Two football matches, two concerts and a trip to Newcastle. That was June.

It was Windsor Park-Limelight on a rotating basis, with Del Amitri and Feeder being sandwiched inbetween Northern Ireland’s matches against Greece and Cyprus.

At the end of the month, I went to North-East England (and a bit of Yorkshire), although the only photo adventure was a trip to Jesmond Dene in Newcastle,

Northern Ireland v Greece

Northern Ireland v Greece Photo Album

Del Amitri live at The Limelight

Del Amitri live at The Limelight Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Cyprus

Northern Ireland v Cyprus Photo Album

Feeder live at The Limelight

Feeder live at The Limelight Photo Album

Jesmond Dene

Jesmond Dene Photo Album


This has been something i’d been wanting to do for a long time.

However, as soon as I decided to take the plunge, we had two Summers of restrictions.

I know I have a car, but i’d prefer to do it by public transport as I don’t know where i’m going. Let the bus doo all the work.

So, armed with a couple of Translink timetables, I decided to head off and do some Mourne Ramblering.

I had originally planned to do this during the second Bank Holiday in July, Wednesday 13th July.

The timetables weren’t on my side as I was going to the Linfield match that night.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to go rambling and make it back to Belfast by public transport for the match, so that plan bit the dust.

Thankfully, that Linfield match, was worth giving up Mourne Rambling for.

As well as that, my Plan B for that day, a trip to North Down Coastal Path was also worth it.

Although, I did miss another Linfield match, a 2-0 defeat to Crusaders in the Charity Shield. I think I can live with that.

Another football match it turned out I missed was Newcastle FC beating 18th Newtownabbey Old Boys (yes, actually) in the Steel and Sons Cup.

No, I didn’t even know there was a Newcastle FC. Everyday is a schoolday. One to add for the pre-season wishlist perhaps.

I wasn’t going to let Summer 2022 go without doing some Mourne Ramblering, so I put aside Saturday 6th August as the day to do it.

The weather was kind. Dry, that’s all I ask for. Sunny in bits but dry. I can’t really emphasise the importance of it being dry.

Part of that day would be spent in Newcastle Town Centre killing time.

The timetable for Mourne Rambler isn’t that frequent, only three a day, leaving at 9am, 12.30pm and 3.30pm from Newcastle Bus Station.

For me, it would be the 12.30pm bus as there was no bus from Belfast that would get me there in time for the 9am bus.

I left Belfast at 9.30am, arriving in Newcastle just before 11am, meaning I had just over an hour and a half to kill.

No problem, just do a charity shop tour (managed to get some Thomas The Tank Engine books for my nephew) and a walk along Newcastle Beach before heading back to the Bus Station.

Incidentally, when I purchased my ticket at Great Victoria Street Bus Station, I was able to get an all day ticket (I was expecting to have to buy a ticket to and from Newcastle, and then another one within Newcastle) for £9.50 which covered my journey to Newcastle back, my connection within Newcastle, and a Metro within Belfast if I wanted to use it.

Excited, I decided to head to Mourne Mountains for the first time.

I decided to head to Spelga Dam.

The bus stop that served it was actually twenty minutes away, dropping you off at a layby at the side of the road and you had to walk the rest.

This meant I had just over two hours to work with.

Miss my bus back to Newcastle, and my options will be:

A) Sleep the night in the Mournes and get the first bus the next day
B) Hitch hike back to Newcastle
C) Walk it back to Newcastle

None of which seemed that appealing. In short, I simply could not afford to miss my bus back to Newcastle, scheduled for 3.56pm.

I went for a walk around Spelga Dam, before heading down the road beside it to see where it went.

The answer, was nowhere, so I headed back to Spelga Dam.

While walking back, I remembered that I won a map of Mourne Mountains in a competition last year. I didn’t bring it with me because I had totally forgotten that I had it.

Time for another walk around Spelga Dam before a walk up a hill across the road.

It was about twenty to thirty minutes up, not particularly demanding.

Unfortunately, if I wanted to have a sit down when I reached the top, it was probably best avoided as the whole trail was covered in sheep poo.

I did say hello to some of the sheep as I walked up.

Curiously, when I reached the top, I got a message from Vodafone welcoming me to the Republic Of Ireland.

In the interests of balance, I should point out that I still had “Vodafone UK” on my phone screen when I visited Carlingford in March.

As someone who would happily turn up at an airport hours in advance, I headed back to the layby turned bus stop (ten minute wait for the bus) to go back to Newcastle.

