Northern Ireland progress, peace & geologic giants

Published: March 21st 2014
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Giant's CausewayGiant's CausewayGiant's Causeway

Northern Ireland
It was time to flee the larger city of Belfast and begin in earnest to immerse ourselves in what we picture (and perhaps most people as well) as one of the true experience of these two nations, coastal driving. It is after all an island, the third largest in Europe, and 20th largest in the world. Okay, enough geography. We jumped in the “Jukemobile” (we rented a gray Nissan Juke) and navigated our way out of Belfast in search of the coast. We are always drawn to the coast. It is almost as if we don’t get near water, we are just not as happy as we can be. And we want to be happy!

Mr. Weather (Dave) has been providing updates on the likelihood of our changing weather twice a day for the past few days. We’ve been here for nearly ten days and it looks like the rain may be on its way…..

We caught one of those late winter or early spring days where the wind is howling and there are sporadic rain showers that almost fall sideways due to the incessant wind. After cutting through some rolling countryside, there it was; and it was magnificent. The sea…. in all its glory, with a wide-spectrum rainbow to boot. There were white caps on the water and interestingly enough, it wasn’t because of an off shore breeze, but rather from an on shore breeze, so they appeared to be moving away from the coast.

The highway out of Belfast hugs the coast most of the way to our first destination in Portrush, the only exception being a brief scoot across the land for a few minutes. The coastal drive in these two nations consists of some 2600 miles of coastal highway. Pretty impressive for a country roughly the size of Kentucky in the U.S.

With the weather being a bit dicey and predictions of rain with winds up to 40 mph (65 km/hr), our plans needed to be soft on this day. We took our time and enjoyed the many vistas the road provided, jumping out for a few pictures when the threat of getting soaked was minimal. Good news, from time to time blue sky and a bit of sunshine would pop its head out before the next wave of dicey weather.

On this trip …. moving slow is the plan….stopping to smell the roses or have a cup of coffee or tea when the mood strikes. We stop when we see something interesting. That includes a few stops for MJ to take photos of sheep along the way. She finds they are interesting, cute and worthy of a photo op.

Winston Churchill

We stopped at the Londonderry Arms Hotel in Carnlough. The inn was owned at one time by Winston Churchill. Seems it was willed to him by his second cousin. We wandered in and found it quite charming. We ordered tea and scones (what else?). While there, the skies cleared briefly and we sauntered across the street and captured an amazing view of the Northern Atlantic coastline. The green hills and the blue sea were quite special.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Well known in these parts is the Carrick-a rede rope bridge. MJ says “don’t look down!!”

On the afternoon we arrived the wind was blowing at 40mph and verified by the young man standing on the bridge with his anemometer (had to look that one up). Earlier in the day the bridge had been shut down for almost two hours because the wind gust were too
Scenic road & tunnelScenic road & tunnelScenic road & tunnel

Northern Ireland
strong. Not the thing you want to think about while crossing a bridge made of rope high above the ocean and swaying between two rocky land masses. This bridge was originally created not by people here to enjoy the natural beauty of these islands or the thrill seekers but years ago by fisherman wanting to check on their salmon nets. This area is also famous for bird watching. MJ had the death grip on those ropes as she walked across. She made it across and then of course there is the realization that you have to go back across it. All’s well as she made it back, albeit with a quickened heartbeat!

Just outside of Portrush is a strip of sandy beach, which while quite pleasant to look at seemed out of place with the rest of the coastal geography. We continued on to Portrush on the winding roads and were somewhat surprised at how big Portrush appeared despite only having about 7000 people. Our hotel was on Main St. and was a great location. We also discovered that famous golfer Darren Clarke lives in Portrush. How about that, Claudia?

6 Degrees of Separation

Six degrees of separation is a theory that everyone is a friend of a states that everything is six or fewer steps away by way of introduction, from any other person in the world. There is a chain created by connecting any two people in a maximum of six steps. This has often proved true in our travels and again on this trip.

