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That is, apart from the standard tour stuff, the odd glass of sangria and your tapas lunch. But this is an island though struggling with the elements is a productive farming community also. That any agriculture exists on the island at all is an enormous tribute to the inventiveness and gutsy determination of the islanders themselves, and even exceeds the perseverance of the people of Aran and the West Coast, in the 18th 19th and 20th Century.
With rain so rare and underground water facilities extremely limited, it really does seem miraculous how any agriculture can exist at all on Lanzarote. Tap water supplies are from desalinated seawater, so fresh water is at a premium.
A drive from the central town of San Bartolome to Tinajo will take you through the village of Tiagua. The Northern part of the island is supprisingly green, in relative terms, supporting palm trees and the only forest plantation on the island, partly due to the northerly aspect of its slopes.
This supports a craft industry, where local crafts such as ratten baskets are made for both local needs and the tourist trade. As Lanzarote has no meadows, you will not find any cattle or sheep here, apart from Pets Corner in Rancho Texas but surprisingly there are goats on the island. These were formerly farmed mainly for their milk, but nowadays this milk is largely used for cheese production.
Despite the volcanic soil there is abundant agricultural activity still at Lanzarote. But viticulture and agriculture do exist, through the daily miracle of crops sprouting from the picon, the black volcanic grit found in abundance on the island. According to the Agricultural Training Board of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote receives less rainfall than parts of the Sahara, with a mere 14 centimetres of precipitation per year.
Only 15 years ago the majority of the farmers used camels to pull their ploughs. Now that figure has dropped to about five percent. The disadvantage with a tractor however is that it tends to squash the picon and can make life even more difficult.
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Camels, however, are mainly reserved for the tourists now apart from a few hardy peasant farmers who refuse to give up their old traditional ways. Onions are the islands chief crop with the majority exported to mainland Spain, although Lanzarote onions also end up on the tables of English, Dutch and German homes. And anyone who has tasted Lanzarote onions will attest to their delicious sweet flavour, less harsh than their counterparts produced on the Spanish mainland.
Lanzarote exports more than three times as many onions as it consumes, although classification and final packing take place on mainland Spain.
Red and white potatoes, known locally as batatas or boniatos are also exported, as are a whole range of green vegetables, including the delicious spinach grown here.
One of the popularly held myths is that bananas grow on Lanzarote. Potential banana pickers must, however, head for Tenerife for their sport, where there is less wind and significantly more rain.
However, a project exists in the north of the island which is attempting to develop the production of pineapples, already with some success. The drink Campari, meanwhile, gets its characteristic red colour from cochineal, a dye which is extracted from a species of crushed beetle found extensively on Lanzarote. Thousands of female cochineal beetles are nurtured on the leaves of cacti in Lanzarotes northern villages of Mala and Guatiza.
The cacti are expressly grown for the cultivation of the beetles. The parasitic beetle, which leads a relatively stationary existence, obtains its nutrients from sucking juices from the cactis leaves.
The workers in the cactus fields of Mala and Guatiza, many of whom are women, ensure that the insects are spread out among the plants. After two to three months, the insects reach maximum size and are then ready for the harvest.
The 12 West Kerry Live harvest is carried out by carefully scraping off the beetles from the cactis leaves with a large spoon-like tool. The gatherers wear thick gloves to protect their hands from painful prickles. The beetles, which look white on the leaves, and endow whole fields with a strange whiteish veil, are dropped into special boxes which both kill them and separate the beetles from unwanted stalks and other impurities. Farmers then dry the cochineal beetles in the sun before packing them in sacks for export.
Being nontoxic, cochineal, the extracted dye, which is also called carmine, is used widely in industry as a colouring for a range of products including lipstick, sweets, toothpaste, and, of course, Campari.
The company that produces the bitter red drink, with the sophisticated image, is one of the biggest users of cochineal. The Barn has excellent audio visual displays of the marine wildlife, particularly the bird and mammal life found in the lough. They also have a number of very good videos on the wildlife of the lough. It is possible to land at the little beach and jetty beside it at J and climb to the top where there is an excellent view of the Narrows and the towns of Portaferry and Strangford.
There are few on the E side the main ones being a public Kircubbin J and in the Narrows at Portaferry itself at J — the slip N of the marina with reasonably good car parkingthe main towns in the Narrows.
Portaferry J — the slip N of the marina with reasonably good car parking, Strangford J — the slip at to the S of the ferry terminal with good car parking, Killyleagh J — the slip at the sailing club, in small discreet numbers. If access difficulties, there are other places along the shore, closer to town. Ringhaddy J — limited parking. Ballydorn Lightship J — a little quay on the S side of Hen Island, to one side of the ship, and which apparently belongs to the yacht club.
The use of this should be discreet and in small numbers. The yacht club may also be a possibility at J There is also a splendid off-season campsite in a parking lot with toilets at J, but beware extensive drying mudflats out front. Tides Inside the lough, the tidal strength decreases from 6kn between Strangford and Portaferry to 4kn at Ballyhenry Island at J, 2km northwest, as the water disperses into the lough.
It further reduces to about 1.
The E coast of the lough has a lot less of interest to the canoeist than the W due to the lack of islands etc. In the spring, Jackdaw is an important nesting site for terns and should be avoided.
Many of the islands have large colonies of Irish Hares which can often be seen running along the beach. The Trust has redeveloped a bothy on the SE side of Salt which is an absolutely superb facility for the canoeist looking for a bit more comfort than a tent.
