Monday, January 22, 2018

Slieve Gullion - Armagh's highest mountain

One of my New Years resolutions has been to get back into hiking. We plan to start slowly and build it up little by little. A great place for this is our very own local mountains in South Armagh, a half hour drive away.

Slieve Gullion is the highest point in County Armagh with an elevation of 573 metres (1,880 ft). We've climbed it before, in May 2016, with our nephews and friends (Super Man and Wonder Woman from the Mt Whitney trip). Unfortunately, the mountains that day were covered in thick fog and we were not able to see the small lake and two ancient burial cairns at the summit.

So when we found a Sunday in January that had crystal clear skies My Husband and I decided to have another go up Slieve Gullion even though it was only 2 degrees Centigrade.

It's been a decade since we spend time at this latitude at this time of the year. I never before realised just how tough the short days were. It gets dark at 4 ish, and the sun doesn't come up until 9 ish. I just feel lethargic all day. Some days the cloud cover is so thick that it feels like twilight all day long. I'm not complaining - at least I'm trying hard not to - I'm merely describing how it is...dark...

This lethargy means that it's a slow start in our household in the mornings - even slower than usual. We didn't begin our walk up Slieve Gullion until 3 pm with the result that we had to cut our hike short without getting all the way to the top but got to watch the sunset as we came back down again. An hour's walk was still a good start to our hiking plans - 3.7 miles and 900 feet elevation gain, according to Strava.

It gives us plenty of room to improve as the year progresses, as we get more hours of sunshine, and as the world around us slowly wakes up to springtime... I'm looking forward to it.

And no matter what time of year - the Irish sunset is hard to beat and can last for hours!

Byddi Lee

Friday, January 12, 2018

Flash Fiction Armagh - Call for Submissions

Flash Fiction Armagh is now open for submissions for inclusion at our public reading in our Flash Fiction event in Armagh City on 22nd March 2018 at Mulberry Bistro.

Deadline for submissions is 28th February 2018.  SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW CLOSED

What is Flash Fiction Armagh?
This is an event featuring Flash Fiction writers reading their work to an enthralled audience in Armagh. It differs from Open Mic in that the readers are selected ahead of time, based on their submission quality, and the evening follows a set programme.

Flash Fiction Armagh provides a platform for writers to experience immediate audience reaction to their work – a valuable resource for those who sit all day in a room by themselves writing. We aim to entertain and provide an opportunity to mingle and make friends. We encourage people to attend the event whether they write, read or prefer to listen.

And the best reason of all - it's a bit of craic. Flash fiction Armagh is based on Flash Fiction Forum San Jose, California. Hop over to their website to see how they do things. 

Reading at Flash Fiction Forum San Jose, Works Gallery, San Jose, California
Entries are encouraged from:

  • ·         Experienced writers
  • ·         Authors who can extract a short section from their books
  • ·         Irish Language writers
  • ·         New writers
  • ·         Poets whose poetry reads like prose

Please email your 200 – 750 word submission within the body of your email (no attachments please) to with Flash Fiction Armagh in the subject line.

Réamonn Ó Ciaráin, Armagh author of Laoch na Laochra: Scéal Chúchulainn, and Chúchulainn: Ulster’s Greatest Hero, will help me curate the submissions. 

It is free to enter, but please only submit up to three pieces of work.

You must be available to read at the event -  Thursday 22nd March 2018, 7.00pm

If you are not selected for this date we reserve the right to invite you to read your submission at a subsequent Flash Fiction night.

We plan on having 3 or 4  per year, so no need to resubmit the same piece again.

We do not publish online or in print and you retain all rights. We don’t mind if you submit work that has been submitted elsewhere or that has already been published. Authors are welcome to bring copies of their books to sell.

Deadline for submissions is 28th February 2018.
Flash Fiction Armagh is Thursday 22nd March 2018, 7.00pm

Upstairs in Mulberry Bistro, Armagh, 6 Cathedral Rd, Armagh, BT61 7QX. Awarded Best Newcomer 2017.

For more information about Armagh Writers and writing events in Armagh, have a look at their Facebook Page.

If you are a writer from or living in Armagh there is also a Facebook group.

Happy writing Flash Fictioners,

Byddi Lee

Friday, January 5, 2018

Gosford Castle AKA Riverrun of House Tully

Gosford Forest Park is a fifteen-minute drive from Armagh City. It is home to Gosford Castle, the location for Game of Thrones' Riverrun of House Tully.

The Castle itself is now converted into apartments. Just imagine - you can live in a castle in Armagh! The Castle is set in beautiful parkland that is open to the public and has been since I was a child when we'd go there camping with the Girl Guides. Many a happy time was spent hiking and camping in the forest here.

As an adult and a Girl Guider leader of my own troop in Belfast, along with My Sister and another friend, we took a troop from Belfast on a camping trip. As was the tradition, the kids had a day shopping in the great metropolis of Armagh City to buy gifts to take home. It wasn't long before the girls discovered every Armachians favourite shop of that era (and of my childhood too) - McKenna's Sweet Shop at the top of Thomas Street. This wonderful shop, with its magical rows of giant jars filled with all kinds of scrumptious candies and sweeties, had the kindest, nicest proprietor - Mr McKenna.

He always had so much patience with us kids, as we clutched our precious coins unable to make the most important decision of our lives to date - which delicious treats to buy! We'd "him and haw" and he'd never fuss us until eventually, we'd have him putting one of this sweet and two of that one into a white paper bag until we had a wee sack of delight.

The kids we'd taken to shop in Armagh also found the pet shop. A bunch of them decided they wanted to purchase some pet mice. But how to transport their new rodent buddies? Mr McKenna had just the solution. He gave them some of the giant candy jars, now empty and with holes in the lid for air. I never did quite figure out how he'd become embroiled in the whole plan - I was too busy laughing at My Sister's horrified reaction when we reunited with the girls and they proudly showed us their new pets. My Sister hates mice and rats. She wouldn't let the kids take these little critters in her car even though they were ensconced in giant candy jars.

My worry was what on earth the parents would think when we got them back home to Belfast. I had visions of having to take care of all these mice myself, but the parents accepted their daughter's new pets with good grace and we were not blamed (at least not to our faces!)

Besides possible escapee mice, Gosford Park continues to be a beautiful haven for wildlife - including the magnificent Red Deer that lives on the estate. We had the good fortune to get close to a herd but safely separated by a sturdy chainlink fence. This fellow was gorgeous.

And even on a cold winters day, this spot looks so peaceful. Wrap up warm and sit a while - maybe bring a flask of hot chocolate (with a nip of brandy - why not?)

There's plenty to explore. In terms of walking, there is not much to challenge on the elevation gain side of things but for an invigorating walk on a bracing day, it's hard to beat a gaunt to Gosford Forest Park.

If your New Years resolution is to get more exercise why not start here. You won't regret it.

Byddi Lee