Ever since I heard Iron Maiden were coming to Ireland on their Book of Souls tour, I was looking forward to the time that I would take a trip to Dublin. To stay in a nice hotel, have a few drinks and a nice meal somewhere in the city. However closer to the time, it became clear that it would be a longer trip than just the concert. I was to stay on Rathlin Island for a few nights too.
It was the Saturday morning of the concert, and I was packing the suitcases into the boot for three, as a friend from Scotland was over to see the concert too. It all fitted snugly into the boot without moving the rear seats forward. There is definitely an art to packing for a trip.
My partner, owning his own business, never really gets a day off. No matter how hard we tried to sort matters to have the morning free, some messages still needed to be completed. This meant we didn’t leave Portadown until after midday. The journey down in the new car was mostly smooth uneventful motorway driving. Listening to the Iron Maiden CD to whet our appetite, and get more familiar with the new album, the trip passed quickly thanks to the Delta.
We had booked a night at the Gresham hotel in Dublin. My partner was navigator (which he does a good job of) once we got into Dublin. I parked beside a nice Alfa Romeo 159 in the hotels multi-storey and had to take a quick picture of the delta on its first overnight road trip.
After checking into the hotel and dropping the bags in our room, we headed out into Dublin. The plan was to have a drink and a bite to eat before heading up to the concert. As we were walking I could see Iron Maiden fans everywhere in the bands t-shirts. This added to the excitement of how big the event would be. We were wandering for a while looking for a nice place to eat (it was the only item I gave my partner to plan). After looking at a few places that were too busy, we eventually ended up at the Merchants Arch. Initially my thoughts were very noisy to the point where communication with the waitress was made very difficult, it just added to the frustration of being pushed for time and the wandering about prior. This all disappeared when the food and drinks promptly arrived and we all started to settle down into a nice pint of Guinness. We sat upstairs on a balcony overlooking the main bar and where live Irish music was being played. The food was good and pretty soon the pints were gone and the craic was great.
Leaving here, we walked up towards the 3 Arena, hoping to stop somewhere on the way for another drink. Walking along the river we didn’t stop anywhere and arrived at a scene of what I thought were long queues. Looking back I’m glad we walked up early and joined the queue. The crowd that turned up after us was immense.
We had seating tickets which were on the front row of the tiered balcony and at the edge of that seating block. I was really glad of this as it gave us a bit more space and easy access to toilets and the bar.
As soon as the intro song for Iron Maiden started, I wanted to head bang with the rest of them, but I couldn’t. I was seven years since Iron Maiden had been to this Island…I needed to see everything. I was sitting up straight and my eyes fixed on the stage as I didn’t want to miss a thing. The Bands performance was faultless. Some of the songs I will remember for the rest of my life as they aren’t performed that often. “Children of the Dammed” sent chills through me to the point where I was shedding a tear to Bruce’s screams. I would never hear this song performed live ever again. “Powerslave” had similar effects on me. Songs from the new album, which I didn’t think much of, turned out to be fantastic live. I have new favourites on The Book Of Souls Album. “The Number of the Beast”, “Blood Brothers”, “The Trooper”.…….They played the Trooper! Bruce; In an old British red coat and a union Jack, to which the crowd responded with cheers. I’m so glad the arena was filled with Iron Maiden fans who just wanted to enjoy the music. What a show, I want the Blu-ray.
After the concert and a taxi (eventually as lots of taxis refused us service) back to the hotel, we all had one drink from the hotel bar before calling it a night.
After all the hustle of packing, checking out; negotiating Dublin, using the Tunnel we left Dublin behind us, heading north. Stopping off at Armagh to drop off our Scottish friend, then onward to Ballycastle, for we had to catch a Ferry to Rathlin Island.
The new Delta impressed me here. It seamlessly and effortlessly kept up an average speed on motorways for backroads. The suspension seemed to be able to take the bumpy roads of Ireland a lot better than my last car did (Ford Focus). Although, it’s not completely set up for comfort on cornering, it rolls far less than the focus, while the seats offer more support, to stop me being flung up against the door and window. If you see people in a Ford Focus up against the window, don’t worry, they are ok, it’s just the car rolled that much on a corner it felt like a boat.
