Julia and I had one day to kill on our trip around Ireland, and so we decided to do some day tripping around Northern Ireland with Paddywagon Tours. We had already spent some time in Belfast…some very odd times indeed. But we hadn’t seen the other joyous highlights, like the Giant’s Causeway.
Our itinerary was a bit crammed, but we got to see everything we wanted to see. And booking with Paddywagon Tours was incredibly easy. It’s a good option if you have limited time!
The Antrim Coast
The weather was INCREDIBLE when we visited. Even the Irish were marveling at it all. Our tour took us along the Antrim Coast, where most of the highlights mentioned in this post are. But the scenery itself is just worth taking in. Seriously.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
This is NOT for those afraid of heights. I think Julia has a video somewhere of me panicking about this, haha. You know how in the movies there’s often a scene where someone is crossing a rope bridge and then a board snaps or the whole bridge starts swinging violently? Yeah. This bridge.
The bridge sits across the 30-metre deep chasm, and was originally constructed by fishermen. The chasm is also 20-metres wide.
There’s a beautiful trail that loops around Carrick-a-Rede as well. Take it. Don’t fall down. I did.
The Giant’s Causeway
You’ve probably heard of the Giant’s Causeway. These rock formations are caused by an ancient volcano, but the more widely accepted theory is a myth based on a giant named Finn McCool. Basically he wanted to kick the ass of a Scottish giant known as Benandonner. Finn challenged Benandonner by building a causeway across the sea. But as he got nearer to Benandonner, Finn started getting nervous. Benandonner was a BRUTE. So Finn fled back to his wife Oonagh with Benandonner in hot pursuit. Oonagh disguised Finn as a baby and put him into a huge cradle. When Benandonner saw the size of the sleeping baby, he assumed the giant must be MASSIVE. So he ran home to Scotland, ripping up the causeway as he went.
I love everything about this story. It’s just so Irish. And then there’s the whole fact that the clever wife saves the day. Heck yes.
Geology is so sexy.
You can even sit in Finn’s shoe.
There isn’t much left to Dunluce Castle on the Antrim Coast, built in the 1500s, but the ruins are dramatic. It’s perched precariously on the edge of some steep cliffs, and it’s rumoured that the castle’s kitchen along with its seven cooks once fell into the ocean during a storm. (This may be a myth, though.)
The McDonnells took over the castle in the 16th century, and it’s been owned by them ever since.
A Quick Stop in Belfast
Belfast is a mad place. You can read about my totally bizarre experiences here.
I had a BLAST. The City Hall is one of my most memorable destinations, purely because of its awesome people-watching opportunities. There’s also Titanic Belfast, a fantastic exhibit devoted to the building of the ship.
Black Cab Tours
BUT if I were to recommend ONE thing to do in Belfast, it’s a Black Cab Tour. For about 30GBP you’ll take a ride through the city, where the guide will give you a succinct account of The Troubles (as someone who played a role in it). He’ll introduce you to political murals, the Crumlin Road Jail and Court House, and the City Hall.
It’s the Peaceline that still sticks in my mind, though: literally a wall built to divide the Nationalists and Loyalists (Catholics and Protestants). We wondered about the extensions built onto some homes leaning against the wall – they looked like sunrooms. They were actually BOMB CAGES, to protect its occupants against bombs and weapons thrown over the wall. FOR REAL.
We didn’t do this one. I have Irish in my veins, and as such, you do NOT give me whiskey. It makes me do things like steal cameras and then guiltily give them back a day later. Ahem.
Bushmills is apparently the oldest distillery in the world. From Rick Steeves: “The 45-minute tour starts with the mash pit, which is filled with a porridge that eventually becomes whiskey. (The leftovers of that porridge are fed to the county’s particularly happy cows.) You’ll see thousands of oak casks — the kind used for Spanish sherry — filled with aging whiskey. The finale, of course, is the opportunity for a sip in the 1608 Bar — the former malt barn. Everyone gets a single glass of his or her choice. Non–whiskey enthusiasts might enjoy a cinnamon-and-cloves hot toddy.”