Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Northern Ramblings - Part 2

Clambering at the Giant's Causeway
It's £8.50 each to visit the Giant's Causeway but we inadvertently found a way to do it for nothing.  At the entrance the road forks, one way to the GC, the other to the Giant's Causeway hotel. We took the latter by mistake and found ourselves in the hotel car park.  We cut around by the back of the hotel and found steps leading down to a path where we joined the hordes making for the sight.

A load of tour buses had disgorged 100s of Chinese and they were swarming over the stones taking each others photographs.  We were almost the only caucasians visible. The Christian Brothers doom-laden warnings back in the Sixties about the "little yellow men from the East" have surely come to pass.  On the GC itself, I am one with Dr. Johnson - worth visiting but not worth going to visit.  It's no Grand Canyon.

Onwards to Bushmills along the most gloriously scenic coastal route, we espy Portbradden nestling prettily under the cliffs below.  We arrive at our B&B outside Bushmills to find that it's attached to a pig farm (with attendant pong) and that there's no dinner because the landlady's brother died the day before.  Wonderful.  So we head into Bushmills to watch the England-France match and then have dinner.  There's a lot of hoodied louts around and a fair few Union Jacks so I take the precaution of parking my southern reg car in the car park of the well appointed Bushmills Inn.  We go into the bar, very snug and very busy but not a TV in sight.  This is good and bad - I want to see the match.  You'd imagine a town aflutter with Union Jacks might want to see England play France.  We decide to look elsewhere.  The next pub down is unpromisingly called The Scotch House and has a Union Jack over the entrance.  Nothing daunted we go in.  The match is on TV but nobody is watching it.  We order a drink and settle in.  Immediately a clearly drunk individual  detaches himself from a group of burly middle-aged men at the bar and strikes up a conversation.  His opening gambit is "where are you from".  The others listen in.   I confess my shameful Southern origins and try to curtail the dialogue.  Nothing daunted he takes root - telling us how much he likes to visit Dublin.  (Yeah, probably to plant bombs I say to myself.)  He then offers us a drink.  I demur: driving issues, health issues, an impending dinner date, and we flee the premises - match unwatched.  Paranoia you say, and maybe so, but I have a good instinct about being in the wrong place.  The North is so bloody tribal.  On then to the Tartine restaurant in a building once the home of the original owners of the distillery.  The reception area is dominated by an appalling painting of Graham McDowell who hails from nearby Portrush.  The food is mediocre.

Next day the compulsory Ulster Fry from the recently bereaved but talkative and amiable landlady.  I don't eat sausages, or black pudding, or those soggy carbohydrates (farels, potato cakes, fried bread, whatever) so really it's wasted on me.  We take an inland route back towards Ballymena through Glendun, Glenballyeamonn and the beautiful Glenarrif - it outwicklows Wicklow in places.  Once we hit Newry we accelerate towards Dublin to catch the Ireland-Scotland match.  Wasted effort that.