OK, we’ve got to fess up, we found that about a week has gone by without us completing a journal entry. It’s easy to skip a day when you’re tired or otherwise had a long day. Then it turns into two days or maybe even three – and then it gets hard to get back into writing. So the following few days journal may be a bit brief.
|Scotland, some morning Internet, then got back on the road heading south. Hiked along a gorge and drove through more beautiful, scenic valleys. Tonight’s camp was a first for us, although similar locations have been recommended by other travelers - a parking next to a cemetery, very quiet though and right across the street from another distillery.|
We continued driving along lots of small back roads arriving in Stirling. Driving into town we got great views of Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument which are built on opposing hills dominating the skyline above town.
We needed to complete some maintenance on the Fuso and were able to locate a good truck mechanic after only two stops asking for referrals. George, the owner of Gray’s Commercial, asked us to come back in the afternoon and got right to work for us. He got our front end aligned and did a bunch of small jobs that we just hadn’t gotten around to. When it came time to pay up, George refused payment, indicated that he was happy to help us continue the expedition.
Even though it was getting late in the day, we continued on for another half hour and parked next to the canal below the Falkirk Wheel. We were lucky to see to the wheel moving around on it’s last rotation for the night. Then we went into town to satisfy our craving for Chinese food, yum.
The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s first rotating boat lift. The lift was built at the location of a flight of 11 locks that stepped down across a distance of 1.5km, that had been dismantled in 1933, breaking the link. Here are some photos showing the wheel going around.
In the morning we walked for a couple of miles along canal, and then got back in the Fuso to complete our full circle exploration of Scotland as we returned to Glasgow. In Glasgow we visited the Burrell Collection, a museum containing what had been the private collection of Sir William Burrell and his wife, Constance, who gifted their collection of over 9,000 works of art to Glasgow in 1944.
Remembering our last visit to Glasgow and the traffic mess, we decided to leave the city and once again, drive to the coast for our camping spot. It was a good move as we actually found a town that welcomes overnighting motorhomes with free comping in a big lot on the beach – the town of Garvin.
|Northern Ireland! Arriving at the ferry port we found that we had some extra time before the boat would leave, so we found a place to wash the dirt and grime from the Fuso, making it pretty again. The ferry arrived a ways north of Belfast, so we decided to avoid the city and just continued on our way north. We came across a parking lot at a small town harbor where half a dozen campers were already parked. We joined them and were surprised to find that they were members of an Irish motorhome club that had come here to Glenarm for a music festival. So we joined them for the festival, it was quite fun and VERY small town. There was a dress up parade – costumes, then music and free food.|
Heavy rain last night so we decided to move on rather than stay for tonight’s main event – some runner up on American Idol was to headline the show. We’ve never even watched the show! It rained on and off during the day. We attempted to drive along a scenic coastal route that on our map was a white line, highways are red, country roads are yellow and anything small is white.
We had been warned about the narrow Irish roads, but after nearly two months of driving narrow road in England and Scotland we figured "no problem" as we had found the small one lane roads rather easy to drive on. Traffic is minimal and there are passing turn outs every quarter mile or so – not here in Ireland. Then there is the humor of the Irish road workers who actually painted a dotted line down the center of this "road" that is barely 12 feet wide, like you could actually get two vehicles on this one lane thing!
This route is about 12 miles long, but after about 3+ miles of single lane with no turn outs, we finally met an oncoming vehicle that couldn’t get around us and we had to do a big no no, backing down a steep hilly part until we could find a wider spot on the road. OK, enough was enough, we decided that we really didn’t have to drive this stretch of road and quickly got ourselves turned around and back to the main road.
We did stop off at some nice villages, hiked to the remains of a small castle on the ocean and saw some pretty flowers. We finally got to see our first heath orchid – a flower that in Scotland, had not bloomed yet. I guess that’s one benefit of heading south again – we back into a late spring rather than an early spring.
