uklighthousetour

One crazy lady and a bizarre obsession = an ongoing tour of the best lighthouses the UK has to offer

Enjoying Skye – day 2

Yesterday morning we left The Isles Inn in Portree, where I was pleased to see two lovely lighthouse decorations in the room – very apt!

Neist Point lighthouse

Neist Point lighthouse

Our main focus for the morning was to reach Neist Point, the most westerly point of Skye. It was a nice drive there with some more fantastic views of the hills, particularly MacLeod’s Tables with their surprisingly flat summits. There were some long and windy roads and, although I didn’t recall the roads from my first visit to Neist Point when I’d failed to see the lighthouse, I remember how long it took to get there – Skye’s not a small island! Once we’d reached the end of the road we parked up in the car park and set off, lighthouse-bound. It was a very picturesque stroll to the lighthouse, passing the old hoists they would have used to move things up and down from the lighthouse. The coastline around Neist Point is beautiful with impressively high cliffs. When we reached the lighthouse I was a little saddened to see that many of the buildings there appear to have been left to fall into disrepair. The lighthouse cabin had definitely seen better days and the walls of the keepers’ cottages could have done with at least a lick of paint. They advertise self-catering accommodation there and it looks like they are rarely taken up on the offer. I imagine walking about a kilometre/over half a mile with a large amount of downhill and lots of steps, with suitcases or shopping bags may not appeal to everyone! The tower itself and attached building looked well-kept though and there were some great views across towards North and South Uist. We may have been able to spot a bit of South Harris too. At one point we were looking over the sea and I said ‘hello seals, are you there?’ hoping to catch site of one in the sea and then Bob noticed a couple of heads bobbing around in the sea – these were in fact seal heads! Leaving Neist Point lighthouse behind, I felt sad that it wasn’t being looked after better. I suppose, being so remote, that’s just the way things go sometimes.

The amazing Quiraing

The amazing Quiraing

We got back to the car and set off towards the north of the island, passing through Uig and then heading inland across the Trotternish towards Staffin. I was enjoying the views anyway, but then we reached the Quiraing and I was astounded. The magnificent scenery was created by a number of landslips in the area. In every direction we looked it was stunning and we could even see over to the snow-capped mountains of Torridon on the mainland. The road winding through the hills here gives you constantly changing views of the area.

A short while after re-joining the main coastal road we stopped at Kilt Rock, where there are incredible views across to the rock itself and the nearby waterfall. From here we were also able to see across to South Rona and caught a glimpse of its lighthouse. The Torridon hills looked even more fantastic from here.

The Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr

Bob was keen to take me up to see the Old Man of Storr, a 46 metre high (apparently 11 double-decker buses on top of each other, if that helps) pinnacle of rock which formed from glaciers during the Ice Age. It sits below the high cliffs of The Storr, the highest point in the Trotternish Range. It’s about 530 metres above sea level and when I asked Bob what walking up to it could be likened to that I’ve already done, he said it was like walking back up from the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse. On hearing that and remembering that I’d managed to get back from the lighthouse (with a lot of help from Irn Bru) I thought we might as well give it a go. At the time I thought Bob had already been up to it, but it turned out that he hadn’t, which made me even more glad that I’d agreed to it. Having looked at the maps of the area we were both expecting to be traipsing up through a forested area for the first section, but this was not to be. There has been a great deal of deforestation in the area, so much so that there are no longer any trees left. So, instead we traipsed up over bits of tree branches and leaves instead! As we got further up it became tougher and I slowed down quite a bit, but I still kept going and we managed to get quite close to it just as the sun was beginning to go down so we had some fantastic light on this amazing rock with the dark cliffs in the background. We finally reached the Old Man and enjoyed the amazing views from all around, just beautiful and we had the rock to ourselves during the time we were up there. Strolling back down at a faster pace, we stopped occasionally to enjoy the views and take some pictures of the Stornoway coastguard helicopter as it flew overhead.

It was then time to start heading home and Bob decided to take me a different route this time so I could see for myself the seven mountains in a row he’d climbed in one day before cycling (mostly uphill) all the way back to the start. Crazy! We also briefly paused for a look at Eilean Donan Castle as well as Urquhart Castle, which were both lit up beautifully in the dark. We stopped off for dinner in Inverness and arrived back at our beautiful home to see the moon lighting up the North Sea.

