Discovering Northern Ireland.

After our afternoon at the Giant’s Causeway, we settled into our home for the night at Ballylinny Holiday Cottages. These little cluster of white painted stone cottages were just adorable and sat on top of the hill overlooking the town of Bushmills and Portrush.

The most remarkable sunset overlooking Bushmills. The owner of Ballylinny Cottages told us it was rare to see the sea so calm and still.
The most remarkable sunset overlooking Bushmills. The owner of Ballylinny Cottages told us it was rare to see the sea so calm and still.

The owner of the cottages recommended we head to Portrush for dinner so with our grumbling stomachs we jumped back in the car and drove the 10 minute drive to the seaside town of Portrush. There were plenty of restaraunts to choose from and we went with the funky Neptune & Prawn. Well, this was probably the best decision we’ve made in Northern Ireland! The Neptune & Prawn was a tapas-style restaurant with a huge draw from locals and tourists alike. The place was absolutely pumping! We were there on a quiet night and there wasn’t a table free. It’s hard to believe a small little seaside village like Portrush can have such a happening restaurant culture. We indulged in some delicious desserts as well, which left us rolling out of the place, totally satisfied, back to the Ballylinny Cottages.

The following morning we woke late to fog as thick as pea soup. Thanking our lucky stars we visited the Giants Causeway yesterday afternoon, when the sky was clear because we could barely see three metres ahead of us. We had a lazy morning, packing slowly until it was coffee time, so we headed into the cute little town of Bushmills for a caffeine hit and to pick up some Irish Whiskey.

Bushmills is famous for its whiskey, with the Old Bushmills Distillery drawing in over 120,000 visitors each year. It is considered to be the oldest distillery in the world and still to this day produces over eight different whiskeys. Tours are held in the distillery to learn the history of whiskey but we just wanted to get our hands on some of the golden Irish goodness. Mum, being the whiskey connoisseur, picked out the very smooth Irish Honey, which has only just been released. Verdict – bllooooody beautiful, and I don’t even like whiskey.

We left Bushmills and drove over to our second touristy stop for the day. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge near the town of Ballintoy is famous for its 20m rope construction which sits 30m above the rocks below. It is thought that salmon fishermen built this bridge over 350 years ago, but it has taken many different forms since then. Today it’s a sturdy wire rope structure, safe enough for visitors to cross daily. Dad and I braved the bridge, whilst Mum stayed on the mainland to be photographer. It wasn’t as scary as it looks and the views back onto the mainland are definitely worth the few seconds of scary.

Dad and I about to brave the Carrick-a-rede Rope bridge.
Dad and I about to brave the Carrick-a-rede Rope bridge.
Crossing the bridge. It looks much scarier than it is.
Crossing the bridge. It looks much scarier than it is.

The tiny island which the bridge links you to is called the Carrickarede and even has an old shelter which the fishermen used to use during their fishing trips.

Views from Carrickarede back onto the mainland.
Views from Carrickarede back onto the mainland.
Dad and I taking the token GoPro selfie on Carrickarede.
Dad and I taking the token GoPro selfie on Carrickarede.

We hiked back to the car and headed off to our next stop on the map, the Dark Hedges. These were another Pinterst find of mine and after taking the tourist route (read: getting lost) we eventually stumbled upon the Dark Hedges. I would advise visiting the Ballymoney Visitor Information Centre for directions to the Dark Hedges because they are a little out of the way.

Looking for the Dark Hedges and we found a man and his horse and cart speeding along the main road.
Looking for the Dark Hedges and we found a man and his horse and cart speeding along the main road.

The Dark Hedges are famous for being the most photographed phenomena in Northern Ireland. Planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family to impress visitors to their Georgian mansion, the hedges have grown over time into eerily shaped trees. They were also featured in the second season of Game of Thrones for all you TV buffs out there. Once we finally found the elusive Dark Hedges, I admit I was slightly underwhelmed by them. They had recently been cut back so the mystery and darkness wasn’t really there. However they did show up better in photographs, making the drive out there not such a waste of time.

The Dark Hedges, looking not so dark at this moment.
The Dark Hedges, looking not so dark at this moment.
The Dark Hedges were featured in Game of Thrones, when Arya Stark escapes the Kings Landing with Yoren and others.
The Dark Hedges were featured in Game of Thrones, when Arya Stark escapes the Kings Landing with Yoren and others.

Leaving the Dark Hedges, we headed south into the Republic of Ireland towards Donegal where we stopped for a late afternoon snack before continuing onto our accommodation near Sligo in a village called Grange.

Tomorrow we’re off to Connemara and Galway!

J. x

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