Meet my family; one boy and two girls just turned 7, 5 and 3. Like all families the summer holidays can be challenging to find things to entertain them that doesn’t cost a fortune. This year we have been fortunate with great weather and so far the holidays have flown by with plenty of trips to the local parks and hanging out with friends.
Mostly we drive everywhere, unless it’s a trip into Belfast and we quite often get the train. Living in Lisburn and about 8 minutes’ walk from the train station we are perfectly placed to access good public transport routes. So I decided that I would take them to the Giants Causeway but leave the car behind. My husband joked asking if it was because I was going to have a few glasses of wine, but no, my rationale behind the decision was just the plain fact we had never done it before and the kids would love it.
The first part of the journey was to get 9.05 NI Railways express service from Lisburn to Great Victoria Street station, living so close to the station it really shouldn’t have been a problem. But being school holidays we were out of the habit of being up and out early so at 8.50 I yelled at my husband to drive us to the station.
We arrived a little too tight for comfort but managed to get on the train and took advantage of the Family and Friends ticket which only cost us £20. It was great value and we were able to use the ticket for both the bus and train which was valid for one day for up to 2 adults and 4 children.
We travelled during peak time and the train was still pretty full therefore we had to stand but really it wasn’t an issue as the train was so quick we arrived in Belfast in just 9 minutes.
After arriving at Europa station I had time to escort the troop to the toilets before getting on the 221 Goldline coach service to the Causeway; we only had to wait 15mins which was plenty of time to buy them some water, as it was a very hot day. So far so good; happy kids equals happy mum.
With just one stop at Ballymena we arrived at the Giants causeway at 11.00am. Three very excited kids plus a hot and bothered mum dragging a buggy and picnic walked into the beautiful cool visitor centre. I was delighted to make a £3 saving off a family ticket at the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, a special Green Travel Discount when you present a valid Translink ticket.
My eldest son was very sceptical and didn’t believe there were giants so he was thrilled at getting the audio style phones that told us the story of Finn and Oonagh the local giants. The other two were just happy at running around. The steep climb down overlooking the stunning scenery was breathtaking. The weather was hot and sunny and the kids climbed all over the rocks and paddled in some rock pools and we even had our picnic on the unique causeway rocks.
The time passed really quickly and we didn’t get further than the hexagon stones as we were getting the 2pm bus back. At 1pm I rounded them up to allow us plenty of time to climb back to the visitors centre. Just as we left my middle daughter decided to have a full meltdown. She refused to walk as she was too tired and screamed with every step she took, it was a long walk back. By the time I got to the top I was hot and sweaty and not in a great mood at all.
The hardest parenting skill is to stick by your punishment you give out so she didn’t get anything from the shop! At this point I thought about my husband’s earlier comment and thought a glass of wine would do the trick nicely! We had 30 mins to spare so went to the café and got ice-cream and bottles of water, alas I did not partake in glass of wine. We headed outside to sit, with one tear stained girl and one mother who could barely talk and heard someone shout my son’s name. Typical Northern Ireland are close friends had just arrived to spend the afternoon at the causeway!
They begged for us to stay longer so all the kids could play so I checked the bus timetable and the express bus only came at 2pm otherwise we would have to go to Coleraine and change. I decided it was best to keep it simple and we got the 2pm express bus back.
Once we got on the bus the girls fell asleep and I was really glad I wasn’t driving as I managed to unwind really quickly and actually fell asleep myself. I also found out that our friends who drove up to the Giants Causeway couldn’t find anywhere to park so had to go to Portrush to leave the car and get a bus up - our journey was much simpler!
We arrived at Belfast at 3.30pm and I used the free Wi-Fi on board the bus to check the train timetable and there was an express train at 3.41pm. The girls had transformed into angels after their sleep so the train back to Lisburn was quick and easy. We had to walk through the park to get home so we stopped off at the play park for an hour and half.
What a day, we packed so much into it. If we had gone by car we would have paid more for the tickets and would have had the added stress of parking and driving home after the ‘meltdown’. We also would never have gone to the play park.
Don’t get me wrong it was challenging but that’s just having three kids regardless of taking the bus or car. I really did enjoy it and so did the kids. Top tip for doing it again is make sure the kids have an early night before!
Why not make the most of the glorious bursts of sunshine and enjoy a family fun packed day out by taking advantage of Translink’s great value summer bus and train offers? Visit www.translink.co.uk/summer for further details.