Monday, August 30, 2010

Holiday in Ireland – Day 2

I was up around 7.30. and looking out of the window, it looks like a fine day ahead – and it’s a Bank-Holiday too, surely that’s not right!
Open-mouthed smile 

Having travelled around the south-eastern part from our apartment yesterday, today we’re going to head west and then north. It’ll also give us an opportunity during the return journey to try out the Strangford-Portaferry err, Ferry.

9.55am: Off we go then – as planned, we headed west along the A25, and then north on the A22.

10.45am: First stop, Bangor, which was surprisingly busy – probably because most of the shops were open. After parking the car, we headed for the main shopping area, and then towards the Harbour. We started off with a 99 (with the obligatory flake) and soaked up the glorious view out to sea.

Bangor Harbour Looking towards Bangor Harbour

11.30am: Next stop, Newtownards, another bustling town. We had a quick look round the shops and then stopped off at Knotts, the local bakery/restaurant for a quick bite to eat. This is clearly a local institution, packed with people and a great range of cakes, breads and hot meals. You’d be the size of Buckingham Palace if you ate at lunchtime and then again in the evening – portions are large and very filling

County Hall - Newtownards The High Street - Newfoundlands

1.00pm: Suitably fed and watered, we now headed for the best venue of the day: Mount Stewart – a superb National Trust property, with a very interesting history. The Marquis of Londonderry and his tribe clearly had some serious money and the house looked very impressive from the outside, with equally lovely interiors and furniture. The house is famous for its magnificent gardens, perfectly groomed and no greenfly in sight.  By now the weather was even warmer – it felt like a proper summer’s day. So, after we had the hour-long guided tour around the house, we chilled-out in the Gardens in lizard mode – cor, what a scorcher!!!

Mount Stewart - front Mount Stewart - inside
The Gardens - Mount Stewart View of Mount Stewart from the Gardens

The Folley15.30pm: On the way out Ann took a short hike up to the Temple of the Winds (no beans please) to look at the views from the family’s garden retreat whilst I took a snooze in a very warm car.

15.45pm: Leaving Mount Stewart behind, we continued south on the A20. Our next stop was Grey Abbey Gardens a deserted Cistercian Abbey dating back to the 11th century. We weren’t surprised it was deserted, as we initially couldn’t find the place, so after another 3 point turn in someone’s drive, we eventually found it hidden away in the village. The first thing that struck us was the struck us was the densely packed the graveyard, making it really difficult to walk between the stones. I’m not sure what the etiquette is regarding walking or not walking on someone’s tombstone – no doubt Debretts would have helped here. There was a useful exhibition centre for the Abbey which gave a good description of life as a Cistercian Monk and all that praying, chanting and singing malarkey etc.- no Sky TV or X Factor, so life must have been very worthy.

The Graveyard at Grey Abbey Grey Abbey 3
Grey Abbey 1 Grey Abbey 2

16.15pm: We’re all ‘abbey-ed out’ and now headed for Portaferry. We briefly parked-up  and had a look round, but there wasn’t much to see – the whole place seemed to be in decline, which was in stark contrast to our destination of Strangford just a short hop across the water. There’s a very popular mini roll-on-roll-off ferry between the two sides of Strangford Lough – well used and only 10 minutes, but saving over an hour of driving.

16.45pm: We’re back at base, totally shattered with just enough energy left to put the kettle on and (later) wander down to The Cuan  for our evening meal.