Monday, 28 September 2015
I've held this one back until last. This was a day when we didn't have a lot of spare time to climb a hill but did have a few hours in the afternoon to go a pleasant circular walk around the Finn Valley. We drove to Balleybofey-Stranorlar, two small towns that seem to run into each other but the boundary line appears to be the river. Above is a swollen River Finn that bursts its banks occasionally during extended heavy rainfall into the surrounding fields.
None of that mundane stuff here.
This link is interesting as it mentions an ancient myth in many cultures, including Irish, about a great eye that can destroy armies and wither the land. No surprise then, given J.R.R. Tolkien's knowledge of that subject ( well read and an expert in ancient mythology and medieval history) that it reappears as the main foe in the Lord of the Rings. Inspiration does not emerge from a vacuum.. but maybe a vacuum cleaner that sucks up everything learned during a lifetime then transforms it in a new way for a modern audience.
"Looks like cat vomit. " was Alex's opinion. "You're not going to eat all that?"
(The bowl has a deep middle section meant for soup so it's a larger portion than it looks here.)
I mention this because I scoffed the lot and it was delicious. So good I had it again the next night.
By comparison Alex and myself were on a walking trip a couple of summers ago and came off the hills starving, wanting a chip supper at a popular Scottish west coast tourist hot spot that shall remain nameless here, but one with a lot of passing trade. I had a steak pie supper, Alex had a hamburger supper and despite being hungry as a Derry cow we only had half of it before leaving it in disgust at how bad it was. There was a large bin on the premises and I opened it to toss in the leftovers only to find it was nearly full to the brim with other half eaten chip suppers of all varieties so it wasn't just our opinion of the meals on offer.
That is a true story and not very helpful for the Scottish tourist board's attempts to promote Scotland. I'm the last person to want posh food as I like cheap and cheerful stuff like Greggs sausage rolls or buns but surely there should be a decent lower standard of chip shop that should at least serve edible and tasty food as it's far from the first time I've had very poor chip suppers north of Glasgow or even in the city itself and throughout the central belt. This has been going on all my life and it's a lucky dip if you get a good one in an unfamiliar place. I don't want all of them to be excellent as you will always get a range but surely tossing away good food because it's so grim you can't eat it after you have paid for it is not acceptable. There are many excellent chip shops throughout Scotland in every area and it might be a difficult industry to earn a living in ( although many of the worse places still seem to stay open alas :o) but it does not create a good impression of Scotland. As I've mentioned before I've not had a bad chip supper yet throughout the English Lake District in different areas and valleys. As a proud Scot it hurts me to say that but it's true.
So my question is... How hard can it be to put out decent chip suppers of a reasonable standard as you would think even the bad ones would improve over time with experience, like in any other profession. This is a serious question. From a personal point of view if I opened a bin to find most of the food I cooked was being thrown away I would either think I wasn't cut out to be a fryer or I'd make sure I learned how to get better fast.
This is a puzzle I've yet to solve as takeaway chip suppers are the No 1 takeaway food I indulge in on trips away if I don't have my usual donkey chunks in the tent and luckily my local chip shop is excellent but why does the standard vary so much? If I buy a Greggs hot sausage roll I know what to expect every time. It doesn't change. Likewise, my favourite camp grub of heated up donkey chunks from a tin.
Not angry.. just disappointed... and genuinely puzzled.
Thursday, 24 September 2015
This is a trip we undertook on the first full day over in the Emerald Isle which was exploring the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland. Marion kindly volunteered to drive us in her car on what would be mainly a sightseeing trip, visiting the famous locations, known world wide, like the Giant's Causeway, seen above, and the Carrick- A- Rede Rope Bridge to reach an offshore island. We would be passing Derry/Londonderry, then the scenic seaside towns of Coleraine, Portstewart, and Portrush to get there.
As both attractions have been featured on many television programmes over the years I was looking forward to seeing them in reality but nothing prepared me for the crowds of tourists, especially as most of the other world class scenery in the Republic had been empty with only a handful of other visitors. We had grown so used to having spectacular places to ourselves over in Ireland both on the sea cliffs and on the mountains that it was a real shock to find so many people here.
As it was a once in a lifetime event Graeme, Bob, and myself paid our euros and crossed onto the island but after the wild, empty sea cliffs in the Republic it was somewhat of an anticlimax. To some folk this would be a major and memorable event crossing here but with our background of scrambling, visiting remote sea stacks and mountaineering it was a bit tame if I'm honest and hands in pockets stuff. We soon returned as you couldn't actually go anywhere on this tiny lump with steep cliffs falling into the sea on all sides and a well trampled grassy centre about the size of a large council garden was the prize for arriving on the island.
Took a lot of finding but here's a link proving that chalk and limestone cliffs can coexist together. A personal puzzle for me that needed explaining. You learn something new every day :o)
This entire area did seem to attract more tourists though compared to the places we'd been in the Republic detailed in previous posts. Maybe being part of the UK it was promoted more widely there as the scenery on all our trips north and south have been equally stunning but it's the landscape in the Republic that stands out simply because it's less well known, mysterious, and a complete surprise usually every time we turn a corner.
Below is a famous and iconic castle on a rock plug high above the sea. Look at- In popular culture near the bottom of this link if you think you have seen it before
Now for something completely different. Surfing the "Silver Dragon", a massive tidal river bore in China through the middle of a large city. The largest of its kind in the world.
Saturday, 19 September 2015
A mix of photos here from the coastline around Mayo. Looking down huge blowhole on the Mullet peninsula. Needs a big sea and Atlantic rollers to jump up this height during winter storms.
Three minute long tourist promotion video but a good one featuring big winter seas along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Friday, 18 September 2015
The next day, after leaving the hostel on Achill Island, (see previous post) we had intended going up Croagh Patrick, but the clouds were right down over the summit and at 764 metres, 2507 feet, most of its bulk had been invisible since we had arrived. At our age we have no inclination to climb mountains in thick clag or rain, preferring to get a view from the summit if possible.
The top photo is the view from the summit looking over towards Croaghaun, our summit in the last post.
This is the Ballycroy National Park, still in Co Mayo, an area of outstanding bog land which contains the Nephin Beg Range, which must be one of the remotest set of mountains in Ireland with long walks in just to reach the base of the hills.
Although the cliffs are much lower on this coast they have a nice geometric feel to them and due to massive winter storms dumping loads of salt water inland, bare stretches of shattered rock cover large areas, turning the coastline into a virtual desert of clean individual slabs ripped off by the waves. Blow holes are a feature here also.
For those wanting a glimpse of the power of the sea this excellent video gives you a taste of the huge rollers that can occur off the west coast of Ireland. I've seen pro surfers doing this looking slick and in control but body boarding in massive waves looks harder and more brutal somehow. 50% surfing- 50% painful wipe-outs. The Atlantic is consistently the roughest ocean on the planet and every year the storms seem to get bigger and more impressive thanks to climate change.