Tag Archives: Northern Ireland

Top Ten Posts of 2018

As we leave 2018, please excuse my annual self-indulgent post to begin the new year as I peer through the keyhole to look back over the last one.

Ireland Inch Beach

The top ten most visited posts on my Travel Blog always surprise me but then I don’t pretend to understand how search engines work.  I say visited pages rather than read because I am neither so conceited or sufficiently naive to claim that a visit equals a read.  I know that a lot of people will arrive here by mistake and swiftly reverse back out via the escape button!

No. 1

Top Tips for Visiting the Giant’s Causeway on a Budget

Giant's Causeway Northern Ireland

With 1,790 hits this post remains at the no. 1 position in my top ten for the third straight year.  I am always reluctant to do posts with travel tips because it is difficult to find something to say that hasn’t already been said several times by others.

At the Giant’s Causeway I was astonished at the cost of the entrance and car parking charges so I put these tips together on how to visit for free.

No. 2

Mount Vesuvius

Naples and Vesuvius

I first posted this in March 2010 so this one has been around a while and with 1,375 hits and a ninth year in the Top Ten is becoming a stubborn stayer.  A bit of a surprise to me really because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only ever achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 3

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi and me

This is the fifth successive year in my top ten for my post about the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.  After I had taken a look at the official Twelve Treasures of Spain I thought it might be fun to draw up my own personal alternative list.  I included Antoni Gaudi in a general rather than a specific way.  I posted this in March 2013 and this year with 1,314 visits it has risen one place to number three.

No. 4

Royal Garden Party

Cakes at Royal Garden Party

First posted in June 2009 the post has1,210 hits in 2018, almost double the previous year and staying in the Top Ten for the tenth successive year which by that measure makes it my most successful post.

In total it has 21,900 visits which makes all time second after my post about  Norway, Haugesund and the Vikings at 24,675.  This one has been around for a long time ( since June 2009) and has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one.

No. 5

Malta, Happiness and a Walk to Mellieha

Mellieha Malta Postcard

I have written several posts about my visits to the island of Malta, I consider some of them much more interesting than this one but where they have sunk without trace, this one just keeps on attracting hits.  850 hits in 2018 and third successive year in the top ten

No. 6

Catalonia, In Search of Norman Lewis

Guardamar Storm

I must confess that I am rather pleased about this one.

I posted this in July 2013 and it first made the top ten in 2015 before dropping out the following year so I am glad to see it back again.

There are some posts that I have written that I would like people to read and this is one of few that have achieved that. Before visiting Catalonia in 2013 I read the book ‘Voices of the Old Sea’ by Norman Lewis which is an account of the Costa Brava in the 1940s and the approach of mass tourism.  In this post I attempted some research and some interpretation of the book and the area.  It has recorded 515 visits and in this case I like to think that this is because of the subject rather than the pictures.

No.7

Ireland, Ring of Kerry and I Temporarily Overcome My Fear of Dogs.

Angry Man Skelligs Viewpoint Kerry Ireland

Also returning in 2018 after a two year absence with a surprising 435 visits and no convincing explanation as to why that should be.

I visited Southern Ireland in June 2014 and wrote several posts that I personally would consider more interesting than this encounter with a grumpy street entertainer and a worn out old collie dog.  Once again, and rather disappointingly, I suspect it isn’t the words but the picture that grabs attention.  It was a map of the Ring of Kerry which I noticed displayed on the front of a shop.

No.8

Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

Benidorm Bar 1960?

I posted this in March 2010 and it finally made the top ten in 2014 it has remained there ever since. It has stayed in this year with 420 visits.   It is actually one of my personal favourites  and is a story about the Spanish seaside resort of  Benidorm inspired by some photographs that I came across of my grandparents on holiday there in about 1960.

No. 9

Twelve Treasures of Spain – Seville Cathedral

Seville Street Musicians

At no. 9 for the second year with 382 visits is a post another of my Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain and is about my visit to the Spanish City of Seville.  I have written posts about several Spanish cities but it is only this one that gets the hits.

