Day 14-1: Moira to the Giant’s Causeway, et al

October 14, 2010 16:52 – 16:52

After Emma’s delicious breakfast of scramble eggs, Irish bacon, and whole grain toast, I took a walk around the neighborhood. It turns out that we’re right next door to the Moira train station. Here it is:

Trains into Belfast come about every half hour. I’m not sure we’ll do that, but it’s nice to know the option exists—about 20 minutes from here to downtown Belfast, and no hassles with parking. I don’t know how much it costs yet, but it’s probably cheaper than parking & driving.

Here are some of the other sights I saw on my walk. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Olympic lawn crews in Virginia wearing protective gear and Wellies.

A local manor…

When I got back to the cottage, Karen was ready to leave, so we headed north for a sightseeing loop:

Our first stop was at Mussenden Temple and Downhill House, in Articlave. While looking for it, we first found this place, which turned out to be something different:

So, after exploring and saying hello to its caretakers…

We headed back up the road from which we’d come. Taking the next turn, we came upon this:

I asked Karen to take my picture:

It’s about 1k from the gate up to Mussenden, but I thought it was well worth the slippery walk in the wet grass.

If you look at the WikiPedia article about the Mussenden Temple, you’ll see that they show this:

The signs we saw today clearly said what we found was the temple—and it’s a lot taller than Wiki’s. Additional research by my friend Suzanne Barnhill, however, says that Wiki is right, and that what we found wasn’t the temple. I Googled some relevant search terms and discovered that what we found was the folly–and appropriate name, I guess.

The top of the temple folly has crumbled, and you can see the fallen columns and other pieces on the ground around it. The top is now a roosting place for birds, and grass has taken root.

Latin phrases are engraved on the four sides:

Had this been the temple, it would have translated to Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore, The rolling ship, and hear the tempest roar, a quote from Titus Lucretius Carus.It was not the temple, however. My friend Suzanne says the Latin is “an excerpt from the …first eclogue of Vergil’s Bucolics.”

Mussenden Temple The folly is high on a hill overlooking Castlerock and the Atlantic Ocean. While Mussenden the folly is crumbling, the hill does afford lovely views. The haze interferes a bit, but the view up there is breathtaking in all directions.

Speaking of crumbling, Downhill House/Castle certainly lives up to its name:

Apparently, the actual temple is somewhere on the other side of Downhill House. C’est la vie.

Back in the car, our next stop was for lunch. On the way to temple (ha!) we saw a sign advertising fish & chips, so we decided to give this place a try:

We both got the cod & chips, and ate in the car. The portions were enormous, and the food was excellent. Too bad they’re only take away.

While waiting for our order, I took a few pictures of the neighborhood from the parking area.

Our next stop was in Portrush to see White Rocks. These are sandstone cliffs along the north Atlantic beach coast—and a wide sandy coast it is.

It reminds me a lot of Florida beaches, except for the cliffs.

We stopped and chatted with this local group. They’ve been to Florida, so I guess they have an appreciation for beaches.

Then I took some more pictures.

While heading back to the car park, we started looking for a topless leprechaun. We figured she had to be somewhere nearby, since she’d dropped her bra!

No sign of here. Maybe she was arrested and taken away for indecent exposure. Back in the car, we stopped at a scenic overlook, and got another view of White Rocks from up above.

Also at this overlook was something called Magheracross.

It was in ruins:

But the views from up there were breathtaking.

Back in the car, our next stop was…

Neither of us wanted to go inside because the views from outside were better, not to mention free.

The views of the topography and cliffs were great, too:

Karen asked me to pose.

Find the ruin in that picture! Hard choice, eh?

Our next stop on the tour was Giant’s Causeway. It’s an area of volcanic basalt that rapidly cooled, forming very interesting shapes at the ocean’s edge.

Say cheese!

That group seemed to be having the most fun.

From the beach, way in the distance, we saw other formations that were rounder.

Our final stop on the tour was the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede. It’s about a kilometer from the ticket stand to the bridge, mostly up and down steep hills. So, Karen decided to lag behind. She later made it up about a third of the trail, however, worried that I’d fallen in (maybe because I had the car keys). Along my way up the path, here’s some of what I saw.

Here was my first glimpse of the rope bridge.

Not so scary, right? So, I plodded ahead.

And saw ponies on the hillside!

Then came my next glimpse of the rope bridge.

And on I climbed. You’ve got to hold the camera just right!

…to get views like this one.

And finally, I came to the bridge. Unfortunately, three youngsters were playing on it, making it sway and rock, so I decided to wait for them to finish.

And took some pictures while I waited.

And then it was my turn. Here’s what it looked like from the bridge:

The views from the other side were worth the walk.

And here’s what the bridge looked like coming back.

On the way back, I saw a number of cormorants diving for fish, as well as doing low level flyovers.

About 600 meters into my return trek, I found Karen. She’d convinced the ticket seller to let her head up the trail to claim and/or identify my body, if only by telescope. She did seem relieved to see me. At that point, it was 5:30 pm, and we’d finished our list of sights to see for the day. So, we set a course back to Moira, and discussed dinner along the way. Both having a taste for beef, we settled on the Four Trees—a pub in Moira.

Karen had the rib steak with béarnaise sauce and I had the sirloin with pepper sauce (both sauces come in little tubs, so it’s up to you how much to use). The sauces were both delicious. Karen had the house cabernet sauvignon, and I decided to try Harp Ice. Unlike most of the beer we had on Great Britain, the beef in Ireland has mostly been a lot colder. Harp Ice is deliberately served very cold. It was quite good.

After dinner, I paid the server, and we made our way back to the SuperValu to pick up something for breakfast, and then back to the cottage, where we’ve been sitting, sipping tea and computing.

We haven’t fully discussed what to do tomorrow, so I don’t have any detailed previews. You’ll just have to be surprised… just as we will. But, we’ll probably take in Lough Neagh, a little to our west, and perhaps take in some Belfast.

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