Rocks, rafts and Fatboy on the decks

11th August 2006 at 01:00
You can enjoy spectacular coastal scenery, party with Fatboy Slim and ride Barry's big dipper in Portrush, County Antrim. Steven Hastings finds out what it's like to work there

Ah, it must be the Giant's Causeway.

Clever clogs.

40,000 interlocking six-sided basalt columns. Can't you do better than that?

It's a pretty magnificent sight and Ireland's top tourist attraction. But if you want more, there's the rest of the Causeway Coast - over 30 miles of sweeping beaches, Atlantic waves and rugged cliffs. It's all a way-marked long-distance path, if you're feeling energetic. Don't miss the hair-raising Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, crossing the chasm to Carrick island.

30 miles? Pah! That's a two-day stroll.

Something more testing? Then power yourself across the harbour in the annual RNLI raft race. That should get the heart rate up, and it's the silver jubilee this year so there'll be plenty of competition.

Rafting? I'd barely break sweat.

Ah, it's sweat you're after! Well, Portrush is just the place. The local dance scene draws crowds from across Northern Ireland and features famous names such as Fatboy Slim hosting parties on the beach.

Sounds great for me, but my partner's more, how shall I put it, sedentary.

A lazy oaf?

Exactly. Anything for him?

If he can manage to wield a golf club it's barely a chip and putt to Royal Portrush Golf Course, though it's not for beginners. It's one of the top five links courses in the world - and a round can set you back pound;120.

Whoa! He's not worth that kind of money. Anything cheaper?

He could ride Barry's big dipper.

I beg your pardon?

The famous roller coaster. At Barry's - the largest amusement park in Ireland. And if he needs a stiff drink afterwards, the Bushmills Distillery just down the road does tours and tastings. Dating back to 1608, it's the oldest licensed whisky distillery in the world, you know.

I had no idea.

And you thought you were so clever with that Giant's Causeway bluster.

I'm a teacher. I'm paid to be clever. So, how about a job?

There's good news and bad.

Good news first then.

There's lots of schools: four primaries in Portrush, and eight secondaries in the area. You can even choose the grammar or single-sex option, if that's your thing.

Sounds perfect. What's the problem?

Modern living.

Isn't that always the way?

More so here. The rush to buy second homes and turn family houses into apartments has pushed up prices and brought an influx of singles and oldies. Which in turn means falling school rolls. "We'll have to look soon at rationalising the four primaries. There's too many," says Riley Piddington, head of Portrush primary.

So I need to get in there quick!

You could try. But posts are what Mr Piddington calls "stable." Which means that four of his 12 staff attended Portrush primary themselves as children and have taught all their careers there, including one who retires this year after 34 years. Mr Piddington, having put in only 16 years, is a relative new boy.

Jobs must come up.

They do. And each one attracts around 150 applicants. It's rare to get people applying from "over the water", however, so you never know, if you're making the move from the Midlands you could have a certain novelty factor on your side.

My Brummie accent might be an advantage?

A Brummie accent is never an advantage. But Mr Piddington points out that his school has a far more cosmopolitan air than you might expect in Northern Ireland. Seasonal jobs bring in workers from the Far East, the Middle East and Asia.

Fine. When can I start?

Not until the caravans go.


To raise "great money", and because of its prime seaside location, Portrush primary transforms itself into a caravan and camping site during the school holidays. So don't forget your Portaloo.

Next week: Ullapool, north-west Scotland

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