Trains, planes and automobiles

A simple enough task, you would think, is to travel from Nottingham to Dublin. But the first challenge is to get to Birmingham. By train, it takes two hours to get to London from home, a distance of 107 miles. Birmingham is 45 miles away – and the journey time is roughly the same. Or rather it would be if…

Fortunately, I’m awake early enough to make alternative preparations and get an earlier train. The travelling time, though, is still two around two hours. It’s a constant source of frustration for the Midlands region that a journey between its two key cities takes twice as long as a flight to Dublin.

Birmingham Airport itself is pretty efficient, even on a Saturday morning. Although the check in areas look busy, security is large enough and well staffed to breeze through in less than ten minutes; a stark contrast to my local airport, East Midlands. I’ve chosen this route because I’ve got a discount on an Aer Lingus flight – though many of its short haul flights are sub-contracted, in this case to Stobart Air.

At lest they’ve made an effort with the livery.

The tiny TwinProp doesn’t look or sound all that different from the one I flew in on from East Midlands back in 1978. But the flight itself is swift and smooth, as is the passport check at Dublin Airport. If or when Brexit does happen, the only inconvenience will be for those on UK passports -which no longer applies to me.

Talking of the EU – because this bit is important – Ireland’s main roads are immaculately maintained. The M50 motorway snakes efficiently around Dublin and then the M11 continues south.

Somewhere around me are the Wicklow Mountains. I know this, because I can just about make out the peaks through the heavy rain which has swept across the east coast this afternoon. As my mammy would say “That’s the reason Ireland is so green.”

She probably had a point, but as the sat nav takes me off the motorway and onto the R741 – described on my trusty Michelin map as an “inter-regional route”. Narrow side junctions indicate place names like Killincooly, Screen and Killmuckridge, each sign, of course, primarily in Gaelic – just to add confusion to weary eyes. On a sunny day I’d have likely turned off the beaten track out to the unclassified coast road, but it’s really not the weather for it.

And so to Loch Garman, or Wexford to give it its Anglicised name. Although it was the Vikings, not the English, who tried to lay claim to this town – the name deriving from the Norse Waesfjord or “estuary of the mud flats”. It certainly looks murky enough on this grey afternoon.

But still, the Riverbank View Hotel has a reasssuringly quaint reception, complete with a timely fire. The place is your stereotypical Irish Hotel, doubling up with a bar, restaurant and function room. From the outside, it looks as if it’s seen better days – but the management have made an effort to modernise.

The bunting you can see around the terrace bar are the colours of Wexford for the GAA, the Gaelic games which can seem like a mystery to the stranger. It’s basically a combination of rugby, football and fighting. Which may not be entirely fair, but as I’m not entirely Irish I hope I’ll be forgiven. Or educated.

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