parkrun tourism: Coventry

Event #55 parkrun # 225

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My little darlings are both in showbiz, which often sees me poring over tour schedules, trying to match up cheap flights, affordable accommodation and nearby parkruns.  It’s very rare that they are in the same place at the same time, but this year, on my birthday, all the stars seemed to align!

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Except…….

Storm Callum arrived.  My Friday morning flight had been due to take off at 8.30 am, and Jemima’s show was in Coventry at 7 pm.  I’d been saying all week I could cope with a delay of several hours.  But FlyBe made the decision to cancel all their morning departures from Belfast City airport, leaving me in a bit of a panic, booking alternatives.  (To be fair to FlyBe, propeller planes do not take kindly to the gale force winds that we were subjected to).  So EasyJet to the rescue, from the much maligned Belfast International.  Check in and security were all very smooth, and I caught a train from Birmingham International straight to Coventry with no problems.

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Saw Jemima’s show, i-Infinite that evening, and was ready for my Saturday morning parkrun fix.

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Access:

I was staying at the Ibis hotel close to the station, which was an easy 15 minute stroll to War Memorial park.   There are a number of buses which pass by, and a decent sized car park.

Facilities:

I was there well before 8.30, but already the team of volunteers was setting up (and storm Callum wasn’t helping them keep the cones in place!).  This is a large parkrun, so a small army of volunteers is needed.  They were very friendly and welcoming, and pointed me in the direction of the loos, in a very smart looking building.

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Loos are clean and warm, and are opened about 8.30.  I got chatting in the queue to a local student, and also the tail-walker/ first-timers-briefer for today.  This is also the cafe where runners meet afterwards for cake and conversation, and where I enjoyed a bacon butty and cup of tea for under £5.

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Course:

2 and a bit laps around the beautiful park.  In October when I visited the trees were looking stunning in their autumnal splendour, but causing quite a bit of twigs and seed cases on the ground.  It’s mostly tarmac all the way, not totally flat, but with cheery and encouraging marshalls at various points ringing bells and calling out “keep smiling!”.  There’s a finish funnel, so keep in order and keep moving.  Scanning takes place up by the cafe.

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Crowd:

It’s a University town, so expect a good few speedy twenty-somethings.  The start has signs for you to line up based on your expected finish time, which does make for a smoother and less bottle-necked first 200m. IMG_0355

There were also a couple of dogs and prams, and a wide age range from under 10s to….ahem, people even older than me.  Numbers are usually around 600.

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Gear:

I’d forgotten to bring any sort of waist belt or pouch!  When I’m running with Minnie there is a zippy pocket on the running belt, and I always have something to transport poo bags and treats.  So I had to be inventive – I tucked some money and my hotel key into my wristband/ sweatband, and shoved my phone into my sports bra.  My Garmin and headphones worked perfectly.  I wore my black 100 shirt, and my cow cowl, which was recognised by fellow tourist Beth,  though this is her local run.

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Time:

Ugh, 35 minutes.  But you know what?  It doesn’t matter.

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And the rest:

After a welcome shower back at the hotel, I caught a train to Birmingham New Street, which is a massive station with its own branch of John Lewis attached!  Harry’s theatre, the New Alexandra, was right beside the Station Street exit,

and we met for a lovely lunch at Cherry Reds cafe.  Service a bit slow, but funky and fabulous food. Motown the Musical is a non-stop feel good megamix of hits – guaranteed to leave you smiling.  And a busy show for Harry as Head of Automation, lots going on all the time.

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I caught a train back to the airport station, my goodness this is a big airport!  I’d had to get on the phone to FlyBe earlier, since if you don’t take your outward flight they automatically cancel your return leg. But my 8 pm flight was very hassle free, and I was back home at 9.30 pm.  That was certainly a fun packed couple of days, and a birthday to remember.

All my parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

parkrun tourism: Ardgillan

Event # 54 parkrun # 224

Being the 14th birthday of parkrun UK, it was International parkrun day!  Last year I’d had the pleasure of joining a whole rake of UK parkrun tourists at Bushy Dublin (and producing a bottle of Bushmills for anyone who had “double Bushy-ed”).  But there were no obvious plans for this year’s get together.

However, the parkrun legend that is Nicola had hinted she might be at Ardgillan, just north of Dublin, and when local toruist Ben said he’d be heading there, I decided to join him at what was my 2nd closest NENDY.

