A Travellerspoint blog

Day 45 Ballymoney, Northern Ireland - Burnfoot, R of Ireland

Saturday 27 August 2016

overcast 19 °C

Here we are back in euro territory again. We crossed the border this afternoon just north of Derry. Our day started cloudy but we had no rain all day. Our host at Honeysuckle Lodge hugged us goodbye (she does that to all her guests) and we were off with a list of instructions as to how to walk to the Giant’s Causeway and avoid paying £18. We needed to do some laundry, having not done any since John O’Groats. We googled laundromats in Portrush and off we headed. I had forgotten that it was Saturday and the girl said they could not do it as they shut at 1pm. However, a nice man took pity on us and overrode that decision and said he would do it. Washing deposited, we headed off to the Giant’s Causeway.
Driving east, we came across the ruins of Dunluce Castle. It seems like it is being repaired in one spot. It sits right on the cliff face of the ocean. We didn’t go in as we were going to the Giant’s Causeway. Originally the locals and visitors could access the Giant’s Causeway so they are not pleased that this huge structure, the Visitor’s Centre, has been built and they now try to prevent people from walking down there without paying. Valerie had written a list of instructions like no other which was great. If we had have had another night, there it would have been great as it meant walking by the sea and then around to the GC. We had to be back at the laundromat by 1pm so we had about one and a half hours to get there and back. Once parked we headed into the centre and paid our money which gave us tickets for headsets. We started walking and listened to the headset as we went. There has been some serious geological action in this area and while the commentator talked about tectonic plates and glaciers, he also told the mythological stories about the giant. It pointed out various shapes one had to imagine – the camel, grandma, giant’s boot. One section was quite steep so it was puff time. We did make it to the end of the path and it was turn around and walk like the you know what’s back to the visitor’s centre. We didn’t go up to the headland – the steps to it were enough to turn anyone off.
We made it in time to collect the washing - £16.50 thank you very much – but it was worth it to have clean clothes. I had neglected to mention last night that we had dinner at the Royal Hotel that sits atop a beach near Portrush. As we pulled up I commented to Ross that it looked like a golf course below us but it was difficult to see with the sun setting. He said he thought it would be Royal Portrush and of course he was correct. We called in to see if there was any chance of getting a hit but being the weekend, it was impossible.
Next best thing to do was to drive to Bushmill and find the whiskey distillery, the oldest in Ireland. We didn’t do a tour but had a scone, jam and a cup of tea at the restaurant. On our way out I asked if the tasting was free and the young guy said it wasn’t except for a taste of the original drink. So Ross had a bit of that. The young chap, Chris, started having a good chat to Ross and before long, he had a free Black Rush for free. Chris asked which one he preferred and because he said he liked the first one he said that the 21-year-old would probably be to his liking. Back in the gift shop the decision was made and we now have a bottle of the latter to carry home. Ross was then able to go back to Chris and he was able to “taste” what he had bought and it was served in a glass not a plastic sipper!!
Now, as you could imagine, there was no way I was going to let him drive so I got to have my first drive of the new rental car. We tried to ignore Suri and make our own journey so that we could go by the coast. We didn’t do too badly. We eventually found the B&B at Burnfoot which was no easy feat as we had no street address. It is about 2 kilometres outside the town, on the side of the hill and in the distance, one could see Derry.
As it was only 4.30, I thought it would be a good idea to take a drive to the most northerly point of Ireland, Malin Head, via the east coast of the peninsula. We managed to arrive before dark and it was quite cold, about 16 degrees. The actual point is quite rugged but the water was very calm. The area was used during the war to monitor ship movement etc. Now getting there took longer than expected as Suri kept wanting to take us on these back tracks. She succeeded at one stage and it was hilarious as we were on this one-way track which ran past these people’s house. They were out the front and the look they gave us was unbelievable. It was if they were wondering what the heck were we doing there. We waved politely and continued bouncing along over hill and dale until we finally found the main road again. We actually found some thatched roofed houses today.
I was determined to find our way back to Burnfoot without going on the back tracks so we headed off but down the west coast this time. It was getting late so we found a place that looked like it would have some meals. I asked the lady what the name of the town was as we really didn’t know where we were. It turned out that we only had a ten- minute drive to Burnfoot after dinner. Back at the B&B, we marvelled at the view to the lights of Derry in the distance.

