My last day in Dublin was used as a base for a day trip to Giant’s Causeway – and sadly my only dip into Northern Island, which is absolutely picturesque.
I found it hilarious that my phone carrier switched from 3 to 3 UK as soon as we crossed over the border between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It’s so interesting that Northern Island is part of the UK but the Republic of Ireland isn’t. It was back to GBP and Sainsbury’s and seeing all the familiar UK things again, but only for a few hours. Well, I’m back in the UK again tomorrow when I fly to Bristol (so gutted, wish I gave myself more time in Ireland).
I ended up going with a Grayline shuttle rather than an organised tour because it was cheaper – but then I realised why. I was gutted that I missed the Belfast Titanic Experience (a £120 mill. investment!) AND didn’t get all the knowledge and history behind where the heck we were going (Giant’s Causeway). Lessons for next time.
So as Belfast just flew by as a glimpse out of our windows, we endured a 3.5 hour ride straight to The Dark Hedges, part of the infamous Kings Road where Arya Stark escaped from Kings Landing in “Game of Thrones.” Because I’ve literally seen 0 episodes and have 0 knowledge about this show, I didn’t care that much, but the twisty Snow White forest-like trees were quite a sight. The hedges were in a remote city called Ballymena, the city of the seven towers – completely surrounded by lush greenery and sheep. From the long travel times, all I can say is that Irish countryside is just as beautiful as Scottish and English countryside.
Along with about four other tour buses, we wound up at Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. We had to queue for only a few minutes because all the groups arrived at the same time, but we’ve heard that in the summer time (peak season), the lines can reach up to 2 hrs (similar to Blarney Stone). The bridge only accommodated 8 people at a time, so we were being yelled at by the “bridge monitor” by anyone who stopped to take photos. All these tours seem a bit overwhelming to me because you’re trying to cram in as much as you can for the money you pay, only to have your photos crowded by people and you’re constantly pressed for time. I had to stop living through my camera (or three) and just enjoy the moment, since everything was such a spectacle to see.
What the bridge looks like in the summer (try not to compare that to my photos above, ha):
So while we didn’t have blue skies and stunning turquoise waters below us, we still got a less crowded experience with a lot of wind – I’ll take it. The bridge was only 100 ft above sea level and was about 66 ft long – probably the shortest rope bridge I’ve ever crossed. I believe it was built for salmon fisherman to use to cross from one small island (Carrickarede) to the mainland. There are marvelous views of Rathlin Island and Scotland from the bridge, which is probably one of the main reasons why it attracts so many visitors.
The Giant’s Causeway was the main highlight of the day. Stunning views of the coastline surrounded by towering stone walls and red rocks toward the end of the trail – it definitely paralleled the Red Rocks in Wellington. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s clear to see why it attracts so many visitors. The hexagon-shaped brown and grey stones served as stepping stones and were raised as tiers in some areas (one point was called the Wishing Chair). It was an absolute marvellous sight to see. All the walking trails along the coast were extremely simple – the Red Trail that went uphill yielded a gorgeous birds-eye view of the Causeway, mouth of the ocean, and the skinny road below bordered by the lush green hills. It looked a lot like the drive alongside PCH, but a lot more peaceful and picturesque.
Via Wikipedia – The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by an Irish giant after he was challenged to battle a Scottish giant. Go figure.
One of the girls on the tour was a young Chinese exchange student studying in Germany, who took it upon herself to ask if we could be each other’s photographers for the day. Thanks to her, I have a lot more photos of myself in the scenery rather than just a ton of bad selfies – and she was one of the only few who could take really good photos as well (nothing is worse than the people who literally crop out the whole background and only get your entire body in the shot). So thank you, Rebecca!
Our last photo stop was Dunluce Castle (used as the House of Greyjoy in “Game of Thrones”). It was timed a bit poorly since we couldn’t actually get into the castle as it closed right when we got there, but I think all these tours just throw it in as a photo stop because of the lack of time. The ruins of the castle looked fabulous amidst the sunset on the north Antrim coastline. In fact, it takes top prize as having the best coastal views out of all other castles I’ve seen.
I’m going to miss Ireland a lot. In fact, as I’m getting toward the end of all my UK (and Republic of Ireland) explorations, I’m going to sadly miss everything (obviously) – but mostly all the landscapes.
Edit- As I sit here waiting for my first 6:30am RyanAir flight (of many to come on this trip), I’m contemplating whether cheap inter-Europe air travel is even worth it…