Wednesday morning we woke before the alarm and it didn’t take long packing up as we now had it down to a fine art. It did help that it was dry so the awning and all the outside water containers didn’t need much of a wipe down.
With just under a four hour journey ahead we were off the site by 9.30am the roads were pretty much clear and with what was now a regular occurrence, they were trouble free and smooth and we were on our way to Drumaheglis Marina and Caravan Park.
We crossed from Eire to N.I. and the road markings and signs changed back to what we had at home. We’d got used to the European feel of the roads and travelling in kilometres but now we were back to miles.
The site appeared to our left and once through the electronic gate we drove down the long driveway towards the marina, a waterside view had been booked, it looked good so far so we were really looking forward to it.
Pulling up outside the main office we could see the rivers edge to our left and caravans directly in front of us. Once booked in we found out we had pitch no.4 which apparently had the promised waterside view. No, no way, not at all.. unless we stood on top of Pod and that wasn’t happening. As if this wasn’t upsetting enough it was directly opposite the small row of shops and the cafe and when we say directly opposite, it was no more than 8 – 10 metres away.
Now, some may say we might enjoy the attention, close proximity to the shops and the attention to Pod but no, even we have our limits, so after a little discussion with the staff and a bit of jiggling around we were given a wonderful pitch further into the site which was surrounded by woodland.
Once settled we made ourselves aware of the facilities and during the walk round we discovered holiday Pods named after characters from The Lord of the Rings, plus an outside gym which had a good view down to the marina and waters edge.
The thought of a dry, bright, windless day ahead couldn’t be missed so plans were made for the next day and we were going to try and get to a few of the prime visitors sites, on the cards we had Giant’s Causeway and The Dark Hedges, with the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in reserve, if the weather held out.
1pm was to be the next reported downpour so we would need to get a wriggle on and it started with an early night.
Woke at 6.30 and were out the door and off the site by 7.30. First port of call was only half an hour away, The Dark Hedges, well known as an ancient beech tree lined road but now more famous for its scenes in The Game of Thrones. Only thing we needed to do was get there before the daily traffic hit, pictures taken would need to be people and car-less, unless strategically placed, but there wasn’t going to be time for staging so it would be the case of being dropped off with camera at the ready and shoot away.
Eventually found it after taking a wrong turn, blinking satnav again. LB jumped out and MrB drove off out of sight, there didn’t appear to be any other people with cameras so all looked good. LB then spent the next 15 minutes running up and down the road like a loon looking for that special shot, a few involved dodging early morning locals who by the look on their faces were used to this spectacle.
Next stop Giant’s Causeway, well known to all for its uniquely formed columns from a volcanic eruption and its myth connected to the Irish warrior Finn McCool and the Scottish giant Benandonner.
Wasn’t more than half an hour away and another thing that worked to our advantage was being members of the National Trust, the Causeway was covered by it and it wasn’t going to cost us another penny, brilliant.
We arrived at 8.30 and drove straight into a very large but empty carpark, took a while to find a member of staff but eventually found one putting out signs, membership cards were flashed and entry was gained.
Fingers had been crossed for it to be people free and it didn’t look too bad at all, there were about half a dozen people and these were slowly leaving and walking back up the road to the visitors centre, it really looked like we would have the place to ourselves, awesome.
The sun came out as we clambered up the rocks, it was slightly surreal as its one of those places we’ve seen many times on the tv and is on everybody’s wish list, it was hard to believe we were actually there.
Once up on the main section that tapered out to sea we turned a full 360 deg and low and behold there wasn’t anybody to be seen, the sun was still out with a heavy breeze blowing inland and the sea was pounding against the world famous hexagonal rock columns.
We finished taking pictures and sat for a few minutes revelling in the scenery when we spied a large green bus slowly making its way down the road towards us, our five minutes of solitude was coming to an end and the causeway would soon be under siege.
Few more snaps were taken and we left the columns and began a walk up to the Amphitheatre, quite steep but the views once up there were wonderful, no sooner had we began our walk down we were met with hordes of people on the way up, the path was a little narrow in places so some careful passing took place.
As we passed the causeway on our way back up to the exhibition centre more and more people were arriving, we were so pleased we’d made the effort to visit earlier, it made such a difference to the whole experience.