Posted by gpric6 14:41 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

Day 44 Newcastle – Belfast – Ballymoney, Northern Ireland

Friday 26 August 2016

sunny 24 °C

What a day! Leaving our lovely little country B&B in Newcastle was not easy. We farewelled the Mourne Mountains and set the sat nav for the Titanic Museum in Belfast. It was pretty easy driving, probably taking an hour.
I had read to buy tickets to save standing in the queue but I didn’t. I thought if we arrived early enough we should be ok. So 10.30 was good. The museum has been built in what looks like a very modern part of Belfast. It is a great venue as well. The visit started by outlining Belfast’s development through the Industrial Revolution and the development of its industries over the centuries – flax/linen, whiskey, ship building. With people wanting to move to other countries, the latter came to its fore with the building of the Titanic and Olympic. Once you got into the building of the Titanic, you had to move up a floor and go for a very sedate ride that took you through the process until when it was launched. It then depicts the sinking of the great ship and the aftermath. It is an extremely good museum. We also paid to see the display of Amundsen and Scott, Race to the End of the World, on loan from the American Museum of Natural History. It was also very interesting and well presented. By the time we had a bite to eat, we had been there 5 hours.
Seeing it was only 3.30, I thought we could drive to Carrick-a-Rede and that would free us up a bit for tomorrow. Carrick-a-Rede is a township on the northern coastline of Ireland so it took us just over an hour to get there. The attraction here was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. We arrived there in plenty of time as the last ticket is sold at 6.15 although that is a bit of a joke as the site shuts down at 7pm and it is probably a 2 kilometre walk to the site. And what a beautiful sight it was. The area was once a great salmon fishing spot and the fisherman built this bridge between the mainland and an outcrop of rock. The crossing is very well regulated – only 8 people on the bridge at a time. It was scary as the wind was blowing and the structure swayed. I didn’t even look down. The coastline is very rugged with high escarpments meeting the sea. There are many caves at the base of the cliffs. To the left of the car park is another area, Larrybane, with white cliffs but we didn’t go down there. Last week we travelled to Campbelltown, Scotland and we were able to see Ireland. Today, the weather was so good that we were able to see the islands of Islay and Jura and the headland of Southend and of course, the Mull of Kintyre.
Once we had walked back to the entry, we set sail for our B&B. It was a beautiful drive as we were actually driving along the coastline. We stopped at one point, White Park Bay, and took a photo. By chance I remembered that I also wanted to check out the Dark Hedges so I punched it into the sat nav. It took us on the very next turn back inland through narrow tracks until we found it. There were plenty of people there, looking at the sight. Some cars were parked and lots of people we walking. We decided to drive through. If everyone did that it would be so much better as you wouldn’t end up with cars and people in your photo. Anyway, can tick that off.
Finally, we found Honeysuckle Lodge, an absolute gem in the country near Ballymoney. Our host, Valerie was eager for a chat. Her husband, a plumber, fell off his ladder in May and this resulted in him losing his leg. She runs the B&B and looks after him, but he has been able to return to work. She said he was doing too much at times so she would steal his leg so that he wouldn’t go anywhere.

Posted by gpric6 14:20 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Day 43 Drogheda, Ireland – Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Thursday 25 August 2016

