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Report 1922: Coasting Through Ireland on Pints of Cider

By Green Dragon from FL, Spring 2011

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Page 4 of 21: Saturday, May 14th: We're not Climbing all the Way up that, Are We?

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Up, up, up! We were up at 6:30am, and discovered that the light in the bathroom is motion sensitive. If you stay still for too long (say, in the shower), the light goes off. And the sensor is not near the shower, so you have to stop and wave your hands as you shave your legs – disconcerting to say the least. However, that's part of the adventure of traveling! It was raining a bit, so we decided to do some driving. We drove the Glenaan Scenic Route and the sun started peeping out of the cloud cover occasionally, in between spats of rain. We saw waterfalls, bridges, lots of sheep, a few goats, lovely rolling hills and tiny, windy roads. We ended up in Cushendun at one point, and explored a church back in Cushendall before breakfast was ready at 8:30am.

In the lovely breakfast room there were lots of nautical items – we discovered that our host, Pat, used to be in the merchant marines, and worked as the harbor master now. The room had a slideshow of local photographs to some quiet traditional music to accompany our breakfast. Full Irish breakfast consisted of the usual fried eggs, brown Irish soda bread, bacon, mushrooms, sausage, and grilled tomatoes. There were potato pancakes and fried bread, as well.

After filling up to the brim with food, we were off to the Torr Scenic Road, Torr Head, Fair Head and more Antrim Coast delights. The sun was shy at first, but started peeking out as we got nearer to Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. This area is listed as a tourist spot, but very little of what I saw mention the spectacular white and rock cliffs that surround the spot.

On our way to the bridge itself, we walked by a young man trying very hard to sell us some programs. He tried guilt right off, by saying how stressed he was – we at least stopped to chat with him. He lived on Rathlin Island (we could see it through the mists), which has a total population of 54 people. He had to drive his boat into work every day.

We climbed over the bridge, all around the island, stared in awe at the beautiful coast, and wandered back. It is a long walk, and there were many tourists braving the winds, but it was definitely worth it. I think it was the most beautiful spot along that coast that I saw. It was wonderful to sit on the rock, look out over the seabirds darting into the waves, and realize I was there, in my home Ireland, once again.

Our next stop was the Giant's Causeway, something I'd wanted to see for many years. I had visited the Isle of Staffa in Scotland in 2008, the other 'side' of the causeway. The hexagonal basalt rock formations are surreal and strange. The walk down to the causeway was up and down, and beautiful as well, but the rain kept coming furiously through every 20 minutes or so. Then the sun made up for it by sparkling down on the wet surf and rocks. I had picked up a cheap rain poncho at the Rope Bridge and it was my most valuable purchase the entire trip! An umbrella would have been useless in the wind.

This site was more crowded than the Rope Bridge, but it was more open and climbable, as well. I was able to find some lovely photo ops here and there, and then the rain hit with a fury. We sheltered behind an outcropping until it died down, and we started the long walk back. The small café was bursting with people due to the furious weather, but I managed to get a hot Irish Coffee to keep me warm. We got back into the car and headed towards Dunluce Castle.

We ended up taking a wrong turn, despite having our handy-dandy TomTom SatNav to guide us. It tried to take us into Derry, but V beat it into submission, and we found our way. Dunluce was another spectacular spot, a castle situated on a sea cliff, with part of it having fallen into the sea hundreds of years ago. We had the place almost to ourselves, and the sun cooperated by shining through the rain and giving us some lovely views. The only other visitor was a large black cat who obviously owned the place, though he disdained from being petted.

We went into the town of Bushmills to find some lunch. It was about 3pm by the time the effects of the breakfast wore off, and of course that's when many pubs close for food. However, we found a tea shop called The Copper Kettle that served Irish lamb stew, and we had a warm, yummy, savory break.

We picked a road going south at random, and drove through farms and fields, over hills and through glens. We spotted many wind turbines in the distance, and one or two at individual farms across fields of bright yellow (not gorse this time – perhaps rapeseed?). My legs were a bit achy from all the climbing up and down we did today, and the unfamiliar actions of driving a manual transmission without cruise control all day. We went through Ballymoney, and explored the glens of Antrim a little more before returning to Cushendall. The open vistas were impressive after the narrow hedgerows that grow along the farm roads.

We decided to explore the town a little more this evening, so we walked up one of the hills towards the fairy hill. I looked at it, felt the ache in my legs and said "We're not climbing all the way up that, are we?" This became the quote of the day, as it turned out. We found a road called Cairn Road, so I figured that there was a cairn on it – off we went! Up and up, through foresty bits, past the fairy hill (and higher). We met Johnny, a local out for a walk, who said there was no cairn – but that Layd Church was on the road, later on. We didn't find the church on that road (we missed the turn off) but had a lovely walk. It started raining again on our way back, so we dashed back into the B&B to warm ourselves in the lounge in front of the cozy fire.

We watched some TV (Cops was on – go figure) and wandered for some food. It was later now, after 9pm, so the only place serving was the take-away – I had some fantastic chicken curry, the place was called The Half Door. We went to Joe's for some more pints and music. It was more crowded than the previous night, but less music around. One room was singing along with something, and we heard several songs, such as The Joker and Summer of '69. We staggered off to bed around midnight, well-pinted and tired from a full day of exploration and visual feasting.

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