Day trip to the North Coast

I recently went for a trip to the North Coast of Ireland to meet up with some friends. I studied at the Coleraine campus of Ulster University, living in the beautiful seaside town of Portstewart for a few years, so this area is very special to me and I try to visit when I can.

Of course, I went to Portstewart first, went for a walk on the promenade with an ice-cream as usual. The whole town was buzzing with people and Covid-19 or not, I always crave a quieter experience on the North Coast so I jumped in my car to get away someplace else.

I made a quick pitstop at the lovely Bothy Cafe for a latte and it was just the cutest little place, I would highly recommend checking it out. The coffee was great, but honestly it was the location and decor that won me over. Firstly, I love the name; a Bothy is a hut or cottage used for refuge by the public on mountains, although this is usually a Scottish tradition. Secondly, the rural setting of this coffee shop is so perfect, as I was sitting drinking my coffee, I could hear the sheep in the field next to me and that was just amazing. The decor of the outdoor seating area was extra special to me because it was filled with old farmyard collectibles, most of which my dad has collected over the years and fills our garage and garden. The best part was that my stool was made from an old tractor seat, which is something that I have been begging my dad to make with his.

All fueled up with my coffee, I was ready to hit White Park Bay for the first time and it was beautiful. As I got out of my car, I could hear the waves and could immediately sense the power of the ocean. As I walked down towards the beach, I was greeted with a fantastic view of sand dunes, wildflowers, white sand, cliffs, the open ocean and a lot of sea fog which made the whole place look quite mystical. I won’t lie, I was very disappointed that there were no cows paddling on the shore as I have seen in many photos of this beach, but the sea views made up for it. I really enjoy just being by the water, watching and listening as the waves flow from crest to trough. After a while appreciating this beautiful beach, taking lots of photos, having lots of laughs and nearly getting caught out by a rogue wave, we decided to move along the coast and visit Ballintoy Harbour.

Ballintoy Harbour was a very cute, small harbour that is located down a narrow windy road that you would barely even notice. That is until it became the Iron Islands of the global sensation Game of Thrones. Now this little gem is a massive tourist attraction and is always busy but it was a delight to visit just as the sun was going down. I like to explore as much as possible, so I clambered up the rocks to get higher and higher and it was just an epic feeling. That feeling of standing on the edge and listening to the powerful waves crash beneath me was just what I needed. I felt free in that moment, vulnerable and small but calm. Everything went quiet in my mind as I focused solely on those waves and I wished that I could just sit there for a long long time.

I was very sad to say goodbye to the North Coast that evening and I already can’t wait for my next visit.

Grotto Canyon Trail: Canmore, Alberta.

On a recent trip to the Canadian Rockies I decided to visit the Grotto Canyon Trail, close to Canmore, Alberta. I have seen many photos across social media of this trail during Winter and I was excited to visit it.

Of course I looked up the trail online to find out more information and I found a lot of recommendations for the use of cleats or studded footwear due to the slippery ice, and I immediately said “…..Awk, I’m sure it will be grand”. This is a typical Irish response to most things, where we ignore perfectly good advice and just hope for the best!!

The first part of the trial is through a sparsely forested area and the terrain is pretty good but as soon as I got to the canyon and saw the frozen river, I immediately regretted my decision. The sun was shining and any ice not in the shade was starting to melt and was extremely slippery. I was able to walk most of the trail but struggled as I got towards the end where the waterfall is located. I was annoyed at myself to be able to get so far and then having to give up. I did not give up without a bit of a fight, I tried to walk further but it was a bit of a disaster and I had the bruised knees to prove it.

Where I stopped, I could see the frozen waterfall at the end of the trail and could even spot some ice climbers scaling it. I even got to witness some extremely comical falls that I wish I captured on my camera!!

The sights from within the canyon are amazing, especially on a beautiful sunny Winter day. I was lucky to spot some wildlife along the trail; there were lots of Squirrels and Chipmunks scurrying around on the ground and in the trees and I spotted my very first Bald Eagle as it swooped high above the canyon. When walking within the deep canyon walls, I could hear the echo of other hikers, the wildlife and even the falling of melting snow from the tall pines that lined the top of the canyon.

This spot is simply amazing during Winter and I would recommend anyone in the Alberta area to give it a try, just DON’T FORGET YOUR CLEATS!! i