Saturday, September 6, 2014

Giant's Causeway and Northern Ireland

This post is part of my British Invasion 2014 series. For all posts in the series, click here.

We've reached the end of my Ireland posts (for this trip anyways). I think that's why this post has been so delayed. I felt like writing it means the trip is officially over with a capital "O". In reality, this isn't true, because the best trips never really end. They live forever in the mind of the traveler, replaying the memories over and over. So allow me to share my last day in Ireland with you, the Giant's Causeway/Northern Ireland day tour with Irish Daytours and our driver Bud. 

Warning: this post contains lots of pictures because they were all beautiful and I couldn't narrow it down to just a few.

This was a long day, since it's a lot of driving to get to Northern Ireland from Dublin, but it is a beautiful drive. The day started off rainy and foggy, so you couldn't see much of the scenery, but it made for it's own type of beauty. There's a big hill behind those clouds.

The rain and the twisty roads made for a bit of motion sickness, but the iconic Irish vistas helped a little.

We made a stop in this sleepy little riverfront town called Carnlough....or Larne. There were signs saying both, so I have no idea what it was actually called, but I enjoyed it.

They have a monument to a pigeon named Paddy here in Carnlough/Larne. It's got a plaque as big as the one commemorating a shipwreck.

Even in the fog, this is a beautiful and serene place.

After another while in the bus, the sun finally broke through the clouds, just in time for us to venture across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is suspended a hundred feet over the water, connecting the main land to a small island. In the past, this bridge (the scarier version, anyways) was used by fisherman. Currently, it's purpose is to make tourists like myself feel brave and daring. 

The noise of the waves, and the wind whipping my hair around made it a scary walk, though not as bad as I expected it to be. If you look closely at this picture you can see both the terror and excitement in my eyes as I cross. 

 Once you make it across, though, you're rewarded with beautiful views and the most stunning colors I've ever seen in real life. This whole day was like walking through a 120-count-box of Crayola crayons.

 I'd love to come back here someday with more time to explore the hiking trails all around the area.

Lunch was a quick stop at the very touristy -but delicious- Chilly McCools. I've seen mixed reviews online, so here's my two cents: It's Irish fast food. It doesn't claim to be anything super special, and it's obviously a tourist stop, with a cafeteria style. But they did have good food. I had the Steak and Guiness pie. Yum.

Then it was on to the main event: The Giant's Causeway! FYI, when I have a husband and kids, I plan to be this family:

As hard as it is to narrow down my favorite part of this trip, Giant's Causeway (this whole day, really) comes close.

It's so classically Ireland, and there's just something magical about it. So unlike any other place, while still being familiar. 

I mean, it's basically a "beach", right? Ocean meets land, just like home. But the rock formations make it something so different, so foreign, unlike anywhere else. 

Then there's the little surprise ecosystems happening in some of the crevices.

I can't put my finger on why I loved this place, I just did. So much. 

 Really wish I could've stayed longer, just relaxing on these rocks. Someday.

I couldn't resist putting my feet into the "wrong" side of the Atlantic, thinking about how crazy it is that this same water touches the shores of my home state.

Some visiting tips: Avoid the visitor center. According to Bud (we didn't test it ourselves), the visitor center charges just for admission to the building! We just headed straight to the Causeway. There is about a mile walk from parking to the Causeway. They do have a shuttle service for a pound each way, if you need it, but if you're able, I recommend the walk. It's gorgeous, and not difficult.

Our last stop of the day was in Belfast. We didn't have long, and we arrived late in the day, so almost everything was closed, even the church-headquarters-turned-mall. All we did in Belfast (besides take a few photos of the gorgeous architecture) was eat dinner at the famous Crown Liquor Saloon.

On our way home, we had to stop for a few minutes to let the cows cross. It was a great way to end our first Irish adventure!

Have you been to Carrick-a-rede or the Giant's Causeway? What did you think?

Disclaimer: I am not cool enough to have affiliate links or sponsors (at least not yet). All opinions are strictly my own, and all links are shared because I think they're awesome.

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