Comber, Island Hill and Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, Northern Ireland

So, after leaving Bushmills we headed south back Belfast way to Dundonald Touring Caravan Park. Situated 8 miles from the city centre, it was £24 per night for a fully serviced and spacious pitch which we had been able to pre-select online before our visit. What’s more the site was perfectly located for us, adjacent to the Comber Greenway 7-mile traffic-free old railway cycle path running from Comber to Belfast. The length of the route provides views of Stormont, Scrabo Tower, the Harland & Wolff cranes (Samson & Goliath), Belfast Hills, and the CS Lewis statue at the Holywood Arches.

We took this cycle path to explore the town of Comber, the birthplace of Thomas Andrews junior, a Shipbuilder and head designer of RMS Titanic who sadly perished on its maiden voyage. We hadn’t realised the deep connection the town had with Titanic which educated us a little more before our visit to the Titanic Museum the next day.

Venturing on a little further through the town brought us out at the shores of Strangford Lough and Island Hill nature reserve, which offers a circular walk of 1.5 miles around the island. Note, though, that this little island is only accessible at low tide. It was very peaceful here, just the sound of the birds, and we only passed the odd dog walker or two. Blissful 🙂.

While in Comber we ate lunch at the Sugarcane cafe/bistro in the square and before returning home after our ride, we picked up some essentials for dinner back at Jolly that evening when we took time to relax.

Moving from Bushmills to Dundonald, Belfast, stopping to take in the coastal views at Magheracross viewpoint

It was an evening of stark contrast on the Saturday night in the cathedral quarter of Belfast city. Wow, what a place! This city knows how to party. It was absolutely buzzing and so vibrant. Most of the bars had great names too, not your usual Brown Cow, Black Bull, etc. We stuck in the cathedral quarter all evening and visited The Thirsty Goat, The Cloth Ear, Dirty Onion (which has a Yardbird chicken restaurant upstairs but we visited Bunsen instead), and the Spaniard bar. We only scratched the surface of the great selection of bars and eateries on offer and so we’d love to re-visit this quarter in the future. Also bobbing around the area all evening were mobile pedal bars with music, like the Wee Toast Tours which looked brilliant fun. Maybe next time we’ll give this a go.

When we turned in after a fab night out, we had a feeling that our intro to this amazing city had really set the tone for the rest of our exploration of Belfast’s rich history. We visited as many sites as we could fit in during our two full days there, which we’ll cover in our next posts.

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

It was mega-exciting to visit what is probably the most famous landmark of this area of Northern Ireland. We set off late morning and spent the rest of the day at this one – The Giant’s Causeway.

We decided to cycle the couple of miles there from site, along a pathway that runs beside the Giant’s Causeway & Bushmills Railway line. Many people park at the station in Bushmills and either ride the train or walk the path to the causeway. It’s a pleasant, flat route until reaching the causeway where we then locked our bikes up beside the Causeway Hotel.

Using our National Trust membership we gained free access to the causeway through the visitor centre experience. Alternatively, it is free to visit the causeway through the tunnel from the car park. It’s a beautifully scenic walk down, but there’s also a shuttle bus that regularly runs up and down for anyone unable to take the walk – I think it’s about £1 or so but free to national trust members.

As expected, the geological marvel of the giant’s causeway is a big draw for hordes of tourists. Last year there were apparently over 1 million visitors to these volcanic basalt columns … and it felt like that number were there on the day we went! We’d definitely recommend a very early morning visit if you want a little more space and peace to enjoy and consider the science and mythology of this amazing site. We found a quiet spot to sit and enjoy it, drink our flask of coffee, and take photos for a while before walking back up to the top. There are different trails and routes you can take to reach the causeway, taking in the sights of the amphitheatre, giant’s pipe organ and the shepherd’s steps.

By the time we left, it was quietening down considerably as most of the coach loads of tourists had left, and so we decided to have our evening meal at The Nook pub which is on the corner opposite the visitor centre. It’s a very welcoming listed building built in the 1850s and originally used a school house. It was spotless and the food was excellent so thankfully our experience didn’t reflect some of the less favourable reviews we’d read before visiting.

After our meal we headed back to site along the same route we’d taken in. By this time the cycle track was all but empty and the sun was beginning to set which created a tranquil end to our day. Once we’d returned to Jolly we relaxed for the rest of the evening, and planned our further adventures.

