Thursday, November 14, 2019

Ireland: The Wicklow Mountains, Cashel and Sheep

Just south of Dublin lies Wicklow Mountains National Park with it's some 49,000 acres of mountain scenery and the historic valley of Glendalough. We were headed towards the Rock of Cashel for our first nights stay after landing in Dublin. So this was our first stop on our 6 day road trip. And quite the first stop that it was. It's raw and desolate country with mountains, valleys, lakes and sheep. Lots of sheep. But then again, this is Ireland, where it seems to me that the sheep outnumber the people - though I'm not sure that's an actual fact. 

We landed in Dublin mid morning, after a brief stopover at Heathrow, and picked up our rental car. Our friends who we were to be road tripping with landed around 2pm so we had time to grab a bite to eat and practice driving on the other side of the road. After meeting up, the four of us left Dublin and it's urban sprawl and headed to the mountains. Since we were getting a late afternoon start, we wouldn't be visiting any of the Visitor Center's or the famous Powerscourt Estate, but we could still power through a drive through the famous Wicklow's.

Johnnie Fox's Pub But first, a Guinness and dinner. We saw a sign for Johnnie Fox's Pub and detoured there. Billed as the "highest pub in Ireland", we truly enjoyed our visit here. There was music, warm food and it wasn't crowded. But then again, it happened to be late afternoon. I'd highly recommend a stop at Johnnie's Foxes, especially if the weather is nice and you can enjoy the outdoor tables.

Wicklow Mountains National Park Now it was time to drive through Wicklow Mountains National Park with all it's beautiful scenery. We made several pull-offs for photo stops and scenery viewing. There just wasn't time for more stops so we made the most of what time we did have. And then it was onwards towards our bed and breakfast in Cashel. But not without seeing one of the most Irish things ever - a sheep running down the road by itself towards our car!

Church Ruins On our route towards Cashel, we came upon a very picturesque cemetery and the ruins of a church and decided to stretch our legs and take a walk around. Despite jet lag, I was beginning to feel the pull of the beauty of Ireland that was around every curve. And I have no clue where this was. It wasn't an actual town, just a narrow ride in Ireland.

Rockville House Bed and Breakfast Arriving in the small town of Cashel, we pulled over for a view of The Rock and then made our way to our Bed and Breakfast, Rockville House. Run by the hilarious Patrick, we had a simple but adequate ensuite room and full Irish breakfast the next morning. 
The view of the Rock of Cashel from Rockville House

Cashel We decided we had plenty of time to walk into town for a Guinness and chose Donoghue's Bar to plant ourselves on a bar stool. This decision proved invaluable as our bartender, Dave, gave us some local touring info that we took advantage of the next day-which turned out to be one of the favorite days of the entire trip! I just love when that happens! Thanks, Dave!
And that was my very first day in Ireland. I have to say that I loved it from the start.

How about you? Have you been to the Wicklow Mountains? Cashel? 

Linking up with: Faraway Files and My Corner of the World!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

A Hodgepodge of Travel - A Holiday Centric Hotel, A Rye Whiskey Distillery, A Beach in Ohio and A Memorial Garden

Some of the things I encounter when traveling don't warrant a full blog post. Sometimes it's a restaurant, or a hotel or maybe just something I visited on a trip to visit friends or family.Usually it's something I've visited in my travels on the way to something or visiting family with a little side trip. Today I'm going to put together some bits and pieces in a hodgepodge post of travel. Things that I've thought of or seen, and roll them into one post. Here are a few of them - 

Fairfield Inn, Elkin, North Carolina - Holiday Central
Mr. UR travels for work and in his travels he came across the Fairfield Inn in Elkin, North Carolina. He told me that he had never encountered a hotel that was so festive - ever. I've now had the chance to see it for myself a few times and he's definitely right. They not only decorate the lobby but also the breakfast room, the hallways and even the pool area. Obviously they go all out for Christmas but they also decorate for Halloween, Valentine's Day, and the Fourth of July. In fact, when I was there recently they had a crew of at least 4 people taking down Halloween decorations - though they left up the Halloween village - and were preparing to put up Christmas. The front desk clerk said it takes them about a month to do this.( If you're interested in staying in this Fairfield Inn, you can access the website here.) And this is just a few photos of some of the decorations, but not all.

Sagamore Distillery Tour in Baltimore
Once upon a time, Maryland was the king of Rye Whiskey.
Sagamore Distillery in Baltimore is bringing the production of Rye Whiskey back to Maryland. The distillery, right off of I-95, leads one hour tours where you can learn about rye whiskey production and taste three of their whiskies. Founded by Under Armour owner and CEO Kevin Plank, Sagamore Rye Whiskey is made from spring fed water from Maryland's Sagamore Farm. The distillery, located right on the water, is open daily for tours and has a gift shop where you can purchase Sagamore Spirits - including their award-winning Straight Rye Whiskey. Then you can hop next door to enjoy a meal at Rye Street Tavern to complete your experience. 

Our group enjoyed our tour of this immaculate facility with our knowledgeable tour guide including a taste of the mash used to make the whiskey (spoiler alert: it's not very tasty) After the tour we enjoyed our tasting, including whiskey infused truffles - yum - and dinner at Rye Street Tavern. If you're in the Baltimore area and you'd like a fun and unique experience, check it out.

Headlands Beach State Park, Mentor, Ohio
Most people don't know that you can go to the beach in Ohio. Headlands Beach State Park has the longest, natural sand beach in the state. ( I know, I know - Ohio and beach isn't what you normally think of together) In the summer it's popular for beach goers and those brave enough to swim in Lake Erie, and it can get pretty crowded then. There is a summer only concession stand plus picnic tables to enjoy.  But you can also fish here, walk the 1.5 mile Buckeye Trail and if you're so inclined, cross country ski or sled in winter. 

The Grand River empties into Lake Erie just east of the beach though a couple hundred years ago it was 4 miles to the west. As the new opening was formed, silt and vegetation filled up the old one and formed Mentor Marsh. You can find sea rocket, beach pea, beach grass and purple sand grass here which is usually unique to the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Fairport Harbor Lighthouse sits at the mouth of the Grand River along with the small town of Fairport Harbor. If you'd like to visit the Fairport Harbor Marine Museum, it's housed in the lighthouse keepers cottage which is adjacent to the lighthouse. Or if you'd like to try some Walleye or Lake Erie Yellow Perch, then head to Brennan's Fish House.

Other things to do in the Mentor area include: Lawnfield, the home of President James A. Garfield, with it's 1880 campaign office and the 3000 acre Holden Arboretum.

Edisto Memorial Gardens, Orangeburg, South Carolina
In Orangeburg, South Carolina, just south of Columbia, is the Edisto Memorial Gardens. A 175 acre garden that is known for it's roses - there are 187 labeled varieties and over 5000 individual rose plants - Edisto Memorial is free for all to enjoy. The Edisto River runs through the park, with a water wheel on it, and there is a grove of cypress trees next to it. There is a 2200 foot boardwalk which takes you through the cypress wetland.  The roses are usually in bloom from early April to Thanksgiving and The Orangeburg Festival of Roses occurs every year on the weekend before Mother's Day at the height of bloom. Along with the 79 bed of roses, there are also azaleas in bloom and Christmas lights to be seen during the holidays. The gardens are open from dawn til dusk and are fully accessible.

How about you? Do you have some favorite places you've found on a road trip or visit with family and friends?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!