We visit the Isle of Man by Cosmo

We departed the UK by ferry again but we were surprised when we got off that we weren’t back in Ireland but were in the Isle of Man! Mum had worked out it only cost £18 more to stop here on a 5 day special than it did to take the ferry straight back to Ireland. She’d never been so it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. Although the ferries run all year Belfast to UK the ferries don’t start running to Dublin until early April so mum had timed it so we’d then be able to catch the first ferry back to Dublin.

We arrived early evening & as we weren’t sure about how acceptable wild camping was mum had found a great campsite that wasn’t expensive so we went all posh this week with water & electric. Our campsite was at Cronk Aashen farm which although it was across the other side of the island took less than 30 minutes to get to. It was very quiet as we were pretty much still out of season but we had a lovely grassed area right by Toddy & a lovely view.

In a contrast to last week in Lancashire our first day dawned bright & sunny. So mum was off on a great mission to find beach walkies for us. We actually did rather well on walkies over here. Our first beach wasn’t far away at Glen Wyllin. We had a great sniff & run around well maybe not so much running we’re getting on a bit now!

Next mum was off to have a look round Peel & luckily got a parking spot on an end right near the castle. We were quite happy to snooze in the van. Peel is the island’s main fishing port and Peel Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Sodor and Man. Peel is sometimes referred to as the “rose red city”, due to the red sandstone used to build the castle and other important buildings. As it is in the west, it is also called the “sunset city”. Peel is the third largest town in the island after Douglas and Ramsey, Mum was also very happy as she met up with a lady, Helen who she’d had contact with on a Facebook group who also had a camper so they went our for drinks & dinner. In fact mum met a few lovely lady campervan owners so she was very happy. We were much more excited about the Manx smoked bacon that mum bought as she doesn’t like kippers!

The next day we headed north via more lovely beaches but we were most impressed at the most northerly point The Point of Ayre. Yet again we were lucky with the weather.

The Point of Ayre is the northernmost point of the Isle of Man. Point of Ayre lighthouse, the oldest  lighthouse on the Isle of Man, is located here. There is also a smaller light called The Winkie so we had a walkie to the Winkie!! It is the closest point on the Isle of Man to  Great Britain being 16 miles (26 km) south of  Burrow Head in Scotland. Here mum met anther lovely lad in her van Vik. We did our best to be sociable & say hello by jumping up at the van!

We drove home via Ramsey as mum has spotted a gelaterie there she wanted to visit!

The next day mum exchanged Toddy’s wheels for steam transport & she went off from Douglas on a quick steam train trip to Port Erin.

On the way back mum ended up having to make numerous phonecalls to vets to try & get us booked in for our horrible worming tablets on the way home. It seemed none of the vets were at all geared up for this saying we’d have to go on a waitlist to register. We ended up speaking to the government department & even they didn’t seem to know what we needed to do! Good old Brexit!! Although the nice lady did find out & ring us back to confirm exactly what mum was trying to sort. Eventually mum spoke to an equine vet who knew exactly what we needed so an appointment was booked. We were a tad worried we’d come back with saddles on.

Next we met up with another lady Tina who mum had contacted on Facebook again. Tina had planned a lovey afternoon & camp out with us & she had 2 furpals too; Tilly & Doona. We camped out at a perfect remote spot but it was accessed by a very narrow bumpy road right along an edge. We were clinging on with our claws as we though Toddy might topple over but luckily we made it to our beautiful spot at Scarlett. A fabulous evening was had over a chilli & a couple of bottles of wine. Plus Helen came & joined us & brought Maltesers!!

The next day we explored the south of the island after bidding farewell to Tina. Unfortunately the weather started to turn a bit but we can’t complain we’d had a good run for April. We headed first for Calf Sound with its spectacular view of Calf of Man. Calf of Man is a 2.50-square-kilometre island, off the southwest coast of the Isle of Man. It is separated from the Isle of Man by a narrow stretch of water called the Calf Sound. In 2006 Manx National Heritage employed the charity Manx Wildlife Trust as the Calf Warden Service Provider, but it retains ownership. The island has been a bird observatory since 1959 and welcomes visits from volunteers and ornithologists. Calf of Man is home to a breeding population of Manx shearwaters, a seabird which derives its name from its presence in Manx waters. Unfortunately we were too early in the season for the boat trips but we had a lovely walkie instead.

On the way back we stopped at the small olde worlde village of Cregneash that we’d driven through for a quick look round. Cregneash (Creneash) is a living illustration of a farming and crofting community in the 19th and early 20th century.