Access:

This is an easy get-to for Norn Irn tourists.  Junction 6 on the M1, and it’s clearly marked with brown signs from there.  The Applgreen makes a handy stop for wee-wees and leg stretches, and make sure you have some euro coins for the Boyne Bridge toll. (é1.90 each way at time of writing)

Facilities:

Ardillan Castle is set in gorgeous surrounds, and is well appointed with car parking.  There is a large park as you enter the estate, and a smaller one closer to the start. 

There are cute loos on the edge of the castle, and a cafe that allows dogs for aferwards. Oh, and stunning sea views.  What more could you ask!

Course:

It’s a toughie!  Staring at the castle, it follows a gentle downwards track before 2 loops through forest, which have an upward undulating section, followed by a final uphill 300 m.

Even Minnie, my hill-getter-upper, was looking at me at this stage and going “you cannot be serious!”

Each km is well marked.

The surface is mostly gravel, with a few forest trails.  But those views!

Crowd:

There aren’t big numbers here, just over 50 on my visit, and that’s typical.  There’s a very relaxed feel to the pre-run brief, though we did get a shout out to Nicola doing her 400th run!

  For me, as a running-with-dog person, this was perfect.  The starting crowd thins out pretty quickly, and I cen let Minnie do her bit without worrying about tripping up or getting in the way of others.

 

Gear:

My darling husband had given me an early birthday present of bone-conduction earphones. Road races in NI are becoming more strict about using earphones while running, but these kind are acceptable as you can still hear what’s going on around you, cars, instrcutions from marshalls etc.  They were fab.

Strangely Approproiate Song On Shuffle:

I really enjoyed having music to accompany my run on this clear crisp Autumn morning, and my Eurovision soundtrack brought many smiles to my face. But the Dixie Chicks version of “Some Days You Gotta Dance” summed up my mood.

Time:

I was aiming for sub-30 and managed it.  I do hope I can come back some time to  try and knock off a few seconds!

All My parkruns:

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

222 or tutu too at Tymon

The distance between milestones can seem awffy long, so I often find different challenges or number of runs to celebrate.  Usually with a sutiable outfit.  And cake, of course.

My 222nd parkrun was due to take place on 22 September.  I liked that coherence already, and started to research which parkruns would be having their 2nd birthday, or 2nd, 22nd or 222nd runs.  And lo, my friends in Tymnon, Dublin were having their 222nd event on the same day. I got in touch, asked how they felt about a theme, and did they prefer 2 little ducks or Desmond Tutu.  They laughed and we agreed on a tutu theme, one which reflects my dancing proclivities.

So, what to wear.  I already had a comedy number 2 which I’d pinned to my 100 shirt on the occasion of my 200th run.  I still had the black ribbon and the white fabric paint so another couple of number 2s were easily produced.

I’ve borrowed tutus from friends in the past (see Waggy Races Fairy Dogmother outfit), but felt it was time to invest in my own.  A black one was procured from Elliotts for the princessly sum of £4.75. Watch out for it being reused at Hallowe’en.

I persuaded hubby to come with me and make it a day trip, so thanks to him for the transport and photos.  Sat nav assisted we arrived just before 9 am to find the set up underway.

Last time I’d been here, there was just a table by the car park wall, but now they have use of the GAA facilities including an indoor space, and there were sweets aplenty, as well as a special rocky road cake.

I got a shout out in the brief.  The course was somewhat changed form my last visit, a reminder to ALWAYS listen to the run brief.

The weather was cool and slightly damp, but compared to the gale force winds of recent weeks that made for very pleasant running conditions.  With Minnie’s assistance I easily managed a PB, dancing my way over the finish line before enjoying some pleasant chat over the post-run goodies.

I was very touched by the gift that they had made for me – a large pebble painted with the date of the run on one side, and an uncannily accurate portrait of me on the other.  What a really lovely idea!  I made it my FB profile pic, and tweeted “Free Weekly Timed”, the podcast, that this week’s three words were “personalised tutu stone”.

 

Thank you to all at Tymon who made this such a fun way to spend a Saturday morning,

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and who even tweeted a short video

 

of me dancing across the finish line!

parkrun tourism: Delaware and Raritan Canal

event #53 parkrun #219

I’m not sure if this one qualifies for the longest name of any parkrun, but I’m sure glad I didn’t have to get it to scan or rhyme in my “50 Ways” video!

