Trim Castle

Its raining…its been raining…but it is Ireland so we get up and head off into the countryside.  We are heading to Trim Castle via some pretty places on the way.

We stop at Bective Abbey and watch birds dip in and out of its ruins.  It’s stark beauty is strange and desolate.

When we make it to Trim, we park up head for cover in the entrance of the castle.  It is 2 euros if you just want to wander in the grounds, or 5 euros if you want a guided tour of the keep as well.  Pay the 5 euros…it is so worth it.

The rain is really coming down, so I walk the perimeter of the grounds rather swiftly even so it is clear that the castle is very big and intact.  Our guide arrives and we head into the keep.  Our guide is wonderful, she invites us to use our imaginations to see how the castle would have been in the different periods of its existence.

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We work our way up spiral staircases and visit the chapel and walk among the history of the Castle.  Eventually we make our way to the very top and look our on the misty countryside and town of Trim.  I very very much recommend this stop on your tour of Ireland.

You might recognize the Castle from Braveheart! There are lots of photos at the entrance of the transformation for the movie.

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Also another fact…this is the largest Ango-Norman Castle in Ireland.

When we are done at the Castle we head into Drogheda.  Drogheda is one of the oldest towns in Ireland.  St. Peter’s Church is one of the famous sites of Drogheda,  the church is not very ornate inside, however it does have one unusual thing…a severed head.  Yes, a severed and preserved head.  St Oliver’s head to be exact.  The shrine is quite beautiful and the hand written confirmation of the authenticity of the head is very intriguing.

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If you are hungry in Drogheda I definitely recommend The Bare Food Company.  We had scones and coffee and they were so good!

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And that is about it for the Elf in Ireland.

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Elf’s afternoon in Dublin

It has already been a week since our adventure to Ireland began. I cannot begin to describe what a wonderful place Ireland is. So friendly and so lush.

We start in Dublin with our solitary half a day to explore before we head off to the country side. So where to start? With a free walking tour of course. Everyone that knows us, knows we love a free walking tour. Just to explain a little about the idea…it’s not free. You can find this idea all of the world, sometimes run by independent companies or individuals and sometimes a company charges a marketing fee to the freelance tour guide. In all cases it is a pay what you think situation. If you think the tour is great, you pay up more, if it’s okay, maybe a bit less if you hate it…perhaps you slide off half way though.

So we joined up with a free walking tour and explored the city. We head through the streets, stopping to listen to lots of history and stories. The TempleIMAG3551 Bar area is interesting in that it is named after a sand bar that used to run through the area and the Temple family who helped to develop the area. It is now a theatrical and nightlife centre of Dublin.

Another highlight is the Dublin Castle where there has been a building since 1200s! The Record Tower is the only surviving part of the medieval castle and is at the heart of the story of Red Hugh which is well worth looking into if you don’t know it already.

The Gardens behind the Castle are a beautiful kept secret and I recommend having a look. It is peaceful and surprising to find.

Next we head to Trinity College where apparently you can sit your exams with your sword by your side.

We finish up in the early evening and wander back towards our hotel, stopping of course for a Guinness on the way. For dinner we find a pub close to us that is very popular and we share a table so that we can eat some of the best stew I have ever had!

And that’s all the time we have for Dublin this trip as the next morning we are up early and in the car to head off to Co. Meath.

 

Ponte De Lima and Lindoso

This is a combo post about two of the great little places we visited one day during out drives around Northern Portugal.
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The First is Ponte De Lima.  

Ponte De Lima is a cute little Medieval town on the Lima River bank.  It is named after the bridge that crosses the river.

The car park seems odd as you appear to drive on to the bank of the river but aside from this it is an easy place to visit.  The main square is beautiful looking back across the river and the old bridge to churches and countryside.  As always with any town, move away from the main square if you want to save some money on food or drink.  We wander in the streets and enjoy the old village feel.  This town is lovely and I would definitely like to revisit it.  There is a big and famous market that opens every second Monday, all the way along the river bank…alas it is not Monday when we visit.  But this sounds spectacular.

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Lindoso

Lindoso sits within the national park and surrounded by beautiful ruggard countryside.  The area is famous for the old granaries which are called Horrreo.  The Horrero look like little stone houses or tombs, you can find them in some of the towns hidden among the older areas, or all gathered together on hillsides.  Linodoso have a big group that stand together near the castle.

