PORTRUSH & 2 CASTLES
First stop, Portrush
The day started off with the usual variety of Northern Ireland weather - rain, sun, rain, sun, rain, rain, rain, sun - and that was before the alarm clock went off. Thankfully the thought of a beer and dinner in the Ramore, after an afternoon of exploring, made the elements a tad easier to cope with.
After a swift dander to the station, I was soon chilling* on the train to Portrush - coffee in one hand, healthy snack** in the other.
*see footer note
**see footer note
First stop, the awesome Arcadia Cafe for some brekkie. First built in the 1920s as a cafe, it became Northern Ireland's hottest ballroom on the north coast in the 50s, eventually returning to cafe status from 2010. And what a place it is - there wasn't a thing on the menu we woudn't have devoured. Thinking ahead to the feast-aclular occasion that is The Ramore, we opted for some healthy tucker - simple, but probably the best granola & yoghurt I've ever tasted. Maybe it was the sea air playing it's part.
Another of Northern Ireland's shining tourist destinations, it's hard to believe this is the first time I've been to the 500 year old Dunluce Castle. Nestled precariously on the rugged Causeway coastline, the North Sea batters constantly on the rocks below...
Taking the steps down to the lower section of the Castle, you stumble upon The Mermaid's Cave - a huge cavern 25m beneath the castle.
After a tricky walk down to the edge of the water, you might also find some more strange goings-on [click on the pic to expand] as those aren't rocks in the distance.
It's two crazy dudes doing a bit of Causeway Coasteering :-0
Back up on dry land, the coastal views were spectacular and the sky was getting bluer.
Portrush again, recoup
Back in Portrush again, the rain returned. After stopping for another coffee in The Arcadia, progression to a pint of the black stuff soon followed at 55 North cafe/bar/restaurant).
A swift shower and change of clothes back at the super clean, super friendly Portrush Townhouse, we headed for dinner at the impeccable Ramore Wine Bar. If you haven't been, hurry up and go. Like a good pair of jeans, I worry in case one day it just won't be the way it used to be. It's like a food nightclub. No music, no dancers, just great food & drink with a great team of staff providing an energetic gastronomic experience. Go there! And have the beef wellington. And a cocktail before. And one of the HUGE desserts. And get a doggy bag. You'll need it.
Next Castle please - Dunseverick
Sufficiently recovered from the food coma the night before, we left Portush and headed on round the Causeway Coast to another of it's famous castles, Dunseverick.
Colin The Donkey also joined this leg of the trip, having moved on from his former residence of Barry's Amusements following a negotiation of just 300 tokens.
No sign of rain in sight today. Go Norn Iron!
Last pit stop before heading on down the coast and home - saying hello to a very friendly (real) donkey just outside Ballintoy Harbour.
Notes in relation to opening paragraph:
*a short while into the train journey, a quiet, polite, Dutch guy sitting across from me got up and headed to the toilet, leaving his bag, book, earphones, banana and yogurt under my watch. Trustworthy tourist. We'll call him Geoff for the purpose of this story.
After what seemed about 20 minutes I figured this guy is either waiting patiently in a queue or doesn't have enough fibre in his diet. Concerned for Geoff's safety - and with increasing thoughts of stealing his banana - I thought it best to at least glance in the direction of the toilet to make sure all was OK.
It was at this point I realised the toilet was actually in another carriage, as staring back at me from the darkness between the two carriages was Geoff. Who still hadn't been to the bathroom. Who had unfortunately experienced a technical difficulty and got stuck between both doors. Who had been politely knocking on the door with only me and my earphones on one side, and a toilet area on the other. Who must have thought he'd just quietly wait until someone else needed to pass through the door rather than making a fuss. Quiet Geoff. I can only presume this as after helping him force the door open and getting a quiet 'thanks', he and his red face swiftly made their way back to the seat and didn't say another word. Understandably, the banana and yogurt went back in his bag.
**the healthy snack was actually a Mars Bar.