The Happy Hippie Convoy by Daquiri

Well we were back home for a grand total of 2 days before we were off on our next adventure. Not much settee snooze time at all we’re complaining to the management. But it was worth it as we got a very big surprise as Auntie Jules & Uncle Pete from The Hippie Boat turned up in their motorhome. They brought our old friend Polly who at 15 is a very old lady now blind & deaf but still going strong. In addition there were 2 pals; naughty little Millie & noisy Eric who barked more than us. Yes its possible!! They’d come over for 2 weeks to explore part of Ireland in a convoy with us. Here’s them in The Richmond Inn straightaway on the Guinness!!

The next day we set off in our convoy of 3 humans, 5 doggies & 2 motorhomes for Cavan. Jules wanted to do some family history on her relatives with connections to Cavan so spent a bit of time in the genealogy department at the library.

Next we were off to Ballyconnell in pursuit of showers & mum wanted to look at the moorings there. The showers there were eventful. Mums door wouldn’t close properly & the light didn’t work. then they were press button showers so everytime auntie Jules pressed her button mums shower stopped & they were only luke warm but funniest of all Auntie Jules got stuck in the shower as her door jammed. Uncle Pete was just coming to the rescue with a screwdriver when Auntie Jules got out!

After all the excitement we headed further north to the shores of Upper Lough Erne as mum had researched a parking spot at Tiraroe Quay. It was a perfect spot for our 2 vans & we headed off in the evening to visit Jan & Alistair just up the road at Knockninny. Mum thought it was safe to let us off as we were enclosed by 2 cattle grids but oh no we’re cleverer than that. Firs Daquiri went across one & nearly broke his legs but mum coaxed him back. Then I went across & Daquiri did it again! So I’m stupid & Daquiri is doubly stupid!!

From here we headed up to Enniskillen. We fell very lucky here as we stopped again at a waterways mooring & it had a doggie park right next to it. Well it actually had 2 doggie parks one for small dogs & one for large dogs with a long list of rules which we broke straightaway as we all went in one doggie park!!

The humans then went off for a wander round Enniskillen starting at the castle.

Then of course they ended up in a pub citing some reason about trying to see Inspector Hastings from Line of Duty as he drinks there! Blakes of the Hollow is renowned for its traditional Irish heritage, Blakes of the Hollow Is one of the most famous and well recognised Victorian pubs in Ireland. It is a must see attraction which has graced Co.Fermanagh’s shores for over 125 years. It also has one of the Games of Thrones doors in it. These are mostly around the Belfast area.

In the evening we went off in pursuit of a parking spot right by a castle on the shores of Lough Erne. Tully Castle is a fortified house and bawn are set on Tully Point and were built for Sir John Hume who occupied the house until 1641 when it was attacked and burned on Christmas Eve by Rory Maguire and the inhabitants massacred. It was not lived in again. It was a great parking spot & we went on a great looped walk down to the lake shore the following morning to try & wear the youngsters out namely Eric!

From here we headed up to Donegal in search of coastline & beaches. We found one beach & had a great walkies on it then headed off to anther one which although was an amazing parking spot we decided to go back to the first one as the wind had really picked up & the first one was more sheltered. When we got back from walkies w ended up with a stowaway in our van naughty little Millie tried to be one of the Boyz1!

The next day we headed inland to avoid the worst of the wind & went too ne of our favourite moorings at Acres Lake at Drumshanbo just south of Lough Allen. First we had a visit to the Distillery there but after Uncle Pete nearly had a coronary at the price of the whiskey they found a pub for Sunday lunch. We had nice walkies round the boardwalk at Acres Lake & got a fabulous furry family photo shot – well Auntie Jules had a fluffy coat on so she counts too. From left to right we have Cosmo, Daquiri Polly, Jules, Millie & Eric!

Next it was off to a place on mums bucket list Achill Island. It was one of our longest drives & we’d unusually for us booked a campsite to stay in this time. We’d planned 2 nights there one to get there & one to look round which ended up being a very wise move as Auntie Jules & Uncle Pete were struck down by a nasty bout of flu. How mum escaped it after being in the small confines of the vans we’ll never know.

So on our day at the island we headed off in just our van while Auntie Jules & Uncle Pete rested. Achill Island lies off County Mayo on the west coast of the Republic of Ireland. Marked by rugged mountains and peat bogs, the island is known for its tall sea cliffs and clean beaches. Its breezy shoreline makes it a popular spot for water sports. The strand (beach) at Keem Bay inspired visiting writers Heinrich Böll and Graham Greene. Keel, the island’s main village, has a sandy surf beach. Achill Island and the Curraun Peninsula, in County Mayo, are the jewels in the crown of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Soaring sea cliffs, Blue Flag beaches, mountains, lakes and big Atlantic skies. We weren.t disappointed though it was a particularly foul day. Mum drove a full circuit of the island including the scarey route up & down to Keem Bay until you reach the sign that motorhomes aren.t allowed to proceed past. There were sheep everywhere who were often just strolling along nonchalantly in front of Toddy. Here’s a selection of our photos. It was hard to pick there were so many fabulous views. I think we need to come back for a week to Achill.

The next day we were all back travelling together with Auntie Jules & Uncle Pete armed with flu remedies & tissues. We round the coastline & through the beautiful scenery of Connemara stopping at Leenaun for a pub stop & then onwards to our parking for the night at Letterfrack. Auntie Jules stayed in but mum & Uncle Pete him the local pubs.

The next day was quick walkies around Connemara National Park then onwards towards Galway. We stopped for a look round Clifden & yes you’ve guessed it a drink in the pub before eventually finding a sheltered parking spot at Ross Lake.

The next day Auntie Jules & Uncle Pete set off before us to use a laundrette as mum was working first thing then we reconvened & headed into Galway City. Mum love Galway & after a look at The Spanish Arch & the incredibly high & fast flowing River Corrib you’ve guessed it pubs! Firstly the Kings Head the oldest pub in Galway & then O’Connells the one mum visited in April with a street in its beer garden.

Then it was off to visit Santa Kevin who mum had worked with as Elf Lollipop at Center Parcs. Kevin lived just outside Galway near Tuam & had invited us to dinner & to stay the night. We had fun getting there as some of the roads were flooded but we eventually made it. We had a wonderful time dining on steak dinner & Pete is still talking about all the whiskies him & Kevin were sampling.

Luckily with not too bad heads in the morning we set off after a hearty breakfast cooked by Kevin for the Cliffs of Moher. We wound our way there up the adrenaline pumping corkscrew hill until we eventually reached the visitor centre. Now I really don’t think we could have picked a worst weather day to visit the cliffs if we tried. We parked up & it was blowing a gale both vans were rocking I thought Toddy was going to blow over. Then down came a huge hailstorm. It sounded like the roof was caving in. Once it stopped we were left in the van than God but the humans & the other 3 doggies set off up the cliffs. They could barely walk against the wind & at one point little Millie took off up into the air!! Anyway they made it for a short visit & got a few photo shots but mum says we’ll come back when its less windy as we want to visit Doolin too.

That night we went in pursuit of music & settled on the lovely town of Ennis. Again the weather was dire with hail & wind & rain but they managed a pub crawl around Ennis & found a bit of music in the last pub. Ennis ahs gone on our list to revisit in better weather too!

Next on the list was to see Lough Derg. We had a quick stop at Mountshannon then it was onwards up to Portumna. We had a walk round a bit of the forest then the friary & castle. Me & Cosmo had a fight to see who could get through the gap in the wall first. I won!! The evening was spent in the lovely company of Fergal, Wendy Emma & Sophie the jack russell (my girlfriend!). As ever many drinks were consumed!

