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Castle Island, Lough Key, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

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A huge thanks to Peter Walsh [and son in law Oliver] of Lough Key Boats for doing this podcast with me, books are one thing, but a voice tells the story so much better.

How do you get there ? I stayed in Lough Key camping. After that, one can rent a paddle boat to get out – when the weather is slightly calm-er, but I would highly recommend the pleasure cruise tour of the entire lough. That said, I was absolutely honoured to get a personal tour by Oliver of Castle Island and Trinity Island where, his ceremony of marraige to Peter’s daughter took place.

Go to Lough Key and have a chat with the lads. 😉

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View more images of Castle Island.

I’ll do a seperate post on Trinity Island later.

For the moment – thanks again Oliver mate. So very much appreciated.

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Courtesy Lough Key Boats:

Castle Island has passed through the ownership of two famous families the Mc Greevy’s and the Mac Dermots.

The island is sometimes referred to as Mac Dermots Island to this day. We first hear of a castle Island when the Annals of Loch Cé report that it was burned down in 1187 by lightning.

A 1792 print shows the original castle tower (see right)

The castle featured in the final act of the conquest of Connacht in 1235, by Richard de Burgo whose army included 500 mounted knights. The castle came under siege, first by a raft-mounted perrier (catapult), and then by fire ships comprising wood stripped from the nearby town of Ardcarne. The combination of rocks and flames proved too much for the castle garrison, forcing Cormac MacDermot, King of Moylurg to surrender.

The castle is mentioned frequently in the ancient annals, being a focus for both fighting and partying. A poem addressed to Tomaltach-an-einigh MacDermot (King of Moylurg 1421-58) tells the story of the Hag of Loch Ce who used (or abused) Cormac MacDermot’s (1218-44) hospitality by staying on the Rock for a full year, and laid upon the MacDermot family the obligation of perpetual hospitality.

Brian of the Carrick, Chief 1585-92, is the last head of the clan who lived on the island.

A poem by Eochaidh O hEoghusa, written about 1600, laments the castle’s uninhabited and ruinous condition:

…Thy bright fair form has changed, gone are thy gold-rich dwellings from thy fair comfortable long-walled enclosure, nor does the lime-white adorning of thy frontal remain…

Lord Lorton built a folly castle in the early part of the 19th century, as one of the adornments to the estate whose centrepiece was Rockingham House.

Isaac Weld, writing in 1832, describes as part of “the castle proper” 2 rooms, one above the other, each 36 feetby 22 feet, with walls of 7.5 feet thickness. It is not clear whether this refers to part of the original castle, or the later construction. The folly castle, used as a summerhouse, was gutted by fire shortly before the Second World War.

Lough Key Forest

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This actually comes under the [web] title of Lough Key Forest and Activity Park. Which includes a lot under its banner. I chose to go camping there for 4 days and try and experience as much as possible within the beautiful town of Boyle in Co. Roscommon. That’ll come later on the weblog.

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Lough Key camping

I arrived on a Thursday evening. The campsite reception was closed, but I had called in advance and so I just went ahead and pitched my tent. The next morning I went down paid my €22 per night. Overall the campsite is good. I chose it mainly because of the forest. There was a water tap nearby but that’s about as good as the right by your tent facilities got. Not a problem.

Whilst there were some queries over the cleanliness at the cooking and preparation facilities, more importantly and for those with kids, there are tumble dryers and washing machines in the main area [require tokens] and the showers [also token] were hot and clean as were the bathrooms and washing areas.

I liked the fact that the security man came by at night time to make sure no sticks were being burned from the forest and warning the dangers of. A more polite way for everyone to note that he was around.

The great thing about the forest surrounding the campsite really is the fact that one could go for a wander through the woods. For those with families this is a great way to keep the kids entertained and dry-er when the rain really does fall. There are many dry spots to be found under shelter from the trees. Whilst that was the ultimate for me and no one minds a tree that fell over or gave rebirth to another, it would have been nice if greater attention could be paid to the rubbish within the woods. That said the setting is brilliant.

