Friday, September 25, 2015

Northern Ireland and the Giants Causeway

Besides its fascinating history and abundant natural beauty, one of the nice things about Ireland is that they use the Euro - which was nearly at parity with the dollar while I was there. This is opposed to the UK, where the conversion rate hovered at a painful $1.50 to £1.

A not-so-nice thing: Having to choose where to go on a tour. The company I went with - Irish Day Tours - offered several excellent (and affordable) options. How do you choose among such places as the Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle, the gorgeous looking Connemara, and the Giants Causeway? In the end, I had to go with the most famous site - mainly because it also took me to another part of the UK (Northern Ireland.)

This time the bus was full sized, and nearly full - which was an unfortunate change from the more intimate van of my Scotland tour. The bus driver was also slightly less exuberant - but that was probably inevitable considering he was dealing with about 60 people who spoke ten different languages, rather than the six or seven Americans who comprised the entirety of my tour through the Highlands.
As we drove north out of the city, we soon entered the verdant (but slightly gloomy, due to morning fog) countryside of Ireland. We rode for a good long while before making a rest stop in a gray little fishing village in Northern Ireland, whose name I don't even know.

Then we came to our first real destination: The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

To get to the bridge, you walk along rugged coastal cliffs for a while:

...and then you come to this:

As its name suggests, it's a rope bridge that leads to this tiny but scenic island. The original incarnation of the bridge was built several hundred years ago by fishermen who used the island as a launching spot for fishing vessels. Because nothing says "great place to launch a boat" like a tiny little island with precarious dropoffs that's only accessible by a rickety rope bridge. Yeah.

Birds nesting among the rocks of the island

Then it's on to the main attraction: The Giants Causeway.

The bizarrely symmetrical and smooth basalt columns of the Causeway are the result of an volcanic explosion tens of millions of years ago. It's not the only place in the world with these kind of structures - Fingal's Cave is located 80ish miles north in Scotland. But it's probably the most accessible.

Pictures don't really do it justice - it's not until you've wandered around the site for a while and run your hands along the rocks that you really realize how utterly strange (and amazing) it is. It's a surreal landscape, one that kind of forces you to sit down and contemplate it for a while - after you've spent some time playing and scrambling over the rocks.

Ok, so I took a few selfies. I was by myself.

We had a few hours to play and meditate, then it was back on up to the bus.

I liked this guy's sweater: "Never Underestimate the Power of a Lithuanian." It's good advice.

Because cows.
Now back on the road, we headed to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.

Along the way, we passed this picturesque ruined castle:

Unfortunately, by the time we reached Belfast it was getting dark, so we only had about an hour before we had to head back to Dublin. Afraid of getting lost and missing my ride, I chose to stay within the vicinity of the bus, and ended up walking around the grounds of the City Hall.

I wandered through the Titanic Memorial Garden (the ship was built in Belfast's shipyards) and was moved by the memorial to the victims.

Then the hour was up, and I had to beat it back to the bus - right as it began to pour.

1 comment:

  1. What a fascinating place. Love the giants causeway, it's looks supernatural. Hard to imagine a volcanic eruption lined all those columns up like that. Love how green it is and the dairy cows, the ruined castle, etc. Rope bridge looks interesting and scary. Thanks Tim. Had no idea the Titanic was built in Ireland. Quite a memorial.