Today was a steady drive along the coast enjoying the beautiful colours of the sea in the bright sunshine, some of the time, if not, it was raining again.
First stop, Bushmills and a view of the Dunluce Castle as we drove along the coast. The castle was built in the 1500s and as with all these castles, was besieged a number of times. Built on an island very close to the cliff faces, the castle was once owned by Winston Churchill.
Into Bushmills to take a quick look at the Irish whiskey "Old Bushmills Distillery" then up to the Giant's Causeway, the main site to visit today. The causeway is made up of more than 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, most of which are hexagonal. The columns vary in height above ground, some up to 12 metres high. One interesting thing is that some of the columns have convex tops and the others are concave. Probably just the way they have broken. The site is believed to be the result of the cooling of lava from a volcanic eruption. The legend is that a giant, Finn Mc Cool was challenged to a fight by a Scottish Giant and built the causeway so the two could meet and fight. Fearing the Scottish giant was much bigger that him, Finn headed back to Ireland, destroying the causeway as he went. There are similar columns in the Scottish island of Staffa. They say on a clear day you can see Scotland from here. On a rainy day, we could see land in the distance in the direction of Scotland but whether it was a Scottish island, who knows.
Heading along the north-east coast, we passed a number of sights along the cliffs including a very picturesque ridge between two ocean bays. On the ridge there was what appeared to be a small stone ruin similar to others that we see as we drive around. Wrong, turns out it was the ruins of Dunseverick Castle. There doesn't appear to be any record of when the castle was built however the first fort on the site was raided by the viking around 870AD. The ruined castle was destroyed around 1642 and the last remaining tower collapsed in 1978.
From there it was south and inland to Armoy to view a site called The Dark Hedges. This is a double row of 150 beech trees and was planted in 1775 as an impressive entrance to Gracehill House. The row of trees has a reputation as being a dark and foreboding place after dark or when covered with snow. Of course, there are ghost stories attached to the location. You can get some idea from the photos but these days a lot of the original trees are long gone and the road is more of a track than a road. It is obviously a big tourist attraction judging by the number of people that were walking along the wet muddy road as we went through. Gracehill House still stands at the end of the row. Around the corner is another row of trees almost forming a tunnel, these are often seen on the smaller country roads.
By now we are travelling through the County of Antrim where one of my my Great Great Grandmothers was born. I'm not going traipsing through cemeteries though.
Back east toward the coast for a drive right along the shore line from Cushendall to Carnlough. In Cushendall and past the Curfew Tower, built in 1817 to house riotous prisoners and now owned by an artist, we stopped on the waterfront for only our second real lunch stop in a rest area with a table. Just started getting going with lunch and it poured rain, so it was in the car again. Brilliant drive down the coast though as the rain cleared and the drive was done in full sunshine.
From there it was back west to Antrim and our accommodation for tonight. A review of the remaining days will occur tonight to ensure we make the best use of the remaining time available.