Saturday, July 22, 2017

Belfast to Ballycastle

I was right to worry about the traffic noise last night. Combined with a lack of curtains in the apartment, we all found it a bit hard to sleep. Geoff & Sophie got up and went for a run around the Titanic Quarter then we made our own breakfast (courtesy of Lidls) and headed to the Titanic Belfast exhibit.
Running track
This is a very popular exhibit and there were already a lot of people, including several school excursion groups there when we arrived. This forced me to put on my school teacher voice a couple of times- much to the horror of my own children. The exhibit covers 7 floors, with information not only about the Titanic but ship building in general, and particularly, in Belfast. Some of it is a bit tedious but all in all we enjoyed it enough to spend nearly 3 hours examining the displays.

There’s lots of symbolism built into the design of the building, with each feature paying tribute to different elements of the Titanic, from the span of the fa├žade matching the width of the ship, to the morse code patterned lines on the path outside. My favourite part was reading the testimony of the survivors and the information dispelling some of the movie myths about the sinking. Given that some of my students are basing their Drama solos on one of the survivors, it was also good research material.
Front of the building reflects the size and width of the Titanic
As luck would have it, the ticket seller at Titanic Belfast was from Ballycastle, our next destination. He gave us a copy of his suggested route along what he called the Causeway Coastal Tour, dedicated to his dad who had coined the phrase back in the 60s. All he asked was that we visit the bench named in honour of his dad on the Ballycastle foreshore, take a photo and send it to him. I love the interesting and helpful people you meet while traveling!

By the time we hit the road it was after 1 and unfortunately it was raining pretty hard so the magnificence of the coastal road was a little bit muted into a solid sheet of grey sky meets grey sea with no discernible horizon and we couldn’t get out of the car. Nevertheless it was majestic and I’d love to drive that way again when there was a touch of blue in the sky.
Road block

Sightseeing in NI

From Casheldun we took the scenic (and incredibly skinny) Torr road. No need to spend money on fairground roller coasters- here was one for free. Up, up, up, then around and down, down, down- repeat. All done on a road just barely wide enough for two small vehicles to pass one another on the straight stretches and a sheer drop on one side to the sea many, many, many metres below. It was a crazily beautiful drive, even in the rain.

We were really lucky at Torr Head that the rain let up long enough for us to climb to the top for a view across (what I thought was the Mull of Kintyre to Scotland) Fair Head to Rathlin Island. 

Mull of Kintyre

Top of Torr Head

Another big win with the accommodation awaited us at Ballycastle. At the An Caislean guesthouse we have been upgraded to a little family suite; two separate bedrooms, a bathroom and vestibule. Up on the top floor of the beautiful Victorian building we have a lovely view down towards the sea.

Taine was running low on fuel so we walked to the sea front in search of a snack and then took our ice creams for a stroll around the harbour. There were some hardy Irish families swimming at the beach (it was 14 C), people playing tennis on some lovely grass courts and lots of fishing boats coming in with their day’s catch. Altogether a very pretty vista. We stopped long enough to take a photo on Jack O’Kane’s bench and to skip a few stones across the river mouth and by then it was time to search for dinner.
Jack O'Kane's bench

We’d been given a few suggestions from the B&B and another one from my geography class at home (thanks Liam) but they were all chockers except for the Diamond Hotel who luckily had just one table for 4 left. We’ve had terribly bad luck on this trip with fish and chips but ever the optimists, we all ordered the cod and sweet potato chips. Hallelujah! The fish was fresh, huge and crisply battered. The accompanying salad was just enough and the beer was cold. Lucky there are 3 flights of stairs to take the edge off before bed.

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