A Shropshire (sad) lad, Saturday 7 August

Whenever we’re on our travels we try to fit in a bit of parkrun tourism. As our ferry docked in Birkenhead at 6.30am we decided not to hang around for the local parkrun, but find somewhere on our way home. We also thought this would be an opportunity to tick off another letter on our parkrun A-Z (where runners complete parkruns in places starting with every letter of the alphabet). We opted for S for Shrewsbury, just 1.5 hours drive from the ferry terminal in Birkenhead and a nice course with a couple of loops around Quarry Park then an out and back along the bank of the Severn.

The ferry docked on time and we were off and on our way to Shrewsbury. The traffic was light so we were arrived in Shrewsbury with plenty of time to park, get the dogs their breakfast and put on our running gear. We made our way toward the Quarry Park for the the start. But as we approached the park entrance along the riverside path alarm bells began to ring. Several people in high viz jackets were by the park entrance with the entrance barrier open and they were checking cars driving into the park.

As we entered the park we could see that a large stage had been set up and banners erected proclaiming ‘Shrewsbury Rocks’ (hardly!). Alas, this all pointed to one disappointing, but obvious situation – Shrewsbury parkrun had been cancelled this week due to a ‘Let’s Rock’ concert. There wasn’t enough time to get to Telford, which was the next nearest parkrun, so no parkrun for us this week after all. Mike was not a happy boy. I tried to ease his pain with a nice coffee and vegan cake from the park kiosk, but he was still very disappointed at missing out on adding to his total of 190 parkruns – and getting one closer to the magic 200.

The dogs still needed some exercise though and there was still access to large areas of the park so we strolled around. As well as beginning with s, another reason for choosing Shrewsbury was that Quarry park is actually somewhere I’d wanted to visit for a long time. The hand of a previous celebrated Gardener’s World presenter is all over Shrewsbury – Percy Thrower was once the town’s parks superintendent.

The changing face of The Quarry

In Quarry Park, there’s a formal planting area called The Dingle (and who doesn’t love a dingle?!) The Dingle was designed by Percy Thrower and is a bit of a time-warp garden from around 1870! The flower beds are full of exquisite brightly coloured Victorian formal bedding, not generally enjoyed by modern tastes, but undeniably precise – hardly a petal out of place.

Still disappointed by the lack of parkrun (even the floral delights of the Dingle couldn’t cheer Mike up) the morning was saved by the sight of an unexpected architectural delight. At the top of the hill overlooking the park is St Chad’s church – Mike knew that it’s not just any old church though – built in 1792, and with its distinctive round shape and high tower, it is one of only seven few round churches in the country.

St Chad’s, Shrewsbury is also where Charles Darwin was baptised in 1809

St Chad’s graveyard contains a fake grave to the fictional Ebeneezer Scrooge – the 1984 film: A Christmas Carol that starred George C Scott and was filmed in Shrewsbury – for the film an old gravestone was turned over and ‘Ebeneezer Scrooge’ was carved into the back, but the stone was never flipped back. We wondered who’s really buried there!

For someone not much bothered by religion, Mike does have an unusual interest in interesting churches!

Ebeneezer Scrooge carved into someone’s else gravestone for a 1984 film

Irish skies are weeping, Friday 6 August

Written by Matthew

The Irish skies are weeping; heavy and grey, mournful at our impending departure – in other words, it’s pissing it down! Typical, as the final excursion of our holiday is to Mount Stewart gardens – another place on my bucket list that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.

The house isn’t anything particularly special, but it’s the extensive gardens that I wanted to see. Set our around the house as a series of informal room, the gardens take advantage of the warm micro-climate on the shores of Strangford Lough. Many of the plants at Mount Stewart wouldn’t survive elsewhere in Ireland, Mediterranean plants mingle with more conventional British garden planting.

Despite the torrential rain, we persevered, donning out waterproofs and walking boots to explore. It’s fair to say that Zoly and Jojo are not much enamoured by wet weather walks, but needs must and after a couple of hours drive even they were keen to get out of the car to stretch their legs. The bad dog dads that we are, we forgot to pack their warm waterproof coats, so it was birthday suits for them. After walking around the formal gardens we took a long woodland walk around the edge of the estate.

