Portstewart to Galway
After spending a few days living in a real room with a real bed we moved back into the van. The van’s cosy quarters were extremely comforting and we soon got used to our smaller space. We were now off to see the Carrowmore pile of rocks.
We set off down the motorway and rattled along at 100km/hr. The last town we crossed before leaving Northern Ireland was Londonderry Derry, the most confusingly named city in the country. Despite first glance, the city was not named by a man with a stutter. It has instead eventuated from a tumultuous past, similar to the rest of Northern Ireland.
Derry is a walled city, which we drove past at a slow pace to admire. We couldn’t find a car park, so we drove onward. It was probably for the best, as shortly down the road we saw a bunch of kids standing around a fire they had started under a motorway. The kids walked around menacingly, like something out of a movie set on the wrong side of the tracks. We checked the doors were locked and drove a little faster.
Now back in the Republic of Ireland (or Other Ireland as I affectionately call it), we turned off the motorway and headed for a northern arm of the coastline. The roads quickly narrowed and began to wind around the rocky hills. There seems to be no shortage of rocks growing in the fields. It is an unusual sight from people bought up in a world where fields consist of only grass and sheep. Not that there is any shortage of sheep in Ireland. Following the windy road we soon came across sheep on the road, who darted back and forth as we attempted to drive past. The wind also picked up and we quickly found ourselves in the middle of nowhere.
The road led us to a little town at the end of the spit. There, located right at the end, was our campsite, the Rosguill Camping Ground. Our little patch of grass for the night was at the end of a short lane overlooking the beach. Despite driving only two hours from Portstewart, we felt very remote.
It was too cold to even consider swimming, which was ridiculous as it was supposed to be the middle of summer. However, we were able to walk along the beach and kick the sand along as we went. There was plenty of equipment around suggesting that water activities did occur here (kayaks in the shrubs, wet-suit washing station), but I think it was all a clever ruse. Either that or the people that visit here are usually victims of severe nerve damage that means they are impervious to cold temperatures. I guess if that were the case then Ireland would be the perfect place to live. It’s always that precise temperature of warm enough to want to go outside, but too cold to enjoy it.
The next morning we pulled out our cooking equipment and made a beautiful meal of porridge and fresh fruit, and ate it looking down over the water. I could easily have stayed there for a week, but time was a luxury we didn’t have. We were on a mission to return the van in four days’ time and we wanted to see as much as we could.
The mighty beast of a camper fired up once more and we were on the road again. The next stretch was our longest day, as we had nearly 400km to cover. Ben put his foot to the floor and we bumped along the windy back roads or Ireland (the scenic route) towards our final destination. We managed a few sight-seeing stops along the way, including the rocky countryside hill called Ben Bulben.
Google Maps was proving to be a little less than reliable on this trip. Entering only “Ben Bulben” into the search field, we were taken to a narrow gravel road that didn’t seem to be taking us anywhere in particular. Our automated directional persona was insistent that we make regular U-Turns. We eventually gave up on the directions and pulled over on a gravel patch and ate a lunch of sandwiches looking up at the rocky cliffs above us. The natural landscape in Ireland is truly remarkable. A short while later a couple of fellow tourists drove past us, stopping to ask us where Ben Bulben was. It seems we were not the only ones duped by their way-finding devices. We merely pointed at the very large hill in the foreground and smiled.
Our next stop was the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery. The cemetery represented a significant history in Ireland and dated back around 5,000 years. Unfortunately, due to more recent human intervention, most of the tombs no longer represent what they once were. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that they don’t look much different from every other rock covered field in Ireland. I’d go as far as concluding that the cemetery is just a pile of rocks. However, before you judge me for being a history-hating millennial, I will add that it is a fascinating pile of rocks.
Whilst there might not be much to admire, walking around the fields knowing that you are walking on the same ground that a community walked 5,000 years ago, where they painstakingly laid out these tombs is enriching. Given the amount of time that has passed since its creation, it is not surprising that the cemetery raises as many questions as it answers, but if you have a good imagination you will be filled with awe and wonder, and even a little sense of belonging when you realize how far the human race has come.
After a rather long stretch, we pulled into the Salthill Caravan Park, a few kilometers outside of Galway. The sun had now come out in full force and we were located right next to the water. Ben put on his swim shorts and we wandered along the promenade. What seemed like hundreds of Galway-ians had gathered at a diving platform and were jumping into the sea. Ben quickly joined them, despite the water being more than a little refreshing. Determined to enjoy the summery day, we bought ice creams and lay on the rocks. However, the day was rapidly cooling off, so we headed promptly back to the caravan park for a warm shower.
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