In Belfast, the city decided to celebrate the holiday by having a marathon. Frankly, I’m against the idea that running for 3 times an already insane number of miles. This is not a way to celebrate anything. We were not in the marathon. Instead, we were all gathering in front of the Europa, once again, to meet a travel coach that would take us along the coast to the Giant’s Causeway.
The bus left relatively early for us-non-runner-types, as we ate breakfast, we could see the runners reporting to the start, at Belfast City Hall, just a block from where we watched, comfortably drinking hot tea and toast and sausages and all the proper ingredients of the famous Ulster Fry. Admittedly, after however many days of Irish breakfast, there were several items I had grown weary of. The tea and the toast were not among them.
The bus took us first to Carrickfergus castle, which is a Norman stronghold, (yes, King John had a hand in this one, too.) and the port where William III (yes, King Billy again) came to shore. He siege-d the place, they surrendered. Anyway, they now have a statue of him by the castle.
This was another castle we just stopped at for pictures. Which is probably more than fine, given how long it to to tour the last Norman castle.
From here, we head along the Antrim coast, with the tour guide pointing through the rain at some of the Game of Thrones filming locations. No, I didn’t get any pictures of them, as we didn’t stop, and I was not really in the right spot on the bus. Yes, they were amazing.
Our next stop, and this was an actual stop, where we got out and walked around and stuff, was the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. They tell the tourists that the locals used to fish for salmon off of this bridge, for hundreds of years. The current bridge is a much safer version of the bit of hanging rope that was the bridge when there was supposedly fishing off of it. I’m thinking that there is no good reason to fish off a tiny little dangly bit of rope when you have things called “boats.”
The site is managed by the National Trust, and you can give them £5 to cross the bridge. We opted to watch and take pictures, and we didn’t pay the fee. It just seemed a pointless, touristy exercise. We did, however, appreciate the views. You can see Rathlin Island and Scotland from this part of the coast, and the scenery of the coastline is remarkable. I know this, because I just remarked upon it.
It’s a decent hike to the bridge from the parking lot, and we didn’t really linger, because our next stop was Old Bushmills Distillery, which was the place we were going to eat lunch. I was really excited about lunch at this point. Yum, lunch!
Most of our pictures of this bit of coast line, we took on the way back to the parking lot from the bridge.
When we got back to the parking lot, I listened to one of the park’s employees talk about the wind and its effect on the bridge, and he was saying that this bridge is much more sturdy than previous incarnations (and I’ve seen the pictures of previous versions, and he’s not wrong about that.). He also mentioned that it’s not nearly as interesting or challenging a thing to cross anymore, the new bridge was one that is less likely to have people who get on it and freak out and can’t go forward nor back. Sometimes, these people have had to be rescued by boat.
We headed to the famous distillery, and their cafe. It was pretty packed, but, they get people through the line in a pretty efficient fashion. I had a really fantastic beef stew. It was, in all honesty, one of the best meals we had. We didn’t do much in the way of seeing the distillery, which is mostly fine, but, we did see these not actually actively making whiskey barrels and the grounds and I took a few pictures.
After lunch, it was time to face the wind.
We went to the Giant’s Causeway. The audio tour on the way to see the geological wonder that is the causeway mention this specific bend in the road as the windiest spot in Ireland. Having now been to many windy spots on the island, I can say this was, by far, the windiest spot I had encountered. And, I’ll even go so far as to say that it’s the windiest place I have ever been in my life. A Japanese man took off a relatively heavy pair of prescription sunglasses, and they blew away, and the man and the lady (I would guess at her being his wife) gestured wildly toward me and talked to me in excited Japanese which I confidently interpreted from the “international language” method. I was the closest person to them to retrieve them, and I only just manage to get them before they blew further down the road. I am known for exaggeration at times, but, this is one one of them.
Anyway, they were very grateful to have the glasses back.
It was somewhat crowded, and I can only imagine what the place is like in the full tourist season. Dad had absolutely no interest in walking among the structures, given that there were wet spots (it being a coast and all) and the wind, well, the combination is certainly hazardous. The combo was definitely a risk, and I’m going to admit there were a few close calls for me.
We took many pictures, and we wandered around, even sat on the rocks for a bit, which is much easier than walking around on that windy damp rock.
Eventually, we did head back. My sister and I wanted to take the tram. Dad thought spending £1 on a ride back up the hill was a rip-off, and sheer laziness. My sister and I lost. We must fight the wind. Up the hill. It was strong enough to support our weight, if we had the guts to try it. We didn’t, but, I’m certain it would’ve held us upright. It was a long, hard walk up the hill, and all I wanted was something to drink at the top of it. So, I got a drink, and sat in their cafe.
We left then, and headed back down the coast, towards Belfast. Another full day come and gone.
Tomorrow, we were back on the research road.