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April 2014: a mostly rural trip in Scotland and Northern Ireland

April 2014: a mostly rural trip in Scotland and Northern Ireland

May 3rd, 2014, 03:04 PM
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Tuesday, 22 April

The morning was a foggy start and it stayed foggy/drizzly/sometimes rainy for just about the whole day. W and I left Patieshill B&B to go to our next B&B by way of Kelso Races, http://www.kelso-races.co.uk/ (each £13 to enter and £2 for a program, we also bought a Racing Post £2.10).

We first went into Kelso to find a store I'd found with web searching the night before, http://www.cropservicesltd.co.uk/index.php?page=shop, and we bought some boots imagining we needed them to keep dry at the races. Hmm, perhaps not really necessary (you could stay out of grass easily), but they made nice trip souvenirs and were helpful with additional farm stops.

I love Dick Francis novels and W enjoys horses, so it was fun to go to the races. We placed some £2 bets at the Tote and just watched the more active action of the bookmakers' area. The drive to Ochiltree was over 2 1/2 hours, so we stayed for 3 races and then hit the road.

On each day, W knew she wasn't driving as fast as locals, so she made frequent use of parking slips to let people pass. As navigator I also usually had a camera in hand and took snaps of views we passed by. W noticed that as quickly as locals were likely to pass b/c of our speed, whenever they saw the camera snapping, they really promptly put the turning signal on to pass.

We found the Laigh Tarbeg Farm B&B with Samantha's help and knowing what it should look like from using Google Street View before leaving home. The yard was a bit chaotic when we arrived. Moira thought we were early arrivals for a young farmers' club meeting being held there that evening. Sorting out that confusion, we parked and unloaded the car. It was good we arrived before the club members b/c later the yard and driveway were completely filled with little cars. We saw only one pick-up style vehicle, most were small things, like our little 3-door Vauxhall 1.2L Corsa rental car.

We wandered the farm yard, looking at all the machinery lined up, and the 4 robotic milkers in the barn. I thought the automatic thing-y that kept feed pushed in looked like a Dalek I think what we saw was a bit taller model, but like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKls2hedwAA

Just as we thought we'd go to bed, Moira asked us about watching the auction. Auction?! W had a priceless look on her face. Of course she wanted to watch a farm auction. It turned out that the young men of the club had sheets listing all the machinery and were estimating current market value. Then there was a mock auction with bidding. At the end of that process the auctioneer read the actual market values and everyone compared notes for who bid the best.

Critter cam for horses, cows (all Holstein), sheep (of course), and the cutest Jack Russell named Molly.
scotlib is offline  
May 3rd, 2014, 04:03 PM
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Wednesday, 23 April

Breakfast was a bit crazy for our hostess. She was cooking breakfast for us and a few others, I think. It was also the morning of the Ochiltree Cattle Show and her family was involved with organizing things. The show was an event I found by searching some UK farm newspapers web sites. The weather was a bit cloudier for us, but this slide show is true to the events of the day, http://www.cumnockchronicle.com/phot...chiltree-show/

The show was a very local affair, just a roped area of 100x50 or so with two sections for some judging to go on in each section at a time. One excited animal, a strong looking young Limousin (http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/b...usin/index.htm), tried to take off from its handler, nearly succeeded. The women and children scattered to gather behind vehicles, the menfolk converged to help hang on to the critter. A trailer was backed up and they loaded it to stay safely out of the way for the rest of the show.

