Sunday, June 21, 2009

Baltimore, Ireland

Baltimore Scenes

Baltimore is a small village, almost at the southern tip of Ireland, with a large proportion of holiday/second homes and a large proportion of B&Bs, pubs and eateries, all centered into a very small waterfront area. There is just one small convenience store, no bank, no petrol station, and at least 3 sailing clubs/schools. The focus is the waterfront. There is an active fishing fleet (although clearly smaller than it used to be historically), and several ferries and eco-tour type boats leaving the small town harbour all day. On the water itself we see a constant stream of sailors (with all size boats), and even wind surfers and jet skiers. For us the water seems way too cold to get that close to it. Seals frolic around, and the sea birds follow the fishing boats. It seems everyone owns a boat of some sort here. It also seems very international here, where daily, French sail boats arrive to visit, along with British and Irish from further afield.

Baltimore's historical and unusual claim to fame is it was the site of a visit from Algerian pirates in 1631 who kidnapped a number of Baltimore citizens and took them away into slavery (it is assumed, they were never seen again).

After dreaming for days of a hot bath, and a comfy bed (and without the need for laundry, and cleaning before hand) when we arrived in Baltimore. We found and booked a B&B before we even left the boat (Thanks, Mom).

The morning after we arrived, we slept like teenagers, just getting out of bed long enough to eat Breakfast at 9am before returning for more sleep. I guess we must have been very tired. Eventually, we surfaced and made it all the way next door to the 1215 O'Driscoll clan castle, Dún na Séad ("Fort of the Jewels"), recently renovated from stone ruins into a beautiful home. The castle was lovely inside and out, and had a roof top walk with great views of the harbour.

Dún na Séad Castle

We then found ourselves back at Bushe’s bar for a quick bite to eat which turned into several hours (we abused their WiFi). Determined to find somewhere different to eat for dinner, we walked out of town towards Casey’s hotel, however when we asked for a menu, they just verbally offered us chicken, lamb, beef or fish and chips (no price list given). We ordered fish and chips and were none too impressed with the fish, the chips, or the price. Casey’s restaurant/hotel is in some beautiful grounds and has some stunning views into Church Strand Bay (just off Baltimore harbour) and a ruined church with the sun setting to add to the ambiance.

Church Strand Bay

Eventually we walked home for another 12 hours of sleep.

Again we surfaced for our Breakfast and returned to bed. What luxury! Determined to so SOME activity in the early afternoon, we walked just out of town in the other direction, back towards the bay entrance to see the Beacon known as Lot’s Wife. It was a very pretty walk past the waterfront and a smaller bay, winding along with wild flower borders on the road (dominated by beautiful, tall, purple foxgloves). Eventually, we left the road for the moorland trail, and this provided yet more stunning views of inlets and amazing sea cliff formations. There were plenty of wild birds on the cliff, and plenty of evidence on the ground of cattle having been around.

Baltimore Area Countryside and cliffs

Despite being a weekend, we shared Lot's Wife with just two other couples, each sat enjoying the views and seeming to enjoy each other with dreamy smiles all around.

Baltimore Beacon - Lot's Wife, guiding boaters into the harbour

The beacon itself is set atop huge jagged lichen encrusted cliffs (the pictures, as usual, don’t do it justice). The area is a geologists' Heaven, plenty of different materials, and lots of exposed layering.

We returned back off road for as far as we could manage (with no idea if we were on public trails or private property), but eventually had to climb a gate to get back to the road. Here, we were stopped by a distressed lady on a bicycle looking for her cows. Had we seen any? Now that we think of it, we did see two black cows over by the beacon, but way down on the cliffs – was she looking for two black cows? Yes she was, she seemed relieved to know where they were and that she would now not be cycling around the moors all day.

Back into town, Baltimore was now very different on a weekend than during the week. We came across a handful of vintage cars – the Rolls Royce and Bentley club were having a tour of the area, and had stopped in Baltimore for a bite to eat, we assume. Their cars were highly photographed by the many tourists (and Kyle). From there we found ourselves back into Bushe’s, but this time for the end of the BIG rugby match (Lions against Springboks). (Lions are a joint British/Irish team, and the Springboks a South African team). It seems we joined the game at the best possible time. The Lions were expected to lose badly, but had just started to turn the game around for a big comeback. Although they didn’t win, it made the local crowd happy to see that they just might have.

Kyle, being used to American Football, kept making the big mistake of looking away every time the ball hit the ground, or a play ended; he was expecting this to be “safe” as play would stop (as it does in American Football), and he assumed he had 30 seconds at least to concentrate on his soup before any new action, but in rugby they just keep playing. He kept missing all the great action.

Being mid afternoon, we were now ready for more rest. We nipped to the only store, picked up some snacks and a DVD and returned to our B&B for a hot bath and more rest. Later we left the house again, looking for Pizza, and bumped into our new friend Len. We were sidetracked into sharing more beer, and eventually joined Len again at his house for sunset and cocktails, along with dinner. What a great night, spent with meandering conversations in great company and a beautiful setting. Thank you Len. He returned us home, but with a stop for drinks and live traditional Irish music at Casey’s en route. We could not last as long as our new friend. We decided to turn down the next pub, and retired to bed. We thought we might watch our movie, but that never worked out (I think we managed 5 minutes before we were both sound asleep).

Maryanne and Len share a beer outside Bushe's Bar in Baltimore

The next morning, Kyle would never allow me to forget, was the Summer Solstice. We got up early, knowing we would be returning to Footprint and starting on the big cleanup and fix up. But first we had to watch that movie. Eventually Kyle performed his solstice ritual, and along with his head of hair, he also removed his beard of 26 days. The beard had been driving him crazy! When we finally made it to breakfast Kyle shocked the landlady, who could no longer be sure if Kyle had hair the day before…

We packed up and headed back to Footprint, and yet again we bumped into Len, now dressed in foul weather gear, and with Kyle’s new lack of hair, he didn’t recognize us at first. Even for me, Kyle’s new image was quite a change, very white.

When we made it back to the dinghy we found the actual harbour master at his post, and we checked in with him if we were here legally. He kindly assured us, called customs again for us, and assured us we were all official we were in the records, and we could remove our Q flag.

Kyle removes the Q flag and raises the Irish courtesy flag - with his new hair-free look

So now we are back aboard Footprint, about to give her the love and attention she deserves now we are fully rested.

Solstice Sunset from Footprint

1 comment:

kate said...

Oh, if only you guys were enjoying your time in Baltimore! :) Thanks for the update, guys. The photos are amazing! Keep 'em coming...