A European Detour to … Northern Ireland (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a 2 part series on my trip to Northern Ireland.  For Part 1, click here.

…So, after warming up with a bit of Bushmills, we were ready to head to our next destination – Dunluce Castle, which sits on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  This castle, built in 1500, once served as a home to Scottish clan chiefs, but since the mid-17th century has fallen into disrepair and now lies in ruins.  However, those ruins have the gorgeous Causeway Coast as a backdrop, making it worth a visit.

Sadly, we spent so much time with our whiskey at Bushmills that the castle itself was closed by the time we got there.  However, we were still able to walk around outside and since the castle was pretty much in ruins, we were able to see quite a bit without entering the site itself.

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Dunluce Castle

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Finally, we were ready for our last stop on the coast of Northern Ireland…the Giant’s Causeway!  I must admit, it was a bit risky to save this for last, especially since this was originally the entire reason for my coming to this part of Northern Ireland.  But, I really wanted to try to catch this area at sunset, so to me, it was worth the risk.

Was it worth it?  First, the negative – by 6pm, the clouds had completely rolled in, making any idea of getting a sunset photo absolutely impossible.  But, the positives – coming so late, there were very few people there.  I think we saw about 10 people total during our entire time at the Giant’s Causeway.  Considering that this is a very popular tourist attraction, that’s really empty.  Also, it normally costs £10.50 per person to visit and this includes the visitor center, parking and the natural area itself.  However, since we arrived after the visitor center closed, we didn’t have to pay for anything and were able to visit the natural area free of charge.

So what is the Giant’s Causeway?  It is a natural phenomenon, full of hexagonal columns of varying heights leading from the mainland into the sea.  Geologically, these hexagonal columns formed from cracks in rapidly cooling lava several million years ago.  But I find the local legend to be much more interesting…

According to local legend, the columns are the remnants of a causeway built by a Irish giant, Finn MacCool (hence the name, “Giant’s Causeway”).  He built this causeway to go to Scotland and fight the Scottish giant, Benandonner.  However, Finn realized that Benandonner was much larger than he, so his wife disguised him as a baby to hide from Benandonner.  When Benandonner crossed the causeway and saw this “baby”, he got scared because he imagined that, if this was the “baby”, his father must be much bigger.  So he fled back to Scotland in terror, destroying the causeway along the way so that Finn MacCool wouldn’t be able to follow.

Though the first geological account is probably the most accurate, it’s the legend that came to mind as we walked around the unique columns of the Giant’s Causeway…

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Views along 0.8 mile walk to the Giant’s Causeway

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Hexagonal columns that make up the Giant’s Causeway

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Photo of Dad (definitely NOT a giant) for scale

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Giant’s Causeway is really such a weird, cool natural phenomenon, and I’m so glad we made the trip to check it out.  And as an added bonus, we were also able to cross a rope bridge, taste some whiskey and tour around castle ruins along the way.  We definitely won’t forget our trip to Northern Ireland.

Next stop … Dublin!


Good to Know:

3 responses to “A European Detour to … Northern Ireland (Part 2)

  1. You chose a good time to photograph the stones with a lack of crowds. FYI though, visiting the stones is free at anytime. You only have to pay to go in the visitor centre or take a guided walk. We did the latter and it was great (also the subject of a blog)!

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