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After our visit to Londonderry, we drove up to the Inishowen Peninsula, north of Londonderry and in the Republic of Ireland. The weather was sunny until we got further into the Peninsula, and then we had clouds and a few drops of rain. Inishowen is the most northern part of Ireland and it has a lot of history and some amazing views. Today's plan was mainly to serve as a road trip and to stop off at a few points along the way, including Mamore Gap, Malin Head, Glenvin Waterfall, and Grianan Aileach.

Driving north on the southern part of Inishowen, near Buncrana

We stopped at the tourist information point in Buncrana first, and I realised that there's actually a bit more to do on the Peninsula than what I read in any of the guide books before arriving. There's a fort (Fort Dunree) and a famine centre with reconstructed houses of the period that seems to be interesting, but we did not visit these. I would be interested in visiting these if I ever do find myself in this part of the world again. 

Coast driving north near Buncrana

The scenery along our drive was beautiful, and we caught glimpses of the sea as it opened into the Atlantic ocean. It was only a pity that the sun was not shining on the peninsula as it was in Derry when we left.

Sheep on a small road

We passed the fort mentioned earlier and followed the navigation toward Mamore Gap, toward Clonmany. These were some narrow dirt roads, and we had the roads to ourselves, at least in places. The roads also contained small flocks of sheep in places!

Amazing Grace Country

Finally, we got closer to the mountains and the Mamore Gap road. A sign along the road read "Thank you for visiting Amazing Grace country." This land is famous for the popular song "Amazing Grace", which is often sung in churches. Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and even Susan Boyle have sang the popular song.

The song was written by John Newton, who was a foul-mouthed sailor who worked on the ships for a slave-trading company. Newton ridiculed religion. On a trip back from Africa, a storm off the coast of Donegal nearly claimed the lives of everyone on board the ship, and the captain blamed Newton for the storm. The crew had to repair the ship and stay on Inishowen, and the storm incident and near loss of life caused Newton to change his ways. 

Mamore Gap

We drove further along and finally found our way to the top of the mountain with beautiful views of the sea in front of us. Visibility was not perfect, but we could still see and enjoy the views. 

Shrine and St. Eigne's Well

At the top of the mountain are a couple of little ancient shrines and a religious well, known as St. Eigne's Well. These still function as pilgrimage sites today, and the well is visited in August.

Sheep at Mamore Gap

Of course, sheep were on the mountains at Mamore Gap. I watched this mother sheep with her older lamb. They did not want to hang around us. We admired the views for a few moments and got some photgraphs.

Views from Mamore Gap

View of the mountain

After our visit to Mamore Gap, we drove down the mountain to heard toward Clonmany in order to visit Glenvin Waterfall, which is located on the outskirts of the village at Glen House hotel and tearooms.   

Sea views

Glenvin Waterfall is a fifteen-minute walk away on a well-marked and maintained trail through forest land. Sheep also have use of this land, and there are picnic benches near the beginning of the trail. When we arrived, the rain was coming down really hard. We quickly got our umbrellas out of the back of the car and decided to make the best of it. Had it been nicer weather, a picnic here would have been nice. Luckily, the rain ceased toward the end of the trail, and the sun came out a little. The trail followed a small stream and crossed it with bridges at some points.

Trail to Glenvin Waterfall

At the end of the trail, we saw the beautiful waterfall and took several photographs of it. We then had to make the 15-minute walk back, and I got some photographs of the trail and plants as the rain had stopped by this time.

We stopped at the small shop at the guest house when we returned to the car. The lady told us about the weekend's wash-out strawberry festival that she had the previous day. I wished I had asked for some strawberries and scones and clotted cream to take away!

Trail from Glenvin Waterfall

After the waterfall, we drove up the road to Carndonagh to see Carndonagh Cross. This location was one of the main centres of the early church in Donegal and is meant to have been founded by St. Patrick. This St. Patrick's cross has a drawing of Christ on its east side. The two pillars have carved David the Warior and David the Harpist. The crosses may have been constructed in the 7th century.

Carndonagh Cross

After the quick stop at the cross, we drove up the coast to Malin Head. Malin Head is used in daily shipping forecasts. In 1805, the British built watch towers here to guard against invasions from France in the Napoloeonic Wars. Later on, thest towers were used to communicate with ships offshore and Marconi Wireless Company set up a station in the tower. The concrete bunkers here date from World War II.

