SRUC), and though Fraser would be away on “holiday”, he took time to schedule a tour for us with the agriculture department head, Peter Scott. We started our visit over a cup of coffee, and a discussion of agriculture and agriculture education in our respective countries. We found some similarities, as well as some differences in how each country delivers education.

Scotland does not teach agriculture in their secondary school system; it was removed from the curriculum about fifteen years ago with the desire to move towards a greater emphasis in math, science and English, it is now up to the colleges to provide education in specific disciplines. . The only agriculture experience a student  receives is through their Young Farmers organization which is very similar to the 4H program we have in the states.  At SRUC they provide education in agriculture similar to the community college system in California.  They offer certificates and degrees in agriculture as well as prepare students to enter the university in pursuit of advanced degrees.   After our discussion over coffee we toured the campus, spent time with agriculture mechanics / welding instructors, and ended with lunch in the student dining hall.  Our tour and discussion with Mr. Scott was very informative, and we were able to leave that day with a greater idea of practices, though different than our own, lead to the same goals.




Cattle squeeze chute, or crushes as their called in Scotland, with electronic identification scanning and recording. Europe seems the be very strict in their livestock records and origin.


It seemed odd to me that the horticulture and equine were considered non agriculture and thus considered a different department.


Indoor equine center. There is an equine event in this facility almost every weekend of the entire year.


Equine floor made up of sand and cotton waste. Material gives a spongy feel when walked on. “horse people are very particular about the floor they perform on”

Scottish Royal Highlands

The Scottish Royal Highlands Show (http://royalhighlandshow.org/) is  Scotland’s largest agriculture show, hosting almost 200,000 visitors over the four day event.  Their aim  is to “promote and raise awareness of farming and rural matters to the public”.  It is similar to the California State Fair and the Tulare Farm Show going on at the same time, at the same location.  It is a truly educational experience.

We have also noticed a different attitude towards agriculture in the UK.  The grocery stores have pictures and displays of production agriculture, tractors, and livestock in the field, placed throughout the store.   It’s almost as if the  stores in the U.S. try and hide the fact that the food on the shelves comes from the farm.  In one Scotland store, their meat aisle was decorated with large pictures of cattle in a pasture.  I am not sure how this would go over in the US.

We spoke with several gentlemen from the Scotland Rural College (SRUC)(http://www.sruc.ac.uk/) and they were as interested in U.S. agriculture as we are of theirs.  We talked for over an hour on agriculture issues and practices, and found that we have a lot in common.  Many of our issues are similar to theirs.  Land usage, environmental concerns and regulation,s and water were all similar topics of discussion, though their water issues were problems with drainage, and too much water.  We set up tours at two of their campuses next week,and are looking forward to it.


Highland cattle were second in the native breeds show.

Highland cattle were second to the Angus cattle in the native breeds show .


Native breeds cattle show.

Native breeds cattle show.


Farrier contest.  They were timed making large Clydesdale horse shoes.  They had to make 2 shoes from a piece of 1 " x  2" flat bar in 30 minutes. and were judged on quality.  Truly an art

Farrier contest. They were timed making large Clydesdale horse shoes. They had to make two shoes from a piece of 1 “x 2” flat bar in 30 minutes. They were then judged on quality. Truly an art.


Sheep Dip!

Sheep Dip!



Horses, cattle (both dairy and beef), sheep and goats, but no pigs?

Horses, cattle (both dairy and beef), sheep, and goats, but no pigs?



A 40 feet wide combine on display.  . We learned that Scottish farmers are often in a “ring” where they  join together to hire and train  labor, buy equipment and supplies to share.  The “ring” matches a shortage of machinery and labor capacity on some farms with a surplus on other farms.




Edinburgh castle is an 11th century hilltop fort complete with cannons, interesting history, the Scottish Crown Jewels , as well as the official Stone of Destiny. We enjoyed a lively exchange with our tour guide who enthusiastically shared Scottish history with us. We learned more about William Wallace (on whom the movie Braveheart is based), and Mary,  Queen of Scots, who became queen of Scotland at six days after her birth.  Edinburgh is a large bustling city that is the cultural and historical capital of Scotland.  We enjoyed great weather, a wonderful campground, with a gracious hostess.

Edinburgh Castle from city below

Edinburgh Castle from city below


Edinburgh Abbey

Edinburgh Abbey


Steve and Jeanette's Castle

Steve and Jeanette’s Castle




We enjoyed a few days in Bath. We were the typical tourists, taking in the sights, touring the Roman Baths, eating lunch by the abbey and shopping. We enjoyed this historical city very much.  We met  a motorcyclist from the states (Virginia) by the name of Brian.  The campground was full, so we offered him the grassy spot next to our camper  to pitch his tent.  We pent the evening sharing drinks and traveling stories.  We hate to leave, but the Royal Highlands in Edinburgh, Scotland starts at the end of the week, thus we need to be on our way.


Jeanette at the Roman Baths.

Jeanette at the Roman Baths.


Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

No free range chickens yet , but did have a free roaming chicken in camp last night.

No free range chickens yet , but did have one free roaming chicken in camp last night.

Made a new friend, Brian (motorcyclist from Virginia) and had a great evening sharing road trip stories.

Made a new friend, Brian (motorcyclist from Virginia) and had a great evening sharing road trip stories.

The English Countryside – Stonehenge – Avebury

Touring the English countryside, taking in the sites, enjoying the day, and meeting new people. The weather is uncharacteristically lovely (English adjective).  We have found the English people very helpful and friendly.



The iconic Stonehenge instills a sense of awe and maintains its air of mystery. (Weekly challenge offers further exploration)


Free range pigs?

Finally Made It


Berth 209 Southampton UK. Dakota waiting to be picked up, just like a lonely dog at the pound.

Finally made it to Europe (UK to be exact).  After what seems like years in the planning, our journey has begun.  Arrived at the Gatwick airport Wednesday evening, and after a wonderful evening at a local bed and breakfast (wonderful because is was a comfortable bed after 13 hours of trying to sleep on the plane), we took a two hour train ride to Southampton to pick up Dakota at the shipyard.  Arrived at shipping berth 209 to find Dakota waiting patiently for our our arrival.


After the long flight, we decided to find a local camping spot and stay for a couple days to get acclimated to the area, and figure out how to drive on the opposite side of the road.  It’s not difficult on the freeway or on straightaways, but the roundabouts are challenging to say the least. Need to stay on our toes, especially since we are the slowest vehicle on the road, and everyone’s in a hurry.



Our first camping spot, Ashurst Campground near the town of Lyndhurst. All located in New Forrest National Park





Wrong side of the road?