In the Mount Stewart estate woods there’s a hide to (try to) spot red squirrels – Northern Island being one of the few places in the UK where they can still be found. Red squirrels have been driven to the verge of extinction in many places by the grey squirrel (only introduced to Northern Ireland from North America around 1910). We sat in the hide for a little while – partly to avoid the rain – but much to Jojo’s disappointment, the red squirrels were not making a show (it was so wet, I think that they’d decided to stay in and keep their nuts dry).

After we’d done with gardens and rain, we made our way to Belfast. Mike had hoped he might get to visit the Titanic museum – but having not pre-booked ahead there were no tickets available.

I managed to pull up outside the museum for long enough for Mike to wander around the Titanic slipway. By modern standards the Titanic is not a particularly big ship – but the scale of the slipway (and the huge twin yellow Harland and Wolf gantry cranes – Samson and Goliath – visible in the yard next to the museum) are still pretty impressive. We shall have to make a return visit to Belfast to go to the museum.

Outline plan of where one of Titanic’s funnels would have been

So that’s it. Our first visit to Ireland is almost at an end, just the overnight ferry and a stop off at Shrewsbury parkrun tomorrow on our way home and that’ll be our holiday over. Thank you Ireland, we loved it and had lots of good craic (as they say here… apparently!)

Following the giants footsteps, Thursday 5 August

Written by Matthew

When visiting the Emerald Isle, one expects a certain amount of the rain that keeps Ireland lush and green. To be honest, there’s been a distinct absence of rain since we arrived – but that all changed today. The rain arrived in bucket-loads, which made our two-hour drive to the Giant’s Causeway fairly soggy.

When I was young I was occasionally allowed to stay overnight at Kathleen and Stuart’s house, they were close friends of my mum and Janet’s – a bit like non-biological aunt and uncle. Kathleen had made my mum’s wedding dress as she was an amazing seamstress. Stuart was into amateur dramatics and so their loft was full of fantastic costumes (heaven for a young gay boy with something of a fancy for musical theater!) I slept in Kathleen and Stuart’s back bedroom and there they had a shelf full of guidebooks to National Trust properties they’d visited. I was fascinated by these National Trust guides and I remember wondering if I would ever visit any of these wonderful places.

Fast forward a few years and here I am the proud owner of a National Trust membership card (courtesy of aunt Janet at Christmas – thank-you very much!) and we’re certainly making the most of our NT membership this week. We’ve already visited Castle Ward (a castle with a split personality, half gothic and half classical) and the lovely Rowallane woodland garden, but the Giant’s Causeway is once place that’s on both of our bucket lists, so rain or no rain, nothing was going to stop us.

Fortunately for us, the rain stopped almost as soon as we arrived at the Giant’s Causeway. The rain may have stopped but there was plenty of moisture around. Zoly’s first task at any pit stop is to empty the tank (and it’s a big tank), so no soon as we’d arrived at the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre, then MR Z’s leg was cocked and the floodgate opened. This reminded us that Zoly has weed on quite a few World Heritage Sites – Bath, Iron-bridge Gorge, Pontcysyllte and now the Giant’s Causeway!

Waiting for Zoly

We followed the longer red trail from the visitor centre along the top of the cliff, then descended the steps to the beach and the causeway.

Apparently there are approximately 40,000 mostly hexagon-shaped columns, but also some heptagon- and pentagon-shaped ones. The rain seemed to have kept the crowds away, as we were able to explore the site with ease. The rock formations are amazing and we were both overwhelmed by their beauty.

At the furthest point of the causeway, a hardy National Trust steward was stood to stop visitors going right to the end of the rocks. That didn’t stop one intrepid tourist (and their dog). ‘Excuse me Sir, no further please’ – said the steward, but it fell on deaf ears (as usual ). The misty eyed tourist, lost in the beauty and magic of the location had a camera phone in hand and nothing was going to stop him getting the perfect Vizsla holiday snap! ‘MIKE!!’ I hollered – ‘He says you can’t go there’. ‘Why not?’ he replied, disgruntled. ‘Because you can’t, people might drown’ I replied. ‘Well that would be their own fault’ he said. I pointed out that the National Trust might have a duty of care for their visitors, but he was not impressed. I think we can all be relieved that a certain Vizsla owner isn’t in charge of health and safety at the University of Bristol. Access restricted or not, he still got some lovely Vizsla shots – probably coming to a Christmas card near you soon!

