The thing about being in N. Ireland for a few days before starting on the main road trip was that I’d really been to all the “sights” many times before. I was born there after all !
The morning has started overcast with even some rain at times and so despite getting up at 08:30, I initially didn’t feel like going out anywhere. I had breakfast with Tiny, the family cat in attendance and as well as the first draft of his new book, I was glad to see he’d brought the lint roller with him. My black trousers appreciated that.
I’m not so sure he was all that happy that I was using his mug.
By the afternoon I was getting stir crazy so I jumped in the car with no particular destination in mind but I wanted to visit Ballymoney, my birth town where I’d spent the first 18 years of my life and many return visits since then.
It was only 27 miles from my cousin’s house in Magherafelt to Ballymoney but it took nearly 50 min to get there. Most trips in Norn Iron take longer than you’d expect because you invariably go through small towns and villages that seem to have more traffic lights than their sizes would lead you to believe they’d have.
But the main delays can be summed up by the fact that you’re in a country (and I include the South in this) where the pace of life is much slower and drivers will just stop in a town’s narrow streets to pass the time of day with another driver or pedestrian ! There is no point in getting stressed by this and after a few hours you find yourself slowing down too and just enjoying a drive in the beautiful countryside and taking the opportunity to do an in-car tidy up when one of these cross car conversations takes place in front of you.
Never mind individual towns…..I think the whole country should just be twinned with Jamaica !
The other reason for driving delays is because Ireland is mainly a farming country so you WILL be stuck behind farm vehicles of all shapes and sizes and farm animals being moved from field to field. Again, you need to just chill.
On the other hand, passing is quite easy as many of the minor roads are as straight as a Roman’s ruler although they are rarely flat, with dangerous hidden dips which will certainly get your heart racing if you attempt an overtake and suddenly see a car appearing from below one of them.
Anyway I set off at 13:00 and as my drive took me past the graveyard where my parents are buried, I stopped off to pay my respects and have a quiet time with them.
A few rows towards the start of the graveyard I also stopped for a few moments at a much larger plot where members of my mum’s family are buried. I think it has to be “full” now and anyway only 2 of the family (of 14) are still alive and will be buried elsewhere.
The top two on the headstone were my maternal grandparents and the other 4 were aunts and uncles.
After returning to the car, I decided to drive the short distance to my old home in Ballymoney despite it now being rented by someone I obviously didn’t know. My parents had lived in the house from 1948 or 1949 till my dad died in 1986 and then my mum lived there on her own till she died in 2003 so it played a large part in my life for over 50 years and I wanted to see it again. It was originally a council house but was bought for a song by a cousin of mine a few years before my mum’s death and then it was sold to another party for rental and it shows. The house had been kept in immaculate condition by my parents despite never being the owners but it definitely needed a lot of tlc now.
Being at the end of a terrace, at least we’d had off road parking although given mum’s driving skills, we usually left the car on the street, just as my little Clio is in this photo.
With my mood now as somber as the weather, I needed cheering up so just drove through the town and headed for Ballycastle, 16 miles away on the north east coast.
This was a drive we’d made many many times when I was growing up. I had, and still have, family in Ballycastle and back in the day we’d visit regularly as my uncle and aunt’s farm was there and when you’re a kid, a farm could be a magical, if slightly dangerous, place. It was at this farm that I fell off a tractor being driven by my uncle and which was pulling a set of discs which were cutting up and turning over a field in preparation for……well for something ! I can’t remember what.
This incident became known as the family miracle because despite being run over by these sharp discs and bleeding heavily, all I was left with was a small scar on my forehead, still visible to this day. Needless to say I’ve no memory of this accident but as I had been sitting in the space between the huge wheel arch and the driver’s seat and slipped off backwards, I’ve no idea how I got away so lightly.
My main reason for going to Ballycastle now was because that’s where I’d find one of my favourite cafes, Margo’s at 22 Ann Street. I won’t go into the history now but on previous visits to Ballycastle, most recently in 2011, this quickly became my cafe of choice when in the area. As I’d had such a late start to the day, it was 15:00 by the time I reached the cafe and with supper waiting for me back in Magherafelt, I decided to just have a mini Ulster Fry !
They even managed a decent egg over easy !
Remembering me from 2011 (ok after I’d shown them the photos from that day), they agreed to have another group photo taken and dragged the cooks out of the kitchen for this update.
Sadly even after all this comradery, I didn’t get a discount ! Sighhhhh.
Before leaving Ballycastle and returning to Magherafelt, I drove to the harbour and had a walk around and even revisited the small terminal for the Rathlin Island ferry that we’d taken in 2011. By now there was a slight but persistent drizzle so this photo was taken through the windscreen.
After a 41 mile drive back to Magherafelt (which took 70 minutes), we had supper and then went to visit my cousin’s sister and her family who lived a few miles away and had a lovely evening there.
And that was day 2 over. Not very exciting but stick with me as things do get better !
Oh and tiny was excited to see me back.