Travel StoriesNorthern Ireland By The Water
Giants And Hobbits
Ride Date 17 September 2020
By Sharon Parker
Even though the bed was extremely comfy I wake up sore. My neck and arm is hurting today, a constant throb that I know will wear me down all day. I do not mention this to Ren as there is no point putting a downer on our adventuring. I myself am sick of my own aches and pains from my Schwannomatosis and Ren will be suffering from compassion fatigue with it all so I keep quiet.
Therefore when Ren asks if I am riding or going on the back of him I decide pillion is best today. It will be a longish day today with our plans to go and visit the Giant's Causeway and I don't want to begin to struggle half way through. I am not too upset by being pillion, it has advantages. I can have a really good look at the scenery passing by, Ren can go on more difficult tracks and I get to give him cuddles. So always look for the positives and usually you find them.
We are visiting the Giant's Causeway because everyone has told us we must. We've done the research to avoid falling into the tourist's trap of thinking you have to actually pay to view your own land's heritage. So thus armed with all the low down of how to get there for free via a bus from Bushmills and a backup plan of maybe paying a small fee to park on some farmer's land near to the site we are well prepared. We are also prepared on the food front as I make us a tasty picnic to take with us.
When I am pillion I do not take note of which road we are on I just gaze at trees and the sky. I feel as if transported by a magic carpet, we have arrived at Bushmills. However the magic bus that would transport us onto the Giant's Causeway is not running, Covid-19, the evil one had put a stop to that. We find a bench to sit on whilst we eat lunch and I read about the history of Bushmills from a tourist board.
"Bushmills village, originally known as Portcaman, dates from Norman times (1150-1520). The Normans divided lands into structured deaneries and parishes, each with its own church. The River Bush acted as a boundary between the parish of Portcaman on the west bank and the parish of Billy on the East. With the abandonment of Dunluce Castle and the adjoining village in the mid 1600’s the parishes of Dunluce and Portcaman merged.
As water powered industries developed from the 1600’s so did the village and the village name. At one time there were seven mills working the river Bush – corn mills, flax mills, paper, timber and a spade mill – and 5 distilleries.
With the “discovery” of the Giant’s Causeway by the wider world in the 1700’s Bushmills became the gateway for visitors eager to see the mysterious grandeur of the Causeway. By the mid 1800’s Bushmills could also boast at least 3 hotels, a busy livestock and produce market and a thriving distillery. Much of the village was built by the Macnaghten family including the Market Square and Clock tower, the Court House, Kane’s Commercial & Family Hotel and the new bridge.
In 1883 the world’s first hydro electric railway began operating from Bushmills to the emerging fashionable seaside resort of Portrush with its railway terminus from Belfast. Ironically, when the tram line from Portrush was extended to the Giants Causeway Bushmills was bypassed and the hotels went into rapid decline.
With water power giving way to stem, gas and electricity the village was left to rely on the success of the ‘Old Bushmills’ Distillery and it wasn’t until the late 20th century that tourism began to re-emerge as a significant benefit to the town.
Fortunately Bushmills suffered little from unsympathetic developments of the late 20th century and with nearly 90 listed buildings Bushmills is officially designated as a Conservation Village.
Today Bushmills is reasserting itself as the gateway to the Giant’s Causeway and benefits from some thriving community groups. Over the last 25 years many new ventures have opened to welcome visitors including restaurants, gift shops, a new visitors centre for the distillery, art galleries, Park & Ride to the Giant’s Causeway, a 68 bed youth hostel, a 4 Star hotel and a 5 Star caravan park
So here’s Bushmills – we hope you have time to see the sights, shop, take refreshments, relax and enjoy."
So a fine picnic in the sunshine and a history lesson thrown in, lovely. Well with no bus to transport us to the Giant's Causeway it is back aboard the motorbike. As we travel towards the Causeway I notice how much space there is in Northern Ireland compared to home. At home with land at the premium bungalows are rare. Here bungalows seem to be the home of choice, they are the rule rather than the exception.
The bungalows come complete with large sheds and garages and spacious gardens. I am rather envious as this is so what I would like, bungalow - check, big shed/garage - check, spacious gardens - check. Each small hamlet then gives way to farmers green fields and then repeats. It is all rather delightful.
