An Irish Welcome

I’ve been to Ireland many times, but never to the North.

Growing up in the sixties and seventies, Northern Ireland meant one thing – trouble. The Troubles. And though you know that statistically the chances of encountering any trouble is low, it wasn’t a place I’d ever thought of visiting.  Too dangerous, maybe. Not over-fond of Brits, even those like me with Irish roots –  more likely. It wasn’t the fear of the bomb going off, more the thought of the door being slammed in my face that bothered me.

But all that has changed now.

So on a stormy Sunday in May we left Dublin where the Queen’s imminent invasion had led to road closures and buildings being cordoned off, and headed for the border.

We figured that Warrenpoint, “a traditional seaside resort… with a colourful esplanade” according to the guidebook would be worth a try. Situated on a Lough and in the Sterling rather than Euro Zone, it would make a good place to break our journey, take some photos and grab a bite of lunch.

We arrived just after, and just before, a rainstorm and the cloud hung low on the Mourne mountains on the other side of the lough, pierced by sun that bathed the buildings in white light. It was beautiful despite the boarded up windows of recession casualties. We headed to the shore, wandered around and  took some photos.

It turns out that despite the change of currency and government when travelling from South to North, there’s no border – not even a sign to welcome you (or tell you to feck off for that matter). There is no real  way of telling that you’ve switched from the Republic to the Monarchy unless you stop off somewhere and spend some cash.

We ate an unglamorous lunch but tasty in a sandwich bar, like you do when you’re travelling and need a quick bite.

And though the accents changed along with the currency, just like everywhere else we went in Ireland, the welcome stayed the same.

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2 comments

  1. Glad you finally made it to the North. Watch out for the rain though, it has some sort of magical ability to go up your trouser legs as well as down the back of your neck. It has hard to tell these days, it’s only the the signs being in miles rather than kilometres and then in only 1 language that are a giveaway (But then in some of the ‘republican’ areas you’ll occasionally see them in two languages)

    Don’t miss out Donegal, God’s own County – Atlantic Drive and Killybegs for Fish and Chips at teatime as the trawlers land their catch (Are you veggie – can’t remember). And if you get up to Malin Head visit the famine village museum- still can’t decide if it was the worst or the most entertaining guided tour I’ve ever been on – and it doubles as Santa’s grotto in Winter – you couldn’t make it up!

    • This is all really useful – I am planning another trip back, and I’ll add these to my list. We drove through Donegal, and it was as beautiful as I’d imagined.

      Malin Head is definitely on my list, but I’m not convinced by the Santa’s famine grotto museum. Maybe I should go in summer. And yes I do eat fish these days – I ate it almost every day I was there.

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