Lancaster Canal – Garstang to Catterall

My Monday walk this week is the on-foot version of a cycle ride I did ten years ago. Back then I was camping at Bridge House Marina by the canal on the far side of Garstang so my cycle ride had started from there, however this time my walk was starting from Garstang itself, at Bridge No.62 near Th’Owd Tithe Barn pub/restaurant.
Set back off the canal and next to the restaurant was The Moorings Basin with several colourful narrowboats moored up, then a couple of hundred yards away was the Wyre Aqueduct designed by John Rennie and built in 1797; at 110ft long it carries the canal 34ft above the River Wyre. At the far side of the aqueduct a set of steep wooden steps led down to the riverside where I was able to photograph the structure from down below.
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Back up on the canal I passed a long stretch of modern houses and went under three bridges before I left civilisation behind, and apart from the sound of birds in the trees and an occasional passing boat it was very quiet and peaceful. Round a wide bend I could see the old Garstang castle, or what remains of it, standing on high ground in the distance at the far side of the canal; photographing it from nearby is something else on my ever-lengthening ‘to do’ list.
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Greenhalgh Castle was built in 1490 by Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, and the land on which it was built was said to be a gift to Stanley from his stepson Henry Tudor for his assistance in defeating Richard lll at the Battle of Bosworth. Constructed of rubble and sandstone it stood on a small area of raised ground and was rectangular with towers 24 yards square at each corner.
During the English Civil War the castle was garrisoned by James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby, in support of Charles l and it was one of the last two Royalist strongholds in Lancashire to succumb following a siege by Cromwell’s forces in 1644/45. The garrison eventually surrendered in 1645 on provision that the men were allowed to return to their homes unharmed, then demolition teams partially destroyed the castle to make sure it couldn’t be used again for military purposes.
After the castle’s destruction many of the local farmhouses, including the nearby Castle Farm, incorporated some of the stones into their buildings; following its continued deterioration over the centuries the only remaining part is the lower section of one of the four original towers and as it stands on private land it’s inaccessible to the public although it can be seen fairly close up from a nearby lane.
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Approaching the next bridge I was quite surprised to see a couple of cows across the other side of the canal, standing well over knee deep in the water and slurping copious amounts from between the weeds and water lilies. Eventually I came to a marker post telling me it was 16 miles to Preston – I didn’t think it was as far as that but if it was then I was glad I wasn’t going there.
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My goal on this walk was the Calder Aqueduct, again designed by John Rennie and built in 1797 but shorter than the Wyre Aqueduct. Carrying the canal over the River Calder in the Catterall area the aqueduct has an adjoining weir on the upstream side, built to lower the bed of the river under the canal with the river itself being channelled beneath the canal through a single elliptical arch. The riverbank on the downstream side was wide and grassy with a steep path down from the canal and ten years ago I’d stopped there for a picnic before cycling back to the camp site.
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Heading back to Garstang I spotted something up ahead on the far side of the canal and getting closer I found it was a heron. It hadn’t been there earlier so I watched for several minutes, and unlike the statue-like one I’d seen on another stretch of the canal back in June this one did actually move. Eventually I came to the marker post which told me it was a mile back to Garstang although to get to there from the town earlier on had seemed to be more than a mile.
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Approaching civilisation there was a small inset on the far side of the canal with three colourful narrowboats moored up and it wasn’t long before I began to see boats moored on my side. I’ve often wondered where some canal boats get their quirky names from and I couldn’t resist snapping a couple of them. One of the last in the row had some small brightly decorated barrels fastened to its roof and they looked so pretty I thought they deserved to be photographed.
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Back across the Wyre Aqueduct, past the Moorings Basin and Th’Owd Tithe Barn and I was back at my starting point, Bridge No. 62 where my van was waiting for me just a few yards down the road. The walk was one I’d been wanting to do for a while, I’d really enjoyed revisiting a part of the canal I first went to ten years ago and it was another completed section to tick off my list.