We don't spy a farmer's field offering parking near the Causeway but we do find a gravel driveway on offer for £5. The sun is really warm now so we leave our coats behind with the bike and set off to discover the wonder that is the legendary Giant's Causeway. It is a pleasant enough walk, it is busy but not crowded. There are only a handful of foreign tourists so I surmise that without the present travel restrictions the site would probably be busier than present in other more normal times.
A teenager decides to jump from one rock to another... unsuccessfully... and lands with a thud on his back onto the rocks. Fortunately he jumps up unharmed and his family find it hilarious. I am glad he is unscathed, I am not sure how one would administer first aid during a socially distanced pandemic.
Beautiful day for a stroll
The downward slope leads us to the, errrr, splendour of the Giant's Causeway. I mean it is, err, nice enough and, err, fairly interesting but as you can tell I am not blown away. I guess although it is not packed there are enough folk around to distract me from fully feeling the place. I do not feel let down or disappointed that I am here. The sun is shining, the sky and the sea are blue, I scrabble over the ancient rocks and I am happy to be here. I am glad I came and saw, however I will feel no need to rush back, too much of a tourist trap for me.
"If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants". Sir Isaac Newton
Back to the bike and we set off for some coastal riding. We spy a inviting bench at Dunseverick Harbour and pull into the carpark to partake of some liquid refreshment in the form of a flask of tea. Now this is more like it. There is nothing world renowned about this Harbour. It is tiny, remote with only a handful of people around. That is precisely why I like it, it is not a tourist destination.
Ok I am a tourist and I am here but you know what I mean. It is quiet and peaceful and here in this stillness I can fully appreciate the crystal clear waters and soak up some warm sun rays. I am happy just to sit here and watch some local teenagers enjoying themselves and dipping into the sea. I enquire if it is cold and they confirm it is but apparently not too bad once you have been in for awhile. I shall take their word for it and leave such activities to the young and brave at heart.
A group of locals sit on the socially distanced bench near to us and are very friendly. They tell us about other harbours to visit along the coast and say how bleak the Covid situation looks in England. They say they know how lucky they are to have all the space Northern Ireland affords them on the coast. They can not imagine how grim it must be for people in places like London or any other inner city area where people may not have any access to green spaces. Indeed the locals are lucky to have such a feeling of space around them. Both Ren and I, although not living directly in city centres, live in the overcrowded suburbs and space is something we ourselves relish when on our adventures.
Tranquility brings clear minds and clear waters.
The next Harbour we visit, Ballintoy Harbour, is far bigger and therefore more popular. We only stop to take a few photos and because there is really no space to park and quite a few people around we decide not to add to the numbers and continue on. We pass a bungalow for sale and I make a mental note to check out house prices when back at the chalet.
Being pretty brings many admirers
Ren is following the Torr Head Scenic route and what a route it is. Narrow and twisty, up and down, it really is a thrilling experience. It is such a challenging road I am glad I am pillion because I am not sure how I would have fared riding my own bike along here. Even Ren gets caught out a couple of times and has to make a quick correction here and there so I think I would have probably been in a ditch somewhere by now. Although to be fair I do often underestimate myself. There have been other roads in the past which I thought at the time I would not have been able to ride myself only to do them at a later date and survive just fine. Regardless I am enjoying being pillion today so all is well, all is grand.
One advantage of being a pillion is it is very easy to say you need the toilet. Just tap the rider on the head and shout "I need a wee!" Far easier than trying to attract their attention whilst riding yourself with flashing lights and pips of the horn, or slowing down so much the leader might eventually realise you have disappeared in a quest to find a toilet.
Public toilets that are very clean and well equipped with sanitisers are found in that very picturesque village of Cushenden. It is a beautiful spot for us to finish the last of our picnic. I sit on the grassy bank intrigued by the power struggle betwixt the river and the sea. The river wishes to flow into the sea, the sea wants to invade the land and push back the river. This battle causes unusual eddies and swirls that I could sit and watch for hours.