Our next stop was possibly our most idyllic spot we found at the tiny Niarbyl Bay. Niarbyl, meaning “the tail” in Manx for the way it extends into the Irish Sea, is a rocky promontory on the southwest coast of the Isle of Man between Port Erin and Peel. There were quaint thatched cottages, which were featured in the film Waking Ned.

After a long day we headed back to the campsite where mum chilled with a homemade curry & her DVD series. Oh & the obligatory glass of wine!

All too soon it was our final full day on the island & unfortunately our worst weather day which wasn’t good as mum wanted to do the mountain railway. She decided being her she’d still do it for the experience so we set off to Laxey. Laxey is a village on the east coast of the Isle of Man. Its name derives from the Old Norse Laxa meaning ‘Salmon River’. Its key distinguishing features are its three working vintage railways and the largest working waterwheel in the world.

First on mum’s agenda was the Snaefell Mountain railway. we were too early in the season for the horse drawn railway. Mum got a great view of the Laxey Wheel out of the window but then everything became very cloudy. The train station staff kept her entertained though!

Once down mum walked up to & then up the marvellous Laxey Wheel again in the pouring rain. We were nice & dry in Toddy! The Great Laxey Wheel is the Isle of Man’s most iconic landmark and the largest working water wheel in the world.  At 72 feet 6 inches in diameter, this extraordinary feat of Victorian engineering has brought tourists flocking to the picturesque village of Laxey for almost 170 years. 

After all her exertion mum was looking for somewhere to eat but not much was open but good old Google found a very mum appropritate spot as she discovered the Victory cafe. We had a devil of a job getting up there as it was really foggy so mum could barley see but she persevered & it was well worth it. Victory Cafe is based in a crazy ex Cold War Rotor Radar Station overlooking the 31st Milestone of the TT Racecourse serving homemade British style canteen food. The cafe is also based just by the Bungalow on the Snaefell Mountain Railway. Mum got warm with a lovely pie & mash & lashngs of gravy. Note none made it back to us!

Of course the Isle of Man is most famous for the TT race. We for obvious reasons avoided that season. Many campsites just open for the TT. The Isle of Man TT or Tourist Trophy races are an annual motorcycle racing event run on the Isle of Man in May/June of most years since its inaugural race in 1907. The event is often called one of the most dangerous racing events in the world as many competitors have died.

On our last night we had an early night as we had to be up at 4am to drive across & check in on the 7am ferry back to Ireland. It has been an amazing visit & so easy (& cheap when you’re doing that crossing anyway) so I think we may well visit the Isle of Man again. Of course all the fabulous beach walkies may sway us as well.

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Catching up with The Naughty Pirate by Daquiri (** with special video link**)

Yay after just over 3 years we have popped back to the UK for the first time. Now we have Toddy we can accompany mum as she normally flies & we have to stay in kennels. So we got to use our new EU pet passports (Not that anyone checked them)

The ferry was just about 3 hours & we stayed in the van while mum went upstairs. Somehow she’d managed to book herself into the plus lounge with free snacks & drinks so she returned with 23 packets of crisps, 10 cans of pop, 16 packets of biscuits, 3 bananas & 2 apples!! She was upset though that she couldn’t drink the free wine as she was driving.

On arrival in the UK we parked up at Holyhead & mum had chips & meat & potato pie for her final night with Christine & Sheila. We were very happy to get out of the van after the ferry.

The following day we bade farewell to Christine & Sheila & we set off for our packed schedule meeting up with friends. Our first stop we were very excited about as we visited Uncle Toastie & he had ham lots of ham!! Then the next morning it was off to Sheffield staying with Stef & Sharon & meeting lots of friends in the city centre for a meal out. Just don’t mention the large Clean Air Zone fine that mum got afterwards for taking Toddy into Sheffield!!

Next hop was off to see mum’s aunt Joan who lives on a narrowboat in Lancashire to collect a gas bottle (one with English connectors so we have a spare)

Then it was off to Plank Lane as The Hippie Boat & The Art Boat were trading there. We got to catch up with our doggie pals Millie, Eric & Polly who came to see us in January & also meet Tilly from The Art Boat.

And finally after a long day & lots of driving we pulled up at our park up spot where the Ribble Link crossing starts. This was one of our first adventures after we’d moved onboard in May 2013. You can check out our blog of that here: Golden Boyz does the Ribble Link

No sooner than we had arrived a twin van to Toddy arrived. And oh my goodness you’ll never guess who got out of it Auntie Heidi the naughty pirate. We couldn’t believe it & apparently she’s going to be with us a few days.

