You last heard from us in the lovely Tollymore Forest. We used this as a bit of a base to explore as much as we could of Northern Ireland. One of the nicest trips was up one side of County Down along the Mourne Mountains and then down the coast on the other. We went to see Castle Espie Wetlands Centre on Strangford Loch, which is one of the primo wetlands for birds in the UK. The Brits love their dogs and their birds. There's huge numbers of 'twitchers' here (I think it's an alliterative play on 'bird watchers'). They have some great programs for conservation both here and in Europe trying to save the wetland environments from evil developers, pollution, over hunting and other forms of destruction.
Here's a photo of Linda in the Coffee lounge. This is how we like to twitch...
The weather had closed in on us by this stage and sunlight became pretty uncommon. Temps down to 10 degrees. Rain. The Irish have as many words for different rain as Eskimos have for snow! We liked (on the news) the "occasional spatterings of rain". If only it ended up being so innocuous.
...anyway we got to have another ferry ride at Portaferry!
The drive down the coastal side of Down (where the Mountains of Mourne do indeed come down to the sea) was spectacular. Always hard to get this sort of thing on camera!
We drove around Strangford loch then down to Carlingford Loch. Loved Ardglass, and watched a family of seals playing in the bay and the fishing boats coming and going.
This next shot is of the Narrow Water Castle guarding the Clanrye River, near the Republic of Ireland border.
Just near here is the coronation stone of the Magennis'.
Then we had another couple of great rides thru Tollymore
Looking down on Newcastle (N.I.) from Curraghard, The Black Mountain....
All too soon it was over and we were heading back to Belfast and the ferry to Stranraer. Northern Ireland is relatively peaceful outside of the marching season, but we were more than a little disappointed to see the loyalists still hanging their banners and their flags all over towns and marching up and down near catholic streets. They just don't seem able to see that it's wrong.
We woke to a sunny day in Stranraer and spent the morning at the lighthouse. Did a bit of traipsing around looking for St Bridget's Well, but no-one remembers where it is anymore and the countryside was a bit coarse and wet so we gave up and drove up to the Agnew Memorial Tower which is set on a Novantae Hillfort.
That's all for now, lots more to come.