Friday, August 8, 2014

A little work, a little play, and a lot of driving

Recently we took another trip to Ireland - and probably our last before we come home.  We quite enjoy these opportunities to see beautiful country and meet with wonderful people.  It is a long day when traveling to Ireland.  We left our flat about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and drove about 2 ½ hours to Carinryan to catch the ferry to Belfast.  The drive is beautiful and has become familiar as this was our 5th time going to Ireland since arriving on our mission.


This is South Ayrshire just out of Maybole.  Down the hill towards the water is the Trump Turnberry Golf Resort.

It always is amazing to me what they load on the ferry for the 2 ½ hour crossing.

In addition to about 8-10 Semi-trucks, they loaded at least 5 big tour buses full of people.  They also loaded nearly 100 cars.

When we arrived in Belfast it is then a two hour drive south to Dublin and then two more hours west to Galway.  We reached Galway about 5:30 p.m.   Galway is a lovely town and we always enjoy wandering through the old part of town. 

 This view is looking back to Galway across the bay.  Notice that the tide is out and the boat is sitting on "dry" ground.  This is common with many harbors in Scotland and Ireland.  The "coming & goings" must be timed with the tide...

Wednesday we drove to the Cliffs of Moher.  The drive was quite a challenge as the road was very narrow and traffic was more than expected because of all the tour buses.

This was a wide spot in the road where I could  pull over to take a picture.  For most of the drive the road had no shoulder and there was often a stone wall about two feet from the pavement.

Standing 702 feet at their highest point they stretch for 5 miles along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. From the Cliffs of Moher on a clear day one can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as the Dingle Peninsula to the South.  

The Cliffs of Moher have appeared in several films, including The Princess Bride (as the filming location for "The Cliffs of Insanity"), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Leap Year.  Note the little "dots" on the top of the cliff - up the path - there are people standing on the top right near the edge of the cliffs.

From the Cliffs we drove to Limerick for some meetings with the District Presidency and the District Employment Specialist.  Thursday morning we drove to Dublin but stopped first at the village of Adare, just south of Limerick.

Adare village is an architectural mix of centuries blended into everyday life.  The main street of Adare is lined with original thatched cottages which have survived for hundreds of years. Some of the cottages are kept by local restaurants and Arts & Crafts shops, but many are still privately owned.

We had meetings in Dublin Thursday evening and then Friday took a day to explore some of Ireland.  We drove to Belleek to tour the factory where the Belleek Pottery is made. 

 This is the bridge at Belleek
The pottery made at this factory is amazing.  This piece was made in the 18th Century.

 This shows the delicate baskets made of china that are all hand painted.

We then headed to the north shore of Ireland to visit the Giant’s Causeway.

According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet.


In one version of the story, Finn defeats Benandonner. In another, Finn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Finn's wife, Oonagh, disguises Finn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the 'baby', he reckons that its father, Finn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Finn could not follow.


This is the backside of what was showing in the previous picture where one only sees the tops of the columns.  Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.


We arrived in Belfast Friday night and taught a Career Workshop on Saturday, stay for Church and more meetings with Stake leaders on Sunday and took the ferry back to Scotland on Monday.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Too early for the heather…

The chorus to one of our favorite Scottish songs we love to hear goes…

Let the Irish sing of their Em'rld Isle
Where the four leav'd shamrock grows,
Let the English praise their valleys and braes,
And the bonny blooming rose,
But give me the land of the heather and the kilt,
The mountain and the river,
For the blood leaps in my veins
When I hear the bagpipe's strains
Scotland, dear old Scotland forever!

We have truly come to love Scotland and all its beauty…

We recently scheduled a trip to the Scottish Highlands with the goal to see the “heather on the hills”.  Unfortunately we were a wee bit early and the heather was just barely beginning to bloom.  No worries…what that means is there will be no pictures of heather in this post, but another trip is scheduled soon to see the heather.

We started our trip with some friends from Glenrothes and stopped at 3-4 little fishing villages along the northern coast of the Firth of Forth. 

We ended up in Anstruther (another fishing village) for dinner at a fish shop that has been voted “best fish & chips in the UK”.  The line was out the door with people waiting both to “sit in” and “take away”.  The company was grand and the fish suppers were superior.

We then started our trip to search for the heather.  We drove through Perth to Pitlochry and up the A9 to Inverness.  The scenery was wonderful but as I said, the heather just wasn’t ready to bloom.  We stayed overnight in Inverness.  The next morning we drove out to where the Battle of Culloden was fought on April 16, 1746.

 This is the River Ness running through Inverness...

On one side was the Jacobite army, determined to reclaim the throne of Britain for its Stuart king – Charles Edward Stuart, also referred to as “Bonnie Prince Charlie” - and on the other was the army of the British government – led by the Duke of Cumberland – equally determined to quash its opponents.  

 These are some grave markers from the Battle

Culloden was the last full-scale battle to be fought on British soil and the culmination of the last Jacobite Rising.  The Jacobites supported the Stuart line of kings which had ruled Scotland for centuries and had united Scotland and England.  The English Act of Settlement of 1701 required the monarch to be Protestant.  When Queen Anne died with no immediate successor the crown passed to Anne’s second cousin, the Elector of Hanover: King George I.  Charles campaign at Culloden was to overthrow the Hanover King and return rule to the Stuarts.

The troops of Prince Charles were badly outnumbered.  The Battle of Culloden only lasted about an hour and it was a devastating defeat for Charles.  Around 1,250 of his troops were dead and a similar number were wounded.  By contrast the government forces suffered only around 50 fatalities with less than 300 wounded.

We left the battle field of Culloden and drove down the west shore of Loch Ness to the Urquhart Castle (pronounced Er cart).  This is a beautiful setting.  We looked for the Loch Ness monster, but no luck on this trip.  The journey continued down Loch Ness to Fort William, through the valley of Glencoe, and home to Edinburgh.

Urquhart Castle

 Glencoe...the sight of another battle - the McDonalds and the Campbells...but that is a story for another day.