Tuesday, 12 August 2014

On the Hill

What about some photos and details about the place I live? Well, it's a small town in County Down, Northern Ireland, called Rathfriland. Actually I live in the countryside about a mile outside of the town. We moved here on the 16th of March 2007 and I remember it snowed the next day - St. Patrick's Day.

As far as I am aware, Rathfriland is the highest town in Northern Ireland. It is built on top of a hill and, for this reason, the town's full name is Rathfriland on the Hill. I think it's a great name! I use it any chance I get; for example, when ordering from online shops.

Let's take a walk and I'll show you what's to see round here. My neighbour has this gorgeous foal with its mother. They're in a field at the corner of the road.

In the field across the road from the mother and foal there are potatoes growing. As you'd expect, there are a lot of farmers here growing potatoes.

This other field of potatoes, across the road in the opposite direction, is still in flower.

When the potatoes are lifted they are kept in and transported in these wooden crates. I remember years ago my cousins spending time digging potatoes by hand. They mitched* off school to do it (tut tut!!) and were paid a very small sum for this back-breaking work. All potatoes are now lifted by machine. Except the ones in my garden of course - that's still done the back-breaking manual way! At least there isn't a field of them - just some raised beds.

* Mitching school is what we called playing truant. Don't know if that term is used elsewhere.

As you can see, some of the potatoes go to making Tayto potato crisps. The Tayto factory is in Tandragee, not a million miles from here.

I digressed there - let's continue the walk to Rathfriland. These wild flowers are growing at the side of the road, at the bottom of the hill (just past where the foal is kept).

Now we have to start the climb up a very steep hill that takes us into the town. My car can only get up this hill in second gear; just to give you an idea of how steep it is. The road is also very narrow and (before reaching this part) very windy.

 There's a good view of the Mournes on the left.

This is the view to the right - just small fields belonging to the neighbouring farms.

Looking back down the hill you can see across to the Dromara Hills.

Here's the Mournes again.

 The honeysuckle is still flowering; I love its heady scent.

This wild rose blooms every year on the wall of an abandoned barn along the side of the road.

Now we'll carry on up the road.

This cat was lying sunning itself on a wee lane off the road. It wasn't too pleased at me spoling its afternoon siesta.

Now I'm going to let you into a big secret. There are roads from Castlewellan, Ballyroney, Banbridge and Newry/Loughbrickland (these become one road on the outskirts of Rathfriland) that are all steep ascents into Rathfriland. The road I'm showing you is the only exception. It is one of the steepest roads into the town until you reach the water tower and at this point the road starts to go down hill again into the town. You can see it in the picture below; you head down hill to the fire station.

If you look back from here you can see the road rising up out of Rathfriland and then it drops steeply down.

The Heritage Trail points out one of the famous people from Rathfriland; Captain Moonlite, the infamous Australian bushranger, hanged 20th January 1880.

This notice indicates where Chief Magennis stronghold was located. The castle has long since been destroyed and there are only a few stones left here. There are still Magennis families living in the town.

As I said, we're standing at the water tower here but it's hard to see it. So here are a few pictures of it from outside the town.

I always think the monkey puzzle tree to the left is trying very hard to look like the water tower.

Do you like our brand new, shiny Fire Station and tenders? Would you like to hear why they are new? Because fire tenders are sometimes left without being driven for some time, but must always be able to start, they are left connected to a battery charger. This is what was done with the old fire tenders in the old fire station. One night there was a fault with the battery charger and a fire started. There was no smoke alarm in the old fire station (!!!) so the station and tenders were all destroyed by the fire. Hard to believe? I'm afraid it's true. Thankfully the fire station has been rebuilt and we have these new fire tenders. The part time firemen in the area do a great job attending fires and rescuing people who have been involved in various sorts of accidents.

We just turn the corner at the fire station and that's us into the town. There's plenty of shops and services even though it is such a small town. My favourite shop is, of course, the wool shop. The husband regularly frequents the hardware store and my dad is pleased that we have a shoe mender in the town. Actually I'm also very pleased we have a shoe mender. He is one of the part time firemen as well as looking after all our shoes and boots. He does a really neat job and can make adjustments and dye shoes to boot (ha ha!!). I've even seen people taking broken pushchairs and various straps and things that need mending and he always seems to be able to help out. Another digression there. Let's get on.

