Ten years before we had spent a week on the Antrim coast. Our aim was to spend my significant birthday on the Giant's Causeway, and so we did, but my notebook for the day itself says simply "The Giant's Causeway in 106 pictures (plus some I prepared earlier)" I have not yet worked through those 106 pictures, but I'm ready to post a selection of those I took the day before my birthday, when we drove west into the South. Irish geography being, as it is, a product of history and politics, the southernmost point of the island - Malin Head, of Shipping Forecast fame - is not in Northern Ireland but in the south, the Republic, and to get there we drove west from our base by the Causeway. But we stopped off on the way, at Downhill Demesne, which - but I won't rush straight to the highlight. Here's an appropriate entrance, to lure you through the cut:
We could have spent the whole day there. There were gardens to explore, then the path emerged from the sheltered gardens onto the windy Atlantic coast; there was a clifftop walk, and a ruined mansion. But what we had come to see was the classical temple perched high above the sea:
- perched even more precariously now than when it was built, as the coast erodes. Once, says Wikipedia, it was possible to drive a carriage around it. So perhaps it wqas not quite as impractical a library (its official purpose) as it now appears. The inscription around the dome is a quotation from Lucretius: Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis /e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem, which I think gives the game away: it may not be the perfect location for quiet study, but isn't it cosy to be snug here, and think how cold and wet other people are, outside?
It's pleasant, too, to imagine how the interior would look, with the dome plastered and the walls hidden behind bookshelves - but the damp, salt air can't have been good for the books?
Back on the coast road and heading for the ferry, through - and I'm struggling to read my handwriting here, but I'm pretty sure this is what it says - the military firing range and past the prison, when we came to the Martello tower at Magilligan Point, which guards the entrance to Lough Foyle:
I seem to have been more interested in the hedge of blackthorn, black twigs and white blossom, than in the tower itself.
The ferry was called Foyle Rambler. And then at last we were in the Republic, and it was lunchtime:
at Kealy's Seafood Bar: there was soup, the ideal preliminary for a visit to the island's northernmost headland:
The letters picked out in stones spell EIRE, a survival from the war - pronounced This is a neutral country, please do not drop your bombs here. The last thing I expected to hear, in this windswept spot, was a voice from the coffee van behind me (Caffe Banba) "Sure, is that normal coffee, or cappuccino or latte?"
We took the inland route home, round the Lough instead of across by ferry; this must have brought us to Derry/Londonderry or at least round the bypass, but I have no recollection of that - oh, unless that's where we visited a supermarket, feeling very smug that we had remembered to pack the last of our euros. My notes are excited about the number of houses we saw along the way, many of them the traditional - long, low, thatched - Irish cottage. Some, like this one, were beautifully maintained:
with fresh white paint, the thatch neatly pegged down. Many were derelict. There were some new houses built to the same design - there were, in fact, many new houses, many of them quite large and many for sale, some lived in, perhaps as holiday homes, others standing empty.
There were hills, too, which we crossed at the Gap of Mamore with its extensive views:
and its obviously popular shrines, which had more offerings than they could really accommodate:
We were clearly still in the Republic here. But not long after we were back at our cottage in Antrim.
This seems to haveexhausted my note-taking ability for the week. The next day, as I said, I wrote only "The Giant's Causeway in 106 pictures (plus some I prepared earlier)", and the following day, when we visited Rathlin Island, I wrote nothing at all. Maybe the photographs will reveal all, eventually. This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.