Monday, June 20–Trim, Ireland to Armagh, Northern Ireland/United Kingdom

Loughcrew; Loughcrew Megalithic Centre; shopping for a camera at Argos; dinner in the hotel

Armagh City Hotel

Black VW Passat sedan



I slept pretty well, and woke up around 7:30. I shaved & showered, and took a couple of trips downstairs with my lighter luggage before having another tasty breakfast in the B&B's very pretty dining room where I met some of the other guests including an American family and two guys from Sweden,

I could have taken my heavier bag from my room downstairs myself, but since that would have entailed dragging it down the stairs behind me as I held on to the stair railing with my other hand I figured it would probably be quieter if I asked Claudia to bring it down for me, which I did and she did while I was having breakfast.

Afterwards I checked out, said "Goodbye" to Deirdre, Anthony & Claudia, and set out for the next leg of my trip.

The weather yesterday was much better, with occasional sunny patches and no or very little drizzle at all all day. My plan had been to stop by the megalithic sites at Loughcrew on the way to here in Armagh and maybe head on over to Monaghan, which is only half an hour or so away, for dinner and to hear some music in the evening.

Finding Loughcrew was only slightly difficult. Because I really like seeing its visual display, I prefer using the Garmin sat nav (as they call it here) instead of Google Maps on my smart phone. I wasn't surprised that nothing at Loughcrew was on the Garmin, but Oldcastle, the nearest town, was, so I used the Garmin to get to the vicinity and then had to stop somewhere, get out my smart phone, and use it to get the rest of the way to the Loughcrew Megalithic Centre. I drove past the gardens at the Loughcrew Estate which are supposed to be very nice and thought I might backtrack and see them on my way out of town.

I got to the Loughcrew Megalathic Centre about 10, and it turned out to be a small cottage, a small café, a couple of other buildings and a small campground which is exactly what their website says it is. Nothing opens until 11 AM, and I met a couple other parties who were looking for the cairns. They left before I had a chance to call the phone number on the sign there at the centre. The guy who answered the phone very kindly and nicely told me what I would have been able to find out if I had actually looked at the sign at the entrance to the parking lot instead of just driving past it and parking–cairn L, which is mostly unexecavated, is reached by following a path up from the Centre, and cairn T, which is actually a park with guides, is about 250 metres further up the hill.

When I got to the small parking lot at the base of the trail heading up to cairn T, I learned that the camera which I had bought less than a month ago before leaving for Victoria and Seattle, had stopped working even though I had used it to take pictures a few minutes ago back down at the centre. OK–I'd just use one of my smart phones instead.

I almost turned around to go back to my car a couple of times when I saw how steep the unimproved trail leading up the hill to the cairn at the top is in places. It's marked only by posts along its length. I told myself I'd just walk uphill from post to post, stopping to recover if I needed to. Part of the way up I noticed someone moving off to the side instead of on the marked path, I figured that was someone who knew a probably less steep path that wasn't marked but couldn't keep him in sight to follow closely and so I just kept going up the marked way. I met only one person who was coming back down and that was when I was finally almost all the way up.

When I got to the top, the only people there at the time were three of the guides who work there. I had missed the actual tour at 10, but one of the guys gave me an intro and showed me the interior of the cairn. I could have gone in all the way if I'd wanted to, but the passage is quite low and you have to step over a stone before getting into the taller central chamber so I just took pictures from as far as I could comfortably enter.

It was very lovely up there, occasionally clear. I could see and identify at least two of the other hills with cairns on their tops, and decided that I wouldn't tackle any more of them either. In fact, the climb up and back down could justifiably count as my exercise for the day. I wandered around for a bit, taking pictures of some of the rest of the unexcavated cairns on the site before heading back down the steep hill.

The site would be very difficult if not impossible in bad weather, with its steep and totally unimproved path up the grassy slopes of the hill. On the way down I passed a party of about eight men all at least a few years older than I am heading up the hill, and at the bottom of the path before the steps back down to the parking lot I was passed by a family on the way up.