I wouldn’t usually turn up this early for a bus, but it’s the last bus out of the middle of nowhere, I think I can be excused on this occasion.

Frustratingly, I noticed a hill beside the layby, a decent trek too. Wishing i’d done that one instead to be honest.

I got on my bus which ventured to the other drop-off points, one of which was Silent Valley, which I definitely plan on visiting the next time I go Mourne Rambling.

There definitely will be a next time, although it might not be until 2023.

When I do it, i’ll do Silent Valley first.

As much as I enjoyed Spelga Dam, I get the feeling I missed the most spectacular part of The Mournes.

You can accuse me of being Belfast centric, but surely it is worth testing out a direct bus from Belfast to Mourne Mountains, even on a trial basis next Summer.

Even a more frequent Mourne Rambler Bus Service in terms of per day and how many months it runs for. Why not add May and September?

You can’t exactly boost domestic tourism if you make it hard for people to visit places, it’s not rocket science.

I am tempted by the idea of an overnight stay in Newcastle, so I can have a day in the Mournes, then get the 9am bus the next day to do some more.

Not at the Slieve Donard Hotel though. I’m not made of money.

12th July is on a Wednesday next year, so there is the option of a Wednesday to Friday getaway.

Although, I did observe Murlough Nature Reserve from the bus going into Newcastle, a stop of two before Newcastle.

That looks like somewhere that looks worth exploring. I definitely intend on doing that before 2022 is over, especially as i’ll probably be using up a lot of Annual Leave days in the final months of the year.

So, overall, a very enjoyable first visit to Mourne Mountains, but it felt like a warm-up.

Now that I know how to get there and where to go and how to get there, i’m ready to go again and see more of it.

Although, that probably won’t be until the Summer of 2023.

I’ll try to remember to bring my map with me.

That wasn’t the end of the Saturday Shenanigans, as the following week, I headed to Bangor for Seaside Revival.

It wasn’t as big as it was in 2019, but it was still an enjoyable day out, doing a charity shop tour before heading to the main action in Bangor Marina.

On the train back, I am 99% certain I saw Eric Bell of Thin Lizzy.

Which was a bit of a strange coincidence as I got myself a photo of the Thin Lizzy mural in Bangor. It hadn’t been painted when I got some photos of Bangor Street Art last year.

I took a detour on the way home to Helen’s Bay for a quick stroll.

As a result, i’m going to put this on my Walk Hitlist, get the train to there and do that leg of the North Down Coastal Walk, walk for an hour, see where it takes me and get some photos.

Looks like i’ll be busy in the final months of 2022.

Newcastle Beach Photo Album

Spelga Dam Photo Album


Now that we are able to travel, barring airline strikes, rail strikes or staff shortages, I now incorporate a walk or a trek into my travels, no matter where I go.

When I was in Newcastle, I decided to take in Jesmond Dene, based on the online research I did in advance of the trip.

Jesmond is what Jedward would have been called if Edward was called Desmond instead.

It wasn’t the easiest place to find, but I did manage to make my way back to Jesmond Metro Station without having to ask for directions.

I get the feeling it’s the kind of place that becomes easier to find the more you visit.

Trying to compare it, it is a lot like Colinton, on the basis that it is very flat, unlike Cregagh Glen.

The day I arrived, it was roasting and bright, which added to it, a really joyous walk through a wooded valley.

If you don’t believe me, the local dogs seemed to like it, going for a swim in the water before splashing some of it on me as they got out.

My visit was timebound due to spending most of the afternoon exploring Newcastle City Centre, twenty minute in which would obviously mean twenty minutes back.

That soon escalated to thirty minutes each way.

It was well worth it, and an enjoyable way to spend a Monday teatime.

Photo Album


It wasn’t quite a last minute deal, more 80th minute or 85th minute if you want to use a football analogy.

I had some Annual Leave to use up, so booked a three day block Monday to Wednesday on the last week of the month, and then try to find somewhere to go.

That’s the third year in a row now, I think this might officially be a tradition.

In 2020, it was with the intention of basing myself in Bray to head to Dublin and try to blag a ticket for a Euro 2020 Last 16 match.

As we all know, we were all in Lockdown by this point. My hotel cancelled on me, not that there was any football to go to anyway, I was tempted to just go to Bray anyway but the decision was made for me.

Fast forward a year, and i’ll try again.

This time, Dublin lost it’s hosting rights for Euro 2021.

No football, no problem, I can still go to try for a relaxing break by the sea.

Except, my vaccination jab was scheduled for this week (I got a second date when I booked my first whether I wanted it or not) and there was no way out.

