Trouble-free in Northern Ireland

Debbie Gregory and her partner enjoy one nice surprise after another.

Debbie Gregory and her partner enjoy one nice surprise after another.

Debbie contemplates the coastline.
MEDIEVAL: The ruins of the Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland, located on the edge of a basalt outcrop in County Antrim.
Natural rock formations at the Giant’s Causeway.
Muriel, Seamus and Frank (right) at the Saddle or Sail pub in Killough where the Kiwis were welcomed like All Blacks.
There are spectacular coastal views all around Northern Ireland.
Debbie at Coney Island with Tom’s Dog.
Dunluce castle inner courtyard.
The Carrick-a-rede rope bridge has beautiful views and is a lovely piece of Irish history.
Crossing the bridge

OH Ireland! I was so sad to leave you. My perception and the reality of Ireland were miles apart and mostly everything was one nice surprise after another.

The main thing that stood out for me was the people — so friendly and welcoming I felt right at home. The second thing was the scenery — if anything would remind me of home it was the coastline.

We are on a nine-week tour of Europe, and Ireland was the third stop — seven days. When packing I was advised by many that I would need summer clothes for Europe and to take plenty of warm clothes for Ireland. I didn’t need the warm clothes. Ireland was in great form when it came to the weather.

Our plan was to land in Belfast, hire a car and take a look at the country including a visit to Limavady to catch up with a friend and former Gisborne Herald employee Andy Chapman. On hiring the car, we found out crossing the border to the Republic of Ireland was going to be costly (They must drive like idiots down there) so we decided to spend our seven days in the north.

We had used Airbnb to book some accommodation in the area of Ardglass, in a place called Coney Island. This is on the East Coast of Northern Ireland.

But I am going too fast — the trip from Belfast international to Ardglass was entertaining on its own and deserves a mention.

We had a basic map and a phone with maps so away we went. We were only out of the airport by 200 metres when we came across the first of many issues with the roads and road signs. It was a dot on the road — apparently a roundabout. Everyone waited patiently while we turned straight through it. I’m not going to go on and on about the roads but if anyone with any decision-making power in Ireland reads this, I recommend you improve signage.

We coped with the skinny roads, the roads with the same names and the fact that the GPS on the phone dropped out off and on, but it was truly hard work getting around because the signs were not good enough. If you think of those old Irish jokes, then you would be accurate in saying the roads were bloody Irish.

Back to Coney Island

And you need a car there — public transport is not great. Anyway, back to Coney Island and the best sleep I have had in a long time. The beach cottage was everything it was described as, with a host called Alice who lived next door and was a great help.

We settled in and set off to explore the area. Beautiful is the word. We went to the village to get a few supplies and have some dinner. The first of many absolutely gorgeous Irish waitresses with an accent I am in love with served us at a little Chinese restaurant by the wharf.

Then we walked the wharf and watched a fishing boat prepare and leave. In the harbour were some elephant seals to remind me of Homer who visited Gisborne many years ago.

In the morning (after that glorious sleep) we set off for a walk around the area and a border collie with a tag that read “Tom’s Dog” joined us. He was our dog for the day — apparently quite common for this part of the world. Tom’s Dog led the way and we went to the point and aptly found a paddock of spuds. Van Morrison has a song about this quaint and peaceful corner of the world on the east coast of Northern Ireland.

We got in the car and set off to the local pub where we were welcomed as if we were the All Blacks. There was Muriel and Seamus and the barman who had a shirt in with New Zealand written on the chest.

Half an hour later we were heading out the door with a T-shirt given by Muriel that she had in her bag, as a memento of our visit. My partner Frank offered to take his shirt off and give it to someone there in exchange but we all agreed he should keep it on.

Work on fishing boats or Belfast

This part of the country is pretty desolate — they told us at the pub that everyone is in Belfast for work or out on the fishing boats.