Having missed out on Crissy Field last year (I may have mentioned this a couple of times….) I literally whooped with delight when I discoverd that a brand new parkrun was starting up which was reachable from New York, and that I would be there on a Saturday!  And so for their event number 3, I set off to join them on my first one outside UK and Ireland.

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Access:

OK, so it’s doable from Manhattan, but only by the really dedicated and serious tourist! It’s in New Jersey, so the NJ Tranist system is your first friend.  We were staying on 35th Street, just a couple of blocks from Penn Station, and I’d timed how long it would take us to walk there in time to catch a 7 am-ish train.  Your next and most important friend is the Facebook page.  So far, this has been outstanding at giving advice and and arranging station pick-ups for visiting tourists, and it was from FB that I contacted Neil, who offered to pick us up from New Brunswick station.  A return train ticket cost $28.  If you were going to get a taxi or Uber from there, it’s about 8 miles away.

A fellow tourist travelled out from her more southerly Manhattan base via the PATH, getting a lift at Bridgewater.  There definitely needs to be a volunteer credit for these fabulous local folk!

Facilities:

The Park is huge, and there is good parking and some restrooms nearby.  No cafe on site, and the usual meet-up spot was closed for Labor Day when I was there. It was very hot and humid in September, so do bring some water and maybe a small towel.  Start and finish are very close, so it’s easy enough to leave coats and bags there.

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Course:

The pre-run brief takes place by the lovely wooden bridge across the canal, and the start is on the far side.  From there it’s an out-and-back along the side of the canal, with a turnaround point well marked, and across the bridge to finish. There’s one section of brick slipway, where you need to watch your step, but it’s flat the whole way.

Crowd:

Young and enthusiastic!  parkrun is still just getting going in the States, and there were only 36 runners there on my visit.  I’m sure it will be a “must do” for dedicated tourists, in the future, as well as attracting more home grown participants.

Time:

Running in the heat and humidity is hard work, especially for an Irish woman more used to the wind and rain.  But I was happy enough with my 32-ish time, and even more delighted that I grabbed a new age-category record.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

I was running with no music, enjoying the sounds of the cicadas, but I did use the old Perry Como hit “What did Delaware” as my Cracker Says Facebook post.

 

All my parkruns

parkrun tourism: Orangefield

event #52      parkrun #218

Determined to regain my Norn Irn Regionnaire status, after missing the inaugural a few weeks ago, I headed to East Belfast.  I’ll need to find a suitably sized bead to add to my T shirt.

 

This is an area I know well, in fact one of my previous addresses was in Orangefield Crescent.  Back then, when my children were teenies, we knew this park for its spider shaped climbing frame. The spider is long gone, but the whole area has been very well revitalised, and the park is clean and tidy with some lovely bridges, each of which has a name.

Access:

There’s plenty of parking spaces across the road at the playing fields, and the 5A or B metro bus will leave you pretty close from the city centre.  This is Belfast’s 9th parkrun, so visitors will have plenty of options.

Facilities:

There’s a loo by the main entrance, but you’ll need 20p!  (There’s a big Tesco not far away on Castlereagh Road that you could try). There’s no sheltered spot to congregate in, so no teas/ coffees so far.

Crowd:

There were just over 100 runners the day I visited, which is a nice size.  Good age range too, with lots of speedy younsters, and some sprightly older people too.  A few buggies and doggies, and some walkers, give it a good diverse feel.

Course:

It’s one small lap and then 3 larger ones.  This can get a wee bit confusing, so it helps to count how many times you’ve passed a certain bridge or other landmark.  The paths are a good hard surface, and some of the course goes through woodland so it’s trail.  The first lap can get a bit bunchy, but there’s plenty of grass to the sides for overtaking.  And by the time you’re on lap 3, most of the fast guys have finished, so there’s a bit more room.  It’s not totally flat, but the hilly bits are nothing to fear.  The final stretch is across grass into the finish funnel.

Update:

I revisited a few weeks later, and the course has been altered slightly, and now doesn’t run on grass at all.  I suspect the earlier version was a leeeetle bit short, and so I didn’t manage a PB.  But I DID manage to grab the final seconds on my “parkrun Bingo” so the lack of PB was worth it.  Honest!