Bunkers at Malin Head

Sharks and different types of birds can be seen here, but it was extremely windy at Malin Head, and we did not see any bird or sea life. Someone had gone down toward the coast area and had placed a lot of stones around to form different words, which we thought was clever and must have taken some skill.

Malin Head

We just admired the views for a few minutes because it was so windy and a little chilly.

Malin Head

On the drive back out of Malin Head, we stopped in a small antinques shop along the road with views over the sea. 

View from Malin Head

A few of the cottages along this road were much older and looked picturesque. They reminded me of the cottages we saw in the folk village. I think these cottages would be dark inside, though, as there are not many windows. I imagine that they are quite warm inside as they do not have windows on the front side that is facing the sea.

Traditional cottage in Ireland on Malin Head

We stopped at a small cafe on the way out of Malin Head and had a quick lunch of toasted sandwiches before we continued on our journey. It was time to leave Inishowen Peninsula with one last stop off at Grianan Ailigh (Grianan of Aileach), an ancient stone fort on top of a hill at the southern edge of Inishowen. To get there, we had to drive up another large hill, but we were rewarded with excellent views. Of course, the weather just off the main part of the peninsula was sunny and warm. 

View over hills from Grianan of Aileach fort

Grianan Ailligh is an ancient and large stone fort built on a hillside on the southern side of Inishowen, though technically not really on the main part of the peninsula. This fort was probably built around the time of the birth of Christ, and it was probably built here because nearby there is a sacred monument of a Neolithic burial mound (3,000BC). The fort is a very short walk from the car parking, so we walked up to it.

Grianan of Aileach

The walls of Grianan Ailigh are 4.5 meters thick. Two passages exist inside the wall and are 5meters high. An ancient roadway leads to the fort, and earlier forts also existed in this location.

Grianan Ailligh

I found the fortress fascinating. Climbing around the steps and seeing the views from this fortress was fun, and I could see for miles.






The stones are so thick, and I was impressed by the size of this stone above the door and how huge this stone is and how much it must weigh to have been maneouvered into this position.

Grianan Aileach doorway

Just to the south of the fortress is St. Patrick's well. These water features were probably well-regarded before Christianity but then taken over as important places by the early Christains to help the spread their religion.

Grianan Aileach and flowers

On the walk down the hill, I got some photographs of some pretty late spring flowers. After our visit to the hill fort, we got back into the car and headed toward Glenveagh National Park. Unfortunately, the traffic was very bad around on the way to and in the town of Letterkenny, so we were a little bit pushed for time and had to rush our next tour. By this time, the weather was perfect. We had sun, and the temperature was warm. Come back to read my post of Glenveagh Castle.

Days Out: ArcelorMittal Orbit

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The ArcelorMittal Orbit is an 115-metre tall architectual sculpture (tower) that was designed by Anish Kapoor. It is located in London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the Stratford area of east London, and it was built in 2012 for the Olympic games. The sculpture gets its name from the steel company, AcelorMittal, because they funded part of the cost. The sculpture tower closed after the Olympic Games (due to the land around it and temporary buildings being cleared) but reopened in the spring of 2014.

AcelorMittal Orbit

The sculpture is meant to be viewed at different angles. From the ground, each angle of the sculpture looks a little different as the red steel winds its way up the central column. When I first saw a photograph of this, it reminded me of a theme park ride.

ArcelorMittal in Olympic Park 

During the Olympic Games, I could have got tickets for the Orbit as I saw them available, but I did not have tickets to the Olympic Park at the time. Then, tickets to the Olympic park became available, and the Orbit tickets for the same day were no longer available. D'oh!

Top observation area

We arrived at the tower and admired the view of it. While on our way to the lift to the top, we were told about the large steel 'bell' at the bottom of the structure and how it was meant to look 'rusty' and imposing. After admiring the size of it, we took the lift up to the top to the top-most observation deck.


We saw views over the City of London and the Shard.

Olympic Stadium

We saw views of the main Olympic Stadium and could see inside it where construction vehicles and diggers were doing some work. I could imagine what it would be like on top of this sculpture during the Olympic Games and the views inside the stadium. The atmosphere was amazing during the Olympic Games, and the park was so busy. It's now only a shadow of its former glory with empty land and construction vehicles dotted around.  