Where will our next lighthouse adventure take us?! I don’t know, but I hope it’s soon! 🙂

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Enjoying Skye – day 1

A view across Loch Carron

A view across Loch Carron

We are currently in Portree on the island of Skye off of the west coast of Scotland.

We set off early this morning on our drive to Skye. Enjoying some beautiful views of Dunrobin Castle on a quick stop, as well as calm lochs and some snow-capped mountains, we meandered cross country from Dingwall to Achnasheen, then passed Stromeferry on our way to Plockton. We hoped to be able to get a sighting of the lighthouse on Eilean a’Chait, a small island north of Plockton. We’ll have to revisit this one though, preferably by boat when they start running their seal watching boat trips next year.

Eilean Ban lighthouse

Eilean Ban lighthouse

Once we’d finished up in Plockton we drove on to Kyle of Lochalsh where the bridge over to Skye is located. Just before we crossed the bridge we pulled over onto the side of the road to see if we could get a look at Eilean Ban lighthouse, which stands on a small island under the bridge. I’d been very lucky when I first visited in that there had been gardeners working on the island and the gate was unlocked so I crept on in. This time the gate was locked though, so we wandered along the bridge and had a look at it from above. It’s not possible to see the lighthouse while driving, but very easy to spot from the pavement – if you make sure you look over the north side of the bridge!

We dragged ourselves away from the lighthouse and drove on across the bridge. Our first stop on Skye was Kylerhea. I’d visited Kylerhea where the ferry to Glenelg leaves from last year on my month-long tour to see the lighthouse over the other side of Kyle Rhea at Glenelg. Having looked at the OS mapping software, I noticed that there was actually another lighthouse at Kylerhea a short distance up the coast from where the ferry leaves. I am still a little confused by the light at Glenelg though as it looks very much like a lighthouse – or a large beacon, at least – but it doesn’t seem to appear on the OS maps. I’ll have to look into this one a bit more.

Kylerhea lighthouse

Kylerhea lighthouse

We did, however, manage to spot the Kylerhea lighthouse on the approach road to the ferry, so we then headed a short distance in land and walked from the car park up the road to Otter Haven, which offers some great views of the lighthouse. We spent a short time in the hide before moving on (past the ‘foothpath closed’ sign). We soon realised why the footpath was closed as we reached a small section of path which involved stepping over a small waterfall and then immediately clambering up a short, but very steep slope – and obviously we would have had to come back down too. As it had just been raining and it all looked quite wet and slippery we decided to settle for the views we had got from the hide.

On the way to our next location we stopped at Beinn Na Caillich Café in Broadford where Bob ordered a haggis and cheese panini and I went for the same ingredients on a jacket potato instead!

Ardtreck Point lighthouse

Ardtreck Point lighthouse

We continued our journey onwards to Ardtreck Point for our final lighthouse of the day. We debated whether to try to reach it or not as we were worried about it getting dark, but decided to give it a try anyway and keep an eye on the light. We parked up in Ardtreck and followed the white signs guiding us to the lighthouse and broch. The path was a little wet in places, but we stopped to take photos briefly at the broch and then moved on to the lighthouse. A short time later we spotted it and noticed it was one of the (what I call) ‘Ikea flat-pack’ lighthouses, like the one at Loch Eriboll. They’re not quite as inspiring and beautiful as the Stevenson-type lighthouses in Scotland, but it was such a quiet and beautiful place. It was a great place to visit and, of course, to see another lighthouse that Scotland has to offer. As we were walking back we saw the round, red sun going down below the horizon and we made it back to the car at just the right time. On the way to Portree tonight we stopped on the other side of Loch Harport and could see the lighthouse flashing with a beautiful reflection of the light on the calm loch.

As mentioned above, we are now in Portree and this evening we enjoyed a lovely walk around the town and a very nice meal at The Granary. Tomorrow we have another lighthouse to visit and hopefully a hill to walk up as well. More on that to come! 🙂

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Lybster – minus the fog

Lybster harbour

Lybster harbour

At the beginning of the month we spent a day in Caithness and happened upon Lybster. The last time I’d been down to the harbour there to see the lighthouse there was thick fog and the harbour was sitting just below it. It was really quite spooky and it was good to revisit to get a better picture of the place. A much more pleasant experience! We also caught a glimpse of an otter running around, firstly on the pier and then on the rocks near the entrance to the harbour.

