Giant's Causway: Panorama of Port Noffer (The Giant’s Port) showing The Chimney Tops.
On the first night in Belfast John gave us an introductory talk using Powerpoint, and the author (Paul Lyle) of two Northern Ireland geological guides also turned up. A selection of books and maps were on sale.
We had excellent weather the first 3 days as we followed the Antrim coast from Belfast through Larne and Cushenden to Ballycastle (Day 1), where we stayed 3 nights.
On Day 2 we went out from Ballycastle to Murlough Bay just the other side of Fair Head, where Dalradian rocks are exposed.
On Day 3 it was to Giant's Causeway; Bushmills Distillery, where we discovered John's love of their whiskey; the chalk and basalt of Ballintoy; and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, linking a small island to the mainland over a 30m deep chasm. The visibility on these days was good enough to see Jura, Islay, Ailsa Craig and the Ayrshire coast.
Day 4 was the transfer day to Dunfanaghy in Co Donegal via Dunluce Castle on a precarious position on the cliffs west of Giant's Causeway. We stopped at Portrush to see a dolerite sill in lower lias; then on via Derry into the Republic and Dunfanaghy. The weather not so good this day with morning rain.
Day 5 was spent round the local Donegal coast looking at the Dalradian, e.g. granite/schist contacts, nappe structures, repeated folding in three dimensions and migmatites. It was all explained very well. There was light rain for most of the day with much heavier rain towards the end.
Day 6 was a tour of the NW Donegal mountains and its Caledonian granites and contacts with the Dalradian. The weather was fine, and we ended up at Glenveagh Castle (19th century) and a tour of that plus its gardens.
The last day was spent driving back to the airports through the Sperrin Mountains, little visited by tourists, and where gold is known to exist in commercial quantities. We had our votes of thanks at lunchtime and Stuart presented John with a bottle of Bushmills Special Reserve whiskey which he was most pleased with!
We had a 24-seater bus with 3 excellent and friendly drivers, the third one staying with us for 4 days. Back seat passengers were thrown around on some of the more minor roads! The hotels were good except for a slight hiccup one evening at Ballycastle with slow service; especially when John had organised Irish music at the local pub afterwards. He is a great music fan and as we went along he played selections of Irish music in the bus in between commentaries on the geology - and local history.
All in all, superb geology. Mike and Joan took hundreds of pictures. I'm indebted to Jo and John for suggesting John Arthurs as a leader.
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