Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In search of the little green man

No, I am not referring to Absinthe!
And I am not referring to that carry over from pagan times that can be discovered in most of the churches in the form of foliage infested carvings of the male head.
I am of course, referrring to that lucky Irish being - the Leprechaun!!

Despite trying not to re-trace our steps, today we headed north into Scotland again (told you we were having trouble leaving!) in order to get the shortest ferry across to Belfast from Stranraer - all of a 1 hour journey. From York we got on the A1(M) and headed back across the beautiful countryside that is the southern edge of The Lakes District and in fact went through the edge of Penrith, making us only about 8 miles from Skirwith where we spent a lovely week in March. There are fields and fields of bright yellow with the rapeseed in full bloom. It provides such a beautiful contrast to the various greens of the fodder crops.

En-route we made two stops. The first was at Brough Castle which we had previously passed once. It was a bit of a surprise. First of all, there was heaps of traffic turning off to Brough. Turns out there was a funeral in town - complete with 'Parking for today's funeral' and an attendant in a field near the church - and the field was full! And parked only two spots where we are in the castle carpark (the parking extrended right throughout the village), there was a Goggo-mobile! The driver looked just like the fellow in the advert, complete with a suit that obviously is not worn too often! Never did find out who the funeral was for - obviously someone that was well loved locally.

Michael set off up the footpath to the castle ruins. The remains of Brough Castle include a round corner tower and two obvious floors of a formerly four storied square keep. The original castle dated from 1090s with all but the base of the keep destroyed by William the Lion, a Scottish king. The current remains date from 1180. You can get some sort of idea of the scale of the castle from the photos here - it was H U G E.

Back out on the motorway, we pass a truck with an unusal question posed on its tailgate - and no answer provided - there was absolutely nothing else written on the truck. Of course with Michael's fixation with many things anal, he had to have a photo!

We are travelling further west now. On the map there is a notation for the Ruthwell Cross. We saw an example of a cross in the museum in York the other day and wonder whether this might be one in a real life setting. So off the motorway we go in search for it. And find it we did - though not quite as how we expected. Indeed, the cross - all 18 feet of it now sits inside the church after being found lying in the grounds. It is impressive not only for its size, but also for its carvings. Not all are original as it was partially destroyed, but as a whole, even with its repairs, it is a sight to behold.

The weather has closed in now and we are travelling with quite a few trucks in the rain. So, no more stops - we are headed for Stranraer to check out where we go to get the ferry tomorrow and to our B&B in Cairnryan just up the road a bit further.

Tonight we have a room at Cairnryan House B&B overlooking the waters of Loch Ryan and the ferries going to and coming from Northern Ireland. Kay welcomes us and shows us to our room with a view. She explains that they don't do dinners at this time of the year, but just a few hundred yards down the road we can get a meal at The Merchants House, a Licensed Restaurant, Coffee shop and B&B. So off we go in search of a meal. Proprietor Tom, Dick, Harry - oh gosh no, I remember it eventually ALAN! greets us warmly and shows us into a nice and cosy (and warm) restaurant room. The menu is surprisingly well developed for a small town and we eventually make the following choices:
Soup of the day (Tomato and Tarragon) served with crusty bread - Michael
Homemade fishcakes served with dip (homemade [egg] mayonnaise with curry) Maria
Steak and Kidney Pie (served with mashed potato and fresh vegetables) Michael
Lamb Tagine with Rice - Maria
Treacle sponge with ice cream - Michael
You have got to be kidding - I was so full I could hardly move let alone eat dessert!

The food was fabulous. Home cooked, hearty and with huge servings. Fiona (Alan's wife) does the cooking and it is easy to see she enjoys it as there is a well balanced variety on a menu of food that takes someone passionate to prepare well. Alan on the other hand is an excellent host and wait person. He is full of local knowledge and took it quite well when I ballsed up his name initially!

Funnily enough, we see two couples come in for a drink and hear conversation re Australians. So I am thinking to myself that there are either some fellow countrymen in the house, or some locals taking the mickey out of us when the restaurant door opens and in comes one of the ladies who it turns out is from Brisbane and has been over to celebrate a grandmother's 90th birthday. Sure as heck is a small world when you are travelling! Turns out they are staying at the same B&B as well!! Yep, a small world and getting smaller.

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