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Postcard from Ballintoy

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“Something always pulls me towards the ocean. Gazing out at the seemingly infinite ocean makes everything seem possible.” – N

Ballintoy Harbour, County Antrim, Northern Ireland – Taken September 19, 2015

From Ballintoy with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

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Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Tour Day 1 – Ballintoy

Welcome to Ballintoy! This was home for the first night of our All Ireland Rocker Tour!!

Entering Ballintoy!

Ballintoy is a small village in Northern Ireland, on the Antrim Coast. Although it is small, with a population of under 200 residents, Ballintoy more than makes up for it with its friendly people and the gorgeous scenery. Earlier in the day, we went on a “wee” walk around the area (a couple hours), checking out the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Ballintoy Harbour.

The Gorgeous Antrim Coast

While walking along the coastline, we could turn back and spot the main street of Ballintoy. We could even spot the pink tractor that stands in front of our hostel!

Ballintoy and the rolling green fields – love!

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Our hostel was aptly named – Sheep Island View Hostel. And here is Sheep Island, which you can see from the hostel! It is said that residents used to ferry their sheep over to this island to keep them safe from thieves.

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Sheep Island!

The hostel is run by a lovely local family, who were always happy to chat with us visitors. You really can’t miss the hostel when you are driving through Ballintoy. Just watch for the bright pink tractor!

Our group was housed in separate male and female dorm rooms. We thought we would be assigned to our respective rooms, but, as with the rest of our Shamrocker trip, you get to pick your own rooms. This was good, in that you can choose your own room mates for the night. However, it did take some time and organizing – particularly since different hostels had different number of beds per room. So at each hostel, we would gather all together and sort ourselves out in to the correct numbers of people per room and then check in. Our room at Sheep Island View Hostel had 12 beds – both bunk beds and single beds. As our tour guide Dave pointed out, the hostel is really good, clean and comfortable, but could make do with an extra bathroom! Our group was really good though – some showered in the morning and some in the evening, so it made the process much faster. It helps when you have cooperative trip mates! 🙂

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After our coastal walk and a freshening up at the hostel, 6 of us headed off for a meal together! Usually choosing a restaurant for dinner can be quite difficult when you are with a group. But in Ballintoy, our choice was made easier because there were only 2 restaurants on the main street – the Fullerton Arms Restaurant and the Carrick-A-Rede Bar and Grill. We decided to go with the Fullerton Arms Restaurant.

Ballintoy’s Main Street with the Fullerton Arms Restaurant

We were only a table of 6 but because it was a small restaurant, we had a bit of a wait. So we grabbed a drink at the restaurant bar next door and chatted with our trip mates while waiting for a table to be ready. (I asked to pour my own Guinness but unfortunately the answer was no 😦 )

We were pleasantly surprised when we walked into the restaurant. It was well decorated, plush, cozy and looked like a restaurant in a much bigger city! It also had a little alcove dedicated to Game of Thrones – complete with armour, quotes on the wall and a replica “Iron Throne!” Pretty cool – even if I don’t watch the show!

We didn’t have much expectations for the food, thinking it would be typical bar food in a village of two restaurants. Boy, were we ever wrong! The food we had was delicious and definitely could have rivalled restaurants in bigger cities! The food was fresh, tasty and plated up nicely. Besides that it was decent priced for the caliber of food we received!

I had the sea bass with vegetables and potatoes – tasty and filling! 🙂

I believe this was: “Lemon and Lime Baked Seabass – with potatoes and vegetables medley.”

Ioana had the Steak and Guinness Pie – such a light and airy version, delicious!

After our lovely dinner, we wandered over to the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge Bar, where some of our group had gathered already. Our drinks of choice? Since we were in Ireland, Guinness and Jameson with gingerale. Sláinte!

We forgot the lime 😦

We were excited to listen to some lively traditional music in the pub. Pretty soon we noticed something wasn’t right… Let’s just say the two musicians were a little “off” that night. Later we found out that the lead singer had a gig somewhere else and the remaining two just weren’t the same without their leader. Luckily our bus driver Fred saved the night – taking a guitar and singing us some songs. That quickly woke up the pub and we were all clapping along! It was a great night – getting to know each other, comparing travel plans and swapping stories. There may have even been some attempts at Irish Dancing…… It was a fun night and a great start to our All Ireland Rocker Tour!

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Review: We really loved our time in Ballintoy. It was one of our favourite stops in Ireland – quaint, quiet, friendly and beautiful. You almost feel like you are in another decade, in a simpler time. And I really liked that! The gorgeous scenery just adds to the draw of this village. Ballintoy is also a good location for a home base while exploring the Antrim Coast. Besides being close to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Ballintoy Harbour, Ballintoy is also close to the Dark Hedges, Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, Portrush, Rathlin Island and Ballycastle. So it makes sense to situate yourself here and make day trips out to the surrounding area. Saves you from having to pack and unpack daily!