The first day we headed off to see mum’s Dad & left auntie Heidi working but we met up later on at Pilling; a spot we’ve parked at before by the beach. Mum had commandeered a bottle of toffee vodka from her Dad so it wasn’t long before they were sampling that of course!!

That was pretty much the last sunshine we saw that week as it seemed to rain non stop from there in. Day 2 saw us visiting Guys Thatched Hamlet then a game of crazy golf at Barton then we headed off to park along the Morecambe. We found a great spot by some grass for us.

We had nice log walkies on the beach the next day before we headed off to our next location. Mum & Auntie Heidi had a look round Carnforth Station where parts of the film Brief Encounter were filmed & then we headed for the end of the Lancaster canal at Tewitfield. Of course we’ve cruised all this route in summer 2013 but Auntie Heidi has never been here.

That night we headed off to a pub parkup which was nice as we got some peace while they were in the pub! The next day still in the rain we headed for Devils Bridge & a look round Kirby Lonsdale.

For our final night together we got another mahoosive surprise. We parked up at these lodges called Pinecroft Lodges in Ingleton which mum used to use for her previous events job; long before we were born! Well you never guess who walked out of the lodges only Uncle Jim!! Auntie Angela, Uncle Glynn & daisy were there too. We all had a lovey night together & Auntie Heidi & mum managed to partake of a bath. We were watching Auntie Angela warily as she has twice now tried to shower us previously. Luckily we escaped this time. The next morning it was a big farewell as we all went our separate ways. It was Auntie Heidi’s first time in her van which is called Polly & she loved it. Her & mum are planning an even bigger adventure next. Watch this space.

So as promised we have a special video link for you. Auntie Heidi does video blogs called vlogs of all her adventures & this week was no exception. Her channel is called The Narrowboat Pirate so do go & check it out. It’s very funny & a bit naughty!! Here’s the link with our adventure in it: When Polly Met Toddy

Our “Second” Paddys Day in Ireland by Cosmo

We’re a bit behind with our blog we’ve been soooo busy!! As per our last blog we made it to Mullingar in time for Paddys day so our plans are back on schedule. We had 2 friends arrive Christine & Sheila both single handed experienced boaters from the Uk. They came in Christine’s campervan so we had a mini convoy a couple of days. Mum finally got Toddy back from the garage but he now had a new windscreen leak even worse than the one that had been fixed. We had no time to return him as we have adventures aplenty planned so we’ve been driving round with a bucket under it when it rains until we get back.

We took our friends firstly to visit Seans bar in Athlone – it just had to be done.

Then in the afternoon we went back to Mullingar to get the boat ready for the evenings flotilla. Unfortunately there was no turning point for our 57ft boat so mum had to reverse the 1km to get into starting position. Always fun as boats don’t steer in reverse. We set off at dusk & the boat in front of us picked St Patrick up then delivered him to the crowds waiting at harbour accompanied by a flotilla of canoes too.

The next day was the actually St Patricks Day parade so they headed into Mullingar to watch the parade & partake of an odd drink or two

The following day when heads had recovered mum took us all on a little tour of some of the waterways harbours & moorings. Then we headed to a pub mum had on her bucket list; Andersons Thatched pub which has campervan parking & is renowned for its impromptu live music nights. Sheila & Christine had a little practise on their ukuleles whilst we awaited the pub opening at 9pm. It was a brilliant night where we were welcomed by the amazing host Ger. We spent the night listening to various musical instruments being played & songs being sung including Christine doing both a tin whistle number & singing a song. Mum was banned from taking her tin whistle. It was a fabulous evening & mum says anyone that visits in campers will have to stop there now on their itinerary. In the morning we even got a free bread delivery on each van. We had our beady eye on that straightaway!

After that the ladies headed off for a couple of days of exploring Ireland while we went back to the boat as mum had work to do. We met up at Castleknock for one last night before we ALL headed off for the ferry the next day. Yes after over 3 years we’re finally getting to go back to the UK on a visit now we can travel in Toddy & have our Irish passports. So lots more details of our UK adventures in the next blog…

Toddy’s Winter Adventures by Cosmo

While we’ve been unable to cruise due to canal maintenance on The Royal Canal we’ve been having adventures aplenty in Toddy instead. Here’s a quick photo blog of all we’ve got up to.

After the Hippies had left us mum hot footed it down to Athlone for a Santa & Elves Xmas party & caught up with Mags & Daisy.

Then she cycled to Strokestown House to have a look around & investigate the start of The Famine Trail.

