November 14- Slieve League & Old Bushmills Distillery
We started off Thursday morning with a great breakfast at Blas, the restaurant connected to The Gateway Lodge. It was a lovely little place with hardwood floors, chandeliers, and exposed brick walls- things that speak straight to my heart!
I had the Blas breakfast (full Irish breakfast with two fried eggs, sausage, bacon, black pudding, roasted tomatoes, mushroom, beans, and tomato relish) with orange juice and Josh got the eggs benedict with coffee. We also had toast with butter and jam. Great start to the day!
Seriously, how cute was The Gateway Lodge?
We packed up our luggage after breakfast and headed on an hour long drive to Slieve League. When we arrived, the area was gated off and there was no one in the parking area. I realized that we were about a half hour earlier than when they were supposed to open according to my Frommer’s guidebook. We checked out the signs and the gate. We didn’t see any hours posted, so we eventually just opened up the gate and walked through. Slieve League is a mountain on the northwest coast of Ireland. It isn’t as well known as the Cliffs of Moher, but the cliffs at Slieve League are almost three times higher!
We had the entire place to ourselves. There was a nice paved road that we were able to hike up to the top on. We saw tons of sheep everywhere, just sitting on the side of the road or grazing the mountainside. We veered off the paved road at one point to follow a trail through the grass. There were some great views and it made my day when a ram and sheep walked right in front of us across the trail (they were very nervous and trying to get as far away from us as possible, but it was still so cool).
We walked back on the paved road and continued on to the end of the “trail”. I think it ended up being about a mile total. What a sight! I wish so much that my pictures conveyed how enormous and wild and amazing Slieve League was. As much as I enjoyed the Cliffs of Moher, I loved the scenery and having Slieve League all to ourselves even more.
From Slieve League, we had a nice, long three hour drive to Northern Ireland. We stopped at a gas station/grocery store/coffee shop for candy bars and sandwiches to eat on the way. I opted for the safe option- ham and cheese (although the cheese was shredded which was different). Josh was a risk-taker and picked an egg and onion sandwich. It was surprisingly delicious, especially if you like the bite you get from red onion.
I was really interested to see if crossing the border from Ireland into Northern Ireland would be noticeable. I thought that there was definitely a difference. There wasn’t a giant wall or border patrol or anywhere you had to stop (it was just like crossing from Indiana over to Ohio), but instantly the architecture and design of the buildings and the road signs changed. Everything became much more European which makes sense since Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Our first stop in Northern Ireland was the Old Bushmills Distillery. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures on the tour, but it was a good one. We got to see the entire process of whiskey making, including the bottling portion. I thought this was especially neat as we hadn’t gotten to see that in any other distillery tour. Kind of random, but it also smelled amazing outside of the buildings…all those yummy alcohol vapors floating around!
At the end of the tour, we stopped at the Old Bushmills bar for a free drink. Josh tried the Bushmills 12 year. He said it was just ok, simple and smooth, but lacking any kind of spice. I tried a hot toddy (with the Bushmills Original) for the first time. I have to say, I didn’t really enjoy it. There was just too much whiskey flavor. So, Josh got my drink too!
After the distillery tour, we headed to Causeway Bed and Breakfast to check in. We were the only people staying that night, so it was nice and quiet. There was a living room with a tv, a sofa, and a loveseat and a dining area with tables and chairs. Our room was very clean and nicely decorated with an en suite bathroom.
For dinner, we made our way into Portrush to check out the restaurants there. We ended up eating at Neptune and Prawn. I loved how the restaurant was decorated. It was very nautical and fun. We did not enjoy the food though. While the restaurant seemed to be a seafood place, the menu was actually quite Asian inspired. Which is fine, I totally love Asian food. It was more that the menu didn’t match the decor at all. It just threw us off. For an appetizer, we had the chilli chicken wings and duck spring rolls with hoisin sauce. The wings looked really good, but were nothing special. Just hot wings. The duck spring rolls were actually really good and we enjoyed those a lot.
For the main course, I had the chilli chicken special fried rice with prawns and coconut sauce. Originally Josh wanted to order the salt & chilli fish and chips, but was told by the waiter that it was in fact shrimp and not fish at all, so he had the chicken chilli big bowl with udon noodles in a coconut broth instead. Both things sounded great on the menu and looked amazing when they came out. We were both so disappointed though because both of our dishes just tasted like hot sauce. There were no yummy flavors, just heat.
After dinner, we walked around the corner to Harbour Bar. It’s supposed to be one of the best pubs on the North Coast. It was really tiny, only about 10-15 people could sit inside. We were there pretty early, so we didn’t get to hear any live music. I imagine we would have enjoyed the bar a lot more if we had music to listen to. There really didn’t seem to be anything overly special about the bar. Josh tried the Bushmill’s Black Bush whiskey. I started on a Magner’s cider before realizing I actually had to drive back to the bed & breakfast (almost everywhere we had been staying was within walking distance to pubs and restaurants), so Josh had the rest of my drink as well.
We were both in the mood for dessert after Harbour Bar, but nothing at the restaurants nearby caught our attention, so we drove back to the Causeway B&B. There was a gas station right next door, so we popped in for “dessert” there- a Drifter chocolate bar, a Galaxy caramel ice cream bar, a Cadbury Crunchie Blast ice cream bar, and a Cadbury Dairy milk ice cream bar. We took our treats back to the house, sat out in the common area, and watched Big Bang Theory and Say Yes to the Dress while eating them. They were all super yummy. I think my favorite was the Crunchie Blast bar because it was honeycomb flavored ice cream (yes honeycomb!) with chocolate covering and popping candies.
We got ready for bed pretty early (we were both pretty tired from all the driving) and ended up just laying in bed watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives for a couple hours. It actually turned out awesome because the episodes featured restaurants from Louisville, so I was able to add some fun new places to try to our list!
Tip of the day: Fish and chips on the menu doesn’t always mean actual fish…