The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

Friday and I woke at around 4 o’clock in the morning chittering with cold, and I had a splitting headache. I rose and went to the kitchen and found some paracetamol swallowed a couple and headed back to bed, once the tablets took effect I was able to drop off, and back to sleep. On waking at around 8 o’clock I felt much better.

It is too much of a coincidence to blame anything other than my vaccination yesterday, but just to be on the safe side I will fill a basin with water and a big dose of bleach and give the kitchen and fridge a good scrub, just in case it was a mild food poisoning.

……….perhaps the food you’ve given Gerty,

Was chopped up when your hands were dirty,

Upon ma-ma was proper hurt,

she said, in my home, there ant no dirt,

The doctor said, In general terms,

Upon your hands, there are lots of germs,

Before preparing food you otta,

Wash your hands in hot soapy wata………….

This was part of a government information campaign from the 1950s, read by Cyril Smith. My mind is a receptacle for all sorts of rubbish, the important things I forget instantly.

Adrian Dunbar continued his journey around the coast of Ireland this time he was in the north and NI. We start that journey at Malin Head County Donegal.

The most motherly part of the mainland the island of Inishtrahull is further north, located about 10 km northeast of Malin Head and further north still is the most northerly landfall of Ireland Tor Beg rock. Ireland. A wild place indeed.

I know NI well for I travelled there many times in the mid-1960s for work, and a rather attractive colline, kept me going back. She was from Belfast and lived in the Falls Road part of the city.

Two girls travelling in the bus down the Falls Road.

“What are you going to call the babbie then”(emphasis on the ‘a’ as in act)

“Nath’n” the other girl replied,

“a sure, you’ll have to call the babbie somethin”.

From here we moved to Ballymoney and the home of a motorcycle racing family, the Dunlop’s. Their we met Robert Dunlop, where the talk was all about his family’s career in M/C racing. The North West 200.

This is one of the fifteen events run on public roads between April and October throughout Northern Ireland and one that became almost a pilgrimage for me during my M/C days. It is the largest annual sporting event in Northern Ireland, with the race weekend attracting over 150,000 visitors from all over the world. For me it was not just about the racing but meeting up with old and new friends for a weekend of shared interest, the added bonus was the trip over there.

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, this is a rope bridge near Balintoy in County Antrim. The bridge is a link between the mainland and a basalt plug of an island called Carrickarede. It spans 20 meters and is 30 meters above the rocky inlet below, and not for the faint-hearted.

The Carrick a Rede Bridge and the Giant Causeway

It was built for the local salmon fishermen who trapped the salmon in nets as they entered the River Bann and River Bush to spawn. The salmon season ran from late June until September but now few salmon arrive there today. In the 1960s, almost 300 fish were caught each day. By 2002, only 300 were caught over the whole season. Now the bridge is only used as a tourist attraction and cared for by the National Trust.

The Giant Causeway was another stop on the way. This is an area of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption and located northeast of the town of Bushmills. You will see such formations all over Scotland too, there is one at the Chain Walk at Elie and of course Fingal’s Caves, on Staffa, and possibly part of the same ancient lava flow as that in NI. However, the Giant Causeway is a bit special and much easier to get too.

Of course, it would not be Ireland without a legend. The causeway was built by an Irish giant by the name of Fionn mac Cumhaill, (Finn MacCool) who built it to cross over to Scotland where he was challenged to a fight by the giant Benandonner. On reaching Scotland however, Finn found his adversary the Scotsman really was a giant and skedaddles back across to Ireland, chased by Benadonner. At the home of Finn, his wife disguises him as a baby and lays him in a cot. When Benadonner, through the window, saw the size of the baby, he takes cold feet, if this is the size of the baby, he thought, what will Finn be like? He who fights and runs away will live to fight another day. Benadonner hotfoots it back to Scotland smashing the causeway as he goes so that Finn can’t follow.

I, like Adrian, have travelled down the antrum coast and like Adrian I was awestruck at the beauty of the place. Adrian ended his journey at the Mourn Mountains and the lyrics of the song tell it all, how the Mountains of Mourn run down t the sea.

In the Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Glades told the assembled dignitaries, there are many beautiful places in the world, but I could not see them until I come to China.

The Irish have a saying “The longest way out is the shortest way home”. And both are true you have to travel to other countries and meet with other cultures to appreciate your own homeland the better.

The thing that saddens me most about Brexit is that we have lost Freedom of Movement for it is so important for the world that our children can experience cultures outwith their own circle, for it is through such contact that understanding will flower and peace will blossom.

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