We had a 6 AM departure from Carlingford, and the Four Seasons Hotel prepared an excellent continental breakfast for us. Soon our bus was loaded and on its way north to Royal Portrush Golf Club, host course for the 148th Open Championship in July, 2019. The drive took approximately two and a half hours, which allowed people to catch up on sleep or enjoy the view as we entered Northern Ireland.
As we arrived in Portrush, the weather turned against us with high winds and rain. We unloaded our rain gear and prepared to play the course which had been renovated since our visit in 2015.
We were joined in the clubhouse by Graeme Beatt, course manager at Royal Portrush, who explained some of the changes that we would see since our last visit. He also mentioned some of the many infrastructure changes as the course prepares to host The Open Championship in July.
The weather eventually turned better with sunny skies but still a noticeable breeze. All players commented how thrilled they were to play the course that will serve as next year's final major of the season.
As the golfers played Royal Portrush, Simon-our-driver took the non-golfers up the road to Giant's Causeway, a series of hexagonal stones formed millions of years ago. On the way back to Royal Portrush the group stopped at Dunluce Castle. The visit to Dunluce Castle brought the story full circle as the group could see some of the stones were quarried from nearby Giant's Causeway.
After golf we headed south to the city of Derry. Everyone met in the hotel lobby and made the short walk to Derry’s Guild Hall. While there we took a tour of the historic building and its many stained-glass windows. Our guide explained the many uses of the building and even allowed us into the council chamber.
After the tour, we were greeted by Councillor Gus Hastings in the Mayor's Parlor. In addition to welcoming us to the city with refreshments, he explained some of the many issues facing the city of Derry and the Council. Councillor Hastings Is Chair of Governance and Strategic Planning. This was a fitting introduction to Northern Ireland politics.
After our visit at the Guild Hall, the group split up into smaller groups for a light meal or some evening refreshments.
On tap for Wednesday was a walking tour of Derry, a visit to the Museum of Free Derry, and golf at Castlerock Golf Club in nearby Castlerock.