There + Back, a Day in Northern Ireland
Ireland is such a beautiful country and lucky for us, an easy one to travel as well. We spent our third day trekking through Northern Ireland, which is actually part of the UK. The whole day was full of excitement including The Dark Hedges, Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, The Giant’s Causeway and Belfast. We booked our tour through Paddywagon Tours, and we would recommend them to anyone traveling in Ireland. You hop on a bus, the tour guide tells you everything you need to know and then you stop in some of the most beautiful places. No hassle, no worries.
(This is a long one, so grab a cup of coffee or a snack to hold you over)
Jeremy and I had to get up and get moving early so that we could meet at the Molly Malone statue by 7:30am. We had to take the Luas 20 minutes into St. Stephen’s Green and walk the rest of the way. Unfortunately, most coffee shops in Ireland don’t open their doors until about that time. Luckily, once we were on the bus, the tour guide told us that we would be making a stop for restrooms and coffee about an hour in.
We grabbed coffee and a muffin at Costa coffee in the rest stop. Not the best coffee but some coffee is better than none sometimes. I did however manage to leave half of mine on the bus…on the floor…not in the cup. To be fair though, I spent the first few days in Ireland not feeling so hot. I started to fall asleep on the ride out to the Dark Hedges and that’s when the coffee hit the floor. (I had to add it, Jeremy will enjoy me fessing up on here…)
The first stop on the trip was the Dark Hedges. This place is gorgeous. The whole road is lined with beech trees on both sides creating a tunnel of beauty. The trees were planted in the 18th century and are starting to reach the end of their life cycle. In the next decade it is expected to be gone. Trees that have fallen recently have been made into doors representing each of the 8 seasons of Game of Thrones. There’s another fun fact: Game of Thrones has filmed here. Our tour only gave us about ten minutes but we made the most of it.
After everyone climbed back on the bus we headed to Carrick-a-Rede Bridge. This bridge is a rope suspended bridge that is 20 meters long and 30 meters above the water. It connects mainland Ireland to Carrickarede island. There is a little over a half mile walk to get to the bridge but well worth the travel. We also paid €6 each to cross. The National Trust monitors the use of the bridge and with good reason. If too wet or too windy, it would be very unsafe. Lucky for us we got good weather, the two days prior people were not so lucky.
The walk to the bridge was nothing short of the breathtaking beauty we had come to expect from Ireland. We waited in line, crossed the bridge and then crossed the bridge back. I faced my fear of heights and came out on the other side a little more adventurous. That’s the thing about Ireland, you don’t want to miss any second of it. If they tell you to climb down extremely steep steps to a rickety (which it’s really not) bridge then you do it.
Remember those doors I was telling you about? It just so happens we had lunch at Fullerton Arms which has the 6th door. Once we were finished at Carrick-a-Rede we headed there for lunch. Jeremy and I ordered the Guinness Stew and Seafood Chowder. I got through some of the stew and chips but the seafood chowder was a no go for me. I was still having the issue of not being the slightest bit hungry. With all the hiking and walking I should have been starving but even the thought of food sent my stomach turning.
When lunch was over I was ready to get going. Our next stop was The Giant’s Causeway. Every stop on this tour was on my bucket list of things to do and see but the Causeway was #1 on that list.
There is a legend behind The Giant’s Causeway that was really fun to hear. I know there are different variations but the premise behind the story is that there was a giant in Ireland named Finn, and a giant in Scotland (you can see Scotland from the Causeway). The Finn went across the bridge to Scotland and found an even larger giant there. He ran back to Ireland to his wife and told her about the huge giant in Scotland. He then went and hid in the baby’s bassinet while his wife had the giant from Scotland over for dinner. The Scottish giant did not believe that her husband was not home so he went room to room in search of him. When he came to the baby’s room he saw the Irish giant in the baby’s bassinet and got scared. He said to Finn’s wife, “If your baby is that big, how big is your husband?” In his fear he ran back over the bridge to Scotland breaking up the bridge as he went. Now today you can only see these hexagonal rocks in very few places including Ireland and Scotland unless you want to go deep sea diving.
The actual science behind these interlocking hexagons is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. No matter what story is more intriguing this place was phenomenal. The tide was low so we got to venture further than we maybe should have. Slick maybe, awe inspiring, absolutely. Not only were we able to walk about these basalt columns but there were places that towered over you as well. After wandering with the crowds for a while we decided to take a hike up the side of the cliff. We only had about 30 minutes left so we gave ourselves 15 to get to the top and 15 to get back to the bus. That was something we did a lot the rest of the trip. We made it to the point we had hoped to reach and it was again beautiful on the other side. This was the only point of the trip we wished we had more time. If/when we return we will be spending a day at the Giant’s Causeway to do the 4 hour hike.
We still had two stops left before making our way back into Dublin. Dunluce castle and a stop in Belfast were next on the itenerary. Fun Fact: This castle was also filmed in Game of Thrones. They actually paid to have some of it rebuilt (to look authentic) so that filming could occur here. The story behind the castle is that the kitchen and cellar fell into the sea on a stormy night. We stopped on the side of the road for pictures but getting up to it and going in is a feat so it was back on the bus for us!
That meant we had a short journey to Belfast and then we’d be finished with our stops for the day. I’m sure if you have more than an hour Belfast could be an interesting place. The Titanic was built here after all. We were tired from the day, not finding much to do within our short amount of time and decided to grab coffee at Caffe Nero. Jeremy and I got back on the bus early and were ready to get back. 12+ hours is a long day.
At the drop off location we saw a footprint of blood on the ground. It didn’t look real though because of the amount and the bright red color. We walked back toward the Luas talking about what to grab for dinner and noticed the print kept going, everywhere we were going. I had initially thought it was a fun hoax for the ghost tours but by the time we started worrying we found out where it was from. A guy was lying in the entrance of a shop with people surrounding him calling for help. Jeremy and I got out of that area as fast as possible. Not like we ever felt unsafe but we don’t like to be in situations like that. Unfortunately homelessness is a big issue in Dublin and this was probably a bad case of what we would call a bum fight.
Finally after not eating much of anything for three days I was able to eat something for dinner. Jeremy and I don’t eat McDonald’s. Ever. Like, I can’t remember the last time I had it was. I’d much rather cook at home every night. That’s what we had that night though. A happy meal for me and some kind of chicken sandwich for him. No I did not take pictures, you all know what that looks like.
For the first time on this trip, Jeremy had to work the next day so it was back to the hotel and bed time for us.