We took so many photos and a couple of short vids, so we’ve compiled this video which hopefully captures the day …

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

Dunluce Castle, Portrush, and Portballintrae, Northern Ireland

We visited these 3 locations on our first full day on the island during practically gale force winds. The weather for the most part of our whole Irish adventure though was generally cloudy but warm with plenty of sunshine in between passing rain showers. We just had this one day of strong winds, so we decided to use the Causeway Rambler bus service which picks up from a bus stop on the site and runs throughout summer until the end of September. The buses are roughly hourly both ways between Coleraine and Ballycastle.

We bought an all day rambler ticket on the bus (£9 each) and our first destination was to Portrush where we walked/were blown along the West Bay seafront before stopping at the Babushka Kitchen Cafe for a coffee. We just had a general wander around the seaside resort for a couple of hours as it was fair to say we probably weren’t seeing it at its best. Just a few weeks earlier, though, the town had been awash with golf fans from around the world as this year’s Open Championship was held at the Royal Portrush Golf Club.

After Portrush, we hopped back on the bus and off again at the medieval Dunluce Castle. This was a great visit. The wild weather really enhanced our experience of the rugged landscape and the quite extensive castle ruins which perch on the cliff edge. We spent a good while around this site, taking photos and exploring every nook and cranny, before finishing off with another coffee/tea at the Wee Cafe & Gift Shop which is next door and interestingly decorated with a mass of trinkets and gifts. More importantly though, the cakes here are absolutely delicious. It was a busy little place even on such a day. As we left to catch our next bus the staff were trying to re-attach the front door that had blown off its hinges 💨😮

After a great couple of hours exploring Dunluce and enjoying coffee & cake, we walked back a 100 yards or so to the bus stop on the main road. Being on the coastal road, the bus stop was very high and exposed but we managed to stay upright until we could jump back on the bus and off again at the old seaside fishing village of Portballintrae.

By the time we reached Portballintrae, just walking in the wind was a challenge along the front, and the rain had set in so we found ourselves a window seat in the Bay View Hotel bar which gave us a panoramic view of the village coastline, the crashing tide, and waves of rain showers which we watched coming in from the sea and crashing up against the hotel window. It was also quite entertaining watching other people being blown in through the door for shelter and a relaxing pint.

By the time we’d got back to Jolly by bus, we were ready to cabin up and snuggle down for the night. It had been a great day that had definitely blown any cobwebs away and we looked forward to visiting the Giant’s Causeway the next morning.

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

Bushmills, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

So, we arrived up at Ballyness Caravan Park just outside Bushmills by mid or late afternoon, we don’t know, we don’t care, because our day hadn’t been ruled by a clock 🙂. We were greeted with a warm welcome, directed to our fully serviced pitch, and were set up with the kettle on for a cup of tea in no time.

We thought a good way to round off our first day on the island would be to have some tea and a couple of drinks in the town of Bushmills itself before venturing further afield the next morning. So we hopped on our bikes to ride the mile or so into the centre to get there quicker as the weather was wet that evening. We visited Finn MacCool’s Public House on the Main Street – you can’t miss its bright yellow exterior. It was less vibrant inside but the landlord and others guests were friendly and it was a warm atmosphere and with some good chat. Definitely worth a stop for a pint or two. We also had one in the tiny Bush House pub before picking up a fish n chips supper to take back and eat on Jolly. There are 3 fish n chip shops in very close proximity along the Main Street so we went off a recommendation and visited the Flash in the Pan. We must say though that they weren’t that great and if there again we’d try one of the others (The Cod’s Way or The Hip Chip).

The main attraction of Bushmills town is undoubtedly the Old Bushmills Distillery just 5 minutes from the site. We made sure to pay this a visit during our stay. Neither of us are big whiskey drinkers, but we can both appreciate a sip of the good stuff and the history of the place, so we took one of their tours around the distillery.

Also during our stay here, we treated ourselves to a special meal at the Tartine restaurant at the Distillers Arms in town. It’s award-winning so doesn’t need any recommendation from us, but just for the record it was an absolutely Fab-U-Lous night in every way! We’d return in a flash.

There were so many more attractions we visited while based in Bushmills, which we’ll cover in the next posts …

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

Cairnryan to Belfast – StenaLine crossing


Stena Line crossing from Cairnryan to Belfast

Jolly’s Northern Ireland jaunt began with a leisurely 4 hour evening drive up to Cairnryan, Stranraer in Scotland. We decided to kip overnight at the StenaLine terminal at a cost of £5 so that we had an easy, stress-free boarding for our early morning crossing over to Belfast the next day. We used the reception facilities, open between about 6am-10pm. It was quite a noisy night on the car park with comings and goings at the port but we slept fine.

