Day 14 - Northern Ireland
We woke up to torrential rain, dh went to check the weather as we hadn’t decided whether to spend the day on the Causeway Coast or around Rathmullen. He came back and announced that it was to be a better day up North so we set off to see the Giants Causeway. Unfortunately, he checked Ballinaclash which is in County Wicklow instead of Ballycastle. And Letterfrack, which was near where we’d come from in Connemera instead of Letterkenny, a few miles down the road. Therefore, the weather forecast was in fact the opposite way round!
The weather really was relentless, the wind was biting and the rain poured down. We arrived at the Causeway and all wrapped up in raincoats and scarves, collected the audio guides and set off on the walk downhill to the Giants Causeway. The audio guides were really good and Grandma chuckled away to the family stories told. She wasn’t doing it in any particular order but at least she was enjoying the commentary. The girls also enjoyed the audio guides, especially the story of Humphry the Camel – they were really delightful and told with humour in an engaging way. Even with the rain, the views were stunning - it is hard to believe that it’s a natural formation because it looks so incredible. We took the moderate trail and walked further along, the twins were on the look out for the Giant, apparently if there is smoke – it means that the Giant is home. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather the path was closed but we’d all walked quite a distance and were completely drenched so we made our way back, as there was no smoke coming from the giant chimney’s, the girls were happy to retreat. The bus was in when we got down and luckily (for dh) they took dogs, so we took the easy option and saved ourselves a walk back up the hill.
Two major manufacturing flaws have now really got my goat – why would you ever produce a tent or a raincoat that is not waterproof? We were soaked through to our underwear again, dh said that these are only designed to be showerproof – but I didn’t’ want shower proof, I wanted rain proof – otherwise I would have bought ‘Showercoats’. Luckily, I expected the weather so I’d packed a change of clothes for everyone (except me!).
We had planned to do the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge but was told that it wouldn’t be open today because of the weather, however if it took up in the afternoon it might open.
With this in mind we decided to drive round and see some of the locations used in Game of Thrones – I’d heard that the Kings Highway was somewhere near Strumacom so we took a detour, in hindsight - this is not a good plan because you are unlikely to encounter any of these areas from a roadside so we gave up on that idea and headed into Ballycastle for lunch. We had a lovely lunch in Marconi and then I popped into a nearby café to see if I could get a scone for Grandma (who’d refused to get out of the car again!). I came across some local treats called Yellowman and Dulce which I’d heard of. The Yellowman was actually pink and was like a really (really) hard, solid toffee – not unpleasant. The Dulce, which looked black and flaky, I imagined to be similarly sweet. So for those of you who have not had the pleasure of this delicacy, imagine wrapping a dead fish up in a piece of paper, completely covering it in thick, slimy seaweed and then leaving it on the beach to fester for a month. After it has been covered in other unmentionables from the sea and has completely dried out, you can peel away the seaweed and shake out the remnants of the decomposed fish before enjoying the paper… Yes, it really is that nice.
On the way back we stopped at a delightful little harbour called Ballintoy, there was a café and a small beach – a wonderful stop off it and indeed was a location from Game of Thrones, so that was a real bonus.
By this time, the rain had eased off slightly and we thought we’d see if the rope bridge at Carrick-a Rede had opened. It was really quiet in the car park but the sign on the little cabin said the bridge was open. Dressed in our raincoats and scarves once more we made our way down to the bridge. It took us about 20 minutes and the scenery was beautiful on the way down. I did note that it would be much harder going on the way up and wasn’t looking forward to all of those steps. There weren’t many people around at all and we had the bridge all to ourselves. Dh went first so he could take pictures of the girls going across, all crossed the bridge without a second thought. I was bringing up the rear and was frightened that I might be the one that chickened out. The wind had picked up and the guy who was stood at the top said we’d have to hurry as it looked like they might need to close the bridge because of the wind. That did nothing, for my nerves, I walked across and looked down into the wild ocean swirling, angrily beneath me – the bridge really swayed with the wind and I scurried across as quickly as I could. There’s not much at the other side but the views were equally breathtaking and we just stood and stared out at the wild ocean. It had started to rain again and the wind was even worse, I had images of being stranded there but even with only a non-waterproof raincoat it seemed preferable to crossing the bridge again. Not wanting to reveal my cowardly thoughts we made our way back and with each step I was sure that I was about to plunge to my death – as it happens, the only casualty was my hat which now lives in the wild Atlantic Ocean. My size doesn’t usually bother me but I have certain insecurities like - will the horse buckle under my weight? Will the seatbelt fit on the plane? Will I get stuck in a turnstyle? And now I have a new one, Am I too heavy for the ropes on a rope bridge that is suspended hundreds of feet over rocks and ocean? This last one is a proper worry as it means certain death rather than mild embarrassment Luckily, none of my insecurities have manifested themselves, yet…
The walk back up was indeed more challenging than on the way down, I think my fitness levels are a positive as we have to stop ‘to admire the view’ more often than others, so therefore we always take in our surroundings.
We drove back via the Causeway coastal route which was lovely, waterfalls cascaded down the sides of rocks and everything looked very impressive. I loved Northern Ireland and wished we had more time to explore. The girls got a McDonalds on our way through Letterfrack and were thrilled with it.
Dh and I had decided to eat in the restaurant at Rathmullen House as it looked lovely (and had wifi), unfortunately they were fully booked up but there was a Tap Room that sold the most glorious pizzas.
We had a wild foraged mushroom, chorizo and goats cheese pizza which was to die for – so tasty. Dh needed to go for petrol so he left me at the restaurant to settle up and finish my trip report. I looked a little conspicuous sat in the cloakroom trying to upload my TR
I started to walk back, the house was well lit and illuminated in the dark but as I got further away, and down the long driveway, the lights disappeared and I was in total blackness. I went flying over the first speed bump and stumbled my way along the rest of them, tripping regularly over stray branches and getting too close to bramble bushes. I eventually came to the end of the path and there was a road, so I knew I’d gone too far and missed the smaller footpaths leading to the cottages. I made my way carefully, trying to light the way with my phone (which made no difference at all) and I still couldn’t see where the little pathways were. Cursing my dh for leaving me for dead (ok a bit melodramatic) and all the guests in the cottages for not leaving any lights on when they went to bed, I finally stumbled across the path.
There were a couple of cottages at the back with lights on which helped a little but I had absolutely no idea which was our cottage. I crept about like a burglar, peering through patio doors and standing on tiptoes to see through windows, hoping to recognise something that belonged to us – picking up plant pots that I’d knocked over in my wake.
Eventually, I found a cottage with a light on and was thrilled to see Grandma and Dexter sat in the kitchen. Dh arrived at literally the same time as me, by this time it was raining and again I resembled a drowned rat - that had a grazed knee from the speed bump incident, scratched ankles and a muddy face like it had purposely been camouflaged. It had taken me about 40 minutes to walk approximately 200m and when I accused dh of leaving me for dead he just said I should have used the torch he’d put in my bag earlier. I’m sure you can imagine my response…
Our last full day tomorrow