We forced ourselves to coffee and an excellent cookie at a cafe near the lovely old railway station before driving round to the harbour area at Glenarm. The village still has the air of imminent death about it sadly. Some lovely houses that need some serious attention and shops being converted into accommodation. Wandering around the sea wall, we were accosted by an elderly local lady who told us her entire life story, from being born locally, leaving to go to America to find work, marrying a southern Ireland man who liked the drink too much, loving New York and returning recently. Makes Maggie Thatcher's comments about getting on your bike and looking for work seem tame somehow - hard times. As we walked into the village, we noticed that she had found someone else to tell her story to - must be tough being that lonely.
The church has a great setting by the water:
and one day we must visit the castle grounds. Just not this day as we needed to take the Welsh folks on to Ballycastle. No pictures this time as we spent several days there a couple of years ago and if you are interested, you can browse them instead.
Thinking that some culture was needed, we revisited Mount Stewart and thoroughly enjoyed our second walk around there - the National Trust volunteer guides there are the best we have come across - keen to explain the history and "stories" behind the place. The house isn't that grand on the outside but the decor and family history means that it has hosted pretty much anyone who was anyone in the early 20th century:
This dining room hosted Lord and Lady Astor, Winston Churchill, famous painters and artists etc etc:
This painting of the owner's famous racehorse is an original Stubbs who was renowned for his depiction of horses. Have a look at Wikipedia:
Apparently it is very hard to value as it is way bigger then most of his works. A smaller one made £22.4 million in 2011 at an auction. You could have a lot of Nordhavn(s) for that. We know what we would prefer.
New for us was some time spent in Strangford. We'd been over the little ferry before but never stopped in the village. The tide runs through the narrow entrance to Strangford Lough and when we crossed the ferry took about twice as long to go from Portaferry to Strangford as it took on the return trip. The tide was roaring in quite nicely - it can get up to 8 knots at springs. Here is the ferry approaching Strangford:
At the risk of this turning into TripAdvisor, we hit The Cuan for an excellent small lunch. Very tasty food, would happily return there but to manage more than a main course you would need to be very very hungry.
Mahee island, in the lough, was well worth the drive along the tiny roads and causeways. The site of the ruined monastery gave great views across the patchwork of islands and waterways:
Talking of TripAdvisor, we have our own here. Caroline told us that the Green Chilli in Bangor has good Indian food. Never having been known to refuse the stuff, we walked up there one evening to save the crew from cooking. So pleased that we did! This is their website and if you are in the area, try it out - great food, BYOB with no corkage charged, sensible prices and a free "shot" after the meal too. The only bit we were confused with is the:
At a significant capital investment, we have carefully designed and created what has since become an exciting, yet stylish and contemporary Indian restaurant for the special occasion
claim on their website. The fit-out is nothing that special and in need of a little tlc in some places. We think that their builder ripped them off but it was nice not to be surrounded by flock wallpaper!
Of course, it wasn't all devouring food and culture. The crew and Linda needed to release some excess energy on the swings in the Pickie Fun park in Bangor:
There is nothing to add to the picture that could justify such abuse of a kiddies' play area.
The last day saw us wandering around Antrim and down to Lough Neagh. On the riverside path, we saw a rather "bohemian" looking man with his rather decorated wife, dog and home built motorised bicycle. Andrew asked him if it needed a number plate and he assured us that the local police didn't bother him. Apparently it has a 70cc two stroke engine fitted to it, a primitive clutch and no real upgrades to the original brakes:
The crazy owner offered Andrew a ride on it. We just wish that we had video footage of the event...
We finally dropped the Welsh folks at the decaying "International airport" (the Captain is old and still thinks of it as Aldergrove) for their Squeezyjet flight back to Gatwick. Of course, it had to be nearly 2 hours late thanks to a little dust up between two crew members on the outbound flight! Have a look at Telegraph website for details and a laugh. Of course, it wasn't a laugh for Andrew and Linda. Still, they were escaping from us so we suppose that happy feeling made up for the delay somewhat.