We’d pre-booked StenaLine Flexi E-tickets at a total cost of £243.90 for return travel for Jolly and us. This option guaranteed 100% refund on cancellations up to 24 hours before departure and 50% refund on cancellations up to 2 hours before departure. We needed this flexibility in case the trip didn’t go ahead because of other responsibilities. Fortunately though, our holiday proceeded as planned 😀.

The duration of this route is approx. 2.5 hours and they run 8 crossings a day, we’d booked outgoing: 07:30 hrs Tues 3rd Sept & Return: 11:30 hrs Tues 10th Sept, and check-in closed 30 mins before departure. The early morning crossing was very quiet compared to our return, but both ways ran on time and were very smooth crossings.

On arrival at Belfast port, we travelled up to the village of Bushmills on the north coast of County Antrim, which derives its name from the River Bush flowing through it and a large water mill built there in the 17th Century. We’d originally planned to take the quickest route there and stop off for brunch at McLarnon’s Ramble Inn on the A26. Instead though, we grabbed the opportunity of seeing as much of the dramatic coastline as we could by driving up the Coast Rd/Causeway Road (A2) through Carrickfergus, Magheramorne, and Larne, with short stops at Ballygally and Glenarm. It was definitely the right decision, giving us an immediate taster of Northern Ireland’s rugged charm.

We pulled in a little further up the coast in the picturesque harbour village of Carnlough which is situated at the foot of Glencloy, and had brunch at the Harbour Lights Cafe. It was a cosy cafe, good food, and we were lucky enough to get window table overlooking the little harbour.

With full n happy tums we then headed on up to our destination of Bushmills, knowing that the surrounding area has a helluva lot to offer the tourist. We couldn’t wait to experience it!

Here’s a short vid of this first part of our Jolly adventure 🙂

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri

A Bank Holiday at Meathop Fell, Cumbria

So, we were all fired up ready for another weekend away when we noticed that the fridge light wasn’t coming on. It was one of the hottest days of the year too! Jolly had recently been into Marquis for some work on the fridge so we (rightly as it turned out) assumed that something was amiss with their finishing off of the job. To cut a long story short, we took in a detour to call in at Marquis and get them to sort it out which they did after initially telling us that there was nobody in the service department who could look at it (tut, tut). Anyway, once sorted we were out on the road again …

Meathop Fell C&MC Site was the destination for our camping trip with friends. It was a pretty late booking for a bank holiday weekend but luckily Meathop had available pitches, and having all been there before at one time or another (see previous post), we agreed it’d be a lovely site to visit again.

What FANTASTIC weather we had too! Wow, so sunny and warm. The two of us spent time out cycling for a large part of one day because it was just such perfect weather that we had to get out into the countryside. We also spent lots of time together as a group sitting at our pitches and walking/cycling into Grange-over-Sands on the first evening. It’s a leisurely 2.8 miles into Grange from the site along a country road and then along the prom as you enter the town. We all sat out and had tea at The Commodore Inn on the first evening and thoroughly enjoyed the grub there 👍.

The following day part of the group drove into Kendal for the afternoon for a wander and to listen to a music event in the park. However, we opted to hop back on our bikes again and cycled part of NCN route 70 from the site entrance through to Town End, Witherslack, where we turned right at The Derby Arms (after a flyer!) and continued along a long, straight, quiet country road which runs parallel to the A590. The views on such a day were fab and the ride although a sweaty one 💦 made for a lovely afternoon.

We rode to the small village of Levens (one that we intend to re-visit to see Levens Hall Deer Park), past the The Gilpin Bridge Inn before reaching the absolutely delightful Hare & Hounds just a little further over a bridge and up a steep hill. We only went in for a loo break and a beer, however, our cycling had given us an appetite and it was clear to see that this place was a little bit special so Bri ordered Sunday roast pork & Suzie the pan fried seabass on saffron mash. Both were absolutely delicious! 😋.

We were then re-energised for our cycle back to camp which was just a reversal of the route we’d taken in and which we took at a leisurely pace, stopping to take in the views and breathe in the fresh air. Perfect.

