A Travellerspoint blog

Derry

overcast 10 °C
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Day 2 of my flying visit to Ireland in April was an interesting one.

City Centre

City Centre

I took a day trip to Derry by train. I’d never been to the city before and I’d never taken a train journey in the North either.

City Walls

City Walls

It started really well. I asked the lady at the station ticket desk for my return ticket. Instead of that (£18 or so) she sold me a day Translink card for £17. It is also valid for the bus to the airport, so she saved me £3.50!

The train was very pleasant too. Modern, clean and comfortable.

Derry was fascinating. It was in the news almost every week for more than 30 years. Since 1999, it has gone back to anonymity (to those of us who live in the rest of the UK, and beyond).

Bogside

Bogside

Union Jacks in one half of town and Irish tricolours in the other give the impression of a divided city. It is historic however, and not just in recent times. It was well worth the day out!

History

History

Posted by IainT 13:26 Archived in Ireland Tagged ireland derry Comments (0)

The North

sunny 14 °C
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April’s escape was to Ireland - the North.

Ice Hockey UK and the IIHF were running the 2017 World Championship (Division 1B) tournament in Belfast, with Team GB competing with Japan, Croatia, The Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia for a gold medal and promotion to 1A.

I was on the board of Ice Hockey UK when that decision was taken. I was curious to see how it would go. How would Belfast respond to British supporters running around the city waving British flags? Would locals (half of whom see themselves as Irish) turn up to support a British team?

So I got a ticket for the Wednesday night game (Lithuania), a night in an Ibis hotel, and a £70 return from Edinburgh with FlyBe.

City to Centre

City to Centre

The ice hockey was a bit dull. Team GB won comfortably and the crowd was sparse.

Team GB v Lithuania

Team GB v Lithuania

I did enjoy going around the Ulster Museum the afternoon before the game. It was a useful insight into local history. Recent history has played out before my eyes starting with the civil rights marches in the late 60s and finishing (I hope) with the Good Friday Agreement in 1999.

Civil Rights

Civil Rights

It was also a reminder of the high stakes involved with Brexit for Ireland. The open border and the European Convention on Human Rights are key aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

Pizza Lunch!

Pizza Lunch!

Posted by IainT 12:38 Archived in Ireland Tagged sport ice hockey belfast Comments (0)

Kennacraig - Port Askaig - Lagavulin

sunny 14 °C
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A long trip.

It’s a 160 mile (258 km) drive from my house to the Calmac ferry terminal at Kennacraig and it took almost 3.5 hours - even leaving at 8am on a Sunday, when the roads are quiet. The first 70 miles is quick and easy - motorway or dual carraigeway past Glasgow to Loch Lomond. Then it slows up dramatically.

The ferry voyage to Ìle/Islay takes a few minutes under 2 hours. The Finlaggan is comfortable, and lunch or just a coffee is welcome after the long drive. So is the chance to relax on deck and watch the scenery go by.

Bliss

Bliss

I didn’t see much wildlife - just gannets diving for fish, which is spectacular of course.

The route takes you out of West Loch Tarbert, across the Sound of Jura and then into the Sound of Islay. You can see Gigha to the south and Jura to the north.

Paps of Jura

Paps of Jura

Port Asgaig/Port Askaig is on the east coast of the island and the main road from the ferry terminal leads south through Bogh Mór/Bowmore and Port Ìlein/Port Ellen to get to Lagavulin, just east of Port Ìlein/Port Ellen. The drive takes about 35 minutes (22 miles).

Bowmore

Bowmore

For a whisky enthusiast some of the place names as you drive past them (or the signpost for them) are like a dream come true. Bunnahabhain, Bowmore, Port Ellen, Laphroaig, Lagavulin.

My bed and breakfast is across the road from the Lagavulin distillery. A 35 minute drive from Port Asgaig/Port Askaig.

Port Ellen

Port Ellen

A wee footnote... in Port Ìlein/Port Ellen all the street names are in Gaelic and English - Gaelic first and in larger letters. In Port Sgioba/Port Charlotte they are in Gaelic only. It shows the strength of the heritage and culture here. It’s one reason why I’ve written the place names in both.

Posted by IainT 07:21 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland ferries island islay calmac Comments (0)

Eigg - Mallaig - Fort William - home

rain 13 °C
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Day 4

Up at dawn again - too good to miss on my last morning.

On Calmac’s winter timetable the ferry sails on to nearby Muck (population 27) after calling at Eigg, and then at Eigg again on the way back to Mallaig. This means I could choose between taking the boat at 11:40 and seeing Muck, or waiting until its second call at 13:40. I opted for the mini cruise.

Muck

Muck

There’s no time to get off at Muck - it just leaves again as soon as all the passengers get off and on. Anyway it was a pleasant sail with a yummy burger on board - although a bit bumpy at times.

Quick Turnaround

Quick Turnaround

Then the train back to Fort William and the long drive home after that. A fabulous wee escape to a special place.

A final footnote about Eigg - in 1997 the island was bought from its absentee owner by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust - a partnership between the residents, Highland Council, and The Scottish Wildlife Trust. In 1997 the population was around 65. It had grown to 83 by the time of the 2011 census - an increase of 24%. During the same period Scottish island populations as a whole grew by just 4%.

One of the photos is a commemorative stone erected to mark the community buyout.

Monolith

Monolith

Another is a reminder of where the funding came from for the island’s electricity supply. Poignant. No way will London fund projects like that after Brussels stops.

Scotland & EU

Scotland & EU

Posted by IainT 12:37 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland ferries island muck eigg calmac Comments (0)

Sandamhòr - Traigh Lathaig

sunny 14 °C
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Day 3

A beautiful dawn just before 7am.

Dawn

Dawn

The owner’s daughter (she does have name, but... ) told me yesterday that a walk over to the beaches on the west of the island would be worth the effort. Good advice. A beautiful beach and wonderful views of Rùm.

Rùm

Rùm

I got my socks and shoes off and paddled along the beach. Released my inner child... My feet needed a wash anyway. Mind you, the warming effect of the Gulf Stream wasn’t very noticeable.

Peaceful

Peaceful

A few interesting facts about Eigg:-

  • The island has never been connected to the national electricity grid, so each house had a noisy, dirty, expensive diesel generator to produce power - the diesel arrived by ship from the mainland .
  • In 2008 the islanders set up their own electricity supply grid. They generate using 4 wind turbines, PV panels, and 3 micro hydroelectric generators. They have batteries for storage and diesel generators as a fall back in case there has been no sun, wind or rain.
  • Each home is allowed a maximum of 5kw electricity consumption, and has a meter to show how much is being used. People have learned not to boil the kettle and run the washing machine at the same time.

One of the crofts over at A’Chuagach caught my eye. I wonder if they fly the flag every day. It happened to be the day the Scottish Parliament voted for another independence referendum.

Flag

Flag

Posted by IainT 09:09 Archived in Scotland Tagged landscapes beaches scotland island eigg Comments (0)

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