Category Archives: Northern Ireland

Weekend in Newtownards

I visited Christine, a friend I’ve met off the internet, up in her home town of Newtownards on the weekend of May 5 and 6.  The weather was fantastic and we managed to get out and about and see quite a lot of the country side.

Unless you are completely blind the first thing you notice when driving into Newtownards is the Scrabo tower located on a nearby hill.  It was built in 1857 as a memorial to the Third Marquis of Londonderry.  There are 122 steps inside which take you up the tower on the right hand side and up to the  viewing area.  From the top you can see Belfast in one direction and out over the sea to Scotland in the other.

A family used to live in the tower and make cups of tea for vistors.  Now it is filled with educational material about the tower and the surrounding area which is now a park.  There is even a life size model of a dinosaur that was believed to have lived in the area in the Triassic era.  They have only ever found a foot print of the beast.

Scarbo Tower

Scarbo Tower

The picture below is a panorama of almost 360 degrees, so it is quite wide!  The base of the tower is on the left, followed by Newtownards, the airport, Strangford,  Lough, farmland, a golf course, Belfast in the distance, more farmland and finally the tower again.

Please click on the image for the full size version.

Scrabo Tower Panorama

Scrabo Tower Panorama

The town of Bangor is a lovely sea side community.  The picture below is a panorama taken at the marina, from the Pickie Park (see below) side, looking back towards the town.

Again, please click on the image for the full size version.

Bangor Marina

Bangor Marina

The Pickie park is a small park with these swan boats for people to peddle around in, a model train ride and a paddling pool and sand pit.  Great for the little ones and those that don’t want to grow up :-).  No I did not go in the the swan boats, swim or make a sand castle, but I did want to go on the train ride.  Just kidding!

Bangor Pickie Park

Bangor Pickie Park

Bangor Pickie Park Sand Pit

Bangor Pickie Park Sand Pit

The following day we headed off to the east of Newtownards with the aim of driving down the coast and getting the ferry across the Lough at Portaferry and Strangford.

Portaferry Ferry

Portaferry Ferry

Portaferry Ferry View

Portaferry Ferry View

I was amazed the the caravan parks along the side of the sea and that people would even want to spend anytime there at all!  They are everywhere and there is nothing to do there, it’s just awfully boring!  Oh well, when you don’t know any better I suppose it is nice :-).

When we got to Portaferry we went to the Exploris aquarium, which had some displays of fish from the local area as well as some from other places.

Exploris Aquarium

Exploris Aquarium

On the way back to Newtownards we came across an Orange march!  You can’t really see, but they do have orange sashes.

Orange March

Orange March

In between Belfast and Newtownards lies the Northen Ireland Parliament.  Takes a while to walk all the way to the top!

Northern Ireland Parliament

Northern Ireland Parliament

Northern Ireland Parliament and Me

Northern Ireland Parliament and Me



Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede Bridge and Coast

On Sunday we headed off to see the Giant’s Causeway, a natural phenomena caused by a volcanic eruption.  The drive was quite pleasant with excellent roads and little traffic.  The weather was even better with clear blue skies, although it was still cool!  When I was at the coast I had a t-shirt, Canterbury top and a woolen jumper on!  This is summer after all :-).

Anyway this is a place well worth the visit!  I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

This first picture is the main view of the area that you seen when you’ve walked down the access road (there’s bus people who need it or for lazy people).  The causeway is the main outcrop of land in the middle of the picture.

Giant's Causeway View

Giant's Causeway View

This is the actual causeway.  Amazing seeing rocks formed like that naturally.  Better when you are there I guess :).

Giant's Causeway Rocks

Giant's Causeway Rocks

I had to put one of me here, just to let you know that I was really there and I am getting out and about.  These pages are not a figment of my imagination after all :).  As you can see the formations are quite big.

Me at Giant's Causeway

Me at Giant's Causeway

This is a panorama of five shots taken on top of the causeway.

Giant's Causeway Panorama

Giant's Causeway Panorama

I’m not sure how many people have photos of this with blue sky! :)

Anyway onward to the next attraction, the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge.

