Ireland & Northern Ireland
Giants Causeway Area
April 4, 2007
President: Glenn "Wally" Faunce
2923-E Olney-Sandy Spring
Olney, MD 20832
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Island & Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Coast To Belfast
We didnít wake up quite as early as we would have liked but yesterday was a long day. We had a buffet breakfast included in our rate at the Days Hotel. Everything was fine but the eggs were the strangest powdered eggs Iíve ever had. They barely looked like eggs and were as bland as Iíve ever tasted but breakfast is included in the hotel rate so we werenít going to pass on them.
We left the hotel and made our way back north to the Antrim Coast and Giantís Causeway. Itís not a long drive but you get off the main road and navigating is a pain in the butt. There are a bunch of ways to get where you want to go. Matt got mad at me because I wanted to see the map at one point. I was just getting frustrated by him saying we can take one road or we can take this other road. I just wanted to get an idea of where we were and where we were going.
We finally got to the Giantís Causeway area by going through Bushmills. The countryside is absolutely beautiful, exactly what you would expect of Ireland. There is no charge to see the Giantís Causeway but they do charge you to park in the parking lot. The visitor center is like a little shopping center also. There are some shops, a restaurant and visitor center. Ireland is one of the countries that definitely doesnít place a high priority on souvenirs which hurts my souvenir addiction greatly.
One word of advice I have for someone traveling to see the Giantís Causeway is to be in some sort of decent shape if you are going to walk to it. Otherwise pay to take the tram. Going down of course isnít a problem but the return. I walked both ways and made it no problem, well maybe a little problem. Iíve got to get in better shape for these trips. It is about a half a mile walk but you are walking downhill from the visitor center the whole half mile to the coastline, which means you are walking a pretty good incline the whole half mile back to the visitor center.
Along the way from the visitor center to Giantís Causeway you see a few features on the coast called Portnaboe and Great Stookan. It is a beautiful walk past the Great Stookan where you get your first view of the Giantís Causeway. Giantís Causeway is really neat but to tell you the truth after hearing about it for so long itís a little smaller than I thought it would be. This isnít to say itís still not large. They estimate there are about 40,000 of the hexagonal basalt stones that make up the Giantís Causeway. It was considered one of the first tourist destinations in the world.
The weather was really good for a day like this. It was a little cool and we had drizzle off and on, but it definitely cooled it off for playing on the basalt columns. You really canít help yourself but revert to a little kid to climb on these columns. It is unlike anything Iíve seen before. We hung out here for quite awhile. Itís amazing how all the tourist have the same goals. Youíve got to go as far out in the water on the columns as possible and you have to climb to the top of the highest column.
You can make out Scotland from across the water even on a bit of an overcast day. Almost as impressive as the Giantís Causeway itself are the giant cliffs that tower behind them. If we didnít have many other sites to see we probably could have spent the whole afternoon here hiking around but we made our way back up the cliffs to the visitor center.
We were surprisingly a little parchedÖ.as usual and were going to make our way to a pub. Of course we made a wrong turn as usual and were heading to absolutely nowhere. We turned around once we passed Dunserverick Castle. Actually we were looking for the castle and passed it a couple of times. We just didnít notice it was a castle because there was so little of it left. It was supposed to have been visited by St. Patrick in the 5th Century. All that is left is part of a stone tower from the 16th Century.
It was probably really impressive in its time just because of where it was built. It is on this rocky crag separated from the shoreline. Not by much but enough to discourage anyone from attacking. We left Duserverick Castle and made a stop for a Guinness at The Smugglerís Inn to quench our thirst.
Our next stop was at Dunluce Castle. This was a very impressive castle. There are these white cliffs with a dark outcrop that Dunluce Castle was built on. It is really impressive looking as you make a turn around the road and see the Castle situated on the cliffs over the coastline. Matt decided he didnít want to pay to go in Dunluce Castle so he climbed down the stairwells to wander around the base of the castle.
I decide to go inside. They have signs all over describing the castle but the one that stuck out in my mind the most was the story telling why the lady of the house, Lady MacDonnell, didnít want to use the castle anymore and hated the sound of the water. Apparently in the 1639 Century her servants were cooking dinner in the kitchen which was on the back end of the castle. There was a terrible storm that had waves crashing at the base of the castle. Eventually the kitchen wall collapsed into the sea killing several people. Even today they said that they have to keep reinforcing this area of the castle so it will not collapse again.
