Showing posts with label Northern Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Northern Ireland. Show all posts


N is for Newcastle - A to Z of Places I have Visited

I am writing about some places I have visited in alphabetical order.

Today I am writing about a place I have visited quite a few times and although I was brought up on the other side of the country from it I now live just 30 mins away by car.  I live in County Down Northern Ireland and this lovely seaside town is also in beautiful County Down.

County Down UK location map

I first remember going to Newcastle, County Down in Northern Ireland when I was a teenager and it holds fond memories for me of getting lost on the way up the mountain with a few others including the future Mr Black.

I'm the girl in between the two Freds and one of them is still beside me today.

Then many many years later after having lived abroad twice Fred and I moved back to Northern Ireland from Belgium and instead of returning to County Londonderry we chose to live on the eastern side of the country in Banbridge, County Down.

Banbridge is about 40 mins by car from Belfast in the North East and approximately 30 mins from Newcastle on the South East coast.

We have never lived as close to a Seaside Resort before but even so we have not been to Newcastle very often.

Newcastle is famous for the fact that it sits at the bottom of Slieve Donard "where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea".  This is taken from a line of a well-known Northern Ireland song written by Percy French and there is a restaurant on the northern part of the town beside the Famous Slieve Donnard Hotel named after this composer.

As you can see below the Mournes and the town of Newcastle are lovely on a bright clear day.

Newcastle Donard

This is the view along part of the main street of Newcastle looking towards Slieve Donard and the Mourne Mountains.  Yes that highest peak is the one that we were supposed to be climbing all those years previously but sadly did not get near the top.

In 2013 our second son got married and he and his bride had their wedding reception in Newcastle.

They had pictures taken in Belfast and then also when they reached Newcastle where it was mostly the family photos.  Imagine in a day at the end of October when it is well into autumn (known in Northern Ireland for the rain) and you are having wedding pictures taken in the late afternoon on the sea front in the wind and rain.

Yes you can well imagine how our hair got blown about and we felt a little chilly.

Later in the same year we were back in Newcastle. On one of our oldest sons visits back to us from England we decided to drive there on a dull December day.

Now Newcastle (as all the other seaside resorts in Northern Ireland) is well-known for its windy weather but this day it was exceptional.  We left Banbridge with clouds in the sky but at least it was dry.

30 mins later we were sitting in a car park along the sea front in Newcastle watching the wind, rain and crashing waves which were roaring along in a storm.  Needless to say on this visit to the seaside only one of us got out of the car.  Our son Jonathan dived out to take a picture and an extremely short video of the storm.  I took a picture and a video from inside the car (I had more sense just to lean out the window for minute).

The beautiful Mourne Mountains that my husband often admires are partly hidden in the mist.

We had some friends visit a few years later for just a few days at the end of March and we decided to go for a walk along the promenade in Newcastle.  This time it was so calm and warm we had to take off our coats and we all decided to have ice-cream.  Unfortunately no photo was taken this time as it was the early evening time and already dark.

If we had been there during the day we would have seen the calmness and brightness like in this picture below which shows the southern end towards the harbour.

© Eric Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

No visit to Newcastle is complete without a walk alone the promenade which in recent years was picturesquely extended and includes a lovely bridge.  Each time we walk along it I say how nice it would be to live in one of the apartments alongside it which are overlooking the sea and Fred reminds me that yes I would enjoy it in the summertime.

Kent Amusements, Newcastle, County Down, September 2011

It is such a pity that Northern Ireland does not have warm sunny weather for a longer period of time in the year so that the town of Newcastle could be enjoyed more.

However there are many shops and some amusements to entertain visitors when the weather is not so dry.

If you missed any of the previous places in this series just click on the Titles below:

A for Alicante
B for Bratislava
C for Calpe
D for Durbuy
E for Ennis
F for Florida
G for Gran Canaria
H for HongKong
I for Islandmagee
J for Jersey
K for Killyleagh
L for Leeds
M for Monschau


A Pop Up Bridge - Xtra Special Day

One of the best things about having moved to live in the eastern half of Northern Ireland is the proximity to the Mourne Mountains. 

As we drive south along the A1 towards Banbridge  I laugh when my husband Fred says "Look at that view".  I don't even have to look because I know he is referring to the beautiful outline of the Mountains of Mourne.

Occasionally he doesn't make this remark but replaces it with "The clouds are spoiling the view of the Mournes today" in a very disappointed tone.

We often say it would be lovely to take a picture of that view but in a car on the dual carriageway that is not possible.

When our son Jonathan comes to visit we quite often find ourselves heading off for an afternoon to somewhere around or within this mountain range and that was exactly what we did when he was here a few weeks ago.

We had our granddaughter's birthday party on the Tuesday afternoon at 3pm but we still had the morning free so off we drove ready to get some good pictures (we hoped) of the latest point of interest in our Wee Country.

