Wednesday, July 16, 2008

IT'SO Polly

The first stop of our holiday was Lough Key Forest Park, which is situated just outside the town of Boyle, Co Roscommon; where we camped for three nights. This has been a favourite spot of mine for the last twenty years or so; the campsite has changed little during that time and remains a haven of peace and tranquility; except for weekends when the party animals are herded into the area we choose to camp in. This is because it is somewhat separate from the rest of the campsite resulting in less disturbance of the other campers.

I can't imagine camping anywhere other than in the shade of the magnificent Giant Redwood trees; unfortunately this means putting up with the neighbours, who are generally pretty well behaved anyway! The worst ever was a group of nine kids who arrived later than us last Tuesday and proceeded to make a racket while swinging behind the tent on a makeshift rope & tyre that the kids have enjoyed many a time. The best ever was the pair of Jackdaws announcing the fact that morning had broken...

With instructions to make as much noise as possible the following morning the children turned in at around midnight and DG had a quiet word with the culprits who were most apologetic and settled down quickly. Needless to say the boys were told not to be annoying the following morning because "two wrongs do not make a right!" Boy's being boys; this led to some disappointment, though they coped well!

Later that day we met up with our noisy neighbours at the Boda Borg. This experience can only be described as a challenge where science meets adventure and everyone has a huge amount of FUN. One disadvantage of this is that it generally results in aches and bruises, due to the fact that there is a lot of rushing and climbing involved; as well as the application of common sense and solid logic. The innovation hails from ?Sweden and is something like an obstacle course combined with The Crystal Maze (a wacky TV show from the eighties).

It could be considered expensive; at a cost of €56.00 for the four of us to complete the challenge during a three hour time limit. However, I can honestly say that it works out as one of the best investments in time and energy as on both of the occasions that we have undertaken the challenge everyone has thoroughly enjoyed it. I know now that a tube of Arnica cream is an essential ingredient of our first aid kit...

At the end of this year, although we got off to a promising start we fared worse off than the previous years efforts. Once each challenge is completed your ticket can be stamped as proof of success; there is no cheating on this one due to the use of electro-magnets which are only released when all parts of each challenge are completed. If at any stage a mistake is made a red light and a buzzer will announce this rather loudly; advising you to either abandon the challenge entirely or start again.

Last year we managed to complete four challenges; this year it was a miserable two. One of two comforts is that we actually got locked into two of the challenge rooms which had failed to reset themselves after the previous challenger's had completed the test. Another is that my insurance agent rang in the middle of all this with vital news regarding my application; so I had to temporarily abandon my efforts.

The third and final comfort is that our young, oh so very young and noisy neighbours only managed to get one of the challenges successfully completed in the three hours allotted! So much for youthful enthusiasm; although I dare say that they are blaming their poor show on being tired out from their exploits the previous night...

For the less adventurous; or even just the plain hungry there is a lovely cafe which is also situated in the Visitor Centre. IT'SO serves staples such as quiche, lasagna, bruschetta and a couple of other signature dishes, alongside delicious desserts and good coffee. What makes this place special is the fact that everything is made on site and the staff are so nice, which these days is very special indeed!

Having said that, they are chronically understaffed and struggle to offer a good service; however this is forgivable as they are more than apologetic and don't mind if you skip the till so that your dinner doesn't get cold while you wait to pay. That said; they do like you to pay afterwards, which is only reasonable...

For anyone who fancies a nice stroll after lunch there is a guided tour of the demesne and a tree-top walk which allows us humans to see the place from the birds eye. As the forest is teaming with wild life and history this makes an interesting past-time which can be stretched to make a couple of hours pass pleasantly. With a variety of languages available on the headsets which come with this package it is something for everyone to enjoy; even those with disabilities.

There is some stair work involved in climbing to the top of the hideously modern Moylurg Tower, but this is optional and totally unnecessary; although the panoramic view of the Lough Key Forest Park and the lake itself is spectacular.

At weekends Pete Walsh offers fishing and leisure tours of Lough Key, starting with modest rowing boats; life jacket included, and finishing up on a guided tour of the lake on the leisure cruiser Pete offers a unique view of the Forest Park and environs. In previous years we have hired one of the smaller boats and headed off for adventure, encircling Lady Island in the centre of the lake, getting a bite or two and loosing them!

We ended up being stranded in the reeds struggling against a hard prevailing wind; Polly wanting to get a shot or two of the swan with her cygnets and narrowly missing a fabulous shot of seven or so heifer's lined up to drink at the waters edge. Needless to say I saved the day; eventually and survived to tell the tale and marvel at the lovely photo's I did get...

For the younger child there is an adventure playground attached to the visitor centre; the cost is reasonable and it gives the younger Mum's a chance to get together and enjoy a fine afternoon over a cuppa and a slice of something tasty. For the slightly older child there is a free playground outside the visitor centre and another back at the campsite.

If you take a stroll down to the shore side you will almost certainly make the acquaintance of the resident duck population. They are very friendly and will flock to you in their droves as they are well used to being fed by the many visitors to the site each day. At certain times of the year it is not unusual to discover freshly laid eggs on the grass beside the shore; breakfast anyone?

There is even a paddling area, which in summer is delightfully refreshing. Gypsophillus loves it; during a quiet evening walk she did her best to get at the ducks on the other side of the stone barrier which announces the change in the depth of the lake. From being a confirmed land-lubber she was doing the doggy paddle like a pro on her way back to shore, having chickened out when the water went further than her belly!

A word of caution; having suspected their presence for a number of years we discovered leeches in the lake this year. Although they won't actually harm you; there are some, ie Me who are squeamish about them and definitely won't be going into the water without my flip-flops ever again! YUCK!!!!!!!

For shopping there is a local shop which visits the campsite every day and is pleased to accept orders over the phone. Boyle town is only a stones throw from the site, however Carrick-on-Shannon is only a little further away and offers far greater choice of shops, fast food and entertainment. On the far side of the town is a retail park, including Tesco's and Boots the Chemist for cold sore patches & cream, Vitamin B supplements and insect repellents - all of which were necessary for this years visit!

Sadly we decided to move on after just three days at this haven of tranquility. We are always loathe to leave; but there are other lovely parts of this beautiful country that need to be explored, and so it was...

Enough! I'm missing it already; and the only thing which could have made it better might have been if I'd had space to pack my laptop into the car and if I hadn't lost my cell phone at this particular location. Boo-hoo-hoo!


Polly Peirce

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