Half the Length of Ireland
From Galway, we head for our 9th leg of our itinerary tour of Ireland. Get ready for an extremely long ride. I’d say about 220 miles to Northern Ireland, about half the length of the island.
By the way, Northern Ireland is actually part of the United Kingdom. Fortunately, there are no border gates or tolls to enter that is technically another country. I wonder when Brexit happens if it will still be the same. We’ll see when it comes. Since, we are going half way across the country, we will make some stops.
Anyway, leaving Galway, we got on the M6 heading east. About 35 miles later, we came into the town of Ballinasloe. This town is suppose to be all about horses. So, of course, this town is also the venue for an international horse fair.
The Ballinasloe Horse Fair is a horse fair which is held annually at Ballinasloe, the second largest town in County Galway, in the western part of Ireland. It is believed to be Europe’s oldest and largest Horse Fair, dating back to the 18th century. This annual event attracts up to 100,000 visitors from all over the world, with many returning to the town year after year. This festival is one of the most important social and economic events in the life of the town. The town is also renowned for horse and pony riding, show jumping and other equestrian activities which take place throughout the year.
The fair lasts nine days and starts on the Saturday before the first Tuesday in October, when a parade through the town is held. It continues during the next week and includes a beauty contest (the Queen of the Fair), tug-of-war competitions, dog shows, artistic and cultural events, singing competitions and fairground attractions as well as the titular horse fair. The latter event includes sale-and-purchase, racing and show-jumping and these are concentrated on a 6-acre site on Society Street – the fair green. Events culminate during the second week-end; the Saturday of which is known as “Country Fair Day”. Traditionally, this was the day in the fair with the highest attendance from local rural residents. [from Wikipedia]
After Ballinasloe, we stayed on the M6 until we got into Athlone. There, we transfered onto the N55 going north to our next stop. Forty miles later, we arrived at the town of Cavan. But that is not our stop. Five miles west of it is the Killykeen Forest Park. It is a 600 wooded acre recreation park with picnic tables and a lake with islands. This park offers hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, bird-watching and an opportunity to fly a remote controlled drone. And while flying, we found another ruin castle in the middle of a lake.
Cloughoughter Castle is a ruined circular castle on a small island in Lough Oughter in the midst of the Killykeen Forest Park. Left in ruins, the castle became a frequent subject of art in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its visual impact was described in a travelogue published The Dublin University Magazine in 1852: It stands on a small island, scarce three hundred feet in diameter, just sufficient to contain the castle and a small margin of rock around it. The island stands in very deep water; the shores are a mile distant, wild, yet thickly wooded. The castle is a beautiful ruin, round, massive, hoary, save where mantled with rich Irish ivy. The walls are immensely thick, with embrasures and coved windows, round which “ruin greenly dwells.”
Of course, there is nothing like seeing this beautiful castle in the air by a video taken by a drone.
Getting back on the road, we head north for another 50 miles or so. Now, for those of you who’ll follow my route, I have to provide this next set of instructions. I’ll try to keep it from being too boring. Meanwhile, please use the Google Map to follow the route. [Click HERE for map.]
From Cavan, take the R212 a short way until you can get onto the N3. Go north until Butlers Bridge then turn right onto the N54. This is where it will get interesting and a little bit of confusing. While on the N54, you’ll be going in and out of North Ireland (UK) for a short distance. (FYI: Everytime you enter UK area, N54 turns into A3.) This will happen twice before you’re back in Ireland again for a long while until you get into Monaghan. There, you’ll get on to the N12 for 4 miles until the border.
The N12 turned into the A3 and we went another 12 or so miles arriving at our third stop, Armagh UK. Armagh was considered the educational centre since the time of Saint Patrick, and thus it has been referred to as “the city of saints and scholars”. I wish I could have showed you more but I really wanted to get up north. However, I did find a ruin of a friary in the city’s largest public park.
Armagh Franciscan Friary was founded by Archbishop Patrick O’ Scannail in 1263/64. It had prominent patrons in the city and the Franciscans played an important part in the city’s religious life until the Friary was suppressed in 1542 with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.
Some religious life continued, but the buildings were involved in welfare later in the 16th Century and were ruined by 1600. Two empty graves and two tomb recesses near the east end are reminders of the important patrons buried in the Friary Church, including Gormlaith O’Donnell, wife of Domhnail O’Neill in 1353. It is the longest monastery in Ireland. The Friary is located at the south-east edge of Armagh and can be found at the entrance to the Palace Demesne. [by Wikipedia]
The final drive will take us 75-80 miles all the way to the northern coast. We stayed on the A29 which eventually took us into Portush. Two miles down the coast, is our fourth stop, the Dunluce Castle, but not the actual 9th leg of our tour.
Dunluce Castle is a ruined medieval castle located on the edge of a basalt outcropping and is accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland. The castle is surrounded by extremely steep drops on either side, which may have been an important factor to the early Christians and Vikings who were drawn to this place where an early Irish fort once stood. Near by is the newly discovered Dunluce town. In 2011, major archaeological excavations found significant remains of the “lost town of Dunluce”, which was razed to the ground in the Irish uprising of 1641. The town was built around 1608. It may have contained the most revolutionary housing in Europe when it was built in the early 17th century, including indoor toilets which had only started to be introduced around Europe at the time, and a complex street network based on a grid system. 95% of the town is still to be discovered.
In my next post, we go to the 9th leg which will include 3 sites before we go into Belfast.
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