Blogs from Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Europe


Derry is one of the best example of a walled city in Europe, and the only remaining city in Ireland with virtually complete walls surrounding the inner core. The walls were erected early in the 17th century as defenses against encroaching English and Scottish settlers. Like most places in Northern Ireland, they saw their share of trouble during "The Troubles". The walls were a good 12 feet wide and originally had only four entrances, all of which met at one central square. When the walls were first built, the river came up to the edge of one wall. Land has since been 'reclaimed' and the Guildhall, a waterfront, roads and parks are on the land that was once water. We looked out onto 'bogside' which was the Catholic part of town during the Troubles; the IRA ... read more
Derry Wall Gate

Today was a very full day: Carrickfergus Castle;Bushmills Distillery, Portrush, Giant's Causeway. Carrickfergus Castle: in the town of Carrickfergus: over 800 years old, sitting on the point so surrounded by water on three sides. In the 1100s, there was no ability to attack from water so thick walls and a thicker door with portcullises was the answer. Sounds good but the castle surrendered the three times it was actually attacked! Bushmills Distillery: only the water from the spring in town is used to make this whiskey. Nice tour and tasting (and gift shop) at the end. Bucketed down rain while we were in the packing area which had a metal roof but then let up as we were ready to move to the next building. Lunch in Portrush, a seaside resort which was packed despite the ... read more
King Billy
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Slit windows for arrows

Europe » United Kingdom » Northern Ireland » County Down » Belfast April 29th 2023

Since yesterday wasn't uplifting enough, we spent this morning at the Titanic Museum. Very well done museum, tracing the Titanic from inception, planning, building, furnishing, launching, sailing, sinking, and investigations. --There were no laundry facilities on board so all the linens that would be need for the trip were on board; --I guess you haven't used the bathroom till you've used a Royal Doulton urinal; --Rivets (3,000,000 of them) were driven by hand. Put the red-hot rivet through the hole, two men on one side hammering while another on the other side blocking so the metal would curl back on itself. This worked better if you have a left- and a right-handed man working together hammering; it was faster and they didn't get in each other's way. Returned to the city itself and went on a ... read more
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Europe » United Kingdom » Northern Ireland April 28th 2023

Started in earnest the next morning (Friday) with an illustrated talk on Conflict and Murals in Northern Ireland by Bill Rolston. Very good speaker. Helped clarify a number of terms and groups for most of us. Main point: Ireland was conquered and colonized beginning in 1152 with the Anglo Normans. They built castles in eastern Ireland (the Castles of Ireland series on Netflix did a good job of this); these castles were considered “the pale”. Everything outside (The Irish) were “beyond the pale”. End of 1600s, end of Elizabeth I’s reign, Ulster was the center of resistance to the English. This prompted me to ask our wonderful tour leader, James Monaghan, about ”Ulster”. I kept hearing the place name but it’s not a county of town. There were four provinces of Ireland; Ulster was one of ... read more
City Hall

Europe » United Kingdom » Northern Ireland » County Antrim September 30th 2022

30th September We docked in Belfast very early in the morning. The harbour glistening with all the lights. The luck of the Irish was definitely not on our side as regards weather today unfortunately. We had thought about visiting Giants Causeway but with the rain teaming down and the howling wind we decided against it. As we left the docks we saw two huge twin shipbuilding gantry cranes. The cranes were named after the Biblical figures Samson and Goliath. Constructed by the German engineering firm Krupp, with Goliath was completed in 1969 and Samson, in 1974. Goliath stands 315 ft tall, Samson is taller at 348 ft. At the time Harland & Wolff was one of the largest shipbuilders in the world. Leaving the city we took part of The Causeway Coastal Scenic Drive to Glenariff ... read more
Glenariff Forest Park
Glenariff Forest Park
Belfast city

Europe » United Kingdom » Northern Ireland » County Down » Banbridge August 14th 2022

Ireland the North 2. Banbridge Short day with the first 25 miles on cycleways following the coast and the river Lagan until we reached the south side of Lisburn. We had a moment when we encountered a fallen tree across the path and had to dismount and carry the bike over cyclocross style. After the great cycle path we met a small hill which seemed like a mountain after the earlier flat riding. Lorna’s gears were causing problems when we got to Hillsborough so a bit of fine tuning was required after coffee at the Owl and the Pussycat cafe. The rest of the route took us through dairy farmland and what looked like fairly prosperous farms with good farm buildings and modern machinery. The Banville Hotel was found just after lunch and a sandwich at ... read more
Surface algae and beech mast
Boat Club
The peloton

Europe » United Kingdom » Northern Ireland » County Antrim » Belfast August 13th 2022

Ireland the North 2. Belfast Short run today from Larne to Belfast. Cycled past the roundabout in Larne with a large golden crown as a centrepiece. A very sharp and not so short hill out of Glynn made us breath a bit heavily, and someone behind me sounding as if it was their very last breath ever. A bit of undulation in cow country lead us to a very welcome long descent to the A2 at ’Eden’ by the Kilroot power station. A brew was taken at the clock tower cafe in Carrickfergus before moving on to Belfast. Bill made a visit to the recently refurbished Norman Carrickfergus Castle which has been besieged by the Scots, English, Irish and French over the centuries. Belfast was approached using a very pleasant cycleway for several miles to the ... read more
Carrickfergus tank
Carrickfergus castle

Europe » United Kingdom » Northern Ireland » County Antrim » Larne August 12th 2022

Ireland the North. Larne Today was a wonderful run from Ballintoy to Larne starting in the mist and climbing into the sun above Ballycastle. The first big climb took us to Tor Head from where you can see Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre nearby. We were above the mist, which gave the scene a mystical air. The route was very tough with several severe climbs and descents all the way to Cushenden where a coffee and cake was required for further progress to be made without the legs making a transition to floppy rubber. Another hill with appropriate views before a descent to Cushendall and the Folly at the crossroads. After this and a small climb out of the town we were on a flattish route all the way to the port of Larne. Many ... read more

Ireland the North Day 12. Ballintoy Rest day today so only rode 25 miles. One of our group was less fortunate as he became unwell last night and spent today being looked after by the medics. The good news is that he is on the mend and in good spirits. Most of us did different things today but some went to the Dark Hedges near Ballymoney, which some of you may know is an avenue of 250 year old Beech trees. These trees form a canopy over the road and it is where some filming occurred for Game of Thrones and is now viewed by hordes of tourists. Our hotel has a replica throne in the entrance and an intricately carved door with scenes from the series. Ballycastle was another popular destination and two of us ... read more
Field sign
Ballycastle harbour

Ireland the North. Day12 Ballintoy What a wonderful spell of weather we are having. Blue skies and little wind. The coastline north from Portstewart is a Mecca for holiday makers with many attractions for children and golf courses for others. This Antrim coast around Coleraine and Bushmills is also home to the North West 200 motorcycle race held each May on public roads. It is a really amazing place with rocky outcrops, rolling waves crashing onto the headland and a mixture of basalt and white limestone rocks. The waves have eroded some outcrops and formed some tunnels through which the sea is dashing through. Dunluce Castle, whilst in ruins,is quite large and quite photogenic, whilst some others further north like Dunseverick, are in a more dilapidated state. Giants Causeway is quite spectacular, consisting of mostly hexagonal ... read more
Carnalbanagh House
Giants Causeway

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