sunny 24 °C

Our stay at the Boyne Valley Hotel and Country Club was good. They have major renovations underway so I don’t envy them the costs. One thing I can say is that our bed was very comfy and clean. The dinner last night was huge. I had paid for dinner, bed and breakfast. Dinner was three courses and Ross and I enjoyed the tasty mushroom soup and bread. Then our plate of chicken pasta arrived and we couldn’t fit it in. We had to go for a walk just so that we could eat the passionfruit cheesecake and rhubarb crumble. We made sure that we had a light breakfast this morning.
Today was sunny so we set the route for New Grange. The visitor’s centre is very pleasant with a great display explaining the finds and what they believe about the past. We were visiting a Neolithic site once again, older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids – 3500 years old. In the area there were 70 burial mounds and 18 are still visible. The three main places in the area are New Grange, Knowth and Dowth. I remember Kathy saying that they couldn’t get a tour when they were there so I made sure we were there early. Sure enough, tours were filling fast. Inspection of Knowth was first. (Dowth is not open to the public.) Knowth was opened to the public in 2004 after 40 years of archaeological digging. The guide explained that they believed that the mound may have been used to store the dead or for rituals. Rocks were believed to have been brought from a place 17 kilometres to the NE, perhaps by the River Boyne and then hauled up the hill – a major job. There was evidence that, during the centuries, the mound was abandoned and medieval villages were built on top of the mound. We were able to go inside the largest mound but that part was not in its natural state. There are two tunnels but it is not possible for the public to go in to them. We could see one of the tunnels. In the part inside it does show how the mound was turned into an archaeological dig. One can see that they went to a lot of trouble just to look after their dead. Back on the bus, we were taken down to the visitor centre to catch the next bus.
New Grange was the mound or should I say “passage tomb” I was most interested to see. Once again, it is said to be have been carbon dated back to 3200BC. They believe these people were the earliest farmers, using the fertile soil and water of the Boyne River. New Grange was discovered in 1699 by people looking for rocks. It remained unprotected for two hundred years so there is graffiti there from the Victorian era. The outside has been reconstructed as to how a certain archaeologist believed it looked, with the quartz on the front to reflect the light. However, the incredible thing at this site is that the interior has not been touched, barring a few pieces of timber and concrete that have had to be put in to ensure structural safety. There is an entrance and one has to bend down to fit in and also turn sideways to fit through the narrow corridor. The tunnel led us to a chamber of hexagonal shape. The roof above worked itself to finally end with one capping stone – amazing. Once we were inside with the guide, she turned out the light and that allowed her to show how the light shines through the “window” above the entrance into the back of the tomb. This happens naturally on the Winter Solstice, 21 December. It can actually be seen 6 times in a year around this date and they have a lottery to choose the lucky 100 people who will be able to go inside and witness this phenomenon. All around the area there are satellite tombs and they are hoping that many more of these will be investigated. Both tours were well worth the visit.
It was time to set the sat nav for our next destination, Newcastle. We almost had a divorce in the carpark as we could not get the stupid Gammin to bring the town up. Being so technologically advanced we were very upset that we had paid $15 per day and it wouldn’t work. Useless thing we thought. We rang Avis and she couldn’t help. People next to us were having a bad day too as the lady was backing out oblivious to the fact that the rear door of the car was up. So we told them and the husband jumped out to close it. I just thought I would ask if he know how to use these stupid things. He said, “You have to change the country!!” Oh yes. We were going into Northern Ireland. He did that and voila, Newcastle. So we were off towards the Mourne Mountains. As soon as we were over the border, speed limits changed to miles per hour and we are back using pounds not euros. How confusing!
Our B&B was pre-booked – The Briers – and it was a welcome sight. The lady has just renovated and we could not believe our room and ensuite. Jayne had told me about the Mourne Mountains and believe it or not, we look out our bedroom window at them. What a find
You may wonder why we came here. Ross had hoped to play golf at Royal County Down but the only space was tomorrow afternoon and that didn’t suit the accommodation booked. We are still booking ahead. We drove down to there and of course, it was lovely. Newcastle is another seaside town. We had dinner in town and then found our way back to the B&B quite easily I might add!!
PS. If this weather continues, we might have to get the shorts out!

Posted by gpric6 13:59 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Day 42 Edinburgh, Scotland – Dublin - Drogheda, Ireland