Once at the top of the hill we entered the centre and were incredibly impressed with the layout and the information on offer, very interesting and educational for all.
Entry to this was also covered by National Trust membership and had we had to pay the £10.50 each (£9.00 on line) it would have been worth it but believe access to the causeway can be gained for free via the Red Path but there would be no entry into the exhibition.
The sun was still out and as the weather was in our favour we decided to make a dash to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, if we were lucky we could get there and across the bridge without getting drenched.
Following the coast road round we soon found the entrance to the bridge and drove down a very narrow, steep road to the carpark, this was free and once directed to the lower carpark we began the short walk back up to the main carpark and the information kiosk.
Tickets were obtained and we discovered that we had a 1 hour window to use the bridge and as our allotted time was running out we decided to forgo the leisurely stroll to the bridge taking in the sights and save it for the return trip.
The path twisted its way along the coastline and once down some steep but wide steps we joined the queue for the bridge, from here we could see the rope bridge and the island to which it was connected.
We waited as people came off the island and then it was our turn to go on, it didn’t take long for it to move along and once on there a few snaps were taken with one hand whilst precariously hanging on with the other, we were so pleased it wasn’t any windier, but guess if it had been, it would have been closed.
As we were not under the protection of the coastline the wind was a little stronger and unlike some we didn’t step too near the edge, one big gust and we didn’t like to think where we’d end up. On looking back to the mainland we were taken aback by the colours along the coast, from the deep blue of the sky, the emerald green of the hills and the almost mediterranean aqua blue of the sea, it was glorious.
Soon came time for our return trip across the bridge and we duly queued till it was our turn, no more than 6 were allowed on it at any one time so taking pictures was done with a bit of craftiness in mind, that being.. the last of the six ;).
Back up the steps we went and called into the craft shop and cafe, we couldn’t resist the salmon with scrambled egg and lemon drizzle cake, good job we did too because as we sat down the heavens opened and rain was lashing against the windows and side of the café. We sat munching away merrily as people ran past us in t-shirts doing there best to shelter in the doorway of the shop.
It eventually passed and by the time we left it had died away completely, after a short walk along the coastal path we returned to the car and were soon on our way back to Pod, it had been a great day with lots achieved in the few hours of dryness we had been blessed with.
Friday arrived and we decided on a drive further along the coast, once breakfast was out of the way we set off to Glenarm Castle and Walled Garden, love castles and like the idea of a walled garden, always reminds one of us of The Secret Garden, a fabulous book read as a child and a wonderfully adapted version watched as an adult. Never too old for a classic.
Satnav did its usual trick of taking us to the wrong entrance but with a little forward thinking we found the main entrance and parked. The gravel path took us to the garden and once we paid our £6.00 each we entered a world dripping in copious amounts of colour. The flower beds were flourishing, all the trees were in leaf and the lawn was in the process of being cut.
Not many people were in the grounds and we found a wooden bench to settle on, it would of been so easy to doze in the warming sun with the sound of the lawn mower whizzing away in the background but we managed to pull ourselves away for a walk around the grounds of the castle.
This meant leaving the walled garden, we were reluctant to do so but eventually we followed a small group towards the castle which is lived in by the Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and their family. The path circled the castle, which looked more like a house depending on which view you had and evidence of a young family living there was visible as slides and climbing frames were easily seen. Ancient trees which had in their prime been a canopy over the driveway had been cut back and gardeners were busily at work tending to the surrounding borders.
We eventually returned to the walled garden and felt ourselves being pulled again to one of the benches, it was so peaceful, sitting with eyes closed, listening to the wind through the trees as the sun gently bathed us in its warmth, it was bliss. Ultimately the time came to move on as tummies were rumbling so with one last walk round we left and returned to the car, it was the best £6.00 we’d spent and had it been at home we would of returned gladly, many times.
Carnlough wasn’t far up the coast and once there after a drive round we decided on The Londonderry Arms, mainly because there was parking outside. It looked ok from the outside, didn’t bowl us over but decided nothing lost if we didn’t at least have a look inside and we were so pleased we did.
Wood panelled walls with cloth laden tables and smart waitered service, all looked good and once the food arrived it continued to get better. Vegetable spring rolls and a chilli dip for one and chicken and chill wrap with chips for the other, very good and nice size portions.