Ballintoy is also on the Causeway Coastal Route, winding through picturesque towns and villages along the North Coast from Belfast to Derry (Londonderry). The Causeway Coastal Route is rated to be one of the top road trips in Europe. So I think a road trip is in order! If you’re planning a road trip, here are some itineraries from Tourism Ireland and Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Ballintoy and the Antrim Coast are definitely worth a stop, if you’re in Northern Ireland! 

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Day 2 takes us to a very famous Antrim Coast stop – Giant’s Causeway!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
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© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Tour Day 1 – A Coastal Walk and A Rope Bridge

After a day of travelling, we drove into the beautiful village of Ballintoy – one of our absolute favourites! And I think you’ll see why soon enough!

Ballintoy!

We arrived at our hostel – Sheep Island View Hostel, home for the first night of our All Ireland Rocker tour. After dropping our bags off at the hostel and claiming our beds for the night, we were ready for an adventure. For a small village like Ballintoy, there was actually quite a bit in the area to see!

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The beautiful Antrim Coast, approaching the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and island

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One of the famous local attractions is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This 20m long rope bridge stretches from the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island. Salmon fishermen used to cross to Carrick-a-Rede Island frequently during the salmon season. Nowadays, it is a tourist attraction. For the adventurers, there is the thrill of walking on a swinging suspension bridge 30m above sea level. For the nature lovers, there is plenty of flora and fauna on the island for you to observe and enjoy. On a clear day, it is said you can see clear across to Rathlin Island and Scotland!

Can you spot the boat towards the right side of the photograph? It is supposedly used to ferry scared tourists who cannot bear to cross the rope bridge back to the mainland!

Another increasingly popular attraction is Ballintoy Harbour. Some of you might recognize it from a little TV show called Game of Thrones? Exterior shots of Pyke and the Iron Islands were filmed here at Ballintoy Harbour.

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Before heading off on our adventure, there were several recommendations given to us by our tour guide:

  • We could head down to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and walk back to the hostel via the main street; or
  • We could head down to Ballintoy Harbour and back via Harbour Road; or
  • We could head down to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, walk down the coast to Ballintoy Harbour, walk up Harbour Road and back to the main street.

Guess which option we took? Let’s just say it was LEGS DAY #1!

Tip: Make sure you bring a good, sturdy pair of walking shoes for all of the adventures and exploring you will be doing! Preferably waterproof!

Our kind bus driver Fred drove a group of us down to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, to save us time and a walk. We got there rather late and since they were closing in 15 minutes, we unfortunately didn’t get a chance cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. We didn’t think it would be worthwhile running across the bridge and taking a quick look and running back across. So we’ll have to save that for our next trip!

The good news was that only the bridge was closing. The coastal walk down to the bridge was still open. So we decided to go for a nice walk along the North Coast from the car park to the actual Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

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As we neared the rope bridge, we turned around and were treated to this beautiful scene of towering cliffs and rolling waves. The raw beauty of nature never ceases to amaze me! And for any sharp-eyed Game of Thrones fans out there, you might even recognize this as the Stormlands and the scene of Renly Baratheon’s camp in Season 2.

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Here we are looking out at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

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We stayed awhile here watching tourists cross the rope bridge. It didn’t look that swing-y from afar, but I think it would be a fun adventure!

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After admiring the view from around the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, we started our trek back.

We walked from the rope bridge back to the car park and from there, took a leisurely coastal walk – through the fields, just admiring the vibrant green of the Emerald Isle, the slightly gloomy but atmospheric skies that afternoon and the ocean stretching out towards the horizon.

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Looking back at Ballintoy from the coast

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Can you spot Ballintoy Parish Church? It’s in the background, blending in with the sky.

Our coastal path led us to the Ballintoy Parish Church. We took a right turn from there and followed the road down to Ballintoy Harbour. Or, some of you might recognize it better as Pyke and the Iron Islands. But even without being featured on Game of Thrones, we still thought it was a very charming and quaint harbour.

As it was getting late, we started heading back up Harbour Road towards the main street of Ballintoy. Be mindful of the traffic when you are walking up or down the road to the harbour.

About halfway up Harbour Road, I took this photograph and it is one of my favourites. This is the Ballintoy Parish Church, which has a long and rich history in the area. A lone white building standing fast – blending into the sky but at the same time in contrast with the ground.

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And of course, we can’t be in Ireland and not talk about the sheep! Look at these fluffy guys! We were told not to chase sheep at night. Not sure why specifically at night… And no, we didn’t chase the sheep during the daytime hours either!

We promise we were not chasing these guys! One started running and the rest followed. Brought to mind the ‘flock’ or ‘herd’ mentality…

After our lovely coastal ramble, we wandered back to our hostel. Stay tuned for more on our evening in Ballintoy!

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Walking back to our hostel to get ready for a night out in Ballintoy! 😉

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!