So, after months of plotting, planning, scrimping and saving, the New Year saw me ready to leave for Ballymaloe. The ferry was booked (one way!) for 10.30 on Saturday 7th January. For me this meant a 6am start to catch the P&O ferry from Cairnryan in Scotland to Larne in Northern Ireland. Everything packed and the office already a distant memory me and the trusty Micra drove off into the darkness leaving Glasgow far behind. Reaching the ferry port in the freezing cold I found I was first in the queue, surprise surprise!
The crossing was pretty choppy but by the time we reached Larne the sun had started to come out. Thanks to my new road map I made it all the way down to the border in a couple of hours. Then all the road signs changed and that was it, I was driving abroad for the first time! Survived driving round Dublin which was pretty frantic but after that the roads were quiet and fast, even the tolls were a novelty (I am sure will wear off). Stopped at some services south of Dublin and sadly got excited by all the new brands and papers you could buy. It is a long long drive all the way down to Cork and time was ticking on. After a few wrong turns near Midleton I found myself driving down the twisty country roads in the dark with a train of people behind me and not a clue where I was going. By this stage I'd driven nearly 400 miles, been on a ferry for two hours, struggled with the metric speed limit, found Ballymaloe House but not the school and all on 4 hours sleep and no dinner. But behold, by some miracle I ended up in the village of Shanagarry where I was I suspect not the first person to ask in the petrol stations for directions. And then I was there, driving up the gravel drive, me and the Micra there in one piece and after emptying all my worldly goods out of the car I was tucked up safe and sound in the Pink Cottage and all was dark and quiet.