Snowdrops for Sophie

In light of my recent incredibly sad and heart breaking loss of Sophie I thought long and hard about doing this walk, especially as I’d originally intended taking Sophie with me, but there was nothing to be gained by staying at home and after several weekends of not being able to go anywhere I really needed a few hours out. My intended destination was Hornby Castle Gardens, only open on a few select weekends each year with the most recent being the snowdrop weekend. Sunday’s weather forecast for that area was for sunshine and even though it was cloudy and grey here at home I decided to take a chance and go.
As I got to the far side of the nearby moors I could see sunshine and blue sky ahead and by the time I was heading north up the M6 it had turned into a really lovely day. Living where I do, halfway up a hill on the north side of town, I don’t normally encounter any instances of flooding in bad weather so I was quite surprised at the sight which greeted me as I drove along the A683 towards the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Just before Claughton village the River Lune had overflowed and a huge area of flat grazing fields had disappeared underwater, though fortunately the natural slope of the land from the roadside had prevented the water from reaching the road itself or any roadside properties.
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There’s a river in there somewhere
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Set back off the road, and just out of reach of the flood water, was the old Lanefoot Crossing signal box in the garden of a nearby cottage. Once part of the long-disused ‘Little’ North Western Railway line which operated between Lancaster and Wennington, then extended to Leeds, it was in use between 1849 and 1968, and in more recent years has been preserved and refurbished to be used as a summerhouse for the cottage.
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The Lanefoot Crossing signal box
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There was no parking available in the grounds of Hornby Castle so I left the van in the village car park and walked along the road and over the bridge to the castle gardens entrance gates. The River Wenning, swollen from all the recent rain, was in full flow as it ran west to join the Lune, and on the east side of the bridge the water was a seething boiling mass as it came over the nearby weir – definitely not a place anyone would want to fall in.
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River Wenning looking west
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Looking east
Entrance to the castle grounds cost £5 with dogs free of charge and after being given a map, which I didn’t really need as I’ve been there before, though not at this time of year, I set off with Poppie to find some snowdrops. Now I don’t know if my expectations were too high or if maybe the recent bad weather was a factor, but far from seeing carpets of snowdrops as I thought I would all I found were small clumps dotted here and there among the trees, with several clumps together on the bank leading up to the castle lawns.
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Driveway up to the castle

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The pond and island

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Part of the path along the riverside had been closed off as it was muddy and very slippery but I got round that by walking along the riverbank itself, and when I rejoined the path I came to the remains of a dead tree trunk. One side looked very much like the other so it was hard to tell which had been roots and which were branches but I liked the shape of it so it was worth a quick snap.
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Along the riverside walk

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Just past the tree trunk the path wound steeply uphill and almost doubled back on itself, emerging at one corner of the castle lawn. At the far side steps led down a short steep bank to the main driveway and on the bank itself were a couple of clumps of pink flowers ; they looked a bit sorry for themselves but at least they provided a bit of colour.
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Across the driveway a path and a succession of wide shallow steps went down through a wooded area to the walled garden ; at this time of year there wasn’t much colour about the place but I did see some more pink flowers, some daffodils, a few more isolated clumps of snowdrops and some lovely bright blue things which I don’t know the name of.
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The walled garden was my last port of call, I’d been everywhere else and with so few snowdrops to see there was no point walking round again, so I made my way back to the van and with one last shot from the bridge I set off for home, arriving back at 4pm and still in sunshine. Although Hornby Castle’s website promises ‘hundreds of named varieties of snowdrops’ the ones I saw all looked the same to me, and compared to the carpets of flowers I saw at Lytham Hall last year the clumps of snowdrops dotted here and there were rather a disappointment.
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This had been my first proper walk with Poppie on her own and it seemed so strange having just one little four-paws with me instead of two. Even though the snowdrops didn’t live up to my expectations I know that Sophie would have loved the walk so I’ve decided – when the time is right, and in her memory, there’ll be some snowdrops planted in her corner of my garden.