So, I rescheduled my Bray trip to August and went to North Down Coastal Walk and Blackhead Path, making the most of the warm weather.

2022, third time lucky for a late June trip to Bray?

And Bray Wanderers were playing a home match on the Monday night as well.

Not for £600 for two nights in a hotel. I decided to give that one a miss.

It’s like i’m destined never to go to Bray for a few days in late June, especially if it involves going to a football match.

So I looked around for a cheap deal, and got flights to Newcastle for £60 and a hotel in Newcastle Quays for £120 for two nights at two weeks notice.

I’d been looking at this trip for a while so why not go for it?

I could use Newcastle as a base to check out York (one hour away) and maybe sneak a trip to Durham (fifteen minutes away) while I was there, depending how things went.

It had been a while since I was in Newcastle, a couple of decades let’s just say. All I remember from the trip is being driven past St James Park and visiting Metro Centre.

Not much lead-in time, but still a lot of excitement as I headed to Belfast International Airport for the relatively civilised departure time of 9.55am, which was full of Culchies, reminding me why I usually travel at 7 or 8am.

Newcastle Airport was straightforward to navigate, straight onto a Metro system which has you in the City Centre in just over twenty minutes.

My hotel was in Newcastle Quays, which I assumed would be close to the City Centre.

It was, ish, but not as close as I hoped it would be.

If I ever do visit Newcastle again, i’ll definitely look for somewhere closer to Central Station.

Despite the not ideal location, the hotel room had a bath.

When you live in a house that only has a shower, this feels like a luxury.

I wasn’t going to spend three days in the bath, Newcastle needed exploring, off I went into the City Centre, taking in Eldon Square.

The highlight for me, was Grainger Market. I absolutely loved it.

No matter where I turned, I seemed to stumble into some independent store I absolutely loved.

Stumbling into things seemed to be a bit of a theme.

I went walking and saw a sign for a shop called Back Page Football.

I’d seen this online and wanted to visit it.

I wasn’t looking for it but was happy to stumble upon it.

It is a football shop. Everything you want, shirts, books, DVDs, programmes, etc.

I found it a bit pricey, especially the programmes, so I left it, but it was nice to have a browse.

From there, I could see St James Park, so it was rude not to have a look.

There was a crowd of people there to welcome Sven Botman, who was rumoured to be signing for Newcastle.

He eventually signed on the Friday night. I hope they weren’t camping out for four days.

From there, it was back on the Metro to visit Jesmond Dene.

As a result of Lockdown I, i’ve gotten really into Hillwalks and Forest Walks.

Now, when I travel somewhere, I make an effort to go for such a stroll.

Making use of the internet, I settled on Jesmond Dene for my stroll.

Not really a hill, but a flat woodland area with some great views and photo opportunities, similar to Colinton.

It’s not the easiest place to find, very little signposting from Jesmond Metro Station, although I found my way back no problem.

One of those places where it becomes easier to find the more times you go.

When I did get there, it was worth it, taking in my surroundings.

There were quite a few doggies going for swims, some of whom splashed me when they were drying themselves.

By the time I arrived, it was teatime, so my visit was going to be timebound a I would need to get back to Jesmond Metro Station, have something to eat and get a bit of rest in my hotel room.

I had planned for twenty minutes out and then, obviously, twenty minutes back.

That escalated to thirty out and then thirty back. I was glad I did.

I did intend of sitting in my hotel room watching TV and not moving, but with it still bright and being right beside Gateshead Millennium Bridge, I decided to head out and hope to get some sunset photos of Tyneside.

The photos were not, I didn’t get the red skies I was hoping for though.

Tuesday was set aside for a day trip to York. It would have been rude not to as it was only an hour away, especially as I had never been to York before.

Newcastle and York having done Edinburgh and Glasgow the previous month, you probably think i’m trying to work my way along the East Coast Mainline.

Doncaster next then.

What did shock me was the price of the train, over £30 for two one hour journeys.

I was probably a bit naive not to book online. It’s a cultural thing. I’m so used to just walking up and purchasing a ticket.

The thing is, I didn’t want to commit to a timeslot. I might have wanted a lie-in on the Tuesday, or I might have fancied a bit of time in Newcastle City Centre before heading to York.

I’m just flabbergasted by over £30 for travelling the distance between Belfast and Ballymena.

Train travel in England is a totally different experience.

Once you see a Burger King on a platform, Great Victoria Street isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Compare the two main stations to any city in England and you start to feel embarrassed.

There are even pubs at train stations.

