724-729: Final Antrim Days

724 – Friday 19th May 2017: Dark Hedges & Six Mile Water

A busy morning to make the most of being on a campsite with electricity and services … knowing we had to be off by 12.00, and they drove around to check who was still there!  So J got a much needed hair cut and Jez a sweep out … K a shower and Jez all services done.  A stop at the Dark Hedges included a coffee at the hotel  / golf complex.  And then onto our overnight parking just S of Antrim on Six Mile Water … Jez’ parking fro the next two nights nearby was Seven Mile Straight … a bit of theme going on there.  The reason for this parking was to be near the overnight parking for me to get a flight home.  It was a super quiet spot with information boards about how the river had steamed and clanged to the manufacture and treatment of flax to be used in linen. The walk is called the Mill Trail.   I missed them, but a local dog walker told me there were otter playing.

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The Dark Hedges were 150 beach trees planted by a house owner to impress his neighbours, but only 90 remain.  It is now a public road; fortunately not busy as visitors dart into the middle (us included) to take pix.   The lower branches have been pruned which adds to the intertwining feel.

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725 – Saturday 20th May: K Flies home and J to the Pub

Another walk for O along the river and then we set off, early for us, to our parking for James, Oscar and Jez, whilst I was away.  Now we all do silly things sometimes, and this was one of mine.  J cannot drive Jez at the moment (uninsured as issues with his 70 year old and 3.5+ ton driving license).  I booked my overnight flight home with no thought of how I was to get to the airport with J unable to drop me.  So a very generous local came to my rescue.  I’m a member of the Irish motorhome wild camping forum, Motorhome Craic (they helped us out big time recently with the fridge not running on gas) and I posted asking for any suggestions of where we could park up with public transport links to Belfast airport.  The chap, Ally, who runs Motorhome Craic, instantly said we could park over at his … only a few mins from the airport.  He runs a caravan storage and has lots of space.  An absolute result.  We arrived at 9.30, my taxi arrive late, but it did arrive and I headed off to Gatwick.  James was told about the local pub and he headed off there … it was dog friendly and Oscar was the star of the show AND there was live music playing all afternoon … J only left as he had to give Oscar his dog’s dinner.  

My dinner was with the ‘Girls’ and families in Chiswick to celebrate Gill’s birthday.  Only Bron knew I was attending and as I’d had a motorway closure en route, I arrived late and made the big surprise entrance.  Really lovely to be able to chat to the girls, as I’d been too busy at J’s 70th birthday party for more than a passing word.

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726 – Sunday 21st May:  Maddy Munchkin Day

Knowing Maddy is NOT an early riser, I had time to rung amongst some of our ‘stuff’ stored in the Aged P’s attic.  They are in France at the moment, and again, I was able to use and abuse the house! Don’t tell them, but I actually put the heating and water on so I could have a shower!  I’ve made an inventory of our guide books, so I know what to order for the coming summer and the big Balkans trip starting in October, and I found some of the maps I wanted.  I returned the house keys to Clare and grabbed a coffee … Louis is now driving!

Maddy and I had an indifferent pub lunch and then went bra shopping … how is it daughter’s always manage to come away with something???  A late flight back and taxi to join James and Oscar … James had lunched at the pub too today … but no live music.

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Sporting a new fringe, but she really does look more like David than I.

727 -Monday 22nd May:  The 9 Glens of Antrim

A slow and wet start to the day.  And we headed off to Whitehead to do some motorhome services … the water should have cost £1, but the receptionist told us to use the other free hose, nice of her.

We plan to potter around the 9 Glens of Antrim for the next couple of days until our ferry on Thursday 25th.  We stopped at the Glenarm TIC and avery helpful chap issued leaflets and gave advice on where to park Jez, even showing us exactly on the pix on his phone.  We did the red squirrel Walk in Glenarm Forest.  The TIC chap told us that the fish sculpture had been stolen and has been spotted sporting new white paint in someone’s garden.  He’d reported it to the Police who said they could not do anything as it had not been notified missing.  So he’d had to go to the council and get them to report is stolen!  An easy 3.5 km walk through trees and along a river.  The bluebells and wild garlic are just coming to an end.

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We didn’t see any squirrels other than the one J is leaning on.

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Glenarm Harbour where we overnighted.

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Spotted in our car park.  A wedding ceremony ritual?  Chap and bride to be arrived in the back of the flatbed with horn honking …. only to be covered in flour, eggs and ketchup!

 

728 – Tuesday 23rd:  Laragh Lodge & Glenarrif Waterfall Walk

We stopped at a lay-by on the way up to Glenariff to walk up to the Hidden Village – another recommendation by the chap at the Glenarm TIC.  The Village has long been deserted, bar one house that obviously collects its water in a water butt.  What a fabulous location.

