Got up on August 31st ready to depart for Derry in Northern Ireland. After breakfast, the five of us adjoined to the sitting room where we looked at bed & breakfasts at Derry and we decided to stay at Phoenix B&B for the next two nights. Jeannette and Allan left before us and we were to meet up in Derry. Fosters and I, driving along, saw Fort Dunree at Buncrana so we turned in. And enjoyed exploring the fort and its grounds. This fort, smaller in size than at its prime, was erected to guard against possible invasion of a French fleet. In the late 19th century, the fort was enlarged with the building of the “top” fort on Dunree Hill. After looking at various military memorabilia, array of guns, and underground bunkers we went into the coffee shop for coffee and looking at items in the gift shop; I purchased a photograph of wild flowers taken by a local artist.
As we were leaving, the kids drove in and we decided to gather for lunch. We took the “scenic” byway with a very narrow road that had grass growing in the middle while the kids went the faster route. Our lunch was at the Linx Restaurant in Ballyliffin; good service and food. While the kids went on to Derry, we continued to drive to Malin Head, the northern furthest point of Ireland. It was very windy but we enjoyed walking the various parts; it was great scenery! We then went to Farren’s Bar which holds the claim of being Ireland”s most northerly pub on the mainland; it was established in the late 1800’s. The woman working behind the bar enlisted another bartender to write our first names on the head of each pint.
After drinking our pint, we proceeded on to Derry. Derry is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth-largest city on the island of Ireland. While the city is more usually known as Derry, Londonderry is also commonly used and remains the legal name. There is an old walled city on the west bank of the River Foyle which slices Derry into the eastern and western chunks. We found the Phoenix B&B; Allan and Jeannette had already arrived. Once we settled in, we decided to take a 20 minute walk to Walled City Brewery where we had a beer and dinner; good beer and excellent food. In order to get there, we crossed the Peace Bridge which links the Catholic Nationals on the West Bank to the Protestant Unionists on the east. Returned back to our lodging and turned in for the night.
September 1: Woke up, took a shower, and looked at lodging for the next two nights; everything looked filled at Portbrush so, after breakfast, the kids went their own way while the Fosters and I called on various B&B’s. Finally found a place available Friday night but not Saturday which meant our possibly changing future plans we make of had. But we did not worry about it and set out for a 10:00 walking tour of the wall and Derry history. John, the tour guide, did an excellent job of explaining the battle of the British and Irish that lasted 150 years plus the Bloody Sunday uprising in the early 70’s.
We had coffee and went on to explore Guild Hall, a ceremonial seat of city government and entertainment which have many, many stained- glass windows showing scenes from Derry history. We went through the exhibit hall, saw the Council Chamber, party offices, and assembly hall.
Meet up with the kids for lunch at Quay Place where I had a chicken pita and pint of beer. My battery had died in my camera and I did not have the replacement so we, minus Jeannette & Allan, walked back to the B&B where I had left the replacement in the charger. With the camera now operational, we went to explore Bogside Murals. The Catholic Bogside area was the tinderbox of the modern Troubles in Northern Ireland. Bloody Sunday, a terrible confrontation during a march that occurred more than 40 years ago, sparked a sectarian inferno with the ashes still not having completely cooled. The 12 panels of murals gave us a glimpse of the community’s perception of those events so many years ago.
Off shopping with Tom being the only one of us finding anything to purchase. We had refreshments at Masons and sent a message to the kids about meeting us for dinner. It was decided on The Diamond; it was curry night so three folks had curry while Sarah had chicken skewers and I had chicken avocado salad. Back to our lodging where we called it an evening. The next day will be Ballycastle with three or more stops in between.
September 2: Got up, dressed, and packed for our next stop at Ballycastle. Had breakfast, adjoined to the sitting room where we started to look at lodging for Saturday thru Monday. Meanwhile, Allan and Jeannette were leaving to return to Dublin; they had a return flight home early the next morning. We said our good byes to them; it was great that they were able to join us as long as they did. Finally we found lodging for Saturday & Sunday nights; not sure about Trim because, where we wanted to stay had only one room available so we hoped there would be a cancellation and will find out later on. Meanwhile, we paid for our lodging; the host was great, the food good, but the room was quite small with very bad pressure in the toilet, lumpy mattress, and much outside noise. After loading our car, we headed for our evening stop at Ballycastle. Our first stop was at Portstewart where we went to the toilets and shopped the gift area at a local coffee shop.
