Cycling the Atlantic coast of Europe from north to south during the summer of 2017. View the archive, the route so far, or donate to MSF.

In Giant's footsteps

By Stuart Lowe on

I was up very early trying not to make much noise in the hostel. I reached the ferry at 7am. The guys on the ferry were initially unsure if they could sort me a ticket but let me borrow their tablet to book online so the Port Authority knew I was coming. With three bikes aboard, a couple of elderly ladies, and some golfers, we sped off.

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Farewell Scotland

It was a lovely morning and we made good time to Ballycastle. As I got off I saw a queue of four bikes waiting to go the other way. I stopped to have a cooked breakfast. Tattie scones were now "potato bread".

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Ballycastle

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Queue

I now had only three functioning gears plus another two when the bike felt like giving them to me. That made the rolling hills tougher than necessary. I needed to get them looked at.

The headland looked great under the blue sky. I reached a car park full of tourists. Clearly this was a sight. I couldn't quite tell what was so special so carried on. Down and around the road went to a National Trust rope bridge. It cost £7 to cross it. I couldn't afford that. I just walked along to it and admired it for free without crossing.

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Blue sky and headland

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cliffs

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Rope bridge

On I went with my dodgy gears. I was temporarily blocked by a herd of cows in the road. I knew what was next though. I'd been looking forward to it since the start. I reached Giant's Causeway. It was also National Trust and they wanted £10. Careful reading of the sign showed that this was for car parking and access to the visitor centre. I avoided both of those and walked along the cliff, down the Shepherd's Steps and along for free. I'd been worried I'd be underwhelmed but the hexagon and pentagon towers of rock really were amazing to walk across.

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Looking north

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road block

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Looking west

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Giant's Causeway

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Giant's Causeway

After a stop for tea and scones, I rode on. In a little town I found a bike shop but they didn't have parts for gear repairs. They told me a place further on to try tomorrow.

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Dunluce castle

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Whiterocks beach

Further on I was stopped by a man who asked if I was from Denmark. He'd seen the Orkney flag. He asked if Orkney wanted Brexit. I didn't know. Then he said something about knife crime. Then about Muslims. Then seemed to suggest Protestants, like himself, would knife Muslims. His comments escalated quickly. I didn't feel safe around someone advocating hate crime so politely said goodbye and rode off. In the next few kilometres I saw a few houses with a collection of flags displayed outside. I didn't know what they all were but one was for the Ulster Volunteer Force (loyalist militia) and the others didn't look friendly either. I felt less safe. I hurried on in case me taking a picture caused anyone to come outside to get me.

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Flags

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Flatter than Norway and Scotland

As I rode uphill I saw a sign for Downhill. Perhaps it was a bit premature as it did go downhill after that.

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Downhill from here

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Ruin on the hill

I found a campsite that only advertised prices for tents with two people or more. They were clearly more set up for caravans and locked the tent area toilet/shower block at 9pm. Either they don't like those of us in tents or they don't trust the locals. Northern Ireland wasn't seeming too welcoming so far.