Walking in the Path of Giants
In Northern Ireland, on the far northern shore, there is a beautiful coastline named The Giant’s Causeway. You can drive the coastal route, if you have some serious driving skills and the fortitude to play chicken on incredibly narrow winding roads with an insane speed “suggestion” of 60 mph, not knowing what sort of farm vehicle/equipment may be around the next blind turn. Luckily Dan has had quite a bit of practice by now at driving on the UK side of the road, from the UK side of the car, on roads the width of US sidewalks, so we were clenched, but not paralyzed.
The road winds its way through beautiful rural areas with sheep grazing the astonishingly green fields and ruins of old stone buildings dotting the landscape alongside modern farm equipment. Unexpectedly you come around a corner and the view opens up to a stunning coastline with Scotland and Ireland in the distance and sheep grazing right down to the sand.
In the course of the drive we came upon an older gentleman pulled off to the side in a little pull out and he gestured for us to go slower around the corner coming up. Dan took him quite seriously considering we were already traveling at the reckless, breakneck speed of approximately 18 mph. We came around the corner and came face to many faces with a lovely flock of sheep being driven down the road by a couple gawky limbed teenagers and a skilled dog .
Dan quickly backed up to where the gentleman was and we struck up a delightful conversation, a bit of which I am happy to have caught on video because his accent is so charming and the exchange so typical of how we have found the people of Northern Ireland to interact.
Ten minutes of hilarity later we had a backup of only 3 cars and a tandem bike. The sheep were in their new pasture and we were cleared to continue on our cautious way. Truly it is moments like those that encourage us to continue this nutty lifestyle.
We made it to the visitors center of The Giant’s Causeway just in time for our scheduled time. I was glad that Dan had built in time for sheep delays. Basically the attraction is an area of amazing beauty on the coast that has some unique geological phenomenon. I did not dig too deeply into the science of it all ( a sweet little bird of a docent in the visitor center had Dan and I flitting all over without allowing us to fully read about the rock formations or the stories told throughout history to explain them). We set out on our walk, which was packed with more stunning beauty. It took you along the cliff edges and down to the water alongside unique rock formations that I can only explain in pictures. They are endlessly instagrammed, used in film and on travel brochures of Northern Ireland and I can see why. Dan is a brave rock jumper, I have a phobia of even walking on minor rubble so I stayed on the road and Dan walked around getting most of these great pictures.
After he had played Giant to his heart’s content he took the long way back to the parking lot, it included a very long staircase and my arthritis was beating me up so I took the gradual hill we had come down on back. We met up at the car and headed off to our splurge, a night at a lovely bed and breakfast in Ballycastle, appropriately named The Castle Bed and Breakfast. Donnick took great care of us and between its comfortable bed, full Irish breakfast and great location we highly recommend it.
The next morning dawned uncharacteristically clear skied and the Irish were sun drunk and giddy. We had booked an interesting visit to Carrick-a-Rede, a rope suspension bridge from the cliffs of the mainland over to a little island just off the coast. We had our yummy breakfast and went right over. We didn’t realize that there was going to be about a mile walk from the car park to the bridge and that ended up being about 80% of the attraction. Walking along the cliff edge there was stunning in the morning sunshine with the emerald and sapphire waters and the little islands off the coast. Although you had to book an arrival time there was no rush once you arrive so we were able to meander and enjoy the views. The rope bridge itself was incredibly well maintained and terrifying as hell. It was also across some of the prettiest, clearest water you will ever see, so the the motivation and distraction were perfect for getting me across with just a touch of drama. Once across you were free to wander around the island, the highlight for me being a cliff where at least 3 kinds of sea birds were nesting. And this bench. I have a thing for benches. I may do a coffee table book someday of bench pictures from around the world. This one is tops.
After braving the bridge again we walked back to the car and were on our way to Newry to pick up a train to Dublin, ending our adventure with The Giant’s Causeway. But we leave with lots of pictures, stories and memories…and many plans for our next couple months.