Thursday, August 11, 2011

DRIVING ALONG THE CAUSEWAY COASTAL ROUTE IN IRELAND

Ladder farms


Windswept cliffs and unspoilt beaches, sprinkled with atmospheric forts and castles, one of the most scenic
 drives that I have been on is the Causeway Coastal drive from   Belfast Lough to the Giant Causeway and the walled city of London Derry. There are a succession of sleepy, desolate fishing hamlets and spick and span towns- each with a unique history peppered with legends of giants, ghosts and fairies. This is the land of the ice gouged valleys or the nine glens of Antrim. The characteristic U shaped valleys have given rise to the ‘ladder farms’ that we see- vertical stripes of holdings running down the slopes to the valley which give each farm an equal share of lowland pasture, hill ground and mountain grazing.


Carnlough Harbour The picturesque village of Carnlough and its harbour dotted with red and green boats has a piece of history: The Londonderry Arms Hotel, an old coaching inn
here was once owned by Sir Winston Churchill himself.



Cushendall with its giant mural of hurling Cushendall is a town with Georgian buildings, where three glens or valleys come together in a sheltered bay. A bright mural of the local sport, hurling, one of the fastest ball games in the world, greets us here.The dramatic, mysterious Lougharema or the Vanishing Lake which is a mud encrusted valley on a dry day and becomes a lake teeming with fish when it rains. When the lake dries the fish hide in the limestone caverns below the limestone. And of course there’s an Irish yarn! Locals say that it’s haunted by the ghost of Colonel Mc Neil and his horses who drowned here in 1888 when the water levels rose abruptly!



Dunluce Castle There is the atmospheric skeletal remains of the 17th century Dunluce castle which tethers dramatically on a rocky promontory above the jagged coast. This was the stomping ground of early Vikings and Christians. Ships from the Spanish Armada once floundered off the coast here.

 


Bushmills Town famous for its Scotch distillery which has been making whiskey from 1600s making it the oldest licensed distillery in the world. People on the banks of the St Columb’s Rill River have been making whiskey- uisce beatha or the water of life for more than 400 years. . Stay in the atmospheric Bushmills Inn, a re-created coaching inn with individual white washed rooms named after Irish whiskeys.

A spectacular sandy beach like the arc of the moon spreads out like a Japanese fan -it’s the White park bay with ancient dunes and rare orchids.The climax of the route is at the UNESCO site The Giant’s causeway- a surreal, bizarre scene out of an alien planet-geometric, perfectly symmetric honeycomb of gargantuan basalt columns arranged like stepping stones. The result of a volcanic explosion or as the legend goes the result of the fight between two giants? Driving on the Causeway Coastal Route is definitely one of the things to do before you die!

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