Our oldest daughter started her PHD studies at Queens University in Belfast in this year and we took her (and her stuff) over in the motorhome. After getting her settled into her accommodation we set off for a tour round the coast of Northern Ireland then into the western coast of Ireland.
Setting off from Belfast and heading up the Antrim coast saw us stop and visit the two major tourist attractions of the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede ropebridge, and staying at the excellent caravan park at Bushmills.
From here we continued along the north coast through Portrush and Londonderry and into the Republic heading for the very north west corner of Donegal. Having travelled to this extremely remote area it was a surprise on our first overnight stop at Downings, to be parked next to the very same model of motorhome bought from the same dealer just south of Derby!
Moving south we passed through Donegal, Sligo where we stayed at Strandhill Caravan & Camping Park, Westport where there was a lack of fish in the harbour!
On to the lovely Clifden and Galway where we stayed at Salthill Caravan Park. Our coastal drive had to end at Galway as we had to get back cross country to Dublin for the ferry back to Anglesey.
2012 was the year Jill gained her PHD and became Doctor Campbell, a proud moment!
From Belfast we all headed for Dublin in the van where a night of celebration ensued in Temple Bar.
After Dublin we headed off to Galway for a quick visit, but more importantly to find somewhere to re-fill our Calor Gas canisters as we were running low. Calor is not sold in the Republic and we were luck to find somewhere that had an adaptor to fit onto the canisters to fill them. Holiday saved. This episode stuck in my mind and in planning our 9 week tour of Europe in 2015 I made sure we had the Gaslow system fitted so we could fill up at any petrol station that had an LPG pump.
From Galway it was down the coast to Nagles Camping and Caravan Park at Doolin. This area is quite famous for the dolphins that come into the harbour and allow people to interact with them. The main one, named Dusty locally, has since attacked a few people so maybe not such a good idea to get in the water with them.
Doolin is also a good windsurfing area and a departure point for boat trips to the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher. from here we drove down the coast along the top of the impressive Cliffs of Moher, through Kilkee and parked up at the Geen Acres campsire near Doonaha and the impressive castle at Carrigaholt.
As well as having a family holiday together in the van, the main purpose of this visit to County Clare was to visit Kilrush and surrounding area where my great great great grandfather had settled after serving as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy at the time of the invasion threat from Napoleon. James Paterson had been born in Inveraray, Argyll, to a well connected Campbell family but would never return there, instead choosing to marry and live out his life in Kilrush. He was an industrious man and with the support of the local landowning family, the Vandeleurs, started to export locally grown farming produce, where before it was taken up river to Limerick and shipped out from there. This began the transformation of Kilrush from a small fishing port to the bustling little town it is today and James Paterson is well regarded to this day for his part in its growth. James built up a thriving business and as well as a large mill building to store grain in the centre of Kilrush, he also owned one of the first paddle steamers in Ireland to ferry people and goods to and from Limerick, he built a hotel and a whisky distillery.
We came into Kilrush for a quick lookabout on a Sunday afternoon and without realising it parked in front of the site of the former six storey grain building.
We were met by Kay Clancy who I had been in contact with via Facebook and Kay was kind enough to show us round briefly on that Sunday afternoon, including a visit to the cemetery where the Patersons are believed to be buried.
Although the Kilrush Credit Union now stands on the spot once filled by the Paterson Grain Store, James Paterson’s home, a splendid Georgian Mansion by the name of Bonny Doon House still stands in its grounds behind the Credit Union, hidden from public view. Thanks to Kay and her local knowledge she knew a relative of the current owners of Bonny Doon House and she arranged for the keyholder to come and open up the house so that we could see my long lost relatives home. The house had been neglected for a number of years and the new owners were in the process in spending a small fortune to bring it back to life again.
As far as I know the above picture shows the first descendants of James Paterson to visit his house in over 150 years. The grounds were massive and had a small stream flowing through the bottom of the garden and a walled orchard.
We headed a few miles out of town to the site of what was the Vandeleur estate, and although the mansion is no longer standing, the former walled garden is still there and is beautifully kept and well worth a visit.
After this memorable visit to Kilrush we moved on to Limerick where there was also a family connection. There we met Paddy Waldron, who is a local genealogist and walking encyclopaedia of the history of Kilrush and its citizens. Paddy was a fantastic fount of knowledge on the Paterson family and without him and others my knowledge of my this part of my family tree would not be what it is.
After having dinner with Paddy in Killaloe we wild camped there beside the Shannon.
From Killaloe we followed the Shannon north for a while before heading to Dublin and the motorway north with one final stop on the coast near Kilkeel in Northern Ireland then on the next day for a ferry to Stranraer.