There was a surreal moment Saturday night when the entertainment at the hotel turned out to be a Johhny Cash impersonator. I traveled 3500 miles to the Old Country and the locals packed the place to see a guy in a rhinestone studded jacket. He didn't even have bagpipes. Maybe I should have went out with Tam... ok, maybe not...
Late Sunday afternoon, we packed up the toys and Barry Hilton, Bob Talbot, and I made our way to the ferry bound for Larne, Ireland. On the way I learned that Bob can't hear sentences with the word 'truck' in them and 'ship-wit' doesn't only apply to 16th and 17th century sailing vessels. Light was failing as we slipped away from the brooding Scottish coast...
On Monday morning we set out for Londonderry, at points following the same route the Jacobites took as they marched on the town. A journey that took them weeks took us hours. Shortly after leaving Coleraine we were treated to a fantastic view of the Irish Sea before it narrows to become the Foyle River.
Barry climbed a hill to get a better shot and I trained my camera on him in case he fell down it (to make sure Bob and I could help him quickly, of course - no, that would NOT have ended up on YouTube... well, probably not).
Just before reaching Londonderry, we took a detour down to the Foyle River to see if we could find the area where the Jacobites placed the boom to block the river and cut off the town from naval support and supplies. Not only was Barry spot on (it's a bit like having Google in the car with you), we came out opposite Culmore Fort (at the base of the tower, just to the right).
A quick trip south, west across the first bridge we found, and back north and we were standing at the fort.
No gates, no barricades, no caretaker, not even a sign unless you count the 'Lough Foyle Yacht Club' one that now adorns the building. Not for the last time on this trip I was struck with wonder that such a historic building was simply sitting at the end of a common lane beside a residential district. In the US, they would have built a park around the place and you probably couldn't really get near it.
I took a stupid amount of photos of stonework with an eye to building a couple of castles for my table top collection. The place must once have had a wall and probably outbuildings because there was a fair size garrison stationed there in 1689 and they wouldn't have all fit in the tower.
Standing on the beach below the fort in the wind and the rain we had another stunning view of the Irish Sea, this time looking north along the route of the Foyle. Looking east, you can see how narrow the river is even at this point, Any ship braving this corridor would have been at point blank range for cannons along the shore.
As we turned south towards the town, we passed directly through the spot where the Pennyburn Mill would have been. Now it is the proud site of the Pennyburn Condominiums and a McDonalds.
In part II, we venture into Londonderry!