I rarely watch TV as it’s being broadcast, preferring instead to delve into the bottomless reaches of catch-up and YouTube. The iPlayer is one of the great wonders of the modern age. One recent Saturday night, I watched a series from BBC Alba about the North Coast 500, a road trail around the bit of Scotland furth of Inverness. It was cracking so I looked for similar programmes. One was Coast Lives, from BBC Northern Ireland, about the coastline of Northern Ireland. I’m watching one of them now where the presenter is rafting under the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. I’ve been to said rope bridge and quite honestly even though I have no measurable boating expertise I would prefer to raft under it than cross it again. Even on the beautiful, warm summer’s day I was there a few years ago, it was frightening with a definite sense of vertigo ensuing.
Coast Lives reminded me of a walk I took the day before. I was there on holiday with my dad about four years ago, just prior to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In fact we hit Glasgow as the Opening Ceremony was in progress. Anyway, that day we went to the Giant’s Causeway, getting the bus along the coast from Ballycastle where we were staying. It was cloudy but unbelievably warm. Indeed the following day the Giant’s Causeway was the warmest place in the British Isles, hitting the high twenties. We got to the Giant’s Causeway about 10am and sat there for a bit. It wasn’t too busy at that point of the day. It was beautiful, looking out to sea and marvelling at the rocks around me. A few years before, we had been to Staffa, off Mull, and the basalt formations are much the same. I don’t pretend to understand the geology. I just liked being there, watching the waves and contemplating life’s imponderables.
We ended up walking along the clifftop for much of the way back to Ballycastle, the cliffs darkening then lightening, the path hugging the cliffs then meeting a few interesting coves and harbours. We had been walking through the heat of the day and we eventually gave up and got a bus the rest of the way just short of the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in a place called Ballintoy.
Northern Ireland gets a lot of tourist attention, mainly now because of Game of Thrones. Or that boat built in Belfast and sunk by an iceberg not in Belfast. When I see programmes like Coast Lives, or the BBC Alba one about the North Coast 500, I want to book tickets and go. This year might be more likely to get up north so I’ll just need to settle for the telly and my memories of the place, by the Causeway and on the walk back, even if the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge still makes me nauseous just thinking about it.
Thanks for reading. The next post here will be on Sunday and it’s part of the new Loose Ends series, this time about Linlithgow Palace.