When one travels, I don’t think there’s ever a point where one thinks, “I saw everything I wanted to see on this trip.” At least not with me. Or at least not with my American mentality. You see, the French have a different mentality when it comes to traveling. It’s not uncommon for them to vacation to one specific location and stay there for 2 to 3 weeks. I think that, with this amount of time, you can easily explore a location and see everything that the area has to offer. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I still am of the mentality to squeeze everything into a limited amount of time while traveling.
Case in point – the northern coast of Northern Ireland. This is an area of spectacular beauty and we could have easily spent a week driving along the coastal roads exploring the different towns and sights along the way. However, in true American fashion, we had an afternoon to do and see as much as we could. Because we did so much in one afternoon, it won’t fit in one blog post. So in this blog post, I will write about our first 2 stops: Carrick-a-Rede Bridge and the Old Bushmills Distillery.
The Carrick-a-Rede Bridge is a 66-ft (20m) rope bridge that connects across the Atlantic Ocean to a small island called Carrickarede (which means “rock of the casting” in Irish). The first rope bridge was constructed by salmon fishermen in 1755, but thankfully, it’s been reconstructed since then. Personally, I think the rope bridge was a bit expensive (at £7) and overrated – because of the high number of tourists, there’s a wait to go on the bridge. Then, once you’re on the bridge, you have people all around you (they allow 7 people max on the bridge) and a worker yelling at you to get off the bridge so that more people can get on. This makes the experience crossing the bridge itself rushed and a bit stressful. However, the approximately 1 km walk to the bridge (which is free) provides some absolutely beautiful views. And to be honest, there were also some stunning views from the island itself. As you can see in the photos, we had the best weather at this time in the afternoon. Later in the day, the weather got progressively worse.
Old Bushmills Distillery
Our second stop was to the Old Bushmills Distillery, located in the small town of Bushmills (hence the name), an area known for its distilling since 1608. The Old Bushmills Distillery produces several types of Irish whiskey, with varying price points depending on its age. We took a tour of the processing plant and learned more about the entire distilling process. Unfortunately, they don’t allow interior photos of the processing plant, and what is more, they actually make you turn off your cell phones. The reason? With the high percentage of alcohol in the air, they’re afraid that an electrical charge from the phone can spark a fire. Either that, or they really want to prevent camera phone photos.
The best part at the end was the ability to taste one of their whiskeys. We chose the 12-year single malt, aged primarily in sherry casks, and available only at the distillery. It was so good that we had to take a bottle home with us.
Semi-embarrassing story here: Those who know me know that I’m quite the light-weight when in comes to drinking alcohol. That, combined with the fact that I had to drive to 2 more stops for the rest of our afternoon’s journey, helped me to decide that I couldn’t finish the tasting of this wonderful whiskey. But I also didn’t have the heart to let it go to waste. I had an empty water bottle, so I decided to take the whiskey to go. I’m sure whiskey purists will say that changed the bouquet or aroma somehow, but I didn’t mind – I was able to enjoy the rest in the comfort of our apartment later that evening.
It was 4:30pm and we had 2 stops out of 4 down. Will we have time to make the other 2 stops before the sun went down? Stay tuned…
Good to Know:
- Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, 119a Whitepark Road, Ballintoy, County Antrim, BT54 6LS. Adult Admission (for the bridge itself): £7. Hours vary according to the season. For more information, check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carrick-a-rede
- Old Bushmills Distillery, 2 Distillery Rd, Bushmills, County Antrim BT57 8XH. Adult Admission: £8. Note: there is a little café on site for those who want a bite to eat to soak up the whiskey goodness. For more information, check out http://www.bushmills.com/Distillery/