Day 17 - The Ring of HookAugust 17 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C
The alarm went off at 8.00am. We were both tired because we hadn’t slept for differing reasons, Jackie because I kept snoring allegedly & I because Jackie kept hitting me. We got ready & packed up the remainder of our stuff to commence the start of our return journey.
We met the cleaner, Sheila, & asked what we should do with all our bottles & cans. Her face was one of shock when she saw how many we had & asked if we could take them out for her. They filled a dustbin & more!
It was just after 10am, when we rode away from Bride Valley Fruit Farm for the last time. We were due to meet up with Chris & Angela somewhere around Waterford, where they were waking up in their fancy hotel following a family wedding yesterday.
We rode up to Lismore, then followed the N72 to Cappoquin, Cappagh & Lemybrien towards Waterford . We then took a turn down the R680 & in Kilmeaden we posted a postcard that we had written to my Mum & Dad. We skirted around the southern side of Waterford & headed down to the pretty village of Passage East.
It was here that we met Chris & Angela, then immediately boarded the little car ferry to take us across the Waterford estuary to Ballyhack. Jackie & I nearly missed the ferry, because I set my bike alarm off twice & couldn’t start the bike until the alarm had reset.
The ferry literally took just a couple of minutes, before we were disembarking in Ballyhack. We had a coffee & cheese toastie outside Byrne’s Bar & Shop, that filled a gaping hole. We hadn’t had a Full Irish that morning!
We then walked up the road to Ballyhack Castle, which was free entry because it was the start of Heritage week in Ireland. Upon entering we were accosted by Frank, who most definitely had kissed the Blarney Stone. Frank did work at the Castle & was very knowledgeable & by god could he talk. Frank proceeded to give us a lengthy history lesson followed by a thorough description of how the Castle would have been used, before Cromwell trashed it.
We learnt from Frank that Ballyhack Castle was a large stone house built around 1450 by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John. The Castle has only been partially restored with public money, because it costs a fortune. Frank then referred to Belvelly Castle at Cobh that we had previously seen & had been impressed by. He told us that Belvelly Castle had been bought by a multi-millionaire from Northern Ireland & the cost to restore it had been an eye-watering €5 million.
Frank allowed us to take ourselves off to wander around the castle. We got to the 1st floor with just a single table & chair in the room. Chris sat down in the chair to pose for a photo, but as he did so there was a crack as if the chair was about to break. This may sound dramatic, but Chris had managed to break a chair at both cottages we stayed in on this trip. It was only after Chris had jumped back up & we had had a nervous giggle that we then saw the sign on the table that said ‘Please Do Not Touch’. We moved on quickly.
We continued around the rest of the Castle & then we were again accosted by Frank, who very kindly insisted on showing us on a map of the route around the Ring of Hook & all the places we must stop at. Frank then handed us over to his colleague Tim, who was a drawings artist & had made a short video, which we were treated to. At it’s conclusion we said our goodbyes & left, but Frank wasn’t finished with us yet. He followed us out & showed us some architectural features including the head of a bishop & a gargoyle that were on the outside wall of the castle.
Now a lot more knowledgeable, we returned to our respective modes of transport & set off in convoy anti-clockwise around the Ring of Hook. It was a fabulous ride/drive around the coastline even if we were being battered by the strong winds coming off the ocean.
Our 1st port of call was Duncannon Village & Fort. According to legend, the Duncannon settlement dates back to the time of Fionn MacCumhaill (a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology) in the 3rd century AD. The fort was built by Queen Elizabeth l in 1588 in expectation of an attack on the area by the Spanish Armada.
Next we stopped at Templetown Church Ruins, formally a Knights Templar Commandery. Angela got out to take photos whilst we all watched. We continued past Loftus Hall which is said to be the most haunted house in Ireland & on to Churchtown Church, site of St. Dubhan’s Monastery. St. Dubhan’s came to Ireland in 452 AD to lead a life of solitude. It is believed he lit the first warning beacon at the tip of Hook, which was maintained for the next 700 years by monks until the Hook Lighthouse was built.
We drove on to Hook Lighthouse at the end of the peninsula, that was built in the 13th century and is still intact today. It is the world’s oldest working Lighthouse. It also stands in the most scenic & wild of locations.
Blown back in land, we continued round the Ring of Hook to Tintern Abbey, built around 1200 AD. We declined to pay the €5 entrance fee that should have been free, because it was Heritage week. Instead we walked around the outside of the Abbey & it’s grounds. Sadly the Abbey had some scaffolding up which spoilt the aesthetics, but the bridge & Church were very picturesque.
Jackie & I wandered around in our motorcycle gear, minus the helmet. I was nonchalantly leaning against the bridge, when Jackie said “You know who you remind me of?” to which I replied “Barry Sheen?” Jackie said it wasn’t, so I started thinking maybe Steve McQueen in The Great Escape or even Evel Knievel. The Jackie blurted out, “The old one in Steptoe & Son”. She was talking about Harold Steptoe!
With my ego more than slightly dented, we stopped at the cafe for a cup of tea. I’ve already said it once, but the Ring of Hook was a superb drive, with so many historic sites to see in just a 20 odd mile loop.
We then zipped across country to Rosslare & back to the Rosslare Port Lodge, our Section House for the night again. We also went to the Kilrane Inn for our final supper of battered plaice, curry & burger for me, washed down with white wine, cider & curry. Angela has declared that it is the best fish she has ever eaten. We were back in our hotel by 8.00pm for an early night.
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