Moira urged us more than once to visit Dumfries House, http://www.dumfries-house.org.uk/. We visited the gift shop but didn't tour the house. The post card views were enough to satisfy our curiosity. We enjoyed a quiche and drink in the Coach House Cafe and admired the play area that children could enjoy when they visit. We did find our favorite trip souvenirs here: made in Scotland scarves of lambswool and angora. W wore hers the rest of the trip, explaining she had felt a bit cool, but no more

We traveled north, finding our way to turning in the car at the airport and checking in to the HIE. Supper sandwiches and candy souvenirs came from the Tesco Express inside GLA and we spent the evening organizing luggage for the morning flight to Belfast City Airport.
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May 4th, 2014, 11:56 AM
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Thursday, 24 April

The weather started overcast again but was lovely by the end of the day for us. We were all packed the night before, so the morning was just a quick breakfast from the buffet and check out to go to check in with Flybe. We used the scale (costs £1) in the HIE lobby to check one of our bags and be sure we were under Flybe's weight limit. To read the cabin baggage descriptions I thought there was a chance that we could be asked to put our day bag/purses into our bags, so the coat pockets were full of stuff, just in case the weight needed to be there instead of in the bags. In the end, our bags' weights were considered fine and no mention was made of the day bags/purses.

It was a short flight to Belfast City Airport from Glasgow. I don't know if it was the Easter season or general practice but we received a little chocolate as we deplaned. We looked around the small terminal for a bank ATM and finally found them hidden in a dead end area just to the right of the door as you enter the terminal.

We picked up our second car, this time a 5-door 1.4L Vauxhall Corsa and followed Samantha to our first stop: the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), http://www.proni.gov.uk/. I knew there was a large parking lot with cheaper rates somewhere nearby, but for a few hours' visit, it was cheaper in stress and aggravation to pay £5.50 for 5 hours parking (if you find the Odyssey parking, here's info http://www.odysseyarena.com/car-parking).

I had used a web site and paid a few dollars for some searches and names of ancestors. They were the same ones found during our time at PRONI, but by the end we also now have a good idea of what it would take to return and spend several days searching for more ancestors. One g-g-grandfather wrote on repeated censuses in Canada that he'd been born in Ireland, so to find him, since he wasn't in the records of the church parish as his younger siblings, I think we'd need to do a search of all the parishes with a Presbyterian church and try to find info. He may be there or not, but without investing in the time we won't know.

Web searches found a site for an open farm weekend, http://www.openfarmweekend.com/, so we took the name of one farm from the 2013 weekend that also listed a farm shop and headed for it. We had a delicious Irish fry up at Hillstown Farm, http://www.openfarmweekend.com/hillstown-farm-2013.aspx We saw the chickens that probably provided the eggs of our fry up, but we didn't ask if seeing more would be possible, just wanted to head out to find our B&B.

Several times on the trip we purchased Gü puds and enjoyed them. I've now another another sweet's name to spot when shopping on trips. In the Hillstown Farm shop I purchased some natural lemon sherbets from Monty Bojangles, http://www.whoismontybojangles.com/chocolate_shop/ They were absolutely yum (all gone, now).

We enjoyed views of many sheep on the way to the B&B, also some cows and horses out to pasture. It was just all lovely scenery, narrow roads, too. They felt narrower in Northern Ireland than Scotland, so it worked well for us to take the trip in the direction that we did.

After checking in at the B&B we drove back down to the beach for some walking and view enjoyment. We found the remains of Layd Church also, http://www.northantrim.com/laydechurch.htm
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May 4th, 2014, 01:01 PM
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Friday, 25 April

The morning started overcast, poured rain right before breakfast, and then was clearing when we hit the road and fine all day.

Our B&B hostess gave us a code she'd received from the Bushmills Distillery to use if we booked a tour, which we did and that gave us each a little honey whiskey bottle. Along the scenic drive to get to Bushmills we passed a sign for a vanishing lake, didn't think much of the dry sight, but apparently there's much more to the story, ex: http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/12...-randomly.html

We thoroughly enjoyed the tour through Bushmills Distillery, http://www.bushmills.com/, £7.50 adult. We learned about making whiskey (it's Irish, so "e") with clear explanations and visualizations (barrel models show the change with time in color and amount). One tank display that showed the new clear whiskey splashing through was right opposite some serious looking tech screens, so as simple as the process is, it's also up-to-date.

Somewhere I'd read about the Dark Hedges, http://www.visitballymoney.com/the-dark-hedges.aspx, so on the way to Ballyeaston we drove along Bregagh Road. No leaves at the moment, but still a lovely sight with the branches a natural arch across the road.