Yes we were off to see a Pop Up Bridge.

I'm calling it that because I keep hearing about Pop up shops, cafes and whatever and this bridge could be said to just have popped up because it literally just appeared suddenly.

The bridge is in the middle of a reservoir at Spelga Dam in the heart of the Mourne Mountains.

Normally no-one can see the bridge because the reservoir water level is high so the bridge is always under the water.

This summer has been so dry (even though Northern Ireland is known for it's rain) and without the usual rainfall the level of the water in the reservoir fell noticeably.   This picture below shows the different water level marks on the side of the dam and it is very obvious that the water level this month was much much lower than normal.

So for the first time in our lifetime this stone bridge (normally hidden by the height of water) was clearly seen

and it was possible to walk across it into the centre of the water in the reservoir.

From the car park where my husband Fred took the panoramic picture above the bridge can hardly be seen in the distance and the people walking along it were hard to distinguish but many people had been coming day after to see this spectacle and walk where there was normally water and no path.

We took quite a few pictures from the car park and then drove on round to find somewhere closer to the bridge.

We found a road down to a pathway to the reservoir and left the car there with many others to start the walk to the bridge.

This pathway was not part of the bridge.

This was the start of the bridge, the rough ground after the smoother pathway.

As you can see from the cyclist the bridge was at a lower level than the pathway and he was having a hard job to get his bike back up again.

Once on the bridge we could see the poor condition of the ground we were walking on but then it had been under water for many many years.

There were lots of people there that day to walk the bridge and they kept passing us
because we stopped to take so many pictures trying to get a good angle on the arch of the bridge.

After many stops we arrived at the arch of the bridge and of course stopped again to take more photos.

As quite often happens we took some of each other taking photos of each other - if you get what I mean.

Some little videos were grabbed as well, like the one showing exactly what happened after this last picture had been taken.

Then there was a very strange sight, Fred had gone on ahead more quickly than Jonathan & I so that he could do something different, something you normally don't do on a bridge

he greeted us from his seat on part of the broken pathway under a tree!

We took more pics here at this spot and then continued along the pathway for quite a distance until we got to the end of it.

Not only did we walk across it as far as was possible but I did what many people know I like to do - I had a little paddle (just don't tell anyone I had my bare foot in the reservoir water).


Killyleagh - A to Z of Places I Have Visited

I am writing about some places I have visited in alphabetical order.
Still wondering what I will do for the more unusual letters like Q and X etc. but maybe I will have a brilliant idea later.

Our daughter got engaged in March 2016 and decided that the wedding would be in August that same year because that was when she and Stephen could get back to Northern Ireland from their work in South Korea.  Obviously this did not allow us much time to get everything organised and because she was so far away most of the organising fell to Fred and I.

Finding a venue for the reception was one of the first things we needed to do so Linda made a list of 20 places by looking at recommendations online and we visited most of them, took pictures and face timed her while we were there if possible.

One of the places she had on the list was in the village of Killyleagh which we had never been to before.  It is about an hour away from our home in Banbridge towards Strangford Lough and north of Downpatrick.  From what we could see on the website it could well have suited her needs, so we rang them and made an appointment to go see the venue and talk to the owners.

The first thing we saw as we entered the village was a long high stone wall and we decided there must be a large house and grounds behind it but of course our main intent was to follow the directions we had and find the venue.

The village was really rather busy with many cars driving through the main streets and it was hard to find somewhere to park.

The street where the venue was located was on a slope and so was the street behind the venue and these two streets were the main streets in the village.

At the top of these two streets was where that high stone wall was and looking up from the venue we could see that there was a lovely big gate and turret type features to either side of it.

Unfortunately to the left of the picture there is the village library and car parking spaces which spoilt the view somewhat.  Add to that the fact that it was a very dull day when we were visiting but maybe we will get back sometime in much better brighter weather.

I got a bit closer to take another shot

Still cars in the picture but now we can see that there is the hint of a building inside the walls.

So of course I need to get a closer look but when I go up to the open gateway there is a sign saying that the public can go into the gateway but are asked not to further enter the grounds.

So a picture was taken from just outside the gateway.

which clearly showed the large house within.

Another one taken a step inside the gateway

and a third taken from about halfway through the gateway.

Killyleagh has a few other interesting places to see like some churches and Mary's Style.

These can all be found on the Killyleagh Heritage Trail
A brochure for this including a map with the Trail walk clearly indicated and showing the locations of all interesting places in the town can be got at the tourist information Office very close to the Castle.

However because Killyleagh is not a big town going round the Heritage Trail is not too long a walk and we would have been tempted to do it except for the fact that is was not a great looking day.

So we then headed out to the harbour area to have a little walk but it started to rain and photos were just not good there.

This one from Wikipedia does show the more quiet atmosphere in this part of Killyleagh.

