Review of 2020 by Cosmo & Daquiri (UK to Ireland!!)

We were reminiscing yesterday & looking back through photos so we thought we’d do a photo blog review of the year. It feels like we’ve had the worst year & our dreams been shattered but when we look back the whole goal of coming to Ireland has been achieved & we’ve had many many wonderful experiences & met the most wonderful people. We hope you enjoy our trip down memory lane of 2020.

January 2020

As is normal for us the year starts with the last few days of Calendar Club & the massive closedown task. We bade a sad farewell to our assistants & drinking partners Jan & Haydn. We had fully intended to do a shop in Ireland in 2020 but sadly none were opened this year

Then started the rounds of farewell get togethers the first with our boating pals when we hired two double decker buses with hot tubs for a special farewell weekend.

Golden Boyz was moved through Milton Keynes so it could be blacked & craned out. Unfortunately the boatyard that we’d booked months previous let us down with 2 weeks to go so it was a mad scramble to find elsewhere. On the way we bade farewell to our very special furry pals Sylahra Golden Retrievers (& now there’s even more of them arrived since we left!)

February 2020

February was a flurry of farewells as we counted down the days till our departure on 26 Feb. Sorry couldn’t get everyone’s photos in but here’s a few

Then the big day dawned. Us, mum & Auntie Joy went on a big boat (ferry) from Fishgaurd to Rosslare & Golden Boyz went on the overnight ferry from Holyhead to Dublin & we were reunited at Sallins for crane in. Our biggest moment of 2020!

March 2020

A couple of days later we started our mega Ireland waterways cruise not knowing we’d soon be halted in our wake.

Our first mooring was at Robertstown & from there mum caught a bus into Dublin had lunch in a pub & took part in a hilarious silent Disco tour of Dublin. None of which would normally be that monumental but it became the last meal we had in a pub & last time mum danced for quite some time not that we knew that then. We attended at IWAI meeting to hear details about the Big Cruise 2020 which we’d come over to join in. What twists & turns life takes. We bade farewell to Auntie Joy not knowing she would be the last of our friends that we’d see for at least a year. Many friends at this stage had plans to come over & visit us.

Next cruising stop was Allenwood as there were rumblings on the news that Ireland would maybe go into a lockdown. Coincidentally we read recently that the first case of coronavirus in Ireland was detected on 27 Feb which was the same day as we arrived! It wasn’t us that brought it honest!!

We mastered the planks which we’d never done before so this was a huge achievement & would prove to be a very necessary skill in Ireland.

Our house Holly Cottage was finally put on the market for the third time. This time mum had it staged so it didn’t look so tired after the various ravages of tenants. It looked amazing & was definitely a good move as we got 54 viewings in 2 weeks (we actually stopped them at this point) & it sold at considerably more than the asking price hurray!!!!!!

Lockdown rumours were rumbling stronger & not knowing the area at all we made for the nearest town so we had shops & water which was Edenderry. The waterways were closed down & we were only allowed 2km away from our boat.

April 2020

I think we ended up spending nearly 6 weeks here. We were bewildered & lonely & felt completely out of our depth with everything happening. We’d ended up in a new country & every mechanism for exploring & making friends had been removed from us. All the events we’d planned to join in one by one were cancelled. It really was the most bizarre of times.

But it was here we started to experience the true spirit of Irish people. IWAI put Sean & his wife Ger in contact with us & they did a marvellous job of helping mum. Sean fetched gas & diesel for mum & even fixed her waterpump when it started leaking. Some of the locals started to get to know mum & us & we got a wonderful surprise Easter Gift & some home baked cookies (we liked those a lot!)

We were given permission to move by Waterways Ireland towards the end of April to go & get pumpout. We had to track backwards to Lowtown & we spent a few days moored at Ticknevin. It was so good to be back out in countryside. We are very nomadic in nature rarely stopping in one place for too long so the lockdown had totally removed our essence of freedom that we thrive on. Whilst here we saw the first of the many spectacular sunsets we’d experience in Ireland.

