Ireland - England 2012

Northern Ireland

Today started out waking up at 5:45am to catch the coach at 6:30am – this normally would be near impossible but I was still adjusting to the time difference (-10 hours) so it wasn’t too bad.  For breakfast, I had some cookies and ran out the door.

We traveled on a full sized bus about 3/4 full to Belfast.  There were a lot of people from USA and other parts of Europe.  These days, there is a sense of unity between the Irelands and no longer any border crossings.  The queen visited Dublin in the early 2000s to a receptive crowd.  The only difference, the driver said, was that signs would go from kilometres to miles.

The first stop was of Carrickfergus Castle (built in 1177) which was a strategic military point back in the days of yonder.  The top part of the castle has walls 1 metre thick to stop the cannonballs from damaging it.  We went past another castle which still had its moat, past an inland lake which fills and empties every few days, through the town where Liam Neeson grew up in, and past a hotel which was once owned by Winston Churchill before approaching Carrick-a-Rede.  The rope bridge sits just over 30m high and was built by fishermen to hang their salmon nets.  Fishing at this spot stopped in 2002 with the decline of the Atlantic Salmon.  If you look closely at one of those photos, you’ll notice Scotland across the sea.

Next up, we went to the main event: the Giant’s Causeway which is the most touristy spot in Northern Ireland.  Large basalt columns, mostly of 6 sides (but some have between 4 to 8 sides), rose during volcanic activity.  Wikipedia says that this activity occurred between 50 to 60 million years ago.

For lunch, I had the Irish Stew.  Let’s just say I wouldn’t order it again.  The driver had pre-warned us coming in to not expect any customer service and to remind them of what you wanted – or even to do it yourself.  As it turned out, it was going to be my only real meal for the day.

We then stopped by the remains that featured in The Chronicles of Narnia then drove back to Belfast for a short break.  The church in the photo was converted to a shopping centre and houses the DeLorean from Back to the Future.

Over the course of today, it rained about 6 times.