October 9:

This was my extra day, my unexpected day in Ballymote. Noreen, the wonderful hostess at this B&B suggested that I might want to have a “lie-in,” in other words, I might want to sleep in. That sounded good (or “grand” as the Irish say) to me. My breakfast was to be at 9:30, instead of 8:30. Woke at 7:00, rolled over and woke at 9:00. I ate my breakfast with a gentleman who was born here in Ballymote but lived his whole life in London. He visits yearly since he has relatives (including 14 cousins!) in the area, and this time was here for a wedding. We had a lovely time chatting, eventually tidying our own dishes to the kitchen. Noreen reappeared and we got on the topic of weddings. She took out some photos of her older daughter’s wedding this past August. The whole morning was very pleasant and homey and I appreciated it very much. Noreen warned me that they were predicting gales for tonight. I resolved to be home early.

I stayed at the B&B until noon, knowing the car rental company might phone me there during their Sunday hours, 10:00-12:00. While waiting I made my plans for the day. Just two short excursions. I had decided this would be castle day. My first stop was Temple House. The Perceval family who live there now have lived on the enormous grounds since 1665, though their huge current house was built in 1864. Some people go for the house (which you can stay in). True to form, I was there for the ruins. Down near Temple Lake are the ruins of a castle built in 1200 by the Knights Templar. I wasn’t sure what the ruins would be like, but a friend in Barrie belongs to the order of the Knights Templar. I knew I had to get pictures for him. I figured Scott might want to see them too, due to his castle interest.

The ruins are definitely ruined, but the site is interesting, I was the only person for miles around (okay, there were some sheep) and the wind was picking up in off the lake. It was very grey and blustery — all quite dramatic.

A short drive away, just outside of Sligo is Markree Castle. This one is definitely NOT ruins. It is Sligo’s oldest inhabited castle, with 30 bedrooms for guests and a restaurant. I discovered in a magazine before heading out that they offer lunch from 1-3 on Sunday, in place of their usual afternoon tea. (Dinner is by reservation only.) Hmm. That sounded interesting. It was Sunday, and I had to eat, after all.

The castle is beautiful. No, it is not medieval, nor does it have the traditional features. (Brina, it would have failed your castle project miserably. No keep, no walls, no portcullis…) But, boy, is it ornate. In the main entrance area, there are staircases sweeping up both sides of one wall. In between is a stained glass window depicting members of the Cooper family (who have owned it since 1640) and then in the centre is a portrait of King Henry the eighth. It’s very cool. Imagine having pictures of your ancestors in stained glass. Take a look at the pictures on the website when they get there.

I looked at the restaurant menu and it was surprisingly reasonable. For ten euro more than the town hotel bar had charged me the previous evening for a beef stroganoff and rice, I would get a choice of appetizer, choice of main course and choice of dessert. It was only slightly more than my daily food budget, but I decided this could be my Thanksgiving dinner. Eating at 2:30, I knew I wouldn’t need supper.

The castle hosts weddings, as it had done that particular weekend. One family who had attended and were in the dining room at the same time turned out to be from Guelph. I chatted briefly with the women as I was leaving. While I was eating another couple came in, obviously scouting around for their own wedding. The arrangement is that you can book the castle for your ceremony if you guarantee bookings for 20 of their 30 rooms. The bridal suite is complimentary, but I can’t imagine how much the actual ceremony must cost. (Brina, start saving those pennies!)

Back at the B&B, I felt restless. While I’m working, I’m focused. It’s during the touristy times that I miss everyone. The whole time I was eating my lunch at the castle, I couldn’t help wishing Rob and the kids were with me. They would have loved it. It didn’t help that there was a little girl there with her parents, obviously in her best party dress, wearing a pair of those pink maribou pumps like Brina had. She was the princess, I suppose. Still, I have pictures to show you and stories to share, which is better than nothing.

I out my fuzzy, coat, headband and gloves back on (it is getting colder now) and headed out for a walk out of town on the road my B&B is on. This is cow country, which reminds me to tell you that yesterday Martin explained that there are fewer sheep now. There’s no money in farming them, due to some sort of European Union restrictions. I guess joining the E.U. wasn’t good for everyone on this island. I asked him what kinds of cows are farmed here. He mentioned three different breeds only one of which sounded familiar: limousine. Who knew those ritzy cars the celebrities drive around in are named for cows!? An hour later, I was back in town, feeling thoroughly wind-blown. Time to rest. So here I am, writing this and uploading pictures from my camera.

I hope to send my diaries for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, tomorrow while I’m in Sligo getting the car looked after. With luck some of you may read this on Thanksgiving Monday, so happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I’ll be thinking of all of you. And it will likely be a few days before you hear from me again. I’ll be moving on to Slane on Monday and trying to find a new hook-up spot in the area. Rob, Bitbuzz isn’t in Drogheda at all. It must only be Eircom. Hope I can get it to work!

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