May 2020

Still in lockdown we took part in the fantastic fun event: a Virtual BCN Challenge Cruise. Each year there’s a 24 hour cruising challenge around the Birmingham Canal Networks that boat teams compete in but this year it was all done online.

Lockdown was loosened slightly & we cruised further along the Grand Canal enjoying stops at Rhode, Daingean & Ballycommon & seeing for the first time the peat bogs of Ireland.

June 2020

At Ballycommon we found out that the pumpout at Tullamore wasn’t working so we had to turn round & go all the way back to Lowtown again. But all was not lost as we met up with the lovely Sallins crowd who had started moving again now lockdown loosened so we continued on along the Grand Canal now in company which was wonderful for a change.

We travelled along the Grand Canal taking in the new stops of Tullamore, Pollagh, Rahan & finally arriving at Shannon Harbour.

Lockdown was eased further & joy oh joy we were allowed to go the pub for a meal. It was such an exciting wonderful happy evening.

At Shannon Harbour we went our separate ways as the others were completing the Green & Silver route encompassing both the Royal & Grand canals & passage through Dublin whereas I decided to explore Lough Derg for the summer.

July 2020

So its at this point that mum had to pull up her big girl pants & brave river cruising on her own as we set off on the mighty River Shannon. It was only a short but scarey for us cruise to the first stop at Banagher as we got used to navigating between the red & green markers.

We stayed there a couple of days then hopped down a bit to Meelick Quay. We loved the mooring there.

Then the fear factor went off the scale as we ventured further down river & out onto Lough Derg. We met the amazing Wendy & Fergal at Portumna who became very good friends of ours & give mum lots of invaluable help & advice on Lough Derg. Daquiri also took a shine to Sophie their little doggie. To get onto Lough Derg we had to pass through the timed opening of Portumna Bridge which unfortunately for us meant lots of other boats coming through at the same time. Being very green we also hadn’t picked the calmest of days & between that & boats racing past both sides of us our initial journey out onto Lough Derg was nothing short of terrifying. With great relief we tied up at Portumna Harbour.

At this stage mum was seriously thinking she’d made a big mistake coming to Ireland on her own. But with lots of coaching from Fergal mum picked the calmest of days for her next journey & although not sleeping at all the night before we eventually braved the next hop down the lough to Rossmore. The journey although still quite scarey for us was a million times better than our entrance onto the lough. Rossmore was a divine mooring & we finally felt as if our Irish dream had come true & mum particularly enjoyed the wild swimming in the lough being able to swim around Golden Boyz. Magical. We were also blessed with gorgeous hot weather.

Wendy & Fergal joined us at Rossmore & we cruised together a couple of days later to Drumaan Harbour. Mum was starting to feel a lot more confident with the navigating & weather judging now so the cruises were becoming more enjoyable. Wendy & Fergal took mum for a little trip on their zoomy boat to see the next couple of harbours.

After Drumaan we cruised across to Dromineer then down to Mountshannon where we met the fantastic Liam & Yogi who helped us tie up & introduced us to the delightful Brid from Holy island tours who was an angel getting us shopping as needed.

August 2020

Unfortunately we ended up staying longer at Mountshannon than intended as our alternator went. Luckily we were on shore power. It was Fergal to the rescue again as the alternator was refurbished. Whilst there we had a fabulous trip across to Holy Island & spent many an evening swimming within its view. Also one night a group of boaters sat out on the harbour wall & played traditional music which was fantastic. It was one of the things we’d come over for but so far not experienced.

We were eventually shipshape again & set off to Killaloe at the very bottom of Lough Derg.

Whilst at Killaloe mum went on a cruise of Lough Derg & we got an addition to the Golden Boyz crew – Falcon an electric bike!

Now we’d specifically only ventured onto the lough during summer so we had kinder weather but 2020 had other plans. Whilst at Killaloe we had 2 massive storms which would be scarey enough on the canals but on the lough??!! We were in as sheltered a spot as we could be on the excellent recommendation of Susie & we lived to tell the tale although not much sleep was had those nights!

After Killaoe we started our return back up the lough stopping at Garrykennedy & Terryglass before returning to Portumna where we’d started.

