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Ireland 2018 - Antrim & Causeway Coast and Glens

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Antrim & Causeway Coast and Glens

Arriving on the Liverpool to Belfast early evening we drove along the coast through Carrickfergus and Whitehead to reach Ford Farm campsite on Islandmagee for our first night. The next morning we toured around the lanes to Browns Bay, a popular beach before returning to the main coast road and west to Larne. It seemed odd after the long ferry journey to be still driving on the left with the signs in English although the Irish placenames and shop signs soon became familiar. We decided to head inland to Broughshane, once the prettiest large village, where Northern Ireland's first municipal aire complete with a service borne had been opened in 2003. After a walk around the village and a small nature park, we enjoyed homemade ice creams from the local parlour before settling down for the night with a Dutch motorhome next to us.

Browns Bay Islandmagee
Browns Bay Islandmagee
sSlemish hill
White Park Bay
White Park Bay

Looking at the map and guide books we noticed that the prominent pilgrimage hill of Slemish (437 metres) was nearby, where Saint Patrick had lived for a few of his younger years, so after parking at the visitor centre, I set off up the steep and rocky track although I didn't make it to the peak. We headed for the coast at the pleasant village of Glenarm where we gathered lots of useful tourist information from the very helpful assistant at the newly opened tourist office. Continuing along the coast road we turned off to Cushendun, a pretty National Trust coastal village and found the caves, one of many locations for the Game of Thrones television series so popular with American tourists who were on guided tours of the various sites.

We headed inland to the Dark Hedges, another very popular G-o-T location where we were able to stay in the hotel car park since we had joined the Irish Safe Nights scheme for motorhomes. Another sunny day followed as we drove back to the coast and stopped at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, another very popular National Trust attraction. As the queues to cross the bridge were so long we just watched as several visitors set off then froze and had to be helped back. (Originally it was just planks and a single rope to hold on to). We spent the afternoon at White Park bay, a huge virtually deserted sandy beach with very limited parking, before returning to the Portaneevy picnic site for a quiet night with a few continental motorhomes. It was a popular coach stop overlooking the bridge and we were amused by the German tourists who sampled a Mr Whippy and photographed the traditional British icecream van.

From there it was a short drive to the Giant's Causeway and the massive new NT visitor centre (11.50 for non-members including parking. It is possible to get to the causeway along public footpaths but there aren't any other parking places nearby). It is a 1km downhill walk, or shuttle bus, to the causeway which was crowded but once away from the main area of the amazing basalt rock formations there are quieter paths along the base of the cliffs to the impressive "organ pipes" rock formations.

Giant's Causeway - the Organ Pipes cliffs
the "Organ Pipes"

After a couple of days staying near Portrush to visit a friend we continued west along the coast visiting Mussenden Temple, perched on the cliffs at Downhill.
Cushendun National Trust village  Cushendun Game of Thrones cave
Cushendun - a Game of Thrones location   

Dark hedges a Game of Thrones location
The Dark Hedges - another Game of Thrones location

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
   Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Giants Causeway
The Giant's causeway

Mussenden Temple     Moville Tractor rally
Mussenden Temple                        Moville tractor rally

We skirted Londonderry into Ireland and back up the west coast of Lough Foyle on the rural Inishowen Peninsula, to spend a quiet night at Stroove Bay. We spotted posters advertising a vintage tractor run so waited at Moville the next morning until they had passed by.

Our plans then had to change to find a dentist for some emergency treatment so we returned to Northern Ireland for a couple of days staying at another Safe Nights location near Londonderry/Derry. We spent a beautiful sunny afternoon wandering around Derry, crossing the Peace Bridge and walking the impressive city walls overlooking both the Loyalist West Bank estate with its signs and British flags, and the Republican district of the Bogside with its distinctive murals and Irish and EU flags.

Derry Peace Bridge
Derry city walls
Derry Bogside mural
Derry Peace Bridge
Derry city walls
Bogside mural