The coast of Northern Ireland unfolds in front of me as I ride, revealing the endless blue sea next to a manicured golf course, waves crashing against black rock formations and isolated clouds drifting by. In the distance I can see the foggy white outlines of the Scottish coast.
I am cycling along the Causeway Coastal Road. Cars are rushing past me on the narrow road, likely heading to the Bushmills Distillery or Giant Causeway. I am leisurely making my way, stopping every few minutes to take photos of hidden beaches or rock formations - a miniature version of what I would later see at the Giant Causeway. The cars are going too fast to even notice.
The weather was perfect with just a few clouds when I left Belfast via the Northern Ireland Railroad (NI) to Coleraine heading to Bushmills. I decided to see how I was feeling once I got to Bushmills, where I would either turn around or continue.
Irish Whiskey and the Giant Causeway
I never really understood the difference between Scottish and irish whiskeys. I learned about the smoking of the barley before creating the mash. Scottish barley is dried over a wood fire (peaty) to create a smoky flavor, while Irish is dried over heat to keep the purity of the barley. My favorite Irish whiskey - the Connemara 12 - is the only peaty whiskey in Ireland. It’s dried over peach wood, giving its unique flavor.
It was only 2 kilometers left to the Giant Causeway and I arrived late, around 3 or 4 p.m. A fair amount of tourists were parked in front of the Visitor Center, as well as a few bicycles. Jamie was admired and thoroughly checked out by some of the tour guides. They even took a close look at her disc brakes, saddle and gearing. That seemed a bit intimate, but then again she is not hiding much!
The Giant Causeway is stunning. The impact on a driving tourist must be overwhelming with the gigantic rocks and water. I was less impressed after having enjoyed private previews during my ride along the Coastal Road earlier. In the summer, the Causeway must be packed with tourists.
Don't Drink and Cycle
The weather was too perfect, and the landscape too stunning to turn around. I continued on the Coastal Road up to the Ballycastle, and back inland to Ballymoney, hoping to catch the train. I was speeding, worried I would miss the 8:30 p.m. departure. I asked a man who was mowing his lawn in Ballymoney for directions.
"Should you be cycling?" he asked me with a firm tone.
I gave him a look of surprise. Was he worried about me cycling without lights at dusk?
"Why do you ask - because it’s getting dark and I have no lights?" I asked.
"No, you have been drinking all day!" he scolded me.
"That was at noon and I had just one whiskey!" I replied.
And how the hell did he know? I was cycling straight and might look a bit flushed from racing down the local narrow roads concerned about being caught in the darkness. Cars going 80 kph might not be able to see me in time to stop.
When he saw me looking scared, he laughed and pointed to the logo on his shirt. It read “Bushmills.”
"I saw you there earlier today,” he said. “I am just joking!"
Returning a stressed-out smile, I got instructions and raced to the station. I missed the train by seven minutes. The last train was leaving in one hour and heading back to Belfast.