North of Duns, the low-lying Lammermuir Hills, with their extensive grouse moors, rolling farmland and wooded valleys, run east to west along the border with East Lothian. The hills are popular with walkers and there are numerous trails, including a section of the Southern Upland Way.
To the West, the Way can be accessed at Lauder, where it passes through the grounds of Thirlestane Castle. The narcissism and folly of the aristocracy is evident here perhaps more than in most ‘great homes’. Notice how many of the family portraits adorning the walls look similar? The extensive assemblage here is the result of the common practice of mass production used at the time. Many of the family have almost identical features, as the same bodies were used for their portraits with different clothes, faces and hands superimposed.
Thirlestane is also home to some of the finest plasterwork ceilings in Europe, and don’t miss Henry the Ram (a snuff box) in the dining room – kitsch beyond kitsch.
Lammeruir Hills is a must see attraction on your tours of Scotland.
There are the remains of the third largest 13th century castle in Ireland: a quadrangular court with cylindrical angle-towers, a strong rectangular gatehouse (upper storey 15th century) in the southern curtain, and a rectangular tower in the northern curtain.
Towers and curtain have lost their battlements, and the southeast tower, which contains the castle well, has been reduced to a fragment. There appear to have been buildings against the curtain all around the courtyard. The castle was probably built by the Anglo-Norman Barrys. On 20th August 1642 it was attacked by Garret Barry, general of the Confederate Catholic army of Munster. The small garrison surrendered on 2nd September.
Next day Murrough the Burner O’Brien and Sir Charles Vavasour arrived with an English army and dispersed the Confederates after an obstinate resistance. The victors were quickly obliged to retire.
Liscarroll and its ruins are a must see on your tours of Ireland.
Here took place the last encounter of the daring French invasion of 1798. General Humbert, having marched the 160 miles from Castlebar through counties Sligo and Leitrum to Ballinamuck, with his small force of French troops and untrained insurgents, was forced to turn and accept battle with superior British forces under Lord Cornwallis. He drew up his line on the lower slopes of Shanmullagh, overlooking Ballinamuck. The French surrendered after a brief engagement, but the Irish fought with desperate bravery, and no quarter was shown to them. The battle is commemorated by a statue near the village.
Billinamuck is a real hidden gem that is worth a visit on your Ireland tours.
Atlantic Way Sailing is the most pleasant way to visit the Aran Islands or experience the Wild Atlantic Way.
Dundrum is a village and small port on Dundrum Bay. On a hill-top are the beautifully maintained remains of a great castle which was an important fortress of the abortive Norman Earldom of Ulster. The earliest castle, of motte-and-bailey type, was taken from de Lacy in 1210 by King John of England. The exact date of the stone castle is unknown, but the great donjon probably dates from 1230-40, the fragmentary gatehouse from c.1300. Sometime after 1333 the castle fell to the Magennises surrendered it to the Crown. It passed to Lord Cromwell and, in 1636, to Sir Francis Blundell. In 1641 the Magennises seized it; Cromwellians slighted it in 1652.
The remains comprise of three distinct parts: the first, a 13th century, polygonal, upper ward with, in places, a great rock-cut ditch; it was entered by a gatehouse with one D-tower and one rectangular tower; the circular donjon has a deep well in the basement; the ramparts afford delightful views. The second is a 15th century lower ward and the third, the remains of the 17th century Blundell House.
Dundrum is a real hidden gem and worth a visit on your Ireland tours.
Balla is a village on the Castlebar-Claremorris road. A broken round tower and a medieval alter in a shamefully neglected graveyard mark the site of the monastery founded in the 7th century, by St Cronan, alias Mo-Chua. To the west of the graveyard are Tobar Mhuire, alias the Blessed Well and the ruins of the 17th century shelter for the blind and lame who resorted to the well on Patron Day (15th August).
To the South is Mayo from which the county takes its name. Now a mere hamlet it occupies part of the sight of a famous early monastery. When the Irish party was defeated at the Synod of Whitby, Bishop Colman of Lindisfarne withdrew from the English mission to Iona, and the thence to Ireland. His adherents included 30 English monks who followed him to Inishbofin, where he set up a monastery. Disputes having arisen between the Irish and English brethren, Coleman transferred the latter to the new monastery at Mayo, therefore called Mayo of the English. The monastery which won the praise of Bede, retained its English character for a considerable period. (One of Alcuin’s letters 773-86 is addressed to Bishop Leuthfriht of the monastery, a second, 792-800, is addressed to the fathers of the monastery; the best known name connected with the place is that of St Gerald, an Englishman.) In time the monastery became a college of secular canons which, about 1370, adopted the Augustine Rule and survived until the Dissolution. All the remains today are fragments of ecclesiastical buildings and a trace of a greater circular enclosing wall or vallum.
Balla is a real hidden gem and is worth a visit on your tours of Ireland.
Leaving the Causeway, turn inland to Bushmills, noted for the “Old Bushmills” Whiskey Distillery. This had a license to distil whiskey dated 1608, although it was distilled for some centuries earlier. The town also has a salmon research station. From here the B17 leads directly southwest to Coleraine.
The A2 shortly regains the coast before passing Dunluce Castle. With its picturesque towers and gables its stands spectacularly on a projecting rock separated from the mainland by a deep chasm, spanned by a bridge which replaces a drawbridge. Probably begun c1300 by Richard De Burgh, Earl of Ulster, it was reconstructed c1590 by James MacDonnell. It consists of a barbican, two main towers, and the remains of the great hall. The buildings on the mainland where erected after 1639, when part of the kitchen and 8 servants subside into a cave below during a storm.
Dunluce was taken by the MacDonnells (a sept of the McDonalds of the isles) in the 16th century and Sorely Boy MacDonnell was a prominent figure in the struggle against Shane O’Neil and the English. Sir John Perrot entered the place after a 9-month siege in 1584 but Sorely Boy recaptured it and made peace with the English, although his son James assisted Cuellar and other Spaniards to escape to Scotland in 1588, avoiding death at the hands of the English and their allies. Randall, James’s brother, was made Viscount Dunluce and Earl of Antrim by James I. The castle fell into decay during the 17th century wars.
To the west are the curious limestone formations known as the White Rocks (with numerous caves accessible by boat in calm weather), and offshore lie a line of reefs known as The Skerries. Beyond is the promontory of Ramore Head on which stands the resort of Portrush. Coleraine lies southwest, but the main road continues to the adjacent resort of Portstewart, extending from the harbour on the east to Backcastle, beyond which the cliffs die away into a sandy beach.
Bushmills Distillery & Dunluce Castle are must see attractions on your tour of Ireland.