Travel StoriesNorthern Ireland Under Grey Skies
Captivating Coastlines And Countryside Culture
Ride Date 16 September 2021
By Ren Withnell
It's our last full day already! How'd that happen? Time flies by when you're having fun, that's the nature of things and it's damnably unfair I tell you. All tasty food is bad for you. If you have to be up early that'll be the night you can't get to sleep. It's as though life was meant to be cruel and hard. Still, I'll have to sulk later because there's more riding to be done.
Wait a minute, hang on... Ah, good. Yes right. We leave Northern Ireland tomorrow that much is correct but when we arrive back in Scotland we're not going home, we've a hotel booked in Stranraer. Yippee! I feel much better now.
The forecast today seems a little better. More of the same as yesterday but with the rain turned down a little. There's risk there may be some sunshine but I'll not place any bets on it.
Rob2 and Janine are off on some peculiar mission to Rathlin Island. There are cars on the island but only locals are allowed, everyone else must be on foot (or bicycle?). They'll be ever more healthy after walking around there then. Mark on the other hand, his hernia is giving him grief and with a long day tomorrow he feels he'd better rest today. That leaves Sharon, Rob and myself, and Rob is joining us today.
Rob's not been east of here whereas Sharon and I have been last year. The thing is east of here is nice and to be honest today I'm looking for a nice, simple and unchallenging day. I sense Sharon's happy with this, except for one point.
Torr Road. You might recall this section of road from last year. It's a twisty, turny, switch-backy single track that runs from Torr to Cushendun. Sharon was on the back of my bike that time, but today she'll be riding her own. I sense she's a tad nervous about this but she's bested Bealach na Bà, powered over The Picos, hooned around The Highlands and been supersonic through Snowdonia. She need not fear a few twists through Torr.
Unwaterproofed we head out, through Bushmills, past The Giant's Causeway then a brief stop at Dunseverick Castle. Luckily we weren't expecting much, because there isn't much to see. While I'm sure this was once a mighty fortress resplendent with crenellations and a fine drawbridge, today it barely achieves even a ruin. Between battles, politics and the sea, almost all of the glory is lost.
Still way more impressive and complete than my own house though.
Ballintoy harbour on the other hand is all there and perfectly lovely. A steep twisting road leads us down the bluffs, past fascinating houses clinging onto and sunk into the angles before levelling out by a harbour with parking. The harbour is small yet sturdy against the sea and there's a sensibly proportioned cave to explore. I imagine in peak tourist season it wouldn't be much fun here but on this quiet week day it's lovely.
Adventure hero! Or useless muppet?
Ballintoy is a pleasant place to be today.
As we ride back up the bluffs I feel rain. Natch. Not to worry this has been expected and we are prepared. We kit up and carry on regardless. Just like time flying when you're having fun and all the best food being bad for you, Murphy's law states after struggling with jackets and pants... the rain eases then stops. Pfffft.
Torr Road. I'd by lying if I said Northern Ireland was as majestic or breathtaking as The Highlands. However with the sea to our left, this sinuous road in front and lush green to our right, for a while here it comes close. Up, down, left, right, sharp bend, high open view to Scotland, a dip into a valley, gravel in the centre then a short straight. Wonderful, just wonderful. Sharon's fine, I knew she would be. I point down, "watch for that gravel patch there sweetie".
Mind you, by the time Cushendun rolls into view I'm ready for a break. We park by the river and break out our flasks and snacks. The skies remain heavy but the rain stays away. I think I like Cushendun and there's an old ramshackle hotel for sale. We discuss buying it but to be frank if I were to run a hotel it would make Faulty Towers look like The Ritz. £400,000?!?! Well I'm only £399,990 pounds short. If I sold my house I guess I'd only need to borrow £398,990.
It's lovely, not sure what it'll be like in a heavy storm though.
While Sharon and I have our flasks Rob hasn't. Pfffft. I think it would be nice to find a cafe anyhow, Google maps suggests there's one in Armoy which is en-route back.