The Bothy sleeeps 12, has a woodburning stove, running water and a couple of WCs. Book through the NT. Camping is also permitted on Salt Island, both at the bothy and at the bay on the west side of the island. Patrick landed in A. He must have landed here during HW or he would have had to slog through the stinking mud to reach the shore. Heading N from the barrage which protects Downpatrick from tidal flooding, lies Gibbs Island at J which is one of the few islands within the lough to have trees.
There are some mature Scots Pines on Gibbs. This is one of the largest islands in the lough and used to support two small farms. These belong to the National Trust and are well worth a visit as they show what life on the island was like. Look out for the coffin in the barn! Foxes, badgers and otters are all resident on Taggart, meriting an overnight camp and exploration.
Camping is permitted and most suitable on th north east corner at J The W side of the lough is a fascinating maze of submerged drumlin hills forming over islands and rock pladdies.
Pawle Island at J is a lovely spot for lunch. There is an old house in the SW tip with the remains of a slip built through the rocks on the beach. From the top of the hill behind the house there is a lovely panoramic view of the S half of Strangford.
Islandmore is now inhabited all the year round. The house was always in the Faulkner family but got sold. Then in the last years of his life, Brian met its then owner when on holidays in the W of Ireland, and bought it back.
It became the family holiday home. The house is a former prisoner of war hut from the Isle of Man, that housed German soldiers in the Great War. It was shipped to Northern Ireland in after all the huts were auctioned off.
Their remote house and its owners are the subject of books, television programs, and endless internet activity.
Nothing is reliably known about their tolerance for visitors, if any. She went down in as a result of an accidental fire on board, but is still good for diving. The results were all over the place, to the extent they had to conclude there was some mistake.
The Alastor was eventually correctly identified. Until commandeered in WW2 by the Royal Navy for active service, it had been the pleasure yacht of Sir Thomas Sopwith who designed the Sopwith Camel bi-plane of the Great War and the Hawker Hurricane of WW2 that actually won the Battle of Briton, and not its iconic cousin the Spitfire — the Hurricane being faster than the Mescherschmittspeed then as now being everything.
Now the wreck belongs to the Faulkeners of Islandmore. Green Island Rock at J is a haul out for Common Seal and is very accessible to allow a group of novices to experience the observation of seals in their habitat. Care should be however be taken to avoid any disturbance. To the W and N of Rainey Island at J, there are two channels where the tide runs either side of the island at up to 5kn in its rush to fill or empty Reagh Bay to the NW.
Again, this is an excellent area for introducing novices to moving water. Mahee Island has an early Celtic Monastery on the W side, and the island is definitely worth a visit to walk round the monastic ruins.
The monks are believed to have occupied the area from the 5th to the 10th Centuries. There is a great view from the top of the monastery hill. Recently there was a discovery of early Celtic fish traps in the N facing cove on the W side J where easiest to landbut these are only visible at LW. The NW mudflats do support vast numbers of waders. During the winter, the statistics of birds using the lough demonstrates the international importance of Strangford as a wildlife sanctuary: There are ruins of an old church in this island and it is a bird sanctuary.
It is accessible at all tides and has a remote feel although close to the E shore. The lough has areas renowned for their beauty or scientific importance and legislation protects this valuable and unique area. Access is unrestricted in the lough and conservationists rely heavily on the goodwill of recreational users. At extreme LW springs, it is possible to walk or wade across to the island from the beach at Ballyhornan.
What looks suspiciously like an active sewage outlet pours into the sea just S of the village. Most of the time, a reasonably strong tide runs between Guns Island and the mainland — up to 2kn.
Landing is always possible on one side or the other of the sandy spit stretching NW of the island. At LW, or in search of shelter, landings may be had elsewhere in small coves, particularly halfway down the W side. There is a lovely old stone navigation marker painted white on the SE tip. Beside it lies the remains of an old ruined church.
Thick grass covers the island. Fauna The SE side of Guns Island is a mass of nesting Kittiwake, Guillemot and Cormorant on the cliff ledges and paddlers should keep a reasonable distance offshore to avoid disturbance during the nesting season April-June. The N side is favoured by a large colony of gulls that nest on the tussock grass just above the shore.
The 14km from the entrance of Strangford Lough to St. This area is known as the Lecale and shortly after the last ice age would have been a large island with the sea connecting Dundrum inner bay with Strangford Lough.
Banderg Bay at J followed by Ballyhornan Bay at J, are pleasant sandy beaches with clay cliffs behind, where there are nesting Fulmar. Never disturb these birds at their nest as they have the ability to douse you with an extremely evil smelling mucus from their nostrils which sticks better than any glue known to man!
Portnacoo at J, m SW of the southern tip of Guns Island, has a 2m wide gap in the rocks which opens out into a cove with a 15m wide pebbly peach, an ideal lunch stop.
At Legnaboe, on the mainland about m S of the southern tip of Guns Island, there is a narrow sea cave which appears safe to enter at all states of the tide, provided there is little swell.
Along this piece of coast lie the villages of Ardglass at J and Killough at J A new marina has been built at Ardglass and there is easy access to the sea from both Killough and Ardglass with a good slip and carparking on the harbour at Ardglass. Within the inner bay at Dundrum, there is a causeway and bridge at J The tide flows through this bridge at up to 6kn on springs in its rush to fill or empty the southern half of the inner bay.
Good eddies are created by the bridge stanchion and this is used almost constantly at HW by local paddlers to teach and practise moving water techniques. The best fun is to be had during springs.
This occurs every second weekend when the tide is usable from approx. During the ebb from Dundrum inner bay, tremendous deep water surfing waves can be formed at the entrance if there is even a little swell from the S or E.
However, once the tide has finished ebbing, the only practical course of action is to paddle to Newcastle 5km away as the inner bay will be dry.