Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sat 17th- A Temple and Irish Whiskey

Along the coastline our first stop was Mussenden Temple. The Temple is located in the beautiful surrounds of the Downhill Estate dramatically perched on a cliff top 120 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. The Temple was built in 1785 by the 4th Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry as a library and dedicated to the memory of the Earl’s cousin. We drove onto the beach below the temple first.

Before we made it out to the cliff edge to see the Temple we passed through the remains of the estate’s walled gardens where there was a large dove cote (why don't they call it a pigeon cote?). By large I mean BIG. The cote held over 100 birds and around the inner walls were dozens of “pigeon holes” for nesting and roosting. The pigeons were used for their eggs, feathers, flesh and dung.

Dove Cote

Pigeon holes inside

An ice house was located underneath the dove cote which seemed an unusual combination but good use of space although I bet nobody asked the birds whether they enjoyed being chilled, morning, noon and night! The underground chamber was insulated with sawdust and straw and packed with ice harvested from frozen lakes or imported from Scandinavia, an early version of the modern day refridgerator. The ice would stay frozen for many months and would be used to preserve and chill food all year round.

We then followed a mown path out across a beautiful lush green field to the edge of the cliff and the temple, we couldn’t have seen the it on a more perfect day.

Guess who being nosey?!

From the Temple we followed a gravel path to the ruins of the 18th century mansion that belonged to the Earl Bishop. Much of the building was destroyed by fire in 1851 before being rebuilt in the 1870s but the Earl then lost interest in the estate before the completion. It changed ownership and then the RAF used it during WW2 after which it fell into disrepair, it was partly demolished and used for livestock containment before being taken over by the National Trust. It really is amazing how quickly a building can become a ruin.

The ruins of Downhill Estate

I also wanted to visit the ruins of Dunluce Castle a little further along the coastline but we were running out of time so this view from Downhill Estate was all I was going to get. I thought that maybe if we have time tomorrow we'll come back for a closer look.

Dunluce Castle ruins

We both decided it was really, really important to get to the village of Bushmills in County Antrim as soon as possible, we wanted to do a certain tour before they closed-

Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, the oldest (400 years) and best known whiskey in Ireland. We’d done a couple of distillery tours in Scotland and wanted to compare methods and taste. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside but I can report that we found it all very interesting and the methods of distillery are, of course, very similar. The one major difference is that Irish whiskey is distilled three times and Scottish twice. At the end of the tour we presented our voucher to the bar for our free tasting, selected the different whiskeys we wanted to sample and attempted to taste the differences. I have to report that, unfortunately, we both prefer Scottish whisky (did you know that it is spelt without the "e" in Scotland?)

By now it was late afternoon, we only had about 30kms to drive before reaching Ballycastle and our B&B and it was right past the Giants Causeway but it would have to wait until tomorrow. Famous last words. One last stop as the sun was setting at White Park Bay viewpoint for an incredible view up and down the coastline.

White Park Bay- notice the little settlement tucked in under the cliffs

We finally arrived in Ballycastle which looked like a lovely seaside village and it didn’t take long for us to find our B&B, Glentassie not far from the town centre. After a very long day we were keen to head out for dinner so we unpacked the car, freshened up and walked down the hill into town and to a restaurant the B&B hosts had recommended. Another great seafood dinner, a slow walk back up the hill and we fell into bed........but not for long.
Here's our route for the three days-

View Clifden, Sligo, Omagh, Londonderry, Ballycastle in a larger map

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