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Continuing from the previous post, the weekend continued in the county of Sligo on the second day. Since the weather was so horrible (it was the same weekend as all those storms that swept across the UK), we spent most of it inside by going to a few pubs in town, eating at a really good tapas place in the Italian quarter and going to a movie.

The next day however, was a bit more productive as the weather had cleared up a little bit. It started off with a quick stopover at the Donkey Sanctuary since I’ve never seen a donkey before.

Donkey!

Donkey!

This little (big!) guy was standing in the middle of the road. We didn’t want to startle the thing and have it either charge us or get hurt running off so we backed up and left.

That began our journey up to one of the many megalithic tombs that littered across the Sligo county. The one we trekked up to was the Carrowkeel megalithic tombs. The terrain itself was muddy and in some parts, boggy. I managed to slip on my ass on the way down but thankfully, didn’t get mud everywhere.

The view from up there was amazing.

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On the drive up

What was amazing about the tombs was that the stones that they were used to built with stones that weren’t native to the area. This meant that they had to be carried up by hand. Even more amazing is that the tombs pre-dates the pyramids! There are three that are within easy walking distances in the area that we were in. One was caved in on the inside and blocked. Another had a slab in front of it that made it really hard to shimmy in between the rocks to get inside. The third though, had a small space that was open and a person on their hands and knees could crawl inside and comfortably stand up.

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After much convincing, I too got down and slowly crawled through. The inside held three small chambers where the bodies would have been left. All three were also tall enough that a person could comfortably stand up and not hit their heads. Of course, I got creeped out pretty quickly and crawled out with the help of my smartphone lighting the way.

All in all, the trip to Sligo was eye-opening. The landscape is completely different from what I have been used to in Waterford. It very much reminds me of a flatter version of the Scottish highland landscape. Soon after exploring the tombs and drinking in the scenery, the rain started to come down and we made it back to the car before it became lashing rain. That ended our quick soujourn north and a few hours after, we found ourselves back on the M9 back to Waterford.

The view from the top

The view from the top

 

~JGM

 

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It has been a while since my last update so here’s a quick rundown before I continue with the main part of the post.

At the beginning of October, I handed in my Masters dissertation signalling the end of my program. A week of celebration and frantic packing later, I am back in the arms of my significant other in Ireland. A week later, a friend from Vancouver flew in for a visit and we flew over to Edinburgh for a quick visit and reunion with another high school friend from Vancouver (I will update more on the Scottish schenanigans at a later date). After the five days gallavanting around in Edinburgh, I’m back in Ireland and seeing as how it was a long weekend, the significant other and I dropped by a mutual friend’s place in the county of Sligo and he proceeded to show us what the county has to offer.

A panoramic view of Strandhill in co. Sligo

A panoramic view of Strandhill in co. Sligo

One of the first places we visited was Strandhill. It’s a small town in the north-west of Ireland facing the North Atlantic ocean. The weather was thankfully sunny enough and dry enough for stroll down on the beach and the sand dunes where surfing seems to be done year round. As we walked by, bundled up in our coats and jackets, people of miscellaneous ages clad in wetsuits were running into the freezing ocean.

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For the avid golfer, there is also a beautiful looking golf course facing the beach (the Strandhill golf course). And with the boy being an avid golfer, our friend decided to show us a better vantage point so he could get a better view of the course. As he took off, we followed him…. and started to climb up a sand dune in sneakers and flats which got the sand into every single crevice of our footwear.

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Climbing up the dunes

That was all well and good as the views from on top of the dunes were spectacular.

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From up there, you could see the golf course which stretches out away from the ocean. You could also see the town and the whole length of the beach where people were running into the ice cold waves. We walked around the top of the dunes a bit as he pointed out the various landmarks and sites around Strandhill and the further mountains and hills in the county of Sligo.

Then came the moment of truth.

How exactly do we get down without completely slipping and rolling down the sandy dunes?

With what could only be described as a smirk, he walked towards the other side of the dunes… and proceeded to run down the incredibly steep hill.

I could only stared at horror as he did a strange loping run down the side of a dune with a slope angled at a good 50 or 60 degrees. When he got to the bottom, he turned around and the urged the two of us to follow his example.