The next morning the others headed off early to a vets in Athlone for tapeworm treatments before their ferry home in a couple of days. Thank God we escaped that. Mum had work to do so joined them in Sean’s Bar (where else?!) later. Our final evening together was spent at Abbeyshrule. We decided not to stay over that night as the temperature was due to drop a lot & as we have no heating. It proved a wise move as the fire had blown out in the boat too so we were glad to get that lit before any pipes froze. SO we enjoyed a fabulous final meal at The Rustic Inn & bade our farewells & drove back to Golden Boyz.

Auntie Jules & Uncle Pete set off early the next morning for Newgrange & then caught their ferry home the next day. So after 13 or so nights, lots of miles, 2 bad bouts of flu, numerous whiskeys, many walkies, Lots of Guinness & three hundred million pubs visited we are back snoozing on our settee in front of the fire. We had a fabulous time with the Hippies & are hoping they’ll come back & visit us in the autumn when the trading season is over.

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Xmas Adventures Galore by Daquiri

It’s our 3rd Xmas in Ireland but the first one without Covid restrictions so we were determined to make the most of it & am sure as you’ll see from this blog we certainly did!

s you will have seen us mention in previous blogs mum was working at the Irish Center Parcs this winter. She initially wasn’t going to be doing a 2nd job across winter as we hoped to be cruising but as soon as she found out that the canal was closed she snapped this position up. Just as we think she can’t get any more eccentric she goes & finds herself a job working as an Xmas ELF!! Her name was Elf Lollipop. She was based in the fabulous winter wonderland section of Center Parcs helping Santa in his grotto. Duties ranged from elf playtime on the path approaching Santa’s workshop to meeting & greeting families at the door or in Santa’s clock room to manning the shop or accompanying families inside the actual grotto & handing presents out. She originally signed up just for 2 days a week but ended up working quite a few extra days. It was really hard work as you were on your feet all day being naughty & mischievous but mum did enjoy the perks of being able to use the swimming pool & spa for free. Mum also got to make lots of new friends & meet new people which was the main aim of the job.

During this time we had a very cold spell in fact the coldest we’ve known during our ten years living aboard. It dropped down to -9 degrees in Longford. Although the boat was nice & warm Mum wasn’t impressed having to de-ice Toddy on the mornings she was going into work. It didn’t actually snow in Longford but the frost was that had it almost looked like it had & the canal harbour froze solid.

Our first winter event was at Belvedere House & Gardens near Mullingar. Mum had bought the tickets ages ago thinking she’d be moored nearby but it was only about a 45 min drive in Toddy. As it was a freezing cold night we were left at home in front of the fire & mum ventured out alone. The event was Land of Lights & mum got to follow an illuminated trail around Belvedere Gardens. She hopes to return in daylight to see the gardens in the future.

Next was Palmerstown House Drive through Christmas but this one wasn’t so impressive.

That evening mum was off to the Sallins Liveaboards Xmas Party at the stunning Westgrove Hotel at Clane. Mum loved catching up with everyone & it was such a fabulous evening.

We found a great parking spot for Toddy just opposite the hotel by Clane Friary so we didn’t have to drive home.

The next day we set off to do something that mum had had her eye on since she first arrived in Ireland – The Nenagh Xmas Tractor Parade. A tractor run is about making money for charity, and is quite a sight for anyone waiting along the route as they catch a range of vintage and modern-day illuminated tractors driving by.

The parade was fabulous & we finished the evening off by having a takeaway in Toddy while the traffic queues subsided. Then we drove to park up in the pitch dark at at spot at Youghal Quay on the shores of Lough Derg, We couldn’t see anything at night but we woke up to a nice view.

As Xmas approached mum did her last shift as Elf Lollipop & we packed Toddy up & headed away on our Xmas break. We had a cottage booked at Castleisland but we broke up the journey visiting Wendy & Fergal then Susie & Liam all moored at Portumna. Continuing our route we got a mega surprise when we stopped on the outskirts of Limerick & picked a passenger up. It was none other than auntie Sally who we haven’t seen since we moved to Ireland!! We continued on our way the 4 of us & checked into Julie’s cottage on the outskirts of Castleisland. We’d chosen that spot so we could explore Dingle which we’d not been to yet & to revisit parts of Kerry.

As we normally arrange our cottage had a lovely open fire although mum was miffed to discover she’d misread the info & it didn’t have a bath!

On our first day Xmas Eve we had a more leisurely day & we’d all been travelling a lot the day before plus it was very very wet so mum & auntie Sally just had a look round the nearby town of Killorglin. Killorglin had been in the news a lot last year as they have a Killorglin Puck Fair where a goat is the centrepiece of the festival but last year the goat had to be removed as the weather was s hot. Representing King Puck is a proud bronze billy which stands as an eternal symbol of Ireland’s oldest festival, where a goat is made king.

For three days in August, a goat is crowned king of Killorglin and reigns over a street party where people trade cattle and sell wares. Puck Fair is the oldest festival in Ireland and coincides with the Gaelic celebration of Lughnasa. It is so old that academics disagree about exactly when the fair started and a number of conflicting origin stories have been handed down through the years. Puck Fair first officially appears in the written historical record in 1613, but the one thing scholars do agree on is that the fair would have been in existence well before that date, perhaps even originating in the pre-Christian era.

Xmas day was spent in the cottage in front of our roaring open fire & auntie Sally cooked a marvellous Xmas dinner which we got a portion of yum yum. We got lots of edible Xmas presents & mum bought us a toy elf each. The nose on Cosmo’s elf didn’t last very long!!

Boxing Day or St Stephens Day as it is in Ireland we were back at the exploring as mum had her heart set on turkey sandwiches & hot soup while parked up somewhere picturesque with a view & the lady who owned the cottage had told us about a special St Stephens Day festival in Dingle which we wanted to check out. First stop was the stunning Inch Beach for walkies & we managed to avoid the rain which became a rarity on this holiday!

Then it was off to dinge to get parked before the crowds arrived. Dingle is well know for Fungie the Dingle dolphin who sadly now is assumed to have died as he’s not been seen for so long. In 1984, Paddy Ferriter, the Dingle Harbour lighthouse keeper, first began watching a lone wild dolphin escort the town’s fishing boats to and from port. By August of that year, local Ministry of Marine manager Kevin Flannery was able to officially record the dolphin as a “permanent” resident of the entrance channel and self-appointed “pilot” of the fleet. The friendly dolphin Fungie who swims playfully alongside the boats in Dingle Harbour has been immortalised in a bronze statue at the harbour front close to Dingle Pier. American sculptor and environmentalist James ‘Bud’ Bottoms (1928 – 2018) created this much loved bronze sculpture, as Dingle town’s Millennium project.

Today we managed to catch the Dingle Wrens Day which I hadn’t heard of before. On St. Stephen’s Day , December 26th, crowds of people take to the roads in various parts of Ireland, dressed in motley clothing, wearing masks or straw suits and accompanied by musicians – remembering a festival with antecedents that long predate Christmas. The Wren – sometimes pronounced and written, wran – was once common all over Ireland. In some areas, the Wrenboys are called Mummers and the festival has a strong English influence, incorporating characters like St. George.

Lá an Dreolín, or Wrens Day, is an Irish tradition that takes place on the 26th of December each year. The tradition of Lá an Dreoilín, is thriving in the town of Dingle, with residents of the town taking part in a number of Wren groups, parading around the town, while hundreds line the streets and join in the festivities. Traditionally musicians would march wearing straw ‘rigs’, and other accessories made of straw, but now, anything goes! From glitz and glam, to the downright bizzare, as each street in Dingle town wear  colours indicative of the Wren they represent. The Green and Gold Wren HQ is in O’Flaherty’s Pub; among their ranks is legendary broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh. We managed to watch the Green & Gold parade after a quick drink in O’Flahertys.

