Northern Ireland

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If you’ve read this little blog for any amount of time, you know how much I love to be able to visit our family in Ireland every year. Even though it’s my husband’s home and not technically mine, I get homesick for Ireland, and I always count the days until we return. March is just around the corner!

On one of our trips to Ireland, we started out in the North and visited Belfast and Derry and stayed on the Antrim Coast to take in Giants Causeway and Bushmill’s Distillery. It was one of our favorite trips and had us craving more of the quiet, stunning scenery of the North, as well as the good times that are to be had.

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{Our view from the Bayview Hotel}

When I received an email regarding a guest post on the Antrim Coast, I immediately said yes. There is a lot of do and see in Northern Ireland, including the fairly new Titanic Museum, which some of our family drove all the way from Galway to see.

If you have a trip to Ireland planned, I would highly recommend a day or more in the North. It’s easy to get around the island of Ireland, and this is certainly a beautiful part of it. The below guest post might help as a guide, if you happen to be planning a trip to the Antrim Coast. Many thanks to Rhys Davies from Belfast Tours Company for getting in touch and sharing the below post.

The Antrim Coast – A Marvel of Scenic Beauty

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You can’t visit Northern Island and not check out the Antrim Coast. It is a beautiful scenic route which over the decades has established itself as one of the most iconic coastal drives in Europe. The Antrim Coast is a hot tourist spot and many people specifically visit this place to enjoy the beautiful landscape.

Creating it wasn’t easy nor cheap. In fact the proposed plan was largely viewed with scepticism and disbelief at first. This was the 1830s. Technology available today wasn’t even conceived at that time. Yet the plan called for a 30 plus mile road to be built by manual labour on the towering sea cliffs in order to reach the then unreachable Antrim Glens. Not many would have thought such a project would see a successful conclusion but Scottish Engineer William Bald did. He had a vision he was determined to make a reality. And in just 10 under years, starting from 1832, he made sure the road was finally completed and ready for use. It remains to this day a marvel of human innovation and it attests to the strength of the human spirit. There were no mechanical objects used during construction. It was all done by hand by manual labour; unimaginable in today’s world.

The Antrim Coast Road is also referred to as the A2. It runs from Larne to the Giant’s Causeway. People can expect to see a series of a seaside village on the way. It also touches the rocky headlands of Garron Point and Glenarm. While tourists like the entire road trip, they rate the journey from the Black Arch at Larne to the Red Arch at Cushendall, the most scenic and beautiful. One tourist referred to it as “25 miles of Heaven”.

What stands out about the Antrim Coast Road is its ability to connect different tourist hotspots all the while being surrounded by a magical and peaceful environment. Castle Glenarm is a favourite tourist hotspot. The Giant’s Causeway is another one.

Any trip to the Antrim coast should kick start with Carrickfergus Castle, moving on to seaside resort of Whitehead where visitors can see the great tower and all the popular sites in Larne. After that, take the road North by the sea and enjoy the twists and turns as well as the gusty winds and ice blue ocean along the way. You will find many picturesque villages along the way, ideal for taking pictures and enjoying the view.

The Antrim Coast is just one of the many cool places that awaits tourists on their vacation trip. Northern Ireland has a lot to offer adventurers and visitors alike. Its majestic castles and beautiful everglades leave even the most seasoned tourists in awe. Those who are visiting the first time are really in for a treat.

Sign up for a Belfast tour and not only will you get to experience the scenic beauty of the Antrim Glens but many other cool hot spots in Belfast and surrounding areas.

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Tags: Antrim coast, Ireland, Northern Ireland, tours, Travel

What is your favorite cocktail? I usually stick to wine or beer, but every now and then I do enjoy a cocktail, and I definitely like to mix it up. Right now, my cocktail of choice is Bushmills and ginger ale, simple but zesty and flavorful. On our recent visit to Northern Ireland, the Bushmills Distillery was a must-stop.  After a long, breathtaking coastal drive, we found ourselves at the centuries-old, still working distillery, ready to tour and taste.

Bushmills

Beyond the parking lot, a complex of old stone buildings sit in front of the River Bush.

Bushmills

Arrows pointed us to the visitor center where we purchased our tickets and did some browsing before the tour.

Bushmills Visitor Center

Bushmills barrels

Whiskey barrels and an old still make up some of the décor in the center, which also houses a café and tasting bar.

Bushmills tasting room

Once inside, we also saw a gift shop, complete with walls of whiskey, whiskey candies like caramel and fudge, glasses, and Bushmills apparel.

Bushmills whiskey

When our designated tour time came, we met our small group and our guide, Peter Wilson, who ended up being completely fantastic. Unfortunately, due to the alcohol vapors in the air, all electronics had to be turned off, lest a spark cause the entire place to explode. Safety first, but that meant no photos of the actual tour. I decided not to risk it for the sake of the blog Winking smile

As we walked through the distillery, we learned that all Bushmills, no matter where you drink it, comes from this little factory in the North of Ireland which gets its source of water from the River Bush. They actually built the distillery over the river, so as we walked through we were walking over the river; we just couldn’t see it!  We got to see (and smell!) the process of making whiskey, which you can read about in their illustrated, step-by-step explanation on the Bushmills website. From the mash to the bottle room, we got to see the birth of new whiskey. The tour ends back at the tasting bar, where participants can choose from several types of whiskey for a taste.