On arrival back at camp later on, we met up with the rest of the gang again who’d also had a great day in Kendal listening to music in the sunshine with a couple of beers. We all enjoyed a cold meats, olives, pate, cheese, bread and salad supper together later and sat around sipping Pimms, chatting, laughing and listening to music in what was a cosy round-up to the weekend.

The next morning, after a cooked breakfast bap, we headed our own ways back home after what had been an excellent weekend.

Our next Jolly Jaunt is only a week away and is a 9-nighter. We have the house/cat-sitter sorted so roll on that one because it’s been a long wait for us and it really can’t come soon enough.

ONWARD!>>>> 🚐

Suzie & Bri

Haverigg, near Millom, Cumbria

Just back from a cheeky weekend Jolly jaunt to Haverigg, a quiet coastal village just outside Millom in Cumbria.

We stayed at Harbour Lights Campsite which is a very short walk from the picturesque and tranquil Haverigg Beach. We were lucky enough to be able to enjoy some time on this beautiful beach with the sun shining down and not another soul around us – it’s pretty rare to find that kind of privacy in such locations these days! We saw house martins landing on the wet sand to collect materials for their nests. They are so quick that the photos aren’t great but capture some of the action of these little beauties.

Just further on from Haverigg Beach (opposite the Inshore Rescue Team Building) is a 7-tonne sculpture looking out to sea. It’s by the famous sculptress Josefina de Vasconcellos, called ‘Escape to Light’, and dedicated to all UK inshore rescue teams.

Haverigg village is quiet and we found a little pub for a swifty during our exploration of the area – The Harbour Hotel. It seemed to be the hub of the community and there was a very friendly cat that lives there and which joined us for our pint by sprawling over the table. He/she really enjoyed a tummy tickle (well, don’t we all?).

We enjoyed a day out cycling from the site around the beach area, and out around the coastal lagoon which is the site of a former iron mine, and is now a nature reserve and the site of RSPB Hodbarrow.

It’s breeding season and as you can probably imagine, the whole site was alive with the chatter of birds and sight of parents carrying food back to the nests for their young. We sat in a hide and watched/listened for a while, taking photographs. We recorded a little vid …

We later cycled into Millom for a wander around and saw the statue that stands in the square of ‘the scutcher’ (the man whose job it was to stop the iron ore tubs with an iron bar) placed there in commemoration of the town’s iron industry history.

During our visit we ate at two places – Herdwicks, which is about a 10-minute walk from the site and The Clocktower Restaurant in Millom which we got a taxi to one evening. By far the best in our opinion was Herdwicks but you need to pre-book because they were full and turning people away, so it is obviously known to be good grub. The meal at the Clocktower was a little disappointing. There’s a lovely bar downstairs though so it’s well worth a visit for a drink, but we probably wouldn’t eat there again. Also, both taxi drivers recommended the Da Vinci Restorante so we’d probably give that a go next time.

All in all a very chilled out weekend with fantastic weather and beautiful scenery. Haverigg feels like our new little find, our special secret. Psst, *whisper* but we don’t mind sharing it with just you!

ONWARD!>>>> 🚐

Suzie & Bri

Kendal was calling! 🚐

We’ve just spent a lovely weekend at Kendal Caravan & Motorhome Club site on a long overdue Jolly jaunt.

First Jolly Jaunt of the year! 😎

It isn’t actually in Kendal, it’s approx. 4.5 miles outside the town in a blissfully beautiful location beside the River Kent, set on the site of the 19th century Sedgwick Gunpowder Mill and it’s a wildlife heaven. The spacious pitches lie within separate wooded areas which gives a very peaceful sense of privacy, and a fabulous dawn chorus.

The site was fully booked up and we happily pitched up on number 77 where we could enjoy some afternoon sunshine before heading out on our first evening for a meal at The Strickland Arms, just 0.7 miles from the site which serves very good pub grub. We had pre-booked our table due to its popularity as the nearest pub/eatery to the site. We left with full and happy tummies!

  • Oh and we only found out later from a nice couple on the pitch beside us that you can get 10% off meals at The Strickland as C&MC members but they don’t promote it so you have to say, so take your membership card! You’re welcome 😉.

The next day we headed out on our bikes, firstly up to Low Sizergh Barn, a working farm, farm trail, cafe, and farm shop (online shop too), and raw milk station.

