Having woken up and found ourselves in a car park in Cushendall, we set off again in bright sunlight down a small suburban road recommended to us, off the official Causeway route. To our great pleasure it quickly became a winding rural road, snaking through rolling emerald-and-yellow patchwork hills punctuated by four-or-five-house proto-villages. Sometimes the road was perched on hillsides sliding down into the sea, meeting picturesque sweeping bays with white sandy beaches or dramatic-looking rocky cliffs.
Our first stop was Torr Head, a now-abandoned outpost used as a lookout during the war, squatting on top of a little bumpy headland with 360° views over the improbably-beautiful countryside and coastline and, as it happens, the distant hulking shape of Scotland, as this is the closest point between the two land-masses. Very, very beautiful, but we hadn’t seen anything yet.
Our next impromptu stop-in was near the end of a narrow and alarmingly steep little road that took us down towards Murlough Bay; a steep drop-off on the right hand side making Katherine somewhat skittish as she nearly hung over the edge. It quickly became apparent that it was a wrong turning, and luckily there was a suitably large area in which to turn around and crawl back up in first gear.
We found our way to Fairhead, after missing the turn-off and doubling back, down another one of those tiny-but-two-way roads we are getting to love so dearly. At the end, finding us amongst some farm houses, I nearly gave up and turned around, thinking we had made a wrong turn. Luckily, Katherine spotted a turn in the road which led to the well-disguised car park. We strapped on our hiking boots, read the sign about following the yellow dots, and strong winds and falling off cliffs, and started out. We made it about ten minutes without seeing a single marker, and decided we must’ve gone the wrong way. Sure enough, after our retreat I spotted the first well-hidden marker, the opposite direction to that indicated by the sign. Brilliant!
So, we stomped across grassy fields following a charmingly decrepit-looking rock wall, tip-toed politely by skittish cows, and hopped across patches of standing water hidden in reeds and across little streams. The fields become increasingly punctuated by lichen-covered rocks, with clumps of pretty purple flowers. Then, quite suddenly, we were standing, dumbfounded, on the edge of sheer rocky cliffs staring out over roaring, turbulent bright blue water at Scotland. The beauty of the place was breathtaking, and we stood in stunned silence for a good thirty seconds.
After some time spent enjoying the view, and back to Nettle, we passed by the celebrated Carrick-a-Rede and its rope bridge, which looked extremely tacky and touristy, and drove on towards the Giant’s Causeway, also highly touristy but one of those obligatory things.
Formed by very slowly cooling lava, the Causeway is an extraordinary collection of mostly hexagonal pillars. Extraordinary, but also crawling with tour groups, which to we spoilt and uppity travellers detracted from the sight:
So, we escaped the throngs and followed the path eastwards around the bay, climbing around a slope overlooking the water. I noticed some fluttering in the bushes and we were stopped short by the sight of tiny little baby skylarks, little squeaking nervous balls of fluff, who were obviously in the process of leaving the nest for the first time. A very anxious time for a mother skylark. So, not moving, we watched as they flopped around on and beside the path — a bad choice for a first flight, guys. One took flight straight towards us, and to our surprise, landed on my leg. Good move: Pick the vegetarian.
We got some good views of the rugged coastline, and some good leg exercise climbing the stairs to the top of the cliff. We’re continuously impressed by the array of wildflowers, in purple blue and yellow, that seem to grow everywhere. Spring must be amazing here.
So, what a day! We finished it up by finding ourselves a nearby CL site, which turned into a bit of an epic when Nigel our oft-foolish and increasing anthropomorphised GPS system in Katherine’s mobile phone led us to the wrong location a good fifteen or twenty minutes away from the site, and I found the directions from the CL owner entirely incomprehensible. This sort of thing apparently makes me crazy, I discovered unexpectedly, but I felt better when we got there eventually. This new lifestyle has led to some interesting self-discovery!
We settled in with some Irish pear cider and an episode of So You Think You Can Dance (the once guilty pleasure that I now find entirely defensible!), streamed over our mobile broadband.