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A Cycle on the Celtic Fringe … Part 50

I’m settled. I’ve got the best room in the house, a huge bed, a decent view of a town worth being in, complimentary tea and scones still to come, the friendliest and most helpful service from the people who actually own the place (well, the sons) and a bath big enough to float The British Admiral*.


In ten minutes the kettle will have brewed up a pint mug of tea, and I’ll be under a foaming mass of hot water. The aching limbs will sing for joy and the congested lungs will (literally) breathe a sigh of relief.

But there’s no water. I turn on the tap and not even a gurgle of trapped air comes out. I try the wash basin and that too is dry. The cold runs alright but the hot one may as well be for display.


I consider complaining but I’m prevented not only by the fact that I find complaining doesn’t come naturally, but also by the fact the the room is so comfortable and welcoming in every other respect. I cannot make a fuss about hot water to a man who not only carried my bags up the stairs, but who also offered me tea and scones. You can complain of someone who gives you Scampi in a basket but you cannot say a bad word against someone who offers you scones.

There is a shower over the bath and because it is heated independently, I am able to use this. It feels pretty good. I stretch out on the huge bed with thoughts of negotiating a reduction in my bill when I reach out and discover that the kilner jar on the bedside table contains a selection of cookies baked in the hotel’s own bakery. Gleeson’s Townhouse Hotel has a bakery and Delicatesan right next door. If the cookies are anything to go by, it will be worth a visit in the morning.


A second mug of tea and a chapter of Joseph O’Connor. My mind drifts away from Inishowen and to all the times I might have given up the jaunt. The bath doesn’t function but I’m pretty well set. Cork and Wexford both look a long way from Roscommon on the map but the distance looks bikeable. “I haven’t given up.” I tell myself. “It would have been easy to give up and no-one would have blamed me, but I’m still going. I’d like a bath but, so what, I’m contented. I’m more than contented. I’m downright happy.”


I’m dressing to see if it’s not too late for tea and scones when I give the bath tap a final twist … and gallons of piping hot water gush forth. All thoughts of being a tourist fly out of the open window. I immerse myself to a dangerous depth and am so perfectly at ease with the world that I saunter through the final 100 pages of a very good novel. The boy can write and I’m getting good at choosing what to read.

I miss the scones.

Roscommon is in evening mode by the time I go for a wander. I’ve left just about every item of clothing I possess soaking in the tub and take a walk around the town. Children are on the swings, teenagers are propping up walls and middle aged couples are making their way to the Trattoria on the high street or to the restaurant at my hotel.


I wander to the castle. Before Cromwell’s men did their wall removing trick with barrels of gunpowder, the castle would have resembled the toy fort that my brothers and I had as children. Square shaped, four straight walls with battlemented towers at each corner.  It had spent its time as a stronghold alternately for Irish and English forces. Once Cromwell’s demolition boys had removed its effectiveness as a defensible stronghold, it lasted a few more years as a residence before fire finished of in 1690. After that considerable quantities of stone found themselves in footings and load bearing walls throughout the town. What remains is nonetheless still impressive. The local council have landscaped a park around it with some pleasant features. There’s a crannog there but I didn’t see it. I’m not sure if it was built by the iron age people or by men in high visibility jackets and hard hats. If it was the former it will probably last another 3000 years. If the latter, I’d hurry up if you want to visit!


My hotel is about as central as you can get. It faces Harrison Hall which in its time has been a sessions house, a court house (I’m not sure what the distinction is), a market house, a Catholic Church, a dancehall, a cinema and a theatre. Since the seventies it has housed The Bank of Ireland. It is in such a prominent position that all roads have been diverted around it. It is, in truth, an attractive building. Opposite it, to the north is the Old Gaol.This now houses the Trattoria aforementioned as well as a number of other businesses. It retains its original facade and  is consequently both historically in keeping while creating dissonance with all the other two storey buildings. The main street is a mix of chemists, smaller supermarkets, bookies and bars. The town is a good size. That is, it is small, but it doesn’t go short of shops. There is even a railway station and that is why I gave the town the nod over Knock. I don’t mind shoving the bicycle on a train but have no intention of leaving it on the runway while I fly off to Dubrovnik.


I wander back to my room. I’m tired and it’s too comfortable for me to be anywhere else. It’s only just nine o’clock when I climb into bed. By half past I had been asleep for exactly 29 minutes.

* World’s biggest oil tanker when launched in Barrow in 1966. We got half a day off school to watch the Queen launch it. I didn’t go.