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.
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.
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 🙂