As the festival goes on all day & well into the night we then escaped to the more peaceful route of Slea Head. Mum achieved her goal of hot soup & turkey sandwiches with a view & we drove around the stunning scenery of Slea Head before returning to the cottage.

Next day we set off for another big day to drive part of the Kerry Ring. Unfortunately a warning light came on on Toddy’s dashboard which after some research later we discovered meant he needed the brake fluid topping up. We managed to find a Halfords open in Tralee & had a look around Tralee instead. Tralee is famous for the song Rose of Tralee.

The Rose of Tralee is a nineteenth century Irish ballad about a woman called Mary, who because of her beauty was called The Rose of Tralee. The song tells the tale of a doomed love affair between Tralee merchant William Mulchinock and kitchen maid Mary O’Connor in the 19th Century. William’s family were wealthy brogue and linen merchants, Mary was the daughter of a poor brogue maker and lived with her family in a thatched cottage on Brogue Lane in the middle of Tralee. At 17 Mary got a job as a kitchen maid in the grand Mulchinock family home, West Villa and when William met her it was love at first sight. William and Mary would meet secretly each day by the well in the grounds of West Villa and sometimes they would stroll together up Lover’s Lane and go to the dance at Clahane. One night under a pale moon William proposed to Mary. But William’s family deeply disapproved of his marriage to a broguemakers daughter. Although Mary loved William, she declined his proposal as she didn’t want him to be disowned by his family. William wrote the song to try and convince her to marry him, but she still refused. Heart broken William left the country only to return to Tralee six years later with Ireland in the midst of the Great Famine. William was intent on seeing Mary again only to find that she had died from tuberculosis.

The Rose of Tralee festival had been inspired by the ballad. The Rose of Tralee is held in the Co. Kerry town of Tralee each August and has evolved into much more than a simple beauty pageant. From its humble beginnings in 1959, when the festival budget was just £750, the Rose Of Tralee has emerged as one of the most important events in the Irish social calendar, second only to St Patrick’s Day for its colour, fervour and popularity. The highlight of the Festival is the hugely popular Festival Fashion Show as the Roses model the latest collections from Ireland’s top designers.

The next day we set off again on our Ring of Kerry exploration. Firstly we took in Kerry Cliffs which mum was pleased to visit as last time we were there they were closed due to covid. It was very very windy & we all laughed when auntie Sally’s bobble hat blew off her head!

Next we went down to Portmagee for lunch & a quick drive over the Valentia Island before winding our way home. We had stayed at a cottage at Portmagee during the first Xmas lockdown in 2020

On the way back we stopped at The Red Fox pub & Kerry Bog Museum & were surprised to find this slightly hidden tourist attraction.

Our final day in this area was a biggie. We spent the day firstly exploring Killarney National Park. Starting with a soggy walk to Torc Waterfall. At least there was plenty of water to see cascading down. Torc Waterfall is a 20 metres high, 110 metres long cascade waterfall formed by the Owengarriff River as it drains from the Devil’s Punchbowl corrie lake at Mangerton Mountain. The waterfall, which lies at the base of Torc Mountain, in the Killarney National Park, is 4.3 miles from Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland.

Killarney National Park, Ireland’s oldest National Park is located in Killarney, all the while adjacent to the town. Killarney is also Ireland’s Oldest National Park, formed in 1932 when Senator Arthur Vincent and his family entrusted Muckross House & Estate into the care of the Irish State. Now the focal point for many visitors to Killarney, Muckross House & Gardens has been entertaining as a 19th century mansion, containing all original pieces of furniture, artwork, trophies and many other furnishings from that period. The Park is currently managed jointly by the National Parks & Wildlife Services and the Trustees of Muckross House, Killarney. Killarney National Park was deemed a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1981 due to the quality and high ecological diversity, extensive habitats and range of species found that in the park, some of which are quite rare.

We drove around Killarney National Park taking in a few view points & stopped for lunch at the stunning Ladies View. Back in 1861, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert came to visit the region by horse and carriage, accompanied by her ladies-in-waiting. While on their way to Muckross House, where they were staying as guests, the Queen and her companions decided to stop for a picnic. It’s said that the group were so stricken by the view, that it was named after them. We were lucky enough not only to get the only open table upstairs in the verandah at the cafe but also to be treated to a rainbow whilst we were there.

Next it was onto Killarney town as we had something special planned which we needed carrots for!

No visit to Killarney would be complete without taking a Jaunting Car Tour of Killarney National Park. Renowned for their wit and charming storytelling, a local jarvey will guide you through the park on a horse drawn cart regaling you with local history, stories of old and Irish legends. The Jaunting Car is an absolutely unique way of touring the National Park, Now as it was Christmas the Jaunting cars are transformed into sleighs & we had as sleigh ride booked to the nearby Ross Castle ably transported by Ginger our horse who enjoyed her carrots. Ross Castle perches in an inlet of Lough Leane. It is likely that the Irish chieftain O’Donoghue Mór built it in the fifteenth century. Legend has it that O’Donoghue still slumbers under the waters of the lake. Every seven years, on the first morning of May, he rises on his magnificent white horse. If you manage to catch a glimpse of him you will enjoy good fortune for the rest of your life.

So all too soon our final day at Julie’s cottage dawned but our adventure didn’t finish here oh no. We set off across country bound for a couple of days in Dublin for New Year. En route we called in at a couple of our previous mooring spots to show Auntie Sally.

We arrived at our airbnb accommodation mid afternoon. It was an ecelctic room in an eclectic cottage at Clontarf on the outskirts of Dublin. It was doggie friendly & a much better price than the extortionate prices in central Dublin. We literally checked in had a quick drink then were off out again. Negotiating the Dart & the Luas then a walk brought us up to Dublin Zoo. Tonight we had the absolutely spectacular Wild Lights booked.

We then had a late tea in the Brazen Head Dublins oldest pub & attempted & have up at getting into a rammed pub at Temple Bar!

The next day to give Sally a whistlestop tour of Dublin we did the Hop On Hop Off bus before returning back to our airbnb to prepare for the big night our for New Years Eve. We had tickets for the big outdoor party with Lyra & Gavin James playing & Westlife headlining. It was a fabulous show & certainly we’ll remember New Years Eve 2022. Unfortunately all the buses home were packed so we ended up walking all the way in just under an hour. Mum ended up with blisters on her blisters!!

All too soon our holiday was over & auntie Sally was boarding her flight back to the UK as we drove back across country to the good ship Golden Boyz & a bit of a rest before the next adventure. Well we’re having a rest mum is frantically doing washing & filling the boat with water & diesel unpacking & packing again while we snooze on the settee!

So to all our blog readers we hope you’ve had a absolutely wooferful Xmas & we wish a furry fun filled 2023.

Connemara Adventures in Toddy by Daquiri

We went on a bit of a ‘bigger’ adventure in Toddy for our second adventure choosing Connemara which was on mums bucket list. Again she’d done lots of research so we got some cracking parkups each night.

Our first night we parked by a stunning friary; Ross Errily Friary. The Franciscan friary of Ross Errilly lies on the banks of the Black River, a natural border which divides the modern counties of Galway and Mayo before it enters Lough Corrib. The friary at Ross Errilly is one of the most impressive and complete Franciscan foundations in Ireland. It’s two large chapels or ‘transepts’ more than double the space of the nave, while the two-storey domestic buildings are set around both a cloister and an outer court. The domestic buildings are particularly well-preserved due to the continued use of the friary into the eighteenth century. This gives visitors a great sense of the unfolding of the friars’ everyday life around the cloister and outer court: in the west range of the outer court is the kitchen, where there is a large fireplace with an oven, beside a deep circular stone pit, a fish tank; the refectory is located in the eastern range of the outer court, with the lector’s desk at the northwest corner of the room; various staircases led to the friars’ dormitories in the upper floors.

