Diane’s Travels – Part 3 – Derry, Ireland

Continuing on from Part 1 (Wales) & Part 2 (Galway, Ireland)

The final leg of our journey had us on a 5 hour bus trip from Galway to a city in Northern Ireland called Derry.  Also known as Londonderry, Derry offers historical interest; churches, ancient city walls and a turbulent past. But by far the most redeeming quality of this city is its proximity to historic sites – the outstandingly picturesque Antrim coast and the amazing locations used to film scenes from the epic HBO series, Game of Thrones.

There was  a lovely view of the River Foyle and Peace Bridge from our flat.

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One of the most outstanding buildings in the city was The Guild Hall, and I particularly found this interesting perspective from the city walls quite amusing.

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With Derry as our home base, we went off on a tour, this one through little towns with charming names; Ballykelly, Castlerock, and Portstewart to name a few.  First stop on our journey was the grounds of the “Downhill Demense”. Set in a wide, open field overlooking a golden sandy beach and the town of Castlerock,  The Demense are the ruins of a once great estate which gives a sense of being on top of the world. In fact, the grounds take up pretty much the entire top of the hill overlooking the ocean.  

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With lots of sky and fresh ocean air, it was a magical place to visit. On the grounds is Mussenden Temple, perched dramatically on a 120 ft cliff top, high above the Atlantic Ocean offering spectacular views westwards over Downhill Strand. Viewers of Game of Thrones will recognize it from the scene where Melisandre burned effigies of the seven gods of Westeros in sacrifice to R’hllor.

…And just in that moment while I was admiring the view, a rainbow started forming off shore, one that soon became a full arc.

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This amazing magical experience with my girlfriends will always be remembered as my “3 Full Rainbow Day”. The second one forming soon after the first and another over the walled garden adjacent to the Demense

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Next stop was the iconic ruin of Dunluce Castle.

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First built around 1500, the Castle has a fascinating past full of violence, intrigue and rebellion including tales of warrior chieftains, Scottish Earls, banshees and how the castle kitchens fell into the sea one stormy night in 1639. Perched along a stretch of magnificent coastline, incredible views opened up as I wandered through the rooms, peering out windows to see the craggy coastline and even a little known natural arch in the distance. ( I say little known because I couldn’t find anything about it online, nor can you drive there—it’s only accessible by boat.)

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This was a day I’ll remember forever for all these reasons but also certainly because I made it to the incredible and famous site, The Giant’s Causeway.

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The Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking mostly hexagonal, basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. It is a must see UNESCO World Heritage site with a fascinating mythical story about an Irish and a Scottish giant. If you get there, pick the day you visit carefully. Preferably not during summer or a holiday,  as the site was crawling with visitors even on an autumn weekday.

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We took another tour from the City of Derry, this one starting off close to where the last tour left off. This tour was aptly named the “Game of Thrones Tour” as many fab locations from the show were filmed in this area.

The tour began at the most photographed natural phenomenon in Northern Ireland, The Dark Hedges.

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They were planted 270 years ago by the Stuart family as a driveway to their mansion, Gracehill Manor.  Sadly, this beautiful avenue of beech trees is not being managed properly as the tall tour busses are allowed to drive through, causing damage. Hopefully, they will be remedy this in the near future before more of these magnificent trees are lost. The Dark Hedges are featured in Game of Thrones, Season 2, episode 1: On the King’ s Road, Arya Stark has escaped from King’s Landing, disguised as a boy. She is with Yoren, Gendry, Hot Pie and others who are to join the Night’s Watch, in a cart, traveling north on the King’s Road.

Driving back towards the coast, we wound down along the side of the cliff to the tiny but amazing Ballintoy Harbour

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This picturesque coastal nook is where Theon Greyjoy arrives back in the Iron Islands and where he later admires his ship, The Sea Bitch. This is also where he first meets his sister Yara.

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Another GoT location was Cushendun Caves which formed over a period of 400 million years. This is the same spot where Melisandre creates a shadow assassin.

