Monthly Archives: September 2014

Time Out!

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I stepped off the treadmill for a few days, and had a ball.  Ireland has so much to offer, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy it.

Every year I try to make it to the biggest event in rural Ireland’s calendar – the National Ploughing Championships.  Urbanites and sceptics listen up: this is an event for everyone!  Where else are you likely to see grown men and women, complete with coats, bags and boots, grab a partner and dance to live music at 11 in the morning?  There’s fashion shows, cookery exhibitions, crafts and artisan food, alongside every possible agricultural necessity, all expertly laid out on 800 acres of walkways.  And that’s all in addition to the ploughing itself.  Is it going too far to say it’s the highlight of my year?  I don’t think so – I just love it!

Not a great picture, but you can get some idea of the 80,000+ people who visit the show daily.

Not a great picture, but you can get some idea of the 80,000+ people who visit the show daily.

By the time you’ve walked all 800 acres, maybe more than once, and reached your car, you’re more than ready for that traditional Irish ‘tea and sandwiches’ before setting off on the road.

This year, we stayed over in Tullamore, and I’m delighted we did.  Next day, we went exploring one of Ireland’s hidden treasures: the somewhat eccentric Charleville Castle, just outside Tullamore.

This year will see it celebrate its 200th birthday - still young, in terms of castles!

This year Charleville Castle celebrates its 200th birthday – still young, in terms of castles!

After the guided tour, complete with details of the castle’s colourful past, and current ghosts, we headed for home.

Next day was busy, with Castleblayney’s 2nd Annual Fair Day underway.  A fantastic event, the town steps back in time, with shopkeepers and visitors alike arriving in traditional dress, and memories from yesteryear taking centre stage. Horses, goats, sheep, cattle and donkeys share the street with traditional crafts, vintage vehicles, old shop records, and street traders.  It’s a sight for sore eyes.

Bygone days in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

Bygone days in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

And finally, have a look at what I picked up at the Car Boot Sale in the wonderful Iontas Centre, in Castleblayney, on Saturday morning…

One of a pair of stained glass window panels.  Irresistible to me, naturally enough!

One of a pair of stained glass window panels. Irresistible to me, naturally enough!

The day ended with an 18th birthday party, which went on well into Sunday morning!  Any wonder it took me a while to get back onto that treadmill on Monday morning?!

 

 

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Ireland’s Hidden Treasures

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I took a rare day off last week and headed off to the midlands.  We were off on one of our ‘wild goose chases’.  I love those days.  You leave home with a simple agenda, and you never know where the day will take you.

On this occasion, my man and I went off to collect something he’d spotted on Done Deal.  We’re easily entertained, and don’t need much of an excuse to gallivant.  We never stray too far from home, but are only looking for an excuse to break up a journey.

So into the centre of the country we headed, with only an idea of where we were supposed to end up.  For those of you who don’t know, the N52 is a road that traverses the midlands of Ireland from the Dundalk area in the north-east, right down through the centre to beyond Nenagh, in Co Tipperary.  It pre-dates the country’s many motorways, and if you’re not in a hurry, it’s not a bad way to travel through Ireland.

We were only going down as far as the town of Cloghan, Co Offaly.  But along the way, we stopped for lunch in Tyrrellspass Castle, in Co Westmeath.  What a fascinating discovery.  This is an ancient castle, dating back to the 1400s, that has been converted into a fabulous eatery.  It is privately owned, and was full to the brim of happy diners.  What a pleasure to see such a place thrive.

The other hidden treasure we discovered was Kilbeggan Distillery.  I’m not a great fan of whiskey, but you couldn’t fail to be impressed there.  For a small fee, you can take yourself on a tour of the distillery, armed with an information leaflet.  It takes you through every step of the distilling process, and takes you back generations at the same time.  You truly get a feeling for the many other feet that have climbed the steps before you as you walk through this living piece of history.

If this is what’s out there, on a simple day trip, it’s just a hint of all the places in our own back yard, just waiting to be explored.

Explore Ireland. It’s on my bucket list.