and a trip to The Giant’s Causeway
One wintry day last November, Storm Clodagh blew me and my companions into Harry’s Shack, for fish and chips, before going on to brave the elements at the Giant’s Causeway. I’d heard lots of good things about Harry’s Shack – most notably that Jay Raynor had been there and had given it a big thumbs up in his review about this simple seaside eatery in Northern Ireland, and I was really keen to sample their fishy offerings, as well as try some of the local ale and sip a few wines before venturing outside once more. We arrived before the crowd, Harry’s Shack is very popular with visitors and the locals alike, and if you are intent on sinking your teeth into their succulent fish and crispy chips, then you need to reserve a table beforehand.
Just over an hour away from bustling Belfast, and after travelling along a coastal route of quite simply breathtaking beauty, (passing through places where the popular TV programme The Game of Thrones is filmed) we arrived at Harry’s Shack; the restaurant is situated in an unassuming low beach-hut-type-shed building, which is owned by the National Trust on Portstewart Strand; the restaurant has magnificent views of the coast which was looking particularly fierce and threatening on that stormy day in November.
Inside you’ll find roughly hewn wooden tables of all sizes, simply furnished with chairs and bench seats. There was a wood-burner throwing out essential heat on the day we arrived, and the restaurant was warm and inviting with the tempting aromas of wine-enriched fish stews and freshly baked bread, whilst the feature film that was the towering waves and wind scuttled clouds played outside the numerous windows which overlook the beach.
The menu is unpretentious and simple – but that’s just a clever smoke screen for what was to follow, and what was to follow was pure culinary poetry on a plate; the standard of a meal is often set by the prelude, and the prelude that day were small casserole dishes of wine poached prawns served with hale and hearty oaten bread and Abernethy butter with dulse (seaweed), which certainly set a very high bar. More dishes swelled the tasty ranks of tempting starters on the table and we all tucked into potted crab salad, sourdough bread and moules with chunky triple fried chips.
Along with local craft beers from the Kinnegar brewing stable, there was a fine selection of paired wines to choose from. The main events then followed, and as well as the ubiquitous and famous Harry’s Shack buttermilk battered fish and chips with mushy peas, there was spiced hake, potato and chorizo stew, pan-fried whole megrim with smoked bacon, capers and cockles, fennel mashed potatoes, slow-cooked featherblade of beef with carrots and more of Harry’s Shack famous chunky triple-fried chips with home-made mayonnaise for essential dipping.
We ran out of time to have dessert, and as a savoury person my appetite was already well-sated, but we were offered muffins and coffee to take with us on the mini bus, which we all did. The food was all cooked to perfection and the atmosphere was languid and leisurely with each course bringing anticipation of new tastes and flavours to come. As a big fan of seafood and fish, I was captivated with the choice on offer, but there are also non-piscine delights on the menu, for those who prefer stuff without shells, scales and fins…..the towering Angus beef burger looked divine as did the chicken, which was served with macaroni and the slow-cooked pork belly with Asian glaze seemed to glow on the plate as it passed by me to the next table.
Prices range from £4 per starter to £14 for the hake and megrim with the “Full Shack Breakfast” coming in at £8; side dishes are £2:50 and desserts are £5 – this all adds up to excellent value for money for the standard and quality of what you’re served. I’d travel back just to indulge in the garlic butter prawns and fish and chips again, it was all very convivial and the location only enhances the style of food. Time to leave, and even with the winds howling outside, it was time to walk off my gargantuan meal whilst the Giant’s Causeway beckoned.
On to the Giant’s Causeway and somewhere where I’m embarrassed to say I’d not yet visited. The day we visited this place of stunning natural beauty, the weather was against us, and having been blown around the stones and rocks for half an hour, the wardens decided that it was too dangerous and we were all called back in! It’s a stunning part of Northern Ireland and the rocks are laid out in a fascinating and regular pattern, making it hard to comprehend that they aren’t man-made.
As expected, there are many myths and tales that abound about the Causeway; flanked by the wild North Atlantic Ocean and a landscape of dramatic cliffs, for centuries the Giant’s Causeway has inspired artists, stirred scientific debate and captured the imagination of all who see it…….the story goes that a giant called Finn McCool is s having trouble with someone across the water. The Scottish giant Benandonner is threatening Ireland. An enraged Finn grabs chunks of the Antrim coast and throws them into the sea. The rock forms a path for Finn to follow and teach Benandonner a lesson. Finn beats a hasty retreat, followed by the giant, only to be saved by our hero’s quick-thinking wife who disguised him as a baby. The angry Scot saw the baby and decided if the child was that big, the daddy must be really huge, and thus the causeway was built!
You can unlock the mystery and stories of the landscape in the exhibition area at the Visitor’s Centre, which also has a café serving seasonal, and regional food, and there is a shop where you can pick up locally-sourced memories of your causeway trip in the form of local souvenirs and handicrafts – with some VERY nice knitwear on offer! For entrance to the centre, a shuttle bus to the causeway if walking is not your bag and an audio-guide, the cost is £9 for an adult, £4:50 for children and there is a family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children for £22.
After a full day of travel, food and braving the elements at the Causeway, it was wonderful to sink into a hot bath and relax in my beautifully comfortable and appointed room at the Galgorm Resort and Spa. The room was furnished elegantly with views over the countryside and as it was just before Christmas, it even had a Christmas tree in the room! The en-suite facilities were large with a shower AND a spa bath, as well as aromatherapy products for ultimate pampering. I will be featuring this fabulous resort, the restaurants, spa and the food in a separate post, so do pop back later.
Disclaimer and Thanks:
I was the guest of TOURISM IRELAND and DISCOVER NORTHERN IRELAND, as well as various hotels, and restaurants that I will mention in my individual posts: my return flight, transfers, accommodation and meals were included, as well as all trips and excursions. With profound thanks to all the people and organisations that looked after me and made my trip so memorable and exciting.
This trip could not have been possible without the following people and organisations, as well as others already listed above:
Dee from Travels around Ireland
Clare from Discover Northern Ireland
£9.00 per adult / £4.50 per child / £22 per family
GALGORM RESORT & SPA
Superior Rooms start from £95 per room per night based on two people sharing
Harry’s Shack – https://www.facebook.com/HarrysShack
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