After a few days living near the pomp and circumstance of the Royal Mile, Amy and I hopped on a plane over the water to a much quieter city in Northern Ireland.
Time/Location: August 28-30 – Belfast, Northern Ireland
- Carrickfergus Castle
- Carrick-a-rede Bridge
- Bushmills Distillery
- Dunluce Castle
- Giant’s Causeway
We had initially planned to bus as close to the coast as possible, then bike our way along the water, following a route one of our friends had previously driven and suggested to visit a number of attractions and towns. Unfortunately, this was not to be as the weather took a turn for the worse. (To be fair, this weather was not unlike the pouring rains and heavy winds we experienced in Bath. It only felt worse because we had just come from a fairly sunny Edinburgh)
Amy and I ended up hopping on a tour instead of braving the weather on two wheels each. Not only did our bus take us to all of the attractions above, but it also gave us glimpses of some of the film sets used for Game of Thrones (e.g. Castle Black). Apparently this particular tour company was also responsible for bussing extras and occasionally cast members to and from sets in Northern Ireland.
This was our first pit stop, and more of a bathroom stop than anything. Amy and I didn’t get a chance to go into the castle, but we spent our time enjoying the water (and the wind).
Being stupidly adventurous, we took the time to climb down the stones at the edge of the water. The views were definitely worth it though!
It started pouring when we arrived at the bridge, but I guess that only added to the experience. Originally built for fishers to safely cross and check their salmon nets, it was now a ‘daring’ experience for people willing to walk on a rickety bridge over the water while enjoying the rain and wind.
Amy and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the area, peeking over cliffs, and making friends with the cows.
Our next stop was one our stomachs fully enjoyed. Since we had gotten here late, most of our time was spent waiting in a line to grab lunch. If you had the time to spend though, there were private tours and tastings that you could book.
Another pit stop where we mostly enjoyed the view. Our bus stopped along a road higher up from the castle, but we did notice mini ants scurrying around the ruins, meaning you can actually walk into the ruins and explore if you so wish.
The rain had let up at this time, but the winds were absolutely ridiculous. According to the the stories, lightning once struck the castle, breaking off part of the cliff (and the corresponding castle sections) and dropping them into the waters below. The castle has since been uninhabited. Someone’s loss, tourists gains?
Probably most famous now as part of the opening scene to Game of Thrones, the Giant’s Causeway was our last stop before the end of the day. I didn’t remember the exact story that our tour guide told us, but there were definitely giants and stone throwing involved, so it must have been quite exciting. What I do remember is that the other part of this causeway is found on Scotland’s border (across the channel). The stones are much more visible on the Northern Ireland side, however, making this the more popular site to visit.
You can pay to take a bus down to the rocks, but I would encourage walking. The entire area is much smaller than it seems, and it’s nice to enjoy the contrast between the waters and the foliage. There’s an adjoining museum that costs money to enter, but their bathroom facilities are free ;).
Overall, our small tour around the coast of Northern Ireland was quite breathtaking. The town itself is small, quiet, and cozy, making it a nice place to anticipate starting work again in the next few days. Food was a little hit or miss, but we did enjoy the local farmer’s market. See here for more details.
We only spent 1 full day here, but there are other areas that are supposed to be just as beautiful. Amy and I had seriously considered doing a food biking tour in a more southern area of Northern Ireland, but it was a little too difficult to get to considering our time constraints.
Note: To get from Belfast to Dublin, we took the X1/X2 express bus.