View of the City

Looking east, we saw new flat developments. The colourful ones were built as accommodation for the athletes but have been sold as flats to Londoners.


The Aquatics Stadium is located just to the north with the large shopping mall, Westfield Stratford, behind it and off to the side.


After spending our time looking around and admiring the view, we decided to leave the tower via the staircase that winds slowly down the sculpture. After each few steps, we were treated to a different soundscape as we descended. The soundscapes included the Orbit under construction at various points in time, a nature reserve, Columbia Road Sunday flower market, Brick Lane's Sunday market, Bow bells, and sounds from Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Descending the Orbit

I visited ArcelorMittal Orbit on the day that the London Bus charity sculptures for 'Year of the Bus' were on display in the Olympic Park, so I got a photograph of some of these buses on the bridge as I descended the Orbit.

'Year of the Bus' sculptures

I got a final photograph of the Orbit with a hazey January sun in the background.


Have you been to the AcelorMittal Orbit? Were you lucky enough to visit it during the Olympics? Apparently four proposals happened on the top of the tower, and three of these were during the Olympics. This year, you can also absail down the tower.

Londonderry Derry and the City Walls Walk

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After spending the day exploring the Causeway Coast, we continued on our journey to Derry (Londonderry), which is a city in Northern Ireland that's close to the border of the Republic of Ireland. This city was our stop for the evening before continuing on our Ireland road trip. The City Walls and the political Bogside Murals are two of the major sights to see for tourists. There's also a couple of attractive churches and a craft centre and guildhall. The majority of our time in Derry was spent walking the city walls.

A dog stands outside his home near St. Columb's Cathedral

The city walls of Derry are the only remaining intact city walls in Ireland, and they were never breached. The city of Derry's nickname is "The Maiden City" comes from this fact.

Our bed and breakfast for the night was located in this area of Derry, so our city walls journey started here. On the walk to the walls, we looked at the Bogside murals. Bogside is also the part of Derry where the Troubles took place. The area is still a working class area, and with all of the reminders of this sad event, it does bring about a strange feeling.

We entered the wall walk at Butcher's Gate, which used to be the location of a whiskey distillery that shut in 1921 but was once the best-selling whiskey company to the USA market.


We went off the wall briefly to check out the city. The main two streets of Derry are built in a grid and intersect at area is known as "the diamond" (what the Irish call their "town square"). 


On one of the streets up to the diamond, I discovered a building draped in a large patchwork quilt.


After a small diversion, we climbed back onto the walls to continue the wall walk. One of the first gates we came to was Castle Gate. Castle Gate is named after a 15th century castle that used to occupy the same spot. The city of Londonderry survived two sieges without the enemy pentrating its walls, but the city outgrew its walls in the 18th century. Castle Gate was built for increased traffic at that time. It's one of the new gates added to the city walls.

During the Troubles, there was a checkpoint at main gates to the city, and people would be stopped and questioned (or searched) during a visit to the city because there were a lot of bomb scares and protests.


Not far from Castle Gate, before Magazine Gate, is Hangman's Bastion. This bastion got its name because a man nearly killed himself when he became trapped in ropes when he attempted to escape. There were eight bastions around the city walls, and four were large enough to have four cannons.


After arriving around Shipquay Gate/Magazine Gate area, we left the walls and had a look at the Craft Village and the guildhall. The Craft Village and traditional thatched cottage were constructed in the 1980s to give the city pride in their shared history. 

Craft Village

We admired the Guildhall, which is next to Shipquay Gate. During Halloween, the Guildhall home to Ireland's largest Halloween carnival. Live music and fireworks take place, and this would be amazing to visit one year. Halloween is not a big event in England, and I've always enjoyed the holiday. (The university that I graduated with my Bachelor's degree from in the US was known to have the livliest and largest Halloween parties.) 


(The next day, we returned to the Guildhall to go inside it as we had heard that it was beautiful. Unfortunately, a private event was happening in the big room upstairs, so we were unable to enter.)