This far and no further

On the way back to our cottage we made a little detour to Glenoe Falls in a lovely secluded glen near Larne – it’s 30’ or almost 10 meters high.

Can I go in please dad?

Donkeying around, Thursday 5 August

Written by Matthew

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, we have a lovely neighbour here at our holiday cottage – Donkey. He (well I think it’s a he although I haven’t looked too closely) is a very friendly soul, and always trots over to say hello when we drive up or pop outside. I’ve had a brief chat with him, but I’m usually too distracted wrestling Jojo away from Donkey to have any meaningful conversations.

On our return home this evening, Mike went to have a chat with Donkey. Mike’s been very worried about Donkey – all alone in the field in all weathers – so much so that he insisted that I write in the visitors book a suggestion that they find Donkey a permanent companion (I’m sure Jojo would apply for that position). Anyway, as soon as we parked the car Mike went into the cottage to get some apple and carrots then went to have a bit of quality time with Donkey.

Sweet Donkey

Meanwhile, I was getting the dogs out of the car. Both Jojo and Zoly were attached to their leads, but as I took them into the cottage Jojo’s lead slipped from my hand and seizing the moment, she was off – hurtling at high-speed towards Donkey. Donkey didn’t seem much phased by this woofing jabbering bundle of fluff. He’s probably enjoying the attention unaware of her (less than innocent) true intentions!

I’m in panic I quickly took action to make sure Zoly stayed in the cottage and wasn’t tempted to join Jojo in the donkey-baiting. I grabbed the front door to pull it closed. Click. Damn, I’ve locked the cottage door with Zoly inside. I ask Mike if he still has the front door key? Mike says that he put it on the kitchen table when he went in to fetch the carrot and apple for Donkey. We were locked out. We were locked out again – this is the second time this week! But worse than last time, Zoly is inside and probably starting to suffer from separation anxiety already.

Fortunately, Jojo was so transfixed by Donkey thar she was quickly back securely in my hand and led away to give Donkey some peace. As for rescuing Zoly, as luck would have it, Mike had left the front window open, so thanks to his nimble and agile manoeuvres (despite a very sore back) he was in through that window in seconds and we were in again.

Easy does it

Perhaps a second career as a burglar or gymnast in the seniors-Olympics beckons!

All safely gathered in

Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor Forest, Warrenpoint and Derrymore, Wednesday 4 August

Written by Mike

A quiet use-car-less, staying very local to our cottage and exploring the area day today – so lots of walking, some incredible views of Carlingford Lough, eating ice creams (doggies) and sorbet (humans) and a we came across a sobering memorial.

First stop Kilbroney Park near Rostrevor – an enormous area of mountain woodland overlooking Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains. It was a country estate owned by the queen mother’s family – the Bowes-Lyons. Apparently, the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret holidayed here in 1937. Charles Dickens visited, too as well as Seamus Heaney and it’s rumoured to have been the inspiration for C S Lewis’ Narnia. Now it belongs to the local council, so we can all enjoy it.

We walked through the trees to find the Cloughmore Stone – it’s at 1,000 feet (300 m) and it’s a 30-tonne glacial erratic – probably carried in a glacier from what is now Scotland – that was left behind after the glacier melted. The views from the stone were incredible and we spent ages up there.

According to local legend the stone was thrown by a giant called Finn Mac Cool during a fight with another giant. The other giant made Lough Neagh when he picked up a handful of earth to throw at Finn Mac Cool, missed, and landed in the Irish Sea and it became the Isle of Man.

After we’d come down from the mountain, we walked along a lovely path beside Carlingford Lough into Warrenpoint – a pretty town with a big square and at least two ice cream parlours. Hard to resist. When we’d been driving on the road from Newry into Warrenpoint earlier in the week, we’d passed a ruined castle just outside Warrenpoint and we decided to get a closer look. It was a bit of a mistake – the main road wasn’t particularly nice walking and when we arrived at Narrow Point Castle it was closed… and we had to walk back.

Just by the castle a row of wreaths commemorating the Warrenpoint massacre, when 18 British soldiers were killed in an ambush by the IRA in 1979 – the deadliest attack on the British Army during the Troubles.

We went back for the car and went into Newry – we needed to find a printshop because Matthew had forgotten his parkrun barcode – which we’ll need on Saturday morning after we get off the boat. [EDIT: we didn’t need it – parkrun was cancelled ☹]. Just outside Newry was Derrymore Demesne – a lovely 1770s house and landscape owned by the National Trust.

