A few days in Ulster

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Last Sunday we boarded the overnight ferry from Birkenhead to Belfast to take a few days holiday  in Northern Ireland. It’s probably not the most obvious place for a holiday, particularly given recent history. But things have moved on. Some parts of the region have become popular – the Giant’s Causeway and parts of the Antrim coast in particular, and the region hasn’t been slow in capitalising on the popularity of the Games of Thrones TV series which used a number of locations in Northern Ireland and on the fact that the Titanic was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast. However, much of the countryside remains relatively unknown and unexplored by tourists from Britain.

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(By Andrein – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6244638)

I’d been to Northern Ireland a couple of times – flying visits, literally – for meetings but had not had much chance to look around. But brief views from the windows of cars and planes made me want to see more. So we booked an overnight ferry out and back and four nights in hotels – 2 north east of Belfast and 2 at the south end of Strangford Lough – which gave us 5 full days to explore. I consulted a friend beforehand to get some ideas when planning our visit but we decided to base the trip mainly around the National Trust sites which are scattered across the region. It was a grey start on the Monday, although it brightened up a the day went on. Tuesday  was something of a washout, but didn’t spoil the day. Overall, we were lucky with the weather with the Wednesday and Thursday being warm and sunny.

We discovered some beautiful country and the visit also confirmed what I already knew – the people are extremely friendly, helpful and welcoming.

Arriving in a grey Belfast at the unearthly hour of 6:30 we disembarked by 7 and set off towards the north coast, intending to visit the Giant’s Causeway . We had some breakfast at a motorway services north west of Belfast before driving up past Antrim and Ballymena to Ballycastle before turning west along the coast road.

First stop was White Park Bay, a section of the north coast owned by the National Trust

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It’s a spectacular white, sandy beach between two headlands, backed by ancient dunes. Despite the grey skies it was very attractive. Photos really can’t do it justice. Scotland is quite close and from the viewpoint on the cliffs above the bay we could just about make out Islay and Jura on the horizon. We parked up and took the path through the dunes down on to the beach.

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There was a group of cattle that had also wandered down on to the beachDSC09725

and a couple of heavily laden walkers making their way across the sand.

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We stopped to chat for a short while. They were a young French couple who were trekking along the Antrim coast.

At the far west end of the bay, huddled in a rocky bay below the cliffs, there’s a small village, Portbraddan, which translates as “Port of the Salmon”.

Dark clouds had started to drift over from the north west so it was time to head back tot he car. The sun in the south east, however, was lighting up the whitewashed houses in the village as well as the cliffs and the sand, making for a dramatic view and photograph opportunity.

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The rain came in but we were soon back into the car and heading through the showers towards our next stop – the Giant’s Causeway.

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6 thoughts on “A few days in Ulster

  1. Somewhere I have never been either though, like you, John has made some flying visits on business. We actually started planning once, many years ago – then Canary Wharf happened and we didn’t go. Ridiculous, as it’s just a short hop for us. Some day!

    I’ve been travelling myself so am way behind with blog reading, but I’m looking forward to catching up with this trip.

    • Hi Anabel. I think we often miss things in our own backyard. In recent years we’ve tried to make a conscious effort to put this right to some extent by visiting parts of Britain we’ve never been to before. We can now tick Northern Ireland off our list ! Although there’s much more to see and I’d like to go back – so many places to see, things to do and books to read but so little time 😦

  2. Glad you enjoyed your visit. I recently returned home to Northern Ireland from living in England. Was always surprised at how few people have been here to visit for a short holiday but think it’s starting to change. Next time you come you should try and visit the area of the Mourne Mountains, Ards Peninsula and Carlingford. The Mournes area in particular is stunning. If lakelands are more your thing then google, Fermanagh Lakes. They’re beautiful too.

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