The castle is great, its free to go into except the very inner walls which are only open a small part of the year and coast a couple IMAG2919of euros to get into.  The Castle has a long history and was used up until 1910 by the Portuguese

Government.  We spend an hour walking along the walls and enjoying the view and crumbling history.  It definitely feels like an adventure.

 

Also….The National Park is home to special cow found in this area of Portugal, they are called Arouquesa and they are wonderful.  Look at this guy!!

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Royal Elf

Windsor, official residence of the Queen.  Home to one of the most recognizable schools in the UK.  Set in lovely countryside and old lanes and houses Windsor is where we’re spending our weekend…because well why not.

The train from London Waterloo take 55 minutes, costs £10 one way and the trains run every half an hour or so.  The station in Windsor is practically in the centre of the town which makes it a very easy weekend away from London.

We head down on a Friday evening and after checking in to our little hotel we take a wander and stop at Golden Curry for what turns out to be a delish curry!  Saturday morning, we head of early to beat the rain and tourists and make a dash for the castle.

The original castle was built in the 11th century and there has been a Royal residence here ever since.  We head in and grab our tickets before the security.  We opt not to get the audio guide, but they seem popular and there are lots of numbers throughout the grounds and buildings so there is obviously a lot of information available if you fancy it.  We take our time strolling into the complex, enjoying the beautiful gardens and backdrops.  First stop is St George’s Chapel which is beautiful and has a particular type of fan vaulted ceiling which is rare and stunning.  But, what is the most breath taking thing about this building is the absolutely huge amount of history is jam packed in to the chapel.  We wind our way though and walk amongst the graves of British monarchs, lords and ladys.  It’s a strange physicalization of history that I really enjoy…slightly macabre I know.

Next we make our way in to the state apartments.  Very glitzy and everything you imagine a King or Queen would live amongst.  There are suits of armour, spears, gold leaf, famous paintings, chandeliers and much much more.  But for me the current Shakespeare exhibition was the highlight of the trip.  It is beautifully laid out, and there is something spectacular about reading the opening lines of Act One Scene One of Richard III from the first folio…breath taking.

We stop for lunch in the Three Tuns pub, yum!  The Three Tuns was built in the 1500s and was originally called the Guildhall before the Guildhall was built.  The new Guildhall houses a museum for the area.

After lunch we’re off for a walk along the river and up to Eaton School.  The school is closed but we stroll through the area and the church graveyard and enjoy the beautiful buildings despite the rain that did eventually appear.

We round of our day with the most amazing burger and ribs at Flaming Cow.  Honestly, eat here!  I had the Redneck and everything about it was amazing, so tasty.  Will a burger ever come close again…possibly not.

Elf in Sintra

Sintra is a place from a fairy tale reached from Lisbon by a short train ride.  It is magical but it is also very busy and seems to be designed for tourism and not all that much else.

The cheapest and most leg friendly way to get to the castle and to the Palace of Pena is to catch the hop on hop off bus.  The bus starts just outside the main entrance to the train station and costs 5 euros.  The bus goes in one direction around the sites of Sintra, you can get on and off the bus as many times as you like but can only do one round trip.

We got off at the Palace of Sintra which is impressive and gives a nice view of the valley and surrounding area, we did not pay to go in, but jumped back on the bus and headed up to the castle.

The castle of the Moors sits up on top of the one of the peaks of Sintra.  It’s a meandering walk once of the bus to reach the entrance but lovely cool gardens and stunning views.  There is not much inside the castle but the walls, but we spent a good hour clambering over all of the walks and following them up to the highest peaks.  A lot of time, energy and money has been put into the restoration of the castle and taming the forest.

IMAG1964Next we head up to the Palace of Pena which perches like a set of colourful building blocks on the second peak in Sintra.  The Palace has been renovated throughout so don’t expect an old world feel.  The outside walls are bright colours and against the beautiful blue sky it is something wonderful.  The rooms inside are set out as the Royal family had them in the beginning of the 1900.  It really is lovely and not to be missed.

Elf’s tip: Save some money by buying a tickets to the monuments that you want to enter at the same time.