It was a beautiful remote parkup & we were able to explore the ruins & it was easy to get lost in the many corridors. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise in the morning; well mum was cos I wanted a cockaleggie!

From here we drove up through Cong where we visited with Angela & Jim in the summer to Leenaun on the shores of waht is reputed to be one of Irelands Fjords; Killary. While it is known widely as Ireland’s only fjord, it is disputed that it was actually formed by glaciers. It forms a partial border between counties Galway and Mayo. It is 16 kilometres long and in the centre it is over 45 metres deep. It was pouring with rain so we stayed indoors while mum popped out for a coffee.

Then it was onwards to the absolutely stunning Kylemore Abbey. Mum has decided to do this today as the weather was so bad. Nestled in the heart of Connemara, on the Wild Atlantic Way, Kylemore Abbey is a haven of history, beauty and serenity. Home to a Benedictine order of Nuns for the past 100 years, Kylemore Abbey welcomes visitors from all over the world each year to embrace the magic of the magnificent 1,000-acre estate. Kylemore Castle was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry MP, a wealthy businessman, and liberal politician. Inspired by his love for his wife Margaret, and his hopes for his beloved Ireland, Henry created an estate boasting ‘all the innovations of the modern age’. An enlightened landlord and vocal advocate of the Irish people, Henry poured his life’s energy into creating an estate that would showcase what could be achieved in the remote wilds of Connemara. Today Kylemore Abbey is owned and run by the Benedictine community who have been in residence here since 1920.

We had quick walkies around the car park then returned to Toddy while mum went off exploring. We weren’t keen on being out in all that rain. We had a bonus on mum’s return as shed had a roast beef dinner in the cafe & she brought us some beef back yummy!

From here we set off to the beach looking for a spot mum had researched at Renvyle Beach. Mum had a plan B as the weather was still pretty atrocious so we thought being on the coast might be no fun but we thought we’d just go & check the spot out. The parking spot was good but as it was still pouring mum thought we’d have a quick walkies on the beach then possibly move on. So we set off with hood up for mum & heads down for us along the beach with just a grey mist in front of us obscuring the view. Then something amazing happened… as we turned round the sky behind us was a bright blue & the rain stopped. We did our normal trick of rolypolys to delay going back & just as mum was taking a photo of us she saw an amazing double rainbow. That was it she had to take about 100 photos then!! We had a great play on the beach then went back to Toddy. Then a few other doggies arrived & went down on the beach so mum took us down to join in with them. Well I had such a great time running around I forgot myself, Me who doesn.t really like water & especially doesn’t do water that has waves that chase me went in the sea & quite deep too for me. Then I realised where I was & ran out much to mums amusement.

We decided to stay here the night & mum never heard a peep out of us we were so exhausted. The next day dawned much brighter & after another beach walkies we headed off to Connemara National Park visitor centre. Well mum walked our legs off again it’s tiring this campervanning malarkey! Connemara National Park is one of Ireland’s six National Parks. It covers some 3,000 hectares of scenic mountains, expansive bogs, glorious grasslands and enchanting woodlands.

Next we did quite a bit of driving so we got to thankfully have a rest. We drove round the spectacular Sky Road then on towards Claremorris for yet another excellent parkup.

This parkup is at the home of another motorhomer who invites people to park up & stay & use the facilities. Mum had rung ahead to check it was Ok & it was a marvellous stop. It had electric hook up & water & bins & various outbuildings with a toilet, washing machine & dryer, kettle, microwave & loads of useful equipment. There’s lots of places to sit out although it was a bit chilly for that this weekend. Grainne one of owners arrived after dark & brought us a wonderful welcome tray. True Irish hospitality.

The following morning we headed back so mum could do some work & get some shopping in before her next day working at Center Parcs. We’ll be fit as fiddles all of us with all these walkies while we’re in Toddy.

Our First Adventure in (Hot) Toddy by Cosmo around Lough Ree

Well we’ve managed to wrestle the blog back off mum. As you’ll have read in her last blog we now have a new addition to our fleet Toddy the campervan. Now to say we weren’t keen is an understatement as we HATE going in cars & vans but Toddy was a bit different as we got in at the side not the back & we were still able to see mum which was better. We were also tricked big time as we got in it a couple of times at Richmond Harbour & were very pleased to find out it didn’t actually move or so we thought. Until one day our illusions were shattered & it did move. By the we were a bit used to it so we weren’t quite as nervous as getting in a car or van & we don’t run off from getting in. now it did help that there were antlers for us to chew inside Toddy

So before we knew it we were off on our first big Toddy adventure. Mum made a snap decision one Friday afternoon as the weather forecast said unseasonably warm for November so we set off to the shores on Lough Ree. Mum had done extensive research on the park4night app & found a spot that couldn’t be reached by Golden Boyz at Portlick Woods. We arrived just as it was getting dark so we didn’t get chance to discover the lake but mum was impressed that there were toilets there that were open all night. So mum had brought a pan of veg curry shed made the night before that she reheated & we had our tea in our new bowls specially for keeping in Toddy. Mum got to grips with most things in Toddy that she needed & chilled watching The Crown on Netflix. It was a peaceful night & I discovered mums bed was far better than the floor though I’m not sure mum was overly impressed as there wasn’t really room for both of us!

In the morning we woke early & went off for walkies to explore the area. It was fabulous for walkies & we discovered Lough Ree about ten seconds from our back door. This is a wonderful walk that explores the wooded glades and farmlands of Portlick and the Whinning peninsula of Lough Ree. Portlick, meaning, “part of the flagstone surface” refers to the limestone bedrock that occurs extensively in the region.  Portlick is a native hazel/ash woodland with lesser amounts of oak, whitebeam, holly, alder, willow, birch and hawthorn  including Whinning House, the ruins of which are within the forest site.

Portlick Forest is a designated Millennium Forest. As part of the millennium (year 2000) celebrations, over 1500 acres of native woodland were designated as “People’s Millennium Forests”. This native woodland (divided into 16 forests around the country) included newly planted areas with native Irish seed and the restoration of native woodlands. Under this initiative, a native tree was planted free of charge on behalf of each household in Ireland. A total of 1.2 million native trees were planted. Every home was issued with a certificate giving details about the tree planted for each family and where it is located.

We met another goldie & a black lab & had a great time running round with them in & out of the water.

We returned to Toddy exhausted & settled down nicely in the back as mum drove to Center Parcs. Mum has a winter job there (more about that in another blog!!) so she gets free access. She’d only just started the job so she wanted to have a wander round to have a look at the Xmas lights & she went for a swim in the pool. We fell fast asleep in Toddy while she was doing all that.

I was very comfortable!

When she returned we literally had a 5 minute dive to our next spot for the night Newcastle Woods. Mum already knew this spot as she’d cycled here when she was moored on the River Inny but we’d not been. Again we arrived in the dark but the next morning we went off to explore. It also had lovely walkies around the perimter fence of Center Parcs. We even saw some deer in the forest. We also had a lovely surprise when we saw our friend Mary from Tullamore who was with a canoeing group braving the white water of the River Inny. It was rather a long walkie as mum got lost but it meant she didn’t hear a peep out of us the next night – method in her madness

At about lunchtime we left Newcastle Woods & headed back south through Athlone & up the west side of Lough Ree. Mum was aiming for a car park called Judys Harbour which is very near Rindoon Castle. We couldn’t get Golden Boyz to Rindoon n our Lough Ree cruise. There is a floating jetty which mum stopped at for photos with the castle in the background but because its not connected to land its no good for us. This time we were approaching it from the land side.