We found the church where g-g-grandfather's younger siblings were baptized. We know the building had been rebuilt after the family emigrated, but it was still cool to see.

We headed back over the high ground and down glens to the B&B and drove from there with the owner's DH to see a relative's small dairy farm. Again, local farmers were friendly and happy to entertain questions from the ladies from the States
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May 4th, 2014, 03:11 PM
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Saturday, 26 April

More overcast to start and breakfast was accompanied by the sound of pouring rain. We packed and headed out 9-ish. In the village we visited a farm pharmacy, the local library, and finally the tourist information center. By the time we really hit the road, the weather was clearing.

We had lovely chats in all three village locations. With the lady in the tourist information center, we talked about local history including how folk could have arrived from Scotland. We told her about the family name we were researching and rec'd some nice ideas for possible research in future.

A tourist flyer picked up at Bushmills Distillery alerted us to the Vintage Bus Rally at Ulster Transport Museum, http://www.nmni.com/uftm. Buses from the 70s and 80s are now old, but we really liked seeing the ones from the 50s and 60s.

The bus rally was out in the parking lot. We also went through the museum itself, £8.00 adult, and enjoyed the various displays including a section about the Titanic. One model display showed a tiny figurine for each person on the ship, the color painted lived, all grey folk died. A statistic not usually mentioned in info I have seen was about the crew. In both actual number and percent, it looked like crew had the worst of the tragedy. The Midland tearoom in the transport museum had a very nice, fudgy chocolate muffin and cocoa. I recommend it if you visit.

We'd driven right by the airport to reach the transport museum, so on the way back to Belfast we stopped and turned in the car. W was tiring with all the driving and I was remembering that the Premier Inn-Belfast Titanic Quarter had messages about difficulty with parking -- very difficult, it has none, or rather it has a specific location where you can pay to park with a discount.

A quick £6 taxi ride from the airport and we were at the hotel door. I knew it was near the PRONI. It is right across from it, though on the opposite side to where we'd entered.

It was still light enough that W and I walked up Queens Road to the Titanic Experience, http://visit-belfast.com/things-to-d...itanic-belfast. We visited the gift shop and walked around the slipway where Olympic and Titanic were built. Back at the hotel we had dinner. I was disappointed that a fish & chips listed as available with garden peas or mushy peas just mushed the garden peas to call them mushy. Oh well, the chips were nice.

Down to final packing for the final trip day ...
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May 4th, 2014, 05:08 PM
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Sunday, 27 April

Our last day ..

Morning weather report .. no rain, just some clouds.

We had breakfast at the Premier Inn, which I'd paid for when booking the room. At each B&B we each had the porridge with some milk as a starter for breakfast, so we again asked for porridge. The Premier Inn's version was -- to us -- like a cross between what we expected for oatmeal with some cream of wheat lumps included and an almost solid milk product, extra thick double cream? We both ate some of it and then switched to the hot buffet to finish.

Another short, £5 taxi ride, from a taxi requested the evening before when we checked in, got us to the Europa Buscentre where I exchanged a voucher for tickets purchased online for the actual tickets. To purchase the airport bus ticket online saved £5 per ticket, so we just exchanged the funds from one transportation cost to the other, bus to the two taxis Our tickets were on the Goldline Express X2, http://www.translink.co.uk/Services/...rt-and-Dublin/

Purchasing online had another advantage. When it became apparent that more tickets were sold than seats, the online purchasers boarded first, then everyone else. A handful still couldn't be seated so they were put at the top of the line for the X1, which also was headed to the airport but with a slightly longer trip time b/c of stopping at a couple places along the way.

Just under 2 hours later we were at the outside of T2 and went to check in with Aer Lingus. We were wondering about weight though believing we were under the limit and the agent didn't even bother with weighing our bags. You just never know what to expect when approaching a counter.