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We parked at Laragh Lodge, a cafe / restaurant … another top recommendation, to save paying the £5 per car at the main car park … not sure what Jez would’ve been.  Over lunch we got chatting to the owner … we could stay as long as we liked … he even offered us a hook up.  We ended up having both lunch and supper there … fabulous sea bass with asparagus and a couple of very strong Irish coffees.  During the afternoon we did the waterfall walk.  We reckon this is possibly the best non coastal walk we’ve ever done in Ireland.  Just stunning, especially this time of year.  Progress was slow as I kept stopping to take pix!  And at the end we got a view of the sea.  This area of Antrim is just stunning, but is overshadowed by the well known Rope Bridge and Giants Causeway.  Incidentally, one muppet (being polite) has tried to cut the cable of the rope bridge and the National Trust has had to close it losing a lot of revenue!

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729 – Wednesday 24th:  The Scenic Trail

A longer walk this morning from our Laragh Lodge parking.  This took us steeply up the opposite hill, around the head of the valley and down the waterfall Walk.

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Spot the Belle amongst the bells!

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Coffee and Cake? … possibly.

We reluctantly returned southwards towards Belfast as we would happily have stayed on a Laragh Lodge and walked for the next few days.  A stupid o’clock ferry the next morning at 0330hrs … i must’ve been on an economy drive when I booked that one!  We returned again to a council run aire by a golf course and showered and refilled water etc.  Antrim is most definitely on our ‘must return to’ list.

 

718-723: Amazing Antrim

718 – Saturday 13th May 2017:  The Point of Magilligan

We arrived at Magilligan Point for our next wild camping – narrow space to reverse the van – oops!  We just clipped the pub guttering – the kind workman nearby said he would repair it – human kindness, again…

Beach walk – almost deserted – cold wind – O was happy with his usual stick…  Military firing range inland and a Martello Tower – we really did keep Napoleon out!   Pub supper booked at 7:00 … table ready at 7.40 – just had to have a second bottle.  Doesn’t it just irritate you when you point out they’ve left at £15 bottle of wine off the bill and no-one has the grace to say thank you much for pointing it out to them!    But we did manage to watch some of Eurowiddle  Song Contest on tv – winners – Portugal – we raised a glass to them!  Obrigado!

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My boys playing.

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The Napoleonic Matello Tower 1812.

719 – Sunday 14th May:   All Downhill at the National Trust 

A run in the morning…..   Drove to the Downhill National Trust Estate.  Walk along by dovecot, Mussenden Temple, to Castlerock, and back via Hazlett House (beam structure and same family for centuries) and then Downend House.  The builder, the ‘Earl Bishop’ was very wealthy and liked his mistresses (many), including the mistress of Frederick William of Prussia and Emma Hamilton, mistress of Nelson … they were a busy ladies, and he was a busy man.  Shame about his wife, they became estranged, once they had bred a number of offspring.

The Earl Bishop was the Bishop of Derry  – the most lucrative Irish living given to him by his brother, the Lord Leieutenant of Ireland.  The Lord L. promptly died and the Bishop became the  Earl of Bristol, inheriting the Ickworth Estate in Suffolk.  Yet more money.  Having fallen out with his sone and heir, he left Downed left to his cousin, who had acted as Steward who looked after it … in their family for years.  He sounded a most colourful character.  King George III called him ‘that wicked prelate’.

Ali the coffee stall man at the carpark was a character and we chatted to a couple who came to see him from Derry – they had 3 springers and Oscar was much admired … again! We spent a peaceful but wet night snug in our Jezacarr. 

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So much colour with the wild flowers.

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The dovecot with the ice house under.  The Earl Bishop spared no expense on his estate.  But he spent in the district to support the locals with employment.  

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View from the Temple.

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Mussenden temple clinging to the cliff edge.  Built by the Bishop to house his library and his books.  A fire was lit in the basement to keep the books (not his mistress!) warm.  He was for acceptance of all religions and allowed Catholics to have a Mass in the basement.  My sister Clare will attend a wedding here, but not until August 2018 … hopefully it won’t have fallen off the cliff by then!

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We debated descending on a minor detour to the lake, built for leisure and to supply the big house with fish.  We were so pleased we did.  It proved to be the highlight … bluebells and wild garlic amongst mossy stones and trees … a heady mix of colour and scent.

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We continued along the coastal path to Castlerock.  The railway in bottom follows the coast to Derry … for another SUNNY day.

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The big house … built in 1774, burned down in 1851, rebuilt in 1876 and abandoned after WW1 – the farmer who owned it had to remove the roof to avoid property tax and it fell into complete disrepair.

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720 – Monday 15th May:  Mount Sandel-rain

AM – K walked Oscar in pouring rain – wet through to her underwear!  Rainy Coleraine beckoned for mega shopping … B&Q, Pets at Home, Lidl and Saninburys … whew.  But K delighted to purchase preserved lemon, she’s seen a recipe somewhere!  Walked around Mount Sandel-fort – the rain has brought the vegetation on hugely – immense shades of green….  A nice lady recommended beach walk at Portstewart just along the coast.   Our overnight was by the river with a Victorian salmon leap.

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View from the Fort of the carpark on the opposite bank where we overnighted.

