Big Seas & Golden Beaches in Glenarm - Episode 10
We arrived at Glenarm Harbour at about 6.30 pm Sunday 5th September. The entrance was straight forward with little to worry about other than an abundance of pots, a fish farm and four other boats jockeying for position. This was to be our last port in Northern Ireland, and it did not disappoint. The following day we walked to Glenarm Castle. The castle itself is the home of Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce, and I believe they do open their doors a couple of times a year but sadly not this week. However, the grounds are open to the public all year round, and they have an excellent tearoom, local craft and other produce shops. The walled gardens were out of this world with many tropical plants and an enormous potting shed. We spent hours in the garden, although Gary thinks I spent most of this time looking through the lens on my phone. I am so keen to capture the beauty of the land for our memories. Memories fade without photographs. I often want to hold a memory still when I think of those I love who have gone, and sadly I can not keep the image still enough in my mind to marvel at the past. So with this in mind, hopefully, I am forgiven for having the phone out a lot!
Often I seem to take photos of open doors, and the potting shed in this garden was no exception. For me, open door symbolize new beginnings, new horizons, adventure, progress and an opportunity to move forward in life. Somehow the open door gives me mindful motivation to be brave and step into the unknown, fitting for this chapter of my life.
On route back from the castle, we noticed the town pub was cash only, strange in these times. With cashless pockets and running low on wine, we knew we must locate an ATM and a shop for supplies. Search we did but no ATM to be found and the only town shop sold minimal supplies, just bread, eggs, milk and you guessed it ice-cream! I do not know what it is about Ireland, but there are so many ice-cream shops, and they all have a queue. The lovely Harbour Master, Billy, told us that the nearest ATM and off licence was Carne Lough, about a 3-mile walk, so we hot-footed it back to the boat to acquire the footwear for the walk. We had no sooner crossed the car park at the marina, and Billy drew up in his 4X4 and shouted, want a lift. Of course, we took him up on his very kind offer. Billy was a wise man and had much to share about the area and the people. He seemed to know many locals and told us to have a meal in the pub in Carne Lough and be sure to tell the landlord Paddy that he had sent us. Dropping this connection would secure us a lift back, Billy thought. We thought that was just too cheeky, so we asked the bus driver at the harbour stop what was the last bus back to Glenarm. A group of lads standing in earshot told us that the buses were not that reliable and be at the stop early just in case. Good advice.
We went to the Spar for supplies and armed ourselves with some nice fresh food, but they had no wine. Essential sailor supplies! The cashier kindly pointed us to the off licence attached to the pub. This seems to be how things are in Ireland. The off licence was at the back of the pub, the very pub Billy had told us to visit. The cashier in the Off Licence heard our story and immediately took us through the back and into the saloon of the pub, where we enjoyed a meal, and yes, the landlord did take us back to the marina. Such generosity from the locals, and they would not take a penny. Billy took us back to Carne Lough later in the week for fuel, another grand gesture of kindness. Carne Lough was another picturesque place where we believe some of Game of Thrones was filmed.
This little place was an absolute delight, not to be missed if you are sailing this part of the country. We left Glenarm at 4 am on Thursday 9th September for Gigha in Scotland. It was pitch black in darkness but dry and not too chilly. I headed for the bow to sit clipped on and watch for pots. I didn’t see one, which is amazing as there were loads. Gary believes it was his great helmsman-ship and his Jedi mind tricks. I have to give him this one as I saw nothing. It is easy to get disoriented in the dark, but all was good and at 6 am, we took a call from MC, our dear cruising friend, who was also leaving Fort William at an ungodly hour. There are not many people you can have a conversation with at sunrise; it was comforting to know she was there and wishing us a safe passage.
Almost from the start of this passage, we could see the lighthouse at Mull of Kintyre and passing the overfalls almost seemed too easy. As dawn broke and the Mull could be seen in the distance, I found myself reflecting upon all the pilot guide warnings for the area, and none of them spelt out easy sailing. I knew with careful weather and tide preparation, this passage was going to be ok, but also knew some of the tidal gates around Scotland have an infamous reputation- most notably the Mull of Kintyre and Gulf of Corryvreckan, which at peak flow can exceed ten knots. It was crucial to ensure that the direction of both wind and tide was the same. With 18 knots of wind, we approached the Mull of Kintyre with the perfect state of tide and guess what? A song came to mind, well, you can not pass an opportunity up like that, and I sang my heart out, after all, who could hear me! I watched the sea rise and fall, a similar view to that of going over the shelf in the Atlantic when we sailed to Spain in 2018, although there was no land in sight on that occasion. The passing of the Mull of Kintyre was uneventful, although the Mull looked bleak, and the grey sky created a sombre and mysterious atmosphere over the rocky west cliffs.
We approached Gigha at 11.30 am, just as Gary had estimated the day before. Gigha is stunning, and the pictures don’t do it justice. The gardens were not as pretty as Glenarm but still worth a look.
We ate at the Boathouse on the first evening, and the fish was so fresh. Someone ordered lobster, and the chef went to the pier to get it. NOW that is Fresh! Small world, as we met some guys who we had seen racing in Bangor NI some weeks before. We got chatting with them in the Boathouse Restaurant and met them again the following day whilst exploring the Island. John, the skipper, invited us to play cards with them, great fun, and the guys also knew how to keep the drink flowing but then again, what sailor doesn't! I was lucky and kept my name on the scorecard whilst the others went by the names of Sandpiper, Sticker, Warden, Boat show and Moat. Their stories were hilarious, and the banter lifted our spirits on a day that had turned quite grey and miserable. John's boat is called The Final Call. We had heard so much about this skipper and the helping hand he played in getting Tim Long, our friend, access to the RUYC when he was in Bangor during Covid restrictions. It was a pleasure to meet John and his crew, such great guys who demonstrated fantastic camaraderie and team spirit in the short time we spent together. Good luck with next seasons racing, and we hope to meet again!
We left Gigha on Monday 15th September for Craighouse on Jura, the most amazing place for spotting wildlife, and I look forward to sharing next time.