Tea, Scones and Vikings

A quick search of the internet revealed a VW commercial garage in Waterford, a city which we’d been thinking of visiting in any case. A quick call to explain the situation and they said drop the van in and they should be able to fit the belt that afternoon. Perfect.

The quickest route to Waterford involves crossing a river on a small ferry which is always exciting. As we made our way into the city Mrs TomTom got us completely lost on an industrial estate. We eventually found someone who directed us off the estate and just down the road a little bit.

World's most expensive ferry

“What’s your address while in Ireland?”. “The van”, we answered. Lynn returned a quizzical look. “We, err, sort of drive around without any sort of plan and see what happens”. “Generally we break down and end up at a garage”, Dan added helpfully. We got an address of Travelling.

Despite a slight history of unreliability from the van we’ve never actually been a Volkswagen main dealer before, but the service we got from Lynn and the team at Tom Murphy Car Sales in Waterford was first class, we’ve never felt so well looked after. We were given a lift into the city, left with a voucher for tea and scones at the Granville Hotel and taxied back to the garage when the work was finished. Rarely is going the garage such a pleasure and it turned what could have been a dull day in a waiting room into to a great day out exploring a new place.

With an afternoon free to wander the streets our thoughts immediately turned to lunch. After lunch we headed off to find the museums, then returned to the cafe to find our guide book (note: Dan still not to be trusted with important things) before heading off again to find the museums.

The city of Waterford is old, dating back to viking settlement in the ninth century. Reginald’s Tower is the oldest surviving building and located next to the river is a prominent landmark. It’s open to the public and although not large, it’s an interesting place wander around, giving a good introduction to the history of the city and this corner of Ireland.

While we were in the history mood we made the Medieval Museum our next stop which provides a much more in depth look at Waterford’s long history.

Finally Museum’d out we waited in the Granville for our ride back to the garage, enjoying our tea and enormous tasty scones.

Naughty Boy

Chair

Naughty Girl

Reginald's Tower Church

Reunited with our home, we headed towards the sea and joined the narrow but scenic coastal road in a southwesterly direction looking for somewhere to spend the night. We settled on a beachside car park at Annestown, next to a long abandoned lime kiln and with only a French motorhome for company.

campsite

Still stuffed from our scones we didn’t bother with dinner and as the rain fell and darkness descended we entertained ourselves playing Mapple while in the distance a lightning storm raged into the night.

Campsite

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Held to Ramsones

It was a dry but blustery day as we headed down towards Hook Head. A few miles out of Wexford we spotted a small stall by the side of the road selling strawberries. Wexford, we discovered, was the home of Irish Strawberries. We came to an abrupt halt, scaring the vendor half to death, bought a couple of punnets of fresh local strawberries for the princely sum of five euros and started feasting on them before we’d even pulled away. These stalls would be a common sight all the way through the county of Wexford, many also offering raspberries and potatoes for sale.

It was as we were rejoining the road a little red light lit up on the dashboard.

After the moment of panic passed, having noticed it was the battery light and not the oil light, we continued on and decided to stop at Tintern Abbey for a look around and to check what was up with the van. We could see that the leisure batteries weren’t charging either, so clearly something alternator related had happened.

Abbey from Bridge.  Sounds like Brands Hatch.

Popping the bonnet open we found the alternator belt to be missing. A quick look under the van found the remains dangling from the undertray. We had a spare, so it was just a matter of getting it fitted. In the mean time, we connected an invertor into the leisure batteries, plugged in the battery charger and went off for a wander around the Abbey. It didn’t look interesting enough to go into so we carried on past and into the surrounding woodland where we were met with an oh-so-familiar smell.

Pretty

Lush green Ransomes, better known as wild garlic, grew everywhere. Although getting late in year for them, edible leaves were abundant. We leapt in harvested a few handfuls under the suspicious gaze of passers by.

Not a passer by

Finished with our foraging we continued on with our journey to Hook Head and pondered our next move. Being Sunday there were no garages open to help us and without a decent jack or the axle stands it wasn’t a job we were going to do ourselves. The decision was made to find a campsite and get an electric hookup for the night, ensuring we could charge all the van’s batteries. We’d hoped to wildcamp on the headland, but we keeping the van’s starter battery charged was of higher priority.

The narrow and winding roads that lead down to the lighthouse brought new meaning to the definition of bumpy. As we bounced and crashed our way along the road, darting into passing places when meeting oncoming traffic, the number of cyclists grew and grew. Clearly Sunday bike rides are very popular in the region and it was a joy to see so many people enjoying themselves on two wheels.

Betty and Lighthouse.  BFF!

In the windy conditions the headland feels a wild place. Waves crash over the rocks soaking anyone who ventures too near the edge. There has been a light on Hook Head as far back as 500AD, originally a fire kept alive by monks to guard sailors against shipwreck on the rocky shore. In the thirteenth century a tower was built to guide shipping into the port of Ross, further up the estuary. By the seventeenth century the tower had fallen into disuse and ships began to be wrecked on the headland, leading to the refurbishment of the tower, which included the introduction of a lantern arrangement to protect the fire that provide the light. In nineteenth century the lighthouse was took the shape that we see today, although the light would have been burning whale oil rather than the electric light we see now. We took the tour up the tower to the balcony which gives fantastic views over the local area, but we weren’t allowed in to see the light itself.

