Northern Ireland Country Tracks


Northern Ireland

Celebrating the British countryside. Ellie Harrison visits Comber, follows the Antrim coast, joins an archeological dig and enjoys folk music in a Portrush pub.


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Transcript


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Today I'm travelling along the east coast of Northern Ireland, discovering the agriculture,

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landscape, history and culture

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of this unique part of the British Isles.

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My journey begins in the potato fields of Comber

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before heading to Newtownards.

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I'll drive the spectacular Antrim Coast Road from Larne to Glenariff

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and visit Dunluce Castle

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before ending my travels in the seaside town of Portrush.

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Along the way I'll be looking back

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at the best of the BBC's rural programmes from this part of the world.

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This is Country Tracks.

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Between 1845 and 1851, Ireland was blighted.

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A potato famine killed over a million men, women and children,

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while over a million fled the country.

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But despite its grim history, the potato has remained an important staple food to this day.

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Garth Horner's family have grown potatoes in the fields of Comber for over 300 years.

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Today I'm helping out on his rather noisy harvester.

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So, Garth, what are we doing here?

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Well, Ellie, potatoes are going to come up this elevator here

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and we're going to pick the potatoes into this one, all the good ones,

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and leave all the rubbish to go out this elevator here.

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-Have you got to work quite quickly?

-We have to. They're too expensive to let over into the soil.

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Yeah, yeah, you're not kidding.

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These are no ordinary spuds.

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The potatoes from this area are so sought after that the earliest harvested can fetch up to £50 a bag.

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What is it about these potatoes that are so special?

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Northern Ireland people pride their potatoes.

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These are the first potatoes out in the year. They're full of flavour.

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I'd say they're the best. I've travelled all over the world

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-and I'd say that these are the best potatoes I've ever tasted.

-Oh, wow.

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Garth isn't the only one to think that Comber spuds are the best in the world.

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Some local farmers are campaigning for recognition under the EU protected food name scheme

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so that their potatoes can enjoy the same status as champagne or feta cheese.

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It's quite fast work.

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Oh, aye, you get used to it.

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-Got to work quick.

-That's it!

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With such a reputation, I want to taste these Comber potatoes for myself.

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Local chef Stephen Taylor-Winter has offered to cook them up for me in the farm kitchen.

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So Stephen, what are you making here?

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We're going to make you a nice pot of champ, which is a good, Northern Irish traditional dish.

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It's spring onions, potatoes,

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which you've just seen, and some butter and some cream, of course.

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Traditional champ would be lumpy or smooth or however?

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It would probably be lumpy because traditionally they wouldn't have such,

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the modern appliances we have to spin it,

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so there would necessarily have been a bit of lumps to it, you know?

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-Irish people aren't too fussy.

-It's a bit of texture, after all.

-Yeah, a bit of texture.

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In here we've got a wee bit of spring onions,

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some butter and there's not cream in this one, but there's milk.

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You can put cream, because the cream is richer, more flavour, and what we've done is literally

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brought that to boil, a little bit of flavour of the scallions comes into the cream and the butter.

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-So what are scallions?

-Scallions are spring onions,

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which again are coming out of the ground at this time of year, which are perfect.

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-Are they local, too?

-They are.

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They're literally 100 yards down the road.

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This is why it tastes so good.

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We just gently mix that through.

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You only want to put a wee bit in at a time.

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It's really lovely colours as well.

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So what is it about the potatoes here that in your opinion,

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as a professional chef, are the best for the job?

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I think it's the ground.

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It's the nutrients in the ground.

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We're very close to Strangford Lough, the soil tastes good,

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it tastes good for these spuds, and the farmer here, Garth, he has every different type of potato.

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So if I'm cooking, I'll tell him what I need and he'll either pick them for me or he has them.

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-Wonderful.

-Personally, I think this is one of the better regions in Ireland for growing spuds

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and that will possibly translate to one of the better regions in the world.

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The potatoes which you picked this morning would give Jersey Royal potatoes a good run for their money.

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-They're absolutely... Well, you'll taste that in a minute.

-I will.

-So we'll just finish the champ.

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There's not too much butter and there's not too much cream in that.

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You can put more in. The French equal quantities of butter to potatoes into their mashed potatoes,

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-but in this day and age you can't be having any of that.

-Exactly.

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What we're going to do is finish with the tops

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of the spring onions because these are nice, green things.

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I usually just throw those away.

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No, no, no. Slice those through because that will give you a nice bit of crunch and more flavour.

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Very, very beautiful. Very traditional Northern Irish dish.

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-The smells in here are making my stomach rumble.

-Well, that's a good thing

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because we've got very, very simple food here.

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Simple food can sometimes be the best.

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It's interesting because as the potatoes came out of the ground the smell was amazing and, in here,

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you've carried that wonderful smell on.

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You've got, with the potatoes picked this morning, the natural vitamins,

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the natural sweetness, it hasn't got time to dry out.

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Sometimes the potatoes that we'd buy in the supermarket have been there up to six months.

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Of course, to finish the champ...

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..in Ireland, we just need a wee bit of butter...

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-Yeah.

-..and I'd just put some salt and pepper into that.

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That looks absolutely amazing.

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-Who says vegetarians have got a short deal?

-That's a good point!

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That's fantastic, you know.

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That's just to die for.

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Stephen, you're killing me. Please can I try them?

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-Of course you can. There's a spoon there.

-A spoon here.

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This bit, I'm looking forward to.

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Here we go. Dive in.

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-I've got a whopping bit there.

-That's OK.

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-Mmm. That's fantastic.

-Yeah.

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You just, to be perfectly honest, for a wee supper dish, you could just have a bowl of that.

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Salt and pepper, job done.

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To read your face, you're enjoying that. That's all I need. Thank you.

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Fabulous.

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Fresh, local produce at its very best.

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If that's got your taste buds going, nearby Strangford Lough is renowned for its sensational seafood.

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Local people have lived off marine life in Strangford Lough for centuries.

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Now sea farming is being brought right up to date with new research into aquaculture.

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Basically, that's underwater agriculture using the latest

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scientific techniques to farm the lough in a sustainable way.

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One such example is seaweed, which people have used for centuries in a huge variety of ways.

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Dr Lynn Browne of Queen's University Marine Laboratory took me out to collect edible seaweed.

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What sort of seaweed are we looking for today?

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We're looking for a seaweed

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which is called dulse,

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the Latin name is Palmaria palmata

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and it's a red seaweed which grows in Strangford Lough.

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People have been gathering it for hundreds of years.

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They have. The fleet from Portaferry was known as the butterfly fleet

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because here were lots of little, brightly coloured punts which were rowed down the narrows

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on the outgoing tide and these multi-coloured boats looked like butterflies going down the lough.

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It can be eaten but there are other uses as well, aren't there?

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Yes, seaweed actually has lots of different uses.

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It's been used in the past in glass-making, soap making,

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in bleaching linen, and also it has medical uses.

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Dulse has been shown to have some anti-viral properties.

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It's effective against herpes.