It was a beautifully landscaped car park with a lovely flowerbed boat arrangement & some fun interactive games by the picnic benches along the shore line. Lough Ree is really high at the moment so the water was almost lapping the picnic benches. Also the car park had a fabulous shelter with picnic benches underneath which made a great spot for us to lie outside under at tea time. Sadly the path to Rindoon castle was closed so we didnt get to go there but we were happy to have found such a great spot.

Unfortunately Daquiri also discovered he quite liked being up on mums bed too! Don’t know where mum is going to go!!

The next morning we headed back to Golden Boyz as we weren’t far away as mum had work to do. It wasn’t too bad this campervan life especially as we seem to be getting extra walkies when we’re in it.

Mum’s Cuban Adventure (Ireland to Havana, Trinidad & Varadero) by Sandra

I’ve been given permission by the Boyz to take over the blog briefly this time. So with Golden Boyz all tucked up in Richmond Harbour as hinted at last time we’ll be having some different land adventures this year. The Boyz went off on holidays to Happy Tails Kennels & I flew back to the UK.

There I made an exciting purchase as we added Toddy the Peugeot Boxer Symbol to our fleet. Toddy or Todd as he was originally called was owned by Joy & as she’s upgrading campervans I bought Toddy (as in Hot Toddy!!) so I can explore the bits of Ireland I can’t get to by water. We’ll be sharing more of Toddy’s adventures in the future.

As ever when I’m in the Uk it was a whirlwind tour with a couple of nights firstly at Joys learning all about Toddy & having driving lessons around Reading University campus! Then I was off up to visit Mick & Jackie at Newport with a lovely surprise of Susie & Dave being there too. Then it was a quick lunch with Dom & Jane before driving up to Pelsall for Jims big 70th. Next it was up to Dad’s for a couple of days where I had my first proper night wild camping at Pilling on the beach & then a chance to catch up with family at Margaret & Grahams. Then finally lunch with Heidi before returning to Angela & Jims ready for my flight out on Birmingham to CUBA!!!

So onto Cuba. In my full time working days I ran the Yorkshire franchise of an events company called Spice who as well as local events do holidays abroad. In my 20 years of running the company I got to travel all over the world accompanying trips as a coordinator from white water rafting the Grand Canyon (twice!!) to about 50 ski trips to Lake Garda to Borneo to China to Canadian Rocky Mountaineer to India & Thailand to masked balls in Venice to loads of cruises and many more… This time I’d chosen to book a Spice trip as a customer which was fabulous to not be in charge for once. Full details of all the Spice trips can be found here including the 2023 trip to Cuba Spice Escapes

So of at set in the middle of the night for a flight firstly to Paris & then onwards to Havana. We were delayed a couple of hours at Paris & Air France were particularly dreadful all round but we finally arrived in Havana tired but happy to be there. After a while getting currency for everyone at the airport as you can’t bring it into the country we were off by coach to our Hotel Nacional de Cuba. My oh my how wonderful it was.

In its 92 years, the majestic Hotel Nacional de Cuba has witnessed some of the most important events in the history of Cuba that link the republican and revolutionary stages, and it also has a long list of famous guests, including Gary Cooper, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Keaton, Erroll Flynn, the Dukes of Windsor and José Raúl Capablanca in the 1930s, Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Winston Churchill, as well as Italian-American mafia bosses and Mexican movie stars like Maria Felix , Jorge Negrete and Agustín Lara in the 1940s, and Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Nat King Cole and Walt Disney in the 1950s, Yuri Gagarin, Gabriel García Marquez, Jean-Paul Sartre and his wife, Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara in the 1960s. Hundreds of celebrities and among them more than 100 heads of state have been hotel guests, their photographs, as well as historical objects are displayed in the Hall of Fame, a must-see site when in the Cuban capital.

It was late as we arrived so after a quick bite to eat it was off to bed but we later all took part in the wonderful tour telling you all about the history of the hotel & we even got to have a look inside the notorious Mafia Suite. Heres a few photos from around the hotel.

We had 3 fun days in Havana including a tour around Havana & enjoyed a mojito or two or three!!

Plus a trip out in the classic cars which is the bit I’d most been looking forwards to.

Myself & two others opted out of the big show in Havana one night & instead found a wonderful pirate themed restaurant & went to the hotel show

And we also went on a quirky horse drawn tour of Havana finishing with lunch at Buena Vista Social club & had a splendid evening meal at a Colonial restaurant again transported there is style in the classic cars

All too soon our time in Havana was over you could easily spend a month there & not do everything. Next we were transferred To Trinidad which was more rustic but had a lovely beach front hotel so we enjoyed a few dips in the sea as well as an interesting night our where the town was under blackout so only premises with generators were open & had lights on.

Next on our schedule was the much more touristy resort of Varadero where we had plenty of chill out time round the pool

One of the days our fabulous coordinator Pam organised an adventure day with a classic car trip, horse riding along the beach, a jeep trip, Snorkelling, lunch then swimming in the crystal blue waters of the sea & than finishing with cave swimming. It was an amazing action packed day.

All too soon it was our final night finishing with our last trip in the classic cars & a lovely meal as we enjoyed our last night together with lots of friendships made.

After a final day by the pool it was a flight home to a very rainy Birmingham. Angela & Jim kindly picked me up at the airport & after a nights rest I had a night out with Angela & Billie before starting my journey in Toddy over to Wales. On the way I called in at Llangollen to catch up with my boaty friends Jan, Toastie, Jules & Pete before overnighting in Toddy & catching the ferry back to Ireland.

I returned to a very wet & flooded Ireland & picked the Boyz back up from Happy Tails. It was straight back at it on my return as I started a new winter job (more about that in a future blog) & we were off straight away having new adventures around Ireland in Toddy but I’ll let the Boyz resume control of the blog again next time to tell you all about those

Last of the Summer Cruising (Haughtons Shore to Richmond Harbour) by Cosmo

It feels a while since we’ve blogged mainly as we’ve just been backtracking our route heading onto The Royal Canal for winter. But us being us with mum at the helm we’ve still had plenty of adventures along the way.

Firstly we headed back to Ballinamore for their festival. It was a week long celebration with free acts on every night on a stage in the main street from rod Stewart Tribute to Garth Brooks Tribute & mum’s favourite the Tumbling Paddies. There were lots of other activities during the day but mum was there really for the music. The week fell on the really hot week in Ireland & we couldn’t have been in a better spot right by some grass which was shaded by trees so we could sit out & there was a great group of boaters & folks in motorhomes there too.

We had visitors Helen Marie & John at Ballinamore which we especially liked as they brought us treats. We cruised with them back to Keshcarrigan where we also caught up with Nuala again. A night out was had in Gerties when the heavens opened with a huge thunderstorm that we didn’t like at all.

We had a girl power lock relay going on then down to Carrick as mum helped Nuala down the locks & cycled back up then the next day Georgina helped us down while Nuala grabbed our ropes at Carrick. The jetties at Carrick are the hardest place for us to moor as the current swings us round before mum can get off the boat so we really need someone to grab our ropes as we come in.

We all parted company again & we cruised back to one of our favourite spots Lough Key. Mum had finally managed to hook up with one of the IWAI Carrick events & this one was a cracker. Once a year they organise a Carrick Cares Day where they invite lots of adults & their carers to Lough Key for the day & put on a day of activities. IWAI members volunteer their time & lots of businesses donate prizes & food for the BBQ as well as Lough Key providing the venue & Lough Ree Access for all providing a boat that’s adapted for trips.

