Alright, now I have to get serious and finish up. I have Thursday and Friday afternoons, and at dinner realized Saturday to also fill you in on. I am going to be brief since you have a flavor of the success of this trip. I had worked from my Rick Steve guidebook for a rough outline way back when, and with suggestions from Paul on Queen Mary 2, I had a packed 6 days in Northern Ireland.
Once I left the Giant’s Causeway on Thursday I went directly to Londonderry with the intention of parking in the garage next to the TI (Tourist Information) as Rick Steves recommended. I arrived with minutes to spare to get on a tour bus covering both sides of the River Foyle seeing all the neighborhoods, and murals etc. You would not have even considered visiting Londonderry (or Belfast) prior to maybe 15 years ago because of the “Troubles” following Bloody Sunday 30 January 1972. I am still trying to digest and understand the political situation in The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland going back to the Great Famine, the 1920s, WWII and uprisings starting in the 60s. Political, yes, but the sides also have religious lines Protestant VS Catholic and Loyalists VS Nationalists, Home Rule, etc. Too much to get into here, but my visit to the Tower Museum within the city walls built which were built 1613-1618 helped my understanding. I enjoyed my walk around the top of the walls, visited Austin’s Department Store which was established in 1830, and on the way back to the car had to make a purchase in Poundland. For emergency use I got two packages of Cadbury Chocolate Cookies for a pound, and two bottles of juice for a pound. Heading back to Portrush I followed the scenic coast, but sadly in rain diminishing the views, but I drove on the beach along the way and had dinner in Portstewart before getting back to my B&B. As a resort town, Portrush, and the surrounding area has been spoilt with condominiums and caravan parks. Miles of mobile homes, all alike, are lined up waiting for their holiday merrymakers. Besides the beach, golf is big in the area (the Ireland Open begins the end of the month in Portrush), and there are storefront after storefront filled with amusement machine games. Real honky-tonk, and a change from what was originally a Victorian seaside resort.
I filled you in previously on my Friday morning at Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, but the rain continued on for most of my drive along the Antrim coast. I found the little road Paul told me about to Torr Head. Where is Black Beauty when I need her? (for my new blog friends, Black Beauty is my 1958 Triumph TR3). The perfect hillside road barely wide enough for one car, cliff with drops to the ocean on one side, fields with sheep, and curves to challenge the most skilled driver. Not even enough room to stop and take pictures. Continuing down the coast it was sad to see the little seaside towns with most of their business buildings boarded up. In time I decided to cut back over one of the Glens back to the motorway so I would have about three hours at the Ulster Folk and Transportation Museum between Belfast and Bangor on A2. Pauline suggested that I start with the Folk Museum which is similar to Sturbridge Village or Greenfield Village in the states. Many buildings have been relocated to set up both a village environment and a rural environment.
I particularly enjoyed an early 17th century poor farmers dwelling showing the original beam architecture that is formed as an inverted ship’s hull. The Folk village is very well done, and I was fortunate to be at the right spot at the right time to catch a ride in a reproduction 1904 Bus (up front with the drive) to tour the rural area, which because of the time to walk I had decided not to do, but this was just perfect. I then headed across the A2 to the Transportation Museum which houses trains, buses, street cars, automobiles, and a great Titanic exhibit which I mention on my Titanic Day page.
Arriving shortly after five in Bangor, Pauline graciously welcomed me at Hargreaves House to what has become one of my all time best B&B experiences. She goes out of her way to take care of her guests with recommendations, etc. as I observed she was also doing for a young couple I met at breakfast the next morning. Saturday I took the train into Belfast and caught the Belfast City Sightseeing bus, one of those hop on, hope off affairs with commentary along the way. The route included all quarters of Belfast including the areas of conflict and Troubles and we travelled around the Peace Wall (with some gates still closed) and viewed many of the murals on buildings and on the wall (which is actually even longer and higher now than during the conflicts). So much to learn! I got off to tour the Ulster Museum on the grounds next to Queen’s College, but only devoted time (2 hours) to the history area, again trying to learn about Irish history, the Troubles and their background going back into the early 20th century with the division of the Island and England’s control. Oh, did you know that the Luftwaffe attacked Belfast three times in 1941 killing well over 1,000 people and causing extensive damage, however missing their target – the shipyards. I had dinner in Belfast before returning to Paulines’s, and when I returned she and I and Ambrose chatter for several hours comparing country notes and solving the world’s problems.
So, in a small nutshell, that is Thursday and Friday afternoons, and Saturday. What is next? I don’t know. In September I will be going to a photography course on the Isle of Shoals, both of which have been on this list, but you know me, I will wake up with a thought, do some research and plan a trip. In the meantime, thanks for travelling with me, and good night from Ireland, which this view from Hargreaves House in Bangor, Ireland. As always, yours, RAY
This was my favorite blog so far! Where did you eat dinner in Portstewart? Morrelli’s? Did you see the Hotel Europa, The Crown Pub, and the Opera House in Belfast? Did you go into Dunne’s Department store there? Your trip has brought back a lot of memories; we’ll have to compare notes when you get home> Hey! Maybe you could give a travel talk at the library!!!!
Another great day, it looks like. Will certainly have to pick your brain about Belfast!