To sum up the Northern Irish coastline at the height of its season, you’d have to access every variation of noun with the prefix ‘rain’ available. Raincoat, raincloud, raindrop, rainbow… Rain itself pours from the heavens and onto the Ulster rocks below, painting them dark and dangerous, ready for an unfortunately misplaced foot, or perhaps, a particularly beautiful photograph.
If you’re looking for sun kissed beaches and glittering palm trees of a long summer weekend, I’d perhaps stray towards one of the slightly warmer continents on the planet. But if you’re dreaming of a tumultuous sea of history, and a steep rocky incline through stories taken from the bumpier edges of Britain, I’d head on out! But don’t forget to grab your spottiest umbrella first.No matter where you go, the barren beauty of Northern Ireland will always match you, pace for pace and puddle for puddle. From the rain in Coleraine to the downpour in Derry, you can see a hundred rainbows to every cloud, and a thousand coffee shops to every foggy hilltop. And even if the sheets of sleet hurtling themselves down from the sky don’t appeal to your buried Brontë-esque psyche, when the sun finally breaks through, it’s all the more hotter and sweeter for its absence.There’s a temptation for every sense in this unintentional tour of the country – the barbecue smell of hopeful heat-lovers in County Down, the rush of the waves shattering against the rocks in the coasts of Port Rush and Port Stewart, the feel of a thousand feet of nothing beneath as you tiptoe across Caraway Bridge… From the sight of that fabled end of the rainbow, and the taste of the fry up that only the Northern Irish can cook. You’ll not be bored, nor lost, nor alone here.
For the photographer, welcome to the haven of idyllically framed shots and emotionally charged scenery. Stones in littered monochrome formations, floral teacups in pastel painted tea rooms, war memorials in glorious technicolour. Historically and visually enticing, it’s a country of so many things to discover, secrets the outside world will never quite understand.
For the culturalist, with eyes made for people watching and a mind as open as a door, this is a land that will make you empathise with every middle class mother, who complained about how you ‘never really know your neighbours, do you?’. Northern Ireland is a land of so many hidden depts that the English would never even consider. If an adventure into a brand new culture is tugging at your internal compass. don’t ever be afraid to venture out to the brother and sister countries of the UK…they’re definitely different enough to spark your interest. You’ll meet the creator of all crisps in Tayto, loaves of bread come in tiny nutty cubes, shops don’t open until 1pm on Sundays…No two towns are the same, no two shops will stock the same produce, and no two roads will take you to the same place.For the nautical soul, with the thumbs of a fisherman and eyes as a bright as a lighthouse, there’s no end of beaches, coastlines and loughs for you to explore. Antrim Lough carries you up to the Castle, Ramore Head streamlines you down to Port Stewart, and if you were to stand in the footsteps of the Giant’s Causeway, you’d be greeting the great open coast, stretching all the way out until your eyes can envision no more.
Many far away places can promise to be beautiful and breathtaking and brutally rural in their design. But I can promise you, with half of my heart beating in Antrim and half of it beating in England, Northern Ireland is all of them and more.
Have a lovely weekend!