Friday, 6 December 2013

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - The Coastal Causeway Route

Brace yourself for a massively long post...


Northern Ireland, especially the Coastal Causeway Route, is one of the most outstandingly beautiful places on earth (in my humble opinion). 

Our driving expedition started in Belfast where we made our way to Londonderry via the Coastal Causeway Route. 


The Coastal Causeway Route

Our first stop was at Carrickfergus Castle. Mel, Tim and I had an amazing time exploring the 800 year old history of the castle.

Carrickfergus Castle

Surveying my lands

Tim getting ready for a fight

Apparently Mel was on the other side!
Carrickfergus has been in the hands of the Scots, Irish, English and the French (the old castle gets around!) and was used during the First and Second World Wars as a garrison and an air raid shelter respectively. 

After spending about 2 or so hours in the castle we finally started on our way toward Bushmills.

The scenery along the coastal roads are amazing. Here are a few shots taken during the car ride.







We ended up getting a wee bit lost trying to find the hostel in the dark as it wasn't really signposted all that well. 
The hostel we stayed at (TripAdvisor reviews found here) was called Finn McCool's Hostel.
Us three were the only ones staying that Friday night so we were offered a free meal of spicy Pork belly. The meal, served with veg, was DELICIOUS! But, even if it wasn't, who can pass up a free meal?! 
William and Irene made us feel very welcome and just like a family we played a game of darts to see who would end up with the dishes.

I am sure all of my housemates in London will be very surprised to see this bloke at the sink!
Dart game loser!

One of the main tourist attractions along the Coastal Causeway is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. 
The bridge is 20 metres across and 30 metres high above some real nasty looking rocks.

Tim looking back at the rope bridge
Now, I am possibly a wee bit (read: shitloads) scared of heights. So, naturally, I needed proof that I am actually amazing! Luckily, the National Trust offers Completion Certificates for just a £1!! 

damn proud of my achievement!


The bridge is open all year round, depended on weather, for about £6. 


Next on our to do list was the Old Bushmills Distillery.
You can't go to Northern Ireland and not go see how whiskey is made. 




 The Old Bushmills Distillery produces single malt whiskey, which means that the WHOLE FRICKEN PROCESS happens in the one place. It is also one of the oldest distilleries in the world.
The tour goes for around 40 minutes. Unfortunately it is a bit loud inside the factory so it is difficult to hear, but on the plus side a shot of whiskey is included at the end of the tour!

12 year old Irish whiskey
I tried the 12 year old Irish whiskey, which you can only buy on the premises, but as I am not much of a spirits drinker, it didn't go down all that well - however it did taste quite delicious mixed with Coke!

The night before I did enjoy a nice drop of Bushmills Irish Honey Whiskey, compliments of William (who pretty much poured the bottle down our throats!) Again mixed with Coke. 

The Distillery tour was a good experience, but I probably wouldn't recommend it for anyone who wasn't all that interested in the makings of whiskey. 

Next on the to-do list was the Giant's Causeway.
Even in December there were quite a few tourists around. 
Tim at the top of the Causeway
 The Giant's Causeway was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986 and it the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. 


Now, who hear is a Game of Thrones fan?


You might recognise this avenue - 


The Dark Hedges is seen in the scene (see what I did there?) where Arya, dressed as a boy, escapes King's Landing. 

House of Greyjoy

Dunluce Castle is represented as the seat of Greyjoy on the Iron Islands. 

The final attraction we saw before hitting our destination of (London)derry was Downhill Demesne and Mussenden Temple. 

Downhill House

Mussenden Temple
The first photo is of Downhill House. Now, by looking at that it seems that the old digs had been in ruins for years! However, it's last occupation was during World War II - just over 60 years ago!
The temple was built by the Earl in memory of his cousin. It was actually used as a library (my kind of place) and back in the day a horse and carriage could make it's full way around the temple. 
Unfortunately, with erosion of the coast, you can barely fit two feet across on the coastal side!

Have you traveled the Coastal Causeway Route? What was your favourite experience?