Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

Home Travel StoriesNorthern Ireland Under Grey Skies

West Of The Causeway

Ride Date 14 September 2021

By Ren Withnell

With an early night and good sleep I'm up and about at 0645, only to find Janine is too. Janine and Rob2's plan today is to walk to Giant's Causeway and maybe a little more. Dagnammit, they're them fit and healthy types aren't they. I could manage the Causeway and back but not "more"... "MORE"!? I, being of sound mind, shall ride somewhere instead.

Sharon is up and about at a perfectly sensible hour too, not too early, not too late. We dine on chocolate granola and it becomes patently clear we are both going on a diet when we get back. 

Rob2 and Janine are off walking, Rob and Mark are riding out somewhere and Sharon will, as ever, follow me someplace as yet unknown, west I'm thinking. There's not the merest hint of upset that we're going our separate ways, none at all. This is good. I had feared we'd be expected to partake and participate in organised trips. Nope, do what you want, crack on. Excellent.

Sharon and I fill our flasks and make sandwiches. Sharon ummms and errrrs for a while then with a forecast of rain and wind she decides she's coming on the back of my bike. But where to go? Last year we covered the Causeway Coastal Route from Larne to Giant's Causeway but no further west. As we're already here it makes sense to continue west along the coast. 

To be honest I'm not expecting much. The map suggests Portrush and Portstewart are just regular towns and the rest looks, err, ordinary. Oh well, something to do, better than sitting around twiddling our thumbs. We kit up and head out westwards.

Dunluce Castle is just over a mile away, the engine has barely warmed up and yet out of curiosity I pull in. Ruins - check, coastal scenery - check. To look more closely would cost us six quid each, even Sharon agrees from what we can see it seems excessive. We get back on the bike and continue.

The small remains of a castle by the sea at Dunluce
Wikipedia can tell me all I need to know about Dunluce Castle.

I need to have a word with myself here. Forgive my self indulgence but this is bothering me. This road is lovely. Vivid Irish green fields to the left, wild rugged coastline to the right and the sea, turbulent and pleasantly frightening. And yet I am not as impressed as I feel I ought to be. 

When an astronaut has walked on the moon I am told that everything else pales into insignificance. I have merely seen a few mountains in the touristy bits of Europe yet I understand. I come back to a phrase Sharon and I coined in 2013 - "It's lovely, but it's not the Alps". 

Stop comparing Ren. Appreciate the scene before you at this moment in time. Now is all we have and all that matters. Yes The Alps were impressive, well the tiny bit that you saw anyhow, but that was in the past. This scene is here before you right now and it is indeed lovely. You're riding a great motorcycle on a graceful road surrounded by countryside and ocean and you're not stuck in your ramshackle house trying to fix someone else's problem. Life is good, enjoy it.

Swathes of angular hills roll down to the misty seas along the north coast of Northern Ireland
Smashing, and I'm making the effort to appreciate it.

I'm glad I've had a word with myself because as I roll around another gentle bend there appears a golden sandy beach down below the cliffs. I later learn this is "White Rocks". Oooh I say! I check the mirrors and slow down to take it all in. OK, OK, I admit I'm impressed.

Portrush. Well it is a town and a seaside resort. It appears to have 2 excellent beaches either side of the promontory the town centre is built upon. It is neither Blackpool "kiss me quick" tacky or large - nor Mevagissey cute Cornish fishing village small. I'd argue it's a happy compromise between the twain, Sharon from the rear agrees, we'd be happy to spend a few days here.

A sturdy harbour and terraced shops around the small bay at Portrush
Portrush ain't pretty or cute yet seems to be a fine town.

Portstewart is remarkably similar. It feels a tad larger and there's no obvious beach beside the sea. Fear not though, we stumble upon a large golden beach to the west of the town known as Portstewart Strand. It's a big 'un, well over a mile long and as golden as you could hope. If the sun were to make an appearance I could easily believe I'm on holiday!

