Ireland is one of those countries that every one knows but where not every one goes. Scotland seems to be on the winning hand in that respect. Does that have something to do with the turbulent past of Ireland or do people not know how gorgeous this part of Europe is? For starters it is good to know that Ireland has two parts: the south and the north. South Ireland is a euro country while the north is pounds (Irish or British).
We (Ellen from Bijzonder Plekje and me) were invited to explore the causeway coastal route. Or a part of the route I should say because you need a bit more time to see everything. We flew into Belfast, got our rental car and drove from there towards the coast. Our first stop wasn’t too far away and about an hour later we arrived at a gorgeous part of the coast: The Gobbins.
The Gobbins is the brain child of an Irish train engineer, Berkley Dean Wise and has been around since 1902, but is only opened to the public since 2015. Quite recent and maybe that is one of the reasons why it seems to be still a bit unknown. Which is a shame as the area is absolutely breath takingly beautiful. You have a choice of doing the cliff path with a guide here or going it alone and walking the top path. Ellen chose to do the cliff path and I stayed on the top path. Of course you could consider doing both. The cliff path is a little more challenging but still pretty doable according to Ellen. It’s irregular at times and there will be a few climbs but getting to the top path you also have to walk the steep hill down and up. The cliff path comes with a fair bit of warnings but in the end it’s quite manageable. I’ve seen people of all shapes, sizes and ages do the path, so I guess it’s easier than it looks.
Totally worth visiting for sure. Take into account that the route along the cliff path takes roughly 3 hours and covers around 5 kilometer in total. The view from the top path is gorgeous but at some points you only see the hedges along the side of the cliff. The length of the top path is around 1,5 km and as mentioned you still need to climb the hill up and down (it’s a regular paved road though so easy to do)
Doors of thrones
From the gobbins we drove further along the coast to arrive at Ballygally Castle, where we heard about the Doors of Thrones for the first time. I didn’t really understand what it was all about but Norman from Ballygally explained that there 12 (!) doors made from the wood of the Dark Hedges. Those doors are distributed along the route and depict some of the most epic scenes from Game of Thrones. The door at the castle showed the logo’s of house Stark and house Bolton and depicts the battle between the two houses in season 6. You can obtain a passport at any of the door locations and get a stamp once you visited one. The idea is to complete the passport of course and I’m sure it’ll be fun for a Game of Thrones fan. I love the series and it is great seeing some of the actual scenery of where the series was shot. We ate a delicious scone at Ballygally and went along our way.
It’s quite funny how many of the locations we visited are used in Game of Thrones. The photo above is from the little harbour at Carnslough and it is here that Arya comes out of the water in season 6. Of course it is fun to visit, even if you’re not a GOT fan… It just ads an extra dimension.
We spend our first night in a historic building, The Londonderry Arms. A hotel that was once owned by Winston Churchill and a lady Londonderry (not necessarily at the same time) and that is how the hotel got it’s name. The building dates back to 1847 so you can probably imagine that it is not the most modern hotel you’ll ever find. But it certainly has a lot of charm and funky things. We slept on the first floor, went up with the elevator but finding our room meant going down little steps and through lots of different doors only to end up back on the ground flour! The rooms are spacious and comfortable so nothing wrong with that.
The menu is the same in the restaurant as in the hotel bar and the food is pretty good. If you’re lucky you might get some live music as well. We were there on a Saturday night and the band that played was great.
Breakfast the next morning was delicious too in the sun filled restaurant room. What I also loved is that there are various smaller rooms, so you don’t get the feeling you’re in a massive restaurant.
Glenarms walled gardens & castle
Only 5 minute drive away from Carnslough you will find Glenarm. You’ll find a beautiful walled garden here with a castle and a tea room (and a fudge factory! Sadly closed when we were there) The castle is not open to the public since it is still occupied by the McDonnels family, but you can walk in the castle garden and enjoy the views.
We were really lucky with the weather as it was a bit unpredictable. Rain one minute and sunshine the next. You can easily wander around here for a few hours. Not because it is such a huge area but it is a lovely space to wander and admire the flowers and the garden layout. The lady at the tea room estimated it would take us 20 minutes to walk but we kind of forgot the time and after 1,5 hours had to rush back for our next stop on the way.
From Glenarm it was a short drive to Cushendun Caves. These caves have been used in season 2 of Game of Thrones where lady Melissandra gave birth to the shadow creature that killed Renly Baratheon. Just so you know… To be honest I wasn’t too impressed with the caves and love the pub we visited much more… 🙂
Cushendun is also home to one of the smallest pubs in Northern Ireland Mary McBride.
If you love whiskey this is the place to be since they have no less than 50 different kinds of Irish Whiskey. Apart from the whiskey you can also enjoy some good pub food here. I went for the steak and ale pie which was delicious but you can also find more modern foods like club sandwich on the menu.
Carrick-a-rede rope bridge
As soon as we arrived at the rope bridge site it was apparant that it was closed because of the storm that was raging along the coast. We did walk along the coast to the bridge (which is a beautiful walk anyway) and it was storm alright! We weren’t very sad that the bridge was closed, as I can imagine how that would be with the wind.
Beforehand I had seen stories that the bridge is one of the scariest in the world. When you take a look at the photo above you might wonder why as it isn’t as long as I had imagined it to be but since I haven’t been across I cannot tell you if it was or wasn’t scary.
Because we spend less time at the bridge than was planned we decided to make a little detour and also visit the famous Dark Hedges.
We weren’t the only ones who did that though and it was enormously crowded. I was lucky to be able to get the above shot with a limited number of people. It is obviously a hugely popular place with Game of Thrones fans. If you want less crowd and more quality hedge time, make sure you go early in the morning for the best light and the least amount of people.
At the end of the day we arrived in Portrush, but I’ll tell you more about that in the next Ireland post. (a sneakpeak can be found on Paper Travels where I tell you about the beautiful guesthouse we stayed in and the fishing trip the next day)