We took a last minute break and travelled north to the Causeway Coast in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. (NI)
The village of Portballintrae or Port-balance-your-tray as it’s been nicknamed as an aide-mémoire – is a sleepy little holiday village with a small sandy bay, a harbour and 50% second homes. It has also got what we think is one of the best small hotels in the world: The Bay View. The premier rooms all have big bay windows with a lounge for viewing … the bay!
The place is simple, unpretentious and offers spectacular value for money. We were lucky and found two days of sunshine in a summer of otherwise unrelenting gray and rain. When we arrived about four, we sat in the bay window, sighed a lot and watched the Oystercatchers and Redshanks following the tide up the beach.
That lounging area in the suite is supremely sigh-worthy and we drank tea, took in the views, sighed and smiled a great deal and felt a year of care drop off us.
We watched the wet-suited youth throwing themselves squealing into the harbour. The boys were trying to outdo each other with athletic excess to impress girls who were much too cool to notice. Cool in attitude and body. The water looked very cold.
Later we took a stroll round the harbour and into the next bay Bushfoot where the Bush river enters the sea. (The water from this river is used in what is reputed to be the oldest whiskey distillery in the world: Old Bush Mills). The river was pregnant with dark brown torrent water off the peat-moors so the surfers looked like they were riding creamy crests of Guinness. Across the bay stands the Causeway Hotel and the entrance to the Giants Causeway. The columnar basalt formations that are such a tourist honey spot.
On the far shore stands the gothic looking Runkerry House, built by the Macnaughtons They were given most of North Antrim in times past. They gave the house back to the NI government in the 1930s. They used it up to the 1990s when they decided to sell it. £4 million changed hands and it went to a US based developer with big ideas for a golf centre. One thing NI doesn’t lack is golf facilities so that didn’t happen. Now the place is being sold off piecemeal as apartments.
As we came back, B captured a stunning sunset over the harbour. We sat in our room, sipped a Black Bushmills whiskey and watched the sun sizzle into the sea in the west. Refreshed and delighted we retired glad we made the impulsive trip north.
Next day, after a hearty breakfast and a reading of the world’s oldest newspaper in continuous print – The Belfast Newsletter (first published in 1731), we drove round the coast to Whitepark Bay. A place of great significance to me but that story can wait for tomorrow.