We headed to Strangford, one of hundreds of stunning villages with beautiful buildings and streets. There was an on and off ferry which headed over the lough (Irish for loch) and an island called Swan Island covered in seagulls.

At the end of the next day, I decided to walk back to our cottage via the coastal Ardglass golf course. The views were amazing and I kept thinking about how much our sports editor Chris Taewa would have loved it.

Our next and most important stop was Londonderry district, Limavady in particular. Andy’s parents had invited us to stay there in their wee palace and talk about hosts with the most! So grateful for their hospitality, we were.

It goes without saying that it was a mission to get there but we did with a stop in Belfast, a lovely big city. The only thing I knew about this place was “The Troubles” but there was no sign of them.

Londonderry Museum

We spent half a day at the Londonderry Museum learning about the area’s history — the lives lost over power and religion, sad but true. The museum covered all the history from the start in a basic but good way, and at the end there was a video saying all was well now. However, I felt that was a premature statement. Working toward peace would be more accurate.

I also felt there was a synergy with the rest of the world. All battles, wars and injustices I have learned about relate back to power and more often than not, religion used to achieve that.

I will skip along to a few highlights in the Limavady /Derry area.

The Giant’s Causeway on the north west coast is a must. It is a stretch of coastline with some amazing rock formations from volcanic activity millions of years ago. On the coast, where you can see Scotland on a fine day, mythology will tell you there was a battle planned between the giants of Scotland and Ireland. The Scottish giant walked across the sea to find the Irish one who was much smaller. Hearing he was on the way, the wife of the Irish giant wrapped her husband up like a baby and when the Scottish giant saw the “baby,” he ran back as fast as he could. If the baby was that big he didn’t want to meet the giant.

Anyway, the causeway is a lovely walk and the hill part (which can be bypassed) not for the faint-hearted — fantastic scenery and a memorable few hours.

Other highlights were the Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Just up the road from the causeway, the castle, or at least the ruins of the castle, are spectacular. Poised on the edge of a coastal cliff, it is easy to imagine life in the 15th and 16th centuries and see the architecture of that time and other eras through additions to the castle.

The rope bridge is another worthwhile walk with linkages back to the 1700s when salmon fishing was the main work of the region.

The bridge walk is short — thank goodness! It’s a 300-metre drop to the rocks and sea below and absolutely fine if you don’t look down. It joins the main island to a wee small island with spectacular views.

OH Ireland! I was so sad to leave you. My perception and the reality of Ireland were miles apart and mostly everything was one nice surprise after another.

The main thing that stood out for me was the people — so friendly and welcoming I felt right at home. The second thing was the scenery — if anything would remind me of home it was the coastline.

We are on a nine-week tour of Europe, and Ireland was the third stop — seven days. When packing I was advised by many that I would need summer clothes for Europe and to take plenty of warm clothes for Ireland. I didn’t need the warm clothes. Ireland was in great form when it came to the weather.

Our plan was to land in Belfast, hire a car and take a look at the country including a visit to Limavady to catch up with a friend and former Gisborne Herald employee Andy Chapman. On hiring the car, we found out crossing the border to the Republic of Ireland was going to be costly (They must drive like idiots down there) so we decided to spend our seven days in the north.

We had used Airbnb to book some accommodation in the area of Ardglass, in a place called Coney Island. This is on the East Coast of Northern Ireland.

But I am going too fast — the trip from Belfast international to Ardglass was entertaining on its own and deserves a mention.

We had a basic map and a phone with maps so away we went. We were only out of the airport by 200 metres when we came across the first of many issues with the roads and road signs. It was a dot on the road — apparently a roundabout. Everyone waited patiently while we turned straight through it. I’m not going to go on and on about the roads but if anyone with any decision-making power in Ireland reads this, I recommend you improve signage.

We coped with the skinny roads, the roads with the same names and the fact that the GPS on the phone dropped out off and on, but it was truly hard work getting around because the signs were not good enough. If you think of those old Irish jokes, then you would be accurate in saying the roads were bloody Irish.

