Coastal Irish Coziness

The Premier Inn provided a lovely breakfast buffet this morning as Dave and I looked through our travel itinerary today. It was just a tick cooler, cloudier, but still nice out. A heavy fog over the ocean would obscure a more brilliant vista most of the day.

We were leaving Carrickfergus and going on to Islandmagee. Now, although my mother’s family name is Maggie, this island, which is actually a peninsula, isn’t a part of OUR Magee family. Dave’s years or research indicates our Magee ancestry related to Islandmagee is incorrectly stated throughout Ancestry.com and that placing the family origin on Islandmagee, is merely a matter of convenience, instead of based on any actual fact. Nonetheless, we stopped and paid our respects.

The next place of interest was a statue in the town of Larne. Easier said than done! But Dave, being Dave, had googled it extensively and we were able to track it down. Surrounded by a pre-school, a caravan/camper park and a bowling green, the tribute was dedicated in 1992 to the memory of those emigrants who left Larne in 1717 to go to America. Leaving everything & everyone behind for a new life. It was a poignant reminder of that time and of our own ancestors. I’m very glad we found it.

The next stop was Glenarm Castle & the Walled Garden. Although the 400-year old castle itself is only open to the public on occasion and the castle trial, which goes by the castle was closed for repairs, the walled garden is open to public and is Ireland’s oldest walled garden.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a bite to eat at their lovely tearoom. We both had fruit scones. Dave had coffee, I had tea, of course. As we sat out on their deck, we enjoyed the sweet perfume of David Austin roses clinging the sides of the building and some sheep were grazing in a brilliant, green field.

Although we’re visiting during the last spring & early summer bloom period and the garden wasn’t as colorful as it could be, there were still some beauties and well worth a visit to see the attention to detail in maintaining the symmetry needed for some lovely angles and views.

As the drive took us north, we tried to hug the coastline as much as possible. The drive often turned into a winding, narrow single lane that was the width of a farm tractor or cart. Dave had to back up once or twice to allow an oncoming car to safely pass. The eye-level hedges in both sides of the road didn’t allow you to see what was coming around some hair-pin turns. Dave attempted to pull over in as many places possible to allow other cars past.

I’m unable to recall all of the places we stopped and what I’m looking at, but suffice it to say, it was all stunning! Even with the fog and haze that crept along the coast. Each small town we drove through and farm we drove past, gave us a wee glimpse into every day life in this cozy spot of the world.

The sun was trying it’s best to shine, but the haze/fog was too much. We lucked out in some of the higher locations where we were able to see for miles and enjoy the many farms, sheep, cows, horses, and accommodating farmers. I’m sure they aren’t as welcoming to the tourist cars clogging their narrow roads.

Out final destination was Ballintoy, where we will staying for four days. What day is today? Who cares…I’m in vacation.

The fog had followed us and was now getting thicker as we found the Ropebridge House B&B where owner Theresa greeted us warmly at the door. Having only had the B&B for about four months, she and her husband have done a great job in providing guests with a warm and inviting home. Our room is on the 2nd floor and looks out over the hills to the ocean. I’m sure Ill have mode to share in the next two days.

Our dinner tonight was the Fullerton Arms. Terrific staff and one of, if not THE best dinners we’ve had in our trip. I had a burger & Dave had a steak & ale pie WITH Guinness of course.

After dinner we went down to the rocky Ballintoy Harbor and explored. The fog and haze was still hanging around, so it only made for an atmospheric setting, the HBO series GAME OF THRONES films around here a lot.

When we arrived back at the inn where I heard one of the two front sitting room calling me. So it grabbed a cup of tea and say there writing my blog. As we were sitting there speaking to the owners, the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds, giving us spectacular sunset at around 9:30.

I’m looking forward to not having to pack each morning the next few days!

From Scotland to Northern Ireland

After a busy day of winding roads and a large fish ‘n chips dinner last night, I think we both slept very well. Dave and I did extra packing this morning because not only were we leaving the B&B, but because we were catching a flight to Belfast, Northern Ireland mid-afternoon.

Breakfast was lovely. I had French toast that was fantastic and Dave had yummy sausages, eggs, potato scone, and baked beans. An extremely nice couple from Switzerland was also staying at the B&B and soon joined us for breakfast. They were on their way to hike the West Highland Way and spoke very good English, so we had a nice conversation.

We said goodbye to our hosts and set out to find the elusive Buchanan Castle. It’s technically not a castle, but a rather large & imposing estate. They ran out of money, the roof was removed in 1955 so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes, and eventually the entire thing fell into disrepair after being abandoned.

After some exploration in the car, we finally discovered its hiding place amongst the trees on the grounds of Buchanan Golf Coarse. The remains are truly just that…remains and ruins of what used to be a beautiful estate. Dave wondered into the woods, explored, and took many photos. He said it was huge. I stayed in the car because I wasn’t wearing shoes appropriate for walking in muddy woods. Dave said it was sad to see it.

We had originally planned to go to one more castle today, but time was running short, so we decided to head straight to the Glasgow airport for our flight to Belfast. This would be Dave’s first try at driving in a larger city and on major routes. He did great though and we were successful in dropping our car off at the car return.

The flight was a very quick 20 minute trip and Belfast was sunny & very warm when we arrived. Our new rental car in Northern Ireland is a diesel Audi Q3. Pretty nice!

Our first night in NI would be in Carrickfergus, north of Belfast and there was a lovely drive to get there. Dave did a good job getting us out of Belfast,

We checked in to the Premier Inn. We received one of their newer rooms that had a great view of the Carrickfergus castle. Yes…the castle. However, the lift (elevator) was broken and the luggage had to be hauled up two floors. Thankfully we’ve done a better job of packing this trip.

The room is great! The bed was pretty hard, however. The bathroom was very nice as was the interior decor, but the highlight for me was the vanity shelving unit. I don’t know what else to call it, but it’s brilliant! A place to hang your khairdryer, outlets within the unit for electronic hair accessories, a shelf to place makeup and makeup lights built into the mirror. EVERY hotel should have one of these. And only in Ireland would you find a bottle cap opener hung in the business desk!

Since the weather was stunning and we needed to walk, we walk over to the castle and explored. What a fascinating piece of history. Parts of the castle are 800 years old and it is one of the most intact Norman castles in Britain and Ireland. We thought it was very well done and enjoyed it. Terrific views too.

We came back to the hotel for dinner where I had a chicken pesto pie and Dave had a burger. Then, we called it s night. So far, Northern Ireland has been very good to us, and except for one snippy guy at the car rental, everyone we’ve spoken to has been lovely. We’re looking forward to exploring the country!