Posted by TheYank at 11/4/2009 3:20 PM EST

As I mentioned yesterday, we were up north last week. Just a day trip, which is possible now thanks to the vast improvement in the roads here. There was a time not that far back when a day trip to the north was such a bone-shaking, nerve-shattering experience that advertisements in the national papers advised people against making journeys of over 150 miles in length, such was the state of the roads. That lasted right up until, well, the current decade.

The roads are better, but there is still nowhere to stop for a bathroom break along the whole route except the Outlet in Banbridge. The clever folks who run the Outlet lure in the unsuspecting motorist from the south with clean bathrooms and two choices of coffee and then mesmerize them with shop-loads of cheap goods. Before they know what's hit them their wallets are empty and they're loaded down like pack mules and searching for their car in an over-flowing parking lot. The spell's only broken after they've forced down the lid of the trunk and have started the engine.

When we finally escaped the clutches of the Outlet we made our way north to the Antrim coast to fulfil a two-year-old promise to our youngest to bring him to the Giant's Causeway. {Cursed teachers and their continued insistence on educating the young. Don't they know us parents would rather plop them in front of the t.v. and let it be at that?}

I've been there four or five times before, but in all prior trips I was able to plan around the weather forecast. This time the promise of the trip was made so far enough in advance (two days) that there was plenty of time for the forecast mild sun to be replaced by cloudbursts and gale-force winds. It wasn't actually all that bad when we finally got there, but it was very gloomy and very windy.

We stopped first at Bushmills distillery for no good reason other than it was there. It's not like anyone in the house drinks whiskey, although I came away with a sampler. Then we made our way to Dunluce Castle. Every time I'm at Dunluce all I can think is, "Who on Earth would build a residence there?" Last week in the gloom and wind and threat of rain it was even more striking how inhospitable the location is.

From Dunluce it's only a short hop to the Giant's Causeway. I've gone through two completely different reactions to the Causeway: on my first visit I couldn't get over how odd the geological formations were. On my second and third trips I coudln't get over how many people made the trip to see what are, after all, not much more than oddly shaped rocks.

Now I just appreciate it for what it is: interesting, peaceful and beautiful, although not breathtakingly so as are other parts of the north coast. Worth visiting. And, given the numbers of people who were there on the day we were there, bad weather
and all, many people agree.