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.

What do you do when it rains; stay inside or grab a raincoat?

Most people hide from the rain, taking shelter indoors but I find that it makes me want to go exploring.

My ultimate favourite place to be when it is raining is along the beach. Any beach. There is something very special about it. There is usually very few people about, if any. I suppose it sounds very selfish, but I love having the beach to myself so this is perfect for me. I studied at the Ulster University Coleraine Campus, so I was very lucky to be surrounded by Northern Ireland’s beautiful North Coast and I used to visit the local beaches quite often. My favourite was Portstewart Strand, a 5-minute walk from my house, which I used for escaping the stresses of university of life. Quite often I woke early to head out there, especially when the weather was unfavourable. My housemates always thought that it was strange of me to enjoy the beach whilst the wind and rain hammered down on me, but after months I finally convinced one of them to join me, and he instantly understood why it appealed to me so much. He realised how refreshing and calming it was to stand on the open beach and to be truly surrounded by nature as it reached out to all of your senses. 

Rain in Northern Ireland usually comes with some pretty strong winds so the waves are usually crashing along the shoreline. It is these kinds of conditions that remind us of how fierce and powerful the ocean can be. I could sit on the shore for hours listening to the waves and watching the birdlife. 

So last week I had a free day, it was raining and I wanted to get out of the house, so I ventured to Murlough Nature Reserve outside Newcastle in County Down. It’s a place that I visited when I was younger but it has been some time since I have been there, so I am glad I thought of it. There were a few cars in the carpark so I wasn’t the only one brave enough to face the stormy weather.    

As I walked through the 6000-year old dune system I couldn’t help but watch the birdlife flying above me. The birdlife in this area is very interesting with many species to be found; Buzzards, Red Kites, Greybacks, Magpies, Oystercatchers and of course a few species of Gulls. It was amazing to watch these birds soar along with the strong winds, swooping in and out of the dunes with such ease. The closer I got to the shore, the louder the waves got and when I finally left the dunes behind and stood on the open sand the noises of nature were deafening, the waves, the winds and the calls of the birds. I took a few moments to take it all in. Then I began to try to capture the beauty before me, which often proves to be very difficult. As I looked along the shoreline towards Newcastle, I noticed how the mist had moved in around Slieve Donard. The Mountain was engulfed in white. Looking out towards the Irish Sea, it could have been a colour chart filled with greys displaying every grey you could imagine from the sky to the sea.

It is very difficult to portray the beauty of a dull, grey stormy scene through a camera lens, so I urge you to grab your raincoat and go out and experience it for yourself.