Scott and Holly's Blog

Scott and Holly welcome you…

One of the optional trips is tonight’s sheep dog demonstration.

We are taken to a local farm about 15 minutes from our hotel.

We meet Neil, the Shepard, who bring in eight sheep and about ten sheep dogs. Each dog reacts to their own whistle and/or call. Amazingly Neil puts the dogs through a series of calls and whistles which bring the sheep together, move them from place to place, and divide them into two groups.

A puppy joins the group and wow! Is doing great for only being his second work day plus he is so cute barking at those large sheep.

He shows us how to sheer sheep. He asks for volunteers. … Yes I get to help!!!

Next we get to feed the lambs with bottles of formula. Cool!

The best part, however, is holding the puppies. There is a seven day old sheepdog whose eyes weren’t even open. I was told by several after that Scott wants a dog … And one day we will get a small dog just not now.

A couple interesting facts … Sheep are sheered in July and August. All sheep are counted and sanitized in the fall. After all the sheep are sanitized, they are marked with the owner’s mark. Neil sells the sheepdog puppies but only to other farmers who need a working sheepdog. He believes that sheepdogs need to work and will not sell them to a family as a pet.

This was the best optional so far! Thanks, Insight!

We continue on to Fort William. The roads through this area are winding country roads. The views however are beautiful.

Fort William is the second largest city in the Highlands. It was a nice location for our lunch break and shopping. There was a variety of pubs and cafes plus souvenir shops, clothing stores, bank, services like shops, and more.

We ate in a cafe with an outdoor garden. It is another nice day in the seventies with a breeze.

We continue our trek into the Highlands. Unlike our mountains which are covered with trees, theirs are barren except an occasional tree and/or heather.

Because of this, you can see for miles: people hiking look like ants, grazing sheep are white dots…

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain at 4400 feet.

The weather is still clear and warm: day 4!!!! It is 3 pm and 23 degrees centigrade. (if you haven’t heard, Ireland and Scotland have had lots of rain – like every day rain. We are very lucky to be day 4 without rain.)

We stop at the Commando Monument. This monument is a tribute to those who have died in the war. There is a tribute garden where memorials are left to soldiers who have died.

We continue to our hotel for a two night stay.

Peter our tour director, clarified a few things for us…

Great Britain consists of Scotland, England, Wales.

United Kingdom includes all of Great Britain plus Northern Ireland.

Loch is a lake.
Glen is a valley.
Shire is a County.
Inver is the mouth of a river, like Inverness, which means “Mouth of the River Ness”
Kirk is a church.
Auld is old (very old long duration).

Heather is a purple flowered weed which is controlled in lower areas but grows wild in the hills. We are lucky because it is in bloom. Beautiful!!!

“Haste ye Back”. Means come back soon!

“…O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and Ah’ll tak’ the low (road),

And Ah’ll be in Scotlan’ afore ye

Fir me an’ my true love will ne-er meet again

On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond…”

We all heard this song as children or at least I did. Today we are actually taking a boat ride on Loch Lomond!

The lake is located between hills on one side with very few houses and a road with some homes on the other. It is a very peaceful lake.

We enter the Loch on one end, and get off two hours later further down the Loch where Peter and Declan are waiting for us.

After leaving Derry we head to the Giant’s Causeway. It is located near Bushmills.

We opt to take the shuttle to the shoreline as Scott’s back is bothering him.

These rock formations are hexagonal basalt stones formed by volcanic eruptions. Unfortunately our visit is very short as we must get back in line to take the shuttle back to our bus!

Then it is on to Ballygally Castle, our hotel for the night.

The folklore says that the ghost of Isabella still exists in the old castle. Her bedroom is viewed by climbing a circular staircase.

The hotel is on the water so I walk on the beach. The beach has firm sand much like Long Sands in York, Maine. I am able to find several pieces if sea glass and a couple small cockle shells.

Friday morning – we are taking the ferry from Lairn to Scotland. Peter tells us to have passports ready as they may ask for them. They may check suitcases as well.

When we get to customs, Peter gets back on the bus to report that they are going to open six random suitcases. Yes! You guessed it – both of our suitcases are selected. No problem. We were done in like five minutes! When we got back on, Ellen reported that Lemar had taken our photo being frisked!!!!

The crossing took two hours. Unlike the crossing from England to France across the English Channel, Declan drove us and bus right onto the ferry. Then we unloaded and enjoyed the upper decks… Cafe, pub, movie “The Bucket List”, gift shop, and decks to enjoy the scenery.

We get off the ferry at Cairnryan in Scotland. This time we are waved through customs. We travel along the coastline. Absolutely beautiful!

We pass through Tournberry and see the golf course where the British Open and Senior British Open have been played!

We stop in Alloway, the birth home of Robert Burns. We visit the cabin where he and siblings were born, the visitor center, the gardens which are beautiful Brig O’Doon (bridge over the river Doon), Auld Kirk (church ruins which includes the graves of Robbie Burns parents and the poem he wrote for his dad is on the grave).

Scott asks one of the local for the name of a unique evergreen tree with draping branches. He was told it is a monkey tree. Close observation of branches make me think of long billowing but skinny pine cone like leaves. Scott tried to look up “the monkey tree” on safari and maybe they were correct!

