Princess Affreca and my new hens.

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(We travelled the peninsula and the lough)

We went to Northern Ireland for the weekend to visit friends (Hi Naomi and Liam!) They were excellent travel guides and packed a lot in – including a picnic. I’ve grabbed a map from Wikipedia to show you where we went. Even though it’s only three hours away from our house I had never been to this part of Ireland and it is truly beautiful. Our friends live less than thirty minutes from Belfast but we didn’t visit the city… this time.

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We began Saturday morning in a pottery for a breakfast of scones and coffee! Yes, I know how great! There were plain scones and fruit scones and rhubarb scones and another type of scones, possibly almond, all yummy. It was here I spotted my new hens. Yes I have hens. It was a difficult decision but… I bought a cereal bowl with hens on it and a plate with a cockerel.

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Then we set off to visit Grey Abbey a Cistercian abbey in the town of Greyabbey. The abbey was founded in 1193 by a princess called Affreca, her father was King of the Isle of Man. She was married to John de Courcy who ruled most of this area at the time. Anyway, she had a rough sea crossing from the Isle of Man and set up the abbey in thanks for a safe landing. On the way in we met Stephen, the guide to the Physic Garden, so he gave us a quick tour. I thought this might be something to do with mind reading but no… it’s to do with healing.

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There were lots of gardens at the abbey which were mainly tended to by the lay monks. As well as orchards and kitchen gardens there would have been the physic or medicinal garden. Stephen was very informative and funny and I now recognise some herbs from my own garden that I thought were weeds! By the way, if your roses are bothered by green-fly, then Calendula (also good for liver problems, insect and snake bites) attracts hoverfly who in turn eat green-fly. If you become overrun with hoverfly then let me know and I can give you Stephens’s number. After the garden we had a look at the abbey and the interpretative center.

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(Calendula, English Marigold, loved by hoverflies)

More from Grey Abbey tomorrow, Mairead.

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