The evening we arrived in Portrush, we had the pleasure of meeting Muriel, who is a second cousin of Lee Ann , who Merry Jo is friends with and worked with in Vallejo, CA. We had a very pleasant chat and enjoyed our brief time with her. Once again, this proves what a small world we live in and the six degrees of separation that ties all of us together. The conversation flowed and we felt like old friends and feel certain our paths may cross again.

Giant’s Causeway

The next morning found us at the Giants Causeway, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to 40,000 interlocking basalt columns formed by a unique volcanic and geological activity.

Quite a site and full of folklore to boot. Seems that a giant named Finn McCool (is this a great name or what?) carved out such formations such as the Giant’s Boot, The Wishing Chair, The Camel, Giant’s Granny and The Organ. Strong work by a giant, no? All we can tell you is that the rocks were impressive set among the strong surf of the North Atlantic and the views from the trails were incredible and we hope the pictures do them justice.

We are always amazed when we are standing in front of something so awesome as this geologic wonder that we were not aware of it until a few months ago when we started researching what we might see on this trip. Not that either of us has studied more than basic geology but one would think something this amazing would be better known around the world. That we might have read and article about it in a travel magazine or seen a photo in National Geographic.

We read, “the Causeway provides a glimpse into the Earth’s most ancient past. An epic 60 million year-old legacy to the cooling and shrinking of successive lava flows.” Stunning and well worth the trip to take a hike up here.

While we were
The Peace BridgeThe Peace BridgeThe Peace Bridge

here they were filming something for the Ireland Tourist Board and in the entry way to the site was a gentleman singing to music in a salmon colored tuxedo. (Seriously, who has a salmon colored tux at the ready?) MJ wanted her photo taken with him. She asked him what show this filming was for and he said, “I don’t know I’m from Newcastle”. Photos taken, release signed for the photo and off we went.

Conversations abound

One of the things we cherish most about traveling are the conversations with the people we meet along the way. We had a very interesting conversation with a young lady one evening concerning whether she felt more British or Irish. MJ explained to her that in Northern Ireland it seemed to us that more people identified with being Irish rather than British. The young girl laughed and understood how we had that impression. She said she feels more British but each person might have a different answer. The conversation was in depth and we won’t continue with the details but this is why we must travel to these locations but you can’t find these answers in any books.

Londonderry (or Derry)

The weather outside our hotel didn’t look very promising. It was raining and time to move on to Londonderry. The drive from Portrush wasn’t nearly as scenic as previous days, but the cloudy and wet weather didn’t help either. It’s a short hike over to Northern Ireland’s second largest city and we were going to stay inside the city walls, hoping that navigating the streets would be easier than our time San Gimignano, Italy, another medieval walled-city, which found Dave driving on streets that didn’t permit car traffic. The police in that town were quite nice about the whole thing, but we certainly didn’t want a repeat of that day.

We successfully navigated our way into the city and found the hotel without much trouble. Our room wasn’t quite ready, so we dropped our luggage and discovered that the walking tour we wanted to take would start in about 20 minutes just down the street. Off we went, in search of yet more history and yarns of old.

The Martin McCrossan tour was fabulous and took us around the top of the wall surrounding the old city. We learned all about why and when the wall was built and got some additional background on Irish/English history in Northern Ireland. Seems the English saw good value in building a walled city after their first settlement was burnt to the ground by an Irish Chieftan in the early 1600s. And it worked, the city’s wall were never breached and remain to this day.

Our guide also took time to talk about “The Troubles” and Londonderry was another center for some of the nasty violence that took place during that time. The group U2 has a song called “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” that talks about a particularly nasty incident during which some 26 civil rights protester and bystanders were shot by British soldier. 13 males, including seven died in this tragedy.