We are off to Glasgow for the night. Peter explains that the Scottish say Glasga. Scottish tends to slur vowels or omit them completely!!!!

We are scheduled to stay in the Crown Plaza so we should have wifi!!!!!

Sent from Holly’s iPhone.

We had local guide give us a walking tour of Londonderry or as the Protestants call it, Derry. His name was Ronan McNamara, but strangely enough, he looked Chinese. Turns out his mother is Chinese and she married an Irishman, quite a combination, but a very nice gentleman.

He’s very well versed in the city of Derry and knows a lot about all the troubles that occurred in Derry throughout history, leading up to and during the infamous, “Sunday, bloody Sunday,” incidents and associated bombings and terrorist activities between the Catholics and Protestants.

He stressed that his hope is that one day his children would co-exist with other children regardless of religious preferences or political persuasions. He sees hope that changes are beginning to take shape and the future looks brighter each and every day.

As he takes us on his walking tour he shows us several spots along the way where there are murals the size of the side of a house, of which I took several pictures of them. He also takes us down along the original city walls of Derry. The city walls are 1 mile from the city center and are very very old. These walls are rare in Great Britain because the Germans bombed most places. But, though the Germans bombed as close as Belfast, they couldn’t quite reach Derry.

The old walls show distinct lines between the old city and the newer city. Down along the path of the walls we stop at a couple places where actors portraying the different figures in time, act out soliloquies, educating us as to the times of trouble in the past. Also we passed by a couple of churches and old graveyards. As we wend our way through the town we finally end up back where we started near the old Guildhall which is currently being renovated just outside the old city wall.

It was a good time in Londonderry and it gave us a much fuller appreciation for the struggles that they’ve gone through, and how they are trying to make the future more positive going forward.

We leave Rosses Point and head for Northern Ireland. Our first stop is Belleek Pottery. We are given a tour to learn how the pottery is made.

It is summer holiday do only a few craftsman are on site to show us how the pottery is made.

Belleek Pottery was started more than 155 years ago by a gentleman who recognize the need for a place for locals to work.

The techniques that were used 155 years ago are still being used.

The pottery is handmade by craftsman who are third or fourth generation of their family to work at the Pottery. And craftsman must complete a two to three year apprenticeship.

The ware is fired three times. The first firing is for 24 hours at temp of 1190 degrees. During this stage the ware reduces 14% due to water reduction.

The third stage begins with hand-dipped glazing and then it is fired.

Some pieces are hand made and looked to be woven. It was just amazing! That is the piece we purchased – a woven heart shaped basket!!!!

We are off to Northern Ireland. Scott is going to tell you about our driving – walking tour.

Sent from Holly’s iPhone.

We opted to go out with the group tonight. Our local driver took us out to see the coast line!

Ben Bulben is a beautiful mountain range north of Sligo.

Next to visit the site of the Castle of Mullaghmore. This is where Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA. He lived in the castle.

The views are spectacular!!!!

Then to Harrison Restaurant in Cliffony Town. It was a small friendly family restaurant. Great meal – choice of beef medallions, salmon steak, or chicken. Very friendly staff which got our food out quickly and good friends to eat with!!!

Our hotel is on the shore in Rosses Point. Since it is another beautiful day we take walks…

Hey Mom and Dad L. – they have a statue of woman with outstretched arms who is waiting for fisherman to return from the Atlantic Ocean. Sound familiar????

Sent from Holly’s iPhone.

I am impressed with the Irish landowners! Ireland requires all landowners to surround their property with fences – stone, hedges or wooden! As a result there miles and miles of stone walls. I can only imagine the work to clear the land and then to pile the stones in a way that the fences have lasted for hundreds of years.

Lunch today was in Cong. This is the village where the “Quiet Man” was filmed.

Hey, Mom and Dad: we had lunch in a pub called ” the Crowe’s Nest Pub”. Sound familiar? Pete had made arrangement with the owner to feed us! We had good sandwiches, chips, and salad at a very good price.

We visited the ruins of the Old Abbey and Church complete with graves!

Today’s weather was blue skies, 75°, no rain, scenery that were fantastic! Scott took lots of photos today

Today was the first day we needed the air conditioning. Declan, our bus driver, tried to give air unsuccessfully.

He ended leaving us at the hotel for the night and driving one half hours to get it fixed but even more interesting is that he had to find us another bus driver locally to take us to supper. We had a bus and driver in like ten minutes.

Then there is a rule that bus driver can drive only a number of hours each day. Declan have to call another bus driver to meet him so the sub could drive the bus back to the hotel. Declan: you are amazing!!!!

We continue our trip. Tonight we are staying at the Yeats Country Hotel in Rosses Point, just outside of Sligo.

Sent from Holly’s iPhone.

Our morning stop was in Galway. This city was a great place for shopping: pedestrian area with shops, cafes, souvenirs, clothing, and even a McDonalds!!!!

As we leave Galway, we passed a Catholic church built in 1965 to look like an old early century Catholic Church. Remember: Catholic Churches were burned and destroyed by Cromwell in 1650. Present day Catholic Churches have had to be rebuilt.

McDonalds Restaurants in Ireland have giant purple retro chairs instead of the metal ones that we have in the United States!!!!

Sent from Holly’s iPhone.