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Also, seaweed is used in making ice creams and toothpaste and lots of very familiar products.

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Gus Heath from Dolphin Sea Vegetables still harvests seaweed off the rocks in the traditional manner.

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How much have you collected, Gus?

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About 10 bags.

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That's about all for this morning.

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-How long did it take you?

-Two hours.

-You're very much governed by the weather, are you?

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Very much governed by the weather and the tides. This is the dulse, the most popular one.

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-Can you eat it raw like this?

-Yes, yes. It's crispy.

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-It's quite tasty.

-Without it being treated? Let's have a look.

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I haven't actually tasted that before.

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Mmm, it is.

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-It is good.

-Yes.

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On the banks of the lough in Portaferry is Queen's University Marine Laboratory,

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where they're working to develop aquaculture as a sustainable industry.

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They want to enable Gus to harvest seaweed all year round.

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The team have experiments bubbling away. They're growing seaweed

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and shellfish from seed with the aim of expanding sea farming in Northern Ireland.

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Lynn has helped find a way to commercially farm dulse seaweed for the first time

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by nurturing spores from the wild and then putting them out to grow on strings in Strangford Lough.

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Is there any seaweed growing on the lines yet?

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There's thousands of microscopic plants on these lines at the moment.

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You can't see them because we just put them out there about a week ago, but in about two months the plants

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will be 10 centimetres long, and after about six months the plants will be approximately this size.

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You can see this lovely, clean material that we harvested earlier on.

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This is what we'll find on our lines. We've done this over several years and it works successfully.

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One of the big aquaculture success stories around here

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is this oyster farm on Sketrick Island which is on the western shore of Strangford Lough.

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It produces 40,000 oysters every week.

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It's run by John McElreavey over here who's harvesting the oysters at the moment.

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John, you've been here for 20 years.

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You supply all the big retailers, don't you, in the restaurants?

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-Yes, we do, yes.

-I love oysters but I didn't realise collecting them was so mucky.

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Well, as you can see, it certainly is.

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They're growing here in as near as possible to a natural environment.

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We've just put them out.

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-This is actually matting. You can see there.

-Oh yes, I can.

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The mud underneath is very soft, and if we lay the oysters in the mud

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they would just bury into the mud and smother.

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So we lay down this matting, we put the oysters on it and leave them there to happily grow.

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And when the tide comes in, it covers them?

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Yes, we're at low tide here now.

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In about 6 hours' time there will be 12ft of water over here.

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Obviously that helps to nurture them, bring them on?

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Yes, there's a good flow of current here.

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Good food and water, so they're quite happy here.

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How long does it take for them to get to the required size?

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With us it takes somewhere between two and three years.

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These are all come out at the same size about four or five months ago, and you see the difference there.

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-Why is that?

-It's just the way they are.

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Very variable rate of growth.

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When you've picked enough and you bring them in, you wash them all off,

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but there's another process you put them through, isn't there?

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Yes, we do. We could take this oyster, simply wash the outside of the shell,

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clean it up and sell that to anyone, to a restaurant or anyone to eat straight away.

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Because of the quality of the water, the water classification is such

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that these are fit for human consumption straight from the sea.

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-Because it's so clean?

-Yes.

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You can't get much fresher than this.

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Six of John's oysters from the waters of Strangford Lough, and on the side,

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some seaweed bread, also from Strangford.

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So here goes.

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And even more delicious

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because I've seen those lovely, clear waters that they were reared in.

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Overlooking Strangford Lough stands the impressive Scrabo Tower with a history linked to the potato famine,

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so I've travelled on to get a closer look.

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This turreted tower stands at around 150 metres above sea level.

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Its walls are over a metre thick and it's built entirely out of stone quarried from this hillside.

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Erected in 1857, the tower was built by local people

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as a monument to Charles William Stewart, the third marquis of Londonderry.

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He was held in high regard for his attempts to alleviate suffering during the potato famine.

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His generosity and kindness to his tenants gained him a level of respect

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which wasn't commonly given to the landed gentry. The tower was built in his memory.

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The views up here are stunning.

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Just over in that direction is the huge expanse of the sea and, on a clear day like today,

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behind me you can see right out to Scotland.

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The rest of my journey is going to take me up this coast past the town of Hillsborough,

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where Ben Fogle ate more than his fill of oysters.

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The Hillsborough Oyster Festival is in its 12th year,

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and its oyster eating championship has attracted competitors from 11 different countries.

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And me.

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This is it, the main event of the day,

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the World Oyster Eating Championships.

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Last year, they managed 187 in three minutes.

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Is he swallowing them all?

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Six, five, four...

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Yes! Well done, well done! Give them a round of applause,

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-ladies and gentlemen. That's fantastic.

-How did you do on that?

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-How many did you get?

-135.

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How is that compared to your normal sort of eating?

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Normal? I've never eaten that many.

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You get to a level where your body just says, "No more."

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When did it say that to you? After roughly how many?

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-Around 80.

-Oh...!

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Go!

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Here they go.

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Ben is doing all right, I think.

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I detect signs of weakening.

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I must say, Ben is very polite.

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He's cleaning his fingers after every one.

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The fellow had his lunch before he came up here.

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The stout is coming up. Always a sign of weakness.

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He reaches for the stout.

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What's the time like there? How's the time?

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A sign of good taste when you reach for the stout. Two minutes to go.

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-Two minutes to go?

-One, one minute to go.

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You don't know how horrible this is.

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-There's a man up there at the end.

-Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four,

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three, two, one, zero.

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No more, no more, no more!

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Argh!

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That was horrid.

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-Ben, how do you feel? Do you feel OK?

-No.

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No. No.

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-That was horrible.

-You didn't do...

-I finished a tray.

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That's about 40... About 40, I'd say. About 42, 43.

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Has he eaten those or did you regurgitate those?

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That was horrible.

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Ben Fogle has scored 52.

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Give him a round of applause, ladies and gentlemen. 52, yes.

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How great is that?

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-Excellent, well done.

-Absolutely brilliant. There you are.

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Go one, give him a big round of applause, please.

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'This year's winner guzzled an astounding 171 oysters

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'and took the cup home for Wales.'

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Well, what a brilliant day at the Oyster Festival here in Hillsborough.

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Though I have to say, I think I'm going to leave oyster eating to the professionals.

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I'm going to go and have a little lie down.

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Leaving the oysters of Hillsborough

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and Scrabo Tower behind,

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I've headed north to Larne.

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For the next leg of my journey

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I'm going to travel

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along the Antrim Coast Road,

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said to be

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one of the greatest

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tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.

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'And with petrol prices on the increase, I'm going electric.

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'I'm joined by Olivier Vander-Elst, whose company promotes the use of electric cars in Ireland.'

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SHE CHUCKLES

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-And off we go! As quiet as a mouse.

-That's it. Just a whizz.

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So, Olivier, this is a bit of a departure, isn't it,

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to take an electric car out of a city and on to the country roads?

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It certainly is.

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In London you have all the cars, 1,200 of them, in the city.