Due to the mouth of the River Bann we have to head inland and through Coleraine. I was expecting a city or at least a large town yet Coleraine feels more like a small town. Houses and businesses and shops and retail parks, sure, just on a smaller scale. I won't tell you it's beautiful, merely fine, I know of far worse places.

Castlerock is but a short hop from Portstewart Strand although the estuary means we've travelled about 12 miles to get here, that's geography for you. Castlerock has a similar feel to Portballintrae in that the houses seem made for we tourists, second home owners and the well-to-do retiree. It's very nice and I could see myself being quite happy here, there's even a convenience store!

The grand beach theme continues too. I park by the low sea wall and get the butties and flasks from the top box. The skies are cloudy and grey, there's a slight breeze blowing in off the sea and yet it remains warm enough to remove the bike gear and sit comfortably. 

Sharon's happy eating with a big sandy beach and grey skies behind her
Who's eating all the goodies I wonder?

The waves are substantial. Being September and threatening rain there's not many people on the beach but those that are are in the waves. There's a couple of bodyboarders, random surfers and one pair trying to paddle out in a small craft of some description. They're all having a great time, Sharon and I wish we had some bodyboards and wet suits. 

He's up! Up on the surfboard and riding the waves like a pro! No, wait, he's down. We watch a while.

I enquire with one wet-suited couple getting into their car. It seems these waves and the quality of the surf is NOT the norm here. I did wonder as this is as good a surfing spot as any I've seen in Cornwall. These are unusually good conditions although there's often enough surf for some fun to be had. 

A vast sandy beach, large waves and in the distance people enjoy the surf
Surf's up! A lot of big waves and vast beaches today.

We pack away our lunch and hit the road once more. It appears we're on the A2 again and also the Causeway Coastal Route. We have the sea to our right and steep hills to our left, with the odd random white painted bungalow snuggled in here and there. Then the land flattens out and I take the turning signposted "Magilligan Point". Why? The sign suggests there's a ferry and I like a good ferry me.

Red flags and signage inform us to keep on the road as we're in a military firing range. I'll bear that in mind, thanks. Then a few houses and a large, imposing and stout prison. Sharon asks why do they need to be so, well, ugly? I roll my eyes, it's a freaking prison not a Butlins. There are those that might ask "what's the difference".

At the end of the road is the terminal and the ferry. I sense the ferry worker waits for us only to be frustrated as we ride by the entrance and park outside the large bar. 

I'm tempted. This is a small ferry, probably capable of maybe 20 cars capacity, the sort of ferry where you sit on or stand by your bike while someone with a pouch takes money off you. My kind of ferry. 

A smallish estuary ferry between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
My kinda ferry.

On the other hand the day is rolling on and to cross would add more time. Also, across there is the Republic Of Ireland. I am unsure as to whether or not I need a green card or a GB sticker or to inform my insurance or what their Covid rules are. I'm 95% sure it'd be fine but it's not important enough for me to find out the hard way. I watch as the delightful vessel makes it's way across. Across the flat waters... where's the waves?

We make our way back to Portballintrae. Past the imposing and regrettably ugly prison. Somehow accidentally into Limavady, another nice enough town. Along long straight A roads through agricultural countryside dotted with farmhouses and more white bungalows. Through Coleraine and on to Portballintrae.

Back at the house it transpires Mark's hernia has been playing up so he's rested and Rob went out to play alone. Janine and Rob2 have "enjoyed" a hell of a walk. Once again Rob2 is cooking for us all! Chicken curry tonight. As with last night this is way more than boiled rice and a sauce. More chopping, more stirring, more pinches of this-n-that, more stirring, more mixing then voila! It tastes every bit as good as the effort he put into it. 

We loosen our pants. Then stuff in some pudding for afters. Oh dear.

Once again after chatting and wine sipping we are all heading towards the bedrooms at a very sensible time. No drunken retching or raised voices, just relaxed chatting and telling of tales then without prompting going to bed seems to be the natural choice. 