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I had a fabulous vacation with my girlfriends, for a total of 3 weeks altogether. Northern Ireland was a most magical and memorable place to visit, whether or not you’re a Game of Thrones fan.

Diane Kennedy, eco-fashion, plus size clothing, made in canada,

 

 

Irish Travels – Part 2 : Galway

Continuing on from the last Travel blog

From Wales we took a ferry to Dublin and a long train ride across Ireland to the coastal city of Galway. We arrived later in the afternoon and upon inquiry understood our flat was close by. The Irish are fond of phrases like “it’s just down around the corner and on a bit”, but many of the street signs are hard to find or non-existent. We did find our flat after walking in circles with our luggage from the train station.  Somehow it all seemed quite charming, though, must be those lovely Irish accents and fresh air.  Later the same day we were greeted with our first rainbow, a foreshadowing of more to come on this trip.

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We stayed in Galway for a week, finding it to be a lively city with many street performers, pubs with traditional music and dancing and friendly folk always up for a chat.

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My girlfriends and I love to keep busy when we’re away. We always want to see as much as possible. So from Galway we took several bus tours, the first to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The tour started along Galway Bay, with a stop to see Dunguaire Castle and the 5,800 year old Poulnabrone Dolmen (ancient burial site)

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Photo Credit: Els Alphenaar

Next stop was the cute little village of Doolin for lunch and the quickest shopping on record. This adorable little pink shop is an example of an Irish thatched cottage, an art that does still exist, but is slowly being lost. The pattern along the roof line, like a signature, is indicative of the thatcher, being a pattern that is uniquely his own.  This area is also famous for its Aran Island sweaters. Gorgeous, brightly coloured knitted confections of beautiful cabled knit patterns. Several of these came home with me.  (Any trip to Ireland requires a 1/2 filled suitcase to make room for these beauties)

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The main attraction of this tour was the 200-metre high, 8kms long Cliffs of Moher. They were spectacular, affording stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean and the Aran Islands. We stayed for a while to soak up the natural beauty of the Cliffs, walking and climbing in both directions.

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Stops on the way back to Galway were in a vast area known as The Burren, home to 75% of Ireland’s native flora. The landscape is so rocky here it seems almost lunar-like.

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The next tour we took was on to Lough Nafooey to see the stark beauty of the hidden valley of Connemara.

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Along the way it was common to see abandoned stone cottages, most roofless, all leftover from the potato famine. This one was unusual in that it still had a roof. Stone fences, sheep and rolling green pastures were other common sights.

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The main destination of this tour was the romantic site of Kylemore Abbey.  It was built by a wealthy businessman, Mitchell Henry, in the 18th Century, out of love for his wife. An enlightened landlord and vocal advocate of the Irish people, Henry poured his life’s energy into creating an estate that would showcase what could be achieved in the remote wilds of Connemara. Along with the Abbey, there is a monastery, woodland and lake shore walks and a beautiful Victorian-style, walled garden.

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But of all the amazing tours we took, my favourite was the largest of the Aran islands (of the famous sweaters) called, Inis Mor. Specifically, an amazing Iron Age fort perched on the top of the highest hill; Dun Aonghasa. You could walk right to the very edge of the 800 ft drop to the Atlantic,  and breathe in the history of this ancient place.

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There are so many magical, Irish adventures to be had here. There is indeed a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow –

It’s the beautiful countryside and friendly people of Ireland.

Diane Kennedy, eco-fashion, plus size clothing, made in canada,

 

Travel With Diane: A Photo Series (Part One)

For any of you that read our previous travel blog, Diane’s Suitcase, here’s the rest of the story!

For many years being a single Mom with a young son at home, I rarely took holidays. These last few years I’ve been blessed with supportive staff and the ability to take off; this time for three whole blissful weeks of travel to the UK. What a treat it was to travel to Wales for a week and then Ireland for two weeks!

First stop on the journey was a resort town in Wales, built during Victorian times, called Llandudno. It’s a small, charming town with lots of natural beauty, pretty buildings and a quaint, British town atmosphere.