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In Ireland we've had pioneers from all around the country driving the cars in a rural environment,

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as long as the distances are kept short.

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Absolutely. From a practical point of view,

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how easy is it to have one of these cars when it comes to refuelling and recharging, rather?

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In truth, we've never had anybody run out of juice

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because most of the charging happens at night in your house.

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It's a problem when you have an apartment and you don't know

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where to charge, and running cables through the windows,

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but in a countryside environment, most people have their own driveways,

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and they can just have an extension lead and charge up every night.

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Absolutely.

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'The Antrim Coast Road was built in the mid-19th century following the potato famine.

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'It was primarily designed to make the glens more accessible, but thanks to the skill

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'of designer Charles Lanyon,

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'it also became one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the British Isles.'

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I'm having a great time here. It really is very quiet, isn't it? I love it.

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This is such a beautiful drive we've got here.

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You've got plans with your company to allow tourists

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to hire electric cars and come and enjoy these types of drives?

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That's definitely a plan.

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We just think it's a beautiful way to enjoy a natural, scenic environment like this.

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There's many other coastal routes in Ireland that we'd like to explore with electric vehicles.

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It goes really hand-in-hand with the landscape, without being an intrusive, big, combustion engine.

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-That's it. It's peaceful, it's really peaceful.

-It is.

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It's quieter from the outside than it is inside.

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That's the funny thing about this specific car, anyway.

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Does that mean people step out in front of it like they would maybe a quiet milk float or a cyclist?

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Do they not even know you're coming?

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There can be a problem there. It hasn't been a problem so far

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but because they're seeing a lot of cars coming in that will be electric,

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they're going to put some fake sounds, engine sounds on those cars.

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So far we've just been putting some additional noise

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that you can trigger when you're in a pedestrian zone or something.

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-And you have always got the horn.

-You always have the horn.

-Exactly.

0:18:510:18:54

That's great. I love that.

0:18:540:18:56

HORN BEEPS

0:18:560:18:58

'As our journey continues up the Antrim Coast Road

0:18:590:19:02

'we pass through the fishing village of Carnlough,

0:19:020:19:05

'where competition in the annual gig race is fierce.'

0:19:050:19:08

How long has the club been here, Alan?

0:19:160:19:18

We're at this club now present, probably been in 1950s, 60s.

0:19:180:19:22

It had been stopped during the war years, but they started to decide

0:19:220:19:26

it would be worthwhile bringing the club back into existence again,

0:19:260:19:30

so this is what we've done and we're still going now in the present.

0:19:300:19:34

And how long have gigs been used?

0:19:340:19:36

When did the rowing of gigs get started?

0:19:360:19:38

The rowing itself, they've been rowing from the late 1800s,

0:19:380:19:42

probably right up to the current day.

0:19:420:19:44

-Rowing has been a long time in existence, particularly along this coast.

-These are very different.

0:19:440:19:48

-Tell me about them.

-This basically is our traditional Antrim coast gig.

0:19:480:19:53

It's actually one of the oldest boats on the Irish coast.

0:19:530:19:57

It was 1903, it was built.

0:19:570:19:59

We've rowed that right through. The club, this really is

0:19:590:20:02

what our heritage is built upon, these boats here.

0:20:020:20:05

There's not so many of them on the Antrim coast nowadays,

0:20:050:20:08

but still they would be the main boat for the club to row.

0:20:080:20:11

But now we'd had to evolve into a design of boat which would accommodate

0:20:110:20:16

all the areas of our Irish coast and this is the boat they came up with.

0:20:160:20:19

It's easier to row. Any rower can row with this boat,

0:20:190:20:23

whereas this boat takes a lot more sort of skill and training to row it.

0:20:230:20:28

-It's beautifully made, isn't it, of wood? Wooden oars, too?

-Wooden oars would have been the original oars.

0:20:280:20:33

We even sort of moved on to carbon fibre oars, as you see here.

0:20:330:20:38

-This is what we use nowadays.

-Light and strong.

-Yes,

0:20:380:20:40

but it wasn't so long ago that we did use these oars, maybe in the 1990s we'd have used these oars

0:20:400:20:45

which was a nice thing.

0:20:450:20:46

It would probably be nice to go back to that style again and restore these boats to their original style.

0:20:460:20:52

So there's a huge amount of heritage involved. Something you sound quite proud of?

0:20:520:20:55

There's a lot of heritage. You think, the boat's over 100 years old

0:20:550:20:59

and the crews that have rowed this boat over the years, hundreds of crews have rowed in this boat.

0:20:590:21:04

It's an honour to get to row a boat like this.

0:21:040:21:07

'A highlight of the gig racing year on the Antrim coast is the Round The Rock Challenge.

0:21:090:21:14

'Local teams race against the clock, rowing out to Black Rock in the bay and then back to Carnlough.'

0:21:140:21:21

-What's the record for going round the rock?

-15 minutes 45 seconds.

0:21:210:21:24

And how far is it?

0:21:240:21:26

It's about a mile and an eighth.

0:21:260:21:28

That's quite a way, isn't it?

0:21:280:21:30

About two and a quarter mile.

0:21:300:21:31

-And when was that set, that record?

-1926.

0:21:310:21:35

How come people haven't beaten it since?

0:21:350:21:38

People must now be bigger and stronger and better boats?

0:21:380:21:40

That's the problem. People are much heavier, much stronger.

0:21:400:21:44

But if you were over eight stone at that time, the coach

0:21:440:21:47

would have put you out. The boat was sitting on top of the water.

0:21:470:21:50

What was it like going back a few years, then, with the competition down here in the races you have?

0:21:500:21:55

They were fantastic.

0:21:550:21:57

There were boats on every village right up the coast,

0:21:570:22:00

from Larne to Cushendun

0:22:000:22:02

and the competition was really tight. Even within the village

0:22:020:22:05

we had a boat which was out there, and the village boat,

0:22:050:22:09

and the competition between them was powerful.

0:22:090:22:13

'Today there's still an element of rivalry between teams, but it seems that it's all pretty friendly stuff.'

0:22:130:22:19

It's friendly rivalry but you want to beat them and they want to beat us. It's good fun out of the boats,

0:22:190:22:24

but when you get in the boat

0:22:240:22:25

and you're looking across the start line at them, you definitely want to beat them.

0:22:250:22:30

I've been invited to have a go with the Carnlough team,

0:22:340:22:37

and this boat is over 100 years old so it's quite an honour.

0:22:370:22:40

With my farming physique it shouldn't be too much trouble,

0:22:400:22:43

although I've never rowed a boat before in my life, so let's hope we don't sink.

0:22:430:22:47

'I'd wanted to try and race to the rock, but choppy waters out at sea

0:22:470:22:50

'meant that it was just too dangerous, particularly for a first-timer like me.

0:22:500:22:55

'Instead, we went for a spin a little closer to the coast of Glencloy

0:22:550:22:59

'while Arnold gave me some much needed tuition.'