We had a coffee outside there before heading on up to Sizergh Castle (next door to the Strickland Arms) where we used our National Trust membership to gain free entry to the gardens. We thought we’d leave the house tour for another time when the weather might not be so great, as we preferred to spend some leisurely time meandering through the stunning gardens in the sunshine.

Afterwards we cycled an undulating 4.5 miles into Kendal where we had a mosey around before fish n chips mid-afternoon and a pint at The Shakespeare pub before making our way back.

We took a steep uphill detour on the way home to drop into the The Punch Bowl at Barrows Green for a drink before returning to site. Not sure how far we cycled in and around the area throughout the day but we slept very well! 😴

Next morning we enjoyed a bit of breakfast on Jolly before packing up and heading home, all the more relaxed for our short break. We’re never happier than when out and about in our Jolls.

We highly recommend this site if you like peace and nature. It caters well for families too with a playground and riverside areas for picnics, and there are plenty of walks from the site around the area. Next time we plan to visit Levens Hall & Deer Park but there was only so much we could fit in this time.

Until next time …

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri 🚐

Coastal Hamlet of Ravenglass, Lake District, Cumbria

Well we’re fresh back from another weekend in the Lake District, Cumbria. This time we re-visited the peaceful coastal hamlet of Ravenglass. It has been one of our favourites to return to over the years. The journey up was smooth and the weather remained dry but very misty in places.

We stayed as usual at the Ravenglass Camping and Caravanning Club site. It’s a beautiful site with good size pitches and a friendly, cosy feel. When we arrived there was just a choice of 3 or 4 pitches left but we managed to choose ourselves a quiet corner pitch (No. 33). One thing we would say, however, was that it rained a lot during the nights. We’re seasoned motorhomers now and always bear tree overhang in mind when choosing pitches when rain is forecast. However, due to reduced choice we found ourselves beneath a torrent of heavy rain droplets from branches throughout both nights but it was particularly noisy on the second night. We needed a few catch up 💤 when we got home 😴.

Anyhoo … Ravenglass is beautiful with everything so easily accessible. Literally 5 minutes walk from the site is the estuary which gives the most beautiful sunsets. There are benches to relax on as you watch the sun setting from an orange hue to a deep red as it sets fully. Pretty stunning. This time of year the sun set around 4:30 pm and even with more cloud cover the colours were beautiful. Here’s an earlier post from our 2014 visit when we captured a really, fantastic sunset – Ravenglass sunsets

There’s an interesting Roman history to Ravenglass and not far from the campsite is one of the largest surviving 2nd Century Roman buildings in England. It’s a Roman bath house, known as Walls Castle’ which is cared for by English Heritage. We’ve cycled past this on previous visits and had a wander round around the structure. Check it out.

We arrived mid-afternoon and walked down to the estuary just as the sun was beginning to set. We had a drink in the pub along the front, The Inn at Ravenglass. 🍻

It’s a busy little drinking pub which doesn’t serve food at the moment but may do again in the future. The Landlady was welcoming and a good laugh. We sat by the log burner warming our tootsies up after standing out by the estuary.

Sunset

We ate on both nights at The Ratty Arms which never disappoints and we always pre-book just to be sure of a table.

The Ratty Arms is situated between the site and the estuary, alongside the Ravenglass & Eskdale Steam Railway line. You can’t visit Ravenglass and not ride ‘Ratty’s Railway’. If you do, what is wrong with you!? 🤪

We travelled the full route to Dalegarth Station in the small village of Boot. There are a couple of places to eat and drink there if you wish – The Boot Inn, Brook House Inn, and the Hardknott Bar & Cafe at The Woolpack Inn just a little further walk away. We didn’t eat in Boot but can vouch for a good pint in each establishment 😉👍.

On previous visits we have taken our push bikes on the train (you’ve to pre-book this beforehand) to Dalegarth and have cycled the Eskdale Trail back to Ravenglass. More details and pics of this along with other things to do around Ravenglass, including visiting Muncaster Castle, are included on our previous blog post. This time though with it being mid-winter we took the train both ways and just enjoyed a saunter around Boot for the afternoon. This included stopping a while to talk to a few gorrrrgeous Aberdeen Angus cows we passed grazing in a field.

We then caught the last train back to Ravenglass.

Well that’s been our last Jolly Jaunt of 2018. What a year we’ve had, so many adventures. We feel so lucky to be living our motorhoming dream. Hope you’ve enjoyed the posts too.

Bring on 2019! 🚐

ONWARD!>>>>

Suzie & Bri