Thursday, 10 July 2014

A short break in Ireland

The last few days have been spent taking a break from Alexandria, which remains safely berthed in Carrickfergus, and my circumnavigation,

I was thrilled to see some of my family who flew into Belfast to visit me, and we hired a car (nicknamed Fritz because of its registration plate) and toured part of this very beautiful and less frequented coastline, enjoying stunning views, great friendliness from locals, good food and the delights of Belfast. 

We drove along the County Antrim coastal road called the Causeway route, and visited the Giant's Causeway and had an excellent walk along the amazing cliffs. A short drive followed to Carrick-a-rede  and its famous rope bridge slung 30m up above the sea between two headlands which we crossed. The following day, we drive to Tor Head and its derelict signal station commanding spectacular views. Then, off past Dun Luce castle with more views to die for, Cushendun and Cushendall, both great villages, then to see Glenarm forest and waterfall trails and yet another good long walk. 

Antrim has a castle ruins (though the locals seemed unsure where they were), and spectacular gardens (which the locals were justly very proud of) and a magnificent walk to Loch Neagh, where we were repeatedly greeted by friendly dog walkers. Belfast is a city of some prominence and grandeur, and of course the Titanic Quarter. We were made welcome at the Fitzwilliam hotel, where the room does not rock, the AC power is unlimited and they have a much better wine list than that on Alexandria, and where the Titanic experience beckoned...via the Segway NI tour. Absolutely excellent, and highly recommended. 

Hillsborough Castle, the seat of the Royal family when in the Province, completed the list, and where we enjoyed a ramble around the superb gardens without another visitor in sight. 

Indeed, much of our Northern Ireland experience was spent in glorious isolation, in magnificent places one could reasonably expect to be very crowded, but whichwere either sparsely attended or where we were the only visitors. Stunning  locations sometimes completely to ourselves. 

While we were here, the Marching Season was getting in full swing and we saw several banners across roads and many flags representing different communities' differing points of view. Even so, the lack of tourists was really surprising and we felt that Northern Ireland was very much worth a visit. 

Tomorrow, we will all be home in Suffolk for a short while which will be wonderful, before the circumnavigation resumes on 16th when I return to Carrickfergus with Vincent and David,  and from where we plan to slip early on 17th to sail to the tiny island of Gigha, the southernmost island in the Scottish Hebrides.  

In the meantime, here are some photos of places in county Antrim, Northern Ireland to encourage you to visit...and don't forget the Segway NI tour!

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