Cycling Day 16: The Ballypatrick Forest To Portrush

There were points today when I was ready to jump on a train and head home (albeit on a train to Belfast, a ferry and either more trains or a long ride over several days… the points on this trip when abandonment would have been a simple affair are long gone). The first was upon waking and realising that dampness had become a feature of almost everything around me. The view may have been pretty but my mood wasn’t:

Arriving as I had at the campsite last night with no time or inclination to do anything apart from erect the tent and crawl into my sleeping bag, I knew little of the campsite. Wash block? Café? Drying machine? Only on the first was there a successful outcome so I dismantled the wet tent and, after lingering around the reception area for someone to arrive so I could pay them (I was tempted just to cycle off…), eventually chatted to the woman who ran the café (which didn’t open until later) and paid her. “How much was it?” she asked. I had been told that it would be £20 but for what I had done at the campsite – erect tent, sleep, dismantle tent, shower – that did seem excessive so I told her I didn’t know. She passed me the price list. I could have said anything but seized upon the stated fee for a small tent: £15 and paid that before scarpering quick. (I admit it is probably difficult to scarper slowly but…)

Within 30 minutes I was in pretty Ballycastle tucking into a fried breakfast and chatting to a chap from Dublin who had just been swimming in the sea and was wearing a cloak the likes of which I hadn’t seen since I last saw a photograph of Gary Numan. We chatted about lockdown (and now have a few concerns about travelling to the Irish Republic) and my travels. I told him about visiting Titanic Belfast yesterday and in turn he told me of his own conspiracy that (brace yourself…) “it was an insurance job”. Basically the Titanic’s sister ship, the Olympic which was built two or three years before the Titanic had been returned to Belfast for major repairs following an incident with a British warship in the Channel. (Bear with me…) The insurers refused to pay out. So in Belfast (according to the conspiracy), the ships were swapped. The Titanic – weakened from its days as The Olympic and the warship incident – was sent across the Atlantic in the expectation of it sinking. As it did. Cue new insurance claim. Bingo! I told him it might make a good movie. My mood had lifted and I set off once again along the route 93:

I wasn’t sure if I’d get any further than Portrush. It would be a cycle of around 50km and take me via the Giant’s Causeway. A much more up-and-down cycle that yesterday’s predominantly flat one along the east coast. And the rain started shortly after leaving Ballycastle… It reached its nadir a few kilometres from the causeway. Rarely have I been rained upon like that whilst cycling. The result was I arrived somewhat drenched. Most of my time spent at the World Heritage site was dedicated to this:

…with only a modicum of success. Had someone seen me changing behind the (currently-closed) Causeway Hotel, I might be writing this from a prison cell and up on a charge of exposing myself in public. As it was, I was quick and my liberty remains intact. The whole rain-drying palaver was not just the low point of the day but the low point of the trip. My enthusiasm for inspecting the causeway in any kind of detail was somewhat subdued but I did drag myself and the bike along the accessible path to view this:

I couldn’t spot any hexagonal columns. Can you? At least there were lots of them in the car park. (Did you spot those?)

At least I had now returned to a state of being damp rather than sodden. Portrush would be next and, following the 93, only around 10km away. The first part of the route was following the ‘heritage’ railway track through a golf course and the rest on fairly minor back roads until I turned left and looked north along a long straight road to Portrush. Quite an impressive sight from a distance which didn’t diminish as the town approached.

I noted yesterday how nice the coastline of Antrim had been, certainly in comparison to other, rather shabby stretches of coastline in the rest of the UK. Well Portrush takes the whole ‘seaside resort’ thing to a new level; it still has all the gaudy entertainment that you would expect to see but it is such a pristine, well maintained town. More French than anything you see around the coast of Britain. In fact, I was reminded of Biarritz with its surfing and renovated seafront buildings.

And with not one but two crescent beaches, hectares of space in these socially-distanced times.

For the second time in the day, my mood had been resurrected by my arrival in a coastal town. That’s not something you often say when travelling around the UK.

I booked into a B&B run by a German couple who have just bought an antique VW camper van. It is in the very, very early stages of renovation:

Wanda is spending her evening in its company. I’m inside beside the tasteful and appropriate decor of the B&B:

Tomorrow? Who knows? I need to look into the Irish Republic travel issues. And the weather. That train back to Belfast is still not off the cards…

UPDATE: Having just returned on foot to the B&B there is something that Portrush seems to excel in which isn’t so good; the large number of boy racers speeding around the town in their slightly-dated saloon cars complete with rather ridiculous small-font number plates. A nice bicycle might be a bit more cool boys…

Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Travel

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3 replies »

  1. Loved reading of your exploits along the Antrim coast. I can only apologise for the boy racers..they are a breed of their own. Rest assured the rest of us are as confused as you are…no idea what they find so appealling about driving around the town creating air and noise pollution. I wish they would pedestrianise Portrush..that would solve a few problems.
    Happy cycling!

  2. I’m sure a chap who has cycled from Tarif to Nordcapp will not let a bit of rain (or Covid) end the trip?

    I’m enjoying the daily updates as well Andrewand it’s much more enjoyable reading about these challenges than actually experiencing them.

    Seriously though, there’s nothing worse than a wet tent. I hope it improves and look forward to following the journey. Good luck and stay safe.

  3. love that chair. glad you dried out. We saw the basalt columns – indeed had a photo taken on them. Also we have kayaked into Fingal’s cave on Staffa – the same geological line of basalt. it fascinates me

What do you think?