County Sligo: Enniscrone

Thursday 27th July 2017. Heavy Rain in afternoon and evening.

Enniscrone (population about 1,200) is a small seaside town, 15 kilometres (9 miles) from Ballina. It is in County Sligo.

There are a lot of “holiday cottages” here and my wife, son, daughter in law, baby and some members of her family had rented one for a week. Holiday cottages are a feature of Irish seaside towns. They are modern and easily identified by their uniformity. Typically four bedroomed and while pricey for the average family, they are ideally suited to an extended family. Typically two or more cars sit outside each house. And typically, the registration plates on the cars indicate that the holiday makers are from different parts of Ireland.

Enniscrone has a very fine “links” golf course and a centre for salmon fishing, so no surprise to see a very modern and expensive looking hotel at the edge of the town. A strange statue…a black pig, is situated across the road from the hotel. “The Black Pig” is the mascot of the town.

The “multiview” postcard below sums it up. Beach, Black Pig, Golf, Seaweed Baths and Sunsets.

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But the big problem with Irish seaside holidays is the weather. Yes, of course we have warm summer days and pleasant to be on a beach. But our weather is less reliable than Spain, Portugal and Greece and many Irish people travel abroad in summer.

Beach holidays in Ireland are endured as much as enjoyed and during my visit to Enniscrone, the evening weather was pretty bad. But with Enniscrone being one of Ireland’s leading Surfing venues, there were a couple of folks braving the elements. Not exactly Beach Boys and California Girls.

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This was the first night of the annual weekend “Black Pig Festival”. A small carnival/funfair in town and a group playing Elvis Presley songs outside the Catholic Church. A small parade of about fifty children was led by a very large inflatable and very pink pig.

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This kinda festival is fairly typical of Irish life. The local hook in Enniscrone is the ancient legend of a murderous and very savage black pig who caused havoc and was eventually defeated and eaten by the local people.

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I only had one night in Enniscrone and next afternoon, I returned to Dublin via the Route 22 Coach from Ballina.

County Mayo: Ballina

Thursday 27th July 2017. Rain.

An early start. Left Belfast on 3am coach to Dublin Airport. Had to get into Dubliin City to catch the 7am coach (Route 22) to Ballina in County Mayo. My wife, son, daughter in law and their baby were spending a week in nearby Enniscrone and I joined them for two days.

The coach travelled thru west Dublin and towns including  Maynooth (County Kildare), Mullingar (County Westmeath), Edgeworthstown and Longford (County Longford), Strokestown, Frenchpark and Ballaghderreen (County Roscommon) and Charlestown, Swinford and Foxford (County Mayo).

Although the journey was long, it was informative for planning future trips this summer. I can certainly visit some of the towns mentioned above.

I arrived in Ballina at 11.15am.

Ballina is 235 kilometres (146 miles) west of Dublin. It has a population of 10,700.

The River Moy flows thru the town and many tourists come for the salmon fishing. It is a common sight to see anglers wading in the river.

The Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Killala is on the quay by the River Moy.

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Ballina was a major centre for the western theatre of the 1798 Rebellion. With the United Irishmen already defeated in the northern theatre (Antrim/Down) and the southern theatre (Wexford/Wicklow/Kildare), the French landed near the village of Killala and took Ballina and recruited Irish rebels. They would win a battle at Castlebar but were crushed and massacred at Ballinamuck in County Longford.

The novel “The Year of the French” (Thomas Flanagan) fictionalises the landing of General Humbert.

I tend to believe that the 1798 Rebellion had three distinct characteristics. The northern rising was inspired by Presbyterian Enlightenment, the southern rising was a mix of Enlightenment and peasant revolt, a jacquerie….but the western rising was distinctly Catholic in character. The irony is that Humbert and his troops had previously violently suppressed Catholicism in the Vendée region of France.

The memorial to General Humbert and the 1798 Rebellion was unveiled by Maud Gonne in 1898. The Gaelic Revival….culture, language, sport, literature and nationalism of the late 19th century tapped into the folk memory of the 1798 Rebellion…specifically with ballads and monuments.

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I note that the Ballina monument references local rebel leaders including Fr Andrew Conroy.

Having met up with my family in Ballina, I was driven to Enniscrone.

Dublin City: Rathgar

Wednesday 19th July 2017. Heavy Rain.

Travelling back to Dublin on the LUAS from Dundrum, I stopped off at Ranelagh. This is a south Dublin district.

Not a lot to see…but at least I saw it.

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Then back on the LUAS to Stephen’s Green.

County Dublin: Dundrum

Wednesday 19th July 2017. Rain.

Dundrum is about 11 kilometres (just over 6 miles) south of Dublin. Always hard to distinguish between a village swallowed up by the City and a suburb. I went out to Dundrum on the “Route 14 Dundrum” bus.

It is a journey that begins at Ashton Quay  on the north side of the River Liffey, crosses O’Connell Bridge and goes out past Rathmines, past Rathgar and thru Ballinteer to Dundrum. Some of Dundrum still appears like a village, this shop in the main street being typical. But the large and very upmarket shopping mall (House of Fraser, Hamleys and Harvey Nicholls are tenants) are reminders of Regent Street in London.

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Indeed the shopping mall is pointedly called “Dundrum Town Centre”.