0:22:590:23:01

OK, guys, the conditions aren't too good for rowing,

0:23:010:23:05

but if you can try and get your timing good, and just keep the oar in the water.

0:23:050:23:09

I know it's not easy to feather, but if you could just try and watch the stroke in front of you.

0:23:090:23:14

Watch Niall's oar in front and try to get the timing with him.

0:23:140:23:16

'After a few tips, it was time to get up a bit of speed.

0:23:160:23:21

'I was having a great time.'

0:23:250:23:27

It's just wonderful when you get it right, but when you get it wrong you feel such a twerp.

0:23:440:23:48

I can understand how you can get the bug for this.

0:23:480:23:51

I'm tired but loving it.

0:23:510:23:53

Leaving Carnlough behind, we've turned off the coast road

0:23:590:24:01

and into Glenariff Forest Park, where my journey with Olivier comes to an end.

0:24:010:24:06

Leaving him to charge up his car, I'm heading off for a walk into the woods.

0:24:060:24:11

Glenariff is considered by many people to be the most beautiful of the nine Antrim glens.

0:24:130:24:19

Bisecting the park are two small rivers - the Inver and the Glenariff,

0:24:190:24:23

containing spectacular waterfalls tumbling through rocky, steep-sided gorges.

0:24:230:24:27

The wooded glen is too steep to have ever been cultivated,

0:24:270:24:31

so its natural beauty has been enjoyed by visitors for many years.

0:24:310:24:36

This wooden walkway was originally built in the Victorian era, and it's afforded visitors since then

0:24:360:24:42

the most wonderful views of the waterfalls.

0:24:420:24:45

The spray from these waterfalls provides

0:24:510:24:53

the perfect moist atmosphere for ferns and mosses to thrive.

0:24:530:24:57

All along this wall is great scented liverwort, and I'm told that it has a smell that's a combination

0:25:020:25:08

of mushrooms and liquorice, so I'm just going to give it a try, rub it between my fingers.

0:25:080:25:14

Ew! Mushroom and liquorice.

0:25:150:25:18

A vile combination.

0:25:180:25:20

But what I'm really interested in seeing is Semilimax pyrenaicus

0:25:340:25:39

which is a really rare snail that lives only in the Pyrenees

0:25:390:25:43

and a few places in Ireland, and this is one of those places.

0:25:430:25:47

It has a really small shell that it can't retract into

0:25:470:25:51

so it gives it the appearance of a snail and a slug,

0:25:510:25:54

and I've looked all over for it.

0:25:540:25:56

But it's very rare, it likes to live in the tiny cracks between rocks

0:25:560:26:01

and it's nocturnal.

0:26:010:26:03

I've got no chance.

0:26:030:26:05

This part of Ireland has a deep-rooted connection with the west coast of Scotland.

0:26:080:26:12

In fact, the shortest crossing is only 12 miles,

0:26:120:26:16

and, at one time, both coastlines were part of the same kingdom.

0:26:160:26:21

It was called Dalriada

0:26:210:26:23

and it came into being in the third century,

0:26:230:26:25

encompassing quite a large area of western Scotland

0:26:250:26:29

and the northeast coastal area of Ireland.

0:26:290:26:31

Strong cultural and economic links were formed between the two halves of the kingdom,

0:26:310:26:36

and these continued for 500 years or so

0:26:360:26:39

until the Irish side of Dalriada went into decline.

0:26:390:26:42

But the early Irish influence still remains strong in Scotland.

0:26:420:26:46

I hate to say this, John, and I hope the Scots won't take it wrong,

0:26:460:26:51

Scotland received its language from Ireland.

0:26:510:26:55

It received its political and legal system from Ireland

0:26:550:26:59

and it received much of its culture from Ireland, from these early dates.

0:26:590:27:04

-And what about whisky?

-Certainly!

0:27:040:27:06

The whiskey was brought over by the Irish and adapted by the Scots.

0:27:060:27:11

You're only talking about 12 miles, John, just across there.

0:27:110:27:15

It was easy for them to go across by boat

0:27:150:27:18

either into the Isles or on to the Mull of Kintyre.

0:27:180:27:21

And when they went over there, they stayed there, didn't they?

0:27:210:27:24

There were indigenous peoples living there, but the Irish had a great influence on the area

0:27:240:27:31

and pushed the indigenous peoples back.

0:27:310:27:34

So they became Scotsmen?

0:27:340:27:35

The first Scotsmen were actually Irish.

0:27:350:27:38

In fact, John, up until the 12th century, if you were speaking

0:27:380:27:42

about a Scotsman, you were referring to an Irishman.

0:27:420:27:46

The Scots called themselves Caledonians, and all the culture

0:27:460:27:51

which was there on the western seaboard was actually Irish.

0:27:510:27:56

Over the water in Campbeltown, there's disappointment

0:27:560:27:59

that the ferry that used to link it to Ballycastle here has stopped running.

0:27:590:28:04

It means that businesses in Campbeltown can't cash in

0:28:040:28:07

on the tourist boom that's going on right along the Antrim coast.

0:28:070:28:10

In Ballycastle alone, visitors are bringing something like £12 million a year into the local economy.

0:28:100:28:16

One of the biggest draws is the Lammas Fair,

0:28:160:28:20

which has been held in Ballycastle every August for many centuries.

0:28:200:28:24

These pictures of the fair were taken back in the 1960s by Stanley Matchett who lives nearby.

0:28:240:28:30

The fair was originally a pagan festival to mark the end of summer

0:28:300:28:35

and the beginning of the harvest and, among other things on the stalls,

0:28:350:28:39

there's dulse - a dried, edible seaweed - and yellow man, a kind of cinder toffee.

0:28:390:28:44

The Antrim coast has lots of ruins for visitors to roam around,

0:28:510:28:56

like this place, Bonamargy Friary, with its legends of the Black Nun, Julia McQuillan.

0:28:560:29:02

Apparently the entrance to the friary used to be here and it was the Black Nun's dying wish,

0:29:020:29:07

round about three centuries ago, to be buried right here.

0:29:070:29:11

This headstone marks the spot.

0:29:110:29:13

It was an act of humility

0:29:130:29:15

so that people could walk on her grave for evermore.

0:29:150:29:19

She met a grisly end and became known as the Black Nun

0:29:200:29:23

because her dark ghost is said to haunt the friary outside Ballycastle.

0:29:230:29:28

Golf is one of the big attractions in the town which also has a newly developed marina.

0:29:280:29:35

Although it's quiet at this time of year, during the holiday months the streets are filled with tourists.

0:29:350:29:40

Last year, close on a million people came to the Antrim coast.

0:29:400:29:44

It's not hard to see why. There's one feature in particular which has made this area world famous.

0:29:440:29:51

This is it. Northern Ireland's number one tourist attraction,

0:29:530:29:57

the spectacular rock formation known as the Giant's Causeway. But how was it created?

