Roller Coaster to Rathlin Photos (9/7/2012)

Here are the Rathlin Island photos!

Flower boxes at almost every house!

Beach at Rathlin Island

More flowers!

Fields as we hiked to East Lighthouse

East Lighthouse – oldest of three on island

Not sure what this is but saw it a lot and liked it.

Steve checking out the bases for the marconi wireless used by the great man himself!

St. Thomas Church

Kinbane Castle ruins on Kinbane Head

Kinbane Head

Roller Coaster to Rathlin Island (9/7/2012)

We drove up the Causeway Coastal Route to Ballycastle and caught the Rathlin Island Ferry. This is a mid sized catamaran that makes regular runs to the island, the only inhabited island in NI, multiple times daily. Ballycastle, by the way, is a pretty little harbor town with a big public beach, and a number of shops.  Its name literally means “castle town” as there are / were three castles in the immediate area.

The ferry ride was 25 minutes of blasting through and across waves in 4-8 foot swells.  Good news is we were outside so it was a fun ride. At least the wind was not blowing like it did yesterday.

Our ride for the day!

The island itself has about 100 permanent residents excluding the cows. Fishing, cattle farming, and tourism are the only industries. There is a puffin habitat there we did not see. Steve and I hiked up to the East Lighthouse. It was the original lighthouse on the island (there are three). From that point you can look out and see Scotland. The area around the lighthouse reminded me of Scotland – loads of heather and blooming thistle.

At the East Lighthouse, the first commercial Marconi transmission was made by the great man himself for Lloyd’s of London to confirm shipping traffic passing the island. Lloyd’s always wanted to know where their insured vessels were but getting info back to them timely was an issue especially from outlying areas like this. This use of technology was the perfect solution.

We hiked back down and walked down the waterfront to the church (there are supposedly two on the island). St. Thomas Church (Church of Ireland) has been located in that spot for several hundred years. The oldest graves in the cemetery date back to the mid 1600s. There is evidence of a religious community that goes back to the time of the Vikings in the 1000-1200’s. 

We got lunch at the Harbor Cafe (more of our eat local plan) and the wandered through the Visitor Centre / museum before taking the ferry back to Ballycastle.

Harbor Cafe

After a stop at the grocer, we headed back toward the Causeway and took a turn off to Kenbane Head (I should note I have seen Kenbane spelled Kenbaan also). Talk about narrow roads and this one is an active farm road! Regardless, we found the parking lot and headed toward the castle ruin. There are a couple of different notes on who built this and of course the McDonnells figure in the history. It is in such an obscure location that the path down might have been ok for a man on horseback but not by cart or carriage! 

The important personal aspect of this castle is that Daniel McHenry was born here in 1590. That is as far back as reliable McHenry family research goes.  I have read a couple of articles that proposes that Daniel was the son of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son Sir John Perrot. His mother was an O’Cain (various spellings of this also). I will have to check with the family experts on that note when I return. While I hate to admit it, though, that might explain some of the McHenry temperament!

The main thing I took away from Rathlin Island was how at peace the place was. You could actually just listen and hear no industrial noise around you once up from the town. And I could not help but think, not for the first time, of David in the Psalms. “He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restored my soul.”

Still Choosing Joy!


Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge (9/6/2012)

Yesterday we went to two of GB’s National Trust sites in NI. The first was the Giant’s Causeway just about a mile down the road from where we are staying. There is a beautiful new visitor’s center there complete with historical exhibits. Once you walk through you are in a different space and time.

In the UK, you are left to use your common sense. If they rope off an area they are dead serious about not wanting you on it. Otherwise, they post signs that say “High Winds” and  “High Surf” and say have at it. As we walked up to the Causeway the entire Coastline changed. It was nothing like we had seen before and pictures do not do it justice. 

Map to the Causeway

We climbed the rocks – Steve ventured onto the higher rocks as I did not trust my balance in the wind. It was amazing. And it is huge. Interestingly as we walked around past the main Causeway, there was almost no wind as the Causeway itself protects the cove just beyond it. I sat on the rocks and videoed for a few minutes so I could take home the sound of the wind and waves crashing. The smells were stronger than at the beaches we go to. Sure there is the strong salt air spray but there is mixed in a marshy smell since the coastal vegetation is so different. It is a magical place.

Loved the sound of the water!
Even at the Causeway the flowers grow wild!
Actually called the organ since it looks like organ pipes!
Middle Causeway
Of course the Irish, like the Scots, believe there is magic in everything!

We then drove toward Ballintoy, passing the ruins of Dunseverick Castle ( not much left there) and White Park Bay – a beautiful inlet with a long stretch of white sand beach. We next stopped at Carrick-A-Rede (literally “rock in the road”) Rope Bridge. This bridge is also a National Trust site. You hiked about a KM to the bridge itself and I mean hiking in the literal sense! You are looking out toward Scotland and there are all these coastal barrier islands with the waves kicking up on them. The bridge was originally put in place by salmon fishermen to help them get their haul over to the mainland. Their version of the bridge had widely spaced slats and only one rope handrail! The version in use today has two rails and is netted on the bottom and sides for safety but it swings like crazy. It also appears it is seldom closed. It was exciting and I am glad I did it but that one is definitely off my bucket list! There is one small house on the island that was used by the fishermen back in the day. That had to be a treacherous way to make a living.

