The most beautiful county in Ireland

Published: August 6th 2008
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Toady our plan was to see as much of the south Antrim coastline as possible before we head north towards the Giants Causeway and Derry tomorrow.

Last night was the first time we stayed in a hostel and shared a room with 10 others. Of course this is all practice for our world trip and it was a mixed bag. Its hard to concentrate on sleeping with people coming and going out of the room but I’m sure with practice we’ll get used to it. When I say we, I really mean me, cause Michelle had no problems sleeping at all!! Surprise surprise! When this morning came our inhibitions of sharing disappeared and we headed for the kitchen and set ourselves up for the day. Plenty of cereal and toast and a pile of corned beef sandwiches were made for the day ahead .

Unfortunately it was still misty/cloudy/foggy (we were unsure which one it was) outside, but as we said in our earlier blog this was not going to stop us. A quick look on the net and Carnafunnock country park was our first destination . Its was a 45 minute journey south of Cushendall, which took us along the rugged Antrim coastline. This drive was incredibly scenic and one can only imagine what its like on a clear day. The road twists and turns going through narrow 5 metre long tunnels, bypassing hidden caves, beautiful beaches and idyllic towns. Some towns still identify themselves as protestant or catholic by displaying either the union jack or the tri-colour, but never both together! Even though the troubles are over, I’m sure this can be intimidating for both British and Irish travellers to the north. Me personally I wouldn’t stop in a town displaying union jacks because I would feel uncomfortable and I’m sure people from across the water would feel uncomfortable in a town full of tri-colours. I know in my heart that I would be in no danger but it still feels uneasy. To tourists from places other than the British and Irish isles this would mean little and I’m sure adds to the character of the town for them, but as someone from the south I disagree with it and that’s on both sides. Also everyone here is very friendly and we’ve had nothing but smiles. Its time people from the south started to come here on holidays to see the beautiful counties that they were perhaps afraid of coming to before. I would assume (and I am just assuming) that a good 60% if not more, of people from the republic have never been to the north or a least spent more than 3 or 4 days up here. it’s a shame really cause Antrim alone is really worth it and probably the nicest county I’ve been too. I’ve just realised that the previous few lines are a bit too serious, so I’ll stop now.

We arrived at the park at about 10:30. We walked through the different gardens but the mist was getting irritating. Firstly I couldn’t take any photos and secondly it was to wet for no jacket and too warm for one. Soon we found a maze in the shape of the north of Ireland and typically we couldn’t find our way in never mind get lost inside. Soon we found the entrance and wandered through it. After a few minutes we made our way to the centre. After we walked around the park and happened upon a crazy golf course. Knowing Michelle is very competitive I challenged her to a game. Hole 17 was closed due to it been water logged and this was to prove crucial. Michelle took an early lead to go 2-0 up after two holes but I soon pulled her back in and went 4-2 ahead after 6 holes. From here on it was neck and neck with Michelle beating me on the 16th to go level with one hole to play. I teed off first and hit a wonderful shot leaving me 2ft from the hole. Of course Michelle went one better leaving herself 1ft from the hole. Both of us knocked the balls in the end the game level. The jackpot for winning the Carnafunnock Park Open was to be shared this year! Back to the car and a few corned beef sandwiches later we were back on the road. Running low on petrol I pulled in to a station saying “no petrol stations for 20 miles”. Of course it would be my luck that all the unleaded pumps were locked and there wasn’t a drop to be had. We were now a bit concerned whether we would make it or not (well I was anyway, guess what Michelle was doing…. You guessed it!! ……..SLEEPING!!!!). Soon the light appeared on the dashboard declaring that my petrol was low/very low. Village after village they’re was no petrol and soon the light was flashing. The road I was on then took me up a mountain with a very steep incline. In front of me was a rental car of elders obviously unconcerned with my predicament! Michelle was then rudely awoken to the sound of me asking a truck driver stopped on the other side of the road where the nearest petrol station was. My heart dropped when he said 20 miles. I thought how am I going to get myself out of this one. A quick prayer and a bit of F-ing and blinding I was soon behind the the rental car again which was going 50kmph. Suddenly a lay-by appeared in the distance and I prayed they would pull into it. At this stage they had a trail of traffic behind them and maybe they saw sense or my prayers worked but they did pull in. Again I was on my way unsure whether driving at 90kmph was wasting more petrol than going slower. As we were going down hill at this stage I thought if the car did cut out it might bring me a bit further than if I was going 50kmph. Luckily we saw a sign that said Ballycastle was only 9 miles away and not the 20 the truck driver had suggested. Still praying we finally made it and even the £1.19 per litre price didn’t put me off filling the tank.
Drama over we decided to head back the way to Glenariff Forest park. Here we parked at Laragh Lodge where its free and you have great access to the park and waterfall’s. Immediately we were hit with the beauty of this place. After a few photographs at the first waterfall we found a map highlighting different trails around the park. The forest takes up 3000 acres and has 4 different trails that we could see. The smallest being 1km to the biggest at 8km. We chose the one that was 3km. This trail brought us along the river and up hill. This is perhaps the nicest place I have seen in Ireland so far. Waterfalls gushed from all angles ranging from 1 metre to approximately 30 metres high. I could tell more but this is a place to be seen and not read about. Maybe some of the pictures I put will give an idea about the place. While we were there it was misty and it really added to the character of the place. We ate afterwards in the lodge where a steak sandwich was perfect after all the walking in the forest.

Back to our hostel, we were starting to feel more comfortable. We got back, had tea in the common room while people were coming and going. Three Hungarians (one man and two women) are staying here too. I think I shushed them last night when they wouldn’t stop talking in the dorm. I know I heard other people doing it and then I woke up unsure if I did it or I dreamt it!!

This evening we went to Joe’s restaurant in Cushendall. Outside his pub is a huge hurley stick about 5ft tall. Hurling is really big in this neck of the woods and it shows everywhere. The food was again excellent with Michelle having salmon and I had chicken Maryland. For people staying in hostels we really are treating ourselves when it comes to eating!

Additional photos below
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23rd March 2010

ireland is the most beautiful place i have ever seen
27th April 2010

Wicklow Mountains National Park
According to most tourist reviews Wicklow Mountains National Park is finest park in Ireland. It consists of an extensive upland area of Ireland and one of the country's most beautiful regions.
3rd August 2010

I'm so pleased yo loved it here, it is where I am from and I'm very proud of it, its yet to get the same volume of tourists as the South but perhaps that adds to the charm

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