God help us – we have a flag, Tuesday 3 August

Written by Matthew

We have come to Northern Ireland in the centenary year of the partition of Ireland and creation of Northern Ireland in 1921. This wasn’t intentional. As we drove south from Belfast through little towns and villages and at road junctions, we noticed lots of flags flying: the ulster flag, the union jack, orange order flags, pre-partition Ireland flags, the Saltire, ‘no surrender’ flags, Ulster defence flags, even Confederate flags and lots of red, white and blue bunting and we realised what was being commemorated.

Some towns have also erected big arches across their high streets; they usually featured king William III and more Union Jack flags and contemporary references to the Troubles. In Clough, a town nearby, the commemorative arch has a very large banner with ‘RIP Duke of Edinburgh’ along with his picture.

We’ve seen Republic of Ireland flags and green/white/orange painted stripes on walls. And in some places there are no flags at all – and it occurred to us that this in itself is probably significant. In a poll for the Belfast Evening Telegraph 63% of respondents said that flags on lampposts are annoying/very annoying while a significant minority of almost 19% were supportive/very supportive.

There’s an Eddie Izzard routine when he ridicules how the British occupied most of the globe with a flag – and a gun. No matter that the indigenous population had occupied the land for millennium “We have a flag, so it’s British now”.

Flags and arches – and the lack of flags are not the only sign of divisions. There are lots of different (and very well kept) churches – Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist, Church of Ireland, Catholic … and more. Plus we’ve spotted the occasional ‘Orange Hall’. It’s not just church buildings either, we’ve even seen two ‘drive-in gospel meetings’ advertise. Many traffic lights have hand-made signs attached to them urging us to ‘pray for Jesus’, ‘repent’ or ‘prepare to meet our maker’.

It reminds us that behind the nearly 25 years of peace since the Good Friday agreement, the different identities in Northern Ireland are still very important to lots of people here.

Castle Ward, Murlough beach and Newcastle, Monday 2 August

Written by Mike

We are determined to get maximum use out of our national draft cards on our holiday to Norther Ireland this week – and today we visited Castle Ward, an eighteenth century estate and house on Strangford Lough. Castle Ward has been a venue for the Antiques Roadshow – so we’d seen it on TV and remembered Fiona Bruce marvelling at the apparent split-personality architecture oo the house. The house isn’t particularly opulent for a stately home, but it has a unique feature: the front and rear elevations of the house, which was built during the 1760s, are very different styles – reflecting the different tastes of Bernard Ward (Lord Bangor) and his wife, Ann Bligh. The front of the house is classically Palladian – symmetrical with a Greek style pediment and square windows.

The rear of the house is Georgian Gothick Revival, with pointed windows, turrets, battlements and finials.

The different styles are not just external – the rooms inside also have completely different decorations and furniture.

Initially we imagined that the house represented an unusual eighteenth-century compromise in a marriage – after all, at that time men – and rich men in particular would have regarded their wives and houses as their property to more-or-less do as they liked with. So, the fact Ann obviously had some considerable say and impact was remarkable in itself. We imagined that the house design represented an amicable compromise between the couple – but we found out that actually they didn’t get on and Ann Bligh left her husband shortly after the house was completed in 1770.

The grounds at castle Ward are lovely – we had a nice long walk through the farmyard and along the shore of Strangford Lough. The farmyard will be familiar to anyone who’s seen Game of Thrones on tv (not us!), as apparently it was used as the backdrop for the series ‘Winterfell’; the film crew were there for eight weeks. The farmyard was modelled on the older and now derelict Audley Castle, which is still part of the estate.

Next stop was for a walk along the beach at Murlough Nature Reserve – a 6,000 year-old dune system with heathland and woodland surrounded by an estuary, beautiful fine sand and a quiet shallow beach on the Irish Sea. The Mourne Mountains and Newcastle in the distance looked wonderful.

Finally we headed south and into Newcastle – a small seaside resort town a bit like Weston-Super-Mare or Whitley Bay … but with spectacular mountains behind. We found a nice chip shop – next to a very grand-looking Lidl!

My mate, Marmite, Sunday 1 August, 2021

Written by Matthew

Our base for the week is Mary Larkin’s cottage, which is situated overlooking Carlingford Lough outside Rostrevor and a long way up a narrow, winding single-width lane that becomes little more that a rough stone track just before it reaches the cottage.