The next stop was Dunluce Castle; it is one of the largest in Ireland and beautifully situated but there is little left to see. During the Middle Ages the castle resisted many sieges but, on a stormy night in 1639, dinner was interrupted as half the kitchen fell into the sea taking servants with it. This was the last straw for the lady of the castle who packed up and moved inland, and the castle began its slow submission to nature.
Bushmills Distillery, which is the world’s oldest, was our next stop. We went on a 40 minute tour learning the process and ended in the bar area where I got a free sample of their 12-year old whiskey; it did not taste bad but certainly not my drink of choice. Since we had not had lunch and a restaurant right there, we ate at the distillery. Onward to Giant’s Causeway which is a World Heritage Site; a long stretch of coastline famous for its bizarre basalt columns. The shore is covered with large hexagonal pillars that stick up at various heights. After returning to the visitor center, we shopped in their gift shop where I made some purchases for people back home.
It was getting toward 4:30 so we decided to head to Ballycastle and our B&B for the evening called Hillsea.
It was very nice both on the outside and the inside. After settling in we walked to the town center where we had drinks and dinner at The Central; the evening was made more pleasant with two gentlemen playing musical instruments and singing. We walked back to our lodging and said goodnight; it was nice to have an early evening.
September 3: Had a really good night sleep; woke up around 6:40 and did not want to get up but made myself. Met Fosters for breakfast; we checked out of our lodging and were on our way. There was nothing on the agenda for the day so drove slow and enjoyed the coastal drive to our destination town of Carrickfergus. We stopped at Carnlough for a walk and toilet stop. At Glenarm there were walled gardens so we stopped, walked the area, and had coffee plus coconut macaroon at their coffee shop.
Drove to Carrickfergus where we checked into The Keep House B&B; settled in and then walked to the rail station where we looked at schedules of trains going to Belfast the next day. And then onward to Carrick Castle; a delightful 1.5 hours of walking around.
We went to the local super market where I picked up a bottle of wine; the Fosters went to the restaurant, Windrose, where our hostess had made us reservations while I walked back the our lodging to put the wine in the refrigerator and give our hostess updated train schedules. Walked to the restaurant and joined up with the Fosters. After a couple drinks and dinner of prawn cocktail plus salad, I paid my bill and left the Fosters to walk the waterfront on their own. This was the earliest night of the whole trip to be in my room; drank a glass of wine and read. The next day we were going via train to Belfast.
September 4: Had another good night’s sleep; showered, dressed, and read until Fosters knocked on the door. Went to breakfast and then walked to the train station for our trip to Belfast. Arrived at central station and decided to walk to town center where we wanted to pick up the hop on/hop off bus. On our way, we discovered the St. George’s Market which is similar to Cedar Rapids downtown market. Stayed long enough for Sarah to make a purchase and then on to the bus area; stopped a bus along the way and he gave us a ride to the hop on/off bus and tickets.
The first off stop for us was Titanic Museum Belfast where the ship was built. We spent 2 hours going through 8 different galleries depicting the following: Boomtown Belfast showed how thriving industries and innovations led to the Titanic’s creation, The Shipyard Ride tour took us through the shipyard experience, The Launch had an audio display of the Titanic’s launch on the 31st of May 1911, The Fit Out illustrated the ship’s interior, The Maiden Voyage covered the 10 decks of the ship of which 8 were for passenger use, The Sinking displayed the collision with the iceberg, The Aftermath told of the British and American inquiries into the disaster, and Myths/Reality told of the stories, films, books and legends that still exist today. All of it was interesting but, after time, I was ready to leave. We went to the coffee shop where we purchased coffee to go. While outside, we wandered over to the SS Nomad which was a steamship built in 1911 by the same company that produced the Titanic; it has been restored to her original glory and is docked near Titanic Museum. We could of gone on board but our bus had arrived so did not have time.
We got on the bus and listened to the tour guide describing the history of the various stops on the tour. We saw sights such as St. George’s Anglican Church, Cavehill Park, Antrim Road, Full Belfast Peace Wall, Queens University, Belfast Castle, and Peace Statue. When we got to the place the tour started earlier in the day, we got off and went shopping at Carrolls which is a gift/souvenior type of place. After making some purchases, we headed toward the St. George Market where we looked at the merchandise displayed in the various booths. We had not eaten since breakfast so Sarah and I shared a spinach/goat cheese pie.
Onward to the rail station where we had about 50 minutes to wait for the next train. While waiting, we each had a pint of Guinness. The train arrived and we were on our way back to Carrickergus and our lodging.
