16 July – Farewell to Switzerland as we headed down the mountains to Lake Geneva – what a gorgeous sight with the rocky mountains framing the blue lake. Once down at lake level it was not quite so nice as we had to wend our way along the lakeside ribbon development, very crowded with summer holidaymakers. We turned off at Thonon and to head up the valley to St Jean D’Aulps and up a little higher to the little village where Shaun and Natasha had their chalet. Great to meet up again with all the family including their newest addition 15month old little Neriah – a little blond curly bombshell. First up a guided tour of their new holiday home followed by a walk up the road to see where the boys had built their little den by the river.
17 July – A nice summer’s day was spent at Lake Montriond – the boys got to try out their new inflatable kayaks while we enjoyed a relaxing time in the sun followed by a walk around the lake later in the afternoon before heading back home to play Monopoly and Destination London with Ben and Lucas.
18 July – Jacob and Lucas had tennis practice at Morzine so while they were getting their exercise for the day Ben took us on a tour of the town with a mandatory stop at the lovely patisserie to sample the local fare. Every other shop in the town seemed to be mountain bike related – the region has been able to make the most of the summer season by utilising winter ski runs as well as creating a large number of tracks of various levels for the mountain bikers.
19 July – Les Gorges du pont du Diable beckoned today – we got there for the first guided tour of the day through this spectacular canyon giving an insight into the power of erosion where Morzine’s Dranse River dives into a deep fissure beneath an impressive archway. The walkway through the narrow gorge on paths suspended off the side of the rocks was an interesting engineering feat.
20 July – Just a five minute walk from the chalet was the cable car station, operating once a week in the summer up to the first level. We all piled in for the short ride with great views as we were transported up the mountain. Once out of the gondolas it was time for a trek further up the mountain to the point where the ski lifts stop and with views all the way over to Mt Blanc in the distance it was pretty magical. We could have been in a scene from the Sound of Music as we came to the alpine meadows – we had all the ingredients to complete the picture – children, cow bells and endless mountains. From the top it was a steep winding walk down into the neighbouring valley to Graydon for a spot of lunch before continuing on the path back to the village. A great days walk in the lovely fresh alpine air.
21 July -A short trip back down the valley to the Abbey to have a look around the old ruined monastery and the small attached museum.
22 July – Our stay at chez Hayton had all too soon come to an end and it was time to hit the road once again.
23- 30 July – A quick flit through to Calais to board the ferry to Dover for a smooth 90 minute float across the channel and onto British soil and the rain. Destination for the first night was near Duxford but that entailed getting over the Thames via the infamous M25 and the Dartford tunnel. What a painful exercise as we crawled along for miles until we finally cleared the tunnel.
The Imperial War Museum at Duxford took up the next day as we explored the hangars and displays all based at the old airforce base. The centenary of the base was being celebrated this year with a special sound show transmitting narrative voices, signals and music representing memories from Duxford’s past.
The following day involved a visit to the Shuttleworth collection before heading up to Bob’s sister at Higham on the Hill for another relaxing few days and catch ups.
30 July-03 August – A short tour of Wales was in order as we had some time to spare before our ferry across to the Emerald Isles.
30 July – First day’s journey took us from Higham down the Fosse Way (an ancient Roman road) down to Cirencester then southwards to join up with M4 to cross over the Severn river on quite an expensive toll bridge into Wales where our stop for the night was near Newport just a short drive from Cardiff in a nice small hotel.
31 July – First up we headed into Cardiff to have a quick look around. Managed to find a parking building close to the city centre for a little explore. The immediate thing that struck us was the large number of homeless people sleeping and begging in the streets. Not too much of interest in the city for us so after a quick bite to eat we headed back to the car and on around the coast through Swansea – that was a real nightmare with nose to tail traffic for the best part of an hour so we flagged trying to stop and settled to go on to our stop for the night at Milford Haven. We had a bit of a strange B&B there – a typical terrace house with three small rooms over two stories. The host was a bit of an oddball and although generous was quite overpowering and couldn’t stop going on about how little money he was making from letting out his rooms. Milford Haven itself was nothing much to write home about – we were just a short walk from the harbour and it’s marina with a local pub for dinner.
01 August – The weather has turned against us since leaving France – shorts are out – longs and jumpers are in and if the rain persists we might even have to resort to buying an umbrella! We had set ourselves quite short mileages between stops to give us time to take to the minor roads and minor some of them were as we wove our way through little country lanes sunken down between hedgerows and squeezed through between drywall fences – not something you can do at and great speed as passing places for oncoming cars were limited. Down on to the coast via St Brides and Little Haven, pretty little seaside villages but very busy with local holidaymakers.
Had to go inland a bit to Haverfordwest before we could get back on the next little peninsula and St Davids where we stopped off to have a look at their very historic cathedral.
02 August – Bleak and wet start to the day made up for with a nice cooked breakfast before setting off. Made a couple of coastal stops along the way at seaside towns along Cardigan Bay – rocky beaches with the only attractions being the rock pools as they would not have been suitable for swimming. Turned inland after Aberystwyth for a change of scenery into the Snowdonia National Park.