Drive back to Pod took us through some beautiful countryside and along the way we past many a turf farm with their goods all neatly stacked and drying out. Interesting fact we discovered is that Ireland contains more bog than any country in Europe, except Finland.
Back at Pod dinner was eaten and the dreaded fact that our penultimate day would soon be upon us was discussed and a decision was made to visit Dunluce Castle and Portrush. It would be our last full day and we didn’t want to travel too far as upon departure from the site there was a lot of driving ahead of us.
Woke on Saturday to patchy clouds which the sun was doing its best to tear through and a lazy breakfast was had sat in the awning watching the world go by. After our usual ‘mornings’ and chats a couple informed us they’d done a tour of the site and they had decided we had the snazziest outfit, amidst laughs thanks were given and a suitable compliment was returned, stating they were the most friendly couple on site, we eventually said our goodbyes wishing them well on their adventures.
Dunluce castle was found on the coast and we paid £5.00 to enter the grounds of the castle. Once in we called into the visitors centre, very educational and would appeal mostly to the young. From here we began our tour of the outer castle ruins, the video shown in the centre had provided us with some great information and we took great delight in identifying certain features that ordinarily we would never have been able to.
Crossing the bridge onto the outcrop we were surrounded by the high brick wall and in the centre was living accommodation and a beautiful pebbled courtyard, all were in excellent condition considering it has been in existence since the 15th century.
Once we’d done a circuit of the castle and been up spiral staircases to small windowless rooms and sat in the bay window looking out to the coastline we left the castle itself and took steps down to the beach, here we found a cave that went under the castle and out to sea, all very mysterious and we wondered what its purpose was, other than letting our imagination run away with itself with smugglers and the like.
Car park was found on the sea front and it was also the transition stage for the triathlon, cycles were racked up in a sectioned off area and runners were on the beach in the final stage of the competition, how that must of felt, running on sand as it surely must have zapped them of any remaining energy.
Lunch time was calling so after a walk along the front we stopped at Cafe 55 Bistro, Prawn salad and a club sandwich was ordered and eaten whilst watching a wedding take place in slightly surreal circumstances.
It was a fairly busy day, kids were playing on the beach, running in and out of the water and families were around enjoying the sun. Others were passing by, walking along the prom in different directions and two cafes were full, supplying visitors with refreshments of all kinds. There was also a little old man with his electric guitar and amplifier blasting out music from Cliff Richard and the Shadows, all this going on whilst the bride and her ‘maids arrived in a VW Beetle and Campervan, who then promptly disappeared through the crowds and up the stairs of the sea view cafe.
By the time we had finished lunch they were on their way out again, the children from the beach had disappeared and were replaced by the happy couple having photographs taken, the guy with the guitar was still strumming his stuff and on a rerun of his repertoire whilst the wedding guests in their finery mingled with the public who had stopped to watch.
We had a last walk along the front and lingered a little longer, knowing it was our last evening we didn’t want to return to the car and head back to Pod, but ultimately the time had come and the drive back was a little quieter than normal.
Dinner was eaten and showers had, plans were then made for the next day, our departure. Everything would have to be put back properly for the journey home and hopefully a dry awning too. Bed then called for the last time on our Irish trip.
Sunday arrived all to early and we set about packing Pod up, awning was dry so the whole experience was a little less painful.
The slow ferry was booked for 8pm so we weren’t in any particular rush and we were on the road for 10.30. Traffic was light and we arrived at the port a good 6 hours early, we took the chance and queued up in the hope there would be spaces on the next available ferry and thankfully there were. Cost us an extra £47.00 but it was worth it and it was the Superfast X.
Once we were on board and secure in the bowels of the ferry we waved goodbye and departed the beautiful isle of Ireland at 3.10pm. The journey was spent having lunch and finding a comfy enough chair to relax in, most had been taken up and people were fast asleep, hidden under coats and bags of all different shapes and sizes.
The Welsh coast soon appeared and by 7pm we had docked at Hollyhead, once all passengers had been given the green light to return to cars we joined the throng and were soon off the ferry and on our way home.
16 nights had been spent on Irish soil, South and North and we had had a ball, met some lovely people, travelled some wonderful roads with incredible scenery, stayed at immaculate caravan sites and eaten some delicious food, go raibh maith agat Ireland, love to you all and we will be back.