No.10

Poland (Wroclaw), The Anonymous Pedestrians

Anonymous Pedestrians Wroclaw Poland

A new entry and this is another post that I am happy to see in the top ten with 360 visits.  I wrote this in March 2014 after visiting the Polish city of Wroclaw and finding the street statues of the Anonymous Pedestrians.

The statues are a memorial to the introduction of martial law in Poland on December 13th 1981 and the thousands of people who disappeared (‘went underground’) in the middle of the night courtesy of the militia. In a symbolic statement the fourteen statues were erected in the middle of the night in 2005 on the twenty-fourth anniversary of the introduction of martial law.

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year are:  Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi after four years and Malta, The Silent City of Mdina after only two.

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 2,390 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then thank you from the bottom of my heart!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said: “The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

Total visits in 2018 – 71,420 (nearly 200 a day)

Total visits all time – 947,600

Countries where most visitors come from – UK, USA, Australia, Spain and Canada

Most viewed picture in 2018…

A little disappointing, I like to think I have posted one or two good pictures of my own during the year but most clicked is a postcard map of Gran Canaria that I scanned in from my collection…

Gran Canaria Island Map postcard

To make matters worse, the most clicked picture that I have taken myself and posted is of a tea towel with a map on it…

Puglia T Towel Map

Maybe I should just do a blog about maps!

I would be interested to know about other people’s most popular posts in 2018 and the possible explanations why?  Comment and let me know.  I’m a sucker for statistics!

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Ireland, Mullaghmore and Donegal

County Donegal

“And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.” – Prince Charles quoting lines by the Sligo poet W B Yeats:

On the final day our plan was to visit Southern Ireland’s most northerly county, Donegal, so far north in fact that at the most northerly point it is further north than Northern Ireland.  It is also part of the province of Ulster, which we mistakenly tend to think of as Northern Ireland.

There is a phrase that the Irish frequently use themselves which is “Only in Ireland” which is used to justify the regularly encountered idiosyncrasies of the country without offering any sort of rational explanation.

The partition of Ireland into north and south is a good example…

Ulster and Northern Ireland

… The Province of Ulster is nine counties in the north and to make things complicated three of these are in the Republic and the other six make up what we know as Northern Ireland.

Ulster has no political or administrative significance these days and exists only as a historical sub-division of Ireland and one of the four Rugby Union provinces.  The others are Connacht, Munster and Leinster.  The map above shows the geographical split. The reasons are many and complicated but in the simplest terms these six counties were partitioned from the Irish Free State when it was established in 1920 because these were areas where Protestants were in the majority and had campaigned vigorously to remain part of the Union.

Except that they weren’t because in Counties Fermanagh and Tyrone they were in the minority but were included anyway.  County Donegal was catholic but was separated from the principal border city of Londonderry/Derry and County Londonderry now has a majority catholic population.

How complicated is all that?  No wonder that the Irish issue has taken so long to try and resolve.

Anyway, we didn’t concern ourselves today with tangled issues of politics but in the sunshine drove out of Sligo and once again picked up the road which follows the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’.

Mullaghmore Ireland County Sligo

Although I was uneasy about this (bearing in mind how Kim reacted so badly to a coastal detour just a couple of days previously and just how clear she had been on her thoughts about detours) we chanced a recommended diversion to a small coastal village of Mullaghmore which turned out to be absolutely delightful with a picturesque harbour and a string of bars and cafés so after a stroll we selected one and stopped for drinks.

Mullaghmore is a charming place but it has a grim place in UK/Ireland relations and it has the burden of a horrific legacy.  Overlooking the village is Classiebawn Castle which was once the summer residence of Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, one of the great British heroes of the Second-World-War.  On 27th August 1979, Mountbatten took to sea in his boat out of Mullaghmore harbour and was murdered by an IRA bomb that had been previously planted on board.