0:29:570:30:03

If you imagine sitting here something like 60 million years ago,

0:30:030:30:07

in a river valley, and you've volcanoes

0:30:070:30:10

and eruptions of lava behind us, as they flowed into this

0:30:100:30:14

they formed a big, thick layer, about 300 metres deep,

0:30:140:30:17

and if you think of the top of a mud pool,

0:30:170:30:20

as it dries it gets cracks and they form regular patterns.

0:30:200:30:24

When you have lava that thick, those patterns go right down through as it cools slowly

0:30:240:30:29

and you get these columns formed.

0:30:290:30:31

-How many are there? Anybody ever counted them?

-Oh, 400,000, 5 million, who knows?!

0:30:310:30:36

The strange thing is, they're so perfectly formed, aren't they?

0:30:360:30:40

They look as though they've been hand carved.

0:30:400:30:42

The crucial thing is this slow cooling which gives you this columnar structure.

0:30:420:30:46

It happens elsewhere, but is particularly good here in the Giant's Causeway.

0:30:460:30:50

Of course, it looks hand carved and some of the early legends reflect that.

0:30:500:30:55

What sort of legends?

0:30:550:30:56

The most famous one is Finn McCool, who was a warrior chief and a giant in this area.

0:30:560:31:02

He heard about another warrior chief in Scotland, Benandonner,

0:31:020:31:05

decided he'd build the causeway across to have a battle with him.

0:31:050:31:08

The trouble was, when he got to the other side,

0:31:080:31:11

Benandonner was bigger than him so he ran back across the causeway,

0:31:110:31:14

went up to the missus and said, "What am I going to do?" She dressed him up as a baby, put him in a cot

0:31:140:31:19

and when Benandonner got here, he said, "Where's Finn McCool?"

0:31:190:31:23

She said, "He's out for today but the baby's here in the cot."

0:31:230:31:26

When he saw the size of the baby, of course, he decided, "I'm out of here."

0:31:260:31:30

He headed for Scotland, and broke the causeway up after him.

0:31:300:31:34

Lovely story, isn't it?

0:31:340:31:35

How many visitors do you get here now in a year?

0:31:350:31:38

We're looking at 500,000 visitors this year coming to see the causeway and the World Heritage Site.

0:31:380:31:43

Now that peace has returned to Northern Ireland, has that made a big difference?

0:31:430:31:48

Yes it has. Gradually, the numbers have been building and, as I say, it's at around 500,000.

0:31:480:31:52

Along with agriculture, tourism is vital to the economy of this region,

0:31:520:31:58

and it's likely to become the most important source of income in the future.

0:31:580:32:01

That sets up some challenges.

0:32:010:32:04

To cope with the growth in tourism, you're planning a brand new visitor centre here at Giant's Causeway.

0:32:040:32:11

But this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. How do you square the two?

0:32:110:32:14

There has been a long-standing problem

0:32:140:32:17

to get the balance between tourism and environmental protection.

0:32:170:32:20

We feel... Given our past history here, John,

0:32:200:32:25

we've had our troubles, there hasn't been over-development.

0:32:250:32:28

Our tourism industry hasn't grown at the same rate

0:32:280:32:31

as our colleagues in England, Scotland, Wales

0:32:310:32:34

and in the south of Ireland, so we're now in a position where we can look to their good practices.

0:32:340:32:41

Not make any mistakes that they might make.

0:32:410:32:43

Look at the good things they've done

0:32:430:32:45

and hopefully use those good practices to develop our facilities here.

0:32:450:32:49

The present one does stand out quite a bit, doesn't it? Will the new one blend in much more?

0:32:490:32:55

The new facility will be highly camouflaged, even the car parking won't be that visible.

0:32:550:33:00

So we have an integrated scheme

0:33:000:33:03

that, by and large, marries into this very sensitive environment.

0:33:030:33:09

The problem is that many visitors just come for the day to the causeway and Ballycastle,

0:33:090:33:14

and now the target is to persuade them to stay for a few days.

0:33:140:33:18

But certainly things are looking good for the future.

0:33:180:33:21

Just a few miles further north from the Giant's Causeway,

0:33:270:33:30

the dramatic ruins of Dunluce Castle loom into view.

0:33:300:33:35

A prime location for any aspiring warlord, the ruins have sat on the North Antrim cliffs for centuries.

0:33:350:33:42

It was originally built by Richard De Burgh,

0:33:420:33:45

but is best known for its long association with the Scottish MacDonald clan.

0:33:450:33:49

But for the first time ever, a scientific archaeological dig is taking place here in the grounds

0:33:500:33:56

to reveal more of Dunluce's remarkable history.

0:33:560:34:00

Would you like a bucket and trowel?

0:34:000:34:03

'Archaeologist Dr Colin Breen has invited me to help out.'

0:34:030:34:06

OK, we're going to start down here on the main surface of the road,

0:34:080:34:11

probably the most visually exciting part of this site at the moment.

0:34:110:34:15

So if we step around the trench...

0:34:150:34:18

The excavations at Dunluce have caused great excitement amongst archaeologists

0:34:180:34:22

by uncovering the beautifully preserved remains of a 17th-century deserted town.

0:34:220:34:27

I've never done archaeological work before, so you'll have to tell me what I do.

0:34:270:34:31

-We'll probably destroy some of the glamour of it.

-I'm sure not.

0:34:310:34:35

It's not exactly Indiana Jones explores the remote North Atlantic.

0:34:350:34:39

If you take your kneeling mat

0:34:390:34:41

and you take that and you just kneel on both legs,

0:34:410:34:46

normally what we'll do is we'll take about a metre of area ourselves.

0:34:460:34:50

OK, so that's my area.

0:34:500:34:52

So you're going to trowel from there and I'll trowel from here.

0:34:520:34:55

You take your trowel, but we're going to move it back like that,

0:34:550:34:59

rather than digging into the surface.

0:34:590:35:01

There's always the potential, if you dig into the surface, to break material,

0:35:010:35:06

and there's a huge amount of artefactual material coming up from the site, so we need to be gentle.

0:35:060:35:10

So it's kind of a scraping action?

0:35:100:35:12

It's a scraping. You're essentially breaking up the sediment.

0:35:120:35:17

I see. Why has this site never been dug before?

0:35:170:35:20

There's a lot of reasons.

0:35:200:35:23

It's probably the most iconic site in the whole Northern Irish coastline, as you've seen.

0:35:230:35:27

-It's spectacular.

-It's incredibly important.

0:35:270:35:29

One of the reasons why nothing's ever happened on it is because of its importance.

0:35:290:35:34

Archaeologists will firmly believe in conservation.

0:35:340:35:37

We know that once we start the process of excavation, it's essentially destruction.

0:35:370:35:41

You're essentially breaking down through a site.

0:35:410:35:44

When we've got the site as important as this, we tend to try and preserve it in situ.

0:35:440:35:48

The incredible thing about this area

0:35:480:35:51

is that the whole landscape we have around us is essentially a deserted town.

0:35:510:35:56

So we've focused in on one small area of that deserted town

0:35:560:36:00

and begun excavating it and unravelling its secrets.

0:36:000:36:04

Has what you've found here been what you expected to find?