There was not much else going on in Lybster, being out of season, so we continued up the road to a place we’d seen on ‘Coast’ a few days before: Whaligoe Steps. We parked up and made our way towards the steps. As we passed the café we were joined by a very cute tabby cat, who we later found out was called Star. Star led the way down the steps and took us all the way to the bottom and back up again. The steps are fantastic. There are 365 in total and they were built in the 19th century for fisherwomen to drag up the herring caught by the fishermen from the small harbour at the bottom. I’m not sure how they managed, but they would have had some fantastic views in the process – if they’d had the time to look! It’s a wonderful and peaceful place.

Whaligoe steps

Whaligoe steps

Once Star had delivered us cleverly to the entrance to the Whaligoe Steps Café at the top, we went inside and ordered some soup and homemade marshmallows. The soup was delicious and the bread accompanying it was amazing. We enjoyed it so much that we asked the chef how it was made and she took us into the kitchen to show us. She also gave us a free sample ready for us to heat up for a couple of minutes when we got home. This joined the additional homemade marshmallows we decided to buy too!

On our way back home we had a bit of a domestic afternoon with a visit to Homebase, some Christmas shopping in Wick and placing an order for our window seat cover in Thurso. Who knew the lighthouse tour would go all domesticated!

A very enjoyable day! 🙂

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Our lighthouse honeymoon – part 5

Ailsa Craig lighthouse

Ailsa Craig lighthouse

Saturday morning we enjoyed a lovely breakfast at Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel before setting out on a very exciting adventure! Bob had arranged a boat trip for us out to Ailsa Craig (the ‘lump in the sea’, also known as Paddy’s Milestone, off of the west coast of Scotland). It was a little out of season for the boat trip, but we got the go-ahead and met Mark who runs Ailsa Craig Trips on the M.F.V. Glorious. After we’d thrown our waterproofs on, we set off on a slightly rocky and wet trip across to the island. As we approached the ‘lump’ grew bigger and bigger and became more and more fantastic, although it did have its head in the clouds! We also spotted the lighthouse and, once we’d landed, we headed straight for it. The visit to the lighthouse has to be one of the most memorable I’ve experienced. It was like an unofficial museum and really quite sad. Bob had visited a few years ago, but at that time not been able to get into the lighthouse cottages, but the doors are now open and the insides of the buildings open to the elements. The furniture, previously used by the lightkeepers and miners on the island, is now strewn across each room and abandoned books, jars of food, and tins of paint appear in a number of rooms. The general feeling is of abandonment and it reminds you of those who made a living working there and were made unemployed suddenly when the lighthouse was automated.

Ailsa Craig with its lighthouse

Ailsa Craig with its lighthouse

After leaving the lighthouse and its buildings we wandered around to the south fog horn – reaching the fog horn on the north of the island involves walking a rather dangerous path (which Bob did when he last visited, of course)! I’d never had the chance to see inside a fog horn structure before, but you could walk into this one and see the various air pipes linked up to the compressors a short distance away. On our stroll back to the boat we were delighted to see the sun coming out while we enjoyed the amazing geology of the island and explored some more of the derelict buildings. It got even better though as Mark agreed to take us around the whole island in the boat and, as we pulled away from the island some seals popped up to say hello. I’ve never seen anything like the amazing geology Ailsa Craig boasts, it was absolutely stunning and the sun stayed out to offer us the best lighting it could! The journey back to Girvan wasn’t quite so rocky as the outward journey and we made it back safely onto dry land.

Before heading back to the hotel we paid a visit to Turnberry lighthouse, which I’d not seen close up before. We had to be a little aware of flying golf balls on the way as access is only possible through the world-renowned golf course. It’s a beautiful lighthouse though and so lovely to have a wander around the grounds. On the way back, Bob spotted signs for a Russian memorial near Lendalfoot and so we turned off to find out more. The memorial to the lost Russian warship, Varyag, was unveiled in 2006, over 80 years after the ship was wrecked off of the Ayrshire coast. Once back at the hotel we enjoyed another five-course dinner before retiring to our amazing suite!

Southerness lighthouse

Southerness lighthouse

On Sunday we sadly left Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel and drove east for a brief visit to Southerness lighthouse. Although the weather wasn’t great there was still an air of holiday about the place with a few families around. The lighthouse there is quite an interesting one due to its shape. I can’t really describe it, so you’ll just have to see the picture on the right! It’s a really nice place with a good feel about it. I think by walking to the lighthouse, we encouraged others to do the same and then got annoyed that people wouldn’t move away and out of our pictures!