What I love here is how the trees and the green fields of the land are right on the sea shore. No barren outcrops here. I love trees, Ren loves the sea. Cushenden is a happy marriage of both, maybe this would be the perfect place for us to call home. Talking of home, enough daydreaming has been had for today and it is time for us to head back to our own holiday chalet.
Cushenden. A Ren and Sharon place, river meets sea, not the same but mix together well.
Once home I slip into something comfortable, my joggers, much to Ren's unhappiness. Obviously unimpressed, he contributes to tonight's tea making by helping me out... by pushing a blanket box into the kitchen area so I can reach the hot plate. Hmmm, such domestic bliss.
A search on the internet shows house prices here are much lower than at home. For the same price as my tiny town house at home over here I could have a bungalow with a large garden and garage. As I snuggle down to sleep I can dream of bungalows and quiet harbours and trees besides the sea, of twisty roads and friendly locals. I can dream of Northern Ireland.
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Northern Ireland - A Covid Prologue
The lead-up to this journey seems to have been a bewildered shambles. So how did The Dynamic Muppets manage to rescue their trip from the tangled mess of 2020?
It's A Bumpy Lumpy Ride
Sharon's life is never simple. While getting ready for maybe, possibly, perhaps going to Northern Ireland she takes a moment to explain why she's been so quiet on here.
An Easy Ride To Carlisle
It's an easy, lazy and relaxed start to this holiday with a handful of miles to cover and the weather behaving itself for once.
Sharon's luggage situation has improved but it's going to take a while for her to unwind, chill out and settle into today's journey. Aaaaaaand relax.
A Ferry And Hint Of Northern Ireland
Ren is doing what Ren does best - flapping.
A Dip Into Irish Waters
Today's lesson - don't place yourself behind angry small mythical critters.
Causeway And Coast
Getting into The Giant's Causeway poses a challenge for a miser like Ren, can he avoid his wallet seeing the light of day? The Causeway Coastal Route and Torr Head Scenic Route may ease the shock for him.
Giants And Hobbits
Sharon enjoys a rather wonderful day exploring more of the Causeway Coastal Route. Languishing in luxury on the back of Ren's bike while he does all the hard work. Sort of.
Ards Peninsula, Wonderfully Modest
Today it's the turn of Ards Peninsula to be explored. Throw in the regular dose of disorganised nonsense and some fair weather, it might be a good day!
A Bit Of Irish History
A history lesson and tomfoolery by The Queen Of Rain. Thing is, it's not raining. Something is wrong here, very wrong.
Lough Neagh And Money
The Dynamic Muppets circumnavigate the largest lake in the British Isles. Is this the sort of place where a prudent miser like Ren would fit in?
Another watery day in Northern Ireland and still no rain on the horizon. Sharon contemplates the many and varied lives we get to live.
Ferry, Friends And Mostly Scotland
In a remarkable twist Ren is not flapping! Nor is he ready to go home. But alas and alack 'tis time for this all-too-brief inspection of Northern Ireland to end. Take comfort in Scotland Ren.
North Pennines And Epilogue
It's the end of the journey for the dynamic muppets yet there's still time for a little detour, or two. What did Ren make of Northern Ireland?
Bogger said :-
You know what, You make Ireland sound so nice. But rightly or wrongly it's a place I have no real desire to visit. I have thought long and hard why.
It's the troubles of the recent past that still haunts me and all the negativity that goes with that history. Yes I know it's 'history' now, but the images still linger and burn bright.
Maybe one day I'll reconcile that in my brain and give it a try, but not just yet.
Great write up by the way. To end on a positive
26/10/2020 16:55:44 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I do know what you mean Bogger. Whether or not Northern Ireland (and perhaps even The Republic of Ireland) deserves any negativity from "the troubles" is a matter of opinion. But the fact is it's there, in our subconscious psyche - news reports, bombs, soldiers, angry protests, tearful families, flags and murals. It didn't put me off but if we were to talk to the locals it would be a subject I'd give a very wide berth to.
One thing we did see, often, were "alterations" to the signs for Derry/Londonderry. In Norn Iron the official road signs say "Londonderry" but all too often the "London" part had been sprayed over, leaving "derry". The name you use depends on your allegiances apparently. Also some areas of houses will fly flags, it's not hard to guess which way the opinions lean depending on the flags.
