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North - Day 1 - “Norn Iron”


Everyone slept in this morning (except John and Sheila who had to get on an 8am flight to Frankfurt). We are taking a day to catch our breath because the last 3 days have been so full. I will therefore do it in 3 entries.

On Friday, we headed out of Dublin in the bright sun. We were very surprised that there is no obvious border between Southern and Northern Ireland. Forget gates and guards; there wasn’t even a sign! All that did change, besides the flags, were the speed and distance markers; they went from metric to imperial. We stopped in Lisburn to grab a snack and some Ulster pounds (which do not stretch as far as the Euro, we found out) and then drove quickly through Belfast. We caught a glimpse of Samson and Goliath, the 2 HUGE cranes that helped build the Titanic, but that’s about all for the capital.

The rain started about then. It would come down in buckets for 5 to 15 minutes then stop for 20 to 30 minutes. This, it turns out, was the way it was to be for our entire stay in the country. We got good at feeling it coming and taking cover to wait it out. We were nevertheless determined to get on to Carrickfergus Castle, and we were so glad we did. It is very nicely set up for self tours and very geared for kids, with lots of life-sized, posed and painted statues of canon crew, crossbow shooters, prisoners, mounted knights, etc. The kids’ favorite was King John, who has been placed, rather irreverently, “sitting on the john”.

We sped through Larne, which was a bit disappointing. John and Sheila have a painting of the Larne harbour in its prime; it is no longer in its prime. The Antrim Causeway Coastline after Larne, however, is nothing short of magnificent. David handled the predictable showers and narrow winding roads exceedingly well, and the rest of us perfected our “oooo” s and “aaah” s. I’ve never seen so many stunning vistas or so much green or so many sheep!

Our guesthouse was just outside Ballycastle, and had an amazing view of Fair Head, Rathlin Island, and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. We had dinner in a restaurant on the beach in Ballycastle, where a group of 8 drummers on tall stilts were also performing a very long (no pun intended) set. After dinner, we went for a walk around the sandy bay and got caught in the most fierce of the day’s rain showers! We had to stop and huddle under umbrellas and trees for a full 5 minutes. Soaking wet, we eventually ran back to the shops to get the kids their promised ice cream. We then went to the guesthouse to crawl into warm dry beds. Our clothes were still wet in the morning. We now understand how the Emerald Isle stays green!