Last night I realized a problem with spending another day in Strangford. Carrickfergus Castle is on my “must visit” list, but it’s also 20 km on the other side of Belfast. The ferry for the Isle of Man departs on only Wednesdays and Saturday, so if I didn’t visit it today, I’d have to give it a pass, or wait three days to leave for the Isle of Man. I had decided I’d cycle into Belfast (60+ km), drop all of my gear at the hostel (except tools and raingear) and make it to Carrickfergus before it closed for the day.

It rained last night. Not Irish rain … rain. Hours and hours of rain. The tent fly apparently has a small fail on the seam, although only enough to let a few drops through. Fortunately it’s near the door where it doesn’t impact anything. At Robert’s suggestion this morning I moved the tent into the sun to dry out, and also wiped it down. By the time I left at 9:30 the tent was mostly dry. Between my decision to cut across the estate, and a locked gate, I was 5 km into the day before I even left the estate!

The castle in Killyleigh was mostly a bust – a sign at the gate said it was privately owned. They kindly left the gate open so that people could take photos from the entrance.

I passed the castle ruin at Sketrick by, a 10 mile detour on a day when I was pushing for distance, and short on time to make it to Carrickfergus. From Comber I followed the greenway that Robert had suggested into the heart of Belfast. Dropping my gear at the hostel I left for Carrickfergus at 3:00 pm, my drop-dead deadline for whether I thought I could make it or not.

Robert had directed me to another cycle path to Carrickfergus, not as good as the earlier greenway, but at last not directly in traffic.  I raced up the coast, pushing as hard as could, trying to arrive at Carrickfergus as exhausted as possible without blowing myself out before I got there. I’d not been eating enough while wandering into Belfast, and I started to flag. Stopping to check the GPS for just how much farther I had left, I saw Carickfergus Castle on the horizon. I’d held my average speed at 22 kph, and had plenty of time to explore the castle. Afterwards  I stopped for something to eat before a more leasurely (and exhausted) ride back to the Lagan Backpackers’ Hostel in Belfast.

On the way back I encountered a double rainbow, with a ferry at the end of the rainbow. From the hostel I made the reservation for the ferry to the Isle of Man. Presuming i can find the ferry, all set for tomorrow.


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