I *think* this is the road we came over when we arrived, the misty, wet and cold one. Save for a random droplet or two, today it is quite different. Glenaan Road later becomes Altarichard Road as it wendles it's way towards Magherahoney. Today it is a pleasure to ride. Fast, sweeping and mostly open corners with moorland and arboricultural pine forests. I'm reminded of Wales as we swoop and swish around and along.
Google maps is adamant we're in the right place, our dot on the map is right next to the cafe. But there's no cafe. A bridge, decking by the river, but no cafe. Google maps is very good but it's not perfect. There is another cafe nearby so we go in there instead. They have cake. Oh dear. CAKE!
Armoy is near "The Dark Hedges". A certain fan of "Games Of Thrones" has spotted this on her phone app thingy. We must, totally, absolutely see this then. Apparently. I program it into my phone's nav and we make the 3 mile ride.
Oh yessss, we are most definitely on the tourist trail here. Signs insist, nay DEMAND that we park hither or thither to visit the most impressive, much lauded and mystical majesty of "The Dark Hedges". Pfffft, it's a blooming road, I'll ride down it like any tight fisted Yorkshireman should. I don't need to pay someone to give a guided tour of some trees along a road.
Ah. Damn. Bummer. Right. It appears the power of success has now closed this road to traffic. I stop in the mouth of the road to seek input from my companions, go back and park? Stuff it and carry on? Except Madam Parker has already parked, gotten her camera and is off to get pictures. Rob and I wait, I'm already flapping, expecting a police car or countryside warden to ticket me for loitering by the busy roadside. Sharon would be done for parking in the road clearly marked no access to ANYTHING other than pedestrians.
Sharon's picture, I am busy flapping about 100 yards behind.
In the few, achingly long minutes we are here several other vehicles arrive and leave in exactly the same manner as we. Park illegally? Turn around? Loiter with a bemused expression on your face? Sharon returns before the authorities arrive, I make haste to depart this place as quickly as possible.
Rather than forcing Rob2 to cook once again (although he still willingly volunteers) this evening we decide it's time for a take away. Hmmm, not as simple as you might think. We have 2 Londoners, 3 Boltonians and 1 adopted Scouser. City slickers. We're used to opening an app, making our selection, paying with Paypal and expecting a knock at the door in about an hour.
This, this is Norn Iron. Nothing in Portballintrae and 2 Chinese Takeaways in Bushmills. Looks like Chinese then. Website to see the menu? No? The best we can find is a half-assed facebook page and a phone number. Delivery? Not a chance. Looks like we'll have to actually physically go there. It's like going back 30 years! Janine is funny, she's totally and utterly shocked and appalled that any business can run like this in modern times.
The girl behind the counter appears entirely disinterested. The shop is, errr, OK, but nothing special. This is not the dynamic, go-getting, cut-throat world of Dominoes versus McDonalds versus Wagamama, this is a small local Chinese. We place our order and wait. And wait.
Bushmills is bouncing this Friday night. Literally. Yoofs back home hoon around in their souped up Corsas and Scooby-Doos. Here the yoofs razz up and down the high street in... wait for it... massive modern huge tractors! John-Deeres, New Hollands, Claas and Case IHs bounce along at far in excess of the posted 30. Big rattling trailers are optional as are vast nose weights and flashing orange lights. We stand and watch in awe as a freaking COMBINE HARVESTER makes a 3 point turn into a side road.
We must have seen well in excess of a million pounds worth of machinery coming and going. It's arguable some of them are working late but I'm not convinced, it sure feels more like a "cruise". Whoosh! Another £100,000 worth of huge tyres, screaming diesel engine and 3 point linkage flashes by.
Our order is disjointed in arrival, not initially correct and has taken over an hour. But - 2 things. I am thinking like a city slicker. As we've waited there's been a steady stream of (presumably) locals coming and going. They know the phone number, they know the menu and they know the waiting time. This is a local Chinese for local people you know. Secondly, when we finally get back to the house with the food, it is good. Real good.
