Friday, 31 July 2009

Ireland - a day out 200 years ago

Having reached Belfast, the city has much to offer and is not recognisable compared to the troubled city of 20 years ago. Depending on the amount of time you have at your disposal - and the weather - one should choose carefully what is worth seeing. If the weather is good then make straight for the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum which is located at Cultra. To get there from the centre of the city simple follow the signs for Belfast City Airport and contibue to Hollywood. Shortly after passing through the village you will see the turn off for the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum During the summer months it is open July to September 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 11.a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
For me the great attraction is the authenticity of this outdoor museum which has removed stone ny stone houses, churchs and shops from throughout Northern Ireland and reconstructed them here at Cultra. The picture below shows the main village street.. Allow yourself at least half a day to take in Northern Ireland of the past. There are many events organised throughout the year, relating to the local history. There is a Linen Day, a Donkey Day amd you can actualyy see workers practising skills now all but extinct - leather shoe making, making reed baskets, baking soda and potato bread. In any case make sure you visit the Old Rectory where research on the wooden structure shows it dates back to 1717. The main village street offers the shops of 100 years ago with authentic contents and shopowners all ready and willing to answer any questions you have. At the end before to visit the shop for local produce such as ginger and rhubarb jam.
Looking for a hotel in Belfast?. And for the evening you will find any number of excellent restaurants in the city centre. For a real overnight treat you will never forget, try the Culloden Hotel on the Bangor Road, 5 star and unbelieveable I am told. Olde world charm in antique surroundings amd great hospitality.

A short Irish gourmet stopover......

On your way from Carrickfergus driving along the side of Belfast Lough you will soon drive through Newtownabbey. If you have time, look out on the right hand side of the road and you will see a restaurant called the Bureau. Here I can vouch that the food is truely magnificent be it for lunch or dinner in the evenng. The upstairs restaurant requires advance booking and you can sit and look out over Belfast Lough. I would describe the menu as fusion but with a Northern Irish touch. Food is not expensive considering the quality and they have a large range of excellent wines. Be careful as weekends are particularly busy but I promise a meal you will not forget.
Following this stop contine along the shore road to the M5 and the motorway for Belfast City centre which can be reached in about 15 minutes from the resturant. Tomorrow? We spend the entire day in Belfast with a mixture of things to do - depending on the weather, of course!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Looking for relevant quality link exchanges to other blogs

By the way, if anyone has a blog related in any way to this one and is interested in exchanging links, please leave your details in the comments box below and I will be right back to you.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Glens of Antrim and on to Larne and Belfast City

Shortly after Carnlough still staying on the coast road we will come upon the village of Glenarm. Until a few years ago Glenarm had a thriving salmon farming industry in the bay but a strange type of jellfish apparently destroyed the salmon eggs and dessimated the industry. Leaving Glenarm we leave the last of the Glens of Antrim and enjoy the drive to Larne. Larne is a busy little town but not a tourist resort. The harbour here sees a lot of passenger traffic as this is the shortest crossing between Ireland and the UK mainland. To be honest, there is not a great deal to see in Larne. it is the point of access for many coming to Northern Ireland with regular services several times a day to Cairnryan and Stranraer in Scotland. Leaving here following the signs for Carrickfergus, a more beautiful and interesting location. From there it is only a short drive down the western shore of Belfast Lough to the capital of the province, Belfast. And that is where we will spend at least one day on account of its recent history and the great changes the city has seen in the past twenty years.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

From Ballycastle we are off to the Glens of Antrim

For me this is one of the most impressive drives. From Ballycastle we drive on winding narrow roads along the coast and through the villages of Cushendun, Cushendall, Waterfoot, Carnlough and Glenarm. The nine glens of Antrim are called Glentaisie, Glenshesk, Glendun, Glencorp, Glenaan, Glenballyeamon, Glenariff , Glencloy and Glenarm. The one in the picture is Glenariff and well worth a stop over. Here you will understand why people claim that Ireland has forty shades of green.

The lazy little villages of Cushendun, Cushendall, Waterfoot, Carnlough and Glenarm all have their individual charm and you'll find the coffee shops worth a break. I find the village of Carnlough very enticing. It is at the bottom of Glencloy and has a great beach when the tide is out. The little fishing harbour and the limestone bridge used to carry the limestone by rail from the quarry to the waiting little steamers but the industry has long gone. Interesting in Carnlough is to stop over on the main street at the Londonderry Arms Hotel. It has changed little over the years and it's claim to fame is that it was once owned by Sir WInston Churchill. The hotel serves meals - great ones, I promise you won't leave hungry or you can just have a pint or a coffee in the bar.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

If you are lucky, you are in for a treat - the Aul Lammas Fair at Ballycastle

Not for the faint hearted or those who do nto like crowds, I can assure you. Towards the end of August every year the quiet little town of Ballycastle, turns into hell on earth. The fair is said to be some 400 years old and was originally to celebrate the harvest and to trade horses. Today it has become a national tourist attraction and sadly has lost some of its local flair. But if you are in Ballycastle at teh end of August perhaps it is worth a try?

Friday, 3 July 2009

A beautiful stepping stone between Northern Ireland and the Scottish coast

Rathlin Island is, as I said, to my knowledge the only inhabiited island in Northern Ireland. The photo below does justice to its beauty set only six miles off the coast from Ballycastle the little ferry (no cars allowed) travels up to five times daily in both directions and costs about 10.60 pounds or Euro 12 for the return trip. As you can see agricultural vehicles are carried as well as animals (sheep) for local markets. . But before we commence let us take a look back on the previous day and set how our trip along the North Antrim coast is progressing. Remember we started at Portstweart (very lefy hand side of the map below and continued through Portrush, Bushmills, the Giant's Causeway and Torr Head to Ballycastle. Today is the day we visit the little island at the top of the map. The trip takes some 20 minutes and we arrive in Church Bay and the village village. The island also has a primary school with one teacher and the older children now cross over to Ballycastle on a daily basis to attend other schools as they get older. Refreshingly enough, Rathlin island's population is growing and now numbers over 100 people. During the 1970's there were worries that the island would become deserted as the younger generation left to find employment and a better life on the mainland. Now there is a slight increase although I do not think holiday homes or buildign is allowed on accoutn of an awareness to preserve the natural environment. The island is a bird wacther's paradise with puffin colonies as well as flora such as wild orchid. Here you can find more information about the Rathlin Island Seabird Center.

To my knoweldge there is a small bed and breakfast for those wishing to stay the night and in the village there is a tea room so you will not starve. Last boat back is around 5/5:30 p.m.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

And off we go

Having visited the Causeway we continue round the scenic coast route to the spectacular Torr Head which gives excellent views of both the Mull of Kyntyre in Scotland the island of Rathlin, just of the coast from our destination, Ballycastle. Toro Head is worth a visit just for the views surrounding it. Admittedly the narrow roads are winding and difficult to negotiate but it is worth the trouble, [particularly if the weather is kind.] Toor Head's had a claim to fame in the 1800s as it was from here that one recorded the passage of ships, crossing the Atlantic and this information was then relayed back to Lloyds of London. After a short stop I recommend we continue our trip eastwards towards the quiet little seaside resort of Ballycastle. I love this photo of the town square. The town today is a holiday resort with many second homes for holiday purposes and in the summer also has its share of holiday makers. Look for accomodation on the sea front as there are a number of inexpensive but good hotels there. You will need a night's sleep because tomorrow we are off to Rathlin Island, the only inhabited island 20 minutes off the coast by with a service run by the Rathlin Island Ferry Company.