November 18 2016
Two things, one good and one bad for my last full day in Ireland. The first is that Ireland (and most of Europe) has Groupon. Groupon deals that I was able to use to take a day trip to the Giants Causeway and Northern Ireland. So anyone planning trips there, or anywhere, be sure to check it out! I was able to book a trip for half-price. (You’re welcome Groupon for your shameless plug.)
The second is always remember to set your clock to the local time, despite how you think you will remember you’re an hour ahead. I set my alarm for 5:30 to arrive to the departure time by 6:40. Only I didn’t. I really work up at 4:30 and arrived at 5:30, concerned and almost in a panic that I was at the wrong meeting spot and had missed the bus. Between a kind taxi driver and man walking his dog, I discovered my misfortune, as well as many a drunk Irishman, and quickly ducked into a McDonald’s to pass the following hour.
An overwhelmingly lame failure, but traumatic in its then occurrence.
It’s the history of this great country that really sparks my interest. A place of huge upheaval and terrorism during the 1960’s up until the end of the 1990’s, Northern Ireland is much changed today. Their allegiance is still to England, and they use the pound and have strange accents that are hard to understand despite it still being English.
Belfast itself was home to much of the risings, bombings, and strikes that killed many and pushed others to flee. Years ago, crossing into Northern Ireland as an Irishman could get you into some big trouble, and so for many years, and still a bit to this day, they did not interact among each other.
Northern Ireland is happy to remain a part of Britain, while Ireland wishes to unite the two countries and become one country on one island.
The divide is based in religion, the North being mostly Protestant and the South being mostly Catholic. I could go on and on. The history is addicting and goes back so many years, up until just before the creation of the Protestant religion by good old King Henry VIII who just couldn’t stay married to his Spanish Queen.
Along the way to the Giants Causeway, which is along the very northern tip of Northern Ireland, we stopped at some really cool places. These included Belfast, the The Dark Hedges, an old castle, Carrick-a-Rede or Rope Bridge, and the caves where they shot a certain scene from Game of Thrones. The Dark Hedges are also featured in the show, and are referred to as the King’s Road. The hedges themselves are over 300 years old and were planted by a King and Queen to lead up to one of their manor homes. The trees are only supposed to last for about 100 years, and these have tripled their lifespan. Pretty eerie and cool during the winter months.
A hike in the rain along beautiful countryside, turn a corner, and you’re there. The Giants Causeway is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing over 40,000 basalt columns. These were the result of an underground volcano thousands of years ago.
The mythical creation of these stones exists in the name, Giant.
Two giants were fighting, one in Scotland, the other in Ireland. The Irish Giant built a bridge to connect the two counties. Using the stones we now see today, he laid his way across the channel. But when he arrived, he realized how much larger the Scottish Giant was. In a hurry, he ran back over to Ireland, calling on his wife to help him, as he had picked a fight with a much bigger giant.
The wife, being wiser then her husband, dressed him as a bairn and put him in a cradle. She made him a sleeping concoction that knocked him right out and told him that she would handle it.
The Scottish Giant crossed the bridge he had built, shouting for the giant to fight him. When he arrived all he found was the wife and sleeping bairn.
The wife told him that her husband was out on an errand but would arrive back soon. In the meantime, she offered him cookies made of rocks, shattering and causing his mouth to bleed as he ate them out of politeness. What giant is this that he would eat cookies such as these, the Scottish Giant thought.
He asked to see the sleeping babe while he waited. The wife amended, though warned him not to wake the child. The Giant was appalled at the state of the child. Huge, with whiskers on its face, hair on its chest, and muscles along its arms. He quickly made his excuses, thinking what kind of Giant could this bairns father be when his child looked as it did.
Without a glance backwards, he fled across the bridge, ripping up the stones as he went.
The site will be closed to the public within the next five years to preserve the landscape and stones. Visitors will only be able to view them from behind ropes instead of walking along them. Aka, go to Ireland now.
It means the rock in the road. The road is the sea route for Atlantic salmon on their westward journey past Carrick Island. Fisherman have strung a rope bridge 100 feet above the sea to allow them to access the best places to catch these salmon. The bridge now offers an amazing view of the coast, as well as an exhilarating cross to the other side. For me in the rain.
The most beautiful castle ruin in Northern Ireland. The reason this castle is a ruin is because the kitchen fell into the ocean and the owners didn’t feel safe staying. Probably a good choice.