Our destination for the night was The Lovat hotel in Fort Augustus, so we had a bit of a travel day, which was fine as the weather wasn’t too good. This was, however, broken up by our first visit to a garden centre together. We’ve had an on-going joke that we won’t go to the cinema or to a garden centre until we are married and no longer do fun things. We’ve still not made it to a cinema, but I was actually quite excited to pay a visit to the garden centre. It helped that we had some lovely soup and a piece of cake too! Upon reaching The Lovat I was so happy to see our room, including the swan towels on the bed, a half bottle of champagne and a TV in the bathroom (we didn’t use it though)! We had a wonderful meal, starting with haggis bon bons (amazing!) and a cocktail followed by plenty of food.

At lighthouse 26 of our honeymoon, Tarbat Ness

At lighthouse 26 of our honeymoon, Tarbat Ness

Monday was the final day of our fantastic honeymoon, with our destination being home. Before we left Fort Augustus we wandered along the road to Loch Ness to see the old pepperpot lighthouse which is still in operation. There were some amazing views across the loch, but no sign of Nessie unfortunately. On our way up the road we stopped off to see the old Bona lighthouse building at the north end of Loch Ness. It’s looking very abandoned and, although there have been plans to renovate it into a visitors centre, there has been a lot of resistance from the local community. It’s always a shame to see a lighthouse fall into disrepair. Further north we stopped at Tarbat Ness lighthouse which I was able to see properly this time! When I visited during my month-long tour last year it was so foggy that when I parked up I could barely see the lighthouse. Luckily it was a lovely day and I got the full effect of this beautiful, tall, red and white striped structure. A fantastic lighthouse to end on. In total we visited 26 lighthouses between day 1 when we left St Catherine’s and day 10 at Tarbat Ness.

The drive back home enabled us to see just how much autumn had set in since we’d left. I’d never seen quite so many different colours of trees! Once we arrived home Bob, as is traditional, carried me across the threshold. It had been such a brilliant 10 days and a great start to my life as Mrs Kerr! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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Our lighthouse honeymoon – part 4

Some of the murals in West Belfast

Some of the murals in West Belfast

Thursday marked the final day of the Northern Irish part of the honeymoon. Having visited all of the lighthouses we possibly could, we decided to spend the day in and around Belfast to see a bit of culture there. We started off on a bus tour with Allen’s Belfast Bus Tours after a bit of a tiff between the Allen’s representative and someone from the City Sightseeing company who told us that we’d ‘bought the wrong tickets’. In the end I was pleased we’d gone with Allen’s as there were a lot less people on board so no chance of heads in the way of our pictures. On the tour we passed the city hall, and a number of churches and cathedrals. Most importantly though we were able to see a huge number of the city’s political murals in West Belfast as well as the peace walls that were constructed in the 1960s to reduce violence between Catholic and Protestant communities.

In our Victorian attire

In our Victorian attire

We hopped of the bus half way through as we’d already seen some of east Belfast. I was quite keen to visit the Ulster Folk Museum and we made it just in time to have a while there. We ended up spending a bit longer there than we had planned. The museum is fascinating. There are a number of buildings set up and all kitted out to look like homes, shops, police stations, banks and doctors surgeries from the last 100 years. They had real people dressed up in the relevant costumes and even a lady showing us how they used to weave on a loom. It was fascinating! The best bit by far though had to be the photography studio there. We just happened to wander in and then within about 15 minutes we were upstairs choosing which Victorian clothes we wanted to wear for our photo shoot! Harry, who runs the studio, took us through the whole process as it would have happened in Victorian times. He posed us and made us stand still for about 20 seconds like they would have had to do while a photo was taken – it wasn’t easy!

Once we’d finished playing around with the costumes and I’d prised the hat off of Bob’s head we drove back to Black Head lighthouse for the night and had a bit more of a look around the lighthouse grounds than we’d managed to beforehand.

