Photos below cut
As incongruous as it seems, as much as I have a fear and dislike of water and boats, I really love waterfalls. I also like watching rivers and despite past vertigo at the expanse of oceans, I really loved my experiences in Ireland at the North Atlantic.
However, more than anything else, it’s waterfalls. As a kid, we visited Niagara Falls every other year, and I took my oldest son there right before he started kindergarten. It was the one place I always wanted to show my kids, and we were able to do that finally, last year. It made such an impact that my daughter asked as we were crossing the bridge back into the United States when we would be visiting again!
When our kids were young, we lived in a small city that had a waterfall that was the Niagara Falls of its day (the turn of the 19th century), and I loved visiting there just to watch the falls flow gently over the side and crash loudly on the rocks below. They were nothing like Niagara, but It was so close that I could visit frequently, and it was a safe place during the height of my depression.
I was excited when our cousin, Christine told us about a trail that led to a lovely waterfall nearby on the way to the Giant’s Causeway, our Friday destination. She wrote down the directions which seemed easy enough, and off we went on our Coast Road adventure!
Before putting them safely into the glovebox, I glanced at the directions, and took mental note that after turning left at the sign for Glenarriffe (one of multiple spellings we would see) we would need them again.
It was a very long drive to get to the north coast.
We stopped a couple of times on the way, ending our journey not at the Causeway, but at Ballintoy since it was raining, off and on, as is the custom in Ireland, and it was getting later than we’d anticipated returning for dinner.
About halfway along the coast road, after having only a modest breakfast, we were getting hungry as articulated by the two youngest passengers as only they could do. My oldest son clicked on his GPS and found us a nearby restaurant that we thought wasn’t too far off the road.
We could break for lunch, and then get back on our way to the waterfalls. I still wasn’t sure that I could physically handle the trail that Christine described, but I still wanted the kids to see as much as they could of their grandmother’s homeland.
My son directed us to the restaurant, which was simply turn left and follow the road to practically the end. The restaurant also had sleeping accommodations, and a gift shop. The huge windows of the restaurant, Laragh Lodge, backed up to the forest, and there was a sign and a trail to the Glenariff Forest, and another beyond that on a wooden bridge called Waterfalls Walk. I was thrilled that we’d found a back way in so we wouldn’t have to figure out how to get the the trail on our directions after eating!
It began to rain right before we parked, but it wasn’t far to walk to the entrance, and I had my umbrella. We knew from previous experience that the rain would be short-lived.
We had a really delicious lunch – all of the food on this trip could only be described as amazing. Not only the restaurant food, but the home cooked meals that we had with our cousins. Here, I had chicken goujon with champ and a salad garnish.
As we finished eating, my daughter and I headed straight to the gift shop as the rest of our group headed towards the dirt path to the forest. I had to dig deep into my coins and I still didn’t have enough. The woman behind the counter let it go. She was very kind. It was so hard to choose which items we wanted, and my daughter was in love with the unicorns and fairies.
As soon as we left the small shop, I could hear the river and the falls, and the sound of the water soothed me. I had to pause. As we got closer to the wooden bridge, I was enveloped in the sound of the rushing river, and the darkening of the trail as the trees knitted their branches overhead creating a high canopy that separated into two trails, one that led uphill and the other down. My husband and older son had already gone up, and I chose down, thinking that it might be a bit easier for me.
It was, but coming back up not so much!
I could see the falls through the trees as the trail curved, and there was a handrail for part of the walk down. I was so close that I couldn’t not go all the way down to the falls.
They were the most perfect forest falls. Water coursing down the rocks, surrounded by grass, larger stones, and trees, landing gently at the bottom, like a fairy glen. I could almost picture the ancients coming to the base of the falls to gather jugs of water, bathing, and swimming. Of course, this part of Northern Ireland is known as the Nine Glens of Antrim and faeries are a popular treasure here.
We stayed for a bit. My kids stepped back, knowing that this was a place that I wanted to relish in the quiet sounds of the forest. Looking up, I could see the rest of the group on the trail just above the falls. I only considered meeting them up there for a moment, but then quickly decided that I was happy right where I was.
