Paddy’s Day in Northern Ireland

So, I’ll admit, had I gotten off my butt sooner, I could’ve planned the timing of this post better, BUT in March of last year after our trip to Toledo, Toby’s sister Tiffany came to visit us on her way to see some friends in Germany. Although St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated in the states, to be honest, Irish people don’t really celebrate it here. Maybe parents go out with their kids, and people may go grab a pint, but it’s mostly just an extra day off work and a religious holiday here. Most of the people you’ll see celebrating out in the streets downtown on St. Patrick’s day are ALL foreigners. The only locals you’ll see down there are people working. So, we decided to do something a little different, and we drove up to Northern Ireland to see the Giant’s Causeway.

We stayed in an apartment up in Bushmill’s (yes the same small town where they make Bushmill’s Whiskey). It was a great spot for us to venture out from, although the town was small, it was very walkable, and it was only a 3 hour drive from Dublin, so not too bad for a weekend trip up there. Here’s what we saw along the way…

Dunluce Castle

Although now it’s just ruins, this was a castle built right out on the edge of basalt cliffs. Now you can access it from the mainland because they built a bridge, but it wasn’t always that way. It was first built in the 13th Century, and at one point, part of the kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the sea, after which the wife of the owner refused to live in the castle any longer. According to a legend, when the kitchen fell into the sea only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sitting in the corner of the kitchen which did not collapse.

Some other fun random trivia… Dunluce Castle is thought to be the inspiration for Cair Paravel in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. In 1973 the castle appeared on the inner gatefold of the multi-million selling Led Zeppelin album Houses of the Holy. The castle also appeared as Snakehead’s hideout under the name ‘Ravens Keep’ in the 2003 movie, The Medallion, which starred Jackie Chan. But now for the fun part… the photos!

Toby then thought, oh hey… Nikki and I need a photo. It made me nervous being up in the window with the castle on the edge there, so Toby promised he’d help me down… he just didn’t say how…

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Anyway, remember that bridge I mentioned? You could also climb down and look underneath. So climbing we went.

The Dark Hedges

On our way back, I REALLY wanted to go see the road called “The Dark Hedges”. When you see the photos, you’ll see why. For anyone who watches Game of Thrones (and if you don’t watch it, you should!) This is the road from when Arya Stark rides away with the group of men joining the Knight’s Watch while posing as a boy.

Game of Thrones scene at the Dark Hedges

Game of Thrones scene at the Dark Hedges

Toby and I standing in the middle of the road

Toby and I standing in the middle of the road

Another view

Another view

Bushmills Distillery

We decided that of course, one of the days, we had to go to Bushmills Distillery. The tour was pretty cool, and it was neat getting tour an ACTUAL working distillery. You could smell the barley in the air, it was great! They also had Irish Dancing in the food hall the day we were there, so we stayed for some food and to watch them dance while we ate.

Carrick-A-Reede Rope Bridge

This bridge was originally built to connect the mainland with the island Carrickarede. It is thought salmon fishermen have been building bridges to the island for over 350 years. It has taken many forms over the years. In the 1970s it had only one handrail and large gaps between the slats. A new bridge, tested up to ten tonnes, was built with the help of local climbers and abseilers in 2000. Another was built in 2004 and offered visitors and fishermen alike a much safer passage to the island. However, fishermen no longer use this area for Salmon fishing.

I created a little slideshow of Tiffany and I crossing the bridge so you could see how narrow it was.

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Then once we crossed the bridge onto the island…

Giant’s Causeway

Last but not least… The Giant’s Causeway! This is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner.In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.

Now, disclaimer for my photos here, it was SOOO cold, and rainy and windy by the time we made it there.

IMG_9909 IMG_9916

It wouldn't be Toby if he wasn't climbing SOMETHING!

It wouldn’t be Toby if he wasn’t climbing SOMETHING!

Tiffany standing out near the waves

Tiffany standing out near the waves

Toby pretending to steal part of the Causeway

Toby pretending to steal part of the Causeway

When it’s not cold and rainy, this is what it looks like. Although, it was so hard to capture this place in photos, these two photos do a really great job of showing you what it looks like in person.

St. Patrick’s Day

We arrived back in Dublin on St. Paddy’s, which was a Monday that year and briefly went into town. I’ll leave you there with a few photos. Hope you all had a great St. Patrick’s Day!


2 thoughts on “Paddy’s Day in Northern Ireland

  1. niviews says:

    Great pix, great report. The north coast of NI really is stunning. Check out the walk from Dunseverick castle to the harbour if you ever come back and Balintoy, if you like Game of thrones. Whitepark bay contains many fossilized treasures, and the entire Downhill area is also beautiful. Further from there is Gortmore, Binevenagh, and Benone.

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