Arriving in Cairnryan

Arriving in Cairnryan

The following morning we set off to catch our ferry back to mainland UK. This time we caught the three-hour trip across to Cairnryan. As soon as we got on the boat we headed to the top floor where Bob treated us both to a massage, which was brilliant and completely unexpected! We had a spot of lunch and sat near the window just in time to see the lighthouse at Corsewall Point come into view. We braved the elements (it wasn’t such a nice day) and took some pictures from afar and a short while later I was saying goodbye to the lighthouse (as I always do)! That was when it was revealed to me that Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel would be our home for the next two nights. I was particularly excited as I’d visited the lighthouse before and seen how beautiful the hotel looked.

Crammag Head lighthouse

Crammag Head lighthouse

Once we’d reached Cairnryan and spotted the lighthouse there we headed for Stranraer and took a quick trip to Portpatrick. The lighthouse at Portpatrick doesn’t currently show up on the OS mapping so I wanted to prove to Bob (not that he took much convincing) that there was one there – albeit no longer in operation. Our next destination was Crammag Head. After driving around some narrow roads with lots of water on them (the weather didn’t improve that day) and following a cow (we named her Daisy) for quite some distance, we finally spotted the lighthouse. There were some buildings nearby, but we were concerned about parking there and the weather didn’t entice us any closer to the lighthouse, so we opted for just seeing it from the road.

Corsewall Point lighthouse

Corsewall Point lighthouse

We arrived at Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel in the early evening and were handed the key to the Stevenson Suite (named after the famous Stevenson family who built so many of Scotland’s wonderful lighthouses). Before we even got inside the suite I was amazed at how big it was. Once we were inside and I’d found the beautiful bunch of flowers, the champagne, chocolates and the lovely card from Bob I was speechless. Combined with the amazement I felt at seeing how big the place was, I think Bob got more peace than he’d ever had before or is likely to have in the near future. I was stunned! I quickly angled the brilliant reclining chairs so we could see out of the large window facing  the lighthouse. While I was still recovering from the shock of staying in such an amazing place, we made our way to the hotel for our five-course dinner and wine. Amazing food and in such a wonderful location!

A very exciting day followed! More news of this to come! 🙂

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Our lighthouse honeymoon – part 3

Through a number found in the Lonely Planet guide to Ireland we tracked down a trip with North Irish Diver, which would get us out to The Maidens lighthouse. This was the only lighthouse that Bob was concerned we wouldn’t get to. It was arranged on the Monday night for Tuesday afternoon so we had to do a bit of reshuffling of our plans for the rest of the week, but it didn’t cause any problems.

Fun at Crumlin Road Gaol

Fun at Crumlin Road Gaol

To make the most of the day, I managed to convince Bob on the Tuesday morning that he wanted to go to Crumlin Road Gaol, which was only closed as an operational prison in 1996. After some dodgy navigation around Belfast (on my part), we finally made it there and it was well worth the visit. We signed up for the tour, which was fascinating if a little disturbing in places. They still have the original mechanisms for carrying out hangings in place, which were revealed to us rather dramatically! The fact that in my lifetime there were still prisoners there made it feel more real. They have a lot of cells set up to show how they would have looked right through from the mid-1800s to 1996.

The Maidens lighthouse

The Maidens lighthouse

Once we’d had a bit of lunch in the café at the jail we headed back to Islandmagee where our boat was due to set off from Ballylumford harbour. We met Peter and Darren at the harbour and climbed on board. The boat was great, with an open section at the back but a covered section over most of the boat. We’d actually paid for the boat to go out so we were the only ones on the trip. Off we went towards the Maidens where we had some stunning views of the black and white striped lighthouse there. We’d managed to see it from the mainland, but it was quite a distance away and there’s nothing like seeing a lighthouse from the sea (or the air for that matter, see my previous post)! There’s also the remains of an old lighthouse on the neighbouring island and we had some great views of both – alongside some lighthouse-bagging seals! After finishing up at the Maidens we headed back towards the mainland and further south to see the fascinating coastline, the Gobbins, including the seven sisters and Portmuck harbour where there used to be a nice coastal path which is now impassable in many places (apparently they are attempting to reinstate it though in the near future). Fortunately, Peter and Darren were happy enough to go as far south as Whitehead so we could get a view of “our” lighthouse (Black Head) from the sea! It was great to get a new angle on it and see our honeymoon accommodation too. It was a great boat trip and we were pleased, once back home, to see Peter on an episode of ‘Coast’ from the first series!

We had a really enjoyable evening at Bentra Grill, which was a short distance from where we were staying. Fantastic food, great company and a lighthouse on the window too!

