Sunday 16th June – Glenarm.
We awake to a hazy day but no rain! John has Father’s days cards from Katharine and Nicky plus a Gruffalo card from Grandson Rohan. At breakfast we have phone calls to all three – a good start to the day.
After breakfast we pay our harbour dues and get the low down from the harbour master’s deputy on Glenarm and the surrounding area. John finds the village store to buy the Sunday paper and we spend the morning over a leisurely breakfast catching up on the Lions tour (that’s rugby for any Philistines!) before hanging our oilskins, hats & gloves to dry. The harbour has been turned into a little marina and the very reasonable charge includes free use of the washing machine and dryer plus the showers so the rest of the morning is spent on catching up with these things. John starts on cleaning the brown film off the hull that has built up over winter at her moorings in the river to get it back to white and gleans some advice off the Irish boat next door (which is pristine). So many boats always seem to be gleaming but we have concluded that they only travel in calm weather and then get lovingly cleaned after sail. We decide life is too short for that but without turning ourselves into complete anoraks (!) we have set ourselves the goal of getting Sundart’s hull a bit shinier despite her 30 or so years of age and much use.
After lunch we head off to Glenarm which is a large village with added stately home in the form of Glenarm Castle complete with incumbent blue blood family, the Earl of Antrim and his family.
Glenarm originally made its living largely through quarrying of the local limestone, exporting the majority to Scotland for the iron industry. The road connection has only been in existence for about 100 years so in common with other coastal villages in Antrim communications were via the sea with very strong links to Scotland.
There are several well signposted walks: we choose the one that takes us to the walled gardens of Antrim Castle. These are well worth a visit and we are surprised at the variety of relatively tender plants that thrive including the huge fig tree against one wall of the garden.
We stop for a cup of tea and cake and enjoy the company of Bill and Jenny Wood, who are enjoying a proper tea to celebrate Fathers’ day: sandwiches, fancy cakes and a good pot of tea. This seems to us typical of an aspect of Northern Ireland: there is a definite movement to improve themselves after years of languishing in the Troubles but they enjoy their traditions.
After the gardens we walk up to Glenarm vilage. In common with most places we have seen in Northern Ireland, there is a sense of pride in their locality; most houses are in good decorative order, usually brightly painted and smart. In Glenarm even some pavements are decorated!
Back at the boat we plan our week ahead. We need to be in Ardrossan next Friday to pick up our friend Janet who is joining us for a sail. We decide to go acrossd tomorrow to Campbeltown on the Mull of Kyntyre whilst the weather is good rather than risk going north to Rathlin Island off the north coast of Northern Ireland. This will mean an early start to catch the north going tide so this evening wil bve our last in Northern Ireland.
We have enjoyed Northern Ireland, especially the people. Far from being head down dour (which some Ulster people are characterised as) we have found people almost universally friendly, cheerful and very helpful. We have picked up a strong sense of pride in their localities and a desire to improve them without losing their traditions. We would definitely return.
We have now done 4 of the Celtic areas of the UK – Cornwall, Wales, Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. It will be interesting to see how the biggest of the Celtic areas – Scotland – measures up to the high standards we have found in the other Celtic areas.
Monday 17th June – to Scotland!
We are up at 0630 and leave Glenarm at 0730, having breakfasted. There is not a breath of wind and quite a lot of mist as we motor out and set course across the North Channel towards the Mull of Kyntyre. Normally it is easy to see Scotland from this part of Norhtern Ireland but not today. We have our AIS on to check if there is any shipping around as there is a TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) in operation in the relatively narrow North Passage between Scotland and Ireland rather like motorwat lanes across the sea. (Ships of over 300 tonnes have to have AIS transmitters fitted which continuously transmit their details including vessel name, radio number, speed and direction and what they are doing (e.g. fishing). We have a receiver that picks up theses signals and displays the location and movement of the ships on a little screen rather like radar). The sea is flat so we put the autohelm on and settle back for the journey. Slowly the mist clears as we enter the Firth of Clyde and the Mull of Kyntire comes into site. We see the occasional dolphin in the distance and a seal but they are not playing today. A little breeze sets in so we try to sail but we only do about 3 knots so we give in and motor into Campbeltown, arriving about a quarter to four.
Campbeltown is a small working port and yachts have to moor outside the harbour on a pontoon to one side in the bay. We moor against a rrestored fishing boat, obviously someones pride and joy as space has been reserved for members of the RYS (Royal Yacht Squadron) who duly arrive. We go ashore, pay our harbour dues at the loacl hotel and walk down to the local Tesco and butcher to get provisions. We find the local swimming baths which is where yachtsmen have to have their showers as there is no local amenity block here.
Campbeltown is rather run down and the people seemm dour after the freindliness of Northern Ireland so we return to the boat and have a good curry with Scottish lamb. Tomorrow we plan to go up the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Arran, whoise mountains we can see in the distance.
Distance today: 35.7 nautical miles
Total distance to date: 817.2 miles
Engine hours today: 6.2 hours
Hours sailed today: 8.3 hours
Total hours sailed: 180.1
Fair winds to you all
Yvonne & John