We arrived at the town of Bushmills, home to the Bushmills Whisky distillery where we found a big, free coach parking lot and thought we’d spend the night. When we walked around town and to the Distillery, we were appalled at the sorry state of the town. So many shops were out of business, boarded up windows and even graffiti – we decided to move on to a different spot.
We had read about a town in the north here that was allowing motorhomes to park in a big lot near the ocean, so we thought we’d check it out for ourselves. As it turned out, this weekend is a bank holiday so everyone had three days off – that explains all the extra traffic on the roads. So yes, the town of Portrush did have a big parking lot where we were welcome to spend the night, right at the end of a peninsula sticking into the ocean – for free. We decided to reciprocate by going out to find a live music show. Too bad for us, the only live music we could find wasn’t even scheduled to begin until 11pm. Oh well, we’ll look for some traditional music another day.
|After wandering around town in the morning, we retracted our steps a bit so that we could visit the Giant’s Causeway. We also made a quick stop at the ruins of huge castle right on the cliffs. A story describes how one night during a party, part of the castle slipped into the ocean – taking most of the servants with it!|
A few miles down the road we arrived at Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site, The Giant’s Causeway. The area consists of an estimated 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns, which were formed during a volcano eruption 60 million years ago. There is also a legend that the causeway was built by an Irish giant so that he could walk across the sea to Scotland to confront another giant who had been insulting him. The Causeway is all that allegedly remains of the path across the water. Here are some photos.
We decided to make Derry, or Londonderry (depends on who you talk to) our next overnight stop. The parking lots along the river seemed perfect for our camp, but traffic was heavier (noisier) than we liked so we found a new campsite a few miles away to spend the night at. The campsite was new and still needed a bit of work, ok a lot of work, but it was quiet and yes, it had laundry.
We wanted to take a walking tour of town as Derry has quite a story to tell of the civil rights struggle of the catholic majority against the protestant minority that had controlled the city for nearly 400 years.
In the 1960s, after witnessing the civil rights struggle in the USA and the fight against Apartheid in South Africa, the community leaders in Bogside – where the catholics lived, decided to try to obtain their civil rights through peaceful civil disobedience – they failed. Derry is the home of the Free Derry – where the residents of Bogside tried to separate themselves from the rules imposed on them by the politicians in Londonderry. It is also the place where the notorious 1972??? "Bloody Sunday" occurred. Shortly after Bloody Sunday, the local government was able to get the backing of the English army to crush Free Derry. Even though these actions showed against England and the local government very poorly, the citizens of Derry did not get their long sought after rights for another decade.
To help us get a better understanding of the issues, we joined a walking tour of the city. Our guide was very good and very objective – considering the emotion behind the issues. We learned quite a lot, and left with a better understanding of the problems that plagued Northern Ireland. Afterwards, we enjoyed a pub lunch, then headed down the hill from the old town center to Bogside and Free Derry. I forget to mention that the old town – on the hill – is a walled town, completely encircled by walled built in the 1600s.
In Bogside we sought out and visited most of the murals that commemorate the civil rights struggle. Here are photos of eight of the murals together with their descriptions.
We then visited the Free Derry Museum to learn the Bogside viewpoint of their struggles, and to learn about the Bloody Sunday massacre. We talked for a while with a volunteer and learned that her brother was one of the thirteen unarmed protesters killed that day by English troops. We also learned that in two weeks time, a new and objective report on the killings of Bloody Sunday is scheduled to be released – after a decade of taking witness statements and testimony. There seems to be a feeling that this may help the people to move on.
It’s difficult to summarize the history of Northern Ireland and the Civil Rights struggle of the local majority during the 1960s and 1970s. To get an understanding of the events we’d recommend a visit to the Free Derry Museum website,http://www.museumoffreederry.org/index02.html.
We then continued on and crossed the border into the Republic of Ireland, camping in Letterkenny.
Back in the land of Euros and kilometers. Internet meltdown – or at least closer than we wanted to find ourselves! More in our next journal update.