My wife and I were given a lovely present of a getaway. We booked into the Sprowston Manor Hotel, Golf & Country Club and founded it a convenient base of operations to see that area of the Norfolk Broads. As can be expected, the hotel was decked out for Christmas and there were multiple festive trees and displays around the facility. As can be seen from the photos our room over looked the pool (a window in the hallway opposite the room gave a clear view. That said the heat and chlorine of the pool sis make that section of the corridor a bit hot and we needed to run a fan in the room to keep the temperature comfortable. The bed was a bit overly firm as well, but as a whole it was a pleasant stay.
We had dinner at hotel restaurant the first night, my wife having a large portion of pork belly and I the haddock and chips. Both were well cooked and tasty. Breakfast was the typical hotel buffet type with eggs, toast, mushrooms and the like. My wife found the bacon a bit on the crisp-side of British bacon, but breakfast was on the whole good on both days of our stay.
After breakfast on the first morning we set out for Ranworth Broad. It being winter, the boat hires and tours were suspended, but we had some nice views of the water and the ducks and geese. After having a look about we headed to Wroxham. I have always found the town amusing as it is dominated by a single company: Roy’s of Wroxham. The company bills itself as the world’s biggest village store, but in Wroxham itself it is a village that is a store. There is a Roy’s Department Store, Roy’s Toys, Roy’s Food Court, and even Roy’s out of town car parks and a Roy’s McDonalds.
On our second evening we had a very nice dinner at a Castle Carvery which I will review separately.
The Broads are quite busy in the summer-time and the roads at some places (Wroxham and Acles) can have jams. In the winter the area is much more quiet, and while many of the activities are not available, it is still a nice place to get away to.
We travelled the Causeway Coastal Route from Bushmills to Ballycastle and found the scenery beautiful and the drive pleasant. We stopped at the Causeway, White Park Bay, Dunseverick Castle, Carrick-A-Rede and a few miscellaneous laybys.
We stopped at the Dunseverick Castle ruin as we made our way along the costal route. There isn’t much left, but what there is on its outcropping is impressive. The surrounding views are also great. There is a National Trust carpark on the causeway side of the ruin, and a layby/viewing area on the eastern side. Both parking options are free.
Several of these have viewing spots where payment isn’t needed, though Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede are major National Trust sites and have paid parking (unless member). The views are worth the drive and it is a great alternative route to using the motorway back down south.
The Titanic museum in Belfast is an excellent experience. The exhibit is highly detailed and takes you through the history and building of the famous ship.
The “Experience” is £21.50 per adult and there is an additional fee for an audio guide. The headset commentary, however, is wonderful and well worth the extra. Note the headsets help keep you on track through the exhibit, some visitors without this resource tracked back on themselves despite the “rope” on the floor showing the way.
The upper floor gives a view of the construction area and gives a context to the vessel’s size.
This is a huge museum with lots of walking, though mobility scooters and benches, and lifts are available. Highly recommended!
According to legend, Finn McCool was getting fed up with being taunted by a Scottish giant. He therefore constructed a long causeway by tossing long columns of stone into the sea and crossed over to confront the malefactor. On arrival he found that the Scot was even larger than himself, so he beat a hasty retreat back to Ireland. He was pursued by his nemesis, however, and had little time to prepare. Finn’s clever wife on the other hand knew exactly what to do. She dressed our hero as a baby and put him in a cot. When the Scot arrived she convinced him that Finn was not at home and only she and Finn’s baby were there. She suggested that if the Scot waited Finn would return shortly. On seeing the size of Finn’s “infant” son, the Scot ran back to Scotland destroying the causeway as he went. All that remains is the Giant’s Causeway near Bushmills and Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish side.
The Giant’s Causeway is truly a natural wonder. The stones do indeed look as if a giant pounded them into position. Finn McCool was a busy fellow indeed. My wife and I visited here and I am glad we made the journey. The National Trust visitor centre has a good exhibit, and a shuttle bus to the stones is available for just a couple of pounds or free for NT members. The audio headsets are informative, and the staff and volunteers are really helpful. The movie on the science and the McCool story is a nice intro or summing up depending when you see it. It is the sea and the stones though that make the trip.
My wife and and I took a little side journey to the Scrabo Tower on our return trip from Mount Stewart. The Scrabo Tower is an interesting monument that was built by the 4th Marquess of Londonderry to honour “Fighting Charlie,” the 3rd Marquess (his father). The tower can be seen from the lands on the opposite side of the Strangford Lough, and all around the family’s huge holdings nearby. The tower is 135 feet (41 m) tall and stands out even more being on the elevation of the Scrabo Hill. The monument is on the grounds of the Scrabo Country Park, and it is a long upwards drive to get to it. From the park there are some great views of the surrounding countryside and the lough. The tower itself is a bit of a walk (I have mobility issues) from the Country Park car park, but it is still a nice pitstop visit.