Giants Causeway & The Bushmills Inn
As soon as you get into the Northern Irish countryside, it's clear to see why so many flock here every year. Luscious green fields and meadows surround you as you breathe in the clean country air.
For this leg of my Northern Ireland trip, I was staying in the town of Bushmills in County Antrim. A picture postcard town with fish and chips shops, independent homeware boutiques and my home for the night, the historic Bushmills Inn, but more of that later.
A 2 mile trip from Bushmills is Giants Causeway, a beautiful formation of hexagonal rocks formed over 50 million years ago and it was made an UNESCO World Heritage Site 30 years ago. Amazing to think, when the Lake District was only granted this status a short while ago in 2017.
I was told by a local in my hotel bar that the formation got its name from an old wives tale and the hexagonal columns on the causeway were built by giants. Now I'm going to call 'Bullshit' on this early on and will stick with the scientific explanation, however if you are a fan of Game Of Thrones and believe in fantasy, then anything is possible!
Game of Thrones is a huge pull for tourism in the area, with scenes for the Sky Atlantic smash-hit being filmed nearby. I bumped into quite a few Americans who came to Northern Ireland for that reason alone. One couple had flown from Vancouver in Canada purely on the back of the programme. Now they are what you call dedicated fans.
The causeway itself is stunning. It's unlike anything else on earth and on first glance you assume it's man made, it is nature on steroids and an absurd sight. An absolutely charming one, nonetheless.
For me, in July it's too busy, there are too many tourists and I foolishly decided to head down there at midday. My advice would be to get up early and be one of the committed handful that are sat there for sunrise. I've been told that it brings a whole new dimension to the site and I'm looking forward to going back and seeing this for myself in the not too distant future.
Back on the short bus ride from the causeway and into Bushmills, it was time to get familiar with my home for the night at the Bushmills Inn. This old coaching inn has been redeveloped beautifully and strikes the perfect balance between old and new. I was given a guided tour of the hotel and it's like Mary Poppins hat. Just when you think there can't be any more to see, there's something else (plenty of hat stands, yes!). The bar couldn't get more Irish in look, feel, smell and sound if it tried and there is a small gas-lit section of the bar that dates back to the 18th century. You can just imagine the old guys who would have been sat in there drinking glass after glass of the local Bushmills whiskey, smoking and paying absolutely no attention to health and safety regulations...those were the days.
If you stay here then go and explore it. There's the loft which has been converted into a snug (it's a really beautiful, warm, inviting space) and there's also a hidden room behind a bookcase, but I'll let you find that for yourself- if you can that is.
On the whole the hotel is a real gem and Nicki and her team all do a fantastic job of making you feel welcome and looked after us like legends! I haven't even mentioned the restaurant yet, but all I need to say is YUM, YUM, YUM - Its a varied menu and balances the traditional Irish cuisine with the modern styles we all come to expect from today's high end restaurants (which this is). The freshest fish I have ever eaten, cooked with local ingredients and flair, what more can you ask for?
In short, visit the causeway but get there early, explore the whole of the stunning causeway coast and then put your feet up, pig out and head to bed at an old coach house. #Perfect.
Take it easy,