Killyleagh harbour and St John's church

By Albert Bridge, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The local people who ran the venue told us that the Castle is still lived in by the present generation of the family who had always owned it and is not open to the public.

However they said the family were very good about allowing wedding pictures to be taken there.

They were of course trying to entice us to have the wedding reception there.

Want to see a castle that is still lived in?

Here's another picture from Wikipedia that shows how impressive the castle is from higher up and from an angle further to the right.  Even so again much of the buildings on the main streets are obstructing part of the view.

Killyleagh Castle seen from Church Hill

By Albert Bridge, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The village is lovely and if you are ever in the area and like to see castles then it is definitely one to see and remember it is very unusual for one to be lived in as the normal family home.

In the end the venue we had gone to see was not suitable for the wedding reception as it was not wheelchair friendly although the B&B associated with it did have a lift for people staying there.

If you missed any of the previous places in this series just click on the Titles below:

A for Alicante
B for Bratislava
C for Calpe
D for Durbuy
E for Ennis
F for Florida
G for Gran Canaria
H for HongKong
I for Islandmagee
J is for Jersey

Islandmagee - A to Z of Places I have Visited

I am writing about some places I have visited in alphabetical order.
Still wondering what I will do for the more unusual letters like Q and X etc. but maybe I will have a brilliant idea later.

A few years ago we went on a little birthday trip of a couple of days around some places in the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland (which is part of the Causeway Coastal Route)

and on the drive home we passed signs for Islandmagee.

I had always heard of this name before and just assumed it was a town somewhere in Northern Ireland but on this day I discovered it wasn't a town it was a peninsula.  So since then I have thought someday we should go and drive round to investigate what it is like.

So that day finally came on Monday of this week.

Ok so yes one of the reasons we went this week was because I could not think of anywhere I had visited that started with the letter "I" but it has been absolutely splendid hot sunny weather here with unusually high temperatures and we had previously agreed to try to take one day or afternoon out somewhere each week for relaxation and exercise.

So off to Islandmagee we went for the afternoon on Monday.

Parts of it are owned or at least looked after by the National Trust and we had become members last year but where we went in Islandmagee on this first trip we only saw their sign once and there were no fees or car parking to be paid for so being members was of no advantage to us there.

We do love the Antrim Coast but have not visited that area as much as we should have in the past and driving along beside Belfast Lough along the route to our destination was just beautiful with the sun gleaming off the water.

The most famous part of this peninsula to us was The Gobbins Cliffs which we had heard a lot about in the past few years due to the work that had been done in making a complete walking path around them.

There are good signposts for The Gobbins Visitors Centre which is attractive from the outside

and also on the inside and is free to go in to find out about the Gobbins Trail,

have something to eat in the cafe or have a look around the gift shop.  This is where you book for the walking tours which must be done in advance and you need to be aware of the health and safety considerations before you decide to go on the walk.  Not for the fainthearted or anyone with any fitness problems.

The thing I noticed most about the Centre was the family friendly atmosphere both inside and out with a couple of things to specifically amuse the children while the grownups would be reading and finding out more about the area and a good play park outside.

After looking around here we drove along some of the wider roads and followed Google Maps directions on the phone for Port Muck.  This took us on to some rather narrow roads as we got closer to our destination.

The advantage of these narrower roads was the great view out to sea and we found an ideal spot to stop and take a huge amount of photographs as we were on the height looking down over the land and sea.

Fred was trying to get a panoramic picture of the coast and the Irish Sea while I was taking individual pictures.

We spied a rocky headland jutting out into the sea

and I tried to zoom in more

but the distance was too great to give a true picture of it.

But I'll come back to that later.

We drove on down to Port Muck Harbour which you can see on the map above is on the NE of Islandmagee.

Again it was time to take a lot of photographs.

It consists of a little harbour with some sand,

rocks and more rocks

and more rocks which we love - there is just something about rocky coves in Northern Ireland it is hard to find better ones in the rest of the world that I have been to (or am I just biased?).

People were fishing from the jetty, sitting on the jetty, sitting on the grass area and some on the small beach.  It was not crowded and felt very peaceful.

Other people were going for walks in two different directions from the harbour both led uphill the first with steps and the second on a grassy hillside path.

While I was taking pictures of the harbour and sea Fred was already on the steps waiting for me to come for a walk.

At the top of the steps there was another set of steps to take you down to some rocks but then we spied the headland we had seen earlier - I did say I would get back to this.

Islandmagee - When is an Island not an Island?

The headland wasn't a headland it was an island

but is it an Island that is at certain times connected to Islandmagee?

When the tide is low could anyone walk across?

That is the big question I have yet to have time to investigate.

If you missed any of the previous places in this series just click on the Titles below:

A for Alicante
B for Bratislava
C for Calpe
D for Durbuy
E for Ennis
F for Florida
G for Gran Canaria
H for Hong Kong