So, Where Are Paddy and Plunkett This Week?

Paddy and Plunkett's Mystery Destination! H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
We left them here last week… but what on earth is that in the background?

(If anyone guessed correctly, I’ll be super impressed!)

This unusal-looking bridge is part of the newly revamped and reopened Gobbins Cliff Path, which is about half an hour’s journey outside Belfast, on the County Antrim coast! The original Gobbins path opened in 1902, as the expansion of Northern Ireland’s railways helped to open up parts of the province which had been difficult to reach before. The Gobbins was a genuine old-school tourist attraction, purpose-built by the Chief Engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway Company to encourage people to visit this part of the country, and to show off the area’s spectacular coastline!
Paddy at The Gobbins Visitor Centre - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

However, the Depression in the 1930s and the growing popularity of cars meant that the railway company could no longer afford to maintain the system of bridges and walkways that made up the path. And when the Second World War broke out, finding people to look after The Gobbins was hardly a priority! It started to fall into disrepair, and a partial reopening of the path in the early 1950s was scuppered by a landfall shortly afterwards. The Gobbins closed in 1954, and was fully abandoned seven years later. Since then, there have been a couple of attempts to reopen the attraction, but nothing came of them… until now! Thanks to a combined effort (and some all-important funds) from the local council, the EU and the Ulster Garden Villages charity, a full restoration started in 2014… And now it’s open for business!

Hey, it looks like the boys are ready to start the tour!
Paddy at the Entrance to The Gobbins - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesHere we go! It was a bit breezy, so they had to hitch a ride with some of the human visitors…
Plunkett at The Gobbins - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesPaddy on one of the Bridges at The Gobbins - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

…But not the whole way! Here’s Plunkett posing with the restored Tubular Bridge, the most distinctive part of the path.

Plunkett at the Tubular Bridge, The Gobbins - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
And again, at Sandy Cave. Apparently, this spot was popular with Victorian picnic parties… and smugglers! My Secret Seven-reading 8-year-old self would have loved this place!
Plunkett at the Sandy Cave, The Gobbins - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
The path carries on for nearly a mile and a half, and includes five bridges and a narrow cave tunnel! Check out some of the highlights…

But even walking on little short Beastie legs, the tour was over all too soon… Time to get the train home, lads!

Paddy and Plunkett wait for the Train - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
We’ll see Paddy and Plunkett again soon, I’m sure… And if you’re in the neighbourhood, why not take a trip to The Gobbins yourself? You can find out more about booking here.

See you next time!

Weekly Photo Challenge – Monochromatic

Victorian Explorer Beastie on Bray Beach - CrawCrafts Beasties

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Monochromatic.”

Beasties tend to be quite colourful little creatures, so a monochrome Photo Challenge really is a tricky one! However, I thought it might be a good opportunity to fiddle around with some effects… so I sepia-tinted some photos of Victorian Explorer Beastie’s day out in the old seaside resort of Bray, which is just over half an hour south of Dublin city centre by train!
Victorian Explorer Beastie on the Promenade - CrawCrafts Beasties
The retro effect quite suits him, doesn’t it?
Victorian Explorer Beastie on Bray Head, by CrawCrafts Beasties
If colour’s more your thing, though, you can check out the original pictures here!

A Marvellous Day Out… with Victorian Explorer Beastie

Top of Bray Head

Okay, I don’t want to alarm anybody, but the other day I went into the living room to find a note on the floor…
Explorer Beastie Note

I’m sure he’s totally fine. He’s big enough to look after himself, and he did set out with a fresh sandwich in his backpack. That said, if anyone sees Explorer Beastie in the next couple of days, could you please ask him to call home?

Meanwhile, a new member of the family has dropped in to say hello. A throwback to the heyday of gentleman explorers, Victorian Explorer Beastie never goes anywhere without his pith helmet and a hipflask of good-quality gin (it’s hidden in his knapsack). Since the sun was out yesterday, I asked him to accompany me on a day trip to Bray – a seaside town just south of Dublin, in Co. Wicklow. It was a popular holiday destination back in the day, and I figured he’d feel right at home there.

The best way to get to Bray is to take the train. The DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) gets you out there from the city centre in about 45 minutes, and the journey is an event in itself. Just make sure you’re sitting on the left-hand side of the train, or you’ll miss all the good stuff!

Victorian Explorer Beastie on the train
For the first few minutes, the train passes through regular cityscape scenery – office buildings, houses, apartment blocks. Then, suddenly, you break out into this:
Sandymount Strand

Sandymount Strand is a long, flat beach which is featured in James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. My quick snap from the grafitti-scratched train window doesn’t really convey the scale and the peacefulness of this stretch of coastline, but it makes it hard to believe that the city is just a few seconds back up the line! However, the star of the show is the section of the line between Dun Laoghaire and Killiney. Here, the track hugs the cliffs, allowing you to enjoy a head-spinning view of the small, sandy coves below (impossible to photograph, at least for someone with my current level of expertise) or a more tranquil vista of the Irish Sea.
Bray Head from the train
Once we arrived in Bray, we headed for the beach…
Victorian Explorer Beastie on the Beach

…walked along the promenade…
Victorian Explorer Beastie on the Promenade
… and then decided it would be a great day to climb Bray Head!

Bray Head

It was a pretty steep climb…
Climbing Bray Head

… but the view from the top was totally worth it!
View View from the top of Bray Head

And so was running all the way back down again!
Tree roots on Bray Head

Look out for more adventures with Victorian Explorer Beastie in the next while… at least until Explorer Beastie makes it home!