Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ireland Part 3: Belfast, the Antrim Coast, and the Giant's Causeway

We made it into the North Country! First stop was Belfast. A friend of mine warned me there was some unrest in the city due to some recent legislation that allows the Union Jack to be flown only on certain days, rather than every day (as it was previously). We didn't encounter anything unusual, but a few days later we heard there was an attempted attack on a police station and a failed car bombing. Scary and sad that unrest still continues today.

Belfast was nice but expensive since they use the British pound (sucks when you've got dollars to exchange!). We didn't spend very long there since we had to get to our hotel in Bushmills, but it was a very pretty city.

We decided to take the scenic coastal highway to Bushmills and the Giant's Causeway. I feel like "scenic" is an understatement. The road hugs the coast as you make your way, taking you through picturesque towns and villages and giving you a great view of the ocean on one side and high, craggy hillsides on the other. We stopped quite a few times for photo ops!

First stop was Carrickfergus (where I felt compelled to sing the song by the same name haha) for a quick castle walk around, and then up through the country. A storm was coming, but it made for some very dramatic views and weather!

We spent the night in Bushmills (of Bushmills Whiskey fame) at an amazing hotel (the Bushmills Inn, if you're interested!). WOW, what an amazing place. The building looks like it's been around for a century or two but has been redone without losing any of its charming, cosy touches. Fionn and I loved staying here.

The best part? It's minutes away from the Giant's Causeway!!!

I have ALWAYS wanted to see the Giant's Causeway since my mom and brother went a few years ago.

Basically, it's this rock formation of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns caused by an ancient volcanic eruption that jutts into the ocean. The legend surrounding it is that the Irish warrior Fionn MacCool (arguably the most BA name ever, which is why I call my husband that!) built a causeway to Scotland to challenge a Scottish giant. The giant ended up being bigger than he expected, so he ran home to his wife. She dressed him up as a baby, and when the Scottish giant came a-knocking, she told him her husband would be back shortly but in the meantime, don't wake the baby. The giant was so surprised by the size of the "baby" that he ran all the way back to Scotland, destroying the Causeway behind him so Fionn couldn't follow.

With a story like that, how can you pass up a visit??

Fionn and his dad braving the slippery rocks-this was right before Fionn got hit by a wave!

The rain stopped just as we started walking, so even though it was a little slippery, we had fun climbing all over everything. Fionn was more daring than me and climbed onto the highest parts, but luckily I had the camera to capture his adventures. The rain seemed to drive away most of the tourists, so apart from a few stragglers, we had the place all to ourselves-what an awesome treat!

We headed back to the Visitor's Center for a cup of tea (tea at all times and potatoes at every meal?? this IS my homeland!) and headed for Dunluce Castle. It was once the center of a bustling town, but now part of the castle has partially fallen into the ocean. It's a really cool sight to see. We didn't pay to go inside but instead took the trail down to a cave that opens into the sea.

Continuing with our meandering pace, we drove over to Portrush to see some more ocean views and have lunch (and an amazing GIANT dessert). I decided to be adventurous and ordered something new (salmon and haddock pie, anyone?)

It was HUGE.

I think I made it about half way through before giving up.

Next stop, Derry! Or is it Londonderry?

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