A Scenic Drive

or

Whatever happened to Flossie?

Part 1: Driving up Benevenagh
Part 2: Downhill to Downhill
Part 4: Along the coast and up a wall
Part 5: Whatever happened to Flossie?
The Roe Mouth at sunset

Part 3: Driving to the point

Downhill cross road

Where Bishops Road joins Seacoast Road

Onwards we go - with no spare wheel, a dented roof, horn sized structural damage left and right, a puzzled looking border collie and a noisy lamb with digestive problems.

Lough Foyle gleams on the right - half hidden behind the railway embankment - on the left are the cliffs of Benevenagh. Various weekend dwellings ranging from the comfortable to the dilapidated lurk at the foot of the mountain. One wonders how they avoid falling rocks and/or suicidal sheep. Two or three waterfalls gush down the near-vertical cliff face, lending beauty to an otherwise neglected landscape.

We cross the railway line - narrowly avoid a speeding train steered by a very rude driver - and admire the golf course which stretches between us and the lough.

Luckily both windows are open, so that the stray golf ball which whizzes in from the right, polishes my spectacles and exits on the left (leaving Meg with the cleanest nose in Ulster) damages only our lunch, because Tudor - a creature of bad habits - snapped for the missile and missed. Instead he got a mouthful of Flossie, but that's the only damage we suffered: it must be our lucky day

The railwayline at Seacoast Road

The Coleraine to Londonderry railway line

Traffic on Benone Beach
Benone beach with Mussenden Temple in the background

This is the famous 'Benone Beach and Tourist Complex'. The town council is very proud of the place and have provided all sorts of facilities aimed at the family. There is even a golf practice range where one can learn how to nearly not hit a moving car and get away with it.

A European blue flag marks the entrance to the beach. This is awarded only to beaches with very clean water and a traffic density not less than Dungiven high street.
Mind you, occasionally it looks like the mess on the left!

It seems to be the height of the rush hour, so we beat a hasty retreat before we get knocked down by the roadhawks. Never mind a blue flag : what this place needs is a red and white checkered flag! Apparently lovers of unspoiled nature must take their battered car elsewhere!

We decide that we may just as well look at this coastline from the other side of the lough and hence head for the ferry.

A right turn takes us onto the road to Magilligan point. We are in the middle of a former wartime army camp and bits and pieces of bunker disfigure the landscape to this very day. The military still makes use of the rifle range over on the right, but luckily nobody is shooting today. What with crashing gliders, long range waves and stray golf balls - a hail of friendly fire is the last thing we need.

Because much of the area is still under military control the sand dunes and their wildlife are well preserved. Mind you - all things come at a price. Ahead looms Magilligan jail. This edifice is so dead ugly that no description can do it an injustice.

We waste some time looking out for suspicious characters in striped overalls trying to escape across the dunes, but are disappointed. You'd really think they would leave the gates open occasionally, wouldn't you? 
The road to the point

The road to Magilligan point

Looking back 
Looking back across the Foyle

The road has been quiet, but suddenly there's a lot of oncoming traffic. It's worse than Benone beach. This is a sure sign that the ferry has docked. The little vessel holds only about thirty cars and they don't take long to roll off, so it's time for us to hurry because the skipper doesn't hang about. I slam onto the accelerator and we screech around the rather sharp and narrow bends. Various pieces of metal spin off the car, but who needs them anyway?

The ferry is just about to leave, but holds back for long enough for our car to crunch aboard. We buy a ticket and enjoy the ride, which is splendid.

On the Northern Ireland shore we make out the Martello Tower, a structure which might have helped to defeat Napoleon if only it had been built sooner. On the Donegal side we can see the Greencastle castle - which is green - as well as yet another Martello tower.


You can learn more about these historical structures by following this link. The crossing takes only about 15 minutes and soon we float into Greencastle harbour. A large fishing fleet is tied up here. Some boats are being repaired. Others are so full of rusty holes, dents and bashes, they look like the Russian navy on a bad day. One can only assume that the men trying to restore them are the greatest optimists in the land.

A bump tells us that we can disembark: so that's what we do. We pull up in the harbour car park because Flossie looks restless again and is in need of a walk. Luckily Tudor's collar fits her neck, so we attach a bit of string and guide her over to the green. She instantly attacks a waste paper bin and eats furiously.

Unfortunately all this hunger is only a clever trick to put us off our guard, because she suddenly jumps into the air, kicks her hind legs at anything she suspects behind her and takes off with amazing speed and an astonishing amount of noise. The bit of string that held her is now just that.

We hear a final triumphant 'baaahhh' followed by a short but painful 't h u m p' as she bumps straight into the legs of a suspicious looking character who is heading our way. He expertly grabs Flossie by the neck and approaches us with an officious walk that bodes ill for the rest of the assembled company.

A fishing fleet 
Part of the fishing fleet
Greencastle 
Greencastle seen from the green castle
 
He wears a uniform with the words 'customs officer' written all over it in large, invisible letters.

"Would this beast here be yours now, Sir?"

he enquires in one of those dangerously polite voices that add the inaudible phrase "You Are In Serious Trouble Now, Sir!" to every other word.

"Yes, officer. That's Flossie. Flossie is our lunch."

He swallows that without batting an eyelid. "Very interesting, Sir. Would you have an import licence for this beast then, Sir?"

Why is it that officials can always floor you with a silly question to which there is no easy answer - and why do they always call you 'Sir' when they do it?



"No, kind officer, I didn't know we needed one"

I plead and continue cunningly:

"If you give her back to us, we'll take her home on the next ferry."


He treats us to a humorous wink - indicating that there is better to come - and asks pointedly:

"Do you have an export license for this beast then, Sir?" 

Floored yet again! We have to sign a 'Form of Beastly Surrender' and leave Flossie in the company of this starved looking customs official, who smacks his chops and walks her towards his station. As they pass our open car, he reaches into the back, grabs something and shouts:

"You won't be needing this bunch of rosemary then, Sir!?"

"Take it and begone with you" I reply resignedly.

He turns and looks towards the jetty. The ferry has left, but there is a dripping tractor slowly emerging from the waters. It is driven by a wet-looking figure in a familiar-looking uniform. Water gushes off the vehicle in all directions.

"Did that submarine check out all right then, Willie?"

yells Flossie's captor to the newcomer, who has stopped  his damp contrivance and is using a tea-cup to bail oily water from out of a large tool box.

"Aye"

replies the submarine inspector, after spitting out just the right amount of brine to lend credence to this dodgy tale.

"One of them thar torpedoes is a bummer, but otherwise the job's a good'un".
U-Boat Willie, the submarine inspector, emerging from Lough Foyle 
U-Boat Willie, the submarine inspector, in his inspection vehicle.
Benevenagh across Lough Foyle 
Benevenagh across Lough Foyle

What strange customs they have around here! 

Listening to this dialogue has made us very hungry and we decide to have what's left of our picnic right here and now.  We didn't catch any sushi and Flossie has been confiscated - but at least we still have the victuals we started out with. 

Foiled again! Flossie got there first and has eaten everything - even the plastic cutlery and half the basket. In total disgust we take the next ferry home.  



The next instalment


 

Flossie the lamb  
Continue driving