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The north coast is closed, so no excuses... just stay away

Kim Kelly


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Kim and son Dara enjoying a day in Portrush last year

Kim and son Dara enjoying a day in Portrush last year

Kim paddle boarding

Kim paddle boarding

Kim and son Dara enjoying a day in Portrush last year

Right now, there is nowhere I would rather be than the north coast.

Picture it - I am sitting on Portstewart Prom, drinking a takeaway cappuccino from Morelli's, watching the world go by.

It is nearly warm enough to sit outside (with a puffa jacket on) and I'm chatting to my friends about where we will have dinner later - Ramore? Amici? I am really annoyed I didn't book Harry's Shack!

Today, I am sitting in my little back garden in Dundonald pondering where I will go for my one-hour, Government-approved exercise - looks like it is Stormont Estate again.

Later, I will FaceTime my family and friends - all of whom live on the north coast, where I'm from and where I lived until last year.

I know what the conversation will be already. It is all anyone I know on the north coast is talking about this weekend: "Why are the holidaymakers still coming?"

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Kim paddle boarding

Kim paddle boarding

Kim paddle boarding

For all intents and purposes, Portrush, Portstewart and the surrounding villages are closed. Barry's is shut, the beaches are barricaded off and the restaurants are not serving. Pictures posted on social media show empty main streets and deserted beauty spots.

Second-home owners have categorically been told to stay away ... but there are multiple cars parked outside many usually empty houses today that were not there last week.The caravan parks are closed ... well, at least most of them are. The queues in the supermarkets nearest to those that are apparently still open tell a different tale - shelves stripped bare of 'essential' wine, beer and barbecue charcoal.

The Causeway Coast is a beautiful place. It will still be a beautiful place next year

The people of the north coast are not stupid. They see you coming and going in your cars. They know you are there. What they can't figure out is why. And, frankly, neither can I.

This weekend I was supposed to be staying with my mum in Castlerock so I could catch up with my friends and family. I had booked restaurants, arranged coffee dates and even planned a bit of paddle boarding. It is not happening - my mum is 74, I have not seen her in a month. Over in Portstewart, my dad is confined to his house. He hates it. He is a real salty, sea-dog type who spends his days hanging about Portrush harbour or out on boats. But he is 75, so he is stuck at home.

Further round the coast, my ex-husband Cathal lives in Cushendall. He has not seen our son Dara in weeks. He can't take a chance; my in-laws have compromised immune systems.

I have heard every excuse going: "We are self-isolating in our holiday home"; "What difference does it make?"; "Sure, we aren't doing any harm"; "We consider this our home."

The Causeway Coast is a beautiful place. It will still be a beautiful place next year.

If you are using your second home or caravan for any other reason than you are healthcare staff and must be close to work, you are part of the problem.

The residents of the north coast are among the most welcoming in the world. They love having you to stay. They love sharing their towns with you. But just not now.

Please stay at home. The north coast is closed.

Kim Kelly is a magazine editor from Portrush

Belfast Telegraph