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Roscommon & Boyle Roadtrip

May 15, 2008
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Turf Bog

corey says…When the sun shines, there are few places finer than Ireland. The chestnut trees are in full bloom, and they add bursts of white to the landscape.

My roadtrip has been absolutely beautiful. I headed north as planned, but didn’t try to have too think too far ahead. I knew my general direction, so I used my map to figure out where I was rather than where I was going.

My first stop was the Dominican Priory in Lorrha where I wandered around the cemetery. It’s hatching season for the crows, so the entire priory ruin has become a roost. I heard peeps coming from every open space in the grey stones.

Footed Turf
Then, I believe I was driving somewhere in Offally when I spotted a turf bog on the side of the road. I pulled in and it felt like I was looking at some kind of alien landscape. The soil was orange, and there were large sods of turf footed and drying.

The sods were larger than what I’m used to seeing, and the stacks they were piled high and looked like hundreds of beehive huts stack one after the other. It looked like some kind of adobe/peat village.

Athlone & Lecarrow
As with every time I’ve been through Athlone, driving through town was a pain. Even being somewhat familiar with the town on foot didn’t help me maneuver the streets.

When I saw a sign for Roscommon, I thought of my friend Bit (www.cowboycraic.com) and knew that was where I needed to go. Fortunately, my strategy also got me out of Athlone, but not before I somehow ended up driving onto a construction site. I tried to be as discrete as possible as I turned around…with all the construction workers who just happened to on lunch at that moment watching me.

I stopped in nearby Lecarrow for lunch at the Yew Tree. It’s a really great place inside, and the food was delicious. At €10.50 ( $16.28 ) for the cracked pepper chicken and vegetables. With main course lunches are running between €10-13 the price was reasonable…and actually a bargain when quality was taken into consideration (I know, it pains me to say that a $16 lunch is a bargain, but, hey, we’re dealing with euros here.

Outside the restaurant, there were some signs for some sites…Rindoon Castle, St John’s Wood and a dolmen. Rindoon Castle really is a little pile of rocks, but it’s right by the lake and it’s a beautiful spot. I tried to hunt down St John’s Wood, but the roads were a tangle and once I got off the main road, the route was not signposted. I would have asked directions, but there was no one around.

The dolmen was interesting. I was happy that I read the plaque near the site because it pointed out the remains of a stone wall and concentric circles that I would have otherwise missed.

The one thing that confused me was that the path (which was clearly the old road) had a sign that read “Wild Life Area.” I followed the arrow to the giant rock and fallen tree that blocked off the road and looked around for any wildlife. There were some cows munching on grass around the dolmen and there were some long-empty bird feeders hanging from trees, but other than that, it didn’t seem to have much by way of wildlife.

Knockcroghery Clay Pipes & Roscommon
As I passed through Knockcroghery, I stopped at the Clay Pipe visitor centre. The village used to be famous for the pipes until the Black and Tans burned down the town.

The young woman inside, offered to show me how the traditional pipes are made. She oiled the mold, inserted the clay, pressed the mold and then used several tools to make holes in the pipe. It was an interesting stop.

It was onward to Roscomin. I hadn’t been there before, and the town made a favorable impression on me. I think it’s because it’s got its share of new restaurants and shops alongside old ones, but ultimately, it’s a town for the locals…a working person’s town…kind of like Nenagh.

I zigzagged all around town and was pleased that I found the Catholic Church. It had a very interesting below ground grotto in front which made the approach quite dramatic. Inside, the floor was covered in beautiful mosaic…most of the center aisle employing a bird theme.

Boyle & Lough Key
It was onwards to Boyle where there’s a much-talked about Abbey. On the way, I passed the turnoff for the Strokestown House and Famine Museum. It’s a must-see on my list, but it would be closed at this hour, so I’ll have to double-back tomorrow to catch it. The same was true when I reached Tulsk at the Cruachan Ai Heritage Centre..

When I reached Boyle, I parked the car outside of the King House and wandered around town. It’s a very walkable town and charming in its own way…even if it is a bit shabby.

My hunt began for a place to stay. There was no answer at one B&B…they posted a number to call, but my mobile was in the car. I then found another B&B nearby and booked in there for the night.

It came in at €40 a night…I kind of hoped to find something a little cheaper, but the place is right in town, and that is really the going rate at most B&Bs.

It’s a very nicely appointed Victorian home that hasn’t gone too overboard with the roses and peacock feathers. It actually has a slightly masculine feel to it…most modern Victorian homes poison us with too much mauve, pink and light blue flowers in their decorating. This one was pleasant with a great view of the River Boyle from my window.

The proprietor was pleasant enough. His accent was much more curly-cue than what I usually hear in Tipperay. Either I’m far enough north for the change in the accent or he was from Northern Ireland or Scotland. The lady of the house didn’t have quite as much of a pronounced accent.

I was offered tea, but declined. I was going to go for a run. I enquired about a place to go.

“How serious of a run are yih looking for?”

“Something 45 minutes to an hour.”

“Eh, that’s pretty serious,” the proprietor said as he pointed me in the direction of Lough Key a parkland nearby.

I was off, and Lough Key Forrest Park was the perfect place for run. It’s an old estate that has been turned to public park. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I was happy that it wasn’t too busy this evening. It is home to an activity centre that clearly boosts the traffic to the place.

Everything relating to the activity centre is fenced in a way that stresses a separation between free part of the park and the part with a fee. From the fence, I could see the giant viewing tower with steps and an elevator that look out over the lake…as well as the network of bridges held up by masts that actually looked like fun.

I was perfectly content outside the fence. There was a ruined church, a “temple” that jutted out into the lake and the most notable structure, a ruined abbey built on an island in the middle of the lake. It was quite a sight.

There were also loads of lovely trails filled with bridges and lake vistas and even the remains of a ringfort. Fortunately, I knew what I was looking for as I approached the ringfort, as it was overgrown, but the circular moat and raised wall were both visible on this little fort.

I continued over the fairy bridge and along the Nature Walk and the Bog Trail…which had rhododendrons and azaleas in bloom with colors of pink, yellow, white and purple.

After two hours of running, I was getting worn out. By the time I got back to the B&B, I was quite tired, but I wasn’t ready to stop yet. I changed my clothes and headed into town. I just kind of walked around and enjoyed the town.

There was a little convenience store that had a container with a hardboiled egg, coleslaw, lettuce, green pepper and mashed potatoes for €2.50 ( $3.87 ). I decided that would be an affordable dinner. It was very tasty.

I returned to the B&B completely exhausted…and now it’s time for bed. Hopefully, I can get the photos posted right away, but it might take a day or two.

This Week’s Photo Album

My Ireland Expense Report

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