The coast west of Portballintrae has been a pleasant surprise. As a child I would have revelled in those vast beaches, as an adult I've enjoyed the mix of the wild sea, vast beaches, hills and cliffs, countryside and farmland. The various towns present as pleasant places and not too big. There's nothing I've seen today that's blown me away yet it's been an enjoyable, easy and good day.


Advertise here - contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

The Whyfors Of Our Impending Return Ren unnecessarily tries to justify their return to Northern Ireland. Sharon takes out Ren with a fiscal left hook. Is there any hope?
Sauntering Up To Dumfries It's a slow slow start to this year's Northern Irish adventure. There's no rush and not rushing is something Ren isn't very good at. On the other hand Sharon is so laid back she's horizontal.
Of Work And Holiday Fears In between working far too hard and the fear of middle aged spread Sharon manages to squeeze into her bike gear and change into holiday mode. It's time to try and forget work and enjoy the ride.
A Ferry, Some Mist And Strangers It's time to cross the vast ocean betwixt Scotland and Northern Ireland. What will the Irish weather hold in store and there's some strangers to be met.
Of Mist And Magic With little sleep and the prospect of a ferry Sharon is doing her best to keep calm and concentrate. It's a bit of a mixed kinda day for the motorcycling hobbit.
West Of The Causeway Exploring the coast west of Giant's Causeway turns out to be more interesting than Ren expected. It's all a question of attitude apparently.
Underwhelmed In The Sperrins It's time to explore some hills, maybe mountains in Northern Ireland. Thing is Ren's not sure they're up to the task in hand.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
Very nice Ed, but it's not the Alps is it?!? LO BLUMMIN L.
How's the diet going.
Upt'North.
22/11/2021 11:05:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
No, it's not the Alps, but I still enjoyed it which as you know bothers me. As for the diet? Errrr...
Posted Image
22/11/2021 12:17:54 UTC
Upt'North said :-
WOW, it must be going well if you're celebrating it.
LO blummin L indeed.

22/11/2021 12:37:36 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
I believe the NW200 race is held on the roads around Portrush.
Did you try for a lap record?
22/11/2021 13:24:26 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Mark, one of the chaps we were sharing the house with, is a big fan of the NW200 hence the choice of location. As we came through Portrush I noticed some peculiar markings upon the road. I quickly figured out this was the starting grid, presumably for the NW200 races.

I, on the other hand, have only a passing interest in racing due to a lack of any skill, bravery, ability and/or competitive drive. As such the connection of Portrush and road racing was noted with a casual "oh yeah, this must be the starting grid..." As for me going for a lap record? I poop my pants at the sight of a mini roundabout when it's raining, I've no chance.
22/11/2021 13:44:14 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , great write up as usual. Are the celebrations last years left overs or this years in advance...?
Nigel
27/11/2021 20:49:20 UTC
nab301 said :-
Quote " Also, across there is the Republic Of Ireland. I am unsure as to whether or not I need a green card or a GB sticker or to inform my insurance or what their Covid rules are. I'm 95% sure it'd be fine but it's not important enough for me to find out the hard way."
No green card needed apparently...
Nigel
https://www.gov.uk/vehicle-insurance/driving-abroad...
28/11/2021 19:45:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
With regards the Celebrations nab301 - leftovers? Chocolate mate, there's no such thing as leftovers. However there is such a thing as an empty tub that can be useful for storage of nuts/bolts/tools/random electrical connectors. And in case you need something for comedic effect.

Thank you kindly for the link too. So (at the time of writing, subject to change) we can pop over to that there Europe sans green card. Fabulous. Now what we need to happen is for this accursed ailment to go away permanently. For a brief moment there I'd started to plan a return to Spain or France or Germany, even to maybe venture to pastures new such as Italy! Now we're in panic mode with the new "Omicron" variant, looks like I'll be thankful to get back into Wales.
29/11/2021 09:29:56 UTC

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