Sunday 19 January 2020

Go west to discover nature and yourself

It was time for a week off, so Campbell Spray, after some work at home, headed to Roscommon in a BMW X1

Happiness and friendliness: The BMW X1 and Roscommon Castle proved the perfect match
Happiness and friendliness: The BMW X1 and Roscommon Castle proved the perfect match

Campbell Spray

Heading west has always been the default position when faced with a few days off, just as going south into the Dublin and Wicklow mountains is our routine Sunday drive and car test. I remember more than 15 years ago, when testing the BMW Z4 and I was owed a couple of days' holiday. I had decided to go out to Howth but the steering wouldn't let me. The heart took over, the roof was down and instead of turning right, I went left and didn't stop until I reached Galway. It was glorious.

I decided to take the first week of April off. It was a week of some poignancy and I also had painters and others coming. The great thing about being off when you work on a Sunday paper is that you can visit some of the places that always seem to be shut on Sunday and Monday, your usual days off.

So locally in Phibsborough, I could at last call into the latest cafe to open, called Bang-Bang in Leinster Street, after the legendary Dublin character who went around pretending to shoot with a large key (don't ask why, it was a simpler time then).

The cafe, just yards from Dalymount Stadium, is very hipsterish, but also impressively well-stocked, caring and really interesting.

It is becoming a real community meeting place. It deserves to do well and there's a classic car parked outside most days. I only wished it opened on Mondays...

Come the weekend, we just had to go west but this time just as far as Roscommon and its impressive castle and abbey, where we stayed in the stylish and very friendly Gleeson's Hotel in the Market Square. Luckily, it stocked some nice craft beers, including those from the local Black Donkey brewery. But for a greater choice, the lively JJ Harlows across the square was the place to go.

It was a weekend when a lot of Rossies were heading the other way for a showdown with Kerry in Croke Park but enough remained to give us a lovely welcome wherever we and Sam, our dog, went.

My partner couldn't understand why such lovely people were from the only county that voted against marriage equality last summer. What perplexed me was the rump of a small plane coming out of the roof of a motor suppliers.

I also saw a lovely four-bedroom house with massive gardens opposite the Protestant church and graveyard in the town. It had been the home of a Royal Navy doctor who was killed in the last war before he could return home and open his practice there. That it is on the market for €170,000 shows what disparity there is between capital and country.

Just outside Roscommon town is Mote Park, where red squirrels and deer might be spotted. After walking the Bluebell Route, we drove past some of the local farms.

Stopping outside one field, we saw a cow who had just given birth. She was licking her calf clean and then prompted it to stand up, after which it eventually found a welcoming teat.

It was a magical few minutes made even more fun by a farmer who pulled up alongside and shouted, laughingly: "Do ye want to buy, do ye want to buy? That's nature, that is."

For the trip, I was lucky to be back in the BMW X1 Xdrive, which we had first tested over the Christmas period. It is the most effortless car to drive on motorways but the four-wheel-drive system comes into its own in a county like Roscommon, where there are so many little tracks just begging to be explored.

Of course, it costs €53,320 on the road for the 2.OD X-line model. It was so good to have a week off that I probably see the X1 through rose-tinted glasses, but I loved it.

If we needed such a car, it would have everything on board. It's a pity that all those bits brought the price up to €62,300.

But as my son says: "A lad can dream, a lad can dream."

Sunday Independent

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