It was a lovely day & everyone enjoyed themselves. Whilst we were at Lough Key mum was out on Falcon doing some geocaching exploring new areas. She found the hidden derelict Kingston Hall. This house was built by the King family of Boyle in the early 1770’s. The Kings completed the magnificent John Nash designed Rockingham House, close to Kingston Hall in 1817. After the family moved to Rockingham Kingston Hall became the residence of the Land Steward for the estate. Rockingham is gone and Kingston Hall is in complete ruin. It is ironic that the Kings first residence in Boyle, King House, is now the only building still standing, thanks to commendable foresight by Roscommon Co, Council.

She also made it to Cloontykilla Castle whish she’d been hoping to find. This was featured on Grand Designs & all the fascinating info about it can be found here including the episode of Grand Designs: CloontyKilla Castle

We were also pleased to finally meet Josh & Sophie on Narrowboat Qisma. We’ve been friends for many months through instagram but as they’re in Northern Ireland we didn’t think we’d get to meet until next year. Josh & Sophie bought Qisma off our friends Jan & Alistair who we’ve mentioned in our blog before who now own First Lady. Luckily Sophie & Josh were on a 2 week holiday & their days in Lough Key coincided with us. You can read all about them here: NB Qisma & follow them on instagram @cruisingqisma We had a lovely couple of days together & a fabulous last night in mums favourite Carrick bar Mchughs.

We then headed south as they headed north. We had a few days in Drumsna then we headed for Carnadoe waters which was a section of loughs off to the west that we bypassed on our way upriver so we had something new to cruise on the way back down. We set off on a glorious sunny afternoon so glorious in fact mum was in her Tshirt & didn’t even bother having a coat to hand. BIG Mistake!! Carnadoe waters entry point is at the bottom of Lough Boderg & we had a lovely cruise down there. We passed Carnadoe as as we expected the wall looked too high for us & crossed Black Lough. True to its name as we were cruising a huge black cloud developed. Bad weather hadn’t been forecast or so we thought – ANOTHER mistake!! Mum hoped it was going the other way no such luck. There were a lot of tight turns & as we took a sharp turn onto Grange Lough all the reeds literally bowed down flat either side of us as the wind swept past & 30 seconds later the heavens opened & thunder rolled loud above us.

Mum could barely see past the front of her boat & given she was soaked to the skin in 2 seconds flat decided there was no point even attempting to get a coat. She had no choice but to just cruise on as there was nowhere to stop hence a lack of photos of this cruise! Please note Daquiri & I were lovely & warm & dry on the settee inside !!! Mum finally reached her destination of Grange & we got a lovely grassy bank mooring for a change. So on re-examining our weather app which we’d set for Kilglass as this was the nearest place it had picked up we discovered that there are 2 Kilglass’s in Ireland & we had it set on a completely different county hence why we had the wrong forecast.

Sadly once we moored up we heard the very sad news that HM Queen Elizabeth had died so it ended up being a kind of subdued week consumed by sad news from home.

Grange is a pretty remote mooring but does have a pub! Mum visited The Silver Eel one night for a meal & a cocktail & she managed to cycle to nearby Strokestown one day.

After a few days we set off to the other mooring on these waters Kilglass (& not the same as the one we had in the weather app). Kilglass was very pretty & accessed by the narrow Carrigeen Cut.

Kilglass was again mooring fingers with a current like Carrick but luckily there was just one boat there with someone on & he ran & caught our ropes. The wind picked up while we were there so we were stuck for a few days. A few hire boats came in & out & struggled to moor in the wind with one full of French hirers hitting us firstly side on & then straight up the stern!! Luckily no damage done but mum went out & got them to slow down on their approach as both times they just came in too fast & lost control. This reinforced our decision to stay put.

Although Kilglass was a lovely remote spot it was at the bottom of a big hill which even with Falcon was difficult to get up & being at the bottom of a hill also meant we had barely any signal there. So far its just been here & Leitrim that we’ve struggled for signal.

We need a new map book as ours is a bit weathered after the summers cruising!

We departed Kilglass on a lovely calm day & enjoyed our cruise out without being chased by a black cloud. After a very tricky reverse mooring we moored up at Dromod in the little harbour again. Unfortunately despite me jumping off the boat fine twice I then decided I didn’t like doing it as my back legs are not so strong now. So I point blank refused to get off mum tried everything trying to lift me disassembling the settee to use the foot stool as a step but I wasn’t having any of it. Eventually she put the 2 short planks down but they were very steep. She lifted me onto them then pushed my bottom right up along the planks till I fell off the top!! We had to do it again the next morning but then mum said we’d have to leave as I couldnt get off so we set off down to Rooskey.

Rooskey isn’t far & we hadn’t long left the harbour when alarms starting sounding & lights flashing showing we were overheating. Mum turned the engine off (after having a heart attack) & we drifted for a bit praying another boat would come so we didn’t have to ring the RNLI. Nobody did so mum tried starting it again & there were no alarms so she went very very slowly & pulled in at Rooskey. Once the engine had cooled we looked & somehow we had lost all the water so we topped it up & the next day it was still there. We topped up with diesel at Rooskey & the chaps there very kindly went & got us some coolant as we’d lost all ours & the garage didn’t have any. Mum was watching the engine closely & every time we ran it it would lose its water gradually. A few days later a leak was found out through a bolt which is now in the process of being fixed.

We were intending on hanging out at Rooskey, Tarmonbarry & Lanesborough before heading up onto The Royal canal for winter in October. Unfortunately we got a call from Waterways Ireland to say they were closing the summit level from October & the water levels were already too low for us to get very far along. Our only option was to get up off the river onto the canal & into Richmond Harbour. Mum rang Paddy at the harbour & he advised we get there as soon as possible if we wanted a spot as he was expecting it to start filling. So that afternoon we set off (with a big container of water to keep topping the engine up) & redid the Camlin River & moored up late below Richmond Harbour. In the morning we moved up & have a nice spot across the disused dry dock. Its very nice walkies for us here, Esay for me to get on & off & has an excellent pub. Its a bit of a way from shops but mum can cycle to the garage for some supplies & further into Longford if needed. We’ve also managed to book a Supervalu delivery to here with our all important dog food!

So sadly our winter cruising plans have been stopped before they’ve started. We are still hoping at some point that we will be able to progress along The Royal Canal this winter though its highly unlikely to be before Xmas. Mum has decided she wasn’t doing calendar club this year luckily as we’d have not got there now but she does have some exciting land adventures planned for us. We are also having a little bit of a lifestyle change over winter & mum has got a different winter job sorted. All I’ll say is watch this space & I swear to God she’s as mad as a box of frogs!!

The End of our Summer Route (Cootehall to Haughtons Shore) by Daquiri

Returning from our holiday we were delighted to see all ok with nb Golden Boyz. We were soon aboard & underway travelling with Auntie Angela while Uncle Jim was doing a van shuffle & meeting us at Leitrim. It was a beautiful sunny day & we picked Uncle Jim up before tackling what is a big flight of locks for Ireland. The locks are all electric. We got through the first one fine as a lock keeper was there but we got stuck in the second one as we didn’t realise we had to put a smartcard in underneath until the lock keeper arrived. Anyway we had them sussed after that.

It ended up being a longer & hotter day than we had anticipated. But after what felt like forever we were above the 8 locks & cruising onto the Shannon Erne waterway passing through a stunning rock cutting & across Lough Scur.

Soon we were at the point where the markers changed from being green & red to red & white.

Finally early evening we pulled up at Keshcarrigan our next stop. Uncle Jim & auntie Angela headed off in the van & we all had an early night. Keshcarrigan is a small village next to Lough Scur which lies at the foot of the Sheebeg and Sheemore hills. Mum spent a lot of the week catching up on work but she did manage a visit to the very quirky Gerties Pub!

Our next little hop was the 2 locks to Ballinamore ably assisted by Lockie Gerry. We got a great spot right by some grass with electric hook up. It was a stunning cruise across Muckros Lough & St Johns Lough & bypassing KiltyBardan Lough.

