Amazing visit to Ireland and Chesterfield

Your son phones from Berlin and announces he has just gotten engaged and will be marrying in England in the northern summer. What to do? Contact Maverick Travel and begin planning a holiday around the wedding. That’s what to do.

The wedding was to be held in Chesterfield, Derbyshire so Garry and I settled on a few days in Chesterfield followed by a driving tour around Ireland, some time in North Yorkshire and finishing in Newcastle Upon Tyne with our son and new daughter-in-law, Shane and Aimee.

Flights were booked so we could fly from Brisbane into Manchester and return from Newcastle Upon Tyne. Maverick Travel also got us great rates on car hire.

43b.+Betty+Slea+Head+Ireland+05Feb2014On arriving in Manchester we collected our hire car and drove two hours to Chesterfield through the picturesque Peak District under sunny and blue skies. This sky accompanied us for most of our trip.

As well as taking in the historical town centre of Chesterfield, famous for its twisted spire, we also hiked alongside the Chesterfield Canal. Around Derbyshire we visited the pretty villages of Bakewell and Matlock, Chatsworth House and Lumsdale Valley where we tramped through a forest with streams, waterfalls and ruins of seven water mills. We also went to a pub quiz – a great way to enjoy a real English pub.

The 17th century Renishaw Hall and Gardens in North Derbyshire is a magnificent estate to visit – we were lucky enough to attend our son’s wedding there and celebrated with a reception at the historic Hotel Van Dyk in Clowne. There’s lots to do in Derbyshire for those into history, horticulture or tramping.

After another drive through the Peak District we were on a flight to Dublin with friends, Lawrie and Karenne. We drove south out of Dublin as we’d been there before but I can thoroughly recommend a few days in this delightful city. Ireland is easy to drive around but there is far too much to see in just the 12 days we had. Therefore we brain-stormed an itinerary to include the highlights on our wish lists.

Our first visit was to Powerscourt Estate, Gardens and Waterfall on our way through the Wicklow Mountains to Kilkenny, lunching in a pub in Enniskerry, one of the many quaint villages we were to visit over the next 12 days. Kilkenny, like so many other Irish towns was pumping with people, pubs, music, sport and history. My love of history was definitely enhanced by visits to the Rock of Cashel, the port of Kinsale, Killarney, Bunratty, Drumcliffe where WB Yeats is buried and numerous other places.

Of course, you cannot dismiss the diverse Irish countryside – it is just a case of driving through one amazing landscape after another. The southern coast, the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula provided some outstanding scenery and amazing local cuisine. We strolled along incredible beaches and walked atop the cliffs at Mizen Head, the most south westerly point of Ireland. A ferry ride from Galway to the Aran Islands allowed us to experience real Irish culture on the island of Inishmore – these islands are piece of Ireland lost in time. The Cliffs of Mohr were spectacular but just as magnificent and much less “touristy” are the cliffs at Slieve League in County Donegal.

I could write page after page about the wonderful places we visited and the things we did in Ireland. A précis of some other highlights includes: jaunting in Killarney; picnicking on local cheeses whilst overlooking Slea Head, Dingle; partying on a rooftop in Galway; standing on the very edge of stunning cliffs on Inishmore; visiting megalithic cemeteries over 5,000 years old; diving off a boat at Slieve League and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean; basking in a glorious sunset at Slieve League; walking on the 17th century walls of Derry; touring Bushmill’s Distillery, the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland (1608); driving the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland; climbing on the amazing polygonal rock formations at Giant’s Causeway; braving the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge 30 metres above the sea; being taken on a murals tour in Belfast by a guide who was once a driver for Gerry Adams; visiting the Titanic Museum, Belfast; walking up the Hill of Slane where St Patrick lit his first Paschal fire.

Mixing with the locals when travelling is always a must and in Ireland the pub scene is a great way to experience “ceoil agus craic” – music and fun. Ireland – definitely worth a visit!

A quick flight from Dublin to Manchester, followed by a short drive and we were in the historical town of York. Walking on the old York walls, some dating back to Roman occupation – Yes! Another one ticked off my list. Visiting all the historical places in this one town was an amazing experience.

Driving across the North Yorkshire Moors afforded some absolutely beautiful scenery. With beautiful countryside of heather-clad ridges, lush valleys, pretty villages, streams, waterfalls, forests and wooded gorges North Yorkshire Moors also offers some great tramping. We spent a night at the Goathland Hotel. Goathland is most famous for being the village of Aidensfield in the TV series “Heartbeat”. The Goathland Railway Station was transformed into Hogsmeade Station for the Harry Potter movies. We travelled by steam train from Goathland to Whitby, an enchanting fishing town, the home port of James Cook and made famous in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. We also visited the seaside town of Scarborough and did some back road driving through very picturesque areas.

Leaving Yorkshire we drove up through Durham visiting friends there and climbing the bell tower of the magnificent Durham Cathedral with its beautiful Romanesque architecture. We were lucky enough to be able to watch the campanologists in action (bell ringers).

It was then onto Newcastle Upon Tyne. Although we only went there because we were visiting family I can honestly give it a good review – from the “Toon” with all its bridges, Gateshead and Tynemouth to, of course, its history. There is also the beautiful Jesmond Dene, a large wooded area and gardens with old ruins and waterfalls that was given to the people of Newcastle by Lord William Armstrong in the 1880’s.

With Shane and Aimee we visited Northumberland where some of the beaches are absolutely beautiful – sadly they don’t get much of a summer to enjoy them fully. One day, after a morning of quad-biking, we did a boat trip to the Farne Islands. Although the cliffs, lighthouse and grey seals were intriguing, the best part was Inner Farne Island which is a breeding sanctuary for many bird species. I was totally captivated by the puffins. The next day saw us waiting for low tide so we could drive across the causeway to Lindisfarne, Holy Island. The castle, abbey and history there are extraordinary.

Unfortunately our time in the UK and Ireland seemed to come to an end far too quickly, However, we left with amazing photos and great memories of the sense of history, magnificent scenery, great pubs and people, exciting activities and, of course, a beautiful wedding.

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