Tag Archives: Dolphins

The Gobbins Coastal Path

Before driving into Belfast we had an appointment at another Northern Ireland tourist hotspot – The Gobbins Coastal walk Experience. An odd name for a tourist attraction you might think but the explanation is that it comes from the Irish word Gobán meaning headland.

The Gobbins is a cliff face walk up and down difficult and uneven steps, across iron bridges and through a tunnel that at one point runs below sea level. It all sounded rather exciting.

So we arrived at the visitor centre at the appointed time and after being booted and suited were given the first of a series of health and safety lectures followed by a bus ride from the centre to the east coast and the starting off point for the adventure.

The Gobbins was created by an Irish railway engineer called Berkeley Deane Wise. He designed and built the path as a tourist attraction for the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company and it first opened to the public in 1902 with visitors paying 6d to enjoy a ‘perfect marvel of engineering’.

Almost immediately the Gobbins drew worldwide acclaim, with one newspaper review extravagantly declaring that the varied beauty of this cliff path baffles all description’.

Because of its proximity to Belfast with convenient railway links for a while the Gobbins Path was even more popular as a tourist destination in Northern Ireland than The Giant’s Causeway.

Thousands visited The Gobbins in the first few decades of the twentieth century advertisements of the time declared ‘the new cliff path along The Gobbins Cliffs, with its ravines, bore caves, natural aquariums … has no parallel in Europe as a marine cliff walk’. High Praise indeed.  However, the railway company got into financial difficulties during the 1930s, essential maintenance slipped and the path was closed in 1936 and gradually fell into serious disrepair.

There was a restoration project between 2011 and 2016 which restored a part of the pathway. The cost was almost £8m with over half of the funding coming from the European Union. Who says Brexit was a good idea? Where is the money going to come from for these sort of projects in the future?

There was a long steep path down to the entrance and then the walk began. It was interesting but not nearly as exciting or dramatic as I had imagined it would be with long stops for explanations from the tour guide which were impossible to hear because of the wind and the pounding of the waves and these frequent stops made it rather tedious at times.

And then there was an unexpected rain shower, more of a nasty squall than a shower as it happened that lasted for ten minutes or so and being exposed as we were on the cliff face managed to soak us all right through. I enjoyed most of it except for the part where we walked through a tunnel of roosting pigeons and lots of bird shit to try and avoid.

An interesting experience but I wouldn’t do it again. The best bit was when Kim spotted a pod of dolphins swimming close to the land. There is something special about seeing dolphins.

From the visitor centre we drove directly to Belfast and to the Premier Inn Hotel. I like the Premier Inn hotels, they are reasonably priced and you know exactly what you are going to get – a quiet room, a comfortable bed and no nasty surprises.

Later we walked into the City in search of somewhere to eat but is was rater busy which shouldn’t really have surprised us because measured by population it is the twelfth largest city in the United Kingdom. We struggled to find somewhere that could accommodate us and without success finished up at a Wetherspoons bar where the food is cheap and includes a free drink but it is not what you would call by any stretch of the imagination a fine dining experience.

On This Day – Terror on The High Seas

Yesterday I told you about the boat ride to Bodrum.  The return journey was many times worse…

Read the full story Here…

Turkey, Terror on The High Seas

Ali Sultan Bodrum Ferry

It was fiercely hot day, so hot that it was almost breathless in Bodrum but back at the harbour on the other side of the peninsula a strong wind was blowing, the sea looked rather uninviting and the ferry was rocking from side to side at her mooring.  The boat trip suddenly didn’t seem like such a great idea.

After a while the boat left the harbour and headed out to open water and shortly after clearing the coastline it began to labour in the heavy seas.  The rigging squealed, the deck groaned, the hull sighed and the rivets creaked. With every murderous crash through the mounting waves we were lifted out of the water and then dropped back down again with a violent thud that jarred violently through the whole complaining shambles of a boat from bow to stern.

I was even more worried now than I was on the outward journey and although I could make out the lights of Altinkum across the water it looked an awfully long way away.  This boat was a disaster, if it had a certificate of seaworthiness then I am a brain surgeon.  In accordance with a regulation of the International Maritime Organisation all ships are required to carry certificates that establish their seaworthiness and emergency procedures, the competency of sailors and so on but I looked and could find nothing. Even refugees escaping from Africa to Europe would think twice about using the Ali Sultan I can tell you!

As the boat continued to pitch about in the choppy seas some of the passengers began to turn pale, their suntans evaporated and they looked unwell and because I was worried about being ill we stayed on the highest deck and watched the ugly boat battling against the waves.  Its dumpy bow didn’t carve its way elegantly through the water it just crashed head on into them and the ferry juddered and jarred with every impact as though it had taken a succession of straight rights to the jaw from a champion heavyweight boxer!

