Causeway Coast

The coast of Northern Ireland has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. The present coast road was engineered in the 1830s and is now known as the Causeway Coastal Route, 190km hugging the Atlantic Coast from Belfast to Londonderry. Amidst the geology and greenery, there was the unexpected. Just before we reached Ballygally, a very happy bear appeared out of nowhere. The origin of the polar bear persona is unknown but every year, the locals touch up the paint and ensure his smile never fades.

1.Bear Rock

The village of Ballygally nestles along the shore of Ballygally Bay.

2.Ballygally

At the head of the bay, Ballygally Castle has an interesting history. Built in 1625 by Scotsman James Shaw, it would have been surrounded by four walls and withstood several incursions during the 1642 rebellion. It remained in the Shaw family into the 1800s and then passed through a few different families. In the 1950s, an entrepreneur bought, refurbished and opened the castle as a hotel and further development in 1966 created the hotel as it is now. Reputed to be one of the most haunted places in Ulster, there are a number of resident ghosts. The most active is Lady Isobel Shaw who had been starved and locked in her room by her husband. Tragically, she fell to her death from the window. She now has a habit of knocking on the doors of the rooms and disappearing.

3.Ballygally

The rest of the houses around the bay look very peaceful and undisturbed.

4.Ballygally5.Ballygally

Looking out to sea, The Maidens are visible 9km offshore. The two lighthouses date back to 1829, the lighthouse keepers and their families lived for a year at a time on these islets. The isolation was no obstacle to romance; in the 1830s, the assistant keeper of one lighthouse fell in love with the daughter of the keeper of the other. He often visited by boat until the families had a falling out and her father forbade them to meet. They found a solution, they eloped to Carrickfergus. No longer inhabited, the West Maiden was abandoned in 1903 and the East Maiden was automated in 1977.

6.The Maidens

The Mull of Kintyre broke the horizon, only 10km from the coast of County Antrim.

7.Mull of Kintyre from Glenarm

It was a pleasure to drive the coastal road surrounded by mountains to the left and ocean to the right. This fence line reminded me of Michael’s engineering feats when we lived in the Adelaide Hills.

8.Ballycastle

The next town was Ballycastle,

9.Ballycastle

the sunlight through the clouds illuminated the clifftops of Fairhead.

10.Fair Head

Rising 196 metres above the bay, Ballycastle’s headland formed as a result of volcanic activity 60 million years ago. The upper half of the cliff is composed of gigantic columns of dolerite up to 12 metres in diameter.

11.Fair Head

Further up the coast, rocky islands are scattered throughout the waters of Larrybane Bay.

12.Larrybane Bay

The dolerite cliffs of Sheep Island were magnificent.

13.Sheep Island, Larrybane Bay copy

Remnants of old machinery remain on Stackaboy Island from the days when dolerite was carried on overhead lines to the island and then loaded onto steamboats for the trip to Scotland.

14.Stackaboy Island, Larrybane Bay

I had mentally prepared myself for the heart-stopping walk across the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede, not realising it was another icon that closed down for the winter season. First erected by salmon fishermen in 1755, the 20 metre long bridge is suspended 30 metres above the sea. The waters around Carrick Island were teeming with salmon migrating to the North Atlantic and the fishermen would walk the bridge in all weather and return with their catch. Whether due to changing migratory patterns or over-fishing of the area, there are now very few salmon left and the tradition ended in 2002. Carrick Island is the first bump from the headland (it looks attached from this angle).

15.Carrick Island, Larrybane Bay

These photos may look familiar to anyone who watches Game of Thrones, much of the filming took place along the Causeway Coast.

autumn colours

We have had some perfect winter days this year. Clear, blue skies; crisp, clean air; nothing but the slightest whiff of a breeze. One such Sunday, we put Cooper’s top down and took her for a spin along our favourite coast road.

1.Old Coast Road

Preservation Bay looked particularly stunning.

2.Preservation Bay

We joined the highway at Ulverstone and continued east. There is a park, just before the first exit at Devonport, that we have been meaning to investigate for years. The trees are beautiful any time of year but especially when showing their autumn colours.

3.Forth Road

This was the day for a closer look.

4.autumn colours5.autumn trees

Fallen leaves, still damp from the morning dew, confirmed nature’s artistic talent.

11.autumn leaves

Straggly Eucalypts portrayed an elegant appeal in the morning sunlight,

12.swamp gums

some fascinating fungi camouflaged in the shadows.

13.fungus

Our day out didn’t end there, but that’s another story.