 

From Roscrea to home

Where I begin to lose the will to live and almost miss my flight…
The morning of my homeward journey arrived bright and sunny with a cloudless blue sky and after an early breakfast I went out to take a few last photos. Across the street from Laura’s house was a pretty corner with a couple of flowers beds and benches and from there I went round to the castle gardens. I’ve only ever been there in winter when any foliage has either been withered or non-existent so I rather hoped that there would still be some colour around the place this time ; there was some but not as much as I hoped as most of the flowers in the borders were already withered and dead, however I got a few photos then made my way back ‘home’ for a quick coffee before saying goodbye to Nellie and Trixie and setting off for the airport.
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A pretty street corner
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Roscrea castle
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The Roscrea street I call ‘home’
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The coach to the airport was at 10.15am and as going through Dublin’s security was an easier process than at Manchester I should have been in plenty of time for my flight at 2pm, but I hadn’t reckoned on the coach driver who seemed to be doing a good impersonation of a snail. Of course the coach was late arriving in Roscrea but I would still be at the airport in time, however even though most of the journey was on the motorway the driver was going much slower than he could have done. At first I wasn’t too worried but as time went on the journey began to get really tedious and I started to realise that I was in danger of missing my flight if this guy didn’t get a move on. I finally got to the airport at 1.20, over half an hour late, and it was a mad dash then to get to the Ryanair gate which was due to close ten minutes later.
With no queue at security I got through straight away but when I checked one of the screens for the gate number I saw the one thing I didn’t want to see – GATE CLOSED. There was nothing I could do except carry on and hope for the best and luckily the gate I needed was one of the nearer ones ; ironically I’d paid extra for priority boarding but when I got there everyone else had already boarded. Fortunately I was still allowed on and once I was settled in my seat I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief – I’d just about made it, but with no thanks at all to that snail of a bus driver.
My mad dash through the airport did produce quite a good photo though. One of the things featured in my ‘111 places’ book was the old airport terminal which can be seen from the ‘skybridge’ leading to and from the pier where most Ryanair planes arrive and depart. I’d noticed the building on previous occasions and thought how attractive it looked but never realised just what it was until I saw it featured in the book, so my dash along the ‘skybridge’ was paused very briefly to snap a quick photo through the glass.
Construction of the terminal was started in 1939 and completed in 1942, with the four-storey structure considered to be Ireland’s first modernist building. After experiencing very quiet years in the early 1940s flights and passenger numbers began to steadily increase over the years until the terminal could no longer cope with the demand, and after various expansions to the airport during the 1950s, 60s and 70s the old building finally became redundant for passenger use, although to this day it’s still used in various ways by airport staff.
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The original 1940s terminal building
My flight took off just a few minutes after 2pm and with clear weather all the way across the Irish sea I was able to get several shots from the plane window. Back at Manchester, and after the interminably long 10-minute walk to the airport station, Murphy’s Law decreed that I would have a 20-minute wait for a train; by the time it came the tedious coach journey earlier on had taken its toll and I just wanted to get home so I was quite relieved when I finally got to my own front door just before 5pm.
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Leaving Dublin – Skerries and Skerries islands
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Liverpool docks
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The Mersey estuary with New Brighton on the left
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Heading for Manchester
Apart from that morning’s coach journey it had been a good holiday and although fairly short it had been just what I needed at a time when I needed it. I’d certainly packed a lot into it and over the days I’d discovered a few places which definitely need revisiting – hopefully some of them before too long.