I knew I had an hour's drive from Loughcrew to here in Armagh and it was about noon, so I stopped by the Megalithic Centre to have a very nice lunch in the small café there. Since I bought lunch I was also able to see the small Heritage Cottage there as well, which has belonged to the same family for at least three generations. It was actually kind of dismal, and nowhere I would have wanted to live, and was furnished as it had been back in the 1960s. The short video they have there about the family that owned the property and the cairns themselves was quite well done and informative but I had to laugh when the guy in the video, who had grown up there with his grandparents who had lived in the cottage, said the path up to cairn T "wasn't very steep".

The Garmin did very well directing me from where I was to my hotel, the Armagh City Hotel, although I was rather amused when at first the visual display showed the car but not any roads. The route here took me along lots more very narrow country roads including some that were not even theoretically two lanes. I drove past very lovely scenery, many very pretty and attractive buildings and houses, and through several small towns where I would have enjoyed wandering around and stopping for a pint some other time.

I wanted to get to my hotel here in Armagh as early as possible to make sure I had time to find somewhere I could buy a new camera. The camera I had bought before leaving for Victoria and Seattle is of course under warranty, and when I get home I can contact the company about repairing or replacing it, but I won't be home until the end of September and want a camera to use during this trip.

The Armagh City Hotel is a very nice, newish place with a bar, restaurant where my included breakfast is served, and a fitness center which I thought I'd use but didn't around to doing. My room is up on the second floor facing to the West. From here I can see two of the city's cathedrals on the adjoining hills and can hear the clock chimes from one of them quite clearly.

After I checked in, I left my luggage in the car until I came up to check out the room and take pictures of the room using my smart phone.

I asked the younger ladies working the reception desk where I might be able to buy a camera, and they both recommended the nearest local branch of Argos, and I called a cab using the dedicated phone on the reception desk. Argos turns to be the kind of store I've seen a couple of times in Ireland and London or Scotland, where you look up things in a catalog, enter the numbers in a computerized terminal, and pick your items up after someone goes in the warehouse in back to pull your items for you. The young woman at the pickup/cashier's desk helped me find the catalog numbers for a camera (Nikon digital D5200), plug-in alarm clock (I only brought one with me, and like having one I can see to the left of my bed and one across the room and all three places I've stayed so far don't have alarm clocks in the room) and an extension cord in case there's not a plug on the left side of the bed.

The Argos is at a small shopping center with about six or so other stores, including a Marks & Spencer food store where I bought some chips and cookies.

Although the nice cab driver who had dropped me off had given me the company's card, my Irish Republic smart phone wouldn't call their number or I don't know how to enter it correctly, so I went back to the Argos and asked them to call a cab for me. And the same driver who had dropped me off picked me up again and drove me back up to the hotel.

When I had originally parked my car here at the hotel, all the spaces nearest the entrance were taken and I parked down the small hill in the parking lot. The hotel doesn't have luggage carts, so I had planned on bringing up my smaller items myself and getting help with my two larger suitcases. When I was waiting for the cab that took me over to the Argos, I was able to move my car to a space right across from the entrance.

I really didn't do much else yesterday evening and night as well. When I got back with my camera and other purchases, I took a couple of trips to bring all of my bags & items up to my room so I could reorganize my packing, sorting out another week's clean clothes although I decided I might as well use the hotel's laundry service to clean the clothes I've worn since I left home last week–as ridiculously expensive as it is, it beats taking the time to even find somewhere I can wash my clothes myself and spend several hours there washing & drying them.

Disappointingly but not surprisingly my new camera doesn't come with its own manual, instead you have to find the free one on Nikon's website at a URL that has changed since my camera was boxed at the factory but which I found anyway. I also found one I paid a couple of GB pounds for that I could download in PDF and Kindle version as well.

I had a pretty nice beer, dinner and dessert in the very lovely bar downstairs in the hotel, and came back up to my room and once again didn't do a very great deal afterwards, not even looking online to see where I want to go while here in Armagh. I read a bit and managed to get undressed and under the covers before falling asleep for the night.

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