Posts Tagged ‘Northern Ireland’

My Favourite UPT

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Throughout my trip to Northern Ireland, I learnt more and more about the Unique Personality Traits (UPTs) of family members and the local population in general. It didn’t take me long to work out what my favourite local custom was – the tray bake. I have never before heard the phrase ‘tray bake’ used as frequently as I did in this country. After confirming that a ‘tray bake’ is Irish/British for what I would call a ‘slice’, it amazed me how regularly it popped up in conversation.

While I was never offered of a tray bake during my stay (although at our first family member visit the table was covered in pikelets, meringues, short bread (one could argue that this is a form of tray bake), biscuits and eventually a trifle, but we had already eaten) I did discover that many of Sir Pubert’s family members had freezers full of pre-prepared tray bakes. And not only tray bakes but scones, soup, and entire meals, all frozen and ready to go on demand. One aunt had nine types of scones in her freezer – now that’s my kind of household. Baked goods on demand.

In honour of what I learned on my trip to Northern Ireland, I spent the afternoon at home today and whipped up a little carrot cake in order to use up some eggs. While it won’t go in the freezer and it isn’t a tray bake, I feel it is the least I can do to recognise the tray bake phenomenon of Northern Ireland.

Carrot cake

Walnutty, carrotty goodness.

AONBs

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

While visiting Northern Ireland, I had the absolute pleasure of staying with Sir Pubert’s aunt, Lady BonBon. One of the kindest and most generous people that I have ever met, we were treated like royalty during our three night stay. I wasn’t even told to write this – I honestly mean it.

Lady BonBon had collected a range of maps and tourist information for Pubert and I to use to plan our day trips out and about. One of the maps was of the Areas of Natural Beauty (AONBs) to the north of where we were staying. So on Friday, Pubert and I headed out in Lady BonBon’s automobile (a Skoda) to discover them for ourselves.

ANOB #1 – The Dark Hedges

The map was what I would call “diagrammatical” or “lacking detail” and so we took a few scenic detours before finally reaching our first destination. All we knew about the dark hedges was that they were a bunch of trees covering a road and that they were near a golf course. Thanks to perseverance, a bit of GPS Jess map reading, and a lot of good luck, we finally found what we were looking for. A road in the middle of no where with over hanging trees. Thanks to some good weather and a little bit of sunshine, we managed to see the road in great light. Definitely an ANOB.

Dark hedges

The Dark Hedges. WoooOOoooOOOooo….

ANOB #2 – The Giant’s Causeway

I had heard about and seen photographs of the Giant’s Causeway but didn’t know a lot about it. I was thrilled to discover that it was a short drive from where we were staying and that it was an official ANOB on our tourist map. After parking the car and slightly fraudulently getting into the National Trust visitor’s centre thanks to Ken and Katy’s membership, we walked down along the coastal road to the famous site.

Giant's causeway

Walking down to the Giant’s Causeway

Thanks to a volcano, the ice age and various other earthly movements, the Giant’s Causeway is a collection of rocks that have magically formed in hexagonal pillars. It is absolutely remarkable – as I walked across the rocks it became more and more phenomenal how these unique shapes formed. And on top of that, how they have lasted in this manner for hundreds/thousands/millions of years.

Giant's causeway

Giant’s Causeway

My favourite rocks were those that were speckled with what I presume is some sort of algae. The white specks reminded me of the pyrite encrusted ring Pubert bought me for my birthday.

Giant's causeway

Hexagons

After an overpriced and average tasting lunch at the National Trust cafe and having been chatted up by one of the elderly gentlemen volunteers in the visitor’s centre, we headed off towards our next stop on our ANOB discovery tour.

ANOB #3 – Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Once again, thanks to a slightly inappropriate use of a National Trust membership (“You don’t look old enough to be a senior…”) we made our way to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. My new boyfriend from the Giant’s Causeway visitor’s centre had said the walk to the bridge was at least 40 minutes, so imagine our surprise when we managed to do it in around 15. Clearly we were keen to get there.

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

A long way down.

The rope bridge connects the mainland to a small island off the coast where fishermen used to go to check their salmon nets. They have improved the quality of the bridge, however it is still a hair-raising experience as you step out onto a wobbly bridge, the sea below your feet and a bunch of tourists watching, hoping you’ll slip and fall for the perfect photo opportunity. Unfortunately for them, we both made it across safely.