It was only a small boat and a 50lb (23 kilo) stash of radio controlled nitro-glycerine planted there the night before blew it completely apart.

Shadow V Mountbatten

An IRA statement boasted… “We claim responsibility for the execution of Lord Louis Mountbatten. This operation is one of the discriminate ways we can bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country.”

The thoroughly despicable Gerry Adams, Irish politician and Leader of the political wing of the IRA Sinn Féin, justified the killing in this way…

“The IRA gave clear reasons for the execution…  What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people; and with his war record I don’t think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation. He knew the danger involved in coming to this country.”  Hmmm!

Hopefully that unpleasantness is all in the past now (although I do hope that nasty Gerry Adams has recurring nightmares about the time he will spend in the future in Hell) and on a perfect summer day we left a very peaceful Mullaghmore and continued our journey to the very agreeable town of Donegal.

Donegal Castle

Donegal was much smaller than I imagined it would be (my research was hopelessly inadequate on this point) and although it was vibrant and busy it didn’t take a great deal of our time to walk around the town centre and pay a visit to the splendidly restored castle, stop for lunch in a hotel bar and then make our way back to the car park to begin the journey back to Sligo for our final night in Ireland –  for this year anyway.

After the first day which had been spoiled by rain our Irish good weather fortune had returned and we had three days in glorious sunshine enjoying Ireland’s north-west coast.  On the way back we planned another recommended detour into the hills behind Sligo in the shadow of the most famous – Benbulbin, which stands out above the land like an enormous beached liner.  We made the drive but the weather was changing again now and the blue skies were being rapidly replaced by ominous grey.

The rain held off for the final evening in Sligo but the following morning was wet and miserable and the drive back to Knock Airport for the midday flight was through a series of squally storms.  We arrived and departed in the rain but in the middle we had enjoyed a fourth wonderful visit to magnificent Ireland.

But wait. There was a sting in the tail/tale because on the way out through Knock airport departures there was a development tax of 10 euros each to be paid before we could leave.  It seems that the Good Lord doesn’t always provide after all, well not all of it anyway!

Ireland Drinking Guinness

Travel Review of the Year – 2015

Warsaw Old Town and Royal castle

We went to Warsaw in February, it was cold, very cold.  I liked it a lot but not as much I have to say as the other Polish cities that we have visited of Krakow and Wroclaw.  Warsaw was good but it doesn’t have the historical swagger or confidence of Krakow or the quirky charm of the more manageable Wroclaw because Warsaw is a modern European capital with the raw edge and the buzz of a major city.  Whilst I might consider returning to Krakow and Wroclaw, once in Warsaw I think is probably enough.

Valletta Postcard

I have been to Malta before.  I first went there in 1996 and liked it so much that I returned the following year.  Both times I stayed at the Mellieha Bay hotel in the north of the island.  These were family holidays with two teenage children, beaches, swimming pools, banana boat death rides and Popeye Village.

I liked it so much that I have always wanted to go back.  I have repeatedly told Kim that Malta is special and that I am certain she would like it as much as I did.  Late last year the opportunity arose and I was able to find a combination of cheap flights and a hotel deal at Mellieha Bay for just £200 for four nights and five full days! I have heard it said that you either love Malta or you hate it, there are no half measures, there is no sitting on the fence and luckily at the end of the visit Kim was inclined to agree with me.

Ireland Dingle

In 2014 we visited Southern Ireland, Eire, The Republic and had such a wonderful time that we planned an immediate return to the Island for the following year.  Not to the South though on this occasion however but to that part of Ireland that still remains part of the United Kingdom – Northern Ireland or Ulster.

Not so long ago most people would no more of thought about visiting Northern Ireland than North Korea, it wouldn’t have crossed their minds to go to Ulster any more than go to Uganda and Belfast would be in a travellers wish list that included Beirut and Baghdad.  Now things are changing and Northern Ireland is reinventing itself as a tourist destination.