We are in admiration that the city does not hide from its past and seeks to state what has happened then and more importantly, what is happening now. The city is trying very hard to overcome its past issues and embrace a more peaceful existence. Certainly hard feelings still exist in some quarters, but progress is noticeable over the past quarter century. An example is the the pedestrian Peace Bridge, built in 2011 in an effort to
Oh my goshOh my goshOh my gosh

death grip on the rope!
bolster relations between the unionist “Waterside” and the nationalist “Cityside.”

About the city’s name….we’re back to the differences between unionist and nationalists now. Seems one likes the name Londonderry and the other, simply Derry. Officially, the city’s Royal Charter from 1662 lists the official name as Londonderry and a high court decision upheld this a few years back. We’ve heard that it is not unusual for a road sign for Londonderry will have the “London” part spray painted over. Guess that’s one way to make your point. At any rate, it’s simpler to say “Derry” and for us, that’s the way we’ll go.

Places we stayed: Adelphi Hotel in Portrush & Tower Hotel in Derry

We highly recommend the Martin McCrossan walking tour in Londonderry

Additional photos below
Photos: 53, Displayed: 29


She's a blowin'She's a blowin'
She's a blowin'

Hang on tight!
Enjoying the coastEnjoying the coast
Enjoying the coast

Northern Ireland
An amazing locationAn amazing location
An amazing location

The Giant's Causeway
A walled cityA walled city
A walled city

Coffee and a sconeCoffee and a scone
Coffee and a scone

a slow moment in time
Warming up with teaWarming up with tea
Warming up with tea

the winds were blowing today

21st March 2014

Giant Geology!
So jealous you got to see the beautiful five pointed basalt columns known as Giant's Causeway. Yes, geology geek here. (You can also see these in Mammoth Lakes in CA - Devil's Post Pile I think it's called - just amazing!). The photos are absolutely gorgeous and enforce my belief that I'm destined to visit Ireland sometime in the near future! Can't wait to see more. Oh - and sheep are cute!
21st March 2014

Geology geek
Always great spending time with great rock formations. Ireland and Northern Ireland are beautiful. You must make the time to get over here. And...indeed those sheep are cute.
21st March 2014

stopping to smell the roses
Ah...the life of the eternal travellers...entertaining the senses as you explore another destination...stopping only to smell coffee and the roses...not going there about the sheep!!!
21st March 2014

Smelling the roses not the sheep
Ok, I'm a city girl and I love the sheep. I''l take the heat over that one, no problem. You'll see more photos of them I'm certain of it. I like your entertaining the senses comment-- exactly!
21st March 2014

Smelling the roses not the sheep
Ok, I'm a city girl and I love the sheep. I''l take the heat over that one, no problem. You'll see more photos of them I'm certain of it. I like your entertaining the senses comment-- exactly!
21st March 2014

Northern Ireland tour
Brrrr--I can almost feel that cold wind blowing! Spectacular scenery. And the rainbow is the perfect touch. Enjoy. :-)
21st March 2014

Whipping wind is a bit cool
It was our decision to come here in the off season and we knew we would face the elements. The temperatures have not been too bad overall. We are prepared for it and have dressed appropriately. The weather has not stopped us from doing anything we have wanted to do so no complaints. The wind chill factor...has been a factor...these 40 mile per hour winds are chilling to say the least. We wrap up and head out. We love the fog and the changing weather and scenery. We have the right attitude and enjoying it.
21st March 2014
An amazing location

I am so happy you are finding so many great things on this trip. Although the weather is not always the best, it is providing some incredible shots for you. Be safe, enjoy and keep these wonderful blogs coming.
21st March 2014
An amazing location

Finding wonderful things
As you know this trip was planned on shorter notice than our usual trips and we had not done as much research. We are thrilled at all the wonderful things we are learning and seeing. A great trip so far and the weather is merely making it a more memorable trip.
21st March 2014