 

Thanks to my daughter for the action shots.

Gear:

I wore my 50 events T shirt, though as this was my 52nd, it is rapidly becoming out of date.  My Garmin refused to find a GPS, but it still told me the time, which was good enough.  I knew as I passed the finish line at 9.50 that there was no way I’d completed in 20 minutes, so I must have another lap to do.  I’d replaced the lenses on my running sunglasses with a lighter pair, and they were great when moving from sunny open paths to shady trees.   My Hokka trainers were well suited to the mixed terrain, and I wore my skirty-calf-length leggings.  The only problem with these is they don’t have a pocket, so I had to tie my keys to a strap on Minnie’s running harness.  Only cow cowl I saw (as Andrew and other-Minnie keep forgetting theirs……)

Strangely Appropriate Song:

I tend to run without headphones these days, so I wasn’t listening to anything during the run.  But I was singing loudly to The Dixie Chicks and “Some Days You Gotta Dance” in the car.

Time:

I wasn’t pushing myself to the limit, so I was really pleased with a 28:27 time, my fastest since February this year.  I’m sure I’ll be revisiting at some stage to try to sneak a cheeky wee PB.

 

All my parkruns

 

parkrun tourism: Dungannon Park

Event #51 parkrun #217

There’s always a debate about whether to attend inaugurals or not. For a regionnaire, the temptation is to keep that status up to date. But some parkruns prefer a soft launch so that they are not overwhelmed by unusually high numbers on day one, putting their volunteer team under stress. However, I hadn’t seen any requests to stay away from the first outing for NI’s newest baby, Dungannon Park. And so off I went!

Access:
There is a camping/ caravan park situated here, so the brown signs are very helpful. Directions on the parkrun page are spot on, and I only had a teeny disagreement with my sat nav before pulling into the car park. It’s just over 30 miles from me, practically all motorway, so about a 35 min journey. Definitely a feasible one to repeat easily.

Crowd:

I’d expected more at an inaugural: there were about 150, so I imagine the usual numbers will be about half that.  Local running clubs were well represented, there were a few dogs (Hi, other Minnie!) and at least one pram.  The RD and volunteer team were very friendly and welcoming.

Course:

The start is in a wide clearing a short distance from the car park.

This makes it easy for some speed-self-seeding, and the runners have thinned out by the time they get to a slightly narrower path around the lake.  There is a bit of a tight bridge at the top of the lake, but good running etiquette will prevent this becoming a bottleneck.

Past a stunning waterfall, up a short hill,

and then through the trees before reaching a rather challenging hill!

2 laps and a bit, so the finish line is a bit away from the start line, should you wish to leave coats and belongings somewhere.  The ground is either tarmac or gravel.  It is a very pretty course, with ducks, flowers, and some lovely foresty trail paths.  Minnie gives it paws-up!

Facilities:

Being at a caravan park, there is an excellent toilet block.  There are showers too, but they may only be available to people staying there.  If you were touring Ireland by motorhome or camping, this would be one to add to your itinerary. There is also a very pleasant cafe with a tempting array of ice creams!

Time:

I haven’t been running a lot recently, so I’m easing myself back in gradually.  I was happy enough with my pace on the first lap, but allowed myself to stop and take photos on the 2nd.  What is it I always say?  Never knock yourself out on a first visit – make it easy to come back and PB!  So a 32 minute bar which I will definitely be back sometime to beat.

Strangely Appropriate Song:

I was running without music – it does help when with a dog, to be able to call out and hear other people telling you where they are overtaking.  Plus running through woods like this I always like to listen to the sounds of nature.

And the rest:

I’ve missed parkrun recently becuse I’ve been away doing a dance course.  And I’ve just found out that I passed!  So there was a spring in my step, and a lightness in my soul.  And if you need a Scottish dance ceilidh some time, give me a shout 🙂

NI (and other) parkruns: summary list

 

What A Week: Wild Atlantic Way

The vision……
R has long fancied holidaying in a motorhome. The biker in him loves the call of the open road, and he likes camping weekends consisting of a lot of standing or sitting in fields doing not very much.  The plan was to rent one for a week, hit the west coast of Ireland with son and dog on board, and see how we got on.  You’ll love it, they said, you can just stop where you like, make a wee cuppa, enjoy the freedom and the relaxation, bond with nature. Yeah right.