The next gate that we came to was Shipquay Gate. It was here that we read more about the city walls of Derry. An explosion in the cathedral in 1567 destroyed most of the town, so queen Elizabeth instructed a new fortified town to be built to protect it from local Irish chiefs. Derry became the first planned town, and it was funded by merchant companies in the City of London in return for grants of land in Northern Ireland. The city walls were built between 1614 and 1618 and are 1.5km long and eight meters high. In some places, they are 9 meters wide. Originally, only four gates were constructed and two of these had drawbridges. On the side opposite the bog (Bogside), a dry ditch was dug for added protection.


The names of the gates refer to the city's past. Shipquay Gate was named because boats were tied up there until the 18th century to ferry people across the river. (The street was named Bridge Street after a bridge was built over the river, decommissioning the ferry.)


A little further along the walls is Ferryquay Gate. Ferryquay Gate was built in 1865 on the site of one of four entrances to the city. It had a drawbridge to allow people to cross over the dry moat. In 1688, this gate was locked by the fourteen Apprentice Boys as they waited on city leaders to make up their mind about King James II's proposal to replace a Protestant garrison with Catholics.

Ferryquay Gate

The carved heads above the archways in the gate are of Governor George Walker and Rev James Gordon who urged citizens to refuse James II's troops. After the refusal and the locking of the gates, the city was under siege in 1689. A small boy was able to get through the gate here to relay messages to the outside world about the siege. Times were tough and the city started to run out of food. Food was rationed, and city occupants had to eat rats, mice, and domestic pets to survive. There were also stories of bringing dead horses in from the battle to be eaten.


Further along the walls is Newgate Bastion. The first shot of the siege of 1689 was fired here. Near this gate was Ireland's first covered market and St. Columb's Hall. The Hall was used to practice abstinence from alcohol, housed a school, and hosted pantomime. In 1970, Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana made her first stage appearance in the Hall. The Millennium Forum theatre is also near here, and it was opened in 2001.


After crossing over Newgate, we came to St. Columb's Cathedral and read about its history. The church's tower became a signalling port and lookout post, and a flag was used to be put on top of the spire to signal ships. During the siege, the lead from the spire was used to make bullets.

The cathedral is also said to have inspired the hymn "Amazing Grace" after the writer, a slave-trader who repented his actions, nearly died during a shipwreck off Inoshowen peninsula. Writer of several hymns, Cecil Frances Alexander, worshipped here. 


After returning to the walls from a brief look at St. Columb's, we came to Church Bastion. Two watchtowers were built here, near the cathedral, because the guards complained about having to stand watch in the rain. The bastions became gardens in the 19th century, and most of the towers were demolished. 

A maze of tunnels is under the city to allow soldiers to move around without having to go above ground. One entrance can be seen near here.


Bishop's Gate was the next gate that we came to, and it is the final gate on the walk. This gate crosses over Bishop's Street. Marks of Marks & Spencer opened a market here in 1909.


We came to another bastion, located at the end of the Grand Parade section of the city walls. At Double Bastion is Roaring Meg, the most famous canon. It could take up to 6 men to fire her, and she did see action during the 1689 siege. The force of the shot could make the canon roll back six meters. In the 18th century, a windmill and pleasure gardens were placed on the slopes below with a grove of Spanish chestnut trees and a classical casino.

Roaring Meg

The Grand Parade is the longest and straightest area of the walls, and I thought that it was the most attractive. Fourteen sycamore trees are planted on the walls. They symbolise the thirteen Apprentice Boys and their lookout. The fruit of sycamore looks like a bunch of keys, so they represent the keys to the city.


The Grand Parade was used for exercises and parades during the 18th century, and it was a fashionable to pramenade along it. It was laid out like a garden. A monestary was built here, at the top of the hill, and it was replaced by an abbey in the 13th century. It served as a church until St. Columb's Cathedral was completed in 1633.


St. Augustine's Church is at the other end of the Grand Parade. 


Opposite St. Augustine's is Royal Bastion. One of the soldiers, Robert Lundy, refused to admit additional troops to the city during the siege, and he was considered a traitor and replaced. During the centenary of the shutting of the gates in 1788, a crowd burned an effigy after parading it through the streets. The tradition continues each year at dusk on a Saturday in early December.

Have you visited Derry and walked the city walls? 

Our next stop on the Ireland road trip was Londonderry (Derry). We visited after stopping at Dunluce Castle on Giant's Causeway. This post features the bogside murals of Derry.

