25th May 2014 - Northern Ireland
One of those unforgetable day...
The day started with a 0900 Irish breakfast and what a breakfast it was. The bacon was just perfect, sausages, great poached eggs, mushrooms, a potato pancake and the food find of Northern Ireland - soda bread - just the best.
Then we headed off - firtly to the Dark Hedges - never knew this was in Northern Ireland let alone near Ballycastle. Twould be a dream to take a great photo. No signposting and actually only about 10-15 drive from where we were staying but did take about 40 mins to find. Other people there wanting to do the same as me. A car right in the middle of the lane parked and we were down the end of the lane with several others. The car in the middle of the lane never moved so after some discussion amongst us the older French guy went and asked them to move which they did. Took some photos but unsure what they will look like until I see them on the computer.
M last night had started taking a bit of interest in our trip and was looking at maps and activities etc so knew he had some sort of plan. We headed for Ballymoney and the Dunlop Memorial Garden - Joey Dunlop and his brother Robert were probably the best motorcycle racers in the 70's, 80's and 90's. So many Isle of Man TT wins (one of the sons or grandsons won about 5 of the races this year including the Senior race).
Back in the car and a drive via Coleraine to Portstewart which my thoughts full of Giants Causeway. However M taking a bit of a detour to the mot wonderful Portstewart beach - 2 mile of a proper sandy beach - just stunning and not too busy due to the weather. National Trust members can park free. A lovely walk along the beach for 2 hours just wandering and chatting and enjoying the sand and sound of the waves.
Dunluce Castle the next stop of many today - the most romantic and picturesque castle in Ireland dating back to the 14th century. Situated on a headland that plunges down into the sea. Cost £5 per adult but you dont have to go in to get photos. Saying that it has an interesting history - the Macdonnells ousted the MacQuillans and they were then the dominant family in the north as their lands stretched down to Glenarm. Also some problems with the English and Queen Elizabeth 1st. A large number of Scottish were brought over and the town of Dunluce was established. When Cromwell in the 1650s assumed power he granted land etc to soldiers who fought for him and the castle was left to ruin. howver the MacDonnells later regained the estates and it was reoccupied. Part of it fell into the sea one stormy night but I wont give too much away.
Then onto Bushmills - had decided not to take the tour but I wanted to pop in and buy some whiskey to see if I liked it as much as the Scottish tastings. Also decided to have a andwich here until we saw the busyness of the cafe and shop and after the tranquility of Portstewart we couldnt stand it so I brought 3 miniatures of whiskey and left. Looked at the small railway between Bushmills and Giants Causeway but decided not to risk missing the last train back.
Drove to Giants Causeway - again a National Trust property so free parking and entrance. Dont really know what i was expecting of the Visitors centre but not what I was expecting - probably a lot smaller. A piece of cake and a cup of tea at the cafe - reasonable price. Then the walk down to the Giants Causeway itself - again I had long wanted to visit. Didnt realise it was a bit of a walk but all down hill and there were small buses bringing people back up. You come round a bend before you see it all in the distance and the hundreds of people. M said he almost didnt want to continue (about 1600 so thought we would miss the big tour buses). we decided we would hate to come here in the height of the summer season. However once we got onto the stones themselves it didnt seem as busy. A lovely wander around with a bit of climbing but easy enough. Finally I was photoed out and we left - me taking the bus and Martin walking. Decided I would treat myself with an ice block at the top - no such thing - icecreams galore but nothing I wanted. Impressed with how quickly M walked back up the hill - I obviously hold him back a lot.
Then on the road a short distance to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. By this time the day was stunning and had been for the last few hours. Free for National Trust members otherwise £5.60 per adult. A cliff top walk and then down down down to the rope bridge itself. The bridge was traditionally erected by the salmon fishermen of the area. Quite a drop down but if you have been on rope/swing bridges in New Zealand you can do this. Quite steep steps at the last hurdle which I found slightly more scary than the bridge itself. Allow time for at least 20-30 minutes on the island itself as full of nesting birds etc. The walk back was uphill to start with - going via the viewpoint was a bit easier I think. Also wear reasonable shoes or walking sandals etc. Some amazing views over to Rathlin Island and then further still Mull.
M decided to take me back to the Dark Hedges - got lost again and went through some lovely country lanes - a few people there and a white car parked in the dip in the road in the middle but more photos taken. then into Ballycastle and eventually decided on takeaway pizza as not a lot open on a Sunday evening. Found a layby in the countryside watching a gorgeous sunset and back to the B&B for a wonderful sleep.
Fabulous day - lots to see and do and we kinda wished we could stay another night.
Really disappointed in the Dark Hedges photographs - wish I knew how to operate the Canon and would have preferred my Nikon.
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