Half my family come from Northern Ireland. My Grandmother and Grandfather were both raised there before they moved South to Waterford where I would eventually be born. I have a deep affection for all things from there, and I have always felt a strong tie. Despite that I have not been there since I was a child, which makes no sense. Except of course it was a very long drive – 8 hours – with restless children piled in the back seat asking relentlessly if they were there yet. I remember it clearly. I remember drawing piles of turf that I saw from the car window, and a factory with smoke billowing out of the chimney.
I had never been to the Giant’s Causeway in Co Antrim. I seemed alone in this. I was almost ashamed to admit it. I finally went late last year on a wild day during Storm Clodagh where winds gusted up to 70mph. It is a stunning vista of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns hugging the coastline, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption but said in legend to be the result of a challenge between two giants who built the causeway with giant boulders so that they could meet. It is a world heritage site now with a wonderful visitors centre that offers guided walks and information.
Winds ripped through, over and around, the ocean spat spray furiously, and we stumbled around, laughing and trying to stay steady, until we heard ferocious whistling from a man in a high vis jacket just behind. It was too dangerous and we had to leave.
Try telling that to the couple who didn’t speak English and who were determined to take the wildest selfie of their lives. I yelled behind them, only a foot away, but the winds were so fierce they stole my voice and threw it behind me. Eventually I got through, and we stumbled back. By now, it was difficult even to walk. But, what a day. And the perfect way to see the wonder that is the Giant’s Causeway.
After, it is essential to go to Harry’s Shack nearby, a wonderful restaurant on the beach at Portstewart. It is a gorgeous little restaurant forged from wood, with large windows overlooking the sea and the sky and a gorgeous wood fire at one end. Food is all locally sourced and beautifully cooked. Seafood is a must, but there is always a meat dish on offer too.
We ate very well, starting mussels and prawns and wonderful dressed crab. On the side, good bread with Abernethy hand rolled butter with dulse.
For mains, we had whole plaice with cockles and smoked bacon; hake with chorizo, paprika and potatoes and buttermilk battered haddock, with, of course, chips.
To drink, we had some terrific Irish craft beers from Kinnegar. I couldn’t fit dessert. I always prioritise savoury food. I am definitely more salty a person than sweet.
Afterwards, we continued back along the Causeway Coastal Route, a stunning drive and a thrill for the Game of Thrones fans of the group. I am one. More on the rest of my trip soon, and my time in Belfast.
My trip to Northern Ireland was sponsored by Tourism Ireland. This year is the Year of Food & Drink, and the perfect time to visit. All editorial is my own, always. I never write about things I wouldn’t love to share, or heartily recommend.