Our final stop, was to be at Broughshane. It may have been our last Aire but was in fact the first Aires de Service to be installed in the UK. Broughshane is very forward-thinking.
The journey took us from Donaghadee via mostly main roads, including the motorway, and across Belfast. The weather stayed mainly uninspiring though not too bad. Some rain in the Belfast area cleared as we exited the city bounds and the sun was shining on the hills in front of us. We stopped at the Motorway services for coffee and were very happy to be served a cup of good Lavazza in extraordinarily pleasant surroundings (for a Motorway Services, that is).
On arriving at Houston’s Mill, we found the borne in an entirely empty car park. Upon the borne was a notice asking us to register at the General Office in the Mill during office hours, or if out of hours, to go to the pub. Tokens to be obtained at the pub or at Broughshane House. We went to the mill and found it locked so walked the short distance into the village and enquired at the Post Office where we might find Broughshane House and made our way there.
It transpired that the Mill had not been the office base since 2011 and that all registrations happen there, in Broughshane House. We suggested an update to the notice at the Aire was in order.
The overnight parking fee is £5 and this includes fresh water and waste disposal. Electricity tokens give ten hours supply for £2. We registered, paid and bought two tokens and then emerged into Broughshane Main Street and the rain.
The Aire is sited in the landscaped grounds of Houston’s Mill in a small car park there. It sits alongside the Braid River and a smaller stream feeds the river there via the mill race.
There is a pedestrian exit from the grounds onto the main road by the bridge. Across the road a riverside walk begins. Broughshane is a perfect location for travellers with dogs in tow,
Being ever-so-slightly soaked, we were happy to get the hookup working and some hot stuff inside us.
When the rain died off we took Nell for a walk along the riverside path, which essentially skirts the village on one side from one end to the other. It was wet. So wet that the ducks were swimming in the puddles on the path rather than in the river. I left my camera behind as more rain seemed imminent. That being so I cannot hold up photographic evidence. Some of the puddles were so deep that we did not ford them but plodded through the mud alongside. It was however so engaging a walk that it did not seem all that bad,
On our return we prepared our meal of Pasta Bake (more of this, later) and were happily chowing down when suddenly we realised that the car park was filling. It quickly overfilled. There were cars and people everywhere. Houston’s Mill is a community resource centre and the local slimming club were weighing in. The mayhem lasted only a short while but we realised that had we turned up at the Aire at about this time, we should have nowhere to park and would have had to go elsewhere, unaware that in half an hour the car park would be empty again. I make this note to aid those who come after!
It was a cold night and we woke to a frost but this quickly thawed as the sun got to work.
We were in no hurry to leave on Wednesday morning – Broughshane lies about half an hour’s drive from Larne and our ferry booking was for the 4:30pm ferry. We decided to stay for lunch and to explore this lovely village further.
Broughshane (if Lough is pronounced “lock” then you might think Brock-shane, but no, it is “Brew-shane”) is known as the ‘Garden Village of Ulster’ with the motto ‘People, Plants and Pride growing Together’ and is a completely charming village with what is clearly a highly-engaged community. It is neat and tidy, colourful, and full of surprises.
We took Nell back around the riverside path and found it a little less wet in the warm spring sunshine.
The community have established a Waterfowl Reserve in the wetlands along the river. It features examples of every species of swan. The site is normally open from 9am to dusk, daily but is closed to visitors at the moment – we assume because of Avian Flu precautions – preventing us from enjoying this feature on this visit.
We did enjoy some surprises in the woods though.
The riverside path follows the meanders of the Braid, which is a game fishing river and the anglers were out in force after yesterday’s heavy rain. The path ends at the far end of the village, allowing a circular route via Main Street.
We walked back along the street. To confirm my notion of the strength of community here, I noted that I have never seen a village with so many community buildings.
The garden theme runs everywhere and floral plantings abound. Public buildings have plantings – even the Public Conveniences are decorated with Ivy.
Back at the van, I prepared for take-off and Mr Snail went forth to find Cod and Chips.
Thank you, Broughshane, for your hospitality. We loved your village and we love the fact that you make we motorhomers welcome.
In many ways, I feel that we possibly left the best until last in this trip. We look forward to returning one day soon.
The drive to Larne was short and straightforward and I think Broughshane makes an excellent pre- or post-ferry stop.
That’s it. That’s your lot. From here it was Argos, Ferry, back to Kippford in fairly short order. Nothing much to say about that.