Derry's population has a large number of Protestants, and according to signage there, it probably had the largest Catholic discrimination in the northern part of Ireland. In the 1960s, Civil Rights became popular and and citizens of Derry took note of what was happening across the world and started peaceful demonstrations against discrimination. However, the police broke up the peaceful demonstrations with some force.

You are now entering free Derry

After the protests and riots in 1969, the slogan "You are now entering free Derry" was painted on the side of a building. It has become a symbol of resistance. The houses on this street (Lecky Road) were all destroyed in 1975, but this one wall of a house remains with the slogan repainted onto it.


Many of the street art murals in Derry have the political themes and themes of the Troubles. Civil Rights, peace, and war are other themes of the Bogside Murals. (Belfast's murals also focus on these themes as well as religious, famous people, victims of the Troubles, and neutral subjects.) The Bogside Artists (, who created the murals in Derry, refer to their murals as "The People's Gallery".


On July 30, 1972 at 4:00 in the morning, "Free Derry" (Bogside) was invaded by British troops in armoured vehicles. Operation Motorman, as it was called, tore down barricades with bulldozers. The mural artists decided to depict an individual hammering through a wall to represent this, and the title of the work is called "Motorman".







A couple of the murals we noticed had been damaged with paint.


One of the saddest murals we saw was the one below, titled "Death of Innocence". It shows Anette McGavigan, who was shot by a British soldier. She was the 100th victim and one of the first children to be killed during the Troubles. 




We also saw a clay brick face sticking out of the brickwork.  


The Bogside murals and the murals of Belfast are traditionally painted in working class areas of the city. From the Londonderry City walls, you can actually see some of the murals. The area may feel a little daunting with the murals and its sad history, but it was not. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Bogside and did not have any problems in Londonderry at all. So, let's hope for peace.

Bogside and murals from Londonderry city walls

In my next Ireland post, I will be looking at Londonderry and the City Walls walk. 

Early last autumn, I discovered that London Transport Museum were going to be giving tours of the abandoned Aldwych underground station in January and February, so I rushed to book my tickets. The tours are always sought-after and fill up quickly, and I had been unlucky when I previously tried to book the tour. Something about visiting an abandoned tube station must appeal to quite a lot of people.


I've walked by the red-tiled facade of the closed station at the Aldwych end of the Strand many times. The station opened in 1907 and closed in 1994. Originally, the tube station was called "Strand", but it was renamed to "Aldwych". (Aldwych of course is taken from the two words 'ald" and 'wych', which means 'old village', so this would have been an 'old village' about two miles outside of the original City of London.)


The facade of the old station contains the name "Piccadilly Railway", which gives a clue as to the tube line that served the station, as they were part of individual rail lines then. Aldwych Station was a spur station, and it was served by the Piccadilly Line from Holborn, which is located directly north of Aldwych. The tunnels from the station do join up with the Piccadilly Line at Holborn.

Below is an old map of the tube network when Aldwych Station was in use; Aldwych is located on the dark blue line as a spur. A minute's walk away is Temple station, and Covent Garden and Holborn are also a short walk away.


We were told that the station was built to serve the theatre district of London, but a theatre was torn down in order to open the station. We were led into the station and saw the original green-tiled ticket office.


A row of old-fashioned wooden telephone booths were located along one wall in the ticket hall area. At the back is a newer ticket office, which has been added later but kept in the same style with dark wood and green tiles. The station is used for filming nearly every day. We were told that they are filming "Mr. Selfridge" at the moment. They have filmed "James Bond", "Atonement", "V For Vendetta", "Battle of Britain", and the new "Sherlock Holmes" here.


Ticket barriers were added later on, and they were removed, but the spot where they stood is still visible on the floor. The woman's bathroom also looked like a blast from the past with an old-style washbasin.

The Aldwych underground station project seemed doomed from the beginning; the three lift (elevator) shafts were dug by hand and held two lifts, but only one of them was ever used. The cost to fix the lift was in the low millions, so the station was closed. We were told that only about 450 people per day used the station toward the end of its life, so keeping it open was not worth the cost.


We headed down the winding stairs to check out the platforms. The platforms are only accessible via the stairs as the lifts are no longer in service.


