Castles, Rope Bridges and the Dark Hedge!


Today was even better than yesterday, which seemed difficult to achieve!  We had a hearty breakfast at All Seasons B&B – seriously, if you are staying around Portrush look no further.  An immaculate, super comfortable place with really lovely staff.

Set off at about 945, it was blowing an absolute gale.  Winds speeds over 43 mph from the west.  Not cold and not wet, but by heavens, it was strong….. Our first stop was Dunluce Castle, perched spectacularly on the clifftops near Portrush.  We clambered down to the castle but unfortunately they had a power outage and were closed.  No matter.  We managed to get some photos at least from the hill above.  Very spectacular view.

A debate then.  We were scheduled to walk to the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge at Ballycastle this morning but we feared (rightly) it would be closed.  To give the wind a chance to die down, we headed about 20 minutes inland to visit the Dark Hedges.  This is a most atmospheric lane, lined by beech trees, very photogenic.  It also serves as the King’s Road in GOT.  We had a good stroll along that, taking photos.  Not many other people there.  An unusual tourist attraction indeed.  Said to be haunted by a grey lady.

Then we headed back on the coastal route to the Rope Bridge.  It was closed but, my goodness, what a fabulous location.  We still did the clifftop walk to the rope bridge.  Scenery all the way, rather like Cape Cornwall, made even more spectacular by the wind on the waves today.  It was about a mile from the visitor centre to the rope bridge.  Yep, it was shaking…..  It links a little islet to the mainland and is about 50 foot long over a long, long drop to the sea.  The ranger let Lucy go down to the edge of the bridge to take photos but no-one was going onto the bridge.  A beautiful walk.  We were blown to smithereens.  It was most enjoyable.

Back to the car and off again, following the scenic drive route to Torr Head, the most northerly point of Northern Ireland, pointing back to Mull and Scotland.  A lovely drive, all along the cliff edges, pretty narrow road.  We parked up at the Head but the coastguard station at the top is now privately owned and we could not climb up.  On again, back on more familiar coastal routes, past the caves and the bays we visited yesterday.  We’ve done a few of these scenic routes now and they’re really lovely.

Then we turned inland and headed to Moira to visit the Hannan Meats, where the best salt aged beef anywhere is sold.  We found this place about 4 years ago when searching for a four-rib of beef for Xmas dinner.  Unfortunately they do not ship or sell to private individuals outside Northern Ireland.  Mark Hix serves their beef exclusively in his restaurants in the UK, as do other top chefs, but the only place the ordinary bod can buy it is Fortnum and Mason.  Uber expensive.  Lucy has visited them a couple of times on foodie press trips and we went today to buy some at last.  They made us a big welcome – thanks Lu – Peter Hannan himself came down to say hello and I bought some steaks aged in the Himalayan Salt Chamber and some amazing bacon.  Lucy bought a basketfull and we had fun getting it into our cabin baggage for the Ryanair flight.

Had a last dinner at Ballyrobin Country Lodge near the airport, recommended by Peter.  A good tip.  The girls both had monster burgers – seriously huge meat pattys and all the works.  I had some salt and pepper squid which was just amazing.  A good tip for eating near Belfast International.

Our flight home was full but uneventful and Bob was there to meet us.

Had a most lovely time in Northern Ireland, a beautiful place with stunning, unexpected scenery and genuinely the friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve encountered in a long time.   I can’t wait to go back and spend longer.