Rathlin South lighthouse

Rathlin South lighthouse

On Wednesday, a wet and windy day, we had an early start in order to reach Ballycastle in time for the first boat across to Rathlin island. The island is home to three lighthouses, but we were unable to take the car over (only island residents are allowed to do so). So, in order to get around the island we’d arranged to hire bikes from a lovely lady called Jennifer at Soerneog View Hostel. Riding a bike on Rathlin island marked my first attempt at cycling in at least 15 years. To start with I genuinely thought I wouldn’t be able to do it (particularly with the strong wind – we were lucky with the rain holding off in the end), but I persisted and a while later we found ourselves at the place we chose to leave to bikes to get to the lighthouse on the most southern point of the island. To avoid walking past a group of cows we took a bit of a longer route and eventually reached the lighthouse. The waves crashing over the rocks meant we didn’t spend a lot of time at the lighthouse, but we took a quick break and had something to eat in the area.

Rathlin North lighthouse

Rathlin North lighthouse

The second lighthouse we visited was on the most north easterly point of the island. This was relatively uneventful to reach and we had a nice walk along a path in order to reach the lighthouse. We were able to see the light in operation and we enjoyed the peaceful location. The final lighthouse was the hardest to get to. It not only involved a long cycle of uphill and downhill most of the way, we also had a bit of a walk at the other end – again going off piste to avoid some cows. We were rather disappointed with the lighthouse, not because it wasn’t interesting to look it (it is, in fact, really interesting to look at with the lamp room located in front of the main tower on a lower level). I was really looking forward to seeing it, but unfortunately it all appeared to be locked up and there was no way of seeing the lighthouse from the island. Feeling a little dejected we headed back to the bikes and reached them just after the rain started. We had a bit of a rush (as much as we could anyway) back to Jennifer to drop the bikes off in time to catch the ferry. We reached her house at a few minutes before the boat was due to leave and she phoned ahead to the people on the boat and asked them to wait for us. She then very kindly gave us a lift to the boat just in time for us to get on. Such a lovely lady!

The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges

On the way back we stopped off at the Dark Hedges near Ballymoney. It is an avenue lined on either side by beech trees planted in the eighteenth century and it’s really beautiful – although I wouldn’t want to be there at night! Again we enjoyed another meal at Bentra Grill, having both noticed how many things on the menu we wanted to try the night before!

Although we’d not managed to see the lighthouse lamp room on the western point of Rathlin island, it marked our final lighthouse sighting in Northern Ireland. We hope to revisit in the future and (fingers crossed) get the chance to see the Rathlin West lighthouse from the sea (or the air, if I’m lucky)!!!

Next on the honeymoon blog posts: our final day in Northern Ireland and onwards to some Scottish lighthouses! 🙂

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Our lighthouse honeymoon – part 2

Sunrise at Black Head lighthouse

Sunrise at Black Head lighthouse

The first Sunday of our honeymoon we set off from Black Head lighthouse (where we’d seen a wonderful sunrise) heading north along the coast. We joined the main coastal road and were stuck behind a group of about 20 cyclists. It’s understandable why the road is so popular with cyclists and motorists, there are beautiful views all the way along. We continued up along the coast, leaving the main road at Cushendun to take in Torr Head. From the Head we could see across to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland and we explored the ruins of an old building. As we turned the corner at the most north eastern point of mainland Northern Ireland there were even more wonderful views, including a look across to Rathlin island where we planned to go later in the week.

Bob on the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

Bob on the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

We arrived at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge that afternoon. I must admit to being very excited about going across the bridge. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the walk along to the bridge, stopping regularly to grab pictures of the fantastic coastline. Bob decided it would be a good idea to bounce around on the bridge to stop others getting on and “ruining the pictures”. Crossing the bridge gave some amazing views of the rocks below and then more of the coastline from the island on the other side. It was a great place and even busy (sort of) in October, so I can imagine it might be a little frustrating at the height of summer. Glad we went at this time of year!

The Giant's Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway

Our next stop was the Giant’s Causeway. They have obviously got a lot of money coming in based on the size of the visitor’s centre they’ve got there. We watched a short film showing the actual and mythical cause of the fascinating geology there. I must admit to being quite taken by the mythical version of events! Again it was quite busy there, but we managed to mostly avoid the crowds and get some good pictures. Bob was intent on finding a perfectly hexagonal rock as shown in a lot of the promotional material, which was not as easy as you might think! We also randomly met a guy who Bob had climbed Mount Vinson with in late 2011!