Montepozzo

We have finally settled back into life in Tasmania after four wonderful weeks in Italy. I would normally write about our travels from the beginning of the trip but we were so enamoured with the gorgeous farmhouse we stayed in for our last ten days, I couldn’t wait to share it. I could just give you the link to the website because there are so many beautiful photos of the property. Chances are, just like me, you would be thinking, “there is no way this place can be this good.” It was. We received directions and information weeks before we left from host, Jacque, and had no trouble finding the gate. Although close to a town, the rural setting is very private and peaceful.

1.sign

Arriving at the property,

2.driveway arriving

we followed the instructions and drove around to the back of the house where we tooted the horn loudly.

3.exterior front4.exterior side5.exterior back6.exterior back7.exterior back

We were greeted by Molly the dog and host, John, who kindly helped us with our bags.

8.loggia arriving

After an introductory tour, we were left to unpack and wonder at the magnificent surroundings we were to enjoy for the next ten days. The living area was light and spacious, capturing the sun at every angle throughout the day.

9.sitting room

Just off the dining area, the well equipped kitchen was a pleasure to work in.

10.kitchen

The bedrooms were inviting, the main has an ensuite

11.main bedroom

and down the hallway

14.hallway

are two further bedrooms and a bathroom.

Once we had settled in, Jacque welcomed us with fresh flowers and a bottle of Prosecco, we wasted no time opening it to share. We really felt at home, surrounded by family treasures and beautiful furnishings.

The afternoon sun filled the loggia, the perfect venue to partake of aperitivo.

30.view from loggia

Come for a walk around the garden.

31.loggia steps

There was so much to explore, a cave with spectacular phosphorescent lichen, I admired from the outside.

44.cave

The shed was a work in progress, a fabulous project for the future perhaps,

45.shed

to complement the finishing touches on the exterior of the house.

46.exterior side

We didn’t get the opportunity to dine under the vines, perhaps next time?

55.vines

Let me introduce you to Molly, a delightful bundle of energy who was a very welcome addition to the package.

Thank you Jacque, John, Alex & Molly for the very special memories, we hope to meet again…..Salute!

59.wine time

http://montepozzo.it/

resplendent robin

Winter has arrived and our gorgeous scarlet robins have returned. They form permanent monogamous pairs and move to the open forests during the warmer months, returning to nest in our garden as the days shorten. The male makes quite a show once he is back, letting everyone know this is his territory again. Late one afternoon, he spent quite some time admiring himself in the window. Unfortunately, he was in shade and I didn’t capture him in all his glory.

The next day, Michael sat patiently while the sun shone on the same perch, in the hope of catching the perfect image.

5.no robin

Initially disappointed, he was soon rewarded with a prolonged robin lavation.

The black headed honeyeater seems bemused by the aquatic antics, reluctant to take the plunge.

10.robin & friend

I haven’t seen the female recently and assume she is busy building the nest while he makes himself irresistible.

I’m pleased to say he is not totally narcissistic. While his partner incubates the eggs, he will feed her and both parents share responsibility for feeding the young.

13.robin

Bali Elephant Camp

Although there is some controversy about the keeping of elephants for the entertainment of tourists, it was something I wanted to see for myself. Bali Elephant Camp is home to a herd of Sumatran elephants, brought to Bali as part of a government program in 2004. The aim was to establish a protected remote population, to care for the elephants and promote the plight of these beautiful creatures. A declining natural habitat and the sickening actions of poachers has seen the Sumatran elephant population decrease by 70 percent in the past two decades. I was surprised by the distance from ground to back of elephant and the rocking gait took a while to get used to.

2.starting out

Our pachyderm was named Ari. He gently swayed his way along the path

3.down the path

guided by his personal mahout with the twitch of the rope and a whispered word.

4.nice hat

We stopped briefly, very glad we weren’t following behind.

5.when you've gotta go...

With a lighter load, we continued through gardens

before the landscape became a verdant, tropical jungle.

10.jungle

13.jungle

The nerves were jangling as the path neared the edge of the precipitous valley, hoping our mount was as surefooted as he appeared.

14.jungle15.jungle

At the end of the thirty minute trek, Ari cooled off in the wading pool while we remained high and dry.

16.cooling down

Returning to home base, Ari posed for a couple of photos

before enjoying some delicious fresh fruit and vegetables.

It was time for us to do the same, lunch at the restaurant didn’t disappoint.

23.restaurant

An afternoon downpour was very welcome and alleviated some of the heat.

24.afternoon shower

These elephants are well fed and well cared for and the funds raised from riding these magnificent creatures help protect their wild cousins in their native habitat in Sumatra. I know there are two sides to every story and this may not be the life an elephant should be living but it is far better than this.

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/erin-the-elephants-plight-casts-spotlight-on-conservation-in-indonesia