A lovely day out, Part 1 – Leap Castle

In which Laura takes me for a day out and we start by exploring a haunted castle…
Leap Castle (pronounced Lep) is situated deep in the countryside just over six miles or so from Roscrea and over the border from Co. Tipperary into Co. Offaly. Back in December 2016, from a shop in Roscrea, I’d picked up a hand drawn map with written directions to the castle ; some of my regular readers may remember the post I wrote about my long walk to get there and my failure to find the place at the time. It was further away than the directions said and I came to the conclusion that Irish miles are longer than English miles. Following that walk I realised that if I were ever to visit this castle at all then I would have to somehow drive myself there, however Michael’s girlfriend Laura had recently said she was willing to take me there and also to another place I’d previously said I’d like to go to so I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity.
Leap Castle has a very violent and bloody history and is said to be the most haunted castle in Ireland, possibly even Europe. Built sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries by the O’Bannon clan it was eventually taken over by the ruling O’Carroll clan but it was a clan divided by bitter leadership struggles throughout most of the 16th century, with one brother against another. The chapel above the Great Hall became known as the Bloody Chapel after one O’Carroll killed his brother, a priest who was conducting a mass at the time – he died on the altar in front of his family. In one corner of the chapel was a small chamber with a trapdoor in the floor ; prisoners and unfortunates were thrown down there into the dungeon, often landing on sharp spikes, and if that didn’t kill them they were literally forgotten about and left there to die of starvation and their injuries. When the dungeon was cleaned out by much later owners it was reported that three cartloads of skeletons were removed.
In the mid 17th century the castle came into the possession of the Darby family. It had originally been a tower house but in the 18th century was extended by the Darbys who added the north and south wings and gave it a Gothic restyling ; it stayed in the Darby family through the years until 1922 when it was set on fire during the Irish Civil War after which it was left dormant for many years. In 1974 the castle was bought by Australian historian Peter Bartlett, a descendant of the O’Bannons, who undertook extensive repairs and renovations until his death in 1989 ; in 1991 the place was bought by musician Sean Ryan and his wife Anne to be their own private residence and they have continued Peter Bartlett’s restoration work over the years since then.
Of course a place can’t be said to be haunted unless it has a ghost or two and Leap Castle is supposed to have several. Emily and Charlotte were two little girls said to have lived on the estate during the 17th century ; Emily died after falling from the tower and it’s said that there are still sightings of a little girl falling from its great height only to disappear before hitting the ground. The ghost of a woman murdered by the O’Carrolls in the 16th century wanders about wearing very little clothing ; she screams twice before disappearing into thin air. The Governess, also known as the nanny, is often seen alongside Emily and Charlotte, and an old man has been spotted sitting in a comfy chair by the side of the main hall’s grand fireplace.
The Red Lady is tall and slim with long brown hair, she wears a red dress and is always seen carrying a dagger in her raised hand. The story says that she was captured by the O’Carrolls and raped ; she fell pregnant and when the baby was born it was taken from her and killed with a dagger. She was so distraught that she killed herself with the same dagger used to murder her infant, and the one her spirit holds is the very one which killed her baby. The Elemental, otherwise known as ‘it’, is described as being about the size of a sheep with a shadowy half-human face and sunken eyes ; it gives off the smell of a decomposing corpse though its menacing and sinister presence only makes itself known to those who provoke it.
The castle is said to allow visitors from 10am until 5pm and various sources of information, including the written directions I got back in 2016, all said that it was advisable to phone or email to arrange a visit, but even though Laura tried several times to ring there was no answer so we decided to go there anyway on the off-chance that we would be able to go in. At first knocking on the door produced no response and we were about to give up and leave when I suggested trying once more and this time the owner, Sean Ryan, came to the door – and in typical contrary Irish fashion, when I mentioned that we had tried to phone ahead as advised he said he didn’t know why I would have been given that information as we only needed to knock! However, he welcomed us in and led us over to a huge fireplace, which he’d built himself, and we sat in front of a lovely fire while he told us all about the history of the castle and the spirits (he doesn’t call them ghosts) which live there.