Some people wouldn’t make it to the platform for Coleraine away if they had that in Northern Ireland.

I headed straight to York Walls when I arrived in York.

To be honest, I found York Walls to be a bit underwhelming.

At least Derry’s Walls, you can see most of the city.

York’s offering was not as spectacular.

Having realised I would just be walking around in a circle, I decided to get off and take in the delights of York City Centre, starting with The Shambles.

As well as The Shambles, I also took in Bootham Bar and Goodramgate.

York as a city is very pricey. It feels like most shops you go into, are designed too get as many pennies as they could out of Tourists, of which there was a lot.

The place was rammed, which surprised me as it was a Tuesday.

Nothing big happens on a Tuesday, I thought it would be off-peak.

Nope, the city was rammed with busloads at both ends of the age scale, Pensioners on coach trips and Schoolkids on school trips.

I’m sure the Schoolkids will have enjoyed the Museum Of Chocolate. Yes, an actual thing.

Yorkie is named after the city, which is also the birthplace of Kitkat.

As a result, York refers to itself as The City Of Chocolate.

And now you’re dreaming of an actual City Of Chocolate, like Homer in that episode of The Simpsons when Springfield Power Plant gets sold to a German company.

Despite the pricey nature of a lot of the shops and attractions, I definitely would go back to York.

Tempted to make a weekend of it, use it as a base to explore North Yorkshire such as North York Moor and Dalby Forest, as well as doing some of the things I didn’t get a chance to do in York due to only having one day to visit, such as walking the canal and going on a boat trip along the canal. Or finish of walking along York Walls.

And, of course, a trip to a match at the LNER Stadium, if there was one on.

The problem is, York isn’t the easiest place to get to from Northern Ireland.

It doesn’t have an airport, so you have to fly somewhere else and then make your way to a train station from there.

Manchester Airport has a direct train service, but that is two hours away.

It looks like the best bet would be to fly to Newcastle, get the Metro into Newcastle City Centre and get a train from there.

I’m genuinely surprised there isn’t a direct bus service from Newcastle, Doncaster/Sheffield or Leeds/Bradford.

After a lovely day of weather, it got dull and dark when I arrived back in Newcastle, so there would be no trying to get sunset photos for a second successive night.

Wednesday would be my last day, so I decided to turn my double header into a triple header by heading to Durham.

It was only fifteen minutes away, so why not?

Although £8 for thirty minutes on a train seemed a bit excessive.

I got off the train and headed down the hill to the City Centre and had a choice, left or right.

Right won, and it led me up a street full of charity shops. Naturally I had a look.

I even scooped a bargain, a Radio 1 25th Anniversary mug for £3.

From there, I headed to Wharton Park, which was a nice walk, very green and serene.

I couldn’t help but think i’d made the wrong decision, so I headed back to see what would have awaited me if if I had taken the option to go left.

From there, I headed to Walkergate and Durham Market, a very enjoyable stroll.

If I was hoping things would be a bit quieter after York the day before, I picked a bad day as the city was packed due to graduation ceremonies.

I’d managed to wrap up Durham in a morning, which was handy as I headed back to Newcastle at lunchtime, so I could take in a final bit of the city before getting ready to head to Newcastle Airport.

I was toying with the idea of going to Gateshead International Stadium (it has a Metro Stop beside it) during my final hours on Tyneside.

It would have been rude not to visit a football ground that was easy to get to, but I didn’t have the time.

I was also tempted to visit Barnard Castle, but my eyesight was perfectly fine, so I didn’t need to.

So, it was time to head from, from Newcastle Airport, which is possibly the shittest airport i’ve ever been to.

An impressive achievement considering i’m a regular user of Manchester Airport.

Where do you start?

Lack of seats, lack of shops, vending machines that don’t give change.

It didn’t even have a Water Refill Station that I had become used to at LNER’s Hubs at Newcastle, York and Durham.

And to top it off, I got stung for £24 when boarding because the wheels on my suitcase were deemed to make it too big for cabin baggage.

Despite the fact it didn’t happen in Belfast, or indeed any other time i’ve brought the bag onto the plane.

To make things worse, it was the smallest bag on the carousel when I went to pick it up.

The delay caused by having to collect my baggage meant I narrowly missed a bus and had to wait over twenty minutes for the next one.

A bit of a shit end to an otherwise enjoyable trip.

I definitely do plan on taking in Newcastle and York again, more likely York.

St James Park Photo Album

Tyneside Sunsets Photo Album

York Walls Photo Album

Wharton Park Photo Album

Durham Photo Album