BEYOND THE DARK HEDGES
Big trees and a little geocache.
Coffee. Pancakes with proper butter. Lonely Planet guide to Ireland. Before these three things came together, today was going to be a lazy day. Two hours later I'm standing in the middle of a creepy graveyard, holding a tupperware box full of random objects and wondering where the hell my road trip partner was hiding. Or if she had fallen into a grave and that's the last I'd see her.
The Dark Hedges
One of Northern Ireland's 'must see' locations, made famous by the awesome Game of Thrones series, The Dark Hedges was the first destination on today's road trip. This romantic, atmospheric, tunnel-like avenue of intertwined beech trees, planted in the 18th-century can be found about 15 minutes outside of Ballymoney.
Admittedly, I got onto the Game of Thrones bandwagon late, so missed all the initial hype about this place. Nonetheless, 'the Kings Road' as it's known in the HBO series is awesome. Walking down the road you're instantly in awe at the ominous trees as they arch over you. Pausing for a snap, you think 'that's the one'...then 5 yards further on the view is better again.
Shortly before this road trip, bad weather caused a few of the trees to break away from their roots, resulting in them having to be removed for safety. Thankfully, the trees have now found new homes with their wood now crafted into ornate doors and placed into 10 buildings around Northern Ireland.
A swift 15 minutes drive north, we find ourselves on the outskirts of Ballycastle. Spotting an old set of ruins just off the main road, we quickly pull over and into a very narrow dirt road. Unfortunately, this wasn't actually a dirt road, but instead just a gap in the trees that the golf buggies from Ballycastle Golf Course used. Queue confused facial expressions then hysteric laughter as we realise the car is now in the middle of the golf course!
After a swift reverse (scraping the hell outta the underside of the car on the verge back onto the road), we take the next right, abandon the car and 5 minutes dander enter the grounds of Bonamargy Friary.
I first visited this site about 20 years ago, my dad creeping the hell outta me as he told me about the mysterious Black Nun that lived and died at the site...and was known to still haunt the area.
Putting that to the back of my mind, we explored the old ruins and somehow ended up playing a random game of hide and seek. Totally not scared.
In the middle of the hunt, I stumbled across a random box of objects wedged into a tree near the boundary wall of the friary. It contained a collection of random objects accumulated by previous finders, along with a note explaining it was part of a Northern Ireland-wide geocache hunt. Only for my friend Stewarty once stumbling across one on his farm, did I know what this was. It's a bit like an old school version of Pokemon Go, without the technology. Find out more here.
From a quick Google-search, we found out we had to add in an object to the cache - which might explain the randomness of the other items in it!
Heading back down the coast, we stopped off at Torr Head for spectacular views of the Mull of Kintyre and to explore the old, abandoned coastguard station at the top of the hill. Click on the video at the bottom of the pics to get a proper feel for this rugged place.