Bushmills whiskey

I opted for the Bushmills 12 year single malt whiskey. Only available at the distillery, Bushmills says the following about this whiskey:

The Bushmills Malt ‘Distillery Reserve’ 12 Year Old, is matured mainly in former Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks which lend a deep amber colour and wonderful dried fruit aromas to this whiskey. Like all Bushmills whiskeys, it is gentle and approachable, with added weight.

Bushmills whiskey

Before we left, we purchased a bottle of Bushmills Black Bush whiskey for Eric’s parents. It was later turned into late-night hot whiskeys, sipped while watching The Quiet Man, listening to the hubby play the piano, and thawing out in front of a fire before bed.

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Sláinte!

Now, tell me, what is your favorite cocktail?

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Tags: Bushmills, distillery, Northern Ireland, tourism, tours, Travel, whiskey

Other than a post about our visit to the Bushmills distillery, I think this is my last post about our most recent visit to Ireland. Luckily we have plans to return again fairly soon.

Our first day in Northern Ireland ended fairly early due to our being awake for over 24 hours. Jetlagged and tired from our drive and visit to the Giants Causeway, we ended up having an early dinner the night before. I had the most perfect salmon ever, caught that day, atop a bed of Mediterranean-style vegetables, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and spinach. It was a simple, clean meal, and I ate every bite. We enjoyed a Bushmills on ice by the hotel fire, I blogged about our visit to Belfast, and we were off to dreamland by 9.

The next morning we were up bright and early, ready to see some sites and to head home to Galway. First up on our list was Dunluce Castle, a beautiful site only minutes from our hotel.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle (Irish: Dún Lios, “strong fort”) is a now-ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland. It is located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim (between Portballintrae and Portrush), and is accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland. The castle is surrounded by extremely steep drops on either side, which may have been an important factor to the early Christians and Vikings who were drawn to this place where an early Irish fort once stood.

Dunluce Castle

If you drive through the Irish countryside, you will see all sorts of crumbling buildings. Though not usually the size and grandeur of Dunluce Castle, many of them were previously monasteries, churches, castles, and Coast Guard stations. These are some buildings that were built, for the most part, to withstand the test of time!

view from Dunluce Castle

As the above blurb about Dunluce Castle states, the castle was built upon some crazy steep cliffs which visitors can wander down, via some stony stairs. You can also head into the heart of the castle complex to look up at the castle and hills that sort of protect it.

Dunluce Castle

This cave-like hole is actually under the castle. Hundreds of years of ocean waves chipped away at the rocks making it a dangerously beautiful little cove. We took heed when we saw more falling rock signs.

Dunluce Castle

Mooooooo

Dunluce Castle

That very, very light land in the background in the above photo is Scotland. After we wandered around Dunluce for awhile, we got on the road to Derry, then started our slow journey toward Galway. On the way we passed through the beautiful hills of Donegal and into Sligo, Yeats country. The below photo shows the mountain Ben Bulben made famous by its uniquely flat top but even more well known from Yeats’ Under Ben Bulben. I am not only a nerdy former English major, but I had a concentration in Irish literature, specifically Yeats, when I was in college.

Ben Bulben

Drumcliffe Church

Stopping by Yeats’ grave in the Drumcliffe graveyard was a must. It was only when I was looking through my photos later in the day that I realized our visit was on January 28.

Drumcliffe

The very anniversary of Yeats’ death. . .coincidence? Or strange connection between me and W.B. Yeats? ;)

W.B. Yeats grave

All of this driving and beautiful scenery built up quite the thirst hunger, so we stopped at the Yeats Country Hotel. Like most Irish country restaurants, the setting was rustic and cozy.

Irish pub

We started with a pint of Guinness each, perfectly poured.

Guinness

I had the seafood chowder which came in a huge bowl.

seafood chowder

Served, as soup in Ireland always is, with brown bread and Kerrygold butter.

Irish brown bread

This meal was all I needed to want to curl up for a little nap on a chilly day. With my trusty driver at the wheel, I did just that, and I woke not too far outside of Galway to the view below.

N17 Ireland

Lovely. I may have said it before, but there are few things I love more than a sunset on the West coast of Ireland. I am also enamored with the leaps and bounds ahead of the US that Ireland is when it comes to the environment. Their hillsides have been dotted with windmills for many years, they have been seriously exploring ocean/wave power, they recycle EVERYTHING, and if you forget your grocery bags, you are paying handsomely per bag. No nasty plastic bags hanging from trees here because there are no plastic bags.

I can not wait to return.

Random Saturday Question: I spent quite a bit of time yesterday playing with my niece’s imaginary friend. Did you have an imaginary friend when you were a child? I had a tiger named Rugby :)

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Tags: beer, Drumcliffe, Dunluce Castle, Food, Guinness, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Sligo, Travel, vacation, Yeats

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