My boy merely shrugged and with a few words of encouragement, he did the same, albeit at a slower pace.

At this point, I should point out that both guys were wearing sneakers, adequate enough footwear where you could dig your heels into the side and not worry about falling face first and sliding all the way down to the bottom.

I was wearing flats.

And had an inane fear of heights when looking over the edge of anything.

I also had much much shorter legs than the two Irish behemoths with my boy standing at a good 5’10 or 5’11 and the other at a good 6’3 or 6’4. And this is compared to my measly 5’3/5’4.

So, sucking in a deep breath, I resolutely decided to walk down the side of the slope, making sure to dig my heels into the steps that they have already made. While I took my time, the first half of the slope was relatively easy… nearing the end however, the steep slide ensured that my pace was picked up and at the end of it, I ran down, practically crashing into my boy at the momentum and being unable to stop.

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I made it in the end anyways! Looking back, I decided to get a picture of the steep hill… only to find that it wasn’t quite as daunting as it looked from up above. Wow did I feel like a wimp.

After shaking the sand out of our respective shoes, we headed off into town of Sligo for a pub crawl and a good meal. The conclusion of the day ended up with us stumbling into the house and crawling into bed. And so ended our first day in Sligo.

 

~JGM

 

 

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This is a bit of a (very) late update. After about two years of waffling about in Scotland (first year when I was still doing my undergrad… and now doing my MSc), I finally got a chance to head down to Edinburgh in August to watch the world famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

A word of warning for those who’s never been about Edinburgh in August. This is the famous Edinburgh fringe festival season so expect the whole city to be mobbed with people and the prices of accommodation to go through the roof! Don’t do what I did and do it two weeks in advance. Plan ahead!!

A friend and I finally managed to get ourselves down there for a weekend when he had finally had some space on his busy schedule to catch the very last show they had on. We had a quick stroll around the Edinburgh castle to kill some time before we headed to dinner.

We had a craving for some sushi but seeing as how we had no reservations and it was packed, we decided to try our luck at the Grassmarket. The Grassmarket is a smallish area just behind the castle where it’s lined with pubs and restaurants. The ambiance is great and it was full of people laughing and drinking. We had walked by a pizzeria before and seeing as how my friend was allergic to gluten and they had gluten-free pizza, we decided this was the place for dinner. While we were waiting in line outside to be seated, this sign caught my eye:

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Go on, did you also do an immature little giggle like I did when I first saw it?

The place itself was quite good. I’ve never had gluten-free pizza before and while it wasn’t quite the same, it wasn’t bad. The crust is a crunchier texture but when it’s packed with cheese and pepperoni, nobody can go wrong really.

We relaxed there and people watched for a bit and managed to get through about two beers each before we decided it was time to head up for the 10:30pm last show. There was a huge crowd of people waiting to get in and we joined the masses. To be fair, it was quite quick and we very quickly saw ourselves being directed to the far section of the arena that was set up just outside the castle. The program was spectacular and other than the traditionally expected bagpipes and drums, the troop was accompanied by other military bands from around the world including Korea, New Zealand and even Mongolia. New Zealand’s band took the prize away as they played several popular favourites such as (surprisingly) Gangnam style… but first came out with their trademark Haka even before the instruments touched their lips. My friend was so amused by this he recorded it… and wouldn’t stop playing it for the entire trip after that.

All in all, it was a good short weekend trip. If any of you are thinking of going for next year, I would definitely recommend it just for the experience! There’s a televised version of it but it really is more spectacular when you’re there in person.

Getting ready to start

Getting ready to start

Getting to the big finish

Getting to the big finish

The big finish joined by all the bands who participated

The big finish joined by all the bands who participated

The crowds on the way back

The crowds on the way back

 

And of course, seeing as how we were in Edinburgh, I took my friend up to Calton Hill just to see the city from the top of the hill and the monument up there.

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There’s a Spanish canon there that I always take a picture with…
Yes, that’s what I do… I take ridiculous pictures of myself riding things.

Cheers,
~JGM

 

 

 

 

 

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