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Activity Park

The activity park is an odd one depending on who you talk to. There is a €4 charge on the barriered car park which most avoid and simply park outside. For me it was simply a short walk from the campsite.

Inside there are options to pay for a tree canopy walk, an activity challenge called boda borg and a [paid] play ground. There is also a coffee shop/ restaurant.

On one hand if you are camping you get discount on these activities with a pass given from the camping reception. On the other, if you are on a budget it can easily mount up. That said whilst there is a free playground and picnic areas outside the children tell me the pay for play area is really good. Adults obviously go in free. The tree canopy walk I chose not to do but it also got good reports.

The reality is though that for me to come here for a weekend is one thing. The flip side is when it is right on your door step…. and on this fact alone I’m inclined to disagree with Lough Key on the €4 car park charge. They can say it goes to the forest maintenance – but I don’t know any park or outdoor variant in Dublin that charges for this.

The Forest Park and Lough

The walk through the surrounding park is brilliant. Brimmed with history, watching the boats, feeding the ducks… I could literally walk and sit here for days and if I were living in Boyle it would be free [apart from the car park of course].  But, from a campers point of view it is the reason I went there and for that alone I am so glad that I did.

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Overall

I thought it was great. Absolutely brilliant for families. Would I go again ? 110% in the morning. In fact I actually had that moment where I wanted to stay the extra night[s]. The down and upsides, were my little gripe with the car park. There is also the option to buy imported bottled water in the café but/ and at the same token there is free water in the coffee shop where they also supply free bread to feed the ducks.

The campsite needs a little tlc – but after that it is camping and it is amazing. As to the paid for activities, well I guess as long as you know in advance you now have an option to do or not to do so.

Either or Lough Key as always was made for me by the people I met, those who chose to sit and talk with me and of course the natural surrounding setting which are absolutely amazing. Go there. Visit. Camp. Stay. Lets the kids run wild. Run wild yourself while you are at it. I did. I loved it. I will return.

More to follow.

View more images of Lough Key Forest

Courtesy Wikipedia:

Situated just off the N4 is Lough Key Forest Park, a fantastic parkland area that has been tastefully revitalised by an addition of a Visitor Center and Activity Facilities including Boda Borg, a puzzle solving activity centre which is a Swedish concept originally unique to Irelandbut now has locations in Sweden and plans to expand Worldwide[7]. The park covers 800 acres (3.2 km²), and was formerly part of the Rockingham estate. The Moylurg Tower, standing on the site of the old Rockingham house, now stands overlooking the wonderful lake to the north and impressive lawns to the south. This was the seat of the Stafford-King-Harman[8] family until 1957, who at the end of the nineteenth century owned over 30,000 acres (120 km²) in north County Roscommon and County Sligo. The impressive Rockingham House itself was badly damaged in a fire in 1957 and was demolished in 1970.

There are many interesting islands on Lough Key. The impressive Castle Island is a well-known visual icon of this area. Trinity Island contains the ruins of a chapel, linked to the Cistercian monastery in the town. There are two trees growing on the island with interlinked branches, said to mark the graves of Una Bhan Mac Diarmid and Tomas Laidir Mac Coisdealbhaigh, two ill-fated lovers, celebrated in the poem Una BhanUna Bhan is a standard text on the Irish school curriculum.

Irelands Eye

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The second garden group event took place today. This time to Irelands Eye.

It was an amazing day. And to that some notes of thanks are due. To the legend that is Diarmuid O’Cathasaigh of The Howth Peninsula Historical Society, who spoke to us about the island and to Mary Stephenson who introduced me to Diarmuid – thank you so very much. It put meaning to the journey.

To the skipper of The Little Flower, Mark Doyle of Island Ferries. You are Sir, a gentleman and I wouldn’t sail in any other boat.

To the people I spent the day with… I applaud you and thank you. Absolute Ladies and gentlemen.