We enjoyed it there, the City of Belfast, the Titanic Exhibition, a drive along the scenic Antrim Coast, the Giant’s Causeway and a final night in Londonderry – a place to return to if ever there was one.

Edinburgh Scotland

After a Summer spent in England we travelled in August to neighbouring Scotland.    I am sure that I have been to the castle before, I visited Edinburgh in 1972 and 1984 but I couldn’t remember it at all.  This is another benefit of getting older, you forget things so even if you do them again they are like a whole new experience. This is another benefit of getting older, you forget things so even if you do them again they are like a whole new experience.

I liked Edinburgh, it was a wee bit expensive but when I have forgotten the details of this visit I am certain to go back again one day.

Lake Bala Wales

Earlier in the year I had made plans to go on holiday with my daughter and grandchildren and my son and we had chosen a holiday cottage near Boulogne in Northern France.  I like it there.  As the Summer approached there were more and more delays crossing the channel as a consequence of striking French ferry workers and large numbers of migrants attempting to cross from France to the UK.  I love my grandchildren very much but the prospect of being stuck in a traffic jam for up to twenty-four hours with them was just to awful to contemplate so when the critical moment came to make the final payment I cancelled and transferred the holiday to a cottage in mid Wales.

I enjoyed Lake Bala and Wales, it was a simple holiday, the sort that I remember from my own childhood and from taking my own children away when they were young.  I am convinced that youngsters don’t need water parks and amusement arcades when there is a wide open beach and the sea, the countryside, a stream to fish in a thrilling steam engine ride.

Kim enjoyed it so much that she has decided that we are going to live there!

Dinan Brittany France

But we were not to be denied a visit to Northern France because in August I spotted some reasonably priced return air fares at only £49 each to the Brittany resort of Dinard.  We snapped them up almost without thinking and then invited our friends Sue and Christine to join us and they immediately agreed.

I liked Brittany, I liked it a lot mostly because I have always resisted having a bucket list because I couldn’t get one big enough but I am thankful to fellow bloggers Victor (Victor Travel Blog) and Wilbur(Wilbur’s Travels) for reminding me that if I did have one then Mont St Michel would be somewhere near the top.

Kim enjoyed it so much that she immediately abandoned her Wales plans and has decided that we are going to live there!

Castelsardo

Cheap flight tickets are top of a long list of good reasons to travel and when we spotted some reasonably priced return flights to Sardinia with Easyjet it didn’t take long to make a decision to visit the second biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea (just slightly smaller than Sicily) with our occasional travelling companions Mike and Margaret.

Our flight was to the city of Olbia in the North-East of the island so we planned an itinerary that would take us along the length of the north coast and then to the city of Alghero on the west coast and finally a return journey to Olbia across the northern countryside.

This was our final journey of 2015 and now we begin to make our plans for 2016.

Happy Travels Everyone!

Did you have a good year or have any big plans for 2016?

Postcards of 2015

Warsaw

February 2015 – Warsaw

I had never really thought seriously about going to Warsaw before and I put this down to the fact that when I was younger I always associated it with two things.  Firstly, word association and the town of Walsall, which is a dreary unattractive, industrial town in the Black Country in the United Kingdom which is a place that few people would visit by choice.  Secondly the term Warsaw Pact, which was the name of the Soviet military alliance in Eastern Europe which during my early years seemed to be the sinister organisation responsible for plotting to wipe us of the face of the map in a messy nuclear strike.

Buses of Malta postcard

April 2015 – Malta

I have been to Malta before.  I first went there in 1996 and liked it so much that I returned the following year.  Both times I stayed at the Mellieha Bay hotel in the north of the island.  These were family holidays with two teenage children, beaches, swimming pools, banana boat death rides and Popeye Village.

I liked it so much that I have always wanted to go back.  I have repeatedly told Kim that Malta is special and that I am certain she would like it as much as I did.  Late last year the opportunity arose and I was able to find a combination of cheap flights and a hotel deal at Mellieha Bay for just £200 for four nights and five full days!  A bargain not to be missed.

