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  • Writer's pictureKT Fletcher

Lost in Ireland; The Desolate Train Station of Portstewart

Rural Ireland is a picturesque place filled with lovely emerald meadows, dusky pink and gold sunsets, cliffs overlooking wild untamed seas, countless sheep, twinkling lights from the two pubs, and absolutely no public transportation.

It is vital to know that on the north coast of Northern Ireland, historically called County Antrim, there are two cabs total. I will expand on the cab situation later.

My sister Hannah and I were coming from Belfast, and thus far our experience with the train system had been very reliable. We had no doubt that our train would easily take us to the lovely town of Portstewart and the beautiful Irish coast. It had been a day of transfer after transfer, mediocre train food, and far too much sitting. We were both a bit crabby, and ready to run through the emerald hills and go splashing recklessly about in the sea. The train finally arrived at our destination, and we figured a short walk or cab ride was in store to get to our Airbnb before we could go lollygagging about. Stepping off the train we stood in shock at the absolute nothingness that surrounded us. I mean there was barely a parking lot. Rolling green hills, patches of lovely flowers, a dirt trail meant for hiking, a tiny parking lot, and a train station for god knows what reason, that was it.

What to do. Obviously, we would check to see how far it was to our Airbnb, maybe the town was close and the station was deceptively isolated. We pulled out our phones for google maps, or to see about calling a cab if needed. NO SERVICE. It was dusk, and Hannah had been dreaming of rural Ireland her entire life, so why not enjoy it a little. We took the dirt path, surely it had to lead somewhere, if we walked long enough, we were bound to come across a road or get cell service eventually. Hannah, always seeing the good in the world, took this opportunity to insist we take photos of the attractive scenery. Leave it to Hannah to ignore the diminishing daylight and bask in the breathtaking scenery of the Irish coastline. I jest, but she was absolutely right in doing this, note the photos below. I have included one of Hannah living her dreams, which is one of the best photos I’ve ever taken, a moment of bliss. Further back on the path is the absolute desolate train station of horror.

After the impromptu pictures, we made our way further down the trail on our irritating impromptu hike. Finally, some houses come into view, and with that a road! We manage to awkwardly clamber down to the road, about an hour has passed since leaving the train, and hurriedly we pull out our phones. NO SERVICE. Now, unsurprisingly to those who know me, I panic and go into a fit of utter rage at the entire country of Ireland and yell about the poor transit system and spew a lot of profane words. So, on we walk towards what we think is Portstewart, light diminishing.

About thirty minutes go by, all the while I curse under my breath, and proclaim that England is in fact the superior country (which I do not uphold to this day by the way). Hannah and I again check our phones, NO SERVICE. I nearly hurl my suitcase into the road. We are now very much into a slightly more suburban area, walking along what appears to be a main "highway" and not once have we seen a bus, even bus stop or cab. The wind picks up, and the sea breeze brings with it a nice burst of cold. On we walk, shivering.

It has now been two hours since our departure from that godforsaken train. And we are almost walking in darkness. Both of us are now in panic mode, although several cars have passed us in the last twenty minutes. I say cars, still no bus stop, bus, or cab. Already knowing the outcome, we check our phones, NO SERVICE, shocking. Instead of walking aimlessly we stop, the time has come to face our fate and come up with some sort of action plan. I drop my suitcase and let the stupid plastic handle go crashing into the pavement, an accurate depiction of my mood. Hannah sits on the pavement, looking miraculously even tempered, and I sit on my suitcase looking like pratty child.

We discuss giving up, and the I assert the advantages to becoming victims to the Irish Sea, when suddenly we see headlights approaching and hear a honk. In sheer disbelief we both stand up in a flash, eyes wide. A black car has pulled up beside the curb, and beside it a tiny old man has stepped out. He has white wispy hair, tucked beneath a flat cap and is the epitome of what you would picture a classic Irishman to be. Hannah and I talk at the same time, and exclaim we are lost and need help and are looking for Portstewart. Amazingly he understood our American shouting and said, "Lucky I found you two, I was on my way home." Words I will never forget, that still ring clear as day in my mind. He explains that there are only two cabs in the entire county, and obviously he drives one of them. His hours are few, and essentially, he drives when he feels like it or when someone calls his personal number. Hannah and I stand in disbelief, shivering and hungry. We had nearly missed our only opportunity to make it to Portstewart for the night, and by lucky happenstance, this lovely Irish savior had stopped to check on us. Thankfully, he offers to drive us to our Airbnb in Portstewart. The walk was an atrocious amount of time, so thank goodness.

During the cab ride, he explains that tourists who visit Northern Ireland, and the coastal cities usually come with a tour group to see the Giant's Causeway, or always drive themselves. He literally chuckles when we tell him we planned to walk everywhere or use public transport. This chuckle quickly turned into concern when he realized we were serious and hadn't grasped what we'd gotten ourselves into. He writes down his personal phone number to call should we ever need a ride and tells us to call at any hour should we need it. Later, there would come a day when we would need it.

We arrived at our Airbnb safely, and I made sure to give the cab driver a ludicrous tip. Both as a thank you, and as a way to ensure should we need him, he would indeed pick us up. Little did I know, but boy would we need him. Once again save he would save our lives.... Stay tuned for Part II: Ballintoy, Becoming a Sheep, & My Favorite Sunset


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