0:36:040:36:07

Even more so.

0:36:070:36:09

We knew from the survey that we were going to probably find house sites and remnants of the deserted town,

0:36:090:36:16

but we never thought it would be as well preserved as this.

0:36:160:36:19

Look in front of us, that's a beautifully preserved 17th-century cobbled surface.

0:36:190:36:25

That surface was essentially abandoned in the 1660s, and it hasn't been used since that time.

0:36:250:36:32

The house next to us was abandoned probably in the 1680s and it hasn't been touched.

0:36:320:36:36

It's very rare within archaeology to come across a site which has been so well preserved.

0:36:360:36:42

Remember, we're only looking at a tiny fragment of the site.

0:36:420:36:45

We estimate that we're probably excavating something like 0.5% of the whole of the town.

0:36:450:36:50

If you opened up this whole area, across this whole landscape,

0:36:500:36:54

you're essentially looking at the very well preserved remains

0:36:540:36:57

of a 17th-century town, which has just been abandoned,

0:36:570:37:01

deserted, almost like a Northern Irish Pompeii.

0:37:010:37:05

It is incredibly painstaking work.

0:37:050:37:07

I think I've revealed about a centimetre of a stone.

0:37:070:37:11

Yeah. I think people underestimate the sheer quantity of work that actually takes place.

0:37:110:37:16

Absolutely right. Absolutely.

0:37:160:37:19

Smaller excavations around the castle have unearthed

0:37:190:37:22

even earlier material, dating back as far as Anglo-Norman times.

0:37:220:37:27

As work continues, more and more of the history of Dunluce could be uncovered.

0:37:270:37:32

This rope bridge which links one of the most northerly parts of Northern Ireland

0:37:350:37:40

to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede

0:37:400:37:42

was originally built by salmon fishermen.

0:37:420:37:45

Not sporting types who used rod and line

0:37:450:37:48

but working fishermen earning a living.

0:37:480:37:51

They crossed this bridge to reach their nets.

0:37:510:37:54

Every year for the last 400 years, fishermen have come here to set their nets.

0:38:210:38:26

What happens is that one end of a large net is fixed here,

0:38:270:38:31

and the net itself is dragged out to sea a few hundred yards.

0:38:310:38:35

Migrating salmon are caught in it before they get the chance to spawn in the rivers.

0:38:350:38:40

Now this kind of salmon fishing could soon be coming to an end.

0:38:400:38:44

Basically, there's nothing wrong with catching salmon in nets,

0:38:450:38:50

except in this case, they are catching huge numbers of fish.

0:38:500:38:54

They are catching fish not just going to rivers that have healthy stocks,

0:38:540:38:59

but also to rivers that have depleted stocks or are seriously threatened. We can't have that.

0:38:590:39:04

The campaign to save the wild salmon started here in the glacier-fed waters of the River Laxa in Iceland.

0:39:070:39:14

Orri Vigfusson, millionaire owner of a vodka factory in Reykjavik,

0:39:140:39:19

began to notice that in his favourite place to fish there wasn't as much to catch.

0:39:190:39:24

Like many other sports fishermen, he puts everything back alive into the river.

0:39:240:39:28

But he knew that commercial netsmen were catching thousands of wild salmon

0:39:280:39:33

and were threatening the stocks, so he decided to take action.

0:39:330:39:36

We saw the resource dwindling away,

0:39:360:39:39

disappearing before our eyes, so we decided to set up

0:39:390:39:42

the North Atlantic Salmon Fund and use commercial methods,

0:39:420:39:46

and offer compensation to the netsmen which they couldn't refuse.

0:39:460:39:51

Initially, we started negotiating with the fishermen

0:39:510:39:55

on the winter feeding grounds in Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

0:39:550:39:59

They co-operated and we won that.

0:39:590:40:01

We then had to target the netsmen in this part of the world

0:40:010:40:06

before the salmon were able to go back to their native rivers

0:40:060:40:10

in Ireland, in the UK and European countries.

0:40:100:40:14

Netsmen in Norway, Wales and south-west England have already been persuaded by the crusading Icelander

0:40:140:40:19

to give up their fishing licences. Now he's turning his attention

0:40:190:40:23

to Northern Ireland, where rivers like the Bush are seriously depleted.

0:40:230:40:27

Already the fund, which has financial backing from anglers and landowners with an interest in salmon fishing,

0:40:270:40:33

as well as from his own deep pocket, has paid out nearly £15 million in compensation around Europe.

0:40:330:40:39

How much does it cost on average to persuade one of these netsmen to give up?

0:40:390:40:44

We figure out how long they've been in business, what their catch records are,

0:40:440:40:50

how many more years of active life they've got in the industry

0:40:500:40:54

and how easy it is for them to get other jobs.

0:40:540:40:56

Here in Northern Ireland, what's the ballpark figure?

0:40:560:40:59

I think it could be anything from...

0:40:590:41:02

..£2,000 up to £200,000.

0:41:040:41:08

The life-cycle of the wild salmon is an extraordinary one.

0:41:100:41:14

They spend the first two years of life in fresh water, in rivers like the Bush.

0:41:140:41:18

Then, they begin a long and hazardous journey which takes them first downriver to the sea.

0:41:180:41:24

They swim for 1,000 miles or more to their winter feeding grounds around Iceland and Greenland.

0:41:250:41:31

Then, in the spring, they return to spawn in the exact spot where they were born.

0:41:310:41:37

But on the Bush, as on scores of other rivers all around Europe,

0:41:370:41:41

far fewer are making it back home.

0:41:410:41:44

At the government research station on the River Bush, scientists are carrying out a long-term survey.

0:41:450:41:51

Young fish are micro-tagged on their way downriver.

0:41:510:41:54

When they return as adults, they are counted.

0:41:540:41:58

The results confirm something is seriously wrong.

0:41:580:42:01

Ten years ago,

0:42:010:42:03

about a third of these fish, 33%, would have made it back to the coast

0:42:030:42:06

and tried to enter freshwater to spawn.

0:42:060:42:09

Now in the last four years, that has dropped to about 10% to 12%.

0:42:090:42:12

Where do the salmon netters come into this?

0:42:120:42:15

Whatever fish are being produced, some are taken by salmon netters

0:42:150:42:19

and are taken again when they come back, by anglers.

0:42:190:42:23

When a stock is healthy, it can sustain a high level of exploitation

0:42:230:42:27

wherever that happens to be.

0:42:270:42:28

When a stock is under the pressures we see on the River Bush, you have to scale back on the exploitation,

0:42:280:42:34

or you are chancing to drive the stock further down towards destruction.

0:42:340:42:38

Salmon fishing has endured for over 2,000 years.

0:42:420:42:46

Initially, it was mainly to sustain the families who settled

0:42:460:42:50

all the way along our coastline in ancient times.

0:42:500:42:54

Bertie McKay's family first began salmon netting here many years generations ago.

0:42:540:42:59

He retired when catches began to dwindle.