This is the “safe” version. Original bridge had only one rail and no netting on sides or bottom! Yes we crossed!
National Trust sign
Steve on Carrick-A-Rede Island (and of course so was I)!

We returned by way of Ballintoy and stopped at the Red Door Cottage Tearoom for a late lunch. It was great and Joann the proprietor was so nice and helpful. We then drove on down to Ballintoy Harbor. It is a very small protected harbor. They were setting up there for a film shoot today and were launching an old wooden boat with long oars into those rough seas.

Inside the Tea Room. Loved it!

Ballintoy Harbor
Ballintoy Beach

We also passed the local Church of Ireland. The graveyard and its headstones looked like something out of “Dark Shadows” especially with the heavy skies in the background.

Still Choosing Joy


Dunluce and Bushmills (9/5/2012)

Today we made our first McHenry connection by spending several hours at Dunluce Castle. Located on a beautiful outcropping overlooking the sea, the ruins continue to be a magnificent structure. It is fairly easy to see how it looked in its prime.   Patrick McHenry is recorded to have lived there. Long a strong hold of the MacDonnell’s (like most everything else at one time or another on the NI Coast), the castle was abandoned after the kitchen and the cooks fell off into the sea during a particularly bad winter in 1639. 

There is evidence there was a castle/fort at this location as early as the 1200’s but the primary structures were built in the mid 1500’s-1600’s. There remains evidence of many fireplaces, a huge stone over (similar to what we might see on Food Network cooking pizza), a latrine (honestly), the gate house and much more. We climbed down to see a cave that comes in under the castle wall (very pirate like and a place for escapes). 

The views were spectacular. It is easy to see why someone would want to live out on this point though I cannot imagine what it took to construct it. 

Somehow we missed the church St. Cuthburt’s so we will go back to look for that and the grave yard.

Dunluce Castle
Different elevation (and one of my favorites!)
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Coastline was magical!
Dunluce Cow! Huge!
Castle is well defined – fairly easy to figure out what is what!

On from there we ventured into Bushmills to the old distillery. First licensed in 1607 to produce Irish Whiskey, it is very much an art form. I found it particularly interesting that they have an acknowledged “single point of failure” in that they only have a single tank for fermentation. It is in use about 10 months of the year and down in the summer for cleaning and maintenance.  Our guide was very knowledgeable. We were interested in how the casks they use have been used once prior for aging bourbon, sherry, Madeira wine or port and how that impacts the final product. I was also interested to note that the testing of the product during the three distillation cycles was done visually and recorded by hand in huge ledgers.  

We had lunch there before our tour. It was as some of you have noted, ugly food – Irish Stew and soda bread, but very tasty and hit the spot and helped us keep to our plan of eating local stuff.

Came back, planned the rest of our week here, and had supper. It was a good day.

Should note that King James (same one who commissioned that translation of the Bible) is the king who licensed Bushmills to make whiskey!

Told Steve while we were standing looking out a “window” at Dunluce, that while we have seen and visited many castles over the years in our travels, the impact is different when you realize that you carry genetically via the bloodline something of folks who actually lived there. I had wondered if I would feel a connection. I did.

Still Choosing Joy!


Motorways and Other Raceways of NI (9/4/2012)

Ever tried to use your GPS in Meridian, Mississippi? It does not work.  It changes its mind regularly because stuff is so close together. Inside Belfast City and in the compact area near the Giant’s Causeway, it is no different. We made it safely out of the city after a number of wrong GPS moves by following the marked road signs for the M2 (duh).

Once on the main road we were fine except for the vehicles that were driving 90 mph. Steve kept riding over the rumple strips along the shoulder but he kept his head. Then we drop from sort of interstate like conditions to a narrow version of Hwy 49 to a really narrow version of say Hwy 26 and the speeds never changed!  Oh and the shoulders are gone now – replaced by raised concrete curbs and telephone poles.  We did only yell at each other once but I can assure you we both muttered a lot. 

Our charming cottage is about a mile from the Causeway. We did stop at the Causeway for a pit stop and some info because we kept taking a (the same) wrong turn. We ventured out again to the grocer which was also an experience since stuff we normally buy does not appear in the market (Diet Coke was an exception). We figured it out well enough and got back with only one wrong turn.

We did have to pay for our grocery bags today – these folks are into green and serious about it. We also had to put a pound coin in to use a shopping cart. You got the coin back when you returned the cart to its rightful place.  

No real eating adventures today. Subway for lunch while we waited on the rental car (MMRS friends – got exactly what I got at Regions Subway but the drink cup was only 8 oz rather than 24!). Tonight we have been figuring out how to use the strange appliances and just chilling.

Tomorrow we are going to Dunluce Castle. We passed it today. It sits majestically and mysteriously on the cliffs which are breath taking. We will spend a good bit of time walking the ruins. Looking forward to that. Patrick McHenry supposedly was born/lived there. 

Things are so pastoral. Many sheep. HUGE dairy cows. Wide assortment of crops.  And of course the raceways that run through the countryside which are shared with walkers and bikers!

II Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. Oh that we may realize how important our commitment is!

Pictures below include our ride for the week, front of the cottage and the front garden.

More to come.

Still Choosing Joy!