Get back to One

We collected our mail but there’s one more unpleasant task to be accomplished before we begin the drive around Northern Island’s Causeway Coastal Route: vehicle insurance.

Last year after jumping through hoops to buy EVII we discovered the bigger challenge is finding someone to insure us. The barrier is our US drivers licenses. It doesn’t matter that in 30 years we haven’t had an insurance claim and that we’re exceptionally low risk. Rules are rules, apparently, and we can only get insured by “specialty” insurers, and you want to read “specialty” as “extortionist.” Last year the campervan insurance cost more than our yacht insurance while we were crossing oceans. I’m determined to find a less unreasonable alternative and that means long uninterrupted hours in a quiet place with good cell service.

Of course sitting on the phone for hours every day doesn’t mean we can’t also appreciate our surroundings. With too many gorgeous routes to choose from we opted to drive back through the Mourne mountains. We would have stayed and hiked some but the cell signal was unstable so we moved on after one night.

Tollymore Forest Park looked like a good way to spend an afternoon. Tollymore was the first state forest park in Northern Ireland on land that was part of a historical estate dating back to the 12th century. The park is huge and beautiful, with several Gothic follies built in the 18th century, along with many stone bridges, stepping stones, an arboretum, walking trails and picnic areas.

We generally prefer wild areas to developed ones, but strolling through any park on a sunny day is good for the soul.

Jack spotted this bracket fungus, called “chicken of the woods” and I was tempted to pick some for dinner. We’ve eaten it before, gathered from Frick Park in Pittsburgh, but it looks so pretty on the tree that I decided not to disturb it.

The arboretum wasn’t as nice as Mourne Park, and I didn’t have Alan to identify all the trees for me, but this overgrown and out of place cork tree looks like a survivor, and it’s always good to see where our everyday materials come from.

On another day, as we retrace our route back north to our starting point, we stopped at Dundrum Castle because what’s a day without a castle?

This is another 13th century Norman construction with a spectacular view of the Mourne mountains and the bay. And like most of the castles we visit, much of it is closed. Still, it was fun to walk the grounds and we had the place all to ourselves.

The view from the car park was beautiful and we would like to have stayed but it was posted “no overnight” and we are nothing if not rule followers.

Down the hill we found a free municipal car park along the waterfront with a view almost as good and ice cream right down the street.

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