So far I’d only driven 360 miles since leaving home but then this was never going to be a particularly long distance road trip.
Before setting off I’d done a fair bit of planning for the trip. I wanted to drive around the coast wherever possible and initially discovered a route called the Wild Atlantic Way which seemed to “do” the hard route work for me. It runs 1600 miles from near Derry in the North down the west coast and ends in Kinsale, near Cork in the South.
So I started creating day by day relatively short drives so I could enjoy the scenery. Apart from the first two, I wasn’t going to book b&bs in advance as I’d tried that last year when touring France/Spain/Portugal and found it very restricting and sometimes meant I had to rush my sightseeing in order to get to the next night’s reservation.
I knew there would be many b&b options in Ireland, most with the prices on the signs so I’d not have to spend time stopping to find this out. After planning a few days worth of drives, I then made a key decision which ended up changing the whole focus of the trip and went a huge way towards making it one of the best road trips I’ve ever made.
I change my mind and decided to drive the other way around Ireland !
I’ve been so incredibly lucky with the weather on all my road trips but maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit for the planning I’ve done beforehand. I looked at the long range weather forecast and knew the first week would be dry but not particularly sunny and so I decided to scrap the daily routes I’d already planned and drive clockwise around the coast as that would mean the first few cloudy days would be spent going down the East side of Ireland which I was not excited about doing anyway. For me, the real start of the road trip would be westwards from Wexford and by the time I got there, I hoped the weather would be awesome for the rest of the trip.
And boy, was it !
There was another reason for going clockwise. I’m left handed. Not just that but I’m totally left thinking. I don’t have a single action I do right sided, to the point where, if I’m lost, I’ll always turn to the left at a junction or a split in the road. This affects my sightseeing when driving as despite being on the right side of the car, I much prefer to look further to my left at scenery rather than the closer right.
But that’s enough about the planning for now….on with what I did on Day 3, which started with a colour coordinated breakfast.
And no Tiny.
As forecast, it was a dull, overcast day but I still set off at 10:15 for the 40 mile drive to Cushendall on the north east coast. All the towns along the Causeway Coast have huge significance for me and the ones I visited today were especially significant as they all related to the 7 years I spent at Garron Tower boarding school because we’d drive to them or through them to get to/from the school.
My first stop in Cushendall was at the home of the mother of one of my school friends and I always made it a point to call with her if I was in the area and she always appreciated this. When I’d visited in 2011 she wasn’t at home so it was probably back in 2003 when I last saw her when I was over for my mother’s funeral.
A man came to the door and told me the lady had been in poor health for some time and had moved in with her son, my school friend, who lived in Ballymena. This man now owned the house so there was nothing more to do and I drove on along the coast road.
I had some family in the area so once I was through the village of Waterfoot, I visited their house but didn’t call in as I knew the sole occupant was in poor health and a sudden visit wouldn’t have been appropriate.
Instead I took a photo of this cutie.
Then I saw some distant lambs in a nearby field and stopped to take another photo. It was raining again so I didn’t hang around outside the car and it wasn’t until I was looking at the photo later that I realised the lambs were wearing little rain jackets, probably more for warmth as much as keeping them dry !
At this point on the Causeway Coast (the A2), the road sweeps around a bay where there is a church and parochial house where we (my family) once stayed while the priest went on his annual summer holidays. As a kid this was great as we were right by the sea and nearby were the ruins of an arch over the road and I’d climb up on top and wave at the passing cars and got ridiculously excited when the occupants would wave back.
Ah happy days !
Then it was only a couple of miles to the road up to my old school so I just had to pop up to see it now. Back in my day it was an all boy’s boarding school but that’s all changed now, including the name. It’s now called St. Killian’s College and it’s non boarding and co-ed.
So just a bit different.
The road up to St. Killian’s from the A2 now has a name, Tower Road, and as you can imagine, it brought back many memories. The entrance to the college was unchanged, as was the “castle” facade.
I parked up and followed the instructions on the signs and went to reception to check in. I just wanted to walk around the grounds to see what had changed but that was not to be. You can’t “be a stranger” and walk around schools these days……fair enough. In the past, on the few occasions I’d visited the school and walked all over, I guess it had been in the summer when it was effectively closed.
I asked if I could take a few photos of the nearby buildings but again……no.
“in case some boys would be in the photos”.
So I left the school just as I did in 1970. Glad to be going and with only negative thoughts.
A few miles south along the A2 I came to the small fishng town of Carnlough where my parents took me on most Sundays to eat fish and chips along the sea wall when I’d be “allowed out” for the afternoon. It hadn’t changed a bit in the 46 years since those days but on the few occasions since then, I have a new tradition……..
….a meal at the Harbour Lights Cafe overlooking…..well the harbour.
I guess most of my meals on this trip so far have looked very similar but then I’m a sucker for a fry up. The good news, I can now reveal, is that despite all these “bad” meals, I actually lost weight over the 3 weeks as I did so much walking.
Carnlough itself is a lovely little port but on this day, with the overcast weather, it wasn’t showing itself off at its best.
I did go into a local store (no family connection) and when I spotted one product, I just had to buy it. I loved these coconut coated fluffy delights when I was growing up and I still do today. So I sat on the harbour wall (seen above) and ate one….or two…..and thought back to those far off days when they’d be a post fish and chips treat on Sundays.
As it was only 15:30 I decided that before returning to Magherafelt, I’d call with an aunt who had been a large part of my life growing up. She now lives in a lovely new house just outside the village of Dervock which was on the way back anyway. It was lovely to see her again after 13 years.
After this visit, I was back in Magherafelt by 19:00 for supper.
So despite the dull weather I’d had an interesting day out but my plans all changed when I got an email from the owner of the first b&b I’d booked for tomorrow night in Carrickmacross, south of Dundalk. Yes my road trip proper was due to start in the morning.
She told me there had been a flooding issue due to a boiler fault and I wouldn’t be able to stay. Like the only other b&b I’d reserved, it was just an email booking with no money paid up front so that wasn’t a problem. I looked at the map and reminded myself that I’d only picked this b&b as I was planning on visiting with a cousin on the way to Carrickmacross so didn’t want it to be to far to drive afterwards.
I thought things over and if I didn’t take the detour to visit this cousin until I was back in Magherafelt, I could just drive straight to the 2nd b&b on the first night instead. Like I’ve said, I wasn’t all that interested in the eastern side of the trip and just wanted to get down to Wexford as fast as possible.
So with the next day now free, I asked if it would be ok to stay one more day/night in Magherafelt, which it was, and so before going to bed I made new plans for what to do.
And they involved visiting more relatives, a Game of Thrones location and a meal by the seaside.