Day 12 - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - Visit Giant's Causeway; Stop at the City of CarrickFergus; Drive to Belfast; Brief Bus Tour of the Capital
The Irish gods were smiling on us this morning! The sky was blue with a few whiffs of clouds. The temperature was 46 degrees, brisk, but very tolerable for another try going to the Giant’s Causeway this morning.
We drove the same route as we did yesterday but we could actually see out the windows and enjoy the Causeway Coastal Route. Our booking for the Causeway was set for 10:00; how fortunate we were to be able to reschedule thanks to Thomas.
Today’s History According to Thomas was a discussion of the Catholic Church and its influence on the country. Although religion can be a controversial subject, the recent Irish referendum to review the abortion laws made the topic very timely.
Richard stopped along the route for a photo opportunity of the Dunluce Castle on a rocky overlook. Originally built as a cliff side fortification in the 13th century, it was taken over by the McDonald Clan and used as a home until the 1690’s.
Thomas arranged a restroom break at Bushmill’s Distillery because the power was still out at the Giant’s Causeway and their Visitor’s Center was closed. We arrived at the Causeway at 10:15, a bit late, but no problems, as we were one of the first buses in the car park.
Because we are a hardy group of adventurous folk, Richard parked the bus and we were off for a walk down the pathway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Signs along the walkway told of the legend of the two giants, Finn MacCool and Benandonner.
The actual formation was caused by volcanic eruptions that happened 60 million years ago. The hexagonal basalt columns of varying heights were incredibly uniform, perfect for climbing or sitting for photos.
We had until 11:30 to explore the site, a geologist’s dream. We hiked back up the trail and low and behold, the Visitor’s Center was open for restrooms and a wee bit of shopping. Gennie bought a few postcards and they even had stamps.
On the way to Belfast, we drove by Glenariff Forest Park and stopped for lunch at Laragh Lodge, an out of the way inn. There are nine glens in Northern Ireland; glens are fertile valleys made by the glaciers eroding the land.
After lunch we had time to take a walk along the trails to the waterfalls. The many shades of green mosses, ferns, and shamrocks made for a delightful monochromatic palette.
We continued our drive along the Atrium Coast with views of Scotland on the horizon of the Irish Sea. We made a stop at the walled city of CarrickFergus and met Stephanie, the program director for Grand Circle Travel.
Stephanie talked to us about the school systems and the migration of many of the best students to other countries. However, because of booming tourism more jobs were becoming available.
The town was the oldest in all of Ireland and had been extensively excavated. She also described the castle and the origin of the rulers that settled the coastal city from the early ages.
Her final topic was Brexit and the fear of the Northern Ireland people that the division from the European Union will be an economic and political detriment to the people of both areas. That worry sounded very familiar as most of the people of the Republic of Ireland have the same concerns.
When we reached Belfast, Richard drove us around for a short orientation of the city.
Thomas reminded us that Belfast was once the headquarters of the international linen industry and most of the world’s ropes were made here. Most people only remember it as the hub of The Troubles, but Belfast is now a thriving university city.
We checked into our hotel at 5:30 after a long day on the road. Getting our room set up and the journal and photos ready was our first priority.
At 8:00 we took a walk around the neighborhood and had dinner at Nora’s Mediterranean Café. The food was phenomenal and the portions were gigantic!
The rain was heavy as we got back to our room and it felt good to get a shower, relax, and settle in for the night.
Accommodations: Maldron Hotel - Meals included: B & L
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Looked like a beautiful day with very beautiful sights ,very lovely country. Sylvia
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Another really busy day! I'm so glad you got to see the Causeway and share the photo with us. It appears there is no shortage of topics for discussion on this trip. It is good to get a local perspective. I'm looking forward to your time in Belfast.
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