The view is splendid, we look down the valley towards Carlingford Lough. In front of the cottage there is a resident donkey in the field. Jojo is particularly excited about Donkey, she spends most of the time on her hind legs staring out the window at Donkey. I have introduced Zoly to Donkey, they had a good sniff of each other and were inquisitive, but neither seemed to be much bothered about each other. I don’t think we’ll do the same  with Jojo as I suspect her ‘loving gazes’ at donkey may be more ‘love at first bite’ rather than ‘love at first sight’.

After a little snooze (all four of us fit easily on the super king-sized bed in the cottage) we decided to explore the locality a little. First stop was the ASDA Super Centre in Kilkeel – neither super or much of a centre, think a big Tesco express. As this was Sunday I thought we’d better call in early to avoid getting caught out by any Sunday trading rules and a lack of essentials. Before arriving in Ireland, the UK media has been regularly reporting of food shortages in Ireland due to Brexit/COVID logistic issues. The threat of a ban on meat being allowed into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK meant we brought our own supply for the dogs. However, if the visit to ASDA Kilkeel was anything to go by, the media reports are a little exaggerated. The shelves were full – and they even has the super-size jars of Marmite, which have been in very short supply in our local ASDA Bedminster.  With my trolley filled I headed to the checkouts. I joined a short queue and  unloaded my shopping onto the conveyor belt. The man in front was having a lengthy chat with the cashier about the well-being of his (very) extended family. Cashier: “So how’s your wee mammie?” Shopper: “She’s good. Eighty-three now”. Cashier: “Never. Is she? Aww bless her” … you get the idea. All very nice, but the cashier wasn’t scanning a thing. Having spent many years in my teens with a part-time job behind a Tesco checkout, I know it is perfectly possible to chat and scan. I was wondering whether I should say something, when suddenly a checkout supervisor hollered: “Ok, you’re good to go”, while waving her arms up and down as if she was at the starting lines of Brands Hatch. What I hadn’t realised was that the Sunday trading laws here are different to England.  Back home six hours Sunday trading is permitted and supermarkets usually open between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, here, only five hour trading are permitted and it usually takes place between 1:00 – 6:00 pm (with browsing allowed a little early). Once the starting shot had been fired, everything was quickly scanned and we were on our way – super-sized Marmite in hand (which is going to prove to be very handy).

All checked out, the next stop was Silent Valley Country Park, a reservoir about ten minutes drive from Kilkeel with lots of good dog walking possibilities. Silent Valley was very popular, lots of families with picnics or heading for tea in the cafe. The reservoir was built between 1923 and 1933 to supply Belfast. There were interpretation boards telling the history of the site and how it was constructed (apparently all the poorly paid workers tolling 14 hour days to excavate the granite rock were as happy as Larry – I suspect not, and there was a plaque commemorating the nine men who were killed during the construction). We made our way towards the reservoir with the intention of doing a long walk to the second dam further along the valley. As we set off, nature took its course and Zoly started to do his first number two of the day. I prepared my poo bag as Mike and Jojo wandered ahead. As I prepared to scoop my eye was drawn to a small group of people ahead who were stood on the spot and waving their arms and hands furiously around their heads. Once Zoly had done his business (and I’d done the obligatory scoop) he began pulling to catch up with Mike and Jojo. Instead of his usual gallop, Zoly was doing some peculiar squat trot, while trying to nibble his bum as he moved – my initial though was that he needed to go again, but if he wanted to do that why didn’t he just stop and go? I then noticed Mike was also swatting his hands around his head and then I felt it – there were midges everywhere – and we were their prey! Poor Zoly was getting bitten on his bum; while me, Mike and any other human with flesh on display were also prime targets. A change of plan was needed… and quick.

We made a hasty retreat from our waterside walk and instead took the ‘mountainside trail’ which offered great views of the water and the Mourne Mountains – and a lot fewer midges. I had heard that Scottish lochs in August were to be avoided due to midge swarms, but I’d not heard the same of Northern Ireland, but now I know. I think that it is said that midges apparently don’t like the taste of Marmite in human blood – so it’s a high intake of ‘my mate Marmite’ for me for the rest of the holiday to keep the pesky blighters (or as we overheard one of the locals put it: ‘the wee bastards’) at bay!