Lighthouse

A coastal path leads away from the lighthouse which we followed for a while, watching a solitary seal hunt for fish just offshore, before returning back the way we came and heading off to find a local campsite, discovering that campsites in this area are even more expensive than Wexford. We settled in for the evening, Rosana preparing a dinner of pasta with wild garlic pesto.


Betty’s Recipe of the Day

Wild Garlic Pesto:

A couple of large handfuls of wild garlic, washed and finely chopped.

A small handful of toasted nuts, finely chopped. We used pine nuts and cashew nuts.

Grated Parmesan cheese.

Oil. We used Rapeseed oil, but a good Olive oil would be better.

Mix it all together in a jar, great on pasta, potatoes, bread or in soups.


As the evening drew in and the wind dropped we flew kites in the ample space of the campsite which encouraged the young girl in the only other van on the site to drag her parents out to fly her kite as well. As the wind became more fickle and flying less fun, we retired to the van to search for a garage that could help us fit the new alternator belt.

Campsite

Around Ireland with a Fridge

We rolled into the wildcamping spot at around half past ten in the evening, a little carpark in a cove near Fishguard on the west coast of Wales. There were a few other vans overnighting there, but plenty of space for all of us and it didn’t feel crowded.

Wildcamped at Fishguard

The final part of the engine rebuild had been completed at lunchtime the previous day, the last leak found and fixed and in an almost symbolic gesture of completion, the engine undertray that had been leaning against the back of the van for almost three months was bolted back on. As a consequence of not knowing if we’d be back on the road or not we were heading out on a trip that was even more unplanned that last year’s trip to Germany, where our intended destination flooded and the fridge started going wrong on day one. But the van had driven the long ribbon of tarmac of the M4 across England and Wales without missing a beat, we had our ferry bookings and we had a couple of days worth of water on board, it was time to get back to having adventures. We were going to Ireland.

Our basic plan, if we were to call it that, involved catching the two thirty ferry to Rosslare and a quick drive up to Wexford where we had a campsite booked for the night. After that we figured we would continue to head west for the Ring of Kerry on the other side of Ireland and then work our way back to Rosslare where we were booked on the nine o’clock ferry on the longest day of the year. That gave us two weeks of exploring.

It was fantastic to be sleeping in the van again and we got a good night’s rest. After a short wander around the coastal path that led away from our camping spot we set off towards the ferry terminal, stopping along the way to pick up some food for dinner from the local shops. Everything was running on time and we were soon onboard the ferry.

At least she has a friend

The Irish sea has a reputation for being a bit rough. Rosana doesn’t like boats at the best of times and was therefore not looking forward to the three and a half hour crossing. Dan loves boats and will bore anyone willing to listen with stories of crossing monstrous seas to get to Shetland, cramped conditions on salvage vessels in the tropics and fighting sea monsters off the coast of Belgium, so was quite looking forward to the trip. With a wind speed of around force three on the beaufort scale, the crossing was uneventful and the giant ferry hardly noticed the sea state as we crossed the seemingly still green water, losing sight of Wales before finally spotting our destination in the distance.

All aboard whos going aboard

The ferry, the Stena Europe, was well appointed with restaurant and coffee shop and felt quite spacious. There was plenty of space outside too if you wanted to take in the sea air. For those that wanted to stay inside, they showed a film in the coffee shop, although we couldn’t hear it, so gave up on that.

Rosana's favourite bit of any ship - the lifeboats

The verdict: Rosana thought it was a bit rough, Dan thought he’d been on rougher train journeys.

Disembarking was quick and efficient and we made our way to the campsite for our first night in Ireland. Our first impressions were that the roads were bumpy and the campsites expensive. Feeling quite tired by now we cooked a quick dinner of vegetable rice and steak using our new toy. Over at Landcruising Adventure they were extolling the virtues of pressure cookers. They use much less water and because cooking time is much shorter and at lower heat setting, use less cooking fuel (meths in our case). It seemed obvious, so we got a small one to try out and while it may not be as cool as Coen and Karin-Marijke’s ‘dragon’, it was very successful. A simple meal, from start to table in around 15 minutes.


 Betty’s Recipe of the Day

Vegetable Rice:

Add a handful of spinach leaves and grate a carrot into the rice. Cook in a pressure cooker (4 minutes once pressure is reached).

Steak:

Cook to your liking in a hot pan (4 minutes per side for medium rare on our alcohol stove).

Leave to rest, then slice into 1cm strips.

Serve with a leafy side salad


While loading the van with water for the next few days travelling we chatted with David, an Irish T4 owner that was also staying at the campsite. We chatted about vans, his being a similar age but different engine and conversion to ours and about campsites and possible wild camp locations along the south coast. We wished each other safe journeys, his back home after a weekend away, ours only just beginning.

We looked at the map and had a flick through the guide book. It wasn’t a hard decision, our first destination was to be Hook Head and possibly the oldest working lighthouse in the world.