As we reached what I calculated to be roughly mid distance I was at my most concerned.  I looked around for life boats but couldn’t see any, there were a few cracked and ageing red and white cork  life belts but I don’t think they would have been especially useful in an emergency.  I worried about just how long it would be possible to survive in the sea if the boat capsized.

Once we had passed half distance the comforting lights of Altinkum started to get brighter and the wind and the waves started to calm down and it was at this point that the skipper left the wheel house and came out on deck.

He was staggering and at first I put this down to the pitch and swell but then I noticed that he was holding a can of beer and he was completely plastered.  We had come through a force four storm with a skipper that was on the beer and the truth of it is that he had probably been drinking all afternoon.  He was obnoxious and behaved inappropriately but even though he was drunk most of us were just pleased when he stopped his antics and went back to the controls.

On the positive side however we did see a good sunset!

As we got closer suddenly the note of the engine seemed to change and everyone in the wheel house suddenly rushed outside to look overboard and to listen to the grumbling of the cylinders and the groan of the exhaust.  Later I read some reviews of the boat trip and it seems that it isn’t uncommon for the Ali Sultan to break down at sea.  At the time I just hoped that he was going to get the heap of rotting junk back to Altinkum  in one piece.

Eventually he approached the jetty and Kim jokingly said that we would know when we were back because the skipper would probably crash straight into the harbour wall and then he did just that and sent everyone lurching forward as we all hurried to the front in anticipation of departure.

This took longer than it should have done because it turned out that it wasn’t just the skipper that was intoxicated but the entire crew and they struggled for several minutes to get the thing tied up and the rotting gang plank in place while we stood with all of the other passengers whose collective priority was just to get off.

One thing is absolutely certain, I’ll not be recommending the IMX Bodrum by boat excursion to anyone!

Be Warned, Be Very Warned!

Ali Sultan Altinkum to Bodrum Ferry

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Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal:

Corfu and a Speedboat Breakdown

Malta Tony-Oki-Koki

Corfu-1984 Georges Boat

Motorboat Ride from Kalami to Corfu Town

Rowing Boat on Lake Bled in Slovenia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Croatia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Wales

A boat Ride with Dolphins in Ireland

Gondola Ride in Venice

Captain Ben’s Boat in Anti Paros

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Greek Islands, Blue Star Ferry to Paros

Blue Star Athens to Paros

My apologies to residents of Piraeus but it is not the most attractive city in Greece – constructed almost entirely from limestone and clay as a reminder of the Athenians fifty year love affair with concrete and cement.  In the words of Mike Gatting (talking about Pakistan), this is not a place that you would even send your mother-in-law and we were pleased when the ferry slipped its moorings and headed out to sea precisely on time and our personal chill tanks started to fill with credit!

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Wales 2011, More Rain and a Boat Ride with Dolphins

New Quay Wales Rain

I was surprised that I was so easily persuaded to book a holiday cottage in Wales because most of my holiday memories of the Principality involve precipitation.  I believe that is what is called déjà vu?

Again, for the second day running, the weather forecasters had surprisingly got it right and the rain that they had predicted was sweeping back in from the Irish Sea when I woke in the morning.  I say when I woke because this was the first day that Molly didn’t wake me prematurely and it seemed strange to be alone downstairs in the cottage on my fifty-seventh birthday drinking tea and fretting about the weather.

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Wales 2011, New Quay, Sunshine, Beaches and Boats

New Quay Wales

And for once the weathermen seemed to have guessed correctly because it was a fine morning that greeted us when Molly decided that it was time to get up and go downstairs.  We followed the same early morning routine as the previous day and I prepared a full sizzling English (Welsh?) breakfast before dispatching Molly upstairs with instructions to wake Jonathan.  ‘Wake up Jon, it’s morning – time to get up’ I heard her shout in his unsuspecting ear and I don’t think he absolutely appreciated that as he made his way downstairs still half asleep.

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Istria 2011, A Boat Ride With Dolphins

Funghi Dingle Bay Dolphin

The next morning the church bells woke me again at six o’clock and after a good night’s sleep I found it impossible to snooze away another hour or so, so knowing that Micky is an early riser and would probably be wandering about the village I decided to dress and go and see if I could find him.  There was no sign of him in the streets or the coffee bars and it turned out that just like me the day before he was on early morning shopping mission to buy a new travel kettle to replace the one that Sue and Christine had somehow managed to blow up!

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