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Leap Castle with the unrestored part and ruins on the left
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The main hall where we sat to hear the castle’s story
After our ‘history lesson’ Sean took us through to the back of the hall and showed us the conservatory, a long narrow room looking out over the land below and beyond the castle and filled with a hotchpotch of plants, garden ornaments and various things hanging in various places, then he gave us a torch, showed us where the stairs were, and we were free to explore the upper rooms at our leisure.
Halfway up the first spiral staircase was a cubby hole with a small wooden door set in the wall then at the top of the stairs was the Great Hall with its collection of furniture, artefacts and various objects, some very old, others not so much, which Sean had collected while on his travels. On the floor in a window recess I found a sweet little surprise, though it was Laura who noticed it first – behind the leg of a dining chair was a tiny little bat. Knowing that they are nocturnal I thought it must be asleep, although if it was then it had chosen a very odd place for a snooze, but unfortunately this poor little creature was dead – maybe it had flown in somewhere and couldn’t get out again. Never having seen a bat at close quarters before I picked it up gently and put it on the chair to take a photo then laid it back where we found it ; it was tiny, barely two inches long, and its fur was incredibly soft.
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The conservatory
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Front lawn and drive from first floor landing window
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The Great Hall
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Carving on a dark oak dresser
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The sweet little bat we found
Above the Great Hall was a small mezzanine level and the next flight of stairs had a door leading into it, with four steps down onto the mezzanine itself. Most of the space was taken up by a double bed which I thought was rather odd but Sean told us later that it’s where he puts any family or friends when they come to stay. The spiral staircase, which got narrower as we went further up, took us to the Bloody Chapel, a vast space with a rough floor and which, apart from a tin roof to keep out the worst of the elements, was still unrestored. There was a doorway in one corner with a staircase going down but it was dark so not knowing what I was getting myself into I didn’t risk it. With no windows in the chapel taking photos of the landscape was easy though it would have been a long way to fall if I’d leaned out too far.
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The bed on the mezzanine
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Looking down from the mezzanine
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Stairs to the Bloody Chapel with the door to the mezzanine
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The unrestored Bloody Chapel
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Looking down on the ruins
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View beyond the ruins
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On the way back down the stairs we revisited the Great Hall to see if there was anything we’d missed then continued back to ground level where we handed the torch back to Sean. After another chat, during which he told us that everything in the castle had either been restored, recycled or built by him and his wife, we thanked him for letting us look round, said our goodbyes and left just as some other visitors were arriving. Sean plays the fiddle and the Irish whistle and if we’d asked he would have given us a tune or two but to be honest I’m not really a lover of traditional Irish music.
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Leap Castle was a strange place. Compared to the castle at Limerick which has been professionally restored with each room set out as it would have been in the period, Leap was what I would describe as ‘raw’ – with mis-matched furniture from different periods, artefacts and objects from different countries, it was a restoration which didn’t really reflect any one particular period but strangely it worked. The place was unique, even more so because it was actually someone’s home – and to quote Sean’s words “If we’d wanted to live in a modern bungalow we would have bought a modern bungalow”. I’d really enjoyed my visit to the castle, it was certainly different – and as for any ghosts, I didn’t see, hear or feel anything remotely spooky of all the time I was there, but then I don’t believe in ghosts anyway.

