The realisation that our adventure on the north east coast of Northern Ireland was coming to an end was hitting home. Our tactic to cope was to fill the journey back to our housesit in Banbridge with as many stops as possible. This we achieved with expert Jwalking precision.
Glenariff Forest Park
Glenariff, know as the Queen of the Glens, is one of the nine Glens in Antrim. There are a number of walking trails here and we opted for the 2 mile Waterfall Walk. It was a steep descent into a gorge and then a boardwalk along a succession of medium and small waterfalls.
It was an interesting walk but sadly our overall feeling about the park was one of disappointment. As with most Forests Parks in this area, there was a charge to park which we don’t mind. It seems only fair to pay towards the upkeep of the trails, toilets and general facilities. The fact that there was a non-descript guy in a little kiosk asking for a fiver and giving us a small scrap of paper with the date scribbled on left an uncomfortable feeling about if he actually worked at the park. There was no prior warning that the coffee shop/snack bar would be shut for the season which would be useful for visitors to know. We were fine as we had a sumptuous picnic but others seems surprised and disappointed.
We felt we needed one last Antrim coast fix so stopped off at Garron Point which is between Waterfoot and Glenarm. The weather was very different to four days ago on our drive north along the coast but it was great to see the spectacular waves crashing against the shore. There are a few cottages perched on the rocky coast but in the main it is a very underdeveloped region. (Thank goodness!)
We continued south to our overnight stop in Carrickfergus with it’s prominent castle. The town had been somewhat spoilt by the dual carriageway, called the Marine Highway, that runs along the sea front. To be accurate it is not actually the sea but a tidal sea inlet about 12 miles long called the Belfast Lough that runs from Belfast into the Irish sea. The castle makes an imposing site with a little harbour nestled behind. Again, we are not sure what the planners where thinking but beyond the harbour is a cinema complex with a mixture of fast food and not so fast food eateries.
We checked in with our Fiat Panda obsessed airbnb hosts Alan and Jim just outside the centre of the town, then headed for one of their recommended local hostelries. Ownies Bar and Bistro is more or less on the front by the Marine Gardens. It had a large bar downstairs and upstairs a restaurant. It had an easygoing atmosphere so we headed up to the restaurant and promptly both ordered a steak and Guiness pie each which definitely hit the spot. We don’t tend to eat out much but whenever we have on this Emerald Isle it has been a good experience. This may be because we head to independent local places rather than the Wetherspoons, Toby’s, etc that are on offer. We could eat there anytime.
Still on our quest to see as many thing as we could on our journey back to Banbridge, we stopped off at Hillsborough. It is 12 miles south of Belfast and it is a very historic looking town. It’s main claim to fame in recent years has been Hillsborough Castle. Don’t be fooled it is more of a mansion house than a traditional looking castle but it is good enough to be the place where the Royal family stay when visiting Northern Ireland and the residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
We had a good mooch around the town and then a walk around the particularly nice forest park with its very own fort before heading off.
Days out from Banbridge
Our little car, Bubble, had ferried us safely around the northeast coast and now we are fully into our 2 week housesit. So Bubble now takes an extra passenger on board, Buff – our friendly, car loving cocker spaniel. Oliver and Barbara, the house owners, gave us a few tips for days out and when the forecast has looked promising enough we pack the picnic and doggie provisions and point Bubble in the right direction.
So far we have been for a lovely long walk in Castlewellan Forest Park. They do love a forest park in this part of the world and, if the number of parking spaces are anything to go by, they obviously serve a lot of visitors in the summer.
Only 4 miles on from Castlewellan is the coast town of Newcastle. The town is all set up to come alive in the summer months. There are a variety of caravan parks along the dunes and it is a base for the many outdoor activities the area can offer.
The Bubble and Buffmobile took us further north on another occasion. Buff manage the hour journey despite a lot of huffing and puffing. He seems to spot any park or beach front and thinks each one is the stopping off point. We went up to Strangford which sits on Strangford Loch, a large water inlet. Strangford’s claims to fame are the ferry which has been shuttling across the inlet for over four centuries and being home to the world’s first commercial tidal stream electricity generator.
Due to some annoying road closures, the journey home took us to blue flag Tyrella Beach for a blustery walk along the deserted beach. It is set up for lots of visitors in the warmer months but we had to admit defeat and eat the sandwiches in the car with a little black nose poking between the seats every two seconds to see if there was any crumbs he could hoover up. Anyone would think we never feed him!
23/09 – 30/09/2017