Having spent an hour in Dundrum, I went to the LUAS stop to catch the tram back to Dublin. This is the first time that I have travelled on the LUAS “Red Line” which runs from Sandyford in South County Dublin into Stephen’s Green.

A curious footnote: one of the stops on the LUAS “Red Line” is Cowper, named for a Cromwellian officer who fought at the Battle of Rathmines and was granted this land by Oliver Cromwell.

 

Dublin City: Rathmines

Friday 14th July 2017. Warm evening.

Having returned to O’Connell Street from Finglas, there was still time to take a trip to another Dublin suburb. So the random choice was “Route 140 Rathmines”, a short trip. Rathmines is only 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the City Centre.

Rathmines The bus travels south over O’Connell Street, along Dame Street, turns left at Great George’s Street. along Aungier Street and from there a straight road to Rathmines.

Rathmines, I first heard mentioned while studying the Seán O’Casey play “The Plough and the Stars” in 1968. Indeed I read the part of a Rathmines woman …a posh lady caught up in the traffic chaos in the Easter Rising. “Rathmines” is a kinda shorthand for English “West Briton” sentiment. Like much of South Dublin, it is the centre of “garrison sports” such as Cricket and (Field) Hockey. This is not as pronounced in 2017 as it would have been in previous generations.

To underscore the “West Briton” influence, it is worth noting that in the 1918 Westminster Election (the last before Irish Independence), the Irish Unionist Party actually won a seat in Rathmines. Their only other seats were in Ulster. “Southern” Irish Unionism had no reason to exist after Independence but influence in financial institutions (Bank of Ireland), industry (Guinness, Jameson), higher education (Trinity College), business (Arnotts) and the traditional base of Anglicanism (Church of Ireland) and the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and landlords was always beyond their numbers.

Having reached Rathmines and walking along the Main Street, I decided to walk the short distance back to the city centre. What was once a separate town, with its own ambience is now absorbed as a suburb. Many of the town houses are now made into apartments for a growing student population and young bank-workers etc. Dublin Institute of Technology has several sites around the city and some are in the Camden area. This changes the atmosphere considerably. Clearly a lot of businesses…including stationary, typing/printing are geared to students.

Leo Burdock Fish & Chip Restaurant is a Dublin institution. If it is good enough for Bruce Springsteen, Cuba Gooding Junior, Mick Jagger….

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This trip coincided with Bastille Day and a lot of the bars and restaurants have a cosmopolitan feel.

1500054136920 Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité…and Croissants!

Rathmines seems an unlikely site for a very bloody battle. Urbanisation has largely disguised the fact that in 1649, this area was countryside and outside the Dublin Walls. at that time a small garrison loyal to the Cromwellian English Parliament defeated a much larger force of English Royalists and Irish Catholic Confederates. Around 3,000 people died in the battle. Few signs remain. But tourists who stop to take a photograph at The Bleeding Horse Bar because it sounds tasteless are unaware that a wounded cavalry horse sought refuge in the bar and the owner renamed the bar for him.

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Is the “Bleeding Horse” story true? Well in a country, where History, Legend and Myth are entangled, the best answer to this question is “probably”. But in this case…it is true.

 

Dublin City: Finglas

Friday 14th July 2017. Hot.

Having been to Charlestown, two weeks ago and passing thru Finglas Village, I decided I would like to see more of the area and took the same “Route 40 Charlestown” bus.

It is difficult to judge whether Finglas is merely a suburb in Dublin or a village in County Dublin. I suppose it is both. It is only about 6 kilometres (just over 3 miles) north west of O’Connell Street. And it seems a now familiar pattern that villages in the small county have become overwhelmed by building “private” and “social” housing for a city that has grown so much over the last half century.

Within a very limited space, Finglas retains the landscape and feel of a village…a post office, a bank, a church, hairdressers and small shops. It even has its own “Spirit of Finglas” statue in its centre.

1500046877437 A series of hands reaching out. Perhaps it references the older and newer residents.

It is the hub of North West Dublin and interestingly there are at least three constituency offices for politicans in the village centre. These include high profile Roisin Shortall (Social Democrat) and Dessie Ellis (Sinn Féin).

 

Dublin City: Charlestown

Thursday 29th June 2017. Rain.

I took the “Route 40 Charlestown” bus from the Liffey Valley Shopping Mall. of course it passed along the same roads that I had taken on my journey to Liffey Valley. Interesting how on that return journey, I noticed some things that I had not noticed just an hour before.

Charleston Few passengers were really intending to travel across town. Most were travelling into Dublin City Centre.

From O’Connell Street, the bus went past the Rotunda Hospital and headed north via Dorset Street. At Drumcondra, with Croke Park Stadium visible, it took a left turn at Whitworth Road and travelled for about half a mile along the railway track and Royal Canal before turning right again and going past Glasnevin Cemetry…the burial place of many of Ireland’s leading historical figures.

Via Tolka Valley Road, the bus passed thru the village of Finglas and in a curious similarity to the Liffey Valley, journey, passed thru Mellows Road, Barry Road, Plunkett Avenue and a public park, Casement Park, all named for figures from the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent War of Independence.

Charlestown Shopping Centre was about 2 kilometres (1.5 miles) past Finglas and about 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the city centre . And a pretty ordinary shopping mall (anchor tenant being Dunne’s) but had five floors of appartments.

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An interesting journey which will be followed up with visits to Finglas Village and Glasnevin Cemetry.