I have evidently reached the age where the children of my friends and family are all getting married. That is better than the grandchildren, I suppose! So a few weeks ago, we headed off for a few days in Northern Ireland. Now I go to Northern Ireland several times a year, so what was different about this trip? We were going to Armagh and Enniskillen, two places I had never been.
Up until I was 11, in 1966, my parents didn’t have a car. I well remember getting ‘the car’. It was a small blue Vauxhall Viva, and we loved it to bits. This is the nearest photograph I could get
(Picture Source Wikimedia Commons)
I now know why we were able to afford it, although I didn’t make the connection then. My grandfather had recently died, and had left my Mum some money. (That money was to prove useful on many occasions in the coming years…)
So with the car came freedom. We were able to visit many places along the coast of the North of Ireland (a careful term, used to include Donegal, which is technically in the south of Ireland…) that were within a days drive of home. Not any further afield, because that would have meant a hotel stay, and that was definitely out of my parent’s financial reach. We went to so many of the places in this excellent post, by Janet who writes from around the globe. I found it so reminiscent reading it a few days ago. However, strangely we never went south of Belfast. Our trips to Belfast were to see family and in those days that was a 90 minute journey each way, so I suppose my Dad didn’t want to spend so long in a car. Not to mention his daughter (me) used to get car-sick. I am a pretty good traveller nowadays, so I recently considered if my car-sickness had anything to do with my father smoking a pipe endlessly, including while driving with no windows open….
Then in 1969, the ‘Troubles’ arrived. It suddenly wasn’t safe to go too far afield. Roadblocks were common, both police and army. Towns became cordoned off, barriers were built all over the place. Police stations were behind huge amounts of barbed wire. Even our small seaside town did not escape. However, for many of the places close to the border between Northern and Southern Ireland, life became very difficult indeed. Rarely would a news programme go by without a report of some sort of incident. So any travel as far away as Armagh or Enniskillen just wasn’t considered unless work or family took you there.
Fast forward nearly 40 years, the Troubles are now taught about in history classes. There is no longer any physical evidence of a border between North and South. Gone are the customs posts and police checks. Our countries are closer together than they have been for generations. It is so lovely to see. I posted last autumn about our previous trip to Northern Ireland It was the first time in recent years that I had been in Donegal, and I could not believe that we had crossed between the two countries. Only the petrol prices tell you that you have crossed because one is in Euros and the other in Pounds. I really do hope that Brexit will not mean re-instating the border posts.
So off we went to Armagh, to a small church just outside the town. I loved the car they chose as their ‘going away’ car
The reception turned out to be 90 minutes away just outside Enniskillen. The Manor House , right on the edge of Lower Lough Erne, proved to be a very comfortable resort hotel with a spa, mini golf course, fishing and boating on the lake all available. So while we were waiting for the photographs to be taken we went for a walk in the grounds. For those of you who are into fishing, I am told this is one of the best places in Ireland to fish. Certainly there were a wide variety of boats available.
The sign that amused me was this one
Fortunately for all concerned, the wedding went well, the food was lovely, the company good. What more can you ask for? Being the old fogeys that we are, we headed to bed when the music got loud! We got more time to explore the old part of the hotel in the morning. There were beautiful fireplaces and old oak panelling. This was one of a pair of chairs each side of an amazing fireplace in the upstairs hall
After an amazing breakfast One of the many things they do well in Northern Ireland is the breakfasts – just ask for an Ulster Fry! It is also possibly a heart attack on a plate, but having the odd one now and then is fine. Eggs, bacon, sausage, soda bread, potato bread, mushrooms, beans – you get the idea! You certainly won’t need lunch.
The plan was to go and wander around Armagh. I had never been there. I knew it had a couple of cathedrals and a planetarium. My brother went to visit the planetarium on a school trip – I was so envious! We found Armagh a bit smaller than we thought it would be. The Cathedrals are both worth a visit. One is Church of Ireland (Anglican) the other is Catholic.
We used Booking.com to find a place to stay. Hillview Lodge. It was a bit further out of the city than we thought. Our plan had been to leave the car there and walk into the city, but that was soon rectified when the owner kindly offered to drive us into the town. That was the story of the weekend, later on the same day when we were walking back, the owner happened to drive by and stopped to pick us up. How kind was that? The breakfast was stupendous the next morning – yet another Ulster Fry! There was plenty of space for lounging around, and if the weather had been a bit better, we could have sunned ourselves on a lovely sun deck overlooking a Golf Range.
We went first to the Church Of Ireland Cathedral, St Patrick’s. It is in a great setting at the top of a hill overlooking the town. It has the most beautiful gardens. 4 separate areas including one set aside for contemplation. Some lovely touches. In the first garden was this amazing sculpture
There was this beautiful ceramic plaque which is about 3 feet across
The crypt which is the oldest part of the church, dates from the 13th century. Set into the side of the wall next to the crypt is this plaque to Brian Boroimhe (also known as Brian Boro), who was killed at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
The Catholic cathedral is also called St Patrick’s. Not surprisingly really, because legend has it that this is where St Patrick himself established his first church in 445AD. It stands on a lovely open hillside on the outskirts of the town. It was built in the 1800’s, its building interrupted by the famine.
As we walked up to the cathedral, we could hear organ music, and realised there was a wedding in progress. The clue being in this rather beautiful car sitting outside. A late 1940’s Jaguar, the owner told me.
We decided against visiting the planetarium, but did wander into the local information centre and ask for a recommendation for dinner.We had an early dinner at Embers, where the food was good, then started the walk back to the Guest House, where as mentioned earlier, the owner kindly stopped to pick us up.
The next morning found us out and about quite early, so we ended up in Belfast too early for our flight. We headed south from Belfast City Airport to a lovely country park, Crawfordsburn, where we spent an hour or so walking in the sunshine. It is only about 15 minutes away from the airport. As always I am on the look out for items to cast in silver, so I picked up a few shells from the beach. They may yet become pieces of jewellery.
So, all in all, a lovely way to spend a few days. I’ll be back because I want to take a boat trip on Lough Erne, and go and see Enniskillen itself. I also want to go down to Newcastle and walk in the Mournes. So plenty more to see yet.
I hope you enjoyed this wee wander through the southern part of Northern Ireland. If you would like to Pin it, and please do, just click on the red button on the image below.