The day dawned overcast, surprise, surprise! I saw a T shirt today showing the four seasons of Ireland. Each one was showing rain. The cloud actually cleared away for a large part of the day and didn't cause us too much hassle. Apart from a downpour while we were in Downpatrick, sightseeing was done in fine weather or between showers.
Today we were on the St Patrick's Trail but before getting that far south we started at Bangor near the east coast. The idea was to check out an Abbey but we aren't sure if we found it. A lot of work going on around it behind fences and access was difficult and with a full day in front, we just kept moving. There was a nice stone house of a similar period beside the site and the architecture of it led us to believe it would have had something to do with the church/abbey. It's not that we go out of our way to photograph churches, they are usually the most interesting buildings to look at. From the abbey we went past the Bangor Castle and Gardens. Nice building and in good condition. Built in 1840, it and the garden were restored and the gardens opened ion 2009. The building is used by the local council.
From Bangor we headed south to Newtownards to view the Scrabo Tower, built on a hill 160 metres above sea level, the tower is 38 metres high. Brilliant panoramic views from the hill, from there we could see Belfast and the massive bright yellow cranes of the Harland & Wolff engineering works around 15 klms away as the crow flies. There is a golf course on the slopes below the tower, would be good exercise walking that.
Continuing down the western side of the peninsula alongside Strangford Lough we stopped off in the town Greyabbey to take a look Grey Abbey. With access closed off at the time, we were unable to get close to it.
Into Portaferry for the trip across the mouth of Strangford Lough. While waiting we took a look at a large carved pole on the wharf which was a tribute to the Vikings who had a lot to do with the development of the area centuries. Nice tribute, just a shame someone has bent his spear.
The ferry ride only takes a few minutes and we are in Strangford and checking out the Strangford Castle, not much more than a tower built in the 15th and 16th centuries but it is used as the well-known castle of "Winterfell" in the TV show Game of Thrones.
We are now following St Patrick's Trail around the town of Downpatrick, apparently a must for those of the Catholic faith visiting Ireland. The trail is actually 148 klms long but we didn't cover anywhere near that much. Our first stop was a monument and shrine to St Patrick built in 1932 and developed further since then. St Patrick is said to have been in the area about 432AD and the Saul St Patrick's Church is supposed to be on the same site where St Patrick established his first church in a barn. Then it was on to the Struell Wells, a holy place where there are drinking and eye wells and the remains of the St Tassach's Church. St Tassach reputedly administered Last Rites to St Patrick. The two wells, the drinking well and the eye well are still there and have water in them and the remains of the old bath house still has a strong flow of water through the Women's bath house. Then into St Patrick's to the recently built St Patrick's Centre and then to the Cathedral to see the grave of St Patrick.
Then the rain poured down. Finished following St Patrick, by the time we got to our next site, the Ballynoe Stone Circle, the weather had fined up considerably to just a light mist. About a 300 metre walk through grass tracks to the site but worth it. Different to the stone circle of the other day, this one is considerably larger and has a double circle of stones and a central mound.
Back to the car to find the farmers herd of cattle fascinated by it sitting near their fence. Back on the road through Castlewellan and Newry and onto the motorway. Heading for Navan for the night,we crossed back into the Republic of Ireland travelling through heavy rain most of the way and it is still raining lightly as I complete this.
Tomorrow we'll cover some areas around here, stay the night then head to Dublin.