Warrenpoint is a small seaside town located at the very tip of Carlingford Lough. It is separated from the Republic of Ireland by a narrow strait, and is charmingly picturesque with its promenade and waterfront hotels. It was in one such bed and breakfast that we would stay for the night, and as we cycled to The Lough and Quay (a fantastic pun if you pronounce it correctly, which obviously Jess the American did not), we felt like we were somewhere in the French riviera, minus the warmth.
The entire operation was wonderfully laid back, and the kind folks here allowed us to store our bike in the back of the bar downstairs, citing its "decorative value". We were shown upstairs to our double en-suite room which faced the sea – a steal at £60 per night. The view was stunning, and we immediately opened the large windows to let the fresh sea air in.
It was only at this point that we realised how intense today's short ride had been. For almost three straight hours, we had hammered along, hauling our 200+kg load nonstop to the seaside. We're much fitter now than when we set out, and no wonder. If you want to build up strength quickly, and don't mind spending most of your day swearing, we can heartily recommend the drumlin training regime.
Another thing we became aware of today is just how few cyclists we've met along the way. The solitary roadie we saw on the silky smooth bike path between Newry and Warrenpoint made us realise that we haven't seen another rider since Glenarm. It's clearly not a method of travel that crosses many people's minds here, which explains the dire lack of good bike shops, as well as the number of people who ask us what the hell we're thinking. Sometimes, even we don't know.
With fewer than 10,000 residents, there is a real "village" air about Warrenpoint. The majority of restaurants, bars, and accommodations line the aptly named Seaview Road, with more residential neighbourhoods inland. When we arrived, schools had just let out and we were surrounded by the happy chatter of teenagers on the streets. You'd hardly believe that anything bad ever happened here because it's so quaint and peaceful. But never judge a book by its cover, because nearby lies the Narrow Water Castle, a stone keep that was first built in 1212 to keep river-borne attacks out of Newry, and was also the site of a bloody altercation between the IRA and the British Army in August 1979. Eighteen British soldiers were killed, the biggest single loss of life they suffered during the Troubles. We've said this before, but regardless of whichever "side" you were on, you can't deny that this was a dark moment in Northern Irish history.
Visiting Warrenpoint now, you'd never guess what happened here not long ago. Northern Ireland deserves to be known for much more than the violent recent past that continues to define it in the eyes of many. This is a huge part of the reason why we decided to come here in the first place. Much like Burma, we are on a quest to break down assumptions and barriers and show everyone the good that exists here, because there's a whole lot that's still left to be discovered.
Such as this small town, filled to the brim with unpretentious beauty.
After a lovely walk, we set out to find a restaurant that sold oysters for dinner, as the Carlingford area is renowned for them. Wouldn't you know we failed in our mission? We must have checked every restaurant in town, and wherever we went, a glance at the menu yielded nought. Disappointed but undeterred, and wanting to support our local B&B, we made our way back to the Lough and Quay to eat at their Italian restaurant, Vecchia Roma. The waitstaff already knew who we were and that the tandem was ours, leading to jokes being cracked left, right, and centre. It was a night filled with laughter, as all evenings should be.
By 10 PM, we were in bed, snoring our brains out.