The great thing about getting lost is not knowing what you’re gonna find. Today was one of those days. I headed out with no set plans with the main goal of eventually ending up in Belfast. This experiment did not disappoint.
The day before, I found the Tollymore Forest Park. When I arrived, I discovered that this was an excellent idea. With a gorgeous medieval looking front gate, both sides of the road were flanked with lush green grass and some robust trees that could probably tell a few stories. I drove straight to the ranger’s office, parked my beast of a campervan and booked one spot for the evening. At 18£, it was a bargain to know that tonight I’d have a safe spot all to myself.
Across from my camping spot, was an excellent toilet block and powerful warm showers. I was in campsite luxury. YAY! And, I was pretty stoked about this for two reasons – I could warm up because being out in the rain chilled me out the bone and the wind was ripping though the trees with bouts of sideways rain. Feeling safe was 100% my priority and made for campsite heaven.
Driving in this weather wasn’t pleasant, but necessary… and being the glamper that I am, I curled up in the back of the camper, snuggled in my sleeping bag and watched Netflix! (Wifi was patchy so I had a few downloaded episodes saved and ready for tonight’s binge)
The next morning, I hit the road with my Google maps landmark search strategy. Today would be a day packed with more medieval mayhem and to start it off, I was only a mere ten minutes away from the Drumena Cashel.
This place is rough as guts meaning there is no car parking here – you just kinda get as close to the side of the road as possible. Oh… and this is a one lane country road…
I parked the car and wandered up the little incline in my thongs – Aussie style. My Cons received a severe drenching the day before and were completely soaked so my Aussie shoes were set for today’s exploration.
I opened the gate and was hit with a tonne of awesome. Stones enclosed the site and then in the middle was this underground cavern with stairs. I was a little creeped out to go venturing underground – I mean, one who travels solo must also travel safe.
This was an absolutely lovely spot, as it was surrounded with rolling farming hills and countless black faced wooly sheep.
The next stop was the Donard Round Tower and was only a few minutes away. Across the street the local welcoming committee of inquisitive cows greeted me with smiles.
I entered the gate and headed up the long paved path with a modernish church in sight. Then, on the left, was this round rock thing. It is believed that a Saint founded the monetary here. More on that here.
I wandered behind the modern castle and found what looked like a ruins within the grave yard.
Then, I hopped back into the car and weaved a bunch of rolling backroads. I passed a bunch of horseback riders just out for a morning stroll and I passed though very adorable small towns and villages.
Then I sat in traffic and eventually made it to the Mound of Down. While there’s nothing much in eyesight on this actual mound, the 360 degree views are spectacular. What really surprised me is there’s a giant hill like right behind the town. IT’s right there… so if you do decide to go, you’ll have to brave the terrible traffic because there’s absolutely no way to get around it.
Not far from the mound is the very sweet Quoile Castle. Info on that here. With gorgeous gardens and a visitor center, it’s a great stop for a brown bag lunch. You can also go for a lovely walk near the water and the good thing is, this place is teeming with wildlife.
I kept heading north on my drive and found my favourite castle of the day locationed on a tiny island in the middle of a Island. Sketrick Castle is cool. I took the causeway right up to the front of the castle and parked. Seriously. This castle had van parking.
Originally it was four storeys high with four chambers at ground level and came with its very own boat bay. It also had some form of indoor plumbing with with fresh running springs running though one of the chambers. Story has it, the castle was intact until 1896 until a storm ripped though and completely obliterated the castle.
Then, feeling a bit peckish, I ended up at Castle Espie Weland Centre. If you’ve got kids and they need to burn off some energy, take them here. You can meet the ducklings, feed the ducks, and zoom down a flying fox that somehow most of the kids avoided. It was fine for me because I had it all to myself.
I somehow missed the herb scented and butterfly garden. But, it’s all there and for £8.18, it was a pretty good place to stop and stretch the legs.
I finished my tour with some death-defying downhill incline that gave me 180 degree views of Belfast. This picture is waaaay before the incline… because, safety first.. and I was gritting my teeth the entire time hoping that my breaks were as good as they said they were. So far so good.
An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!