Finishing up there we decided to follow the coast around, ending our journey in Derry/Londonderry. We passed Dunluce Castle on the way and it was dark by the time we reached the city. Being a Sunday evening everything was closed, but the Guildhall was looking stunning with the colour-changing lights. We also enjoyed seeing the Peace Bridge, which opened in 2011.

Ferris Point lighthouse

Ferris Point lighthouse

The following day we set off early as we had a very exciting trip out to Mew Island arranged!  We took a quick drive north, stopping briefly to see Ferris Point lighthouse, a modern-looking structure that is actually older than you’d think, but no longer in operation. From here we could look across Larne Lough to the old Chaine Memorial Tower lighthouse in Larne. We then popped over to Larne to see the Memorial Tower close up. Approval of a light being added to the tower, which was a memorial to James Chaine (a former Member of Parliament for Antrim), was given in 1896. The light, which is 22 metres up the 28 metre tower, is still in operation today. We followed this visit up with a quick trip to Titanic Belfast, which we hurried around trying to avoid the numerous children about. We hoped to go back at some point to get a look at the dry dock Titanic was built in, but there wasn’t time in the end (we’ll just have to go back).

Mew Island lighthouse

Mew Island lighthouse

Newtownards airport was our next stop! Bob had arranged for us to go up in a small helicopter to see Mew Island lighthouse from above with Aeroheli. After I’d climbed into the front and Bob had slid into the back, Johnny started up the engine and a short while later we were off! Fortunately the helicopter didn’t seem so small once we were inside. We flew out over Donaghadee harbour and the lighthouse there and had fantastic views as we approached Mew Island. The islands were stunning and we were able to fly around them a few times. It’s now my new favourite way of seeing lighthouses! On the way back I was asked if I wanted to have a go at flying the helicopter. I was a little scared, but gave it a try with a rather worried Bob in the back. It’s only when you’re flying it yourself that you feel again how small it is. We arrived safely back on dry land and I would have been more than happy to have gone out all over again!

It had been a wonderful day with plenty of sunshine and we stopped off at Carrickfergus Castle on the way back to the lighthouse cottage. Then there was another evening of watching the daylight fade into darkness from the cottage window.

Still more to come! 🙂

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Our lighthouse honeymoon – part 1

Following on from my previous post, we set off on our honeymoon the day after the wedding, leaving the Isle of Wight with me still having no idea where we were off to.

Leasowe lighthouse

Leasowe lighthouse

We had arranged with Enchanted Manor to have a visit to the ‘bridge’ on the Red Funnel ferry on our journey back to Southampton. After being handed a bottle of champagne and some chocolates by the Red Funnel staff we made our way with John Baikie (our wedding photographer) up to see the captain and the crew. It’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere up there, with a bit of cruise ship dodging and a great commentary from the captain. Nice to get a chance to see behind the scenes.

Once we’d dropped John off at the train station in Southampton, the honeymoon destination was finally revealed to me. We were off to Northern Ireland and Bob had planned ahead and presented two books about lighthouses in Ireland ready for me to do a bit of research on the way up the road. I was delighted not to be travelling to an airport for a wait around when we were both feeling very tired after the fun of the previous day. We set off for Birkenhead where we would catch the ferry across to Belfast overnight with a cabin ready for us on-board.

New Brighton lighthouse

New Brighton lighthouse

As we neared our location we paid quick visits to Leasowe lighthouse and New Brighton, which looked a little creepy as it got darker. I’d not seen Leasowe lighthouse before and I’d not managed to get close to New Brighton lighthouse on my last visit. It was great to start as we meant to go on for the honeymoon!

We arrived in Belfast early the following morning and decided we’d quite like a lighthouse before breakfast, so we headed east to Donaghadee. The lighthouse there flashes red and white light and we got some nice pictures of it looking across the harbour with the lifeboat in front. We could also see the lighthouse on Mew Island flashing away in the distance. At that point I had no idea what was in store for getting to Mew Island. It’s got an incredibly bright light though, which was visible from our accommodation (more on that to come a bit later!)

After grabbing some breakfast we stopped off at Down Cathedral and popped along to see St Patrick’s Grave. The Cathedral is very well kept and the man working there gave us a little history of the place. St Patrick’s Grave is marked by a big rock in a small area next to the cathedral.