The first stop was to see the lift shafts. We were shown all of the lift shafts, even though most of them were never in operation. 


Next, we headed into one of the tunnels toward the platforms. The lights were switched off to show us how dark the tunnel would get, but we were all surprised when we clearly saw the tunnel light up after the lights were off. Special glow-in-the-dark paint is painted at the bottom of the tunnel, which you can see as a slight yellow colour in the photograph below. This is a safety mechanism to allow people to get out of the tunnel in case of emergencies. Apparently the paint strips can glow for twenty minutes.


There are two platforms, and not all of the station was used. We went to visit one of the platforms, which is currently used for filming "Mr. Selfridge". 


The platform also has an old tube train on it, and they use this for safety exercises. The train is dusty, and there aren't any seats inside it. This platform contains false vintage tube poster, tube signs, and tiles. The tiling was never completed to the end of the platform, so fake sticky 'tiles' were pasted up over the wall to give the illusion during filming.



In the front of the train, I took a peek at the tunnel. This faces south, toward the Thames.


I took close-up photographs of the vintage posters. These are replications used for filming.


The Aldwych underground station sign is a flimsy prop as well.


After viewing the first platform, we headed to the second, and this was the platform that was in use. The "station closed" posters are dotted around the platform as well as posters from the 1970s. Part of the letters forming the station name "STRAND" can be seen in places.


The track has some original insulators dating from when the station first came into use, and the guide said that these insulators are Grade I listed and are the oldest known in the world. They are still in their positions on the rails below where I am stood taking the below photograph.


This platform was used as for tile and glue testing, and you can see paint and colour schemes for the underground tiles for other stations here. 


I got some photographs of the 1970s posters.


We were then shown a tunnel that was in progress of being dug and constructed before the project was pulled. The workers just left their tools and a wheelbarrow inside the tunnel, which we could see.


We also saw one of the exits for this platform, which was never finished.


The last visit on our tour was back up the stairs to visit and walk inside the lifts. We were told that people could pay for their tickets on the lifts in order that the underground did not have to pay for two members of staff: one to control the lift and one to sell tickets. The lift had a desk inside where the staff member would sell the tickets, and the outline of this can be seen in front of the bench in the photograph below. The lifts also had a secret emergency escape, and the ones at Covent Garden station are similar. The wall of the lift can open so that people can transfer from one lift to the other (as there are two lifts in one shaft).


This concluded our tour of Aldwych Station, which was interesting to see. During the tour, we were also told that performances happened on the platform during the war and that this station was used as a shelter with thousands of people occupying the platform.

After our visit and a lunch break at Bushmills Distillery along the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland, we drove down the road and stopped off at Dunluce Castle. The location of the castle has been fortified for many years, and it was the location of a fort before a castle was built on the site in medieval times. This castle is also used in the television series "Game of Thrones", so you may recognise it from that.


The current castle dates between the 15th and 17th centuries; the family (McQuillans) who owned the castle controlled the sea and region of north Ulster. Some of the stones from Giant's Causeway have been used in the building of the castle. 


The castle was taken by the MacDonnell family in the late 1500s, and many Scottish settlers lived there. During the Irish rebellion in 1641, the castle was taken over and the town of Dunluce was burnt to the ground. The castle was completely abandoned in the 1680s, and this is why the town no longer exists. 


Dunluce village was a busy 17th century village located just outside of Dunluce Castle. There is no visibility of that village now as it has been covered by fields. The car park for the castle was once the centre of the town (the diamond). Archeological finds from the village are on display in the castle.


The inner ward area of the castle is across a small bridge. The entrance building and some ruins around it that lead to the bridge form the outer ward. A pathway leads underneath the bridge to go down to the sea.

View while crossing the bridge

Columns near southeast tower

Manor House

The castle is built on steep rocky hills on the sea. A rumour about the castle is that the kitchen fell into the sea in the mid-1600s, and the castle was abandoned afterwards. Part of the castle did fall into the sea, but information boards at the castle claimed that it was unlikely that the part of the castle that fell into the sea was the kitchen.

Upper ward

The sea cliffs and caves around and limestone under the waves creates a unique sea environment. Basking sharks or dolphins are meant to be seen if one is lucky, but we did not see any on our visit.