Other than that Northern Ireland feels perfectly pleasant and entirely normal. Remember 99.999% of the world's population just want to live their lives, enjoy themselves and if you don't bother then they won't bother you.
27/10/2020 09:15:47 UTC
Sharon said :-
I too know what you mean I went to Northern Ireland not knowing what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found. Ren seemed to observe any divides with the various flags displayed far more than I. I did not go looking for trouble and therefore did not see any and fortunately none came looking for me. If we keep seeing Northern Ireland as it once was then that it how it will remain, at least in our own minds. Although I am a firm believer in keeping history alive to learn from any mistake and build on any success, there also comes a time when we need to let the past go. To leave any troubles behind and not allow the sore of yesterday to fester in us today. So no do not forget the coal that burned but we do not pick it up again just to see if it is still hot. I accept it take times to heal and I certainly hope Northern Ireland can leave its troubled past behind and find more calm and peaceful times in its future. I think by travelling there, we may in a very small part, help in that healing.
29/10/2020 09:25:26 UTC
Upt'North said :-
It isn't the troubles which put us off Ireland or NI, although they are real and ongoing. Despite what the BBC might report.
I just think it's easier to go elsewhere, which probably means Scotland.
But I would then instantly dismiss that as nonsense as we will travel on long sea journeys to Holland and go all mole like to get to France.
Strange innit, perhaps it is the memories, perhaps it isn't.
29/10/2020 10:03:01 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I have visited the Republic once but was fairly unimpressed by the scenery which was pointed out to me. The fact I could barely see it through the mist & rain probably didn't help. If I'm going to take the trouble to go on a ferry then there are far more interesting places to go with better food, drink and campsites!
I've never had the slightest inclination to visit NI (neither have I wanted to go to the IoM) but have no particular reasons other than both seem to be locked in an obsolete timeframe. Or at least that's my perception.
29/10/2020 16:33:42 UTC
Bogger said :-
A few years ago I was coerced (forced) to go to Dublin with Mrs Bogger, for a long weekend. She was really keen to go. I just went along for an easy life. We flew there by the way.
Basically from my recollection it was full of Bars/Pubs, nice enough people and nutters in equal measure.
Mrs Bogger wanted to go shopping. We entered one of the many shoe (obviously) shops. Mrs Bogger was trying on the full shop of shoes , so I struck up a conversation with one of the sales assistants. I enquired as to why a small shoe shop would employ a security guard.
Quite matter of factly she said they were needed and that most shops in the city centre had one or more security staff??
I peered out of the window and sure enough. The ladies hairdressers had security WTF, the newsagent had security, the furniture store had security. They all had them!!
The more we walked around the more I understood why.
I didn't particularly enjoy my time there and was glad to get back on the Plane some three days later.
Mrs Bogger wanted to go there again. I politely declined the offer.
29/10/2020 19:19:00 UTC
Sharon said :-
If we do not want to visit a place we always make up reasons in our mind why not to, like the ferry, but maybe it is just ok to say no do not fancy that myself.
Ahhh the weather certainly can affect how one views a place. A charming village in the sunshine can be rendered dark and miserable by mist and rain. Perceptions of course also carry weight in our minds but we never know if those are true or not until we experience that place for ourselves. I would not myself consider the IOM or NI in an obsolete timeframe. Other than in the IOM they find it perfectly normal to leave the keys in their cars and front doors unlocked. That is obsolete over here but it is something from the past that I wish we still possessed.
I wonder how you would feel about the coast in NI rather than the city? I personally dislike cities so I am sure if you took to me to just a city in any part of the world I too would declare it not to my liking. As for security guards having lived most of life in inner cities or their suburbs it is what I have grown up with. We even needed them at one time in the library I worked in so nothing new for me.
So I guess what all this adds up to is we are all as individual as the places we visit. Our own life stories affect our outlook, our views and our perceptions. The same place can be visited on a different day and we could be met with sunshine and warm welcoming smiles or rain and grunted at by a disgruntled local. Travel is an individual experience and that what makes it so special. It does not matter than a million people visited the same spot. It is only your visit that matters to you. We all like different things, different bikes, different countries but what brings us together here is the fact we all like motorbikes and we all like travel in what ever form that takes.