R’s personality type means he likes things open, spontaneous, to be able to decide on the hoof.  By contrast, I like to research and plan. It was hard to find some common approach to the holiday, but we did agree it was sensible to book in somewhere for the first night, and wanted to do as much of the Wild Atlantic Way as we could.  So this gave me enough material to research.  I joined the Motorhome Craic facebook group, who were very friendly and helpful, and purchased the “Britstops” book, which gives deatils of some stopping places near local businesses (pubs, smokehouses, fruit farms etc).  My big worry was that we would driving around frantically at 6 or 7 at night unable to find somewhere to stay, so I drafted a rough itinerary with some suggestions.  Here’s how we got on.

Day 1: pick up van. Enniskillen

Handover, showing us where all the bits and bobs were and how to operate the various functions, including the all important chemical toilet.  We loaded up and set off for Enniskillen.  I sat in the back with Minnie, who was a bit restless at these new surroundings, and couldn’t find a comfortable spot. My first impression was of how rattly the van is!  There’s also no aircon, so it’s not the most comfortable of rides.  But we make it to Lochside Marina (£20, no extra for showers) with no issues, and do our first electric hook up (EHU).  I’d had hoped that the site would be close enough to the city centre to walk for fish and chips or something, but it was about a mile out.  We decided to get a Chinese delivered, which was rather tasty.  But I’m still struggling to see the attaction, plus being by the loch there’s quite a few biting insects around.

Day 2: Downpatrick Head

After a not-bad night’s sleep, I make tea!  And a one-eyed-jack (known in our house as Amy’s Eggs) for breakfast.  We headed for Sligo, where we would pick up the coastal route branded the “Wild Atlantic Way”.  This genius marketing ploy was devised by Leo Varadkhar when he was tourism minister, and since there were already a few coastal scenic atlantic drives in existence, it was just a matter of joining them up, adding a few wiggly signs, and sitting back to await the influx of tourists.

Except Sligo isn’t terribly helpful in pointing me in the right direction.  I scoured in vain for the wiggly sign, or even a sign for the airport, but all I can see is “Sligo Core” or “Sligo Ring”, which mean nothing to me.  We programme the sat nav for Strandhill, and shortly afterwards find a lovely pub restaurant called The Venue, with outdoor seating where we order lunch (chowder for me, roast lamb for R, fresh water for Minnie despite her barking at the kind waitress).  Parking in the car park is a bit awkward – we take up 2 spaces and hope that we don’t get blocked in.

We continue along the WAW, learning as we go how to differentiate between the main route (marked S or N) and the little fingers out to a viewpoint.  We stop at Lacken Strand, a vast expanse of golden sand with drones and air surfers overhead.  Minnie leaps to freedom and enjoys a few zoomies around the place.  It’s tricky drying off her paws, especially in such limited space.

Onward to Downpatrick Head, a spot which was recommended to us by a Swiss couple last night.  It’s a dramatic headland, and as we approach it in the afternoon sunshine we can see other headlands and islands dotted along he coastline to the west.  There are no stopping places to try to capture this in a photograph, but it would be impossible to do it justice even if there were.  The glorious panorama takes in big blue skies, azure seas, and green-grey granite slabs. I set off with Minnie towards the headland, but a sign says that dogs are not allowed, so I leave her back to the van with the boys and continue alone.  It is stunning – sheer cliffs, blowholes, and the 50m high Dun Briste sea stack.

 

Back in the car park, I order hot dogs and chips from Patsy’s van, and he delivers them to our door!

This is our first time trying “wild camping” ie no electric or water, and it feels strange to watch the car park gradually empty of day visitors and have the place to ourselves.  Well, almost, there is one other van in this car park, and another motorhome parked up in the next one down.  My hopes for a wild Atlantic sunset are dashed, though, as a surly sea mist rolls in and turns the sky 40 shades of grey.

We have problems with the chemical toilet, and decide that wild camping is not for us.  Patsy had recommended staying by the beer garden in Healys pub in Ballycastle, so that might have been a better option.