I just enjoyed leaning on the railing that separates the rock we were standing on with the water and the falls, and just listening to the water flow and land at the bottom, feeling the cool breeze through my hair on my face, letting the spirituality of this sanctuary emanate and inspire through me.
This was my place.
Then, it came.
One drop, two at first. I still had my umbrella, fortunately because when the rain came again, it came.
Torrents and heavy, and not even the canopy of trees could keep it from us. It’s what I imagine a rain forest is like, but colder, harder, and unrelenting. We got back up the hill before it became too slippery, and kept walking as fast as three of us under one umbrella could until we got to the shelter adjacent to the restaurant’s door. We sat there while waiting for the rest of our group – the boys with the keys – to return to the parking lot. They were drenched!
As we made our way back along the road to the Coast Road to continue our journey to the Causeway, I took another look at our cousin’s directions to see how far we were from her trail:
Larne – Coast Road
At sign for Glenarriffe
Take road to
restaurant half way up hill
Park at restaurant and
walk round back to waterfall trail
We hadn’t known it while we were following my son’s GPS, but we followed her directions precisely.
Nothing could describe destiny any better than that.
The great thing about most of these activities is that even though they may seem too young for you elementary age child (or even middle school), when you couple the activity with a younger child, your older one will have just as much fun.
Find activities that are active, outdoors, and hands-on, not to mention creative.
1. Water Play
Even without a pool, you can still have water fun on those really, really hot days. Use a sprinkler. Use water sprayers or water guns. Use small bowls or containers of water. If you do use containers, some very important CAUTIONS to keep in mind:
Do NOT leave children unsupervised no matter how small the container is. Children can drown in as little as two inches of water.
Do not leave your containers standing out when they’re not in use. The standing water breeds mosquitos and other icky things. Pour out the containers. If you must leave them outside, store them upside down. Rinse them out before and after each use.
Grab some movies ahead of time from the library for that inevitable rainy day.
3. Craft Projects
Visit the Summer with Bubba board for some great activities, both fun and educational.
5. Barnes & Noble
B&N has a summer reading program that will give your child a free book after they read for so many hours. It is a limited selection but they are all age appropriate and free books are fabulous!
Put any other suggestions/links in the comments below.
Have a great summer!
It’s easy and inexpensive to make your own Water and/or Sand Table for the summer months for those sensory moments we all need, but especially children. This is especially convenient if you live in an apartment or have a small outdoor space and can’t buy a full size table.
Start off with a container that has a good lid. I’d recommend brand names and Tupperware, Rubbermaid, and Sterlite are the best ones in my opinion.
I would recommend that you get one about the size of a fast food tray and about 12″ or more deep.
For either sand or water you will need a secure lid, especially if you’re storing it indoors.
Empty the bucket before storing, try and let the bucket and toys dry out before securing the lid to avoid mildew. If you’re storing it outside, you don’t want to leave standing water or you’ll get mosquitos. You also might get a stray animal tumble in and then you’ll have that mess to clean up.
Take out the toys and store them in a mesh bag (you can store the toys this way for the water as well.)
Secure the lid. If you leave sand open, it will very quickly become a litter box for the neighborhood cats.
Toys should be durable plastic and should fit inside the bucket for long-term storage, but the mesh bag is good for the summertime when you’ll be using it regularly.
You can find toys at dollar stores or other thrift stores.
Look for toys that are durable and plastic. They can usually be sanitized in the dishwasher or by hand. You can use measuring cups and spoons from your kitchen including beakers that have had the measurements worn off from use. Strainers and colanders are fun as well as spoons and plastic bowls if you don’t want to buy anything new.
The dollar store will usually have small shovels and waterwheels. If you buy the toys/tools they are also very colorful.
SAFETY TIP: DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CHILD UNATTENDED. Young children have no sense of balance and can easily tumble and drown in as little water as this bucket will hold.
Don’t forget the sunscreen and a sun-hat to protect their fair skin. (This includes children of all races. Everyone needs sun protection.)