721 – Tuesday 16th May:  Rain Delayed Play Portstewart

K and O walked early in the nearby woods. K phoned the TIC for Jezparking – parked close to town and beach. Town, promenade walk – coffee – and – guess what?  Another lovely beachwalk!  Following the end of the NorthWest 200 motorbike races, the hospitality tents and fencing were being removed.  It is obviously quite an event.

Whilst at Camac Valley in Dublin, a lady had recommended a campsite in Bushmills –  our next location – (not just for the whiskey). The site is Ballyness and is a real gem – manicured and whitewashed with immaculate lawns and pitches!  Great music playing in the sanitary block, including Tom Jones and Abba … great to dance in the shower to!  Oh, and underfloor heating!  BBQ in the evening – not fire log though as too many people around… 

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Portstewart.

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Easy walking around the bottom of cliff….

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… and then you arrive at …. this!

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 We drove on along the coast stopping at a view point of Dunluce Castle.

722 – Wednesday 17th May: Show us your Bush

I ran early from our pitch – I’ve been trying to practice slower running to build stamina before speedework – and it is working. K did her Pilates. I did my regular Khairdying and it was a success, thankfully. K:  so thankful to loose the skunk stripe in the middle of my head!  We walked to the town for the distillery (oldest in the world) tour – a bit disappointing with some lack of detail, family background, etc. But, we both tasted – and I drank my old favourite – Black Bush!  At least the distillery is still producing, unlike Jamesons and Smihwicks.   In fact, it was bought by a Mexican Tecilla company and the plans are to double production.  Town walk with lots of boarded up shops.  We stopped at a bar for another glass  .. very limited choice, so K chose port, having spied a bottle lurking in the corner … think the barman may have wanted to get rid of the bottle as it was huge! 

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723 – Thursday 18th May: Causeway Rambler

An early bus to the Carrick a Rede rope bridge. Suspended 100 feet above the gorge – I went first and almost turned back when I saw the sheer drop – narrow rope bridge – trying not to think of “Galloping Gerty”as I crossed gingerly!   A quick look at the island and back to the mainland – scariest thing I have done for yonks!  K breezed it, naturally.  She saw the Kittiwakes nesting.  So many tourists there, Asian and American mostly.  We must have been asked about 20 times if ) had crossed the bridge … no not allowed and he would not have liked it anyway!  The Giants Causeway is Northern Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction – no wonder!  Read Oscar’s report below – I won’t steal his thunder…

Walked for 2 hours to White Park Bay – fabulous rock formations and slippery seaweed….  I photographed a very ‘nimble” cumulous. Then the Causeway Rambler bust to the Giant’s Causeway … when asked where to by the driver, K instantly responded Cribs Causeway … a shopping mecca in Bristol! Again so many people here.  A little know fact is that the National Trust try to get you to walk through their multi million pond visitor centre and charge £5.50 for the privilege, but the actual Causeway is owned by ??? Heritage and is free … just go through the arch!  Sneakily there are signs up stung your ticket will be checked on exit … by whom exactly?

A quick pub visit and then – bus home via Causeway Rambler. Oscar was knackered and I wasn’t far behind – another BBQ and the end of another great day out. Due to pressure of booking , we had to move pitches to the lakeside – with swans and ducks…. 

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Everything today was determined to be stunningly beautiful.

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The bridge was built every summer for local salmon fisherman who stretched nets from the point of the island.

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Look – no hands!

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No apologies – so many pix.

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People atop this one.

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The shack was once a Youth Hostel on White Park Bay, but had to shut due to vandalism :(.  Would have been an amazing place to stay.  But with Jez we’ve no need of it’s like.

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Giant’s Causeway.  National Trust at the top would charge you £10.50 to walk through their visitor centre, but you can avoid this and walk freely, as the actual site is managed by ?? Heritage.  The most visited attraction in Northern Ireland … and everyone was here!  I’d been told I would find it disappointing … but I didn’t … just wish fewer people.


Oscar’s Diary

Hi there – avid readers – all 9 of you – but, who’s counting?  Now my owners ( beautiful people – for Muggles – Potterspeak, again) – like innov8. They call it “CPD” -“Contiguous Processional Devilment”!    Sometimes it works and other times – well, let’s say – it’s a good effort.  They have given me “Kongs” – a basic ball filled with frozen sardines… They forgot to measure the circumference of my tongue!  I cannot get the little feckers out – so they spoon it for me – why not put the nice fisywishys on a plate, for heavens sake!   

They took me to this place called “The Giants Pawsway” – well, the Giant’s dog had huge paws to walk  all the way to Scotland on the giant rocks… No facilities for dogs – why?  20 people stopped to ask if I had crossed the Bridge – many Oriental folk got me to pose for photos – obviously for the Hong Kong Spaniel Corporation!   With all this wet weather – at least K and J are letting my fur grow.

But no more sardyKongs, please? 

They tell me I will see Boppy and Poo soon – Yippee!  And of course Shags and Mags, too… Maybe Kensey also in the summer – I am a truly pampered pooch – life is good here at Jez Holiday Home…

Hidey Ho, then for now….

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