Back to Coney Island

And you need a car there — public transport is not great. Anyway, back to Coney Island and the best sleep I have had in a long time. The beach cottage was everything it was described as, with a host called Alice who lived next door and was a great help.

We settled in and set off to explore the area. Beautiful is the word. We went to the village to get a few supplies and have some dinner. The first of many absolutely gorgeous Irish waitresses with an accent I am in love with served us at a little Chinese restaurant by the wharf.

Then we walked the wharf and watched a fishing boat prepare and leave. In the harbour were some elephant seals to remind me of Homer who visited Gisborne many years ago.

In the morning (after that glorious sleep) we set off for a walk around the area and a border collie with a tag that read “Tom’s Dog” joined us. He was our dog for the day — apparently quite common for this part of the world. Tom’s Dog led the way and we went to the point and aptly found a paddock of spuds. Van Morrison has a song about this quaint and peaceful corner of the world on the east coast of Northern Ireland.

We got in the car and set off to the local pub where we were welcomed as if we were the All Blacks. There was Muriel and Seamus and the barman who had a shirt in with New Zealand written on the chest.

Half an hour later we were heading out the door with a T-shirt given by Muriel that she had in her bag, as a memento of our visit. My partner Frank offered to take his shirt off and give it to someone there in exchange but we all agreed he should keep it on.

Work on fishing boats or Belfast

This part of the country is pretty desolate — they told us at the pub that everyone is in Belfast for work or out on the fishing boats.

We headed to Strangford, one of hundreds of stunning villages with beautiful buildings and streets. There was an on and off ferry which headed over the lough (Irish for loch) and an island called Swan Island covered in seagulls.

At the end of the next day, I decided to walk back to our cottage via the coastal Ardglass golf course. The views were amazing and I kept thinking about how much our sports editor Chris Taewa would have loved it.

Our next and most important stop was Londonderry district, Limavady in particular. Andy’s parents had invited us to stay there in their wee palace and talk about hosts with the most! So grateful for their hospitality, we were.

It goes without saying that it was a mission to get there but we did with a stop in Belfast, a lovely big city. The only thing I knew about this place was “The Troubles” but there was no sign of them.

Londonderry Museum

We spent half a day at the Londonderry Museum learning about the area’s history — the lives lost over power and religion, sad but true. The museum covered all the history from the start in a basic but good way, and at the end there was a video saying all was well now. However, I felt that was a premature statement. Working toward peace would be more accurate.

I also felt there was a synergy with the rest of the world. All battles, wars and injustices I have learned about relate back to power and more often than not, religion used to achieve that.

I will skip along to a few highlights in the Limavady /Derry area.

The Giant’s Causeway on the north west coast is a must. It is a stretch of coastline with some amazing rock formations from volcanic activity millions of years ago. On the coast, where you can see Scotland on a fine day, mythology will tell you there was a battle planned between the giants of Scotland and Ireland. The Scottish giant walked across the sea to find the Irish one who was much smaller. Hearing he was on the way, the wife of the Irish giant wrapped her husband up like a baby and when the Scottish giant saw the “baby,” he ran back as fast as he could. If the baby was that big he didn’t want to meet the giant.

Anyway, the causeway is a lovely walk and the hill part (which can be bypassed) not for the faint-hearted — fantastic scenery and a memorable few hours.

Other highlights were the Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Just up the road from the causeway, the castle, or at least the ruins of the castle, are spectacular. Poised on the edge of a coastal cliff, it is easy to imagine life in the 15th and 16th centuries and see the architecture of that time and other eras through additions to the castle.

The rope bridge is another worthwhile walk with linkages back to the 1700s when salmon fishing was the main work of the region.

The bridge walk is short — thank goodness! It’s a 300-metre drop to the rocks and sea below and absolutely fine if you don’t look down. It joins the main island to a wee small island with spectacular views.

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