Driving in Ireland is a must. Yes, you can take buses and do tours, but to really experience the land and the people, you must drive it yourself. You will be confronted with motorways, A roads, B roads, and what they call minor road. Believe them when they say minor!
Two bits of advice that I have to share, well three.. but I will get to the third one later:
- When driving, remember that the driver side of the car is always in the middle of the road. This will never fail you no matter what side of the car or road you are driving on.
- Don’t be pressured by drivers who want to get ‘all up in your back’ by tailgating and wanting to pass. Just pull aside, when you can, and let them pass.
Our forays through the countryside, were more about the driving than visiting. Having visited some of the major sites last week, we ventured out to see more of the land and coastal sites.
There is so much to see, so many drives to do, and it is all determined by what you want to do and see.
Dunluce Castle is the ruin of a castle that was built on a bluff overlooking the sea. One of those types of castles you read about in a romantic story or see in a film. You can imagine the waves crashing below, the driving rain and winds whipping everything about. It also served as the location for Castle Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.
It is located just ‘down the road’ from the Giant’s Causeway between Bushmills and Potrush.
It was built around 1500 and the first official documentation about it is in 1513. It has a storied past including it being snatched from the original owner by the Scottish clan of McDonnells in the 1600. There are a reports of banshees, the ghost of a woman in a white dress, and the kitchen falling to the sea. (which was debunked during archaeological work in the 20th century) In fact, you can see where the ovens were in the kitchen and that it is still mostly intact.
It really is a must see and when you are done, have tea in the tea shop that is in the car park. It is a wonderfully family-run and homey establishment, complete with a lovely lounge area with two couches in front of the fireplace. And you will be glad of it on a windy day! Their sandwiches are huge and their cream tea is a delight. (homemade scones that are fantastic)
This was the area we were in, and it is the small town and harbour (the site of Greyjoy Harbour in Game of Thrones) but also, the surrounding countryside where we were house sitting. The area has a wonderful history that date back to Neolithic times and includes evidence of an active Druid culture. There are stone altars and remains of stone circles.
There is so much to see and experience, we couldn’t get it all in, so we are going to have to come back.
No trip to Bushmills is complete without a visit to the Bushmills Distillery. We were introduced to Bushmills whiskey by another homeowner back in 2015.
The Bushmills Distillery is the oldest licensed Distillery in the world, having been granted that license in 1608 by King James 1. It has seen all sorts of success and set backs including a devastating fire, closure during WWII to house the army, and the effects of prohibition. And yet, it has persevered.
It is well worth the visit.
The town of Bushmills is quaint and has two butcher shops and a smattering of artisan/craft shops. The shops are all run by seasoned Bushmillers, so there is an abundance of friendliness and interest in the people who visit them.
AND it is the location of the best chips in the UK. The Cod’s Way is a must visit for their fish ‘n chips, but even just their chips. You won’t be disappointed. We did go back a couple of times!
Our foray down the North and East coast of Northern Ireland took us to Carrickfergus which is the location of.. Carrifergus Castle. It is the first thing you see when driving into the town from the north. It dominates the waterfront and it’s history is older than Dunluce Castle. This castle is quite intact, and sadly, the roof was being repaired so we were unable to go inside.
We found a fabulous mural on the high street that was actually 3D! You can’t tell until you are upclose to it, but it was a cool piece of art.
Grays Printing Press
In here lies the third bit of advice I have to share.
We decided to visit 19th Century working printing press. It is located behind an 18th Century shop on Main Street in Strabane, N. Ireland. That’s the easy part.
We plunked the address into google maps and set off. We had a lovely drive through the countryside and down some fun and interesting roadways – some only wide enough for our small car. Very interesting when confronted by farm machinery that dominates the landscape!
Well, google sent us to three wrong addresses, and we had to backtrack until finally, we found it! It is not well marked and is simply part of the Main Street shopping front. We parked, exhausted, and made our way over to the shop.
There is no signage on how to get to it, but it does have a coffeeshop attached to it, so in English tradition we stopped for tea. As you may know, tea is the answer to everything. The tea was lovely and they also offer home made meals. The soup was delightful and we sat there and regained our composure.
In the end, we never did find the press so headed back to the car only to find a parking ticket on it!! This leads me to the third bit of advice for driving in the UK:
- Always check the road for markings to ensure you aren’t parking in a loading zone, a disabled spot, or a solid yellow line. A £45 mistake.
All that aside, the drive was lovely and we went back a different way to see new sights.
So, we highly recommend you add Northern Ireland to your bucket list and spend at least two, or even three, weeks discovering it’s charm and beauty.