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North - Day 3 - The Glens and County Down


Breakfast and packing was followed by a walk around the guesthouse lands. We found 4 hungry mares and one foal, and we had great fun feeding them grass. (John claims he saw a white donkey, but we do not believe him; he must have been into the Bushmills souvenirs…) Sheila and Kristine also found the Famine Graveyard for those from the local workhouse and, for some reason, a german princess.

We headed out with intentions to see 1 of the 9 Glens of Antrim, but took a wrong turn soon after Ballycastle and ended up on a detour through (or at least near) a different glen. As the forest ended and the road along the fields got narrower and quieter, we asked an older man on the road to help us get our bearings. This man WAS Northern Ireland. From his tweed cap, tweed Sunday coat, trousers tucked in his wellies, 6 front teeth, walking stick, border collie, and impenetrable accent, he could not have been better suited to his sheep filled environment. He did his best to help, but he couldn’t really tell us where we were on our map or how to get where we were going. We are pretty sure he has never been much beyond Ballycastle in his life, and knows every road by sight, not name. When he began to wax nostalgic about another car full of foreigners he once met on the road and “never saw again,” we decided we’d better just turn around and head back the way we came in.

When we did find the Glen we wanted, we realized that we were running too late to pay to park and hike into the big waterfall. But the drive in to it was still beautiful.  The reason we did not have time was that we’d said we would be in Lisburn to meet up with John’s relatives “for a late lunch.” Getting diverted off the Belfast freeway and through some badly signed, slightly shady side of the city, however, we were not there until about 3. (It is clear to us that ALL Ireland — North and South — is in a state of massive road construction. In fact, we are thinking the 2 countries have spent more on enormous orange pylons then they will on their road projects!)

There was only time for a quick snack with John’s cousins (Florence and Chris Reid and Desmond Shortt) and then we all headed off to see the farm where John’s father spent his boyhood. We were shown around by the granddaughter of the man who bought the farm from John’s grandfather (just before he moved the family to Canada). She was wonderfully informative. The relatives then took us to see the church graveyard where many of John’s ancestors are buried. The relatives then treated us to an elaborate dinner before we headed back to Dublin (which, by the way, is a harder city to navigate in the dark after you have been traveling all day).

Our trip up North was amazing, but we did feel a bit like we were “back home” when we reached Siobhan’s house.