We had one more stop to make but decided to make another Guinness stop in Bushmills. The first stop was at The Scotch House. The bartender and one other daytime patron were typical friendly Irish. They had a couple of good stories. First, as Matt was talking about his love of Scotch and maybe buying some in Bushmills, we were told that it is cheaper for the bar to go and buy their Bushmills in Dublin than it was to buy it at the actual Bushmills factory in town. Apparently the difference in Euro and Irish Pound is one factor and the second is that the factory knows they have tourists coming to town to buy their Scotch from the factory and donít bother to discount it.
The second story was a little disturbing. They said that the pub business in Ireland is definitely dying out. One thing they blamed it on was the 2000 celebration. Apparently pubs really jacked up their rates for alcohol on December 31, 1999 and people just werenít going to pay it. More people had private parties at their homes because it was just more economical to do so. Unfortunately for the pubs this trend has continued since the millennium celebration. More and more people are having people to their homes to drink instead of going to the pubs. Bushmills itself had lost, I think he said, 5 pubs since the millennium.
We left The Scotch House and went down the road to the Bush House. Yeah, they are not very inventive names for pubs in a village that is called Bushmills after the famous Scotch Mill. We had another quick Guinness here and moved on to our last stop on the Antrim Coast, The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. We usually would have had a few more beers in town but this was something I wanted to be sober for with my slight fear of heights.
This is another place that you need to be in at least a little bit of good shape. Again itís only about a mile from the visitor center but itís mostly downhill. The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge is a rope bridge that salmon fisherman originally put up 250 years ago to get to the best place to catch migrating salmon. Today they donít salmon fish here but it is one of the biggest tourist destination in Northern Ireland. 2002 was the last time they fished for salmon here. Over 100,000 people visit Carrick-A-Rede a year.
My problem was two-fold. The rope bridge is about 50-100 feet above the ground which I hate because as I said before, I donít like heights. Secondly the ropes they string for hand rails are very low. Well, they are probably not low for a normal sized person, but for somebody 6í8Ē tall they seemed like they were at my knees. I crossed the bridge first and stopped to turn around so Matt could take my picture. He took his sweet time about it and I started getting pissed and more importantly light headed. He finally got the picture and I crossed as fast as I can.
Matt crossed next. He is the anti-me when it came to crossing the bridge. He has no fear of heights and is short enough to use the rope hand rails with no problem. He got out on the bridge and was practically leaning over the side of the rope bridge looking down into the water. The bridge was the real attraction. There wasnít a whole lot to see on the opposite side of the bridge. That was until you got to the bridge again and were looking back to where we had walked from the visitor center. There were hundreds of birds nesting on the cliffs and flying around. We mostly saw birds called Fulmars. We really wanted to see a Puffin which are in the area but never did.
I took a bunch of pictures of Matt crossing the rope bridge and was truly amazed at his nonchalance on the bridge. I was a basket case crossing both ways and couldnít wait to get off the damn thing. The return walk took awhile for me. The beginning is straight up. Matt cruised right to the end. I stopped every so often to rest and take pictures.
It was getting late and it had been a long day. We made our way back to Belfast with one stop along the way at McClaffertyíís Public Bar which was in Almoy. We got back to The Days Inn and chilled out for awhile before heading up the The Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast for dinner. This is a beautiful old pub. My friend Jerry proposed to his wife Kathy here and Jerry had asked me to get some pictures of the pub for him to put on their digital frame. The Crown is the prototypical Irish Pub with snugs. It also has really become fairly touristy. I know itís weak to complain about something being touristy when I am one of the things making it that way. We had dinner upstairs and it was fantastic. I had the Strangeford Mussels and Beef Pie. The Beef Pie was out of this world. I would come back here again just to have the Beef Pie. After dinner we had a few pints of Guinness and went back to the hotel. It was a fairly early evening for us but we had done quite a lot in one day. Tomorrow we tour the Falls Road area of Belfast with Coiste. Iím really looking forward to this since it was suggested to us by Michael Cooper, our guide in Derry. He did such a great job I canít imagine him not hooking us up with a quality tour here in Belfast.
Continue to Belfast To Dublin - April 5, 2007
Return to Derry to Belfast - April 3, 2007