Baltimore was a lovely town with supermarkets for mum. It also had a great canal walk for us past the next 2 locks. Mum disappeared out on her bike one day & visited the amazing Glenview Folk Museum. It really is the most amazing collection of items including a collection of over 4000 egg cups!

Then she cycled off to place that had been intriguing her for a while Drumcoura City. It has a western riding stables & ranch themed bar & holds a fabulous Cowboys & Heroes festival in June each year. Mum had her lunch there then wobbled back after a very strong adult milkshake containing baileys & vodka! Luckily she made it back without mishap.

After our 5 days we went to set off & Golden Boyz ignition light didn’t go off after starting her up which means either the alternator or the belt had an issue. We’d already seen Tony & he was waiting at the lock for us so mum ran round to tell him we wouldn’t be coming & Tony became our superhero. He came round to look at the issue & a worn bolt was discovered so later in the day he came back with a new one & replaced it & Golden Boyz was fixed.

We set off again with Tony doing the locks for us en route for Haughtons Shore. Unfortunately it wasn’t our day or Tony’s as the hydraulics failed on the 2nd lock. After a couple of hours all was fixed & we were on our way again. As it was late we decided not to proceed across the next lough & we moored up below Aghoo lock just for the night.

The next morning we set off to a stunning day & were treated to a stunning early morning crossing of Lough Garadice. It was like gliding through a mirror.

Shortly after 8am we were all moored up safely at Haughtons Shore our end destination for summer 2022. From here we’re turning around & tracing our journey back south again to The Royal Canal for winter but we have saved the Carnadoe waters exploration for our journey south as we missed those on the way up.

Knock Knock Who’s There? Cosmo!! by Cosmo (Holiday to Mayo)

We survived our van journey although it was better than normal as we had mum sitting in the back with us & Uncle Jim was driving. WE pulled up at our lovely holiday cottage Lavender Cottage near Knock in county Mayo. On arrival we were greeted by the wonderful cottage owner Linda & her 2 furpals & she surprised us by having a birthday afternoon tea set up for mum. And you’ll never guess what not only did it have cakes & sandwiches & sweeties & a birthday cake but it also had DOG BISCUITS!!!!

We like this cottage already. It was a very cute remote cottage with a garden. Unfortunately we had to be kept on our leads because there had been a bonfire in the garden & we kept going & eating it & coming back with black paws & faces!

The first day Auntie Angela chilled at the cottage with us while mum & Uncle Jim went to check out the big church thing at Knock. Well mum was a bit blown away as it was a huge site with lots of people there. It has five churches including the huge Basilica & the apparition chapel, a museum, cafe & book shop, huge beautiful gardens, a row of holy water fountains & even a hotel. Since the first organised pilgrimage came to Knock in 1880, they have welcomed pilgrims from all over the world to this sacred place. The pilgrimage season takes place from the last Sunday in April until the second Sunday in October each year. Pilgrimage Masses take place at Knock Basilica each weekend throughout the pilgrimage season. Since the Apparition on the 21st of August 1879, pilgrims and visitors have been welcomed to Knock Shrine from all four corners of the world. There are five churches in the Shrine grounds, each with its own unique and exquisite features. From the Parish Church, built in 1828, to the Basilica constructed to give shelter to the millions that visit here each year.

On a wet dark August evening in 1879,  the villagers of this place had spent the day doing the usual work of the harvest time of the year – gathering winter fuel and fodder. As evening approached, the heavy mist that had been persistent throughout the day,  turned to a steady downpour.  The villagers gathered around the turf fires in their homes, taking comfort and shelter on a terrible night. Suddenly word spread throughout the village that something extraordinary was happening at the Church and so they hurried to the windswept gable where they witnessed a heavenly vision surrounded in a brilliant white light. Men, women and children gathered in prayer at the gable wall of  the parish church.

The witnesses clearly saw the Blessed Virgin Mary dressed in white robes, her hands and eyes turned towards heaven in prayer. On her head was a gold crown and where the crown fitted the brow, a single golden rose. On her right, bowed respectfully towards her, was St. Joseph. He appeared older, his beard and hair were grey and, like Our Lady,  he was barefoot. To Our Lady’s left stood John the Evangelist vested as a bishop, wearing a small mitre. He held an open book in his left hand and in its pages the lines and letters could clearly be seen. He appeared to be preaching but no voice was heard. He stood so that his back was neither turned to the Virgin or to the Lamb that stood upon a simple plain altar. Behind the Lamb was a Cross. The witnesses watched and prayed for over 2 hours and though they were wet, they noticed that no rain fell on upon the Apparition or on the gable.

Apparently mum & Uncle Jim nearly ended up in a mass by mistake but luckily they found an exit door at the back!

The next day Ireland’s summer arrived & it was a wonderful day so we chilled & had a BBQ. Sally & Colin came to visit & brought a beautiful salad grown on their smallholding. A few drinks were drunk of course!

The next day we all set off to the village of Cong which is famous for The Quiet Man film that mum had never heard of! Starring John Wayne & Maureen O’Hara’ A retired American boxer returns to the village of his birth in 1920s Ireland, where he falls for a spirited redhead whose brother is contemptuous of their union. There’s a museum & statue in the village & we found very nice walkies by the river. Here’s the trailer for the film The Quiet Man

The next day we headed west & firstly visited the pretty village of Newport where mum found water & boats & we had a drink at the pub.

Next we dropped down to the very colourful town of Westport via Kilmeena Causeway where mum managed to snap one of those perfect Irish photos. No not the one of Uncle Jim driving the other one!

Mum & Auntie Angela went off exploring while Uncle Jim stayed with us in the van. We were all having a nice peaceful snooze when we were awoken by a loud clip clopping going past the van. We barked our heads off at It & Uncle Jim woke up with a shock to see 2 mad women on the back of a horse & carriage waving frantically at us all.

Thursday became the last day of our holiday as we decided to leave a day early as the weather was good for moving the boat Friday whereas it was forecast to be windy Saturday. On or last day we visited the small sculpture Park at Kiltimagh & then had walkies round Clare Lake. We were then abandoned as they went out for tea & mum introduced Auntie Angela to Baby Guinness!

So on Friday it was back in the van after a lovely break as we all headed back to Golden Boyz at Cootehall Marina ready for our next cruising adventure.

Visitors & Forest Walkies by Daquiri (Drumshanbo to Lough Key)

Just before we left Drumshanbo the rain finally stopped & mum popped into the village for the An Tostal Festival. Inaugurated in 1953 as a celebration of Irish life, it continued on until 1958 when it died out in most centres except Drumshanbo.

The next day we were off back to Carrick to await arrival of our visitors Hilary & Steve from the UK. Luckily the journey downhill in Drumleague lock was less eventful. It was a tad windy & mum had fun mooring up on the very short pontoons there as the wind kept blowing her round quicker than she could shuffle along the gunwhale with the rope. We just sat inside sniggering. Anyway with a lot of muttering she got herself sorted & off we trotted to the lovely riverside park for walkies.

Soon Hilary & Steve arrived & it was a merry little reunion. They hadn’t brought their black lab Vera who has been n our boat before because they had flown over. We did lots of barking & giddiness to welcome them before we were abandoned as when they went to the pub!

The next day they drove to Lough Key & had a look round the distillery at Drumshanbo which they were very impressed with. Needless to say the evening was spent in the pub. All too soon we were wishing them farewell as they left a rainy Ireland behind & the sun came out.

The next day was the completion of what was intended to be the last bit of our summer cruise to Lough Key. We’re a bit ahead of schedule! It was a drizzly day but nice & dry inside on the settee. Mum turned left off the River Shannon this time & onto the Boyle River. We crossed Lough Eldin & Oakport Lough before arriving at Clarendon lock.