Wednesday 24 August 2016

sunny 22 °C

The day started brilliantly – Edinburgh with blue skies. We made ready for our flight to Ireland, quite a challenge. Luckily I had paid extra to have 25 kilograms of luggage each as we were flying with Aer Lingus. When we went to return the rental car the other day, we bought return tickets on the tram for £18 so that gave us both the trip back to Edinburgh and we used that to come back to the airport. The tram is very convenient. We did have to drag our bags through the street but it was pretty easy going. Tram took about 30 minutes to get us to the airport. We were able to check our bags in straight away so that was good and the worry of being overweight was out the way. A nice lady fixed us up. The flight got away on time. What we didn’t know was that the plane was just like the ones that travel from Gladstone to Brisbane, a prop jet. We even had to take a bus to and from the plane.
The flight was uneventful and, with the weather being like it was, the view from the plane was amazing. We saw the Lakes District before we crossed the coastline just north of the Isle of Man as well as the flattened, heather-covered hills and loads of wind farms. The ocean looked as blue as blue and smooth too. I waited patiently for my cup of tea or coffee and thought I must have missed it whilst taking photos. But it never came. Talk about budget! Our entry into Dublin was speedy. We even got a stamp in our passport.
After collecting the rental car, we headed north. Unfortunately, the sat navs cards are removed from the cars here so we now have a Tom Tom. We had to learn very quickly to program it. We found our first destination so that is a good start.

Posted by gpric6 14:37 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Day 40 & 41 Edinburgh, Scotland

Monday 22 August – 23 August 2016

overcast 19 °C

It didn’t take us long to pack the bags in Glasgow, get our car brought up and be on route to Edinburgh. The trip was uneventful. We set Suri to take us to the town centre so that we could pick up our duplicate tickets for the Tattoo. I left the tickets in Australia, probably due to the rush before I left so I emailed them and this was the alternative. Luckily I had the credit card with me that I paid for them with. Amazing! Ross drove around the block while I was in the office. It was raining and the town was abuzz with people as The Fringe Festival is on in August.
Tickets collected we headed for the Radisson to drop off our bags. It was suggested that we park in the car park as there is no drop off area. We found it and went about getting our bags into the hotel. Our room was ready so we were able to drop everything off and head for the car return at the airport. Fuelled up, we left Suri at the Avis counter and found the tram to take us back to the city. We had covered 3 100 miles, that’s about 5 170 kilometres.
The sun actually came out in Edinburgh and it was the perfect time to go for a walk and do photos but we thought we had better have a rest before our big night out. We decided we would walk to the Tattoo and that was more of a challenge than we expected. As I said, the Fringe Festival was on and, when we went out into the street, there were people everywhere. I could hear a tapping on the cobbles stones as I walked beside Ross. All of a sudden, Ross says to me that he had done an “Aunty Marla”. Several years ago, she was walking in Melbourne, when she discovered that the heel had fallen off her shoe. Well, here we were, on our big night out, and Ross has no rubber liner on his shoe. So we just had to keep going.
The sun was in our eyes and the crowd was thick as, with the buskers doing their thing in the street. We reached the bottom of the hill, where we were stopped by some officious nobody who told us we couldn’t go up the hill as it was too early. Can you believe that – we were too early!! We ignored him and kept going. We were told to move off the hill if we didn’t have a reservation. I even had a young girl try the standover tactic with me. Unbelievable.
Our whisky experience started on time at 6.30. We were sat at a table with 4 other Aussie couples. Our host took us through three whiskies, one with each course of the dinner. Of course, Ross to have double treats as he drank mine. Our meal was a sampling of many traditional Scottish foods – venison, haggis, salmon – all in bite sized portions. Once dessert was finished, we were taken through a collection of scotch, bottles upon bottles. Our host led us to the stands for the show so there was no queueing. Our seat was way up high and was comfortable. How lucky were we to have a dry night as it is out in the open. I can’t imagine how cold it must get.
The show was amazing, featuring many different types of bands, bands from different part of the world as well as highland dancers, motor bikes, a horse and carriage etc. The bagpipes were amazing as well as the drummers. Of course the precision executed by them all kept us all enthralled. The fireworks were a surprise as I thought it was only on Saturday night. They project images on to the castle which matches each segment. On the whole – very entertaining. Off course it was a late night but once we got through the crowd at the top, it was a pleasant walk back to the hotel. Some buskers were still working. It’s a bustling city.
Breakfast was good once we got ourselves out of bed. The day was overcast but we headed out to see the sights. Edinburgh is a lovely city but the sandstone needs cleaning. With the skies being overcast, it is difficult to do photos any justice. We climbed the hill to the national monument. There are actually several things to see there. You can also look to the Hollyrood Palace and the hills formed by volcanic activity. Having had a good look around the hill, we headed back to town and looked around the streets before buying some goodies for afternoon tea.

Posted by gpric6 15:01 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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