Sea views from castle




After enjoying a look around the ruins, we left the castle and admired the views from the adjoining hillside. 


There are a few picturesque points to get a photograph of the castle from. We were fairly lucky with the weather as we did not have rain, and we did not have to contend with large groups of others visiting the castle.

The quiet town of Ballycastle is where we stayed for the night along the Causeway Coast after our visit to the Dark Hedges. We ate dinner at The Diamond Bar; this is located in the town square (or diamond, as they are known in Ireland) and afterwards walked down Quay Street, a leafy street with large Victorian houses. This street led down to the harbour where we enjoyed views and walked onto the sandy beach. I found some pretty shells and rocks.


Ballycastle, visited by Vikings and others from the sea in old times, became a popular and thriving town in the industrial age. Coal mining, salt, soap, glass, and bleach works (linen) were produced here as well as other items.

Ballycastle is only one of two locations in Northern Ireland for coal mining, and it is believed to have begun in the 1400s and stopped in the 1950s. The company had houses constructed for the miners, and the coal was exported to Dublin by boat. To attract men to the area to the mines to work, the owner actually bought large supplies of grain to make bread and offered loaves to his workers for half the price. 


The next day, we visited Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant's Causeway before arriving at Bushmills Distillery. Bushmills Distillery, located in Bushmills along Giant's Coastal Causeway, is the oldest distillery in the world. The company is owned by Diageo, who also make the drink Bailey's Irish Cream. Whiskey is distilled here, and they operate tours of the distillery as well as having a restaurant and gift shop on location. We had lunch at the restaurant while we waited for our tour.

Bushmills Distillery

We took a tour of the distillery, but photographs were not allowed. We saw the entire process of the whiskey production from grain to liquid/vapour to heating and then bottling. The bottling and packaging was the most interesting as we could watch the bottles be filled, labelled, sealed, and packaged into boxes by smart conveyor belts and machinery that would push the bottles into certain areas and line them up for boxing and wrapping.

Bushmills Distillery

We were also shown to a room where we could see the effect that the wooden barrel has on the taste and colour of the whiskey. Barrels are reused after they contain other alcoholic drinks, and each type of wood produces a different taste. One display also showed different lengths of time of whiskey in a see-through barrel. As the years progressed, the whiskey in the barrel became less because it does still evaporate. This is why older whiskey is a little more expensive.

After our tour, we met in the bar and were given our vouchers for a free glass of whiskey. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to locate any photographs of our whiskey glasses. I had one of the easy-going selections, and we also received mini bottles of honey whiskey for free.


After the visit to Bushmills, we drove down the Causeway Coastal Route to stop off at Dunluce Castle.

Giant's Causeway

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After our morning excursion to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Northern Ireland, we made our way down the coast to Giant's Causeway, an area of beauty with natural basalt columns that were a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The area is a UNESCO World Heitage Site. It has been painted and photographed many times over the years. We received an audio guide tour that told us about the history of the location, the legends about it, and tours and lives of tourist guides in the old days.


The tour started at the top of the hill, outside the new Visitor's Centre, and the first audio guidepoint was here. We had a view looking down a paved road at an oddly-shaped green mounds along the cliffside. Along the sides, we could see some of the oddly-shaped basalt columns disappearing into the sea.


One of the items of interest was pointed out to us by the audio guide. Off to the left and as we were descending the hill to the cliffs is a rock shaped like a camel. 


All along the wooden fence on our way down the hill were millions of caterpillars or fuzzy worms that had just hatched and were crawling all over the place. Many had made some sort of webs. Steer clear of the wooden fence by the coast when visiting in early June if you dislike the fuzzy creatures. I did not mind them, but there were so many. The wooden fence was literally crawling with them.


The stone mounds on the way down the hill were interesting and one can easily see that these rocks were a result of a volcanic eruption and had cooled in circular lumps. The audio guide had a piece on this, but I cannot remember what it said about the rocks and their shapes.


As we came around the corner of the mounds, we saw Giant's Causeway unfold before us in all its glory. Quite a few tourists were already climbing over the stones and admiring them.