September 2020

After all the storms the River Shannon was flowing much stronger when we departed the Lough but we decided to try & get off as we didn’t want to get stuck there as they turn off all electric & more importantly water over winter on the lough. So we had a final meal with Wendy & Fergal & made our way slowly off the Shannon & back to Shannon Harbour,

We started to make our way slowly back along the Grand Canal the way we’d come out in June. With mum having Falcon now she was able to go on bike rides to nearby places & she particularly enjoyed visiting Clonmacmoise & the rather splendid Clonony Castle.

October 2020

Rumblings of another lockdown started so we headed to Ferbane as we knew there was a water tap there & mum could cycle into the village from there.

Sure enough another 6 week lockdown was announced on 23 Oct so we stayed at Ferbane 7 weeks in total. Ann in the bungalow opposite was amazingly helpful taking post in for mum & getting extra shopping for her. Mum did a few cycle rides to nearby Lough Boora & she took part in a virtual cycling challenge doing the Ring of Kerry.

November 2020

Mum hadn’t been feeling well recently so whilst in one location she registered at a Drs. After bloodtests & a scan mum has to have a small operation next year at Tullamore so we’ll be staying roughly in this vicinity for a while now. Whilst at Ferbane we discovered a local fuel company who would deliver diesel to us which is a relief as our stove runs on diesel.

Dec 2020

On 1st Dec lockdown was lifted so we could now cruise within our county. We had to turn round & head back to Shannon Harbour as the pumpout at Tullamore is still broken. Just after having sorted that as we were leaving Shannon Harbour our alternator belt went. So we pulled up there for a couple of days & a fellow boater fixed it for us. Then we were off again back the way we’d come up to Pollagh for the Xmas lights switch on.

Then finally it was up to Tullamore for the Xmas period.

We’d booked to go away to near Belfast for New Year but this was cancelled so we hastily boked a break across Xmas to see the Ring of Kerry instead. Unfortnatley mum fell off her bike just before we set off & we think she may have broken a rib or two so although we went a lot of the break was spent in pain for mum. However we did get to drive around the Ring of Kerry & see some amazing scenery.

We returned home & the very next morning we got our first Irish snow.

As we type this we have just gone back into lockdown again & the waterways have closed for the third time.

So despite coronavirus & injuries & breakdowns we have truly had the most amazing year. We have no idea of plans for 2021 hopefully some new cruising routes. We hope you’ll join us along the way & if you do happen to see us on the journey please do stop us & say hello & if you have any unwanted dog biscuits…. just saying!!!

Xmas Holidays by Cosmo (The Ring of Kerry)

We were doing well at our mooring at Tullamore & mum was happy as she had access to shops & could cycle to the swimming pool. That was until disaster struck & mum fell off Falcon. Her back wheel went down a gap in tarmac & mum fell right near the boat. Luckily in one way as she hit the railings so didn’t go in the canal But she banged her back badly on the railings & her thigh hit the tarmac got a massive bruise. Her back was quite sore but dosed up on painkillers she was able to function although our lead pulling was apparently not helpful!

Unfortunately things started to go astray at this point. In the summer mum had booked a lovely coastguards cottage up near Belfast doggie friendly of course for over New Year. Once Xmas restrictions had been announced that they were being lifted we paid the balance & the security deposit. However, then the situation deteriorated in Northern Ireland so it was decided they were going into lockdown from Boxing Day which meant our holiday was no more. Mum then decided to book somewhere in southern Ireland instead as we were still allowed to travel. She struck upon the idea of going to Kerry so she could see the Ring of Kerry that she’d cycled around virtually & even maybe cycle a part of it. It’s not easy finding doggie friendly cottages that will take 2 dogs the limited number that take dogs often state one dog only. I suggested we leave Daquiri on the boat for the week but mum wasn’t impressed with that idea!

Anyway the situation was saved as mum found a lovely cottage right on the coast at Portmagee which actually took up to 4 dogs! Daquiri wanted his girlfriend Sophie to come but her mum was working over Xmas. Here’s our little well actually quite big cottage!

