Dundrum Castle, County Down.

Thought to have been built around 1177, Dundrum Castle was part of the coastal defences controlling land routes from Drogheda to Downpatrick. Its just up a hill from the village centre of Dundrum and access is free (which is always great).  Dundrum is on the main road to Newcastle and if you wanted to kill two birds with one stone it has a decent car boot sale on Sundays but its better when the weather is good (summer being best of course).

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On the morning I arrived there was a pretty thick fog hanging over Dundrum Bay below the castle, but because it sits on a hill you could actually see over the top of the fog. You can see the town church spire poking up through the mist here.

Parts of the castle ruins look more like parts of an old house but I think there were numerous additions to the original castle down the centuries.  As the fog started to burn off I got some nice pictures of the place.

The tower set at the back of the castle grounds. The second picture shows the view through one of the windows of the tower over Dundrum Bay below.

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The castle wall remains.

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There are some woods to the left hand side of the castle (known as Castle Woods) that have a nice walking trail through them (seen just behind the fence here). The woods were planted nearly 200yrs ago and some information on them can be found here if youre interested: http://www.walkni.com/walks/382/dundrum-castle-woods-trail/ I had a great little morning (which as you can see turned out really beautiful) and an early visit like this (my first time) was certainly worth the trip.

 

 

Ulster Transport Museum, Cultra, County Down

Sitting less than 7 miles from Belfast (with its own very handy train station which makes it easy to reach from the city), the Ulster Transport Museum aka The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum comprises of 2 distinct museums featuring both historical vehicles and old cottages, shops, and churches. It has won Irish museum of the year on occasion and remains one of the most visited attractions in Northern Ireland. You can buy a ticket to enter both museums (theres a short walk between them) or just pick the one you want to see. Among its many sights it includes a DeLorean car, which movie fans will know from the three Back To The Future films. DeLorean cars were built in a factory just a few miles outside Belfast (now gone).

Inside the transport museum, one of the old Belfast and Northern Counties Railway (BNCR) stations, a company which served the north-east of Ireland, and the huge No.800 locomotive “Maeḋḃ” which was one of the three largest and most powerful steam locomotives ever to be built and run in Ireland.

 

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One of the “101” Class diesel locomotives at the museum. This is No.102 “Falcon” which is the last surviving engine of its class (there were 3) after the other two were scrapped many years ago. I actually had a chance to drive this engine myself many years ago although I never saw it as this (original) colour (it was always blue). It was known simply as the “Hunslet” back then. Full details of this little engine and the fates of its two sisters are here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NIR_101_Class

 

No, the blue bus on the left isnt actually a bus that ran on the road, its actually a Great Northern Railway “railbus” (built in 1928) that ran on the rails. Northern Ireland Railways had another one of these many decades later too but it wasnt exactly successful (lets just say). On the right are two Belfast Corporation buses with one being a diesel built in 1973 and one a trolleybus built in 1948. I think these are the only buses preserved in the museum.

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Tram No.249 would have been one of the first trams to use the electrified overhead line system through the centre of Belfast in 1905 (249 was built in 1905). Its seen here in its original colours and beautifully preserved.

 

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Both parts of the museum (I will put up a post about the folk museum one day too) are really worth visiting. Its a great day out and you can spend hours walking around looking at the various cars, planes, trains, buses etc and afterwards go for a lovely stroll into the countryside amidst the old preserved cottages, churches, and commercial buildings. Theres a cafe inside as well, but if youre trying to save some money its perfectly fine to bring a packed lunch and sit at one of the picnic benches there.

Rostrevor & Cloughmore Stone, Co. Down

Cloughmore Stone, known locally as “The Big Stone” is a huge granite boulder that sits about 1000ft up on the side of Slieve Martin overlooking Carlingford Lough and the Cooley peninsula in County Louth and above the village of Rostrevor County Down.

 

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The name comes from the Irish “an Chloch Mhór” which means “the big stone” and its believed to weigh around 50 tonnes having been transported via glacial retreat from Scotland  (from an island in Strathclyde bay) and deposited here over 10,000yrs ago during the last Ice Age.

 

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Local legend has it that the stone was thrown from the Cooley Mountains on the other side of Carlingford Lough, by the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) who gets accused of a lot of things here in Northern Ireland haha (Lough Neagh, The Giants Causeway etc).

 

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The stone has many names and dates carved into it which go back centuries remembering those from history who have visited there. The Cloughmore Stone is a venue at Easter where the residents of Rostrevor would go up and roll their Easter eggs down the hill. A sort of a tradition for the Rostrevor residents.

 

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Quite impressive even on a rainy day like this one and there are some great views from the surrounding area.

 

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Theres a really nice walk up here through Rostrevor forest but it does get steep at times. Bring a lunch and rest at the top.

 

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Killevy Old Churches, Ring of Gullion, County Armagh

The important early convent of Killevy was founded towards the end of the 5th century by St Moninna, also known as Darerca or Bline. It remained a house of nuns for almost 1000 years. In 923 the place was plundered by Vikings from Carlingford Lough and in 1146 many people were killed by a great wind that caused damage all over the north. The very long narrow ‘church’ you see below is in fact two churches which have been joined together. The west churches massive lintelled door dates from the 10th century. Monastic life continued at Killevy into the Middle Ages, with the foundation of an Augustinian convent, probably in the late 12th century. There are frequent references in medieval documents, several of them reflecting increasing tensions between church and lay power. 
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The joined churches at Killevy.

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The site has a long history of ancient worship here

 

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The most notable architectural feature is the steeply-pitched east gable, complete with fine coping stones and large window opening. Although many of the cut stones have been removed, if you look closely you can see the small bar holes in the jambs, the fact that they are mismatched showing that the window was once divided by a central mullion. There are also carved heads, both crowned, either side of the window on the outside.

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Killevy Church dominates the skyline

 

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The south wall contains the remains of two rectangular window openings and a small wall cupboard, probably used to hold sacred vessels during worship. There are no windows in the north wall, but towards the east end is a curious lintelled doorway, perhaps intended to echo the west door in the adjacent earlier church but clumsy and unskilled by comparison. It may have led out to domestic buildings, including the house of the abbess where Cunisburgh resigned in 1477, but no trace survives and the area is covered by burials.

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Several cut and worked stones can be identified in the space between the two churches, including a large granite slab with a cross in low relief, probably originally used as a grave marker or cover and possibly dating from the 12th or 13th centuries.