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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 5 of 21: Sunday, May 15th: We Won't Walk as Much Today, Since It's Raining

This morning was the morning I was going to teach V how to drive manual transmission – a mission fraught with danger and terror! We chose this day as few people would be out and about, especially early in the morning. The weather was a bit rainy, but it was bright enough. We took the Glenarm Scenic Route since we were already somewhat familiar with it, and it had big open spaces that made it easier to see oncoming traffic, if it existed. She did great, without any stalls or grindings, but decided it was much too much work with all the hills. That was fine, I figured I'd be driving this trip anyhow, but at least we tried!

Back for breakfast and then it was time to explore the Glens of Antrim a bit more. We just picked a road and drove – and discovered the pain and promise that are the brown signs in Ireland. The brown signs point out places of interest – sometimes ruins, castles, abbeys, and scenic views, but also often B&Bs, stores, and other things I wouldn't have thought a tourist would be interested in, such as furniture stores. We deemed these abusive brown signs, and did our best to ignore them when encountered. It did make things confusing, though, as one street junction might have 15 brown signs, only one or two of interest – and trying to read them all at even 30 mph was difficult.

We saw signs for Glenarm castle and garden, and I remember reading something about a maze, so we set out to search for it – couldn't find it. We ended up driving on the mountainside above the town, and could see it from there, so we went back down to town level, and found it. It was not open until noon that day, still two hours away, so we wandered away.

We found Glenariffe Forest and decided to take a walk in the forest path. Now, it is still raining and drizzling on and off throughout the morning, so we are packaged up in plastic like leftovers. However, waterfalls love rain, and make for lovely photographs, so off we went! The forest was lovely – primeval, dripping, filled with ferns, water everywhere. There was a recurring odor that reminded me of musty stew, simmering all day in a rustic farmhouse, over the hearth with a peat fire. I think I counted at least a half dozen big, powerful waterfalls, and countless streamlets and cascades everywhere you looked.

We took the two mile 'easy' path, and it was delightful. Partway around, we came across a shelter that had four stalls with benches, and took a rest – several Polish families were bringing little barbecues and setting them up for a party. This was a wonderful day, despite or perhaps because of the rain. It was very natural and rustic experience, with the constant dripping of the water, the rushing of the rivers, and the bombardment of scents from the greenery around us. The power of the falls was intense and humbling.

We finally made our way back to the starting point, and had a lovely lunch in the restaurant there, along with about 15 motorcyclists. All rice-burners, of course – Harley Davidson doesn't seem to be very popular in Ireland. The restaurant itself was a bit touristy, but with lovely post and beam ceilings. I had some potato leek soup with brown bread, as I wanted something warm and savory. V had a goat's cheese salad. Much refreshed and recharged, we decided to try the Glenarm castle and gardens once more, as it was well past the noon opening times posted.

The gardens were lovely, but many of the flowers were not yet in full bloom in May, and others had been in bloom and were already a bit past their prime. There wasn't any 'maze', but there were hedges partitioning different parts of the garden, and a strange little spiral hill on one corner, that you could climb up and survey the gardens from above. The sun actually sparkled on the rain-wet leaves while we were there, affording us with a fairy-tale glistening of greenery. We went into the café/gift shop, and we asked about entry into the castle itself; we were told, rather snootily, that the castle was 'in residence', so there was no entry for tourists.

We went on to explore the brown-signed Glencloy Scenic Route, and came across many of the typically Irish stone walls corralling farms across galloping hills, steeper and steeper over each one as we drove. On the way back we found the first Ruin of No Consequence, a lovely ruined structure on a hill – but no sign or indication of what it was, what it had been, why it was there.

Coming back to Cushendall, we decided to find Layd Church this time. We drove to where we thought the turn off was, and found a small parking lot and a short walk to the church itself. It was small, but with several lovely Celtic Crosses, so I took some photographs. We then started walking along the coastal path – not realizing it was quite long. It was lovely, though, and we saw the shore from up high on this path. We saw islands in the mist in the distance, and V decided that it must be Scotland. In her best Tina Fey/Sarah Palin voice, she claimed 'I can see Scotland from my path!' Fisherman, a man playing with his dog, many varieties of flowers and the occasional mist of rain accompanied our journey, which let us out somewhat down the road from our car.

We made our way back and had dinner at Harry's, a restaurant on the corner. I had the seafood chowder (which surprised me by having chunks of tomato in the cream-based soup), while V had a platter with parma ham, chorizo sausage, and duck egg rolls. During dinner, we decided today's phrase of the day was "We won't walk as much today, since it's raining."

Having grown up in Florida, I took palm trees for granted, but always assumed it was at least a subtropical tree. I had previously seen a couple here and there in the southwest of Ireland, but noticed that here, in the northeast, almost everyone had at least one palm tree in their yard. There were various species of them, some short and bushy, most tall and V-shaped. Many looked a bit worse for wear, and not at all healthy, but everyone had them in their yards. It's not what most people think of when they think of Ireland, and it was a bit bizarre to see them so often.

We warmed up after dinner in the lounge of the B&B, by the toasty fire, and caught up on our facebook addiction. We watched a BBC special on puffins around the islands, and went off for an early night. The host also came in for a bit and talked to us some more, he was a very sweet man, and obviously loved the area.

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