Day 3: Achill Island

Back on the coastal road, the views are stunning, but there are very few places to pull in.  What was that lie in the vision – you can just stop where you fancy? No, not really, you have to choose a spot that you can get in and out of safely without inconveniencing other road users.  But we find a great big car park opposite a fab Spar in Barr na Tra.  A fellow motorhomer with a lovely Boxer dog pulls in too, and we compare notes on how best to dispose of rubbish. The Irish government is promoting a recyling policy, and charging for landfill rubbish.  This does mean that there are very few bins around that we can use.  We try to keep recyclables separate and find the appropriate bottle banks etc, but I find that I’m using black bags, wet wipes and kitchen towel at a greater rate that I would at home, and can’t find many food watse disposal points.  But hey, it’s bound to be more environmentally friendly than flying somewhere.  Fuel topped up, and homemade scones purchased for later, we decide to skip Belmullet, and do the square loop at Blacksod Bay.  Suitable stopping point found opposite a pub, we turn on the gas to make soup and sandwiches.

After admiring the peaks of Achill over lunch, it’s lovely to make our way onto the island, and follow the signs to the newly opened Achill Seal Caves site (28 euro). The facilities are excellent, with loos and showers (1 euro for 3 minutes, plenty of space to leave towel and clothes), and a campervan servicing bay.  As I’m guiding the van into this, the rear brake light cover strikes a not-very-obvious grey wall and smashes. Ouch!  Oh well, it’s a bit of a rite of passage, and could have been much worse – no bodywork damage.  R gets the roll of clear tape and sets about doing the jigsaw of the smashed pieces.  The rest of us explore the beach.

It is golden sandy with rolling waves, but the sand is a little soft and rocky, and there are quite a few jelly fish washed up, so I’m not tempted to go for a dip.  The Strand Hotel nearby advertises “home cooked food all day!” but this turns out to be only at weekends,  So back to the van for rather tasty steak and veg that we brought with us.  Afterwards, we admire kites being flown on the beach, including an impressive whale, advertising a local pizza place.

Day 4: Keogh’s, Ballyconneely

The morning dawns cloudy but pleasant. so I take Minnie for a run.  However, the loose sheep give us problems: they see her and bolt, she sees them dashing off and wants to give chase. But it’s good to get the endorphins shuggling round my brain, and running on the beach in such surroundings is very therapeutic.

We pack up and head for Westport, one of the places I’d been looking forward to pottering around in.  But it’s a very popular spot, and driving through the town is more than a bit hair raising, with lots of cars double parked, and delivery vans reducing the available lanes.  So that vision of spending some time wandering among the colourful pubs and shops quickly vanishes.  We can’t see anywhere to park, so continue out along the southern shores of Clew Bay, and stop near Croagh Patrick, for a cheese-and-crisp based lunch. From there, it’s my favouite road in the whole world, the Doo Lough pass.  Again, not enough places to stop and photograph, but we enjoy the scenery around Killary Harbour and Leenaun.  Just past Kylemore Abbey, there is a narrow bit of road, and we see another motorhome approach us.  “Breathe in!” I say, but the 2 wing mirrors clip, at a combined speed of about 80 mph, and the mirrors pop out and smash.  We pull over, and the German couple do turn around and come back to us.  I get out the accident form and start completing it, my rusty German being tested severely (Indicator light? Mirror housing? And what date is it anyway?)  A Garda car stops and makes sure there are no injuries, and if we are happy enough just to exchange insurance details then he will leave us to it.  But it’s not just the mirror that is shattered – I’m feeling very stressed out after this, tensed up as if I was in a dentist’s chair, and my heart is in my mouth around each tight bend in the road.

Tonight we are staying at Keogh’s, one of the aires in my Britstops book, which is a large gravelly car park beside a pub-restaurant-shop-filling station. (You had me at pub-restaurant).  Manoevering is made a bit more difficult without a wing mirror, but we get set up, and head across the road to enjoy a super dinner in the outdoor seating area.  The menu is very impressive, and I am spoiled for choice, settling eventually for the seafood platter, including oysters, crab claws and steamed mussels.  It is absolutely delicious.

Day 5: Galway

Overnight, some travelling fair trucks have parked up near us, getting ready for this weekend’s Ballyconneely Show.  But we manage to pick our way out of the park.  No loos in the shop, which opens at 8, only in the pub, which opens at 10.  So we head off for Galway, having researched where the Ford parts dealer is, in the hope that a replacement mirror can be procured. Driving around the iconic stony green Connemara landscape, I imagine a sort of Craft-coffee-shop-with-loos, and lo and behold!  At Glinsk such a miracle appears!  It is lovely, with a very extensive gift shop where we spend some time, and beautiful gardens with a stunning view of the mountains.  I treat myself to a Connemara marble worry stone – just rub it and your worries will disappear!