The Delta is my first car with a turbo. This means for the first time I’m experiencing common traits associated with a turbo. Turbo lag, fade off higher up the rev range are to name a few. Getting use to keeping the engine within the turbo’s boost, was sometimes only a challenge when pulling off from junctions… until the pressure in the turbo increased.
I love cars with multiple personalities. To me the Delta was smooth and quiet on the motorway, effortlessly transporting me to my destination. When the car meets more twisty roads, it feels like it’s a far sportier car. The grunt from this tiny 1.4 multi-air turbo engine is amazing. It reminds me of another car I previously owned - A 2001 Honda Accord with a 2litre engine. Honda’s are nice with a brilliant build quality. Maybe it’s just me but, I have an issue with the Vtec engine. Most of the vtec’s power sits above 5000 rpm. In the real world, we can’t constantly drive about bouncing the valves through the bonnet. In the real world the mid-rage power of Fiat’s 1.4 multi-air turbo engine, (which is shared with Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and Arbarth) is faster than not so long ago 2 litre engines.
Listening to this grunty engine with the slight whistle of a turbo, gave me a fizzing sensation. A feeling that only the MGF I had years ago gave me.
We arrived at Ballycastle harbour early and feeling refreshed as there was no longer the stiff back and legs I used to get from the focus.
As I sat listening to the engine tick cool on this bug splattered ‘Lancia’ Delta, and looking out over the harbour, the sea mist that covered the town gently rolled back, revealing the ancient coastline and the sea. I was filled with contentment. I pondered what lays ahead and where would I go next. As I sat with my partner, the seas cool breeze brought fulfilment and inspiration to start looking forward again, instead of looking back. A moment I wanted to last longer.
On the ferry anticipation grew of what we would find on Rathlin. As we closed in, we could see the entire island covered in a mysterious mist, with only the tip of cliffs peeking out. We had a feeling of going to some unexplored island to discover a lost civilisation.
Docking on Rathlin for our first time, we went straight to our digs and settled in. Watching the sun go down on this new landscape and looking back at the odd twinkling lights of the mainland, I thought back to the journey and the car that got us here. That morning we awoke in Dublin and at night Rathlin Island.
Sometimes…. Just sometimes, life can be very good.
Day 3 - Rathlin
Waking on this island, we took a morning stroll along one of its shores. The sea was crystal clear and gave the inviting illusion to take a dip in its not so warm waters.
I didn’t get to explore as much as I was wanting to. A walk through the town, stopping at its visitor centre and gift shops. Having some refreshment at the pub, the day passed all so quickly. I only caught a glimpse of this astonishing landscape and history, whetting my appetite to explore more.
I shall return.
Once back on the mainland, the return home would take us down the Antrim coast, stopping at Glenariff for a bite to eat, then continuing down the Causeway Coastline on our way home. Taking a wrong turn for the coast, we ended up going through the mountains on a route I’ve never been before.
The Delta performed well at this altitude. It still surprises me being a 1.4 litre engine the torque and power from it. Even descending down steep slopes, I barely needed to use the brake as the engine could take it down. Something my last Ford Focus failed on.
We eventually made it back to the coast for a short time, before we had to head inland again to Laragh Lodge Restaurant where I found an admirer for the Delta
The restaurant itself was a disgraceful meal. I ordered a fish supper which turned out to be grey and foul. I have dined here before and had similar results. I cannot recommend eating here. There are local towns close by, I’m sure they can offer better, which is a shame, as this restaurant is a scar on its surroundings.
What I do recommend is a visit to Glenariff as it’s a beautiful forest park, with stunning vistas, waterfalls and long walks. This area also holds a memory I will keep forever. Our last visit to Glenariff around five years ago, along the river I proposed to my Partner Ashley. Visiting here again five years later and to the same spot it happened was refreshing and overwhelming.
Resting into the sofa at home, I was grateful for all I had experienced. From the music of Iron Maiden, the sights and smells of Dublin and the tranquillity of Rathlin, to the roads and coastline of Antrim. I reflected on the car, the star of the show that brought us there and back, with an average fuel consumption of 39.7mpg. Not bad considering the variations of terrain and some heavy foot work.