The Chinese take away doesn't need to pander to the whims of random tourists, clueless and impatient. It doesn't need a slick website or a fleet of delivery drivers or uniforms or snappy branding. It's target market wants tasty food and they're happy to come and get it.
The coast east of Bushmills is lovely, but Sharon and I already knew that. We've enjoyed a pleasant ride out and this evening we've learned just a little about life in this part of Northern Ireland. We retire around 2200 once more.
Tell your own tale - click here.
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.
So Are The Days Of Our Lives
It seems maturity won't let today's less than ideal weather spoil Sharon's day exploring Northern Ireland's northern coastline.
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.
Dull Grey Day With A Dash Of Orange
Sharon is exploring the hinterlands of The Republic Of Ireland. To be honest it appears she's entirely underwhelmed by it all. Oh well, it can't be all wonderful can it.
Captivating Coastlines And Countryside Culture
Sharon and Ren are joined by Rob as they take on familiar ground, an easy day's ride in alluring surroundings. There's a little culture shock to round off the last evening.
A Challenging Day In Northern Ireland
It's time to leave Northern Ireland but logistics, health and electricity are conspiring against The Dynamic Muppets.
Time To Go Home
It's the final day and all that's left to do is ride home. It's also time for Ren to reflect on this excursion.
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Nice Ed, enjoyed it.
I often titter at the telebox when some new fangled delivery service is advertised for a juicy burger or a super sized pizza. I'm sorta glad they don't come here too.
Oh yes we have our takeaways but purely of the sit and wait variety. Our nearest Indian Restaurant is 20 miles away. Just as it should be.
Game of what, is that a telebox thing.
I think the coastal pics are similar to Eastern Scotland.
12/12/2021 14:30:17 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
I have a HG Goretex jacket that I bought about 10 years ago in one of their sales. ISTR it was about £400 list price but obviously I didn't pay that being even tighter than Ed. It was the only waterproof jacket I've ever had - one run down from the Lake District to Brum in torrential rain didn't see a drop get through.
Of course these days I scurry back home at the first dark cloud.......
13/12/2021 10:16:54 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I take it the 21st century hasn't reached deepest darkest Northumbria then Upt'? Tell me, how do you access this new fangled interweb thingy then? Carrier pigeon? Or have you upgraded to Morse code by now? Maybe even teletype.
I personally live 60 second's walk from a Kebab/Pizza shop and a Chinese chippy. There's most of the big names within a 40 minute walk too. I have a weekly chippy tea from the Chinese otherwise I rarely, very rarely use any of the various -ahem "restaurants" because I am far too prudent. Sharon's offspring and many other "yoofs" seem to practically live of delivered to you door food. It's a strange new world and I think I'm getting old.
Eastern Scotland? Are we talking Wick to Inverness or Inverness to Aberdeen? I think I can agree but my knowledge of the eastern seaboard of Scotland is not extensive.
14/12/2021 18:23:17 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
I'll have you know young Ed, we're very up to the moment upt'North. We've just had a fresh delivery of flares and kipper ties, so we'll be dapper upt'village this Christmas.
They might even have some smaller sizes if you're interested?
I was thinking the Scottish coast in Berwickshire up through the Lothians and beyond to the Forth of Firth.
I ordered something from HG about 3 years ago Ed, I think they were in East Anglia, Lowestoft/Great Yarmouth maybe. I think they were the only outlet then but I remember it was complicated arrangement.
14/12/2021 21:15:45 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm not too familiar with the Lothian coast Upt' so I'll take your word on it. I still have so much of the UK to explore. As for your flares and kipper ties? Do you not find the flares to be a trip hazard? Elf-n-sayftee would have a field day. Kipper ties are also a strangulation hazard.
15/12/2021 09:45:02 UTC
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Travel StoriesNorthern Ireland Under Grey Skies