Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The End Is In Sight.

Twas the night before Christmas and all....wait. No it wasn't. It was the day before we left Norn Iron having had a wonderful touring week and anything good from now on would be a bonus as I'd nothing really planned.

Well actually I'd put in the GPS co-ordinates for a set of waterfalls at Gleno, near Larne but that wouldn't keep us busy all day. Over breakfast I checked out the guide books and decided that we should go straight to Carrickfergus, pay the castle a visit and then go to the waterfalls. That might be a good final fun day out.

And so it was that we headed towards Belfast and then veered north to Carrickfergus, a town much older than Belfast and with a stunning Norman castle dating from 1177. The view of it from the car park wall was pretty impressive, despite the overcast skies.

A short walk took us to the entrance and once inside, we came upon more cannons than I'd ever seen outside of the Vatican. First up though were a few items of siege weaponry including this wonderful machine for announcing your arrival with some authority. The drugs squad could learn a thing or two about breaking and entering from it.

Mind you, if you did break down the door, you might have been faced with these beauties for your troubles........

But even these weapons of destruction had nothing on their bigger brothers, used to ward off invaders from the sea.

These tracked RML monsters (Rifled Muzzle Loader) reminded me of the old movie "The Guns Of Navarone" and I'd never seen their like up close before. Very impressive.

But just as awesome as the guns, were the walls of the castle keep. This 90ft internal structure was like an inner fort in its own right and its stone walls were 9ft thick as can be seen in this photo of the main doorway.

I still think I'd have felt a bit safer behind those walls if it hadn't had a wooden door ! Still, there wasn't much option really and as it probably didn't come in a flat pack from IKEA, I'm sure it was pretty sturdy. The walls explain why the keep was used as an air raid shelter during World War II.

Inside the keep was a model of the castle as it was back in the day (oh come on, I HAD to get it in with a blog about a castle !!).

As we worked our way up the keep steps to the banqueting hall, we passed King John on the john which proved that even a King doesn't look very regal when on the throne.

He looks like he's waiting for a serf to arrive with some toilet paper but you know, serfing speed was pretty slow back in 1210.

Ahh ye olde jokes are the best !

The banqueting hall was pretty spectacular and it seems it can be hired for wedding receptions. What a hoot that would be. I'm not sure if the huge chess set was left over from such a reception or if the Normans were keen on a game or two while the enemy were trying to breech those 9ft walls below.

On the way back down, it was possible to get views out over the main castle walls to the sea beyond.

Back on terra firma, we had a look around the rest of the castle even though there was a wedding party on site and a bloody bagpiper was strangling his cat and disturbing the peace we had enjoyed inside the keep. Those walls were the best bagpipe insulators in the world.

With a final look around, we left the castle and went across the car park to a Brewers Fayre for a lovely lunch with views back across the marina to the castle.

Then we briefly rejoined the A2 before heading north on the B149 to the village of Gleno or Glenoe depending on which sign you looked at. Like I said at the start, I'd put the co-ordinates for the waterfalls car park into the GPS before leaving England and was I glad I had. These waterfalls must be a local secret as they are so hard to find. There are a couple of National Trust car park signs in the village but after that, you're on your own trying to find the entrance to the car park.

Even driving down along the B99 (cunningly named Waterfall Road to throw you off the scent) we could have easily missed the sharp turnoff as it wasn't signed. At the bottom was a small dead end area with no bay markings and initially, no obvious signs where to go next. We parked up and noticed an almost hidden pathway which after only a hundred yards or so, opened out to a picturesque wooden bridge leading across to the first waterfall.

The whole area was a photographers dream and everywhere you looked, the scenery was breathtaking. But the waterfall took most attention.......

Just like at Glenariff Forest Park earlier on our trip, a huge amount of effort had gone into building a fenced walkway to easily take visitors up the side of this waterfall to those above it. This walkway was much steeper and not as wide as Glenariff but it never presented a problem and the up side of the location being so hard to find was that we almost had the place to ourselves.

Back down at ground level, it was hard not to take more photos of the main waterfall and its surroundings. I'll settle for posting this final photo as it shows the stunning setting in front of the waterfall and gives a good impression of this wonderfully lush gladed location. If only I'd had my new camera then as a seamless panorama would've given more justice to the scene before me.

Back at the car we headed on to Larne and then the unanimous decision was made by Daphne to go on around the A2 coast road to Carnlough for one last look at THAT harbour. We enjoyed a last ice cream and set off for Magherafelt as my cousin's family were returning home from their holiday in the south of Ireland and we wanted to take them all out for a meal to thank them for letting us take over their house for a week.

They didn't want any fuss and so we went into town and brought home a Chinese takeaway for us all and that was very well received and saved them cooking a meal which was the whole idea.

Next morning, the trip home to Leeds was uneventful and so I'll end these Norn Iron trip posts at this point. We had a wonderful week thanks to the mostly lovely weather, the absolutely stunning scenery and the wonderful people we encountered, some for the first time. My eyes were really opened to the beauty of my home country and maybe with 'The Troubles' a thing of the past, more overseas visitors will discover this jewel in the Irish Sea.

But as a large part of the delight in touring there is the lack of traffic, hopefully, not too many !


Jay at The Depp Effect said...

'The serfing speed was pretty slow ...'! Hahahahaha! Yes, actually, it did make me laugh!

Sounds as if you had a great time. The castle looks amazing - even if they did have to go and spoil it all with toilet humour. Still, I expect it keeps the kids amused, huh?

Go on, admit it. You enjoyed it, didn't you? ;)

Silverback said...

Don't think it was MEANT to be toilet humour though. Just showing visitors How they 'did it' back then. However, I didn't check out the realism of the display too closely !

Daphne said...

Yes, I liked "serfing speed" too!
What a wonderful week it was - one of my favourite holidays ever. I thought I'd love Norn Iron and had high expectations - - but it was even better than I'd hoped. Thank you so much for all your planning and organising and everything else you did to make the week so fantastic (and for having such lovely relatives too!)

rhymeswithplague said...

Such a lovely trip you three had, and thanks to your photographic prowess and your writing skill, people thousands of miles away have shared it with you.

Shakespeare was wrong. There'll always be a Norn Iron!

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