30/10/2020 12:34:19 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Good points, well made Sharon, the obsolete timeframe remarks are particularly interesting.
Here in gods country it is not uncommon not only to see cars with keys in but also with their engines running while double parked outside the butchers, or to see the postman (Kev) give a gentle tap on the door before opening it and leaving your parcel on the rug and presumably sign g for it too. Doors are not locked and property is left insecure whether it be lawn mowers, cars or houses.
Obsolete time frame, no, I don't think so, more of a pleasant lag behind the madness that is the norm elsewhere.
But just in case anyone's get any ideas, it's horrible up here, cold, wet, hilly, full of cross border skirmishes with angry skirt wearing tribes, stay away, you're warned. It's grim, not.
30/10/2020 12:56:38 UTC
nab301 said :-
Sharon , at last the voice of reason!! @ Bogger , you came to Dublin and went shoe shopping.... shame on you ! Did you not visit the Phoenix Park, take a guided walking tour of historic sites , Breweries ,museums etc etc. Dublin does have a city centre crime problem I agree ,( even urban shops and pharmacies have security guards) I guess that's why I tend to keep away myself , I am also not a fan of cities in general. I did spend a lot of time in London on training courses in the 80's but while amazed with the sheer size and diversity of the place I can't deny that I did find it intimidating but never had any bad experiences at the time. From memory over the years about 3 RTW bikers have had their bikes stolen from Dublin city centre within hours of arriving ....
@ Ian I went to Scotland once and it was rain and gales for 3 days , the only time I had a wet related electrical problem with a motorcycle , It cured itself when I rolled off the ferry in larne! Wouldn't put me off travelling there again though.
Photo of some scenery attached ( Glendalough county Wicklow Ireland, just outside Dublin) only accessible on foot.
31/10/2020 13:49:02 UTC
nab301 said :-
The above is known as the upper lake , the photo below is the lower lake ( just visible at the top of the other photo ) on a different much colder day! And yes , I did walk all the way from below the lower lake...
31/10/2020 13:54:02 UTC
Bogger said :-
Yeah, we did the Guinness tour and exited through the gift shop.
I'll never set foot in the place again. Those bloody escalators. OMG I just couldn't get anywhere near them through fear. I had to ask an assistant if there was a stairwell I could use.
Then there is the massive drop in the centre with just a glass waist high barrier. I'm sweating typing this by the way.
Then to cap it all there is the bar right at the top of the building with the glass panoramic roof. Well I think it has a glass panoramic roof, that's how Mrs Bogger described it. She had two 'free' pints of Guinness up there whilst I trembled and sweated awaiting her return in the lower stairwell.
We did some other touristy things in Dublin as well. All street level.
31/10/2020 20:17:19 UTC
nab301 said :-
I'm ashamed to admit I've never done that tour myself. I'm not a fan of heights per se, but as you said ,you flew over ( in an aircraft) I haven't been in one of them since the 80's.... . Cigar shaped aluminium tubes fitted to wings full of kerosene with engines bolted to them. I'll stick to bikes !
01/11/2020 16:18:53 UTC
If the Ed can sort out this link ( I'm useless ). You'll understand why it put the fear of God in me. Floating escalators, OMG. Mans worst creation.
02/11/2020 08:15:40 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm not scared of heights. I'm scared of floors. Height never killed anyone but the floor they landed on did. No smart ass comments regarding altitude sickness etc please. Pffft.
How are you with mountains Bogger? I recall going along a road in The Alps, one of those where to my left the mountain rocks rise steeply, to my right just low down concrete blocks and a sheer drop. It certainly "concentrates the mind".
02/11/2020 08:28:00 UTC
Bogger said :-
I'm OK with mountains, no problem at all. I'm ok at height over water as well. Perhaps I'm just odd.
02/11/2020 09:00:10 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Well there's one thing we can all agree on Bogger.
02/11/2020 13:20:49 UTC
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Travel StoriesNorthern Ireland By The Water