There was huge excitement about getting into the ‘next’ leg of the Oblivion Tour taking us from the lovely bay of Portballintrae down the coast to Larne and on into Belfast – and there was also sadness that it was the last leg!
We were all down for breakfast promptly at 7am – which was a bit of a shock for the staff given that the restaurant didn’t open for breakfast until 7:30! Then we were waved off from the BayView Hotel by cousin-in-law, Geoff, and Paul Beckett from Action Medical Research Northern Ireland.
There was huge excitement at seeing the Giants Causeway as this is such a dramatic and unique feature that was on everyone’s bucket list – but hesitation at the hill climbs that getting there and back entailed!
And as the clouds rolled in, the whole coastline started to look very dramatic – that is until the heavy rain hit and the sky and the Tourists mood darkened. The deluge set the pattern for most of the day with about 87 miles to do!
The heavens really opened as we passed Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and we started up and down some of the most challenging and spiky little ‘undulations’ of the Tour. Despite the weather getting worse, the grimaces turned to smiles occasionally and everyone worked hard to keep their bodies warm and their spirits up as best as possible. By the time we got to Ballycastle, everyone was drenched, but a lovely harbour side cafe provided a brief respite, good coffee and a few very nice cakes.Then it was on down through Cushendall to Carnlough along the coast road with some more big climbs before the road levelled out – but the storm got worse and, more worryingly, the wind really picked up.
This is what happened a mile or so from where we cycled. Landslide near Cushendall
By the time we found ourselves shivering as we cowered under a marquee set up for the Carnlough Market Fair (that was obviously a complete wash-out) most of the Tourists decided they’d had enough – this Tour is about challenging ourselves, but it’s also about enjoying doing it for pleasure, and what was described as the worst August storm in years was not very pleasurable.So, while 3 very hardy Tourists got back on their bikes, the remainder ruefully boarded a local bus to Larne and then onto Belfast.
Thankfully for those that decided to continue cycling, the weather did ease and when we all regrouped in Belfast at just after 5pm, the sun finally made a brief appearance.
Then the celebrations started – we had cycled through all of the 6 counties and covered just under 300 miles in the process over some of the most wonderful scenery we have seen.
As the Tourists donned superhero capes and a beer or two was enjoyed, In Robinson’s Bar and then a fabulous meal in zen Restaurant, talk inevitably turned to reliving the very many highlights that we have had during our time in the 6 Counties.Sunday morning meant a leisurely stroll to and then around the fabulous Titanic Exhibition. This collection provides entertainment and interest for all ages and we spent a very enjoyable two hours learning about the history of this area of Belfast and the story of the Titanic. This was one more highlight in a Tour filled with great memories.
Given everything that we’ve seen and done in just a few short days, one Tourist was very clear that she could happily live in Northern Ireland – a sentiment we all understood!!
However, they say that it’s not the place, but the people that make a home – and we have been made to feel hugely welcome everywhere we have traveled. So, a huge thank you to;
Tommy, Sandra, Lesley and John of Belfast City Council could not have done more for us, our new friend, Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon, the Lions Club of Ballynahinch, our friends at Dineen Office Supplies, the girls in Morrellis coffee shop who gave us all of our coffess at better than half price, the Robinson clan and friends in Warringstown, the lady in the Whitesides bar in Clogher who gave us a donation, wee cousin Gail, Geoff, Des and all the gang at Enniskillen and Portballintrae, Desmond and the fantastic work done by Portrush RNLI, the lovely pensioner couple who donated in the cafe in Ballycastle, the many people who gave us donations in Robinson’s and Zen, the bloke who gave us not one, but two £20 donations in Zen Restaurant (and the Manager of Zen who gave us a glass of champagne) and the many others that did so much for us – but finally, the lovely lady who had heard what have been doing, came to our table in Zen’s, put her hand on her right breast and said “From the bottom of my heart, can I thank you for what you are doing for me and many others like me”.
So, it is with mixed emotions that we have to say goodbye, but it has been a wonderful Oblivion Tour – and wherever we travel next year, we are sure that we will not find a warmer welcome – thank you Northern Ireland!!!
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(16 kisses from the 16 Oblivion Tourists)