Very much like being in the highlands of Scotland – barren rocky hills, little meandering streams and misty due to the low cloud cover. Nice B&B in the tiny village of Llanuwchllyn near Lake Bala. There was a little narrow gauge railway running from there to Bala (about 25 minutes away) but we had missed the last train for they day. The village was a bit of a family affair with our B&B and adjacent campground run by the children and the local pub and restaurant run by the parents.
03 August – The weather still not nice enough to take the little train so we headed off by car through more of the park and even tried to go for a visit to the local slate mine, but being summer holidays you needed to book in advance to get a place on one of the tours so had to flag that. Down from the hills and back on to the coast we again did a little tiki tour around Angelsea and then on to Holyhead – our last night in Wales. Holyhead was probably once quite a nice town, but now is quite run down with not much to recommend it apart from being where you have to catch the ferry. B&B was another substandard operation.
04 August – Time to head over to the Emerald Isles on the Irish Ferries quick catamaran. The sea had a little bit of movement for the first hour but then last half of the journey was calm. The ferry docked in downtown Dublin and it was a bit of a journey to get out the other side of the city to our accommodation as roadworks and traffic accidents took us on detours. We managed to find our B&B for the next couple of nights without too much trouble – in a very nice neighbourhood at the north end of Phoenix Park – at 707 hectares (1752 acres) is one of the largest enclosed recreational spaces within any European capital city. The Phoenix Park was established in 1662 as a Royal deer park for Charles II. About 30% of the Phoenix Park is covered by trees, which are mainly broadleaf parkland species such as oak, ash, lime, beech, sycamore and horsechestnut. A herd of Fallow Deer has lived in the Park since the 1660’s when they were introduced by the Duke of Ormond. Dublin Zoo also resides within the Park’s boundaries.The residence of the President of Ireland, dates from 1750 is located in the centre of the park adjacent to the United States Ambassador’s residence, which was built in 1774. It is a beautiful asset for a city to have and is certainly well used with cyclists, runners, walkers and families all able to enjoy the surroundings.
05 August – Left the car behind today and took the bus into Dublin’s centre. Split in half by the River Liffey there was plenty for us to walk around and explore before the rains decided to come so ducked into the National Museum and spent an hour or so being enthralled by their exhibition of archeological findings from the bogs of Ireland. Going back over the last 4,000 years – the Irish have hid their treasures in the bogs and as the bogs have been drained over the ensuing centuries they have revealed incredible caches the most spectacular being the gold jewellery.
The rain was still persisting so a spot of lunch was in order and then it was on to the Natural History Museum to have a look at the display of Irish birds, fish and mammals – specimens collected in the late 1800’s and preserved in various manners.
The weather manged to improve enough for us to head back to the river so we could take a little diversion by way of a river cruise which gave us a different view of the city and docklands. It was from these docks that the emigrants set sail in the “famine or coffin” ships in the hope of finding a better life in North America. About 30% didn’t survive the 6 week journey on these crowded disease ridden ships – but the risk must have outweighed staying put and starving to death.
We enjoyed a nice meal before heading back on the bus to our digs for the night.
06 August – Southward bound today via Bray, Arklow, Enniscorthy before turning inland to Cahir. Our hotel took a bit of finding as we didn’t have GPS co-ords for it and it was out of the town a way. Eventually we came to it – a rather tired ex hunting lodge built in the 1900’s – quite a bit of poetic licence and Irish blarney on their website when regaling it’s attributes “exceptional en-suite bedrooms all with their own unique charm combining contemporary & period styles and charming antique furniture”. It was in a picturesque setting however but the low mist spoilt it somewhat.
07 August – Cahir Castle was our first top for the day – what an interesting site. The core structure of the castle dates to construction in the 13th century. Granted to the powerful Butler family in late 14th century, the castle was enlarged and remodelled between the 15th and 17th centuries. It fell into ruin in the late 18th century and was partially restored in the 1840s. The Great Hall was partly rebuilt in 1840. Full of narrow spiral stone staircases it must have been hell trying to negotiate around it when you needed to defend it.
On from Cahir, we moved on to Cashel to visit the No 1. Trip Advisor attraction for the town – it’s museum. All we can say to that is that there obviously wasn’t anything else of interest in the town as it was a really manky little affair but it did have a very enthusiastic curator/owner.
It’s a long way to Tipperary and what a disappointment it was – grimy main street lined with terraced shopfronts and grotty pubs with only one serving food so we had just a quick lunch stop before heading on to Kinsale. It was the end of regatta bank holiday weekend so the place was humming when we got there. Our B&B (sans Breakfast) was another overpriced outfit but within a few minutes walk to the town was at least well placed. Quite a tourist town renown for it’s foody outlets of which there were plenty. We enjoyed a walk around the town and the harbour before settling on an Indian for dinner.
08 August – Weather still on the cool side with the odd bit of rain passing through. We made the most of the dry spell to do one of the walks out to one of the two forts in the area. A nice stroll around the water front and up to the James Fort with nice views out over the outer harbour to the Atlantic in the distance. Kinsale is the start of the Wild Atlantic Way walk which follows the coast westwards for over 2,000 kms.