A day in Limerick

In which I meet a sweet little pony, explore an old castle and encounter a couple of bus drivers with only half a brain between them…
It was another early start for me that day with the 8.40am coach to Limerick at the head of the Shannon estuary. Never having been there before I wasn’t sure where to get off the coach when I got there but ‘Arthur’s Quay’ was named on the timetable as the last stop so I figured out that anything with ‘quay’ in its name had to be near water and I was right. The coach pulled in at one of several stops next to a small and pleasant riverside park and at the far side of the park I got my first view of the River Shannon.
Turning to the left I walked a short distance past what looked like a very short section of a canal and a canal basin and up some steps to a road bridge over the river. Looking across to the far side of the bridge I could see what appeared to be a riverside walk ; there was another road bridge further along the river leading in the direction of the castle so I decided to work my way round in a square. The tide must have been coming in and advancing up the estuary as at one point the river seemed to be flowing back on itself and was a seething mass of white-topped waves.
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View north west from Arthur’s Quay Park
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Shannon Rowing Club premises on the left
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View west towards Riverpoint with Limerick Boat Club on the right
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Riverside walk along Clancy’s Strand
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Looking across to the far end of the next bridge I could see a row of brightly painted cottages, good subjects for a photo or two so I went along to check them out. What I found wasn’t what I thought it was but I’ll save that for another post. A narrow road ran between the cottages and the river so I decided to walk along a short distance to see if there was anything of interest ; the road curved round to the right with a footpath to the left which I followed and came across an area of ‘almost countryside’. A vast green space was bordered on one side by the river and riverside path and across the far side by a pleasant-looking small housing estate while on the grass itself a few tethered ponies were grazing peacefully, presumably owned by someone who lived nearby. Away from the main roads it was very quiet and with the hills in the distance I could really have been right in the countryside.
A distance along the path I came across another tethered pony, a bright chestnut-coloured Shetland who seemed to want to follow me though he could only go as far as the length of his rope. Eventually the path turned to the right and there was another bridge up ahead so not knowing where I would end up I turned round there and retraced my steps. The little pony was still there, he’d knocked his bucket of food over and was snuffling along the path with his nose. He was very friendly and again he wanted to follow me so I stopped to stroke him and noticed part of one of the hedgerow plants stuck in his fringe and in danger of going in his eye – so I spent a good five minutes picking it all out while he stood there patiently and let me. He was such a little sweetheart and I would have loved to bring him home.
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View from the road to the bridge at Thomond Weir
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All the time I’d been walking the weather had been getting better and better ; the clouds were clearing, the sky was becoming a much deeper blue and the warm sunshine was even warmer. By the time I’d got back to the main road I was feeling quite peckish – my early breakfast had worn off so I went back across the bridge to Jack Monday’s Coffee House where I had a nice early lunch on the terrace overlooking the river then retraced my steps again to the castle at the other end of the bridge.
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King John’s Castle, next to the River Shannon, was built at the beginning of the 13th century on the orders of King John, brother of Richard the Lionheart, and is one of the best preserved castles in Europe. Between 2011 and 2013 it underwent a massive redevelopment to improve the visitor facilities and now has a new visitor centre and shop, interactive exhibitions and a café with views of the courtyard and river, with a self-guided tour leading through a modern exhibition to the castle itself.
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The castle courtyard
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St. Munchin’s Church (Church of Ireland) from one of the towers
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River Shannon and Thomond Bridge
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Outside the castle visitor centre, showing Katie Daly’s Heritage Pub
From the castle I had no clear idea of where I was going so I just followed the narrow street from the visitor centre and eventually came to St. Mary’s Cathedral. A short distance from there along a main road was St. Mary’s Catholic Church (very confusing) and these two churches will feature in a following post. Round the corner from the cathedral was a pleasant pedestrianised area leading to the riverside where I found Limerick’s 1916 Commemorative Garden and fountain, then a little way from there I came to Merchants Quay where a handful of colourful dinghies were pulled up on a little beach set back off the river.
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Dinghies at Merchants quay
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From Merchants Quay the main road took me across the River Abbey close to where it joined the Shannon. I was heading into the city centre there and though I wasn’t interested in looking round any shops I thought I’d have a wander round a few of the streets, eventually arriving back at the riverside at the far side of the road bridge where I’d started my walk. Set back in a cobblestone circle was the statue of a man perched on a chair but there didn’t seem to be any indication as to who it was supposed to be ; it was only once I’d got back home that a quick bit of research told me it was a statue of Limerick-born tv and radio presenter Terry Wogan, unveiled in 2017. Well I don’t know who the sculptor was but to my mind it didn’t look much like Terry Wogan at all.
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River Abbey across from George’s Quay
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The Shannon at Harvey’s Quay
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Terry Wogan statue at Harvey’s Quay
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Honan’s Quay and Sarsfield Bridge
Back at the other side of the bridge, and close to Arthur’s Quay Park, I took my final shot of the Shannon. The tide had crept in further in the five hours I’d been exploring and the river was now calm and level with no sign of the turbulent waves I’d seen before. Through the park I went back to the bus stop where I’d got off the coach that morning – and that’s where the fun began, with two bus drivers who didn’t seem to have much of a clue, however it’s a long story so I’ll save that for another post.
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The Shannon with calm water
Eventually I arrived back in Roscrea and to a lovely meal which Nellie had made for me. Apart from the coach journey back, which I’d actually found quite amusing, my day out to Limerick had proved to be very interesting ; it was a nice place, and since being back home I’ve found out there are lots more places there which I can explore so no doubt it will be somewhere else I return to in the future when the opportunity arises.

