Thursday, February 20, 2014

From Cork to Bushmills - 10 days on the road

Aaargh ... went in to update my blog on this last week's travel and found Google Ads had put a mature dating ad on my blog! Yuk. I don't think it was a nice one. I removed it with speed and want to apologise for any future yukky ads Google may choose to upload without me spotting it in time for removal.

We renewed a sneaky little love affair with Cork city last Saturday. We were there to get my laptop repaired and for me to attend a camera course at The Clarion Hotel. This involved a lot of walking from station car park to laptop repair shop to hotel ... so we just had to stop in at The Roundy, a stunning little pub/coffee shop curving around a corner, for a coffee and scone. Staff there turned green with envy when we told them we were about to spend another three months travelling the UK, France, Portugal and Spain and we had to grab our bags quickly before they jumped inside for the ride.

Cork is fan ...tas ... tic for books shops! Waterstones, a second-hand bookshop somewhere, Scribes and Scribes Art Books were a few we visited, coming away - we're proud to say - with very restrained purchases of only one book each. Which reminds me ... I'm looking to collect empty (or full, he he he) perfume bottles, if anyone has any to spare either now or during the next year? Please throw them my way instead of in the trash. Thanks!

Our two nights in Co Cork were spent in the car park in Midleton, right next to Jameson's distillery - and yes, of course Alan was breathing deeper than normal! Midleton seems to be the only place in Ireland who cater for motorhomes with tank-emptying and water refilling services. A great place to stay with loads of cats to keep us company. First to cross our path was pitch black McCavity II (cousin to McCavity I who lives in the Carrickmines Park and Ride on the outskirts of Dublin). He was followed by Ginger Ale, Socks and a cool cat called Mottled. We may even have met more of the family if we'd had time to stay another night. I doubt the variety of four-footed-furries would have matched Carrickmines P & R ... together with McCavity I there, I've met a little grey squirrel and a hedgehog called Dizzy because he spent ages and ages scurrying around in circles.

Milly at full moon in Midleton - Valentine's Night!

That's Jameson's Distillery in the background

Sunday morning was the first time we'd serviced Milly away from home - emptying tanks and filling up with water - and it took us ages! We'll definitely have to be better "service trained" so as not to waste good traveling time - and thank goodness we've had this two weeks at home in Ireland to sort out all our five star camping teething problems. Not too many glitches so far I'm happy to report.

Finally we pointed Milly's nose northwards although we'd decided to cut the trip to Portrush, Co Antrim, in half and spent a night in Carrickmines. McCavity I's nose must have been a little put out by our meeting his cousins in Cork and didn't put in an appearance that night.

The rainy weather didn't lessen our pleasure in the trip to Northern Ireland any and we arrived at Gallery 1608 in Bushmills (another whisky distillery to Alan's delight - not that it benefited him at all!) well in time to spend an hour or so with Ian Bickerstaff, the curator of the gallery. (See pics on my Facebook page)

"Surge" in pride of place I'm proud to say :-)

 "Velvet Elegance" backing "Surge"
"Can't Wait to Dance" looking happy on the wall

That night we found another little parking lot - which would have been too busy to have stayed overnight in during summer - at the edge of the village of Bushmills. Forgot to take pics there and anyway it was a bit too rainy.

Tuesday we happily tootled around the coastal roads soaking in what I believe to be one of the most beautful coastal areas in the world. The weather, with it's iron grey clouds, parting at whim for the sun to turn a few of them into white and silver puff balls of stunningness, just added to the majestic atmosphere. At one point, we stopped to photograph the ruins of Dunluce Castle and sunk into a few inches of well-trodden mud. I was forced to remove my socks and wade into a deep puddle to clean my shoes .... LOL you should have seen the colour of my feet after that!!! So red from the cold that I was reminded of an old Zulu fella we knew in Westville, Durban, when I was young ... he used to chuckle and say: "Why Black people? We're Brown and Cream! And you White people? You're Pink and Red!" He sure was right :-)

These are the first pics of Dunluce ... we took better ones later.

The ruins of Dunluce Castle can be seen in the middle distance.

 We'd been waiting for a rain-less moment to give Milly her identity -
a South African flag and an Irish flag ... and this is the moment!

 A closer shot of Dunluce Castle.

 Looking the other way from Dunluce Castle
we spotted this gap in the cliff (top and bottom pics)

A freezing cold puddle like the one I had to wash
my shoes in. And amazing clouds!

We then headed towards Ballycastle, stopping for a photo-break at White Park Bay. You can see how dark and rainy the weather is!

