Cappadocia/Kapadokya, Turkey

Göreme Valley, Turkey
Göreme Valley, Turkey

Cappadocia (Kapadokya in Turkish) is a fairytale like place right in the centre of Turkey.  I say fairytale because the landscape varies between the ‘fairy chimneys’ to underground dwellings to beautiful mountains and valleys. You can amble up rocky hillsides and check out houses and churches built into the side of mountains or you can venture below the surface (literally) and explore the subterranean network that form underground cities. Before I started planning my trip Continue reading “Cappadocia/Kapadokya, Turkey”

Day trippin’ to Northern Ireland, U.K.

Heading north of Belfast, Northern Ireland
Heading north of Belfast, Northern Ireland

I decided to do a road trip from Dublin into Northern Ireland to check out a couple of Game of Thrones locations. My cousin, Liam in Dublin helped me by sending me directions and I was off on a nice little drive north. Continue reading “Day trippin’ to Northern Ireland, U.K.”

Clonmacnoise and Birr Castle, County Offaly, Ireland

Clonmacnoise
Clonmacnoise

Beginning in the dark ages, Clonmacnoise became a place where Christianity and scholarship prospered and grew. A vast monastic settlement thrived here, with a scriptorium of unequalled craftsmanship, where education, teaching and the arts were revered and where the classics were greatly prized and preserved. Knowledge and learning that went on to be taken to Europe as the Gospels were spread abroad by Celtic Christian monks. Continue reading “Clonmacnoise and Birr Castle, County Offaly, Ireland”

Meandering around Mayo, Ireland

Mayo panorama
Mayo panorama

I feel that Ireland is enjoyed best by, not travelling from one attraction to the next, but by meandering and happening upon scenes that are straight from picture postcards. A friend once told me that she felt underwhelmed by Ireland’s scenery compared to Scotland. I asked her where she had been. Dublin, Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher she started to list.

Lost in Mayo
Lost in Mayo
A peaceful scene in Mayo
A peaceful scene in Mayo

That was her problem. She had stuck to the road well travelled. I believe you have to get lost down the back roads to see the true beauty of Ireland. The other day I had intended to visit the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary but made a late start. After revising my plans I decided to head in the opposite direction to Clifden in Mayo instead. I got to a town called Oughterard and had to stop. I wanted to clear my head so I stopped for lunch in a nice little pub there.

I love the Irish mountains
I love the Irish mountains
Late afternoon in Mayo on an early November day
Late afternoon in Mayo on an early November day

Feeling refreshed and rested I headed off but never made it to Clifden. Instead at some point I made a right turn and headed over some mountains and into some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. My photos really don’t do it justice and unfortunately I did start losing some light. But that feeling of meandering over one hill after the other and into valleys with the most beautiful lake scenes was so rewarding.

The Mayo lakes are beautiful at this time of day
The Mayo lakes are beautiful at this time of day
Lough Mask, County Mayo, Ireland
Lough Mask, County Mayo, Ireland
Heading toward Tourmakeady on Lough Mask, County Mayo
Heading toward Tourmakeady on Lough Mask, County Mayo

Croagh Patrick, Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland

At Croagh Patrick, County Mayo
At Croagh Patrick, County Mayo

On the west coast of Ireland Croagh Patrick is very close to the town of Westport, in fact only 8kms away. It was on this mountain that Ireland’s patron saint fasted for 40 days and nights and where he supposedly banished venomous snakes from Ireland. Climbing the mountain, which is 765m high, is an act of penance for thousands of pilgrims on the last Sunday of July (Reek Sunday).

Visitor's Centre, Croagh Patrick
Visitor’s Centre, Croagh Patrick
Croagh Patrick from the car park
Croagh Patrick from the car park

There is a Visitor’s Centre and opposite the car park is the National Famine Memorial. The trail starts outside the Visitor’s Centre. On this occasion I did not walk up the mountain but I would like to return to do so when in the right mindset.

The track up Croagh Patrick starts outside the Visitor's Centre
The track up Croagh Patrick starts outside the Visitor’s Centre

Next I headed off to Achill Island stopping off briefly at Newport, a lovely town with a very nice looking viaduct. I liked the feel of this town.

Newport, County Mayo, Ireland
Newport, County Mayo, Ireland
Viaduct at Newport
Viaduct at Newport

Achill Island covers 55 square miles and is Ireland’s largest off shore island. It is connected to the mainland by a short bridge making it an easy place to get to by car. Dramatic mountains, moors and wonderful beaches made this island a great place to drive around. I stopped off in Keel and walked along the beach. There was a camping park and shops nearby. I thought it was really beautiful down at the beach. Keel seemed to be the main town on the island and would make a great holiday spot. I would also say if you like hiking that Achill would be a fantastic place to explore.

Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland
Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland
Looking across to Achill Sound
Looking across to Achill Sound
Off to Keel, Achill Island
Off to Keel, Achill Island
Keel Beach, Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland
Keel Beach, Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland

The Joy of Travelling Solo – Maghery, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Maghery, Co. Donegal
Maghery, Co. Donegal

I love travelling solo. It makes me feel special. Those times when I am on public transport abroad and I don’t speak the local language and nobody there speaks English, this makes me feel unique. I love that people still try to help me. I also love that other English speakers are very willing to start up a conversation. This is something I don’t think would happen with such frequency if I wasn’t travelling solo. Opportunities seem to present themselves as well…

Maghery near Dungloe, County Donegal
Maghery near Dungloe, County Donegal

Last night I was speaking with a lovely couple in the bar of the hotel where I was staying. I don’t usually hang around bars but everyone was waiting for the dining room to open. Anyway I told them that I had driven from Shannon in County Clare to Rossnowlagh, checked in to the hotel, then drove another few hours to Slieve League only to realise that I wouldn’t have time to walk the 3km round trip to the cliffs because I would miss sunset in Rossnowlagh. I had just found out that the sun set at 6 minutes past five o’clock. I only had one night in Rossnowlagh and therefore one chance for sunset photos so I promptly turned the car around and drove back to the hotel. After asking if I was quite mad they told me I needed to stay still for awhile, relax a little and offered their holiday house to me for the next night as they were staying in the hotel for one more night.

