The signs are good but rain is driving along causeway route
ON THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY:IAN PAISLEY was fond of saying, in his pre-Belfast Agreement days, that he would never forsake the blue skies of Northern Ireland for the grey ones of the South.
Well, the two parts of the island were firmly united yesterday – united in grey – as the north of the island was bashed, buffeted and drenched by lashing rain, and wind whipped the coastline. Donegal, Derry and Antrim all bore the brunt of the worst the Atlantic could throw at them.
The North’s Causeway Coastal Route ( causewaycoastandglens.com) can support its proud boast to be “one of the world’s great road journeys”, with stunning scenery and a range of well-presented diversions for visitors. But yesterday it was not at its best: viewed through driving rain and wind and, on mountain passes, the low-cloud mist.
It was, simply put, a filthy pig of a day. But even at that, this wonderful road showed what the Wild Atlantic Way, along the west coast, can do when Fáilte Ireland launches it next year.
Leaving Derry and heading east on the A2, signs for the causeway Coastal Route are simple, clear, plentiful, repetitive and in all the right places. That continues right along the route. It would be difficult to get lost and easy to find your way back on to it if you did.
The Causeway begins to show her charms soon after Ballyscullion, north of Limavady, when she veers east and passes the lengthy and dramatic escarpment of Binevenagh Mountain.
Frances Kelly, who works in the nearby Benone resort, says that in Norway, they know of this escarpment. “When the Vikings came and were out at sea,” she says, “it is said that they saw the cliffs of Binevenagh and thought it was a massive castle, and so they sailed away again rather than attack. I don’t know if that’s true but the story is in a Viking museum in Norway.”
Benone strand is a vast expanse of wide sandy beach, about 11km long. Frances’s colleague Colin Bell is in no doubt as to the importance of the Causeway Coastal Route to the local tourism economy.
“We’ve a lot more people here because of the route – it draws people into the area,” he says.
The spine of the route is the A3, right the way around the coast, through Derry and Antrim, all the way to Belfast.
After Benone, comes Downhill Demesne, which has gardens and cliffs walks and the delightful Georgian folly that is the Mussenden Temple, a drum-shaped building perched on the edge of the cliffs.