We never did get to meet 'Chinese John' but the story kept us amused for the rest of the trip !
Right, on with Day 3.
It was time to start at the very beginning of the Causeway Coastal Road, or the end depending on your point of view, and make for the A2 over near Londonderry. We drove the 41 miles north to Benone Beach and on the way we found out that, although we might not come upon normal traffic jams in Norn Iron, there were other ways to be brought to a complete stop.
They even left their mark on the side of the car ! Nothing permanent and a good spell of rain got rid of it.
Once we got to Benone, it was just like I'd seen on Google Street View and so we were able to drive right out onto an almost deserted beach. The weather was improving by the minute and just in time too.
It was weird seeing cars on a beach in this country but there they were, splashing through the water like metallic youngsters without a care in the world. I hope their owners think the same when the salt corrosion takes hold...or hits the fan, so to speak.
How about a caption competition ? What's going on here then ? Answers in the comments section please !
So we loved Benone Beach. It was vast, clean, pretty much empty and how often can you stand on a beach and look at a waterfall ??
Time to move on and we got back onto the A2 heading eastwards. Passing through Coleraine we came to the twin seaside towns of Portstewart and Portrush. These were towns I'd been taken to many times as a child as they were just a few miles from my home town, Ballymoney, and we'd walk along the promenades or on overcast days, we'd sit in the car, have ice creams and people watch.
First up was Portstewart which didn't have much of a beach along the front but it did have Morelli's, probably the most famous ice cream shop in the whole of the country. It was celebrating being in business for 100 years and these days it sells full meals and not just ice cream. But the speciality cold goodies sure looked tempting.
After lunch there, we headed around yet another sweeping bay on the A2 to Portrush and went past the golf club that would become world famous a few days later when local man Darren Clarke would win the British Open. Good lad.
We drove down to sea level to go onto White Rocks Beach, yet another blue flag beach along the Causeway Coast.
This next photo was taken out the windscreen of the car and I think it is a good example of what you see along just about every mile of the Causeway Coast.
Before we reached our next destination, we pulled off at one of the many excellent scenic overlooks for a few minutes and it was a case of stunning views everywhere and just to prove I was there, I'm including a scary one of me too. It's not so much that my left boob is sagging but that my cell phone was in the pocket of the polo shirt. Oh and that other ruin, the one in the 2nd photo, is Dunluce Castle.
A few miles further on, we came to the road down to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, one of the top tourist draws in Norn Iron. Actually when I say the road down to it, I really mean the road to the car park near it, as once you park up and take the very short walk to the National Trust ticket booth, you still have a 1km walk to the rope bridge.....and although it's very scenic, it's not a gentle walk either.
Over the last 350 years, there has been a rope bridge in some form or other between the mainland and the small island of Carrick, a span of 20 metres and a height of 30 metres above the swirling waters and jagged rocks below. This bridge would allow local fishermen to cross over to the rich salmon waters where, in the 60's, they could catch 300 salmon a day. Back in the day, the bridge was just a rickety wooden affair with a single rope handrail but as more and more tourists came to make the crossing and the salmon left the area, newer and more sturdy bridges were constructed. No one has ever fallen from any of these bridges and with Health & Safety in charge now, you'd have to be pretty agile to get over the supports to even jump off the current bridge.
Great kudos must go to Stephen as he is afraid of heights and not only made the crossing, but made the trip back. Not everyone who arrives at the bridge does that and some have even had to be 'rescued' by boat from the island when the return trip was just a crossing too far....and too high.
Back up on the road, our tired bodies needed a rest and just 1 mile along the A2 from Carrick-a-Rede we came to the beautiful little harbour of Ballintoy. It was only 7pm so much too early for sunset which would've been a wonderful sight there but we still took the opportunity to park up and stroll along the harbour walls and relax in the picture postcard views all around us.
It was time to return to our base in Magherafelt after a wonderful day of touring but if you remember a few posts ago I mentioned that Sheila, our trusty (mostly) GPS, would take us along narrow rural roads in an effort to get us to our destinations by the shortest route. Thus it was that we suddenly came upon a little known and even less frequented road that contained The Dark Hedges. I'd seen photos of this stretch of road in a tourist book I'd picked up in Benone and despite it being close to my home town of Ballymoney, I'd never even heard of it. And the book hadn't said exactly where it was.
So imagine my surprise and utter delight when we literally turned a corner and there before us stretched the amazing row of old beech trees forming an arboreal archway for several hundred metres. Now trees forming an archway are not rare but these trees were almost leafless and with their grey colouring, created a very spooky archway indeed. I only had time to take a photo out through the windscreen so I've not captured the real Dark Hedges but I'm sure an hour or so later, after sunset, the eerie scene would've been much more impressive.
In order to recreate this view, I've altered the photo to black and white. Not great but I think you can imagine how it would be walking along this part of the road at midnight ! Rather you than me.