Inish Owen to Ballintoy–46km
After the most fantastic hospitality from Clodagh and Paul McIvor it was hard to leave Moville. I had met them through the exceptional work they do in the community through traditional music, via my sister and a long dead relative!! Despite a houseful of brilliant kids Clodagh steamed around, I reckon she cooked for a dozen at breakfast.
We had arranged with a farmer to leave the boats in a cow shed by the beach and Paul, dressed smartly as befits a palliative care doctor, mucked in as we retrieved the kit from the byre!
Adrian Harkin had given us good advice including about crossing the Foyle, “forget the tide, just go straight to Portrush” . We did and stroked our way a couple of hours later into the harbour, full of noise as they widen it for the golfing visitors. We decided to do some planning for the next few days so a visit to the sailing club cafe….. Oh well I had better ‘fess up, despite that monumental breakfast from Clodagh I unashamedly ordered up another full breakfast… (But not a patch on yours Clodagh). Rob was shocked, Ritchie quietly pilfered toast, and I felt a little uncomfortable, morally and physically.
Malin head had loomed so large we hadn’t really planned beyond it. We had the weather which seemed impossible a few days ago so there was a real chance of completing the round. Rob found a bothy available to kayakers, contacted the person who said ‘give me a few minutes, I’m just bringing my boat into a place called.. Portrush’ . We met up 30 mins later. Robin Ruddock is a special man, a modest and kind paddler who has clearly inspired many others–he certainly did us. He said if we were keen to go further that day he owned a boathouse…. at Ballintoy Harbour which we had been keen to see. He then gave us the kind of concise useful info that only comes from those who know a coast inside out. He was so enthusiastic about the next stretch. So we tucked close in in torrential dreich rain which somehow cleared into bright sunlight. (Yes Ritchie you did say it would… but Rob and I reckoned that was the same stuff yon byre was full of ….. we was WRONG).
The next 3 hours were simply amazing. Limestone, arches, caves, castles and then the black basalt of the Giant’s causeway. We paddled in to the colourful mess that is the line of visitors and buses taking people to the hexagonal pavement, (…… yes yes very impressive but we do have Fingals cave…) The next 4 miles put the lie to that! Simply remarkable–probably a sea kayak is the best way to see these amazing ranks of columns spires and amphitheatres which go on and on… with Rathlin Island nudging in to the mix. A really varied and special area which most visitors can’t access due to landslides on the amazingly precarious old path.
A long slog across white strand bay and then the most perfect miniature limestone harbour, Ballintoy, tucked away in behind what looks like a geologists workbench. ROBIN arrived, and opened his boathouse. What a perfect place, historic boats slung from the ceiling, sleeping platform, woodburning stove, rocking chairs.. and all in the centre of what Game of Thrones converted into the medieval harbour of LORDSPORT. It is a honeypot and I’m told it gets mobbed, but for us at 5pm it was quiet and still, roasted by the fire of a red sunset and Robin’s woodburner… bliss.
And the prospect of another fine day tomorrow…. 3 contented men in bags!