Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Derry and the Northern Coast

THURSDAY - Derry

We woke up this morning and went downstairs to the basement at our B&B in the Moy and had breakfast. Watching my husband try to drink coffee out of teacups with teeny-tiny handles is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

And then we made our way out of town toward the Northern coast. We drove up through Dungannon (which I've been pronouncing wrong for nine years, btw), and stopped at Dungiven Priory. I enjoyed this little stop.  You had to walk a ways from parking your car to get to the ruins...  Unlike the ruins in the Republic, this one's graveyard was only old gravestones, and they purposely didn't keep them cleaned up, and it made the place seem more authentically ruined. lol I don't know if that makes sense.  

At the back, there was a path that you could climb down to an "environmental park." I'm not sure what this means... as it mostly led down to either, on one side, someone's farm. Or, on the other, an abandoned hydroelectric facility that appeared to be mostly used for teenage drinking parties (judging by the trash inside one of the buildings).  Behind the building, however, you could meander down to the little creek and I rather liked sitting on a rock and watching the water trickle by.

We continued on our way into Derry. I really enjoyed driving through Co Tyrone... I thought it was lovely. I think Joel enjoyed it because the roads were better.  Thanks, United Kingdom!  Derry was interesting... I think Joel liked it more than I did. For some reason, I found it a little suffocating - I don't really know why.

Derry is a walled city -- you can climb the stairs to the top of the wall and walk the entire perimeter -- which we did, stopping to read all the informational signs along the way.  It took me almost the entire perimeter to figure out what seemed weird about it... and I finally realized that, after a week in Ireland, it was that the English weren't depicted as the Bad Guys.

After walking the walls, we dropped down and walked through the Tower Museum -- Joel was really interested in the Siege of 16-something.  But they had creepy mannequins!  I'm always afraid those things are going to come to life. (I know. I have issues.)  After the museum, we found our way across the Peace Bridge and went to lunch at the Walled City Brewery, which was really good!!

By the time we made it back to our car, it was getting later in the day than I had anticipated -- so we dropped the rest of our plan and just drove to Ballycastle to check into our B&B. I liked our room there -- though I couldn't figure out the shower!  We walked into town and had dinner at the Diamond Lounge.  By this point, I was starting to wear out a little -- so we called it a somewhat-early night and went to bed!


FRIDAY - Northern Coast

We had to cut short some of our plan the day before, so this morning began with me sitting on the bed with the two days' outlines and pulling out a new plan for the day that would make sense. So after breakfast, we headed out on the  Glenshesk Scenic Drive.  This takes you out of Ballycastle into the surrounding farmland and eventually makes its way to Armoy.

From there, it's a hop and a jump to the Dark Hedges. This little road has been featured in the Game of Thrones series (which I have no interest in), and can get pretty busy -- but we were there fairly early in the morning, so it wasn't completely overrun yet. It's apparently ranked in the Top 5 of the World's Tree Tunnels -- which I did not realize was a thing -- but yay? It was pretty though... we walked a bit further along the road (which, in Ireland, is always a bit death-inducing) and came across a tree tunnel that we liked just as much (but nobody else cared about).  And then walked a bit on the grounds of an imposing old house that was now a golf course.

Well, the house wasn't a golf course. 

After making our way back up toward Ballycastle on another twisty road through farmland (Joel may not let me plan the driving routes anymore!), we headed out onto the Torr Road -- which is supposed to be a lovely (if narrow and turn-y) drive along the northern headland -- with gorgeous views of the coastline.

I'm sure it's lovely.

Unfortunately, it was rainy and foggy and we couldn't even see the edge of the cliff, much less the ocean.  Which I thought was funny.  Best laid plans...  At one point, Joel pulled over so he could drink his coffee before it got too cold. But, there was a gate into someone's sheep pasture across the way -- so I decided I was just going to go explore!  I left Joel in the car and trudged my way down the hill to get a better view of the coastline -- and the fog cleared just enough that I could make it out - and I found a little collection of old stone cottages along the way.  My shoes and clothes took hours to dry out, but I thought it was totally fun and worth it!

After that, we headed back west a bit to pick up a couple of the things we'd missed the day before. First, we went to Bushmills and took a tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery - which I thought was kind of interesting.  And you got whiskey at the end -- Too strong for my cup of tea, so I had a hot toddy instead. I just got comfortable with beer!!  We walked further into town for a bit of lunch at a cafe, which was a cute little place on the center square.

The sun was finally starting to clear by that point and it was getting later into the afternoon, so next was a stop at the Giants Causeway. Our B&B host had told us that we could save a bit of money by parking at the 6-pound train station, instead of the Causeway parking lot.  There ended up being no one at the train station to pay, so we just left our car there for free.

After a rainy morning, it really turned out to be quite a lovely day -- so after making our way to a perch on the Causeway, we just sat there for a good long while, enjoying the sun and the breeze and the water. It was quite beautiful!

When we'd had our fill, we made our way back to Ballycastle and walked into town for dinner and our last night at a town pub.  Neither of us were really starving and it was proving a bit difficult to find a place to eat anyway (nobody serves food there after 9)... so we just stopped into a chip shop for a bit of fish n chips.

The sign on the wall made the fish look about the size of a KFC chicken strip -- so that seemed perfect for the amount of hunger I was feeling. However.... it was actually the size of an entire fish. I always thought it was just Americans that served super-huge amounts of food at restaurants. But no. Everywhere we went in Ireland, I almost never was able to eat it all!  A few drinks at a pub, and then we made our way back to our bed. :)







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