Soon we are driving along Galway Bay, and stop at Spiddal to make ham-and-crisp sandwiches.  I have a little mosey around the Craft Village, with intriguing basketweaving, glass painting, silver jewellery etc shops.  Well worth a visit!

The sat-nav leads us through the narrow streets in Galway centre, where again double parking and delivery vans make the journey more difficult than it should be.  The parts place is on Headford Road, a large industrial and retail zone with a big Dunnes Stores, Halfords, and  a Pet World. Bad news is they don’t have that mirror in stock, but they can get one for tomorrow.  We head for Salthill camp and caravan park, to find them closed for lunch.  But we can wait.  It’s 40+ euros for the night!  There’s a per adult and per dog charge (what facilities is she going to be using?), 1 euro for shower, 50 cents for hot water to do dishes, 5 for laundry, another 5 for drying, and lots of dictatorial dos and donts on signs around the site.  Depending on which sign you read, check out could be 10.30, 11 or 11.30, so it’s obviously been a contentious issue. I can’t find the promised beach, but I do find Joyce’s supermarket, which is an absolute haven of edible goodies and local produce.  I buy some fancy artisanal yoghurt for breakfast, and some mushrooms which I add to a pack of microwave rice cooked in a saucepan, with crispy bacon for dinner.

I stroll along the coastal path in the evening light, before we join some fellow campers in the recreation room to watch the England-Croatia match.

Day 6: Lough Ennell

Minnie wakes early, and I take her along the coastal path as the sun is rising.  Some photographers are setting up tripods in the outdoor pool and diving area, but I’m not sure what they are expecting. I shower using a plastic bag method: put clean clothes in bag and hang on hook.  Take off dirty clothes and leave in a corner.  Shower, dry, put on clean dry clothes, and place dirty ones in bag.  I do some sun salutation yoga strecthes, and enjoy my hand-knitted hippy yoghurt in the sunshine.   All the hard stands have a grey water drain, so it’s simple enough to get everything ready to go.  Back to the motorparts place, I go for a bit of a walk, and enjoy a cup of tea and a croissant in Dunnes cafe.  I think that’s another thing I find hard on this sort of trip – finding some me-space.   The mirror arrives, R fits it easily enough, and we are soon underway.  We’ve chosen somewhere to stay tonight somewhere that’s on the way home, so it’s goodbye to the Wild Atlantic Way.  And goodbye to the City of Tribes which I didn’t really get to experience – I shall have to return some other time.

We set off on the N6, M6.  There are no service stations, but eventually we find a pull over place, and I rustle up soup and sandwiches and a mug-shot with added cheese for lunch.  Lough Ennell is well signposted, and is a large well spaced site with plenty of wide available spots with EHU and water.  28 euro.  There is a small shop on site (no wine….), but we get some bacon and eggs for dinner.  Being by the Lough, there are quite a few flies around, but a charming family of swans with a group of fluffy cygnets are playing by the water’s edge.  We settle in to watch Lilo and Stich on DVD, an old family favourite, and have an early night.

Day 7: Home

A good night’s sleep, a shower (1 euro), plenty of tea and bacon butties for breakfast, and I’m almost human again. An uneventful journey home (the van is much less rattly on smooth main roads), and we’re home mid afternoon, in time to give the van a good final clean before handing back.

Final verdict?  Motorhoming is not something I’ll be rushing to do again.  It’s a big beast which limits where you can park, and I like to be able to make tea, go pee, and have a shower, without it being a major faff.  But the scenery was marvellous, and I’ll definitely revisit the WAW some day.  Maybe in a sports car……

List of things we should have brought:

  • The list!  Which I thought I’d left on the kitchen table, but which turned up about 3 days in.
  • Scissors
  • Ziplock bags
  • cleaning wipes
  • J cloths
  • Hand towel
  • travel dog crate whcih can be used outside
  • Tether point for long lead
  • handwash
  • Crocs for everyone (I was the ony one who’d packed some, and had to share.  I should have charged by the 3 minutes, same as the campsite showers!)