Ulster Way North Down coastal path.
It began well and although walking into a strong wind blowing down Belfast Lough, we made good if not slightly slow progress, probably hindered by me stopping for a few seconds every so often to try and get a decent picture. The sky over head was quite overcast with only occasional breaks in the cloud and the waves were cresting well before they got anywhere near the shore, sending wisps of spray into the air. The path meandered slowly around the small sandy, shingle and pebbly beaches that stretch along the shore at Cultra, the Royal Belfast Golf Club and other little hamlets containing houses with what must be some of the biggest windows in County Down.
At one point where the path juts out along a rocky outcrop and where the sea water laps against the rocks just feet from where you’re walking, the waves made for a game of dare. The options were:
1) run and look like a wimp trying to avoid getting a salty shower from the heavy sea spray that made it at least 8 or 9 ft into the air - but probably getting hit anyway or...
2) walk it and anticipate every step as being the one that will see you soaked.
We went with option 2. I’d like to think our fellow walkers, watching on and who were yet to face the choice, were very impressed by our placing everything on 0, roulette like defiance of the odds of a soaking.
They didn’t have to wait long for us to demonstrate that option 1 was where the money (aka staying dry and only mildly salty) was at. A couple of decent sized waves later and we were dripping from head to toe on one side. Luckily for us the wind was our natural hair drier even if it didn’t have the multifaceted capacity to provide a hairbrush at the same time. Handy but very cold and the salt on skin left behind didn’t do us very well when it came to bending our hands or expressing any sort of facial expression.
Further down the way we had to climb some steps which at the summit provided a close up of a herd of cows. Friendly they were too. Or maybe they were just curious or just a bit bemused to have so many people at once passing them by within such a short space of time? There seemed to be a constant stream of people along the paths, even more people than seagulls which was quite suprising. At least a hundred that we could see between those ahead and those behind us who seemed to be constantly overtaking. Why people wanted to run past us only to bunch up ahead walking again was a bit weird but maybe they just like to be competitive or maybe they just got fed up of me and my camera. They probably didn’t enjoy the scenery as much but maybe they get out and about more often.
Being over taken wasn’t demoralising though, that was left to Killroot Power station or as it will now be know; Kill-moral-oot. Due to the geography of the North Down coast in relation to that of its neighbouring shoreline in County Antrim, Kill-moral-oot can be seen from just about everywhere. It’s almost always in your eye line out to sea but you’re constantly walking at an angle zigzaging towards or away from it. At no point does it appear you are making any ground on it.
Putting that out of mind we then traversed along the scenic beaches at Helens Bay and Crawfordsburn Country Park and as we did the sun started to win its battle to be seen and showed itself for good spells, helping take the chill out of the breeze. As we continued to plod along admiring the view of the sands, we were captivated by the “Warning – Beware of Unexpected waves” signs and like the big kids we are, we began waving at each other at random intervals followed by laughing out heads off as if it was the best joke we’ve heard in years.
With just a mile or two to go of the 9 mile left to go the promenade undulates over the rocks, thankfully though, not at violently as the waves continued to as they pounded the coastline. The choppy water caused quite impressive collections of foam to gather in faults in the geology that the waves had exposed over time. Some of the foam that was being whipped up by the wind, flew into the air, narrowly missing us on a couple of occasions.
Over 2 hours into our walk the path turned south for the last time and Kill-moral-oot was out of sight for good. Instead we had the view of Bangor Harbour, and the town spread out behind it.
It was a warming sight as we made it to the cafe by the famous Bangor Pickie pool, the Swan boats and miniature railway at Bangor's Pickie Family Fun Park. We were given a lovely welcome and congratulations by some folks working for the hospice and we received a wee badge and certificate to say we’d completed it.
From there and with our hair set into some kind of crazy position from one of those styling mousse adverts, we headed for some food in a cafe up by the train station and then made our way back to Belfast. In the city centre, many a Polish fan were wearing their red and white merchandise, getting ready to see Norn Iron beat Polska 3-2 in the World Cup Qualifying game at Windsor later in the day.
As for our efforts we got home and were just a little, well... Wind-sore, especially our faces. After a warm bath and giving our legs a break though, we’re now good to sit back and thank everyone again for sponsoring us and helping us raise the sum of
If anyone would like to know more about the Northern Ireland Hospice and the work they do, is interested in donating or maybe even taking part in any events, please do visit their website at http://www.nihospice.org/