The Antrim Coastal Road (Rockstar Style)
Trip Start May 13, 2008
128Trip End Ongoing
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Anyway, today we were planning to drive up the scenic Antrim Coastal Road to Giants Causeway. The first stop down the road was at Carrickfergus Castle, where it was still raining a fair bit, and it all looked a bit grim. Raingear donned we began to explore it. Unfortunately it lacked the beautiful views of recent castles we've had the honour to visit, but it was still in good shape. The people running the joint obviously thought it was a great idea to erect figurines of soldiers/historial figures on horseback/prisoners to try and bring the castle to life, but personally I thought it just made it look a bit naff.
It had actually stopped raining by the time we emerged from the castle, and the weather began to clear remarkably quickly as we continued up the coast. The scenery was all undeniably beautiful, and the roads were surprisingly empty.
We stopped for some lunch at a tearoom in Cushendall and we both had some leek and potatoe soup, which came with some wheaten bread. We don't get this bread at home...why the hell not? It was outstanding (mainly due to the fact that it almost tasted like cake), and definitely a highlight of being in Northern Ireland.
The road then began to cut inland along the Torr Head scenic route, and our little car took on some precarious chicane bends up and down hills. Northern Ireland is possibly the absolute greenest place I have ever seen, the fields looked they were covered in moss, not grass, it was ridiculous. And then cutting through all the fields was this bright bright yellow gorse, just flowering. It made the hills all absolutely stunning, and the sunshine that we were blessed with definitely helped show it in its best light.
Our first proper stop was at a National Trust site, the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, which links the mainland to a rocky island used for salmon fishing and bird watching. There was a 1km walk to the actual bridge from the carpark, and in the distance we could see the Mull of Kintyre. Also, I never have seen and never thought I would see water this blue in the British Isles... flipping amazing.
We walked over the bridge - it was surprisingly stable, and there wasn't really that much on the otherside except a whole lot of wind to be honest!
Our primary stop for the day was at Giants Causeway, the only World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland. Now I'd seen pictures and knew it was pretty famous, but pictures don't really give you a good idea of the scale of the thing. I don't want to say I was underwhelmed, but well, its smaller than you think! And, I was pretty bamboozled by the fact that you can walk all over it. How many other supposed "World Heritage" sites does that happen at?!
Anyway, it was a 10-15 min downhill walk to the Causeway from the carpark, and at this point it was still slightly sunny...
And then when we approached the 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns that make up the Causeway, the heavens pretty much decided to open. I actually thought that was quite good, as all the people around ran for cover, although it did become really slippy in places, I was nearly in danger of being washed away! About the Causeway itself, what can I really say - what else is like it? You just have to see it...
Because of the weather we didn't take up the opportunity to walk further round the coast, but it was all beautiful in that classy craggy green Northern Irish style. It was a bit of a shame really, it would have been a lovely walk.
So we took the walk back up the hill to the carpark instead and bought a few postcards as mementos to take home. The Antrim Coastal Drive continued still further from GC and we still had a fair bit of time and daylight to use up (thank you BST!), so we stopped a few km up the road at Dunluce Castle, a ruined medieval castle. You could see it from the best angle from the fields above without having to bother to pay to go in so we did just that.
The furthest east we reached was Coleraine, where we decided to turn around and head inland back to Torr Head where we were staying the night. We were advised to get food before we arrived as there wasn't much there (understatement!), so we stopped in Ballycastle, the nearest town. Now this was a Friday night, yet it was pretty dead. I don't know if Northern Irish people don't really eat out, but literally there was about 10 takeaways and 1 restaurant on the high street... I wasn't loving that ratio. And the restaurant was a Cellar restaurant, so we nearly didn't spot it! I ordered some more wheaten bread for a starter (yes it is that good!), then roasted veg parcels for main, followed by the absolute best slice of banoffee pie for desert... wow!
We found our B+B after a little trouble (lack of signage) and dropped off our things and headed out for an evening walk to Torr Head - the nearest point to Scotland. There was a couple of other people around and an awful lot of sheep, and it was pretty surreal to spend a Friday night watching the sunset up here. Literally, there is nothing else to do up here - I always wonder how you can seemingly fall of the face of the earth yet still in reality still be so close to humanity.
Where I stayed
Torr Brae B+B