After waking late after a crazy cryogenic-like sleep I was treated to the first of many Ulster frys. An Ulster Fry is a breakfast dish with eggs, potato bread, back-bacon and sausage (and other things in some cases)… it is a big breakfast. Mmmm. One of the first things I’m sure most North Americans will notice immediately is that the Irish drive on the left side of the road. This is pretty freaky at first. Especially left turns that feel like traffic is coming head on at you. Another driving oddity is all the ’roundabouts’ in Ireland. They are everywhere and they are pretty confusing to the uninitiated. After a few whirls in a roundabout I figure it was best to let the locals do the driving. -smirk- The final thing I noticed about driving in Ireland is how tight the roads are. Gawd. Scary tight roads. In many cases the roads are only one lane, especially along the Northern coast. But that is another story…
Today we ventured off to Castlewellan Forest Park. It is a beautiful park with a little lake in the middle of it. We walked around the lake since the castle was private and not accessible to the public. Bah. We passed a lot of very friendly people on the walk. There are a lot of massive trees and shrubs on a scale you wouldn’t commonly see in Ontario.
After the nice leg stretching we traveled up to Newcastle to do some shopping. Newcastle is a lovely town on the coast that has a small mountain range looming over it. We stopped at a small pub to grab a drink. It had an outside patio with a few patrons already enjoying a beer. Unfortunately one family was using the pub as a daycare center. It was unreal. A kid was driving a motorized mini-car around all the tables often screaming. The parents seemed oblivious to all the noise he was making. No one said anything I think because Daddy was massive and already had a few. It was a charming scene.
Noticed a complete lack of police presence in Newcastle. Additionally the police station in NI look like little forts. They have 12-16 feet walls around them with razor wire and there are cameras pointing in every direction. One of the lingering signs of the ‘troubles’ of the past…I don’t claim to understand the Irish history well, but in a nutshell, Northern Ireland is primarily ‘Loyalist’; they are loyal to Great Britain and want to remain British subjects. The South is the Republic of Ireland and want to be independent. The religious issues I still don’t completely understand. There was a special on the BBC on the evenings we were there that showed many younger Irish are losing the great hostilities of their parents. Can’t we all just get along? It seems things are going in the right direction there.
We enjoyed a tasty dinner at a restaurant named the Whistledown. I have to mention that the potatoes in NI are amazing. I don’t know what variety they are but I ordered them every chance I got after enjoying them for dinner. The potatoes are so much more flavourful that back home…We drove home through the countryside up and down hills along farms. It is quite a spectacular setting. Apparently Benadictine monks made a retreat in this area. No wonder.