Maghery beach, County Donegal, Ireland
Maghery beach, County Donegal, Ireland

Now it’s not everyday that you get this kind of offer, let alone from complete strangers. I asked them ‘are you sure?’ ‘What if I trash the place, throw TVs out the window.’ No, they somehow knew I wouldn’t do that

Maghery
Maghery

So the next day came around and I met them after breakfast where they gave me the key and instructions of how to get to the house. The town, Maghery, was over hill over dale but I found it quite easily. I, however, couldn’t believe my luck. Their house was pretty much on the beach of a town which is the cutest little hamlet I’ve seen. They had giant windows looking out to sea. Wow, what a view

View out to the beach at the Maghery holiday house
View out to the beach at the Maghery holiday house

So I relaxed, walked along the beach, had a few beers at the local pub and listened to the sound of waves crashing against the beach. Bliss! Now I’m not saying that this opportunity would not have happened if I was travelling with a friend but it was one more random act of kindness that has happened to me on this trip. As I said I love travelling solo!

Sunset at Maghery Beach, County Donegal, Ireland
Sunset at Maghery Beach, County Donegal, Ireland

Maghery is deep in Gaeltacht country (Irish speaking area) and the people were very welcoming. I had to ask a man to move his car when I was leaving the pub so I could get my hire car out to return to the house. As I started to move the car he gestured that something was wrong and promptly dropped to the ground at the front of the car. I asked if he were a mechanic and he said no but he had similar problems with his car. He hooked the part back up that had been dragging along the ground and was on his way back into the pub. My car certainly made less noise now. What a nice chap!

I had a lovely time in a lovely place on the western coast of Donegal all thanks to some complete strangers. Thank you!

Enjoying a beer at The Strand bar in Maghery, County Donegal, Ireland
Enjoying a beer at The Strand bar in Maghery, County Donegal, Ireland

 

Sandhouse Hotel, Rossnowlagh, County Donegal, Ireland

Sandhouse Hotel, Rossnowlagh , County Donegal, Ireland
Sandhouse Hotel, Rossnowlagh , County Donegal, Ireland

While surfing the internet one day I came across this hotel which is located on the beach at Rossnowlagh, County Donegal. It looked to be a wonderful place to just wind down and look out to sea and I can tell you now that I have stayed here that it is just that.

Sunset at Rossnowlagh
Sunset at Rossnowlagh
Sunset at Rossnowlagh Beach
Sunset at Rossnowlagh Beach

Don’t expect a 5 star hotel – it is just a tiny bit worn but the staff are a delight and the location, is of course, to die for. I chose an ocean view room and was so happy I did. There was a very comfortable chair by the window which I made good use of. Even during the night when the clouds cleared the moonlight on the sea was mesmerising.

Sitting by my window at the Sandhouse Hotel
Sitting by my window at the Sandhouse Hotel
Looking out to the moonlight and the Atlantic Ocean
Looking out to the moonlight and the Atlantic Ocean

The next morning I was out on the grassed area, between the hotel and the sand, taking photos. It was fresh but the light and vista were beautiful.

The Sandhouse Hotel on Rossnowlagh beach, County Donegal
The Sandhouse Hotel on Rossnowlagh beach, County Donegal
Sandhouse Hotel
Sandhouse Hotel
Standing on Rossnowlagh Beach
Standing on Rossnowlagh Beach

Rossnowlagh is on the Wild Atlantic Way. What a beautiful part of the world. I am so glad I came to stay here.

The view along Rossnowlagh Beach to the Sandhouse Hotel, County Donegal, Ireland
The view along Rossnowlagh Beach to the Sandhouse Hotel, County Donegal, Ireland

Drumcliff, County Sligo, Ireland

St Columba's Church of Ireland church grounds
St Columba’s Church of Ireland church grounds

In transit from County Clare to Donegal I stopped off in Sligo to visit the grave of Irish poet WB Yeats. It is located in a church yard (St Columba’s Church of Ireland) in Drumcliff just out of Sligo town. It’s in a beautiful setting but the actual grave isn’t that interesting. Yeats was one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms.

Drumcliff, County Sligo, Ireland
Drumcliff, County Sligo, Ireland

Although Yeats was born in Dublin he spent his childhood holidays in Sligo. He died and was initially buried in France but had asked to be buried in Sligo after a year in the ground. His wishes were carried out.

Yeats' grave, Sligo, Ireland
Yeats’ grave, Sligo, Ireland

His epitaph is taken from the last lines of “Under Ben Bulben”, one of his final poems:
Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!

Celtic High Cross, Drumcliff, Sligo, Ireland
Celtic High Cross, Drumcliff, Sligo, Ireland

The Ben Bulben mountain is actually a backdrop to this attractive church.
Also located in the cemetery is a very cool looking Celtic High Cross and across the road is a round tower. Both are remnants from a monastery that existed in Drumcliff. The cross is from the 9th century and the tower was built sometime between 900 and 1200.

Round Tower, Sligo, Ireland
Round Tower, Sligo, Ireland
St Columba's church with Ben Bulben in background, Sligo, Ireland
St Columba’s church with Ben Bulben in background, Sligo, Ireland