Then it was onwards towards the fabulous Lough Key moorings. As it was still early there was lots of room for Golden Boyz & John & Ruth who remembered our boat from Naas came & helped us moor up. We got a perfect spot with a view of McDermotts Castle. McDermott’s Castle is a castle and protected national monument located in County Roscommon, Ireland. The site of a fortification since at least the 13th century, the structure’s tower house may date from the 16th century, with much of the current building dating to the 19th century. it’s quite literally plonked on a little green island smack bang in the middle of a lake.

Local legend tells the story of a girl called Una, the daughter of the McDermott chief, who fell in love with a boy from a lower class. Una’s father refused to let her leave the island, in the hopes that this would deter the budding relationship. Unbeknownst to her father, Una’s boyfriend began swimming across Lough Key to reach the castle. It was during one of these crossings that tragedy struck, and the boy drowned. It’s said that Una died from grief and that both she and her partner have remained buried beneath two intertwined trees on the island ever since.

Stretching around 10km across and forming a rough circular shape, Lough Key contains over 30 islands scattered throughout its chilly waters. One of these islands is aptly named ‘Castle Island’ and it’s here that you’ll find the ruins of McDermott’s Castle. Here is the amazing Lough Key Forest Park. Lough Key Forest & Activity Park is Coillte’s flagship visitor destination for fun activities with spectacular views, exuberant wildlife, historic buildings and multiple islands. After major re-development with the historic Rockingham estate as the backdrop, a landmark cluster of unique attractions has been opened to serve the needs of todays visitor with a new lakeside Centre providing an ideal base for gentle leisurely activities or more energetic pursuits in the Park. There’s so much to do from lots & lots of walkies, outdoor gym, bike hire & trails, Zip It Adventure high ropes course, caravan & camping area, shop & cafe, watersports activities & boat trips. We absolutely loved it there.

One day mum went off on the Rockingham Remembered tour which too place where the Rockingham House once stood. she went through underground servants tunnels, up the viewing tower & along the tree canopy walk.

Another afternoon she went out on the trip boat (I know shes obsessed with boats!!) with Lough Key Boats.

On the last day there we got a HUGE surprise as Uncle Jim & Auntie Angela turned up. We were so not expecting to see them that we walked right past them but once we realised it was really them we went mad! They were just visiting for the afternoon before we were all going off on holiday the next week. They disappeared off & hired bikes whilst mum went out on Falcon. We heard many tales or merriment about them trying & giving up on a tandem bike. Auntie Angela kept screaming & didnt lift her feet off the floor though she soon got the hang of the single seated bike.

That evening they left us to it but we knew there was something afoot as mum was packing bags including our dishes & toys! Sure enough we were up early the next morning as mum wanted to be first in the queue for the lock opening. We retraced our steps on the way into Lough Key but moored up at Cootehall Marina where mum had arranged to leave the boat whilst we went on holiday.

Then what we had dreaded happened we were bundled into something with wheels that moves faster than a boat! But we’ll tell you all about that next time.

End of the Navigation by Cosmo (Lough Allen)

So the weather forecast wasn’t looking particularly good bur we’d seen a notice online that one of the locks on the Lough Allen canal was closing for a couple of days for diving operations so we had to take the plunge & move. So mum got all kitted up in waterproofs & we settled in nice & dry & warm of the settee! Literally as soon as mum set off the heavens opened she’d only just turned the boat. Anyway brave (mad?) person that she is onwards we cruised. For a short distance back the way we came then a right up onto the Lough Allen canal. Soon we were at the first lock Battlebridge which has a fabulous glamping site opposite it.

We failed at radioing the lock keeper but managed to get them on the phone & they were out within ten minutes. It was funny & calm being back cruising on a canal well calm until the next lock that is!

Oh my goodness Drumleague lock! I think this is the closest we’ve ever been to sinking the boat. We were in position but because we’re so long & the paddles were operated electrically the water came in the front with such force it sucked the boat forwards & was soon crashing down on the bow. Golden Boyz’s engine was not powerful enough to reverse against it & we couldn’t hold it on the rope so the bow flung sideways, the whole boat tilted precariously as it hit the other side of the lock with a massive crash & we heard mum yelling to have the paddles dropped. Luckily it was over as fast as it began. We were shaking inside & most of the contents of most of our cupboards were now all over the boat. Mum, however, was calm & collected though I’m not sure we’re keen to come back up this lock again although it does have manual paddles so maybe we’ll insist on those next time. Hopefully going back down won’t be so scarey.

We were glad to be out of there & on our way again. We soon reached Acres Lake but we went straight across that as we intend stopping on the way back. We actually had a few rare moments of sun as we approached it.

We were then at our final lock Drumshanbo before our mooring on the approach to Lough Allen. We were very relieved to see it wasn’t very deep & all went smoothly. There was a nice mooring jetty below the lock beside a nice grassy area & path for us for walkies plus we had decent internet signal so mum was happy.

So having left Leitrim at the bottom of the map above we are now in the top corner at Drumshanbo. Drumshanbo is situated at the foot of Sliabh an Iarainn mountain and is the heart of traditional music in the area. Its position at the southern end of Lough Allen makes it a prized angling resort. The surrounding area is mountainous and hilly and there are excellent marked trails for walking enthusiasts, some of which are suitable for cyclists, An interesting point of interest in Drumshanbo is its unique High Street fronted by a stone wall and steps that lead down to Ireland’s shortest Main Street. St John’s Church of Ireland – A gothic structure that dates back to 1829. Drumshanbo is also the only remaining town in Ireland to still celebrate An Tostal, a festival inaugurated all over Ireland in 1953, as a celebration for Irish life.

We spent a couple of days at Drumshanbo so mum could catch up on work & get some shopping in & we had a few walkies up along the Lough. Then a 3 day calm weather window appeared so mum decided we’d cruise up Lough Allen in case we didn’t get another chance. So we set off first up the west coast to Spencer Harbour. We had excellent conditions calm & no rain. It was a fabulous tranquil mooring with its own picnic spot. We were even allowed off our leads here as noone was around & we went for a couple of dips in the lough. The view was amazing across Lough Allen. We loved Spencer Harbour.

The next day we cruised across to the eastern bank of Lough Allen but first we went on a mission to find the End of Navigation which is the most northern official navigable point of the River Shannon.

Mission completed it was down the eastern shore to Cleighran More. Another remote mooring. This one was nearer the road & was a bit bumpy overnight despite the breakwater so we preferred Spencer Harbour. We were amazed though to get the final part of the sunset as late as 11pm at night.

The weather was now forecast to turn windy again so mum had us up at stupid o’clock for walkies & we were off down the lough at sunrise. It was still a bit choppy then so its a good job we didn’t leave it any later. We then moored at Drumshanbo again & waited a couple of hours for the lock to open at 9.30am. Just as it did it started to pour with rain again so mum got absolutely soaked on our short cruise up to Acres Lake.

Drumshanbo marks the start of the Shannon Blueway and Acres Lake is home to Ireland’s first floating boardwalk. The 600m boardwalk extends over the lake and is part of a 6.5 km linear walking and cycling trail from Acres Lake in Drumshanbo to Battlebridge Lock, near Leitrim Village.

It rained most of the time we were here & mum went through 3 sets of clothes getting soaked to the skin so our boat looks like a laundry with everything drying. We do have the bonus of electricity here though so that’s cheered mum up. Not long after we’d arrived we got a knock on the boat & a lovely lady called Anjela popped to say hello as she follows our blog. So a big shout out to Anjela & hope you had safe onward cruising.

We’ll be headed back to Carrick soon as we have friends arriving from the UK in the next few days so no doubt there’ll be a few drinks drunk & pubs visited!!