To the island itself… I did try to edit the story teller [the video of him that is] that is Diarmuid [and I could have rewritten what he told me]… but the guy is a legend and I just couldn’t do it. Want to know about Irelands Eye…. really ?

From the famous murder to why martello is actually incorrect spelling. From the year 200 AD to Napoleon and why Howth has 2 of everything…. it’s all there.

All I know is, prior to this trip, I could find very little information on Irelands Eye, including 3-ish photographs and some information on wiki…

This video is the ultimate guide to a history of Irelands Eye. The day out… one I will never forget.

My advice if you are going…

  • Get on well with skipper Mark – that’s if you wish to plan in advance. He is a marine engineer by trade and a gentleman by nature.
  • Wear long trousers and hiking boots, not necessary, just better.
  • Bring a picnic including a hot drink and water And sun screen and water proofs.
  • Relax and enjoy. Worth every cent… more than that, every minute.
  • The boat rip costs €15 and if the tide is with you takes about 15 minutes
  • I recommend you spend a good 2 -3 hours there
  • There is much more than the martello tower there [see images]
  • Anything else…

looking for more information

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Dublin Bike Scheme

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I live in a small farming town called called Ballyboughal. There’s no bus service here and very little else 😉

Last week I had a meeting in Dublin City Centre. So I got a lift into Dublin City.

What happens when at about 5pm, peak traffic one hits near Sherriff Street and tries to get to Merrion Square is very little by way of movement. In fact one could nearly pull the hand brake and set up the picnic table. However if I back tracked about 2 miles I could get on a bike, for free, cycle to Merrion Square, park the bike and that’s that.

The cost for this Dublin Bike Scheme is a registration fee of €10 per annum. And assuming none of my journeys are over 30 minutes then that’s all it will cost me for the year. Realistically, unless I’m going on a back packing journey around Dublin… I can’t see any ride lasting longer than that.

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When I went to St Patricks Park last week [I had a meeting near there just before] my next meet was on Baggot Street…. I walked it. Not a problem, but the cycle would have made things, well, more efficient time wise I suppose.

There used to be a handy iphone app for all of the locations… which made it really easy to figure where was best [for you] to drop your bike back – but JC Decaux who did a deal with Dublin City Council in exchange for advertising space put a stop to that.

Anyhow, it is a great idea. It does work. And for ten bob…. one can’t really complain. Go to the Dublin Bike Scheme website, have your credit card handy and give it a whirl. It takes about 2 weeks to get your card through the post.

UPDATE:

Anthony tells me there is an iphone app from JCDecaux called ABikeNow – but – it’s really poor being very honest and terribly hard to navigate. My advice…. print out a locations map and put it in your handbag 🙂

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Loughshinny Beach

Before you even dream of saying it….. I will 😉

What on Gods earth am I doing reviewing a beach…?

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Well, it turns out one of North Dublins hidden gems may not be the worst day trip you ever took. And in this case it turns out there is a lot more than sand to see here.

This place is literally brimmed with history and nature.

For those not into the ye olde botanics of the great outdoors…. this is exactly what you are looking for. The beach may well be the meeting  point [so to speak] but there is so much more than that here.

I went down on Valentines day, a change of plan from what I had intended, but… it was just relaxation heaven. The tide was out. Some of the boats were in. The fishermen where loading up the days catch. I walked the harbour wall and looked over towards Lambay Island. I walked on towards the Martello tower and did what is known as the Millennium Walk.  I brought the dogs. It was cold. I wrapped up warm. And as the wind blew [right] through my hair…. the horses wandered the beach front. You simply cannot find serenity and such amazing views like it. Add to that the fact that the beach and surrounding areas were absolutely spotless.

Shame that Fingal County Council have such limited information on their website about the history of Loughshinny. Maybe someone else maybe able to shed some extra light on this [?]. For the moment, go forth and so enjoy…. simply amazing.

View more images of Loughshinny Beach

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