Rainy days
It never stopped raining when I was there, glad you made it to Derry and the wall tour and also the Giants Causeway - similar geological formations are at Lands End Cornwall. I love rocks , The tea and scones will keep you going. Cheers
21st March 2014

Stops along the way
Fortunately the weather has not stopped us from doing anything we wanted to do. The rain comes and goes and we take advantage of it when it slows or stops. We will have to check out Lands End Cornwall as we love these geology lessons. The warm coffee, teas and soups do keep us going.
21st March 2014

Sounds like perfect Irish weather...
a Bushmill's Irish whiskey would have warmed you up! You might want to visit the Belleek porcelain factory (Google it) if you pass that way.
21st March 2014

Perfect Irish Weather
As a matter of fact that is true. A mix of everything and it is fine with us. We've actually been happy that we have not had much rain until the last few days. We consider ourselves fortunate. We are much of whiskey drinkers so we skipped the Bushmills tour. But you are right it would have warmed us up.
21st March 2014

So Jealous!
An Irish road trip! We are so jealous. The pictures are great, and the more sheep the better! If Nanci had her way every picture would be babies or squirrels! Thanks for sharing and we look forward to your next adventure...
21st March 2014

Road tripping in Ireland
The narrow roads are a challenge to us as we are used to those big highways. Plus we are entertained by the fact that many people park their cars on those narrow streets. Love it. More sheep to come...we promise. Got some great photos of them today. Heading into the countryside next.
22nd March 2014
Giant's Causeway

Fab holiday!
Basalt columns, a swinging bridge, green hills, a walled city and juicy history--what a fabulous holiday! I was so glad to read that you were going slower on this jaunt--it sounds as if you're making the most of these places--some of my faves in the world. Incidentally, if you sing to the sheep, they'll generally face you--maybe they just want me to shut up, but I get good photos. Cheers!
22nd March 2014
Giant's Causeway

Singing to the sheep?
Clearly you've never heard MJ sing! ha ha. The slower pace is really agreeing with us. We are enjoying some down time and exploring at leisure.
23rd March 2014

Sounds great!
Hi Merry Jo and Dave, You've convinced me that the Northern Island coast road is a must-see asap. I loved your photos too. Rock on, Sheila
23rd March 2014

Wait a minute....
You are from Ireland. ..... haven't you seen the northern coast? What town are you from? We are currently in Cong at the Ashford Castle. Enjoying a bit of luxury. You'll have to see more of Ireland.
25th March 2014

Irish weather
Loving your Irish blogs MJ and Dave. The photos get more stunning with each post! Wouldn't it be nice we could send you some of the Malaysian sun and you could send us some cooling Irish breezes? :)
25th March 2014

Weather perfect today
We have sunny sky and 55 degrees today. Just perfect. I'll send you a cool breeze. This country is easy to photograph.
26th March 2014

What's in a name?
I'm hazarding a guess that Darren Clarke doesn't share my husband's middle name! Anyhoo, it's pretty cool to know you were thinking about us! I loved the road sign! Reminded me of seeing one in Florida that said Speed Cushion for Speed Bump! Your windy pic MJ could be in an advertisement- pretty! Enjoying your blog as always - love, C
29th July 2014

I'm finally getting around to reading blogs that go back to April! Especially your Irish travels that strike a personal chord in my heart I was to be married on the cliffs near Antrim a million years ago to an Orangeman. Anyhoo, I really loved Mr. Weather and his sidekick's spin on a place I plan to go someday...although your gorge pics have motivated me just a little more now.
30th July 2014

For years Ireland was way down on my list of places to visit. Maybe because so many Americans want to go there and that turned me off. We decided to go because we were looking for an island for our anniversary. I'm so glad we went. I am enchanted with Ireland. I had more fun than I could have imagined. I'm thrilled that we went. There are few countries that I will go back to a 2nd time only because there are so many to see but feel certain Ireland is on the list of places to return. Love to hear the stories about you and your Orangeman. Antrim is amazing.

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