If you can’t have books to look through, then stories are the next best thing. As we traveled along the Causeway Coastal Route, my companions shared many wonderful stories. I just couldn’t get enough, even when they asked ‘Have you had enough now Blossom?’
‘Ah – Nope…’ I would always reply. ‘More please.’
I liked them all of course, even when they were very, very sad or a bit scary. Here are some of them…
There’s the stories about the origins of Irish pipe bands and how nine pipers from the Fairy Hills in Bregia (County Meath) arrived to pay homage to King Conaire the Great, 63-33 B.C. and about the ‘Piob Mor’ or ‘Great Pipe’, and how it made its way to Scotland around 470A.D.
That’s all such a long time ago, I wonder how they remember!
Of course, I expect the pipes and pipers looked a little bit different to the pipe bands on parade in Garvagh.
Some of my favorite stories came from the next place we visited – Dunluce Castle.
Here I am about to cross the land-bridge leading to the castle, which is perched high on sheer basalt cliffs. There are a number of stories about the Scottish and English attacking the castle and not really winning because apart from the cliffs facing the ocean, the land bridge was the only way into the castle.
There are also stories about the land bridge being in ruins… I am going to assume that isn’t the case now or how will we cross?
Well, we did cross and quite easily. Here I am on Dunluce Castle grounds looking across the ocean. I’m told on a clear day you can see from here to Donegal and round to Islay – well maybe not from the bottom of this tower perhaps.
Xanthe’s mum told me a sad story about one of the towers. It goes like this:
A long time ago, a young lady called Maeve Roe was imprisoned in the north-eastern tower by her father after refusing to marry someone by the name Rory Og. She was there for a long time sweeping the floors and cleaning her tower until the day she tried to escape with her true love, Reginald O’Cahan. The pair climbed down to one of the many caves beneath the castle where they had hidden a row boat. The weather was stormy and the ocean very rough and their tiny little boat was smashed against the rocks. Now her ghost still sweeps her prison tower. Creepy! I do wonder though, why a ghost would bother sweeping a tower in ruins – it can’t possibly ever get clean!
I started thinking about the caves and asked how a big castle like this can be safe with lots of caves underneath. Xanthe’s dad said it was because the caves are really big and like underground castles themselves – so we started looking for signs of one of these caves at the bottom of the castle.
As we looked, Xanthe told me about the Mermaid’s Cave which is 25 metres below the castle. It’s huge – over 18 metres high and 91 metres long and there are many stories about it. There’s the one about a sailor a long, long time ago who was lost at sea. He thought he was going to drown but a beautiful mermaid came and rescued him by taking him down to her home at the bottom of the ocean.
Then Xanthe’s brother told me stories about the smugglers who hid stolen Spanish treasures in those caves and about ‘an old man of Dunluce who went to sea on a goose’. I tried to picture that, an old man on a goose. I’m not sure any geese I’ve met would be happy swimming out to sea with an old man on their back. The funniest thing was when Xanthe’s mum told us about the potato named after Dunluce. I looked around at the castle to see why you would name a potato after a ruin – then I spotted it!
Here I am making my own story about the Dunluce potato; how a little Ringtail Possum pushed a giant potato out of the castle wall, which rolled down the cliffs and into the ocean – causing much trouble to the mermaids below…
Speaking of troubles – our next stop was in Belfast, a place that has had so many people problems that they call a whole lot of years ‘The Troubles’.
Here I am visiting some of the murals created during ‘The Troubles’.
Belfast is also famous for its shipbuilding which began in the 1600s and where the famous ship the Titanic was built. I met some interesting people who told me lots of stories about boats and shipbuilding.
Here I am hanging out with a couple of yardmen who shared with me the hopes, the dreams and the achievements of many generations of working men in Belfast’s shipbuilding industry.
Speaking of dreams… I was starting to have some dreams of home and books and my cosy little tree-nook in the hills.
‘Chin-up Blossom,’ said Xanthe. ‘You’re just a little homesick and having book withdrawals.’
It seemed like forever since I’d read a book and even longer since I’d been home. Home seemed a whole world away. Then we spotted this statue – a tribute to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. It’s Digory Kirke about to enter Narnia through the magic wardrobe.
I wonder what would happen if I followed…