Lift off – the red dog has landed, Saturday 31 July

Written by Matthew

Having just return from a week’s holiday in the Cotswolds with his family, Matthew can hardly say that he’s been deprived of a vacation – but a holiday doesn’t really feel like a holiday unless we’ve really travelled somewhere. The second week of Matthew’s two-week break certainly involves travel – as we’re visiting Northern Ireland for the first time. It all starts with a long drive from Bristol to Birkenhead (via a nice National Trust property called Shugborough Hall where we can walk (and empty) Jojo and Zoly; then the real excitement happens when we depart land.

Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire

There’s nothing quite like going on a ferry to make us feel like we’re having a holiday. After a year of Covid-related travel restrictions, we’ve not left these shores by boat or plane for quite some time. To get to Ireland we sailed overnight from Birkenhead to Belfast on a beautiful Stena Line ferry. We arrived at the docks in plenty of time for check in – with a brief detour to Tesco for supper supplies. Given we’re not actually leaving the UK, there were no custom checks and we were through pretty swiftly and directed to join a queue of cars to wait embarkation at the very end of lane 9. The views over to the Liverpool waterfront were wonderful.

Unfortunately, the end of lane 9 was very close to the big passenger terminal building and shortly after we’d parked the double decker bus that takes foot passengers onto the ferry pulled up right next to our car. The arrival of the bus caused most of the foot passengers who’d been waiting inside the terminal waiting room to rush towards the bus. This was in spite of them being told that he bus wasn’t  boarding until 9:00. So much was the eagerness to get on that bus that the foot passengers were clearly not going back into the lounge, but instead formed a disorderly huddle next to the bus and – being the last in line – around our car.

The unexpected crowd left us with something of a dilemma, because in the boot of the car were two dogs – who desperately needed to be emptied before we all boarded the ferry. Getting the dogs out of the car and attached to a lead is a bit stressful at the best of times. Jojo will generally just sit in the boot and have a look about at where she is before jumping out – which gives us plenty of time to attach a lead. Zoly, of course, is a different matter. Poor Zoly is a very nervous traveller, so as soon as the back of the car is opened he jumps out as quickly as he can. Given that Zoly belongs to the second-fastest dog breed in the world, he jumps out of the car pretty fast! If you know the direction he’s likely to leap, then it’s possible to be prepared to grab him mid-flight. However, to stop the dogs seeing (and woofing at) passers-by we cover the car’s rear windows. It’s a great solution to reduce woofing, but the downside is that from the outside we can’t see which direction Zoly is sat poised to launch himself out at the first opportunity. Preparing to release the dogs therefore requires both of us, with leads in hand, limbering up like a couple of goal keepers – ready to try and save Zoly!

We couldn’t wait with Jojo and Zoly in the back of the car indefinitely, notwithstanding that there were now a crowd of ferry foot passengers all around us. So we just  opened the boot and out Zoly jumped – straight at a group of youngsters! Screams and squeals ensued as the kids scattered in all directions. Fortunately,  my eye-hand co-ordination is pretty good, so Zoly was grabbed and attached to a lead before anything untoward happened. As we headed away to a quieter spot though, I overheard an Irish women’s laughing and saying to her friend: “Did you see wee Shannon’s face? She nearly shat her pants when that dog landed”. So there we have it, Zoly has made an impression on the Irish before he’s even arrived in Northern Ireland!

Once on board, Zoly and Jojo shared a kennel – Mike hated leaving them there… but the crossing was smooth and we had a good night’s sleep in our cabin (the last dog-free night for the rest of the week). The next morning the dogs were very happy to see us and we set off from Belfast to Mary Larkin’s cottage, overlooking Carligford Lough on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Dawn over Belfast docks

The roads in Belfast were quiet at 6:30 in the morning, we had wonderful views of Samson and Goliath – the huge twin bright yellow gantry cranes at the Harland and Wolff shipyards (the yard that build the Titanic).We’re hoping to have a day in Belfast later in the week, so Mike’s very excited about visiting the Titanic Museum.

"Samson" and "Goliath", Belfast (7)
Samson and Goliath

Driving south through Belfast towards the M1 at Broadway Roundabout we saw the ‘Rise’ peace sculpture that was installed in 2011. Matthew said he’d read that it has been called the “the Balls on the Falls”, “the Testes on the Westes” and “the Westicles” – this, of course, made us both giggle!