After a rest in each our respective rooms, we headed to Ownies for dinner. This is a local bar/bistro which served a delicious grilled chicken salad with strawberries and grapes. Finished our meals and headed back to the lodging; we stopped at an ATM along the way for more money. For some reason, Fosters card would not work in the machines within Northern Ireland but mine would so I lent them money throughout our journey in this part of the country. Back at the lodging, we said our good nights. It was early enough that I finished the book I had been reading. Lights out around 10:00.
The morning of September 5 we had a late breakfast (8:30) and got ready to depart. Left Carrickfergus heading south toward Trim. Only two more days in my adventure but I will be ready to go home. We stopped at Newry for coffee at a place called Bojangles and then shopped in order for Sarah could get rid of some pounds; since we will be crossing back to Ireland which uses euro currency. We went into Edinburgh Woolen Mill where I purchased a blue lambs wool sweater for myself. Our next stop was Battle of Boyne site; this battleground is huge in Irish and British history. The riverside pasture was the site of the battle in which Protestant British decisively broke Catholic resistance, establishing Protestant rule over all of Ireland and Britain.
Back in the car to head to the visitor center for Newgrange, a grassy mound atop a hill dating 3200 B.C. which makes it 500 years older than the pyramids at Giza. At the visitor center we purchased a ticket for the 3:45 tour of Newgrange (one of two burial sites we could visit) which gave us time to kill. First we had lunch in the restaurant where Sarah and I split lasagna. Next shopping in their gift shop; I purchased a couple gift items. And then we toured the museum which explained the Boyne River Valley and the 40 some burial mounds found in the surrounding hills. Exhibits recreated what the pre-Celtic people were like. A bus took us to the burial site where the guide explained the tomb is aligned precisely east-west so, as the sun rises on the shortest day of the year, a ray of light enters through to roof box and makes its way down the passageway. The entrance is a mosaic of white Quartz and dark granite. Very interesting visit.
Onward to Trim where we arrived at The White House Lodge around 5:45. After settling in, we walked to Regan’s for a drink. This is a tiny, low-ceiling pub residing next to an old Norman bridge. And then we walked to the town center where we had dinner at the Castle Arch Hotel. I ordered beef salad, grazed with chili sauce and sesame seeds; it was delicious! Walked back to our lodging and bed.
On September 6 we were returning to Dublin for an overnight at the Clayton Hotel. Our plans for the day were to visit Hills of Tara, do some shopping, check into the hotel, take the car to Hertz, and bring the hotel shuttle back to the hotel. But first we had breakfast and checked out of the B&B. And on to the Hills of Tara, located near the River Boyne, is an archaeological complex that contains a number of ancient monuments and, according to tradition, was the seat of the High King of Ireland. Tara is one of the largest complexes of Celtic monuments in all of Europe. After checking in with visitor center, we watched an audio video about the history and importance of the hills. We walked around the area taking in the beauty and history of the place.
And then we shopped where I found a few more gifts for Christmas. To the north of Dublin, we stopped at Dungsangon for gas and lunch. Tom navigated us to the hotel which was much easier than last year where it took 3 passes before taking the correct exit. Checked into the hotel, settled in our rooms, took the car back to Hertz, took their shuttle to the area of the hotel shuttle, got on the hotel shuttle, and returned to the hotel. We had a couple drinks in their restaurant and ordered an early dinner of pizza.
After eating and paying the bill, we returned to our rooms where I re-packed my large case. Then read and watched a movie on Netflix. Lights out at 9:00.
September 7: Up at 6:30; it was not a good night sleep. This hotel is quite expensive and certainly not worth the money with noise of garbage trucks, parking lot, and airplanes throughout the night. Never will book there again! We got the shuttle before 8:00, arrived at the airport and checked in/went thru airport security without any problem. Breakfast was ordered which we ate and then did some shopping. Again, more items purchased for Christmas gifts. One advantage of flying out of Dublin is going through US Customs there instead of when we land on US soil; it seems so much easier. So thru US Customs we went without any problem. Another difference between last year and this is Delta now has a lounge for priority passengers so we went there and relaxed before our flight was called. Onto the plane and winging home; I was ready! No problem until boarded for last leg of the journey in Detroit; because of storms, weight had to be redistributed so a couple non-paying folks were booted off, bags in the overhead put under the seats in front of us, and bags from underneath in the cargo hold were brought up and placed in the overheads. Finally, after unloading approximately 200 lbs. of fuel, we were underway. Arrived in Cedar Rapids about 45 minutes late. Retrieved my checked bag and got the shuttle for home. Arrived around 10:15 and was greeted by Beauty and Cutie. It felt good be home!