Carrick a Rede

Nice.

Once again, the views definitely rated high on the ANOB scale.

ANOB #4 – Dunluce Castle

The problem with being a tourist at this time of the year is the extreme lack of day light. The sun is going to bed before 4pm so we were restricted by how much we could fit into our day. We headed back along the coast to Dunluce Castle, old castle ruins sitting precariously on top of the cliffs. We discovered that the once free to enter attraction now had a £5 per person entry fee. We were running short on time, so decided to head down a path to the side of the castle that took you underneath the ruins.

Dunluce Castle

A castle with a view

Below the castle is a cave where boats would come to the shore after being out at sea. Despite signage recommending No Entry and some encouragement from a local man who happened to walk past, we ventured into the mouth of the cave to listen to the waves hitting the shore.

ANOB #5 – Bushmills Distillery

While not technically an ANOB, I am going to classify the Bushmills distillery as a natural beauty unto itself. Anyone who creates a drink as glorious as Irish whiskey deserves a classification like ANOB. We had hoped to do one of the tours and my Giant’s Causeway boyfriend had said that the last tour was at 4.30pm. Turns out his knowledge of tour hours is about as correct as his knowledge of length of walking times. We arrived at Bushmills at 3.49pm. The last tour had started at 3.30pm. Dang.

We went inside anyway, checking out the gift shop and then wandering into the cafe area. We were contemplating purchasing a whiskey to drink to help us get over our disappointment for missing the tour, and the lovely girl behind the bar offered us a free sample.

Thanks to this knowledgable wee lass, we managed to get a lot of the tour information and learnt a lot about the Bushmills range. We sampled four whiskeys, debating on which were our favourites. We managed to agree on our number one choice while the other three were a mixed bag.

We left without buying anything. So overall a very successful visit.

ANOB #6 – ASDA

Our final stop for the day was an ASDA supermarket where Pubert and I were given the task of purchasing ingredients for Lady BonBon to use for a funeral catering service she was preparing for the following day. We wandered around the supermarket looking for square bread, salad cream and crushed pineapple.

And then it was home for a delicious meal with Lady BonBon and an evening in front of the fire. Good times.

A Trip to Northern Ireland

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Last night I returned home from a four day visit in the land of limericks and leprechauns. Early Thursday morning, Sir Pubert, his mum, Katy, his mum’s partner, Ken, and I loaded ourselves into a BMW with sports suspension and low-profile tyres and drove to Northern Ireland. We drove through three countries in one day – England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Neat.

Sir Pubert was born in Northern Ireland and we were off to visit the plethora of aunts, uncles and cousins who live in and around the Antrim/Ballymena area. My recent experience discovering new family members in my own clan has made me an expert at understanding family connections. I had been provided with general descriptions of each of the relatives I may or may not meet prior to departure and again at regular intervals throughout the trip. I am now very well versed on the Unique Personality Traits (UPTs) of Sir Pubert’s various family members and could almost draw a family tree. Almost.

Northern Ireland

Sunny Northern Ireland.

Having never previously visited Ireland or Northern Ireland, I was a tad excited and also somewhat surprised to discover that it was located so far south. In my somewhat naive head, I had always imagined Ireland as being significantly further north than England, but it turns out I was wrong. So there we go. This was good news, as it meant the drive to get there would be much shorter than I expected.

At this point I would like to mention that never before have I travelled in a car from England to Northern Ireland with such a good looking, fun and intelligent group of people. I may or may not have been told to write that.

With a brief coffee break in Dumfries, we made our way to Cairnryan where we drove the car onto a large P&O ferry that took us across the Irish Sea to Larne. This was definitely more enjoyable than my last car-on-boat-crossing experience that I had had in 2007, travelling from Custines to Bognor Regis with a bus load of french teenagers who were hyped up on sugar and pretending to not be homesick. This ride was smooth, the boat was half empty and Toblerone cost £5 in the gift shop. Ridiculous.

P&O Ferry

All abord the P&O ferry to Larne

Having arrived in Northern Ireland, I cheered for having added yet another country to my extensive list, and we drove off to visit family member #1. And so began a weekend of conversations where I desperately tried to work out which Aunt was being discussed, who they were related to and what their UPT was. I eventually gave up and just sat around eating for four days.

More adventures in Northern Ireland to follow.