During the gloomy winter months I continued to try and convince Kim that she was going to really, really enjoy Malta but as the departure date grew closer I began to worry that she might not be so blown away with the place as I had been previously…

Giants Causeway Northern Ireland

June 2015 – Northern Ireland

It hasn’t always been free to visit.  In the 1800s, the Causeway was fenced off by landowners who saw its potential as a tourist attraction and so an easy way to make money but after a long drawn out case the High Court ruled that the public had an ‘ancient right of way’ to visit the Causeway and view the stones.

Now the National Trust wants to turn back the clock.  They haven’t exactly built a fence but they cleverly mislead visitors into paying the extortionate parking and visitor centre admission charge.

Here are my tips for avoiding the Giant National Trust Rip-Off:

Durham Postcard

August 2015 – Durham

For eight hundred years Durham was the most important city in Northern England with a castle and a cathedral built within the natural defensive position of a loop in the river Wear which gave protection on three sides and the city became the first line of defence against any invasions from Scotland and the North.

Abbotsford House Scotland

August 2015 – Scottish Borders

I was staying in the town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders  which is so far south in Scotland that it is even nearer the equator than the town of Berwick-on-Tweed, the furthest town north in England but what a wonderfully scenic and historic part of the country.

Castell y Bere Wales

August 2015 – Wales

It was quite a difficult drive to the castle and there was a bit of moaning from my passengers and I began to worry that it might be a disappointment but we arrived eventually and made our way to the top of a rocky crag and the extensive ruins of the castle.  It had once belonged to Edward I but in 1294 it was captured by Welsh forces and burnt to the ground.  Edward never rebuilt it, maybe he hadn’t renewed his home insurance policy and he abandoned this once strategic position to concentrate instead on his new defensive ring of castles that he was busy building all along the coast.

Dinard, Brittany, France

September 2015 – Brittany, France

It has been called the Cannes of the north, apparently Joan Collins is a frequent visitor but we didn’t spot here tonight, Winston Churchill enjoyed holidaying on the River Rance and it is claimed that Alfred Hitchcock visited Dinard and based the house used in his most famous movie Psycho on a villa standing over the Plage de l’Écluse, there is even a statue of the man to endorse the claim.  Long before his adventures Lawrence of Arabia lived in Dinard as a small child and Picasso painted here in the 1920s, Claude Debussy is supposed to have had the idea for “La Mer” during a visit to Saint-Énogat in 1902 and Oscar Wilde also visited the place and mentions it in his De Profundis.

Valle de Luna Sardinia

October 2015 – Sardinia

Cheap flight tickets are top of a long list of good reasons to travel and when we spotted some reasonably priced return flights to Sardinia with Easyjet it didn’t take long to make a decision to visit the second biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea (just slightly smaller than Sicily) with our occasional travelling companions Mike and Margaret.

Postcard Maps of 2015

malta-mapWroclaw Poland PostcardNorthern Ireland Map PostcardScottish Bordersnorth walesBrittany Map PostcardSardinia Postcard Map

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grid

Victoria Square Shopping Centre Belfast

“Belfast is a city which, while not forgetting its past, is living comfortably with its present and looking forward to its future.” – James Nesbitt

We started our walking tour at the restored Victorian St George’s indoor Market and as soon as we went through the doors I knew that I had been there before.  In 2002 I attended an Environmental Health conference in Belfast and one evening there was live entertainment and a lot of drinking in this place.

Read the full story…

Belfast Beacon Of Hope

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monochromatic

Giant's Causeway Northern Ireland

O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant” –  William Shakespeare, ‘Measure for Measure’

Sometimes it is is not necessary to travel huge distances to visit something special.

The Giant’s Causeway is a geological wonder of the World close to home in the UK consisting of about forty thousand interlocking basalt columns resulting from a volcanic eruption about sixty million years ago.  Most of the columns are hexagonal in shape, but there are some with four, five, seven and eight sides.

Read the full story…