At Strokestown House there is also The Famine Museum & it is the start of The National Famine Way. The National Famine Way is a 165km trail that traces the footsteps of the Strokestown tenants, men, women and children who were marched from Roscommon to Dublin in 1847 after they failed to pay their rent. In Dublin, they boarded a ship to Liverpool before journeying to North America on board some of the worst coffin ships of the time. Not all of them made it alive. They became known as the ‘Missing 1490’. The trail is really well done with 30 bronze shoe sculptures along the way, a passport to get stamped & a fabulous app with recordings of historic stories at each stop. Mum is hoping to cycle it in stages.

The first week of February heralded a new bank holiday for Ireland. The first Monday in February ahs now been added as St Brigids Day. This year being the first there were many events happening. Mum popped along to the illuminating of the St Brigids Cross by the River Shannon at Tarmonbarry & watched the am dram performance in Keenans afterwards.

Next Toddy had to go into the garage for some work on his brakes & suspension so mum cycled back along the Longford branch of the canal ticking off some of the Famine Trail Bronze Shoes. right at the start were some clever suitcase scupltures depicting immigrants & their occupations.

Next up was a full weekend away in Toddy but we were actually very close to home. We started at Sliagh Bown Wind Farm Trail. The amenities include a trim trail for fitness, an equestrian trail, six looped walks, a raised viewing platform and a picnic area. Unfortunately it wasn’t a very nice day so we had to shorten our walk much to Daquiri’s relief as he doesn’t like long walkies these days . It was fascinating getting so close to the wind turbines though.

In the afternoon we went & sussed out a potential wild parking spot on the shore of Annaghmore Lake before mum went to a candlelit tales event at Strokestown House in the evening. The parking spot turned out to be amazing tucked just off the road so noone even knew we were there with a spectacular view of the lake. We woke up to a frosty morning & a beautiful sunrise, Mum cooked breakfast in Toddy & chilled with her book while we ran around the area.

Then we went up to have a look at the nearby Elphin Windmill which it seems is now permanently closed.

Next was Roscommon Castle & Scuplture trail

Before we drove to our night time park up this time on the shores of Lough Owel just north of Mullingar. It was a peaceful spot until some hooligans came & set fire to a load of tyres.

The following day a visit to Belvedere House was on mums radar. She’d been wanting to go here in daylight since visiting in the dark for the Land of Light in November. We were especially impressed wit the dog chill out zone which meant mum could go inside & get a coffee at the cafe. Unfortunately she had to bring it outside to drink as Daquiri wouldn’t stop barking naughty boy!

We then had a grand total of 2 days back at the boat before mum had us all packed up again. But we discovered we were off to visit our favourite boat – Funky Duck!!! Yay we got to catch up with Nuala & we got sausages & were allowed in the boat & up on the settee. I was a good buy & didn’t touch a single cushion & there’s a lot of them in Funky Duck so tempting!

The next day mum caught up with Erin & Dave & little Luke who is growing fast. They went to an amazing ranch themed restaurant & mum was very excited that big Yorkshire puddings were on the menu!

We again got 2 days at home before we were off on tour again! I tell you I’ll be glad when she can move the boat again & we get a rest!! This time we headed up to meet Jan & Alistair at Enniskillen who took us on a whistlestop tour of Upper & Lower Lough Erne so mum could recce all the moorings. We also managed to catch up with Sophie & Josh from Qisma too.

The highlight of the tour being where mum got to go on the little ferry across to Lusty beg Island. We cant wait to be moored there although we’re a bit worried about that sign saying must be on best behaviour at ALL times??!! I mean surely the odd indiscretion would be forgivable??

Back again at the boat mum gave us a rets & went off in pursuit of a fiddle related geocache on the main road out of Longford. Apparently a fiddle was dug up when they were constructing the road & the sculpture is to mark that.

And then we’ve saved the best adventure till last. Mum took us off on one last weekend away in Toddy before he went back into the garage for some bodywork repairs which have proved to be a very long job so we’re currently without wheels. But before that just check out this amazing log cabin we stayed again north of Mullingar, It had no electricity & gas cooking stove outside. It was truly like stepping back in time. It had a lovely stove to keep us warm & mum built a campfire at night to sit round.

Once us cowdogs & cowgirl returned back to the boat we had a week or so in Richmond Harbour where mum actually finally got the gunwhales painted with antislip paint – well one side at any rate that’s progress! Then we received the news we’d been waiting for that we could move up The Royal Canal finally – yay Golden Boyz cruises begin again. So catch up with us in the next blog as we start our way on new waters for us headed firstly to Mullingar & then hopefully onwards into Dublin itself – how exciting!!!!

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.

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