0:42:590:43:02

Now nearly all of Northern Ireland's 40-odd netsmen are taking the compensation and following him.

0:43:020:43:09

Those who have sold out, there was no other alternative for them.

0:43:090:43:16

Stocks have declined so much.

0:43:160:43:19

The industry was grinding to a halt.

0:43:190:43:22

It just wasn't viable any more.

0:43:220:43:24

The campaign has also been targeting netsmen in north-east England,

0:43:240:43:27

who intercept salmon on their way to Scottish rivers.

0:43:270:43:30

Talks have been going on with 52 netsmen there,

0:43:300:43:34

and an announcement is expected this week, buying them out at a cost of more than £3 million,

0:43:340:43:39

raised by Orri Vigfusson's fund and the government.

0:43:390:43:42

A great success, but the biggest battle is still to come.

0:43:420:43:46

I'm on a ferry crossing Lough Foyle, the border between

0:43:460:43:50

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

0:43:500:43:53

Lough Foyle has the biggest run of salmon anywhere in north-west Europe,

0:43:530:43:57

and many of the fishermen in the Republic are not at all happy

0:43:570:44:00

about the prospect of having to give up their licences.

0:44:000:44:03

These fishermen spend much of the year catching shellfish.

0:44:030:44:07

But for two months in early summer, they switch to salmon.

0:44:070:44:10

Gerard Kelly's family is one of the oldest in this fishing community.

0:44:100:44:15

It's a way of life for the people who live in this area.

0:44:150:44:18

It's what they've done for generations before this.

0:44:180:44:21

They are only custodians of the right to go to fish

0:44:210:44:24

and they hope to pass that right on to the future generations.

0:44:240:44:28

The salmon they take is not just going to the Irish rivers,

0:44:280:44:31

it's going to Scotland, to Wales and all around the English coast.

0:44:310:44:36

And the salmon is also going to the rivers of Spain, France and Germany.

0:44:360:44:41

Why shouldn't these countries or regions also be allowed to restock their salmon stocks?

0:44:410:44:46

For this project to succeed all around Europe,

0:44:460:44:49

it needs all netsmen to say, "I'll call it a day," doesn't it?

0:44:490:44:53

I think that's a sign of failure of management, when you have to give something up.

0:44:530:44:58

We have spent a lot of time reducing our fishing effort, areas,

0:44:580:45:04

access to stocks.

0:45:040:45:06

We think we've got a happy medium now.

0:45:060:45:09

We've got a stability in the stock and with a bit of management

0:45:090:45:13

upstream in the nursery areas, it can definitely improve in this area.

0:45:130:45:17

Orri Vigfusson accepts there's room for a few well-managed netting operations,

0:45:170:45:22

but there are 1,400 netsmen in the Republic.

0:45:220:45:25

It's the last remaining stronghold.

0:45:250:45:27

He insists they can't continue on that scale.

0:45:270:45:30

The objective of the fund and all my collaborators throughout the world is to fill the rivers.

0:45:300:45:37

We want abundance, we want every river, every pool, filled with salmon, like we had 100 years ago.

0:45:370:45:43

But in Ireland, the government has yet to show any support, so it looks like being

0:45:430:45:47

a long final battle for the Icelander who could well be remembered

0:45:470:45:52

as the saviour of the wild salmon.

0:45:520:45:54

Since 2003, Orri has continued his work to preserve salmon stocks

0:45:570:46:01

and there are now only 14 drift-net licences in operation in Northern Ireland.

0:46:010:46:06

He hopes to have bought out the remaining nets in the next two to three years.

0:46:060:46:12

I've left Dunluce Castle behind and travelled on to Portrush,

0:46:120:46:16

where I end my journey, in a pub and with music.

0:46:160:46:20

The music of this part of Ireland has a strong connection with the traditional music of Scotland,

0:46:290:46:35

and indeed, this regular session here in Portrush

0:46:350:46:37

is organised by Scotsman Dick Glasgow.

0:46:370:46:42

What instruments form a traditional Irish band?

0:46:420:46:45

The standard ones, you would get

0:46:450:46:48

fiddles and accordions, you would get banjos.

0:46:480:46:52

Whistles, flutes, pipes.

0:46:520:46:55

-Sorry, I'm miming everything!

-That's all right, I'm getting the gist.

0:46:550:46:59

And of course, the bodhran is very popular as well.

0:46:590:47:01

The fiddle is one of the main ones.

0:47:010:47:03

Especially up here. The fiddle was very popular in Scotland

0:47:030:47:07

and it's hugely popular in Donegal,

0:47:070:47:09

and we're sort of in-between the two spots. It's been popular here.

0:47:090:47:12

The numbers of fiddle players have died down a wee bit unfortunately in this area,

0:47:120:47:17

but, um, partly to do with the Troubles and things, which is a shame.

0:47:170:47:21

That's the sort of range of instruments you get. And the harp.

0:47:210:47:25

Not often you find a harp, but in this part of the world a couple of people play the harp in sessions.

0:47:250:47:30

They're expensive and awkward in sessions. Small ones are grand.

0:47:300:47:35

You can sit back with them on your knee and play away.

0:47:350:47:37

It sounds like an awful lot, a huge variety of instruments.

0:47:370:47:40

Does that mean there's loads of people in a band playing at any one time?

0:47:400:47:44

This idea of the band, it's not actually a band.

0:47:440:47:47

The session is made up of whoever feels like coming out on the night.

0:47:470:47:50

There are usually two or three core musicians who tend to be there every week.

0:47:500:47:54

Then other musicians will come in and out

0:47:540:47:57

depending on what they're doing, what's on the telly, or they have to walk the dog or whatever.

0:47:570:48:02

You could have a session one week with three people,

0:48:020:48:05

the next week there might be a dozen playing.

0:48:050:48:07

This is one of the magic things about it. You don't know who's coming, especially in summer here.

0:48:070:48:12

We're on the tourist run in Northern Ireland and you never know

0:48:120:48:15

who'll walk in with something under their arm.

0:48:150:48:18

That must make a really different sound, depending on how many people show up each week.

0:48:180:48:22

It is. It keeps the whole thing alive and fresh.

0:48:220:48:25

Why has quite traditional Irish music stood the test of time? We are in 2009 now

0:48:260:48:33

and traditional music is still being played and enjoyed.

0:48:330:48:36

Because it's so good.

0:48:360:48:38

-It's very lively music.

-Yeah.

0:48:380:48:40

We had a young student staying with us for a few months from Sweden

0:48:400:48:43

and she brought a fiddle, and she was keen to learn Irish music.

0:48:430:48:47

Of course, when she came to the sessions, she played some Swedish music.

0:48:470:48:51

I'm sure it's very charming music, but in comparison with Irish music,

0:48:510:48:55

it's kind of dour. It was very melancholy.

0:48:550:48:58

It's lovely music, but it's different, the sort of music you'd sit back and listen to and reflect.

0:48:580:49:03

Irish music, some of the areas you can do that with,

0:49:030:49:06

but it tends to be you tap your foot and you get involved and, "Here we go, this is great!"