The bridge has been used by fisherman for over 250 years to get to the best places to catch migrating salmon.  The waters are often too rough to go out in a small boat so the island location was ideal.

A new version of the bridge was finished for the millennium, so I got to walk across on a rather studier version than the original and even that of a few years ago.  The original version only had one side rope.  The previous one was slightly better with one rope on each side, but with less rigging than the current one.  My sister was not impressed when I spoke to her today, as she thought that was half the fun when she did it.

Apparently some people still don’t think it’s that safe.  About four Spanish girls were coming across the bridge when Christine and I were returning.  One girl was given the camera to take pictures of the other girls as they crossed.  When they had all crossed they asked her to come across and being the camera.  She was too scared and one of them had to come back and get it!

This is the view of the bridge upon returning.

Carrick a Rede Bridge with People

Carrick a Rede Bridge with People

This is me walking back across.  No it’s not a new hair style and I’m not wearing flares, it’s just blowing a gale!

Carrick a Rede Bridge with me Walking

Carrick a Rede Bridge with me Walking

This is the view from the top of the cliff that you have to walk along to get to the bridge.  The main island is called Sheep Island. which apparently fattens 9, feeds 10 and starves 11 according to local lore :).  The cliffs were quarried for limestone with some facilities in the area only abandoned in the 1970’s.  The small island in the middle of the picture has some construction on it where winding gear was located to send the stone out from shore to waiting boats.

Larrybane Sheep Island

Larrybane Sheep Island

After that we headed down the coast on a scenic route, which is Irish for a road fit for donkeys, but with nice views. :-)  Well the road itself was actually quite good except for the width.  When someone was coming in the other direction it was necessary for both parties to come almost to a halt, avoiding scraping each other or the walls on the sides of the roads.

Coast

Coast

Back onto normal roads on the way home, with the weather getting cloudy we came across this tractor merrily travelling along at around 40 km/h if that.  This is where I get frustrated, as many Irish cars do not have the grunt to overtake such obstacles without a runway strip to perform the manoeuvre.  I passed three or four cars at once on a couple of occasions in similar situations.

Traffic Jam

Traffic Jam

Christine fed me before I headed back to Dublin that night, where I arrived home at 11 p.m. It took about 2 hours and 20 minutes to get back from Newtownards, which is not a bad effort.

It was a great weekend and Christine did a great job showing me around yet again. She can even read maps and navigate really well! :-)



Belfast Zoo

I headed up to Newtownards again on Friday, June 8 to see Christine, who I met off the internet.  We decided to do some more site seeing and wanted to head off to have a look at the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge and other sites along the coast there.  Unfortunately the weather did not look too good in the morning so we decided to go to the Belfast Zoo instead.

The weather ended up improving throughout the day with a good drive along the coast possible in the afternoon.

The zoo was quite good with a large variety of animals in good enclosures.  I’ve seen a lot worse!  It’s situated on a hill near the city centre.  You start your way at the bottom of the hill working your way up on the left hand side and then coming down on the right hand side.  It’s quite a climb, but you do not notice it with all the stopping and animals to see.

The picture below is taken from above the chimpanzee enclosure and looks out over the western area of Belfast.

Belfast View

Belfast View

My favourite animals were the penguins, as they have a viewing area so you can see the penguins swimming in the pool. They really are quite spectacular in the water, especially when compared with how awkward they are on the surface!

Penguin

Penguin

The sea lion enclosure also had a similar concept with people glued to the window, waiting for the next sea lion to appear.  It was interesting watching the sea lion from the surface too.  He would swim around the pool upside down for most of the time.  Before reaching the viewing area he rotated upright, surfaced, breathed, dived and then went upside down again.  It was like clock work, every time he went around, in the exact same place he would come up for air and dive again.

Sea lion

Sea lion

The apes are always good for a laugh as they are so human like.  Unfortunately being black and with glass seperating them from us taking photos of them proved to be very interesting.  Thank god for digital cameras, as I would have waster some film with my SLR if I didn’t see the problem with the digital shots first.

The zoo has quite a number of monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas, all in good enclosures.  I could watch them for hours, but there was more to see.

Maybe this picture reminds you of someone in your family :-).

Gorilla

Gorilla