The Dunlop Brothers
This report is fairly heavy with photos, as the scenery was soooooo beautiful!
After leaving the YHA hostel at Whitepark Bay somewhat later than normal, I wound my way slowly along the narrow coastal road drinking in the beauty as I went, heading for the Giants Causeway, which David had suggested the previous day that I should visit.
Along the way, I came across the ruins of Dunseverick Castle, which served an important purpose through many centuries past, safeguarding the coast of Ireland.
From there, it wasn't far along the coast to the Giant's Causeway, a National Heritage and World Heritage site of major significance. Having listened carefully to David the previous day, I rode into the neighbouring hotel carpark, rather than into the Visitor Centre carpark, thus avoiding the expensive parking fees! I checked out the sign boards, but declined to make the 3km walk - each way - down to the Causeway in my bike boots! These boots AIN 'T made for walkin' that far, believe me! So a photo of the winding path down the hill will have to suffice, I'm afraid. I may go back another day, wearing more appropriate footwear, and check it out more fully.
And now we get to the part that may interest some of the guys!! <G>
I made a bit of a detour inland, and rode into the township of Ballymoney, the birthplace of Joey and Robert Dunlop, the brothers who claimed so many motorcycle racing titles over the years before their tragic deaths, Joey in 2000 during a race in Estonia, and Robert in Coleraine (David's home town) in May 2008 during practice for the NorthWest 200, which his son, Michael, went on to win, dedicating the win to his father.
The NorthWest 200 had been held the weekend prior to my arrival, with approximately 150,000 descending on the towns of Coleraine and Portrush. I have now driven the whole course in the car, and have ridden most of it. Scary to think of the speeds at which the racers took some of the tight street corners!
The photos are self-explanatory.
I did ride down the street to Joey's Bar, below but it was a bit too early in the day, I imagine, as it was closed.
It was time to start heading back to the northeast, as I had to catch the ferry from Larne to Scotland. I took some remote back roads across the moors. Stunning scenery - swathes of heather dotted with small white flowers of some kind, interspersed with stands of deep green conifers or spruce.
Below: heather growing rampant over the moors
Tootling along, having a wonderful, peaceful ride in the absolute quiet of no traffic and little wind, I rounded a corner and spotted something I'd been wondering about for a couple of days as I rode across the north of the island. Long rows of tubes in groupings of 6 rows and occasionally stacked in small pyramids, or stooks. I'dpreviously guessed at peat and I wasn't wrong, although it is known as turf in this part of the country.
Meet Emerson, a man of the earth, tending his patch of turf. I stopped and walked over for a chat, interrupting him in his job of turning the rolls of turf to enable eveness when drying in the sun. He was quite willing to discuss the subject of turf with me, after correcting me when I initially called it peat.
He leases the small plot of land from the Ministry of Agriculture for £50 per annum, and is entitled to cut as much turf as he wishes from it. I queried the neatness and exactness of all the rows, and he told me that this cutting was done by a machine, at a cost of £1.00 per minute. His current "crop" took 50 minutes to harvest. This crop is sufficient to last for 7-8 months, but he already has a store at home of several years' worth, now totally dried, which will be used first.
In the photo below, Emerson is standing beside wire barrels holding logs which are failures - they had too much rain during the drying process, and just didn't cure as they should, thus becoming useless. He is holding one of the failed tubes. At another barrel, most were still OK for some reason, and I held one - it was so light, almost fragile.
The turf burns slowly, and gives off a never forgotten earthy scent. I just hope I get to smell it burning before I finally leave Ireland for good.
I asked about the small white flowers I could see. Emerson walked over and picked one including the stem. He explained this is Bent grass (often used in lawn seed mixes in Oz) and the shaggy sheep bite it off at ground level and eat the succulent stem, leaving the "flower". The flower is known as "Bog Cotton", and is totally impervious to fire. It has a strange texture, soft yet harsh and strong, if you can understand that.
We discussed the agricultral environment in the area at some length, including the moors bordering his plot, which are now National Parks, and the wildlife is fully protected. He pointed out hills in the distance, over the dale and above the valley when he lives. He spoke of the current landowner of the hills, who has declined to offer his land to the turfers, although the hillsides are scarred by cut lines from years past.
Emerson has been cutting turf from his plot for 32 years now, and intends to keep going as long as he can. What a wonderful healthy and beneficial exercise out in the often brisk, cruel wind. No wonder his cheeks are rosy!
I left him, carefully tending his crop. Below, glorious trees bordering the road beside his plot.
I rode on, very slowly, thinking of all that Emerson had told me, savouring the magnificent beauty of these moors and dales, scanning far down steep hillsides to the tumbling little rock-filled creeks far below. The road was very narrow, and quite tricky in places, and thankfully there was no traffic to cause difficulties when passing. It was good to go so slowly, only 20-30kph in a lot of places, due to the nature of the terrain, and the ever-present shaggy sheep wandering all over the road . But all good things must end, and I was all too soon back on the major roads, heading for Ballycastle, up on the north-eastern tip of the island
Below: Looking east from Ballycastle.
Below 2: And looking west towards Ballycastle
And then I came to yet another headland, with gorgeous surrounding scenery. Below, 3 photos
I'm still not quite sure as to why I was directed to this site!! But I went there, anyway - below 4 photos
I'd had my fill of Ireland's beauty for this visit, and it was back to Larne, to catch the ferry across to Scotland, at Cairnryan. It was the bigger ship this time, not a catamaran. Below is the view from the front (bow) lounge onto the docks at Larne before we left. I spent the trip chatting to a biker guy from Scotland, but I'm sorry to say, I didn't even get his name!! But he rode a Yamaha TDM.
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