An afternoon in Nenagh

The last day of November arrived bright and sunny so as Michael was meeting up with some of his friends I decided to take myself off to Nenagh, a 25-minute bus ride from Roscrea. I’d gone there last year as I wanted to see the castle but unfortunately I’d chosen one of the only two days in the week when it was closed, so now armed with proper details of the opening days and times I was making a second attempt, also Nellie had shown me a postcard with some pictures of Nenagh Town Park and it looked interesting so that was somewhere else I could check out.
I got the mid-day coach from Roscrea but halfway through the journey the sunshine disappeared and the rain started ; by the time I got to Nenagh it was pouring down so I dashed into the nearest discount shop and bought a cheap umbrella but the rain had stopped by the time I came out again. That seemed to set a pattern though and the rest of the afternoon passed with alternate sunshine and showers. I’d passed the Town Park on the way into Nenagh but the coach didn’t stop anywhere near it so I’d had to go into the town and walk back again but it only took ten minutes. To be honest I found the park to be rather disappointing when I got there ; bordered on three sides by the Nenagh river and a railway line on the fourth side it was nothing more than a very large childrens’ playground with various modern pieces of play equipment dotted around, a small pond and a few grassy picnic areas with a pathway all the way round, though maybe it would look nicer on a sunny summer day.
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Nenagh Town Park
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The Nenagh river
Walking back into the town I passed a pub with a picture on its corner wall which made me smile. Back in 1935 the Guinness toucan first made its appearance in an advertising campaign for the brand on posters and many years later on television, and though various other animals featured in the adverts over the years it was the toucan which became the most famous. The gang of animal friends appeared in the adverts for decades but in 1982 Guinness stopped working with the advertising company and the animals were dropped completely. In 2016 a limited edition can of Guinness was produced featuring the toucan but it now primarily lives on in the memories of Guinness lovers and collectors and on the walls of some Irish pubs.
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Back in the town I made my way round to the castle and leaving my bag with the two friendly guys at the information desk in the entrance I set off on my climb to the top of the tower. The castle was built at the beginning of the 13th century with the keep being Nenagh’s oldest building ; originally it was incorporated in the curtain walls surrounding a five-sided courtyard but only a few fragments of the walls now remain and these are inaccessible to the public. Built of limestone the keep has an external diameter of 55ft round the base and access is through a short passageway in the base of the wall which is 16ft thick. The keep rises to 100ft, with four storeys accessed by stone spiral staircases which change direction at each floor level, and there are 101 steps to the top.
The stairs got steeper and narrower as I climbed further up, a definite test of one’s heart and lung capacity, and eventually I emerged onto the castle roof. The crown of crenellations and clerestory windows weren’t added to the tower until 1861, and though not true to historic character they ensured the iconic status of the keep which is now a major tourist attraction. The sun shining intermittently through the rain clouds produced rather an odd light for photo taking but on a clear sunny day the views from up there would be really good.
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Nenagh castle
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Modern staircase to the first floor
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Stone staircase to the second floor
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Renovated window seats on the second floor
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Getting steeper – stairs to the third floor
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Even narrower – stairs to the top
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Up on the roof
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Nenagh Court House in the centre, the Arts Centre (white building) in the foreground
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St. Mary of the Rosary church
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Rear of St. Mary’s Church of Ireland
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A hazy view to the Silvermine Mountains
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Going back down
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Back at ground level I retrieved my bag from the guys at the desk and spent a few minutes chatting to them then made my way round to St. Mary of the Rosary church. I’d gone in there last year and had been really impressed with its opulent interior, and though I’d taken several general photos at the time I wanted to get some more detailed shots. I spent quite a while in there and achieved my aim, though I took far too many photos to include here so I’ll put them in a follow-up post of their own.