Now this is what I call a Namibian road ... takes you up a hill
and drops you off the edge of the world!

 White Park Bay ... for the next 4 pics

A little after Ballycastle, we stopped near an industrial site driveway to let a car pass us, and a chap from the business wasted no time in coming over to see if we were lost and needed any help. He asked if I was a good driver (I've been doing most of the driving while Alan's arm is still recovering) - and of course I said yes! :-) - and he told us of a narrow private road which would take us to a worthwhile view over the sea, where it was likely we could also spend the night. The property was owned by a pal of his.

We followed our new friend's directions, and Alan squirmed with his usual worry in the passenger seat, while I revelled in the excitement of taking Milly along boreens (little roads) so narrow we almost had to hold our breath. My philosophy is that as long as you don't do anything dangerous and life-threatening, then you will always get out of a sticky situation at some point ... so why not take the risk? And I'm not afraid of reversing.

Finally, after some debate as to which was the correct road, we found the spot, Murlough Bay, near Tor Head ... and it was absolute paradise! High on a hill, with a steep drop down to the sea, and a view of Scotland's Mull of Kintyre floating out of the horizon like a misty dream. The colours of the sea, sky and islands were incredible ... all melting into one and then separating out in different hues, so hard to look away from. Unbelievably, the boreen continued down and we could see a really nice house at the bottom ... with the road continuing on even past that. Most certainly not advisable to take Milly down there, but we found a level parking spot to spend the night - wishing we could see that view all night instead of submitting to the absolute blackness of night. The wind howled and whistled all night but we felt safe.

But ... I worried all night in that half awake/half asleep state where things seem larger than they really are. The pictures in my mind lengthened the ribbon of narrow road we had taken to get to this spot and I imagined a rush hour of farmer traffic happening just as we set out on our return trip to civilisation. I fretted that it didn't matter how good a driver you might be, if the ground on either side of a one-lane road is mushy and slippery, waiting to suck the wheels of a motorhome into their depths, then that was it ... your driving skill matters nothing.

We woke early, skipped the shower for later, gulped down a bowl of cereal and set off before even a farmer could have had his coffee. It would have been lovely to have stayed another night  (despite my deepest, darkest, midnight concerns) but we couldn't get an internet signal and we urgently needed to accept an offer on our timeshare points for a month in Portugal. They don't reserve bookings for longer than 24 hours and, being Easter, we likely would have lost our chance for Portugal in a flash.

So, into the driver's seat, foot down to get up the nearest little hill .... to be reminded in the pleasant light of dawn, that the road, although just as narrow and muddy as remembered, was hardly a kilometre long and we could see quite clearly whether another vehicle was coming or not. We were out of there in a flash and off to another spot on another cliff we had identified the day before.

Here are the pics of this little paradise, taken rather late in the day - no words needed to describe the scene :

It so happened that the place we stopped in, the Portaneevy viewing spot, looked straight down onto the famous Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, across from the mainland to a little island. There's a house of some kind on the island - probably a fisherman's nest - with a winch arrangement for lowering a fishing boat down into the sea. Looked pretty scary to me! Here are a few pics of the area:

 The Carrick-a-rede bridge and fishing nest

  Carrick-a-rede bridge

Again ... just because it's so stunning!

Milly parked in the Portaneevy viewing space

 Taken with my favourite lens from Portaneevy.
I just liked the different lines formed by the path,
the road, the sea and the mountain.

 This is the view looking towards the island of Rathlin, from Portaneevy
(taken, again, with my favourite long lens)

 The distant island here may be the Mull of Kintyre.
Aren't the clouds, the sky and the sea, all melding into
different hues of grey, quite something?

 This was one of the islands just off the coast, a little farther
out than the Carrick-a-rede island, and looking very green indeed.
I did wonder if it was bird guana of some kind - maybe gannets?

How's this for a view from the same spot! :-)

After a blissful day doing nothing but catch up on emails, sleep, eat and take photographs, we were running out of water brought from home and needed to do an upload-download service for Milly. We'd also planned on visiting Ian at Gallery 1608 in Bushmills again. In between all this we had a quick trip to Halfords in Coleraine to collect Alan's new toy ... a trucker's GPS. He's a typical boy and loves toys ... suits me fine and I value his techno contributions for my decidedly non-techno abilities very highly indeed. This little number is quite nifty ... it means that in Spain and Portugal we won't get caught in the middle of villages too late to find out that their roads are too narrow for a motorhome, we'll have service areas marked out along our path ... and it can also link to my mobile phone as a no-hands device.

