‘May brooks and trees and singing hills join in the chorus too, and every gentle wind that blows send happiness to you.” -
We started the day with the boxed breakfast Bullitt’s delivers to your room, which consisted of orange juice, granola and yoghurt, and a banana. There are coffee and tea making fixings in the room, plus a bottle of milk in the fridge, so we were all set. Our stay includes a hot breakfast in the restaurant, but we decided this morning just to have the smaller breakfast. It was plenty for us and we decided we‘d rather have a more relaxing morning in the room and not bother going to the restaurant.
We headed off about 8:30 and walked to the meeting place for our day tour to the Giant’s Causeway, which was the Irish Tour Tickets office on Great Victoria Street, about a 10-15 minute walk. We found the office no problem, and took a few photos of the Europa Hotel and the opera House, as we were waiting for our bus to arrive. Lots of tourist buses start tours in this general area, so it is quite busy with buses coming and
going. The Europa Hotel was bombed 36 times during the Troubles, which earned it the title of most bombed hotel in the world. It looks quite posh now, and of course there are no security issues in this area any longer.
We boarded our bus, met the friendly guide Sean and driver Robert, and headed out of Belfast, bound for the Giant’s Causeway. The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, is made up of hexagonal stone columns that appear to be man-made, but are entirely natural, the result of volcanic activity. But the real story is that the columns are the remains of a causeway built by the giant Finn MacCool. You see, there were two giants living across the North Channel from each other, Finn MacCool on the Ireland side, and Benandonner on the Scotland side (Scotland is very close to Ireland in this area). Benandonner challenged Finn MacCool to a fight, so Finn built the land bridge so he could attack Benandonner. But when Finn realizes that Benandonner is much larger than him, his clever wife disguises Finn as their baby. When Benandonner sees the size of the “baby” he thinks if that if
The Europa Hotel
It was bombed 36 times during the Troubles, earning it the most bombed hotel in the world award.
that is the size of the baby, the father must be enormous, so he races back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him so that Finn would be unable to follow him, leaving the stone columns behind. You choose which origin story of the Causeway you prefer!
It was around an hour and a half drive from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway. We popped into the visitor‘s centre to use the bathroom and to have a quick look at the displays, then headed out on the path towards the Causeway. The scenery along the walk was just beautiful, despite the rain that had started. It was windy too, and quite chilly. It was too windy for an umbrella, so we had our hoods on. We enjoyed clambering over the slippery rocks, and admiring the views. After some time exploring the columns, we walked back, past the visitor’s centre, along the path to take in more of the views. We had about 2 hours at the causeway, so we had time for a quick lunch in the cafeteria (really nice sandwiches and tea). We had a few minutes to check out the gift shop, then it was time to get
back on the bus.
We drip-dried on our way to Dunluce Castle, which was the filming location for Games of Thrones’ Castle Greyjoy (with the addition of lots of CGI). It dates back to the 1200s, but only the ruins remain today. We didn’t tour the castle, we just stopped for a quick photo. I love those old mostly ruined castles, they are so atmospheric.
We then headed to the village of Bushmills, to Bushmills Distillery, where we had a whiskey tasting (a flight of three whiskeys). They were a bit wasted on me, as I’m not a whiskey drinker, but I did enjoy the 12 year old. It is only available here at the distillery, so we bought a bottle to take home.
The scenery in this coastal area is truly beautiful, with very picturesque villages. After the Bushmills visit, we headed to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The wire rope, 20 metre long bridge spans a 30 metre high chasm from the coastal cliffs to the little island of Carrick-a-Rede. We kind of wondered about the wisdom of tackling the wobbly, high, bridge immediately following the whiskey tasting! It was a 1 kilometre walk along the
The Crown Bar
Built in 1885. We had a Guinness here after we got back to Belfast after our day out.
path from the car park to the bridge, with just breathtaking scenery along the way. We had to wait for a short time at the bridge, as only a certain number of people are allowed on the bridge at one time. The view from the bridge is fantastic, and the wobbly walk across was lots of fun. On the other side Susan got back into the line for the return journey while I walked up the path as far as we could go, to take in more of the astonishing views. Then it was back across the bridge, and I wished I could have walked across it a bunch more times, but without all the crowds. I heard someone say they would never do that again (I guess they were afraid of heights) but the height didn’t bother me at all. Heights only bother me if there is nothing between me and the sheer drop. As long as I have even a rope between me and the drop, I’m fine. It was drizzling on and off while we were at the bridge, but it wasn’t too bad. (It’s amazing how your judgement of weather changes, anything better than pouring rain
is considered good!)
After the bridge we drove along the coastal road, with even more beautiful scenery. We drove past Ballycastle, Ballymena, and Cushendall. Sean pointed out that some towns/villages are loyalist and some are nationalist. Some towns we drove through displayed Union Jack flags, and some the Irish flag.
The potato famine (the Great Hunger) affected Catholic areas in Ulster too (the Protestants generally had access to more food but the Catholics were entirely dependent on the potato, and had no money to buy other food). By the way, Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland (the others are Connacht, Leinster, and Munster). Ulster has 9 counties (six in Northern Ireland and 3 in the Republic of Ireland).
We passed through Ballypatrick Forest Park, and around here the sun actually came out! The rest of the day was quite nice. At Cushendall we were at the closest point to Scotland (the Mull of Kintyre). The glens in this area (the Glens of Antrim) are really beautiful. We stopped in the fishing village of Carnlough (here in the north “lough” is pronounced “lock” - lots of words are pronounced differently in the north than in
the south). This was another Game of Thrones filming location (where Arya climbs up the steps from the sea after being stabbed by the waif). We had an ice cream cone at Maud’s here.
We continued back towards Belfast, stopping at Carrickfergus Castle (dating back to 1177). There is some work being done around the castle so we couldn’t walk right around it, or go inside, but it was still interesting to see. It was a short drive from the castle back into central Belfast, where we were dropped off back at the same place where we started, near the Europa hotel. It was about 6:30 at this point. We, along with a couple on the tour from Calgary, dropped into the Crown Liquor Saloon, for a pint. It is Belfast’s most beautiful Victorian pub, according to Lonely Planet (it was very pretty inside). I had a Guinness and Susan had a Belfast Black (which was very nice) and we chatted with the Calgary couple. Susan and I then headed back towards the Bullitt, stopping at a nearby little restaurant, Fish City, for a fish and chips dinner (we shared a nice fish chowder and delicious Guinness black bread
I didn’t set the alarm tonight, for the first time this trip, as we have nothing yet planned for the morning tomorrow. We will get up whenever we feel like it and have breakfast in the restaurant. 😀.
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