By now I was itching to get the road trip started for real but with the b&b issue (see yesterday’s post), I had another day in Norn Iron.
First up was a short drive to Randalstown to visit another cousin (I’ve a huge family !) and also to see my only remaining maternal aunt, who I think is in her mid 90’s and suffering with macular degeneration which runs in the family.
Yes I’m worried about it too but get checked as part of my annual eye test.
Apart from this, and being a bit deaf, my aunt has all her ducks in a row, so to speak and it was great to visit with them both. As I’ve said many times, my mum was one of 12 but only two are still with us….this aunt in Norn Iron and my uncle, the youngest of the 12, who lives in Derbyshire in England. He too is in the early stages on macular degeneration.
I’m not uploading photos of family members as for one thing I’ve not got their permission but also, that’s a bit too personal for a public blog.
After the visit I wanted to go to the twin seaside towns of Portrush and Portstewart and as that drive would take me very close to one of the Game of Thrones filming locations, I felt another visit there would be a good way to mix up the journey.
The Dark Hedges (on Bregagh Road), near my home town of Ballymoney, seems to have become the No.1 stop off for the hordes of Thrones fans who now descend annually on specialist tours of N. Ireland. Growing up in the area I was never aware of this short tree lined stretch of road as, to be honest, it’s not unique in N. Ireland, or many other places for that matter. But due to the tv series, it’s now a popular location for die hard Thrones fans but the locals aren’t particularly happy with the influx of coaches and cars that park up on the grass verges while their occupants get out to set up tripods etc to take their own shots up, or down, the road.
Thankfully when I got there today, I pretty much had the entire road to myself. I took a few photos with the phone camera and used a bit of onboard software to make one image look a bit more Throne-like !
A local later told me that there had been some storm damage last year and a few trees had to be cut down, as evidenced by the one on the right of that photo.
You can see that I had the road to myself and what a difference that makes to photos when you want to create a “dark” image. The sight of a modern tour coach or dozens of fans on the road would have really spoiled the effect. I drove up and down the road taking video footage and then a tour bus arrived, parked at the top end and disgorged a load of Middle Eastern tourists, mostly women wearing traditional clothing, some with only their eyes showing. It was quite a sight to see them taking photos and jumping up and down with excitement so I guess Thrones is popular over there too !
Then I headed off to the seaside town of Portrush, 17 miles to the north, where we’d spent many family Sunday afternoons either walking along the promenade or sitting in the car eating ice creams if the weather was typically changeable.
I drove around the harbour and took a few panoramic photos from the roof of the yacht club looking back across the harbour towards the promenade’s shops and houses.
I drove on to the twin town of Portstewart and busy as it was, I was lucky enough to find a parking spot right on the promenade. On my way to my choice of eatery, I spotted a chippy with an unusual menu option on a pavement board.
I’ve never heard of “a poke of chips” but I assume it’s their name for a cone of chips which seems to be the favourite way to have them as takeout when at the seaside. At £2, I’d expect any sauce to be free ! Looking inside, the full menu was one of the most varied I’d ever seen with many options new to me.
Hungry as I was, I went on and entered Morelli’s where Daphne, Stephen and I had eaten the last time I was in Portstewart and which was our family’s choice for ice cream back in the day.
As it was after 15:30, the place was pretty quiet but I was starving and so I passed on the ice cream and went straight for……yes the all day breakfast. Well, why stop the habit now !
With my energy levels renewed, I drove the 17 miles to Ballymoney as it was on the way back to Magherafelt and I wanted to go inside the Catholic church, Our Lady & St. Patrick’s. When I’d visited on the 12th, I’d tried to enter via the main door but it was locked. I thought this was due to security against vandalism but I was told later that after a big refurbishment, a new door had been built on the side nearest the car park. I’d seen this door on the 12th but ignored it as I never thought it was now the only entrance to the church as it was just like a side door.
I was convinced that I’d not like the improvements as my memories of this church are very important to me as we spent a LOT of time in it when I was growing up in Ballymoney. To my delight I discovered that they’d not touched the main altar and the improvements had changed the rest of the church out of all recognition….for the good. The flooring and new font were stunning and the new layout of the seating on both sides of the forward altar was a great idea.
Not bad for a small town of 10,000 with a minority Catholic population.
It was time to head off to Magherafelt and I was back for 19:00 and a light supper after the meal at Morelli’s. I seemed to have crammed a lot in today but distance wise I’d only driven 118 miles. That’s the thing about N.Ireland…..so many wonderful places to visit in a very small area.
In the evening I started to get things ready for the start of the proper road trip. As Buzz O’Lightyear often said…..to the South and beyond !