This weekend in Ireland: Belfast

It was a 3 day weekend in England, so I decided to take a quick trip over to the Emerald Isle to celebrate my best friend’s birthday. We spent one full day on a trip to Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway then a day and a half back in Dublin. The weather was awful, the flights were delayed, but Ireland is always a good idea

Our tour was with Wild Rover and at €70 per person for an entire day trip plus entrance tickets to two attractions it was an excellent deal. If we had had more time I would definitely have also gone on the Galway/Cliff of Moher day trip but alas it was not meant to be.

7am: pick up time

MapThe day started off far too early for my liking (why does anything before 9am even exist on a Saturday?) outside the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street. It was misty, rainy and there were buses everywhere. None of the buses were clearly advertising where they were going and there was much running to and from various drivers desperately trying to find our bus without ending up halfway across the country in the wrong direction. Eventually we found it (pro tip: it’s grey and has a white dog on the side) and we were on our way North.

 

9:40am: Belfast

IMG_5762Once in Belfast we had a choice to make: either a black taxi tour visiting prominent sites from the Troubles, or a trip to the Titanic Experience. Both did sound really interesting but intense political and historical discussion before 10am seemed a little much, and my unending love of Jack and Rose is undeniable so Titanic won out in the end. The museum itself is visually stunning and is a great representation of the shape of the Titanic without going too far and plonking a giant boat into the middle of Belfast. maxresdefaultAll in all it was absolutely fascinating, but a museum that size has a lot of space to fill and occasionally it went a little off-track, with far too much space given to setting the scene of Belfast in the early 1900