The town has a square with a disused market house. A market is held every week in the square but not in the market house.

At one end of the square is this lovely old church which has recently had some (very necessary) renovation work done on it. There are seven other churches in the town as well this this one. In front of the church there is a Clock Tower with a War Memorial.

This is the other side of the market house.

Now we'll head out of the town towards Castlewellan, passing the road to Hilltown. It's only about three miles to Hilltown and from there you can go on to the Spelga Dam.

There are wonderful views of the Mournes from here.

Just in case you were wondering, most of these photos were taken on the same gloriously sunny day day but some were taken on various other days.

The town is surrounded by many, mostly small, farms. Some of the farmers keep cattle, some sheep, some are arable farmers. The fields are very small compared to those you would find in other places. Of course, some of the farmers do a bit of everything and even work away from their farm to supplement their income.

Time to head home again. There's a lovely stone cottage, long since abandoned.

Brambles are growing where the roof should be.

Calves can be very nervous to start with but they are also inquisitive and they soon give in to their curiosity and come for a closer look.

What about another view of the Dromara Hills?

Back home and a walk round the garden reveals the many butterflies and bumble bees about.

I'm very fond of this buddleia; it flowers later than the usual purple variety.

Well that's it for now. I hope you enjoyed my wee introduction to Rathfriland on the Hill.

Thanks for all your comments recently, especially on the garden. I have to make it clear that the husband does the majority of the gardening! I do all the preparing, cooking, baking, freezing and preserving. And I do a bit of gardening when I can get the chance.

Best wishes for now. Come back again soon. We are planning to extract honey this weekend and I hope to be able to take lots of photos of the whole process. And I have finally got photos of my finished blankets so there will soon be posts about them as well.


  1. I feel like I know your town by now. Looking forward for you nest post.

  2. Gillian, this was a wonderful tour! I have always wondered about Northern Ireland, You know over the years Northern Ireland has had such a bad wrap in the press and from your pictures, at least in your neck of the woods, it looks like heaven on earth! Such beautiful greenery.
    I love the photos of the cows... there is something about a cow that always makes me smile.
    I grew up in Maine, on the Canadian border and the small town I lived in was a farming community that grew potatoes, because it was such a huge farming community, when it was time to harvest they actually let school out for 3 weeks, they had to, because so many farmers kids would skip school that they were kinda forced to!
    I loved this post and I look forward to more... Interesting Fireman story as well!!
    Much love,

    1. I would love to go to Canada as it looks so beautiful. It's really big compared to Northern Ireland.

  3. A lovely part of the world - thanks for the tour. Tayto Cheese and Onion are the best crisps in the world in my opinion and you can only get them in Northern Ireland.

    1. Some of our visitors buy the crisps and fly home with them! I dread to think what state they're in. The crisps that is.

  4. Hello Gillian

    Thank you for sharing pictures of where you live, it's so picturesque, peaceful and stunning, and the scenery is breathtaking. I'm looking forward to your next post.

    1. I never tire of looking at the mountains - they're so beautiful.

  5. Thanks for such a lovely & interesting tour around your beautiful part of the world - how lucky you are to live on this lovely hill! xx

  6. What a truly beautiful place you live in!!! Up there on-the-hill is just lovely, thank you for sharing it with us. xx

  7. A lovely post, Gillian! Rathfriland on the Hill is such a beautiful place to live, so many gorgeous mountain views. I loved seeing the photos and the little details, like the monkey puzzle tree and the water tower, the Tayto crates (what a lovely name) and the story of the fire station fire. I love your flower pictures too and can just imagine the scent of the honeysuckle in the sunshine.
    Happy week!
    Helen xox

  8. Hi Gillian,

    thanks for sharing your lovely surroundings with all of us! It looks so amazing and beautiful! Lovely photos!
    Ingrid xx

  9. I really enjoyed this post. You are lucky to live in The Mournes, surrounded by such beautiful countryside. I love the old Market House - wouldn't it make a beautiful craft centre?

    1. I've thought about the market house many times. If only I could afford to buy it I'd make it into a craft centre with coffee shop.

  10. Beautiful! Love your pictures. I am in the U.S. and my roots are in the hills of Tennessee, where my mother's family is Riley (probably originally Reilly) - I am hoping to come to Ireland someday and see the lovely hills and countryside. Your pictures help until the time comes. :^) Thank you for posting them.


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