Pattys Portmagee

So a stupid van was hired & we were packed into it along with Falcon & lots of bags of food & bubble bath. We still don’t like going in those van things. And off we set on our 4 hour drive to Portmagee. We made it just before dusk which was a good job as it was quite remote so we found it ok in daylight.

It was really nice with all mod cons for mum microwave, washer, tumble dryer & even a dishwasher but of course she was most excited about the bath & was straight in there with a glass of wine! Marie had lit the fire for us for our arrival so we chilled out in front of that very cosy it was.

The next morning we set off up the lane on our first walkies to the Cliffs of Kerry which were literally 5 minutes from our cottage. Sadly they were closed which was shame especially as we were bundled into the stupid van instead.

Kerry Cliffs

First mum drove down to the village of Portmagee.

Portmagee is a little bit special. It’s often described as “a picturesque and sleepy little fishing village on the South Western most tip of the Iveragh peninsula, just off the Ring of Kerry. The village is located on the Iveragh peninsula south of Valentia Island, and is known locally as ‘the ferry‘, in reference to its purpose as a crossing point to the island. Access to Valentia Island is now via the Maurice O’Neill Memorial Bridge from Portmagee, which was built in 1970 and named in memory of a member of the IRA executed in 1942 for his part in the shooting dead of Detective George Mordaunt in Dublin. The name Portmagee (Port Magee and Magee’s Port as it was formerly known) comes from Captain Theobald Magee, a notorious 18th-century smuggler.

Portmagee was a key filming location for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi in recent years. Star Wars fanatics have the option of sailing around the isolated island of Skellig Michael, on an organised boat trip from Portmagee. This rocky and uninhabited island is located 12 miles off the southwest of Co Kerry and where ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘The Last Jedi’ were filmed. At certain times of the year, you can also dock at the Unesco World Heritage Site and visit the stone beehive-shaped huts, that were built as part of a monastery in the 6th century. These huts were also used in the filming of the last Jedi as the island is the location of the first Jedi temple in the film.

We drove across the bridge to Valentia Island & the first photo stop was Bray Head the most westerly point on the Island. The western part of the island is dominated by the barren, dramatic cliffs of Bray Head which command spectacular views of the Kerry coastline. It was a wet & windy day. The Island is approximately 11 kilometres (7 miles) long by almost 3 kilometres (2 miles) wide

We then continued up to Fogher Cliffs where we were released from our van prison for walkies yay

It was very high up & mum made us sit at the top for a photo good job there were railings there.

The we continued our climb up the Geokaun Mountains & we got another walkie this is turning into a rather good day. The highest mountain on Valentia Island and the sea cliffs of 600 feet (180 m) on its northern face. That’s Daquiri doing roly polys I’m being a good boy.

The scenery was stunning even us furpals could appreciate it. Although it is winter it’s quite nice to see the Island without any other tourists. We had all the stops to ourselves.

The weather now started to deteriorate so mum drove to the east of the island & had a quick stop at Knightstown.

Valentia was the eastern terminus of the first commercially viable transatlantic telegraph cable. The first attempt in 1857 to land a cable from Ballycarbery Strand on the mainland just east of Valentia Island ended in disappointment. After subsequent failures of cables landed at Knightstown in 1858 and Foilhommerum Bay in 1865, the vast endeavor finally resulted in commercially viable transatlantic telegraph communications from Foilhommerum Bay to Heart’s Content, Newfoundland in 1866. Transatlantic telegraph cables operated from Valentia Island for one hundred years, ending with Western Union International terminating its cable operations in 1966.

 A car ferry also departs from Reenard Point to Knightstown, the island’s main settlement, from April to October.

We continued our circuit of the island & stopped off at Valentia Lighthouse which of course was closed. Built on the site of a 17th century fort, Valentia Island Lighthouse at Cromwell Point has stood against sea and invader for hundreds of years.

We then returned back to our cosy cottage so we could snooze & mum was straight back in the bath!

Next day was deemed a chill out day but then disaster struck. It started with a fairly innocent event – Mum sneezed!!! Well whatever she had done to her back falling off the bike was just made a million times worse. She nearly shot through the ceiling with pain. She could barely move we were quite concerned for the future of our walkies. She spent the rest of the day dosed up on painkillers & in a pretty bad way.

