Yesterday, we spent some time in Trim seeing if we could replace my 3G wifi device because it seems to have a faulty antenna and won’t stay powered on. It is very useful for sharing an internet connection between both of our iPads. Both O2 and Vodafone sell an equivalent model but they cannot be unlocked which makes them useless for us in our further travels.
As we finally left the town we drove by the Post Office which was receiving a cash delivery in an armored van. The authoritIes must have been expecting some trouble as outside, along the street and on each corner of the intersection, was a soldier with an automatic weapon. We ended up driving around the same corner twice hoping that we would be recognized only for what we were – lost tourists.
We drove from Trim to Mullingar in County Westmeath. It was only a short way, but we easily filled in the time looking at the scenery. We had lunch in a bakery at the top end of the main street and then visited the Tourist Information Centre for some ideas of activity for the afternoon. I also checked out the O2 store again and solved our Internet connection problem by buying two iPad sim cards.
Our first afternoon stop was at a monastic site at Clonmacnoise overlooking the River Shannon in County Offaly. These extensive ruins include a cathedral, castle, round tower, numerous churches, two important high crosses, and a large collection of early Christian grave slabs. The church here was founded in 548 by St. Ciaran, the son of a master craftsman. The settlement soon became a major center of religion, learning, trade, craftsmanship and politics, because it sat at the major crossroads of the River Shannon (flowing north-south) and the gravel ridges of the glacial eskers (running east-west). Like nearly all monastic settlements in Ireland, Clonmacnoise was plundered on several occasions by invaders, including the Vikings and Anglo-Normans. It then fell into decline from the 13th century onwards until it was destroyed in 1552 by the English garrison from nearby Athlone. It has now been restored into a tourist attraction and is a key a part of Irish history. It was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1979
On our way to our second site at Kilbeggan, we passed an area where peat was being harvested. I had never seen this before, but there were hundreds of rows of peat in brick shaped chunks laid out to dry.
Our last port of call in Kilbeggan was at the Locke’s Distillery Museum. This distillery is the last remaining example of a small pot still whiskey distillery in Ireland. It was licensed in 1757 and whiskey production continued for 200 years until 1957, when the distillery closed its doors. It is now open to the public as a Museum. We did a very interesting self guided tour around the old fermenting vats, past the stills and cooperage, and became fascinated b the machinery which was run from a water wheel (and a back up steam engine). Finally, we ended up in the tasting room for a sample of their fine product. The distillery now operates as a micro distillery, using the same original recipe.
Our travels today, Thursday, April 5, firstly took us through some more scenic country. Our starting point was to the ancient Monastic site in the village of Fore which is in a Valley between two hills. Fore is the “Town of the Springs” and was named after St. Fechin’s spring, which is beside the old Church. This unknown and obscure (to me) St. Fechin, founded the ancient Fore Abbey around 630 A.D. By 665 A.D. there were three hundred monks living in the community. The current ruins that are now visible are actually from a later Benedictine monastery that was fortified against invaders.
After driving along many kilometers of narrow lanes and small country roads, we stopped for lunch in the very busy town of Drogheda. We found a parking spot, by chance, right outside a modern art gallery, shop and cafe complex.
We had a very nice lunch and then headed up the coast via Dundak and toward the little seaside village of Carlingford where we are staying tonight. It began to rain a little this afternoon but it is clearing up now as we are considering going out for dinner. We are hoping for a brighter day tomorrow as head on to Belfast.