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Nearby Llandudno is another small town called Conwy, where I fell in love with their namesake “fairy tale” Castle. Built from 1283 to 1289 by King Edward I, it still stands complete and intact today. Unesco considers Conwy to be one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe” and it is classed as a World Heritage site.

If you’re brave enough to climb the round turrets using the tiny steep stairways, you can get to the second floor which rewards you with a great impression of the inner workings of the building, as well as a lovely view of the harbour and surrounding countryside. This was a favourite spot, for sure.

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Short distances from our home base in Llandudno were several other castles and manor homes.  Beaumaris Castle (complete with original moat) and Plas Newydd, another beautiful location, but the day was very rainy so there are no pictures to share. But well worth the visit just same.

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The weather improved and so we enjoyed the grounds of Penryhn Castle which is actually a manor  not a castle at all. It’s one of the most admired of the numerous mock castles built in the United Kingdom in the 19th century.  The grounds and view, a railway museum (full size and miniature) and stunning architecture throughout….too many photos to share.

 

 

 

Certainly one of the most outstanding features was the  beautiful Italian plasterwork throughout the inner hallways and staircases.

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But of all these beautiful sights, quite possibly, my favourite place of all was Bodnant Gardens.

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I knew it was a famous garden but had no idea how magnificent it would be. Lucky for us, many areas were in full bloom in the middle of September. This was a massive property, much of which we never got to see. Upon entering the garden, you first come across a long “hot” perennial border; planted with yellow, orange and red flowers, hence the term, “hot”! 6c

Beyond this fabulous entrance way, which was actually much longer than any of these photos can show, you can see the manor house which has its own, enormous main lawn and surrounding flower borders. Continuing on takes you past The Bath, a deep pool surrounded by a  stunning, tiered garden planted entirely with tender perennials and spectacular annuals like the huge Ricinus (Castor bean) or Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet).

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Peppered along with special varieties of Dahlias, Salvia and Fuchsia, to name only a scant few. This area was choc a block full of incredibly amazing plants in every colour of the rainbow.

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Past The Bath, you will travel along a stream, by a waterfall and through a charming woodland garden that leads you around to the side of a house framed by pastel borders and a huge rectangular reflecting pool full of waterlilies

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Further on was a rose garden gorgeously in full bloom; every shade of pink, cream and yellow that you can imagine! So many beautiful structures, trellises, benches and fountains all surrounded by beautiful old stone walls.

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We walked for over an hour through more natural woods, past an old mill, over bridges and up more woodland walks, with the brilliant blue September Gentians flowing on either side of the path

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The last view I’ll share with you of this beautiful garden is another image of The Bath, this one from the top of the main lawn looking down.

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This truly is a glorious garden and a must see if you ever travel to this part of the world.

Check back soon for part 2 of my travels…next to Galway, Ireland…

Diane Kennedy, eco-fashion, plus size clothing, made in canada,

Diane’s Suitcase

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For the last couple of weeks, our fabulous designer, Diane, has been off traversing the gorgeous sights of Ireland. She’s been spying some quaint architecture, lovely gardens and of course, breathtaking castle/seaside landscapes.

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While she’s away, we thought we’d reveal a few candid snaps of Diane’s suitcase; no better place to learn how to fashionably pack for a trip than from a fashion designer!

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Being a seasoned Vancouverite, Diane was definitely prepared for Ireland’s wet and windy climate…

 

 

 

…But she definitely didn’t need to sacrifice style for suitable attire with all her Diane Kennedy wear!

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It only made sense for Diane to bring along some of our line with her; our signature bamboo knit fabric travels so easily; it’s so soft, it rolls up or folds flat very easily. After she chose a colour palette that was easy to mix and match with, she added her favourite Fluevogs and a cute purse and she was all set to say, “Sláinte”!

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Some great DK travel staples are our Rejuvenate Leggings and our tunics like the Soft Shirt & Playful Tunic, as they look good with slim fit pants or leggings. Our clothes were designed with comfort in mind, so Diane will have no trouble staying comfortable while she sight sees!

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Everyone here at DK HQ wishes Diane a safe and fun trip and looks forward to all her holiday snaps when she returns!

-Team DK