In Bushmills we parked in a free parking lot and decided to stay there for the night - in fact, we ended up staying there for two nights. After visiting Gallery 1608, the general consensus was that we pop in for a drink at the Bushmills Inn hotel which had rave reviews in a guide Alan had read. In fact, why not spoil ourselves with a meal there too ... and what an excellent decision that was! We had a stunning meal and bottle of red wine in the inn which reeked of history as a coaching inn from way back ... I think I remember seeing a date in the 1600s. It's so long (7 years!) since we've been able to go out and have a meal together that the pleasure was definitely heightened - a delightful and lingering memory. I took a couple of pics on my mobile but not sure if they'll be good enough to upload here. (No, they're too dark)

Milly in "our" Bushmills parking lot for 2 nights

We hoped to see the Giant's Causeway the next day but the weather was still rather dicey and when we got to the Causeway parking lot, a cheerful fella in red told us it would cost us more than £8 each to park and visit with full access to all the facilities. Well, we weren't really interested in their facilities, and couldn't find a place to safely park Milly out of their domain, so - looking at the dark clouds still hovering - we decided to opt for a walk around Bushmills instead. Evidently, avoiding the humungous charge for parking and entry at the Causeway is quite easy if you park elsewhere and simply walk down to the Causeway through a tunnel. This was our second attempt at visiting ... last time we were here some years back we had also been turned away because of rain. The huge, costly "facility" hadn't been built then and the parking fee had been nominal.

In Bushmills we got as far as a little coffee shop (another weakness of Alan's .... oh, alright, mine too) and not much further before the weather forced us Milly-wards again for the rest of the day. No problem ... a rest for us both has been much-needed for some time. There were some rather nice copper kettles and bellows in the coffee shop .....

This blog is all about images really, so expect a few lapses into copper kettles, flowers, doorsteps and such like.  :-)

I tried one or two pics of Bushmills town, but really the day was way too dark:

Next morning we were up early to beat the weather and had a stunning walk around Bushmills. Alan was worried I was going to burn my camera out I took so many shots. My eye sight isn't the best ... or maybe it's my arthritic fingers ... so my philosophy is to take as many shots as I can in the hope that at least 50% of them will come out okay and not blurry. That's my excuse for my over-exuberance, and I'm sticking to it. Here are "some" of the images.

 Everybody takes pics of rusty door locks
so here's mine!

As we passed Gallery 1608 I noticed a print of my "Amarillo" painting in the upstairs window of the gallery ... it always does an artist's heart good to see their work on display!

The day was looking good but you can see how cold it was ... although Alan feels the cold way more than I do. I think everyone feels the cold more than I do! I'm a certified misplaced Eskimo where cold is concerned.

We started by exploring along the river and were lucky enough to be joined by a Heron who began being a fair picture model but then very unreasonably flew off.



 Having had loads of rain lately, the river was incredibly fast flowing ...

Bushmills has a great policy of beautifying old and empty buildings waiting to be loved again. They fix cheerful images of life you'd expect to see in those buildings, like this ...

Okay, so these flowers are real!

Bushmills is named after the four mills which were once their life blood and we found one of them along the river.

I totally fell in love with this sculpture!
And here is the result ... for sale HERE!

The weather was holding beautifully so we took a chance and hopped onto the (free) Causeway shuttle bus we'd seen in our parking lot temporary home, and tried for the Giant's Causeway - our third attempt.

Despite biting cold wind we chose to ignore the £2 return shuttle bus from "the facility" down to the rocks, and walk there and back. It was great! We loved the walk and thoroughly enjoyed the Giant's Causeway.I took waaaaaay too many pics, so will just put a few up here. It's a really intriguing place with really intriguing rocks!

Okay, so I lied and put up 14 images! Evidently I'm not responsible for my actions when there's so much to show ... and am always likely to upload more pics than I intended to in the first place, but with a sea and waves such as they were that day, and the differences in the rock formations and their colours, how could I help it?

On our way homewards, we passed Dunluce Castle again, seeing it from a different angle, so stopped for another look-see.


Sadly the change in plans on this our last day meant we didn't have time to visit our Facebook friend Laura, in Larne, close to Belfast ... but we'll be back at the end of March so keep an eye on this blog!

We're home for two weeks before we leave again for a couple of weeks in Cos Donegal and Antrim, just over two weeks in the UK for the birth of our fifth grandchild, five weeks in Portugal and Spain, and three weeks in France. Eat your hearts out all you jealous folk!!! :-)