The glassed elevators in T2 are a gorgeous blue, making me think of the lovely blue of taxiway lights that I really like.

We went through security. Something on me set off the metal alarm and I was patted down thoroughly. I didn't know what set it off.

We checked out some of the shopping of T2 and eventually went to US pre-clearance .. another security check .. oops, I found a penny and 5 pence coin in my pocket .. the alarming metal from 1st security check? Then on to US agents whom we discovered were doing both immigration and customs. My agent was not happy that I'd stayed at farm B&Bs but did like my report of scrubbing my boots and visually checked the bottoms. He said if I'd not done my own scrub that's what they would have taken them off for - a scrubbing wash.

My previous experiences of pre-clearance in Ireland were just for immigration, with customs still done in Boston. This time with both completed in Ireland we came out of hallways outside the international arrival doors in Terminal E and went straight out to check the bus situation.

The next buses for NH and ME arrived and W and I parted company. Family met us at our respective bus centers and we were both home before midnight.

W and I had done very well on this trip as travel partners. I said how I couldn't do what W was doing so capably for driving and she expressed the same for (definitely) my trip planning and (most of the time) navigating (okay, once past the first day's hiccups). I think if we both start saving again that a joint trip could be in our futures.

Well, that's it for the trip. I think I may have a post or two still in me, but it's pretty much wrapped up. Cheers.
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May 5th, 2014, 04:14 PM
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Thanks for sharing! what a great report!
willowjane is offline  
May 11th, 2014, 07:02 AM
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Well, I spent the week gathering receipts and tallying final figures, so just a couple posts to tie up this report and then on to a new spreadsheet .. no destination, yet, but just wishful thinking and prepping.

Cash-wise, my sister and I spent:
570 flights (4 flights total, BOS-DUB(business)/DUB-BOS(coach) with flyer miles)
215 buses, taxis, trains
740 two rental cars
500 food
520 souvenirs
145 activities: workshop, the races, visiting PRONI, a museum and a distillery tour
640 hotels, B&Bs (two nights covered by points alone, one night of a points+cash)
195 misc logistics: ex, trip insurance, phone data plans (don't forget the important 20p and 10p coins to have on hand)
-915 .. the amount cut with Cap One redeem eraser
2610 for 11 days / 2 = $1305 pp
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May 11th, 2014, 09:51 AM
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Final thoughts .. the driving vs. public transport thing.

I was once raked with a scathing retort on a thread. My opinion was the two types of trips can be very nice, but will be different. How could I know they'd be nice but different, if I'd never done a driving trip(?!), said one.

Well, golly gee (need a sarcasm pic), my knowing what a trip with public transport was like combined with logical inferring from the reports of people who drive that their trips also felt delightful, but were obviously different from mine, held true .. they are DIFFERENT, different, different, and yet (could it be true, person who thought I wouldn't know without trying both?) both have charms as a trip event.

Public transport trips are filled with a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, but a driving trip is filled with stress .. the stress of the car rental process, the stress of being responsible for yourself on a map/GPS, the stress of learning a new car, the stress of facing traffic in a new way, the stress of dodging parked cars on narrow streets (dodging tractors in town we didn't mind , the stress of finding parking in a strange location for ourselves .. we never did have to attempt to learn how to unlock the gas filler cap, using just the one tank of fuel with each car.

Okay, so I accept that repeat trips should have fewer stresses, being after the trip filled with "firsts." I also accept that what stressed my sister and I may not exceed another person's stress capacity, even on a first visit.

The trip planning and execution for a public transport vs. a self-drive trip will be different, not just the trip itself. You can have a nice trip either way, but you have to start with your personal goals for the trip and then plan to reach your goal using the transport method that you select as right for yourself.

It's writing for myself that I know I'll never be the driver on a UK trip, but I'll be a better planner and navigator -- I think the experience informed my knowledge of each trip method, actually -- for having done the driving method this time.
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May 30th, 2014, 07:51 AM
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I'm at the 19th, scotlib. Lots of good detail, thanks.
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