St John's Point lighthouse

St John’s Point lighthouse

We spotted Angus Rock lighthouse further down the road, following by another at Ardglass. Our plan was to try and discover all of the lighthouses by hugging the coast as much as we could while in the coastal area. So, these were good finds for us. We reached our next intended destination shortly after. I was looking forward to seeing the next lighthouse for its unique colour. St John’s Point lighthouse is striped black and yellow, so not like any I’ve seen before. We couldn’t get into the grounds of the lighthouse, but were able to see it fairly close up. Haulbowline lighthouse was (almost) the final lighthouse of the day. It guides vessels into Carlingford Lough and was built to replace a former lighthouse that was failing to do the job properly. We headed north through the Mourne Mountains, getting some lovely views of Slieve Donard (the highest point in Northern Ireland and also commonly referred to by the two of us as ‘Celine Dion’) and it’s surrounding hills.

Reading a Lonely Planet guide with a view

Reading a Lonely Planet guide with a view

I believe I’d been informed on the way up to Birkenhead that we would be staying in one of the cottages at Black Head lighthouse (owned by the Irish Landmark Trust) for 6 nights in Northern Ireland. We arrived at the lighthouse in time to meet the lady who maintains the cottage. It was a fantastic place with some beautiful views out of all of the east-facing windows of the tower and light room. There was also a walk-way across to the tower from the back door of the cottage. It was amazing to watch the sun going down beyond the lighthouse that evening while looking through some of the leaflets we’d picked up at the tourist information office earlier that day. There was no television in the cottage, which meant we had really peaceful evenings.

More honeymoon news to follow! 🙂

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The best day ever – and it involved a lighthouse, of course!

As predicted in my previous post, this entry will be all about the most exciting day of my life: our wedding day!

One of John Baikie's pictures from the day

One of John Baikie’s pictures from the day

The day itself began at Enchanted Manor on the Isle of Wight where we had the ceremony outside with beautiful blue sky and even some sunshine. We had some wonderful readings during the ceremony from Bob’s sister-in-law Maria, my niece Ella, and Jani, a friend of Bob’s family. We had shipped in John Baikie from Inverness to take our photographs as we knew how good he was and we wanted to make the most of the locations we had lined up for the day.

After a few drinks and canapés, we all headed down the road to St Catherine’s lighthouse where we had hired all three of the lighthouse cottages from Rural Retreats. We had also arranged for all of our guests to have tours of the lighthouse with Andrew who gave an introduction to the history of the lighthouse and then took them up the lighthouse to the lamp room. While the first group of guests were up there, we were having some pictures taken nearby and could see them and gave them a wave! We then made our way to the top of the lighthouse ourselves with John to have some pictures taken. Getting to the top with a long train on my dress wasn’t easy, but I managed with a lot of help from Bob!

We had set up one of the lighthouse cottages with food, drink, games and a picture slideshow of our lives so far, including how we met. The honeymoon location was still unknown to everyone except Bob and his parents, so we bought a large wall map of the world and got our guests to guess where we were going. All will be revealed in the next blog post!

Our wedding cake (picture taken by Bill Kean)

Our wedding cake (picture taken by Bill Kean)

Once the tours and photos were done at the lighthouse we travelled back up the road to the Buddle Inn where we had our meal and reception in their converted barn. Our tables were decorated with some beautiful lighthouse tea light holders, a gift from my colleagues at Alzheimer’s Disease International, and some thank you cards featuring lighthouse and hills/mountains cross stitch designs I had prepared myself (they took months and I had to get my sister involved towards the end to make sure they were all done on time!). The tables were named after various mountains, including Everest, Mount Vinson and Ruadh-stac Mor in Scotland. Arriving at the Buddle Inn also meant the grand unveiling of our wedding cake made by Niki at Ticketyboo Cupcakes, which featured the groom at the top of the mountain with the bride struggling to get up. A red and white-striped lighthouse also featured. It certainly attracted a lot of attention and we were pleased that everyone liked the cake, which we’d put a lot of thought into. It was the first time we’d seen it too and we were amazed!

It was a fantastic day and I was delighted when Bob originally suggested getting married on the Isle of Wight and involving St Catherine’s lighthouse. I couldn’t have asked for a better day and it was so lovely to spend the day with our close family and friends 🙂

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