While we descended and walked toward the causeway. we were told about the legend of the giant who built Giant's Causeway. The giant, Finn McCool, lived with his wife on the coast and learned that he had a rival in Scotland. (The rock formations also appear in Scotland.) The two giants decided to have a fight, so Finn constructed a causeway from large stones to Scotland. While he was on his way to meet the giant, he saw how large he was and ran back home. Finn asked his wife to help him hide, and she disguised him as a baby. When the Scottish giant saw the size of the sleeping baby, he assumed that the father must be much larger and ran all the way back to Scotland, tearing away much of the causeway.


We climbed over the stones, and I took several photographs. The stones are amazing and made out of columns. Some of them are stacked higher than other ones, and these can be climbed upon. The stones finally disappear into the sea with waves crashing up onto them.







The hills above the causeway also have stories about them which relate to the giant's story. An organ and the back of the giant's grandmother can be seen in the hillside. I saw the organ but could not find the grandmother.



One of the trails appears to have been cut out of in between columns of stone. Visitors can walk the causeway trail.


In the giant legend, Finn McCool loses his boot on his run back home from Scotland, after seeing how large his rival is. A boot-shaped rock remains on the beach and is called "the giant's boot", and a photograph is below. A good photo opportunity is to have someone sitting on/inside the boot.


Next, I will be publishing my post and photographs of Bushmills distillery, located just down the road from Giant's Causeway.

John Wesley founded a chapel and built a house in the late 1700s, and this became the birthplace of Methodism religion. The museum and chapel are free to enter, and there is a small cost for a guided tour of the Wesley home. The new chapel was built in Wesley's time and it replaced a smaller one at the same location. Across the street is Bunhill Fields cemetery, which I wrote about here, and you can also see more photographs of Wesley's Chapel.

Wesley's Chapel Interior

John Wesley built the house in 1779, and it is an example of a London Georgian house. The house is opposite the chapel, and across the road is Bunhill Fields. (Bunhill Fields was the resting place of many non-Church of England people.) 

I took a guided tour of the house. Wesley lived here for the last decade of his life. Normally, he would travel the land to preach his religion to others, but he returned here in the winter months. His staff and other preachers stayed here as well, and I believe that there were six or seven who stayed here. The house contains many items from Wesley's time and other items that he owned. The upper floors have rooms that look over Bunhill Fields. 

Some of the furniture included an early exercise machine that Wesley could use when he was not traveling around on horse-back to keep in shape, and a chair that you could sit in backwards that had a desk attached to it.


The Museum of Methodist is located in the chapel's crypt, and it contains several items that belonged to Wesley. The family bible, pictured above, is particularly worn from use and survived a house fire. There's also the last pen Wesley used and stumps of large trees that he preached under around the country.


Out the back of the chapel is where Wesley is buried, along with some of the other preachers. This area is inside a small courtyard with modern offices surrounding it.


It's amazing that the beginnings of this major Christain religion started in this small area of London many years ago, and the history is still there.

Ulster Transport Museum

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After a visit to the Ulster Folk Museum (covered in my post here), we paid a visit to the Ulster Transport Museum, which is located on the same site as the Ulster Folk Museum. Ulster Transport Museum has an exhibition dedicated to the Titanic as well as additional displays for everything related to transport: trams, buses, horse-drawn vehicles, trains, cars, and planes. As Belfast is home of the DeLorean car, which was famous in the Back to the Future films, there is naturally a display dedicated to these cars in the musuem.


The most impressive exhibition is the Titanic exhibition. Visitors could see artefacts that had been taken from the sunken ship before it was illegal to take them, a model of the ship, ship blueprints, and many other bits and pieces. The items taken included a soup bowl and a porthole, shown below. I wonder how many people on the ship looked through this on their voyage across the Atlantic. On display in the cabinet is also a water bottle, part of the engine telegraph, and part of the hull.


A display of steam engines, trams, buses, fire engines, and horse-drawn carriages was in one area.


Fire engines


Horse-drawn wagon

Horse-drawn wagon

I photographed the old typeface painted on the sides of the horse-drawn wagons. 

Vintage typeface / font

The next section is dedicated to cars.

Various classic cars

The DeLorean exhibit was the most detailed. This included a prototype of the DeLorean, a DeLorean without the body work on top of it, and a complete DeLorean.


After a visit to the Ulster Transport Museum, we went off to find lunch and then drove off to Carrickfergus to explore the castle, which I already posted about here.

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