Of course, it all starts with Nancy. We have been on the road for this latest trip for 23 days, but for our “official lives” together for over 48 years. So, the last 48 of my 70 birthdays have been spent in her company…and nice company it is. We were standing about 200 feet over the sea – the Rathlin Island Sound of the North Channel near the Atlantic Ocean off of Ballycastle, UK.
If there’s a “normal” for us, it’s usually Birthday Week at the shore in NJ, USA, since her birthday is the 12th. So, us two Geminis have walked on beaches and watched gulls swooping over the Atlantic for many years. This time we really did the seacoast type of day.
First, it rained on us a bit and fogged us, too. We headed about 3 miles north of the Bushmill’s Inn to the Giant’s Causeway on the coast. It’s a geologic phenomenon formed by basalt columns at the edge of the sea here (most of them formed as hexagons). They reoccur in Scotland about 12 miles away on an island called Staffa. The UNESCO folks have named it a World Heritage Site, since it’s one of the only places on earth that this has occurred. The photos will tell a bit of the story, but the place is reminiscent to us of a hillside at the south end of Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy, where we went last August to look for whales. (We have a yen for travel to strange places, eh?) The Irish have a charming way of embellishing stories, so there’s a legend about a giant warrior named Finn McCool and how he created this place as a road to go over and fight the Scottish giant. As usual, there are many versions…all good ones, if you google “Giant’s Causeway”.
It had warmed up a bit, since we walked up down & then up a 200 foot cliff to get here, and we headed west about 10 miles to the town of Ballycastle, another small port village, where the Rathlin Island Ferry embarks. The island is home to about 100 people, has a school, a couple of churches, a hotel run by the National Trust (it’s the original Manor House for the former owners of the island), 3 lighthouses and a bird sanctuary at the West End light. Some days, they say that the ferry has challenges and may not make it back to port because the 10 miles of seas are too rough. (We didn’t hear that until today).
One highlight of our trip was meeting the bus driver, Dennis, who drove like a cowboy down the single track roads. The Royal Society to Protect Birds has interns manning the nesting site at the West End Lighthouse. They have spotting scopes, giving up-close views of the Black Guillemotts, Fulmars and Razorbills who make this home. The stars of the show are the Puffins – just as they were for us at Grand Manan last August. They are the birds with the colorful beaks who come here for two months to have babies, who then proceed to fly out to sea for 4 or 5 years before returning to have babes of their own. I couldn’t get close enough to catch a Puffin, but did get some Razorbills (they are the black ones) and Fulmars (who look like gulls, but are much more lovable in that they mate for life & behave more sedately…the one in the photo is busy yelling at someone.)
Dennis dropped us at the East End to see the seals who bask here and then another walk back into town for the outbound ferry.We thought he looked up at us and waved, when I aimed the camera. No one else over here is begging for tips…perhaps this is an Irish exception.
The ride back was full of Dennis conversation…he’s trying to help us with the McCannes, too. We headed back to the Inn and found an “amenity” in our room, compliments of Pam Long, travel agent. It was red wine with and two glasses. Don’t recognize the brand, but it was red and wet…and free of charge…perfection. Thank you, Pam.
Dinner at Table Five, our favorite bar booth had another (and understated) reminder of the celebration of my Seven-Oh Day. Thanks for all the good wishes.
Saturday, we met Hammy (short for Hamilton) Lowe a driver & went to Derry (or Londonderry, if you’re a Brit) for a tour. Report to follow from that most Catholic of Cities in N. Ireland.