That night she thought she was stuck in the bed it took her about 30mins to get up & the pain had got much worse. She managed to speak to Marie next door who very kindly went & got her stronger painkillers, voltarol & lent mum a heated back brace. Over the course of the next 3 days mum barely moved around. We missed our Xmas day dinner as mum wasn’t up to eating much but eventually the pain got a bit more manageable. poor mum we think she’s probably cracked a rib when she fell & the sneeze has either cracked it further or broken it. There’s not much you can do for ribs so its just rest & pain relief. It wasn’t the Xmas we’d planned that was for sure. We were taken on very short walkies or shuffles up the lane each day & we got shouted at a lot if we pulled on the lead!

On Boxing Day or St Stephens Day as it’s referred to here in Ireland mum thankfully managed to cook our Xmas dinner. It’s always dinner for three! There was trouble at the mill though as Daquiri finished his first & then tried to eat mine!!! Mum soon put him in his place cheeky monkey!

On 27th Dec mum decided she’d try to drive the van as our departure was looming & at this point we weren’t sure if she’d be able to. So we were loaded into the van prison & off we set. She did better than expected she was worried about using the gears as its her left hand side that’s hurt but she managed that Ok the only painful manoeuvre is the handbrake. As she was doing Ok she decided to drive the Skelling Ring.

The ring of Skellig is an extension of the famous Ring of Kerry (which is our ultimate goal) and is a real hidden gem – a small, 20 mile (app 32km) route .The Skellig Ring (or Ring of Skellig), detours west off the N70 just north of Waterville, and hooks back up to the Ring of Kerry just south of Caherciveen. It was a stunning drive & a real tonic for mum after her 3 days of confinement. Here’s a few of the amazing photos she took.

The next day we had a rest day as mum wanted to see how her back held up (& really she wanted to watch a few more episodes of Downton Abbey tucked up in front of our lovely warm fire!).

On our final day mum decided to go for it & drive the full Ring of Kerry. This had been her initial goal coming here. She had hoped to cycle a bit of it but that was definitely off the cards & Falcon never even made it out of the van! She had chosen well as for the main part it was a stunning day.

In essence, the Ring of Kerry is the ring road that follows the coastal contours of Kerry’s Iveragh Peninsula. The Ring of Kerry is one of Ireland’s most famous circuits and a popular holiday route to drive. Much more than a simple driving route, the Ring of Kerry is an iconic destination wrapped in a stunning visual history, with diverse wildlife scattered across Ireland’s lush green hills. The Ring of Kerry circuit measures 179km (111 miles) in length and the route takes around 3.5 hours to drive around without stopping.

Ring of Kerry

It is somewhere we’ll have to come back to as there’s many places we’d have liked to explore further on the route. We drove along the coastal section & passed through the very pretty colourful village of Sneem.

We then drove on the inland section through Killarney National Park which was equally as stunning as the coastal sections.

Passing through the busy town of Killarney with some very big posh hotels we came back round to Killorglin which then joined the route that we had initially come in on from Tullamore. We returned to the cottage with a happy mum that her goal had been achieved. We highly recommend the Ring of Kerry as a must do to anyone visiting Ireland & Pattys cottage in Portmagee is an ideal base.

The following day we had to pack up & head on the 4 hour drive home. We really didn’t want to go home but with new restrictions imminent we had to face reality. Although our Xmas has not quite been as planned we’re very glad we got away as the virus news was not good upon our return back.

We were all tired once back & the boat was absolutely freezing. We had an early night & we awoke to our first Irish snow so it was a good job we’d come back the day before. The country has now gone into full level 5 lockdown so shops are now closed & we’re not allowed 5km away from the boat. This of course means for the third time since we arrived in Ireland the waterways have closed. 2020 has certainly not been the year we planned but we’ve still had lots of fun moments & met lots of wonderful people. Check out our next blog for a photo review of 2020. It seems a long time ago since Golden Boyz was craned in at Sallins.