I’ve heard it said that, when a baby eaglet is ready to learn how to fly, the mother kicks it out of the nest. She stays with the baby as it falls and, before it hits the ground, the mother comes up under it and carries it back to the nest. Over and over, the baby is kicked out of the nest, falls to the ground, and is rescued in the nick of time. Eventually, the baby eaglet learns to spread its wings and begins to soar. This is not unlike my travels through Ireland. Every morning I would kick myself out of my room, fall into my car, and learn to soar a little further.
My first bed-and-breakfast was Willowbank, located east of Enniskillen, in lake country. The turn into Willowbank from the road was steep and narrow, so I needed to gun the motor to get up the slope and then step on the brake to keep from running into another car. The parking lot for the bed-and-breakfast was not very large and was in two sections with the cars facing each other. I found out that the safest way for me to get out was for me to go straight back, and then crank the wheel sharply to get onto the road. It was best if there were no cars parked directly behind me! I ended up going out in the morning and coming back in the late afternoon. It was too hazardous for me to be going in and out when there were many cars in the lot.
I arrived early enough in the day so that, when I had unpacked, I still had three-fourths of a day to do something with so I decided to see if I could find the Tourist Information Center and headed out to the town. While the Center was closed for the day, I did discover Castle Coole. The Castle was really kind of funny. The fellow who had it built was obsessed with symmetry so, if there was a door on one side of a room, there needed to be a door on the other side. This resulted in some doors that led nowhere. A tour was starting, and I was asked to wait in a good-sized room to one side where there were lots of huge portraits. I was taking pictures of the room, when the tour guide came in and asked us not to take pictures because the flash was hard on the paintings.
It was an interesting tour. The Castle had high ceilings, but the rooms weren’t as big as I had expected. It sat on a large plat of land that included a good-sized pond and some woods. They had a small shop there and I ended up buying a carved wooden penguin.
The next day, I went on a tour of Lough Erne, two skinny lakes that meet in Enniskillen. We sailed by an old castle (complete with drawbridge and turrets) and stopped at an island where there was an abandoned monastery and graveyard that I think was established by St. Patrick. For lunch, I found a Kentucky Fried Chicken and had a fillet burger that was quite tasty!
I ended up staying at Willowbank for three nights. The first day was Castle Coole, the second day was Lough Erne, and the third day was spent at Omagh at the Ulster Folk Museum. This was built on land from Andrew Mellon’s homestead. Andrew Mellon and Andrew Carnegie emigrated to the United States at about the same time in the 1800s – Mellon from Ireland and Carnegie from Scotland. Carnegie built libraries and Mellon built banks. The Ulster Folk Museum was interesting because it had houses, shops, a weaver’s cottage and a smithy from the 1800s.
They had a replica of a street in Ireland where emigrants would board a ship bound for America. When you came out on the other side, there was a replica of a street where the emigrants would have disembarked in Boston. I decided that I was lucky that my ancestors emigrated when they did. There were wide bunks below decks where two people would sleep in one bunk and, because there were so many people, they slept in shifts. There were buckets for bathrooms and the ship had to carry enough water to last three months in case of problems while on the ocean. These were brave (or desperate) people who left Ireland!
That night, I came home and plotted my route to the next stop – Bushmills. While Enniskillen reminded me of the foothills of the Rockies, I was hoping that Bushmills was flatter country and easier to drive in.