Alan took the train through to Largs and I met him in Morrison’s to get the message for our trip to Northern Ireland. Hamish was driving down from Stornoway and was due to arrive later in the afternoon. We had booked a table at Scott’s in the marina for dinner – not the best experience I have had there. Like most other things, the prices had been increased and the quantity reduced. Still, it was nice being able to sit down, catch up and go over our plans for the week.
We set off for Campbeltown just after 7:30 There was a slight wind coming from the north and we got the mainsail up for a bit of motor sailing. As we were rounding Kidonnan Point toward Pladda Island Alan phoned the Harbour Master to find out about berthing and was told it would be fine but we would have to raft up. Rafting up can raise the ire of many yachties and there are many rafting horror stories of masts clashing in the middle of the night, poor fendering and others traipsing drunkenly cross your deck at two in the morning! I would avoid rafting up if I possibly can. We had made good progress from Largs so we took the decision to head straight for Glenarm – the weather was good and the sea state fine. We eventually arrived in Glenarm at 7.00pm – eleven and a half hours to cover 67 miles. The harbour Master had gone by the time we arrived but a quick phone-call and we had access to the safe box where the electronic fobs are kept. We had our tea and a few drams!
Glenarm, whilst not the closest marina to Scotland (Ballycastle is) it is the one we usually head for. It’s a pretty wee town with a couple of pubs, a shop, a castle with a cafe, a souvenir shop, gardens and walks.
Travelling directly to Northern Ireland had altered our plans by a day and we set off for Bangor on Monday morning. The forecasts wasn’t great with a F4/5 against us but we thought that this would be cancelled out by the strong tidal stream (we were coming up to springs on the 18th). Unfortunately, the forecast was a fair bit out and the wind far stronger than we expected. It was clear after about three of four miles out that it was going to be a real battle to cover the 23 miles to Bangor. We turned around and headed back to Glenarm.
Of the two pubs in the village, which are literally next door to each other, The Bridge End Tavern, or Stevey’s Bar is our preference. Stevey, the owner is a real character, friendly and welcoming with a great sense of humour. He pours a pint of Guinness perfectly, without a drip tray and without spilling a drop. We spend the evening sharing the Craic with the locals.
The following morning we took a bus to Larne and then caught the train to Belfast. I had planned to meet an friend who was kindly going to show us the sights but the weather was terrible and so we decided to have lunch in the Crown Liquor Saloon – it was far more expensive than I remember, but worth it for the fantastic architecture. I was keen to seek out The Duke of York – a bar renowned for its Irish Whiskey. It was a bit of a hike and we got soaked getting there but it was a very nice wee bar.
Our revised plan was to head for Ballycastle for Thursday night and crossing the North Channel back to Campbeltown, Tarbert on Saturday to watch the football and back to Largs on Sunday.
We took a walk up into the town to find somewhere for lunch and visit the House of McDonnell – a pub that is allegedly the oldest pub in Ballycastle, being in the same family for 250 years. We had lunch in The Central Bar and a great laugh with the young bartenders. Sadly, the House of McDonnell was closed opening on Friday to Sunday and occasionally on a Thursday – I guess we were unlucky. The Boyd Arms is just across the road and the bar tender here contests the oldest pub – saying his is! Whatever, we enjoyed a couple of Irish Whiskies and craic with the locals.
Once again we were thwarted by the weather. Whilst looking fairly good in the marina, along the beach and toward Rathlin Island, the forecast for the North Channel wasn’t that good and it’s best to cross it in the best conditions as possible. We decided that we would stay an extra night at Ballycastle with the forecast looking better for Saturday. The plan now is to head for Campbeltown tomorrow and then up Kilbrannan Sound and round Arran towards Largs on Sunday. A day of lazing around. Hamish has a bit of a journey on Monday heading first for Aberdeen before getting the ferry to Stornoway. Alan and I will travel back to Edinburgh on Monday morning.