0:49:060:49:11

People dancing.

0:49:110:49:13

It's a lively, friendly sort of music

0:49:130:49:16

and that's part of the magic and charm of it.

0:49:160:49:18

That's what gets people excited

0:49:180:49:21

and they really want to join in.

0:49:210:49:23

They would come along to a session, never playing an instrument before, but captivated by what's going on.

0:49:230:49:29

They see the bodhran being played with a little stick, and they think, "Anybody could do that."

0:49:290:49:34

The number of people that say, "Can I have a go on the bodhran?"

0:49:340:49:37

And they want to play along with it.

0:49:370:49:39

-Is it as easy as it looks?

-No.

-I bet it isn't.

0:49:390:49:44

My journey around the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland began

0:49:570:50:01

in the potato fields of Comber before I headed to Newtownards.

0:50:010:50:05

I drove the spectacular Antrim coast road from Larne to Glenariff.

0:50:050:50:11

Then I visited Dunluce Castle

0:50:110:50:13

before ending my travels here, in the seaside town of Portrush.

0:50:130:50:18

I've come to a traditional music session

0:50:180:50:20

where Scotsman Dick Glasgow has offered to give me a lesson on the bodhran.

0:50:200:50:24

I've got a couple here. There's a little one here

0:50:240:50:27

with a spar on the inside which is nice and easy to hold.

0:50:270:50:30

-Can you hold that?

-Hold onto the bar?

-Yeah, that's it.

0:50:300:50:33

-Just rest it on your leg.

-Rest it on my knee.

0:50:330:50:35

-You're right handed, I take it?

-Yes.

-Yeah.

0:50:350:50:38

Then, if you hold on to the beater here.

0:50:380:50:40

It's just a standard beater that comes with it?

0:50:400:50:43

-It's just a double-ended stick.

-Oh, right.

0:50:430:50:45

-Hold it a bit like a pencil.

-Like this.

0:50:450:50:49

-And then hit down and up against the skin, like that.

-Sort of brush it?

0:50:490:50:53

That's it, brush it up and down.

0:50:530:50:55

Oh, I'm not doing them both at the same kind of loudness.

0:50:550:50:58

The trick is to hit the one going down louder than the one up.

0:50:580:51:02

Then you're getting a bit of rhythm.

0:51:020:51:05

That's it.

0:51:070:51:10

-How's that?

-That's 2-4 rhythm, so you could play all night.

0:51:100:51:13

If people are playing polkas, you could join in all night long already.

0:51:130:51:16

You've just learned how to play polkas.

0:51:160:51:18

That's not too bad. What other rhythms are there?

0:51:180:51:21

The main rhythm in Irish sessions is 4-4,

0:51:210:51:24

so that's 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.

0:51:240:51:27

Obviously it's a lot faster than that in a session,

0:51:270:51:30

but if you're learning, that's what you would start with.

0:51:300:51:33

-So one out of the four is the loudest?

-One is the loud one, yes.

0:51:330:51:35

1, 2... Oh, I missed the second one.

0:51:350:51:37

1, 2, 3, 4.

0:51:370:51:39

If you think of those black and white cowboy movies, and the Indian drums.

0:51:390:51:43

-Yes.

-That gets you going.

0:51:430:51:44

I think I've cracked it, but Dick shows me that I've still got a lot to learn.

0:51:480:51:52

Does this instrument dictate the tempo of the whole tune?

0:51:570:52:01

No, some bodhran players think it does, and that's where they get sticky.

0:52:010:52:04

-Right.

-There's a love-hate relationship between musicians and bodhran players.

0:52:040:52:09

-Really?

-Even the fact that I'm saying musicians and bodhran players would annoy them.

-Separates us!

-Yeah.

0:52:090:52:15

Of course, they class themselves as musicians, too.

0:52:150:52:18

So the problem is, to be honest, they get a bad press.

0:52:180:52:21

And a good bodhran player is worth his salt in any session.

0:52:210:52:24

-But if you get too many bodhran players, they're conflicting rhythms.

-Oh, no.

0:52:240:52:29

This is a loud drum. If you battered that without putting your hand on the back to control the volume,

0:52:290:52:34

you'd drown people out and they couldn't hear the melody properly.

0:52:340:52:37

-And obviously the melody is key.

-The most important thing, the tune.

0:52:370:52:41

If you have 12 musicians playing, unlike other music

0:52:410:52:44

where you might have harmonies and counter melodies going on,

0:52:440:52:47

in Irish music everybody plays the melody.

0:52:470:52:49

-Ah!

-So it doesn't matter what instrument they play, they're playing the melody.

0:52:490:52:53

You can sit at home and listen to your own wonderful playing,

0:52:530:52:56

but the point of going to a session is I'm sitting beside you,

0:52:560:53:00

you're playing a flute, the fellow this side of me's playing the pipes.

0:53:000:53:03

I want to hear how my fiddle sounds with your flute and his pipes.

0:53:030:53:07

-And that's the magic of it, the blending of it.

-Yeah.

0:53:070:53:10

If you've got some eejit sitting on the other side of the table

0:53:100:53:13

knocking seven bells out of a bodhran the size of a barn door...

0:53:130:53:17

-That's not teamwork.

-It's not teamwork, no.

0:53:170:53:20

Fantastic. Well, I will make a complete fool of myself,

0:53:200:53:23

but I wouldn't mind having a go a bit later.

0:53:230:53:25

-If that's all right with you?

-It should be good fun.

0:53:250:53:28

-It's a good fun instrument.

-Great, thank you.

-You're very welcome.

0:53:280:53:31

How do we know if it's a two or a four, Dick?

0:53:400:53:43

-What's that?

-How do I know if it's a two or a four?

0:53:430:53:46

Any polkas, Kieron?

0:53:460:53:48

-1, 2, 1, 2...

-This fast?

0:53:480:53:51

Yeah.

0:53:510:53:52

Like that?

0:53:550:53:57

As fast as that?

0:53:570:53:58

I might not be the most technically proficient musician ever to join a session,

0:54:030:54:08

but I don't think I'm putting the musicians off, and I'm having fun.

0:54:080:54:13

The East coast of Northern Ireland is not unknown to many tourists,

0:54:170:54:21

but I feel like I've got under the skin of it on my journey.

0:54:210:54:24

I've eaten its food, fresh out of the ground.

0:54:240:54:26

I've indulged in some of its history.

0:54:260:54:28

I've even had a go at joining in with some of its local culture

0:54:280:54:32

and to top it all off, the weather has been amazing.

0:54:320:54:35

I'm going back inside for a bit more.

0:54:350:54:38

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:54:480:54:51

Ellie Harrison goes on a journey around the eastern coast of Northern Ireland.

In Comber, Ellie visits a farm to find out what makes the famous Comber potatoes so special. Next she takes a tiny electric car on a classic drive along the Antrim coast. At the spectacular Dunluce Castle she joins an archeological dig, before ending her journey with a traditional Irish folk session in a pub in Portrush.


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