On Christmas Eve, two of my girlfriends said that they had booked a super cheap flight to Belfast (£25 return flight) for February to see the Giants Causeway. So, naturally, I decided to gatecrash! We were flying out on Friday night after work and returning Sunday lunchtime, so we arranged a guided coach/tour company for our whistle-stop tour of the Northern Irish Coast.
Our first stop was the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. Bushmills is Ireland’s oldest distillery, operating since 1608 and they have numerous different blends available in their store. Being half-Scottish, I am quite partial to a wee dram so upon our arrival, we decided to have a little tasting session, despite it being 11am!
Our second stop was Dunluce Castle, only for a photo opportunity. Dunluce Castle is a now-ruined medieval castle sits perched on the edge of a basalt cliff and is one of the most picturesque castles anywhere in Ireland. The first castle at Dunluce was built in the 13th century, and it has a sheer drop on one side, where a landslide in the 16th century took the kitchen into the sea below. It is possible to walk to the castle and explore the ruins, but this is not included in the coach trip. This castle is used as the House of Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones
Northern Ireland is home to some filming locations for the hit TV series Game of Thrones. County Down is home to Winterfell, The Twins and the Haunted Forrest, Country Antrim is home to the Kings Road and the Iron Islands, and County Derry/Londonderry is home to the Dothraki Sea. Some guided tours can take you round the filming locations, just watch out for Dragons!
Our third stop was the Giant’s Causeway. This UNESCO site has been on my bucket list for a very long time. The legend is that Finn MacCool was an Irish Giant who was challenged to a fight by a Scottish Giant Benandonner. Finn MacCool built the causeway after accepting the challenge, but his wife Oonagh realised that Benandooner was actually much more massive than Finn MacCool, so Oonagh gave him a sleeping potion and disguises him as Finn MacCools baby. When Benandooner sees Finn MacCool disguised as a baby, he is tricked into thinking that Finn MacCool is much much bigger than he is and flees back to Scotland, destroying the causeway in the process so Finn MacCool could not follow him. This is the legend that our tour guide told us, but I understand that there are many different versions, as expected in folk tales.
Upon arriving at the Giants Causeway, the visitor centre is at the entrance to the site, and then it is a 10-minute walk down towards the causeway. There is a bus from the visitor centre to the causeway for those who need it. I can’t remember exactly, but it is only a few pounds. I was blown away but the size of the causeway. The stones are quite slippery so take decent shoes with you. I can’t really describe the causeway, but there was a reason why it was on my bucket list, and I am so pleased that I got to visit.
Our final stop was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. I have done a bungee jump and skydive, so I thought that a 20-metre long rope bridge, 1 metre wide, only 30 metres above the sea, how bad can it be?! I was not prepared to feel as shaky and nervous as I did. We did the rope bridge but not sure I would rush back to do it again!
Top Tip: Take good non-slip shoes with you, there is quite a bit of climbing to get onto the rocks so be prepared with a good bag as well!
Northern Ireland and the County Antrim coast was beautiful and scenic and well worth the trip. If you do not have a car, then do a guided tour, I learnt so much about the history of Northern Ireland and Belfast from our excellent tour guide