Jessica found out that Rathlin Island, which is just off the coast of Ballycastle, was the hiding place of Robert the Bruce, the (brief) King of Scotland. This became one of the infamous side trips suggested by Jessica. She had to see Bruce's Cave where he saw the legendary spider. The ferry to Rathlin Island takes 50 minutes. We found a brochure at the B&B for a boat that made the trip in 15 minutes. Of course we decide on the 15 minute trip. I called to make a reservation and find out that the owner had died suddenly the week before. We found out later that he died of a heart attack, not a boating accident! We drive over to the harbor to catch the slow ferry only to find out that its last trip is completely booked. We walk down to the marina and see a sign posted for another fast ferry. I call the number at 11:30am and Dan tells me the next trip is at 1pm. We hang around the marina to wait on him and have a pleasant conversation with an Irish boat captain and his dog Sea Biscuit. Around noon, 4 more Americans (from New
York) show up and call Dan for the 1pm ferry. We all chat while we're waiting and at 1pm Dan shows up. By this time, several other people have congregated at the marina and we find out that we are all waiting for the same boat. The boat is rated for 12 passengers and 2 crew members...there are now 22 people waiting to get on the boat. He sends us and the New Yorkers down to the boat and we climb aboard and put on the life vests. He continues to send people down to the boat until there are no more life vests and it is standing room only. When questioned about this, he says he has carried up to 30 people at once (but he is only rated to carry 14). He offers to make a trip at 2pm for the latecomers but they complained until he agreed to put everyone on board. At this point, we decided we did not want to be on the evening news describing the American tourists who died tragically in a boating accident in Ireland, so we gave up our spot and decided to book the slow ferry for the next day.
County Antrim, Northern Ireland
View of White Park Bay from Dunseverick Castle with Rathlin Island in the distance.
While talking with the agent at the ferry office, we find out that Bruce's Cave is now under water except at very low tide, so it is totally inaccessible and you are not allowed down to the cave. Jessica was no longer interested in going to Rathlin Island if she could not visit the cave.
We decide to abandon the island trip and move on to the Giant's Causeway. We drive down the coastal road, enjoying the scenery until we reach the causeway. The place is packed, and the line of traffic to get into the car park is a quarter-mile long. We just couldn't catch a break today! We opt to visit the Bushmill's distillery down the road, and catch the causeway on our way back to Ballycastle. The tour of the distillery was quite interesting. Our tour guide was Francesco (Italian) in his pleather pants and square toed shoes. He was eager to point out the differences between Scottish whisky, bourbon and Irish whisky. When preparing Irish whisky, the malted barley is dried with hot air rather than over an open peat fire (which gives Scottish whisky the smoky flavor), and Irish whisky is distilled 3 times
while Scottish whisky is distilled twice and bourbon is distilled only once. The extra distillations remove more of the impurities. The distilled alcohol is diluted with distilled water from the River Bush and put into bourbon, sherry or port casks for maturation. Ok, so...at the end of the tour we were able to sample some of the various whisky they produce and I decide to take home a bottle of the 12 year single malt matured in a sherry cask (only available at the distillery), and I was able to have the label personalized with my name. I asked Pam if I could bring more home, but she only had room for the one bottle in the suitcase! On our way back to the Giant's Causeway, we stopped for a snack at an internet cafe, that did not have internet access yet! We still could not catch a break.
After eating a light snack of toasted bagel with cream cheese and ham (Steve and Jessica), ham and cheese melt on toast (Pam) and a pot of tea, we headed back to the causeway. Most of the crowds had cleared out so we were able to park close and catch
a bus down to the causeway. The bus stopped running 10 minutes after we arrived, so we had to hike back up to the car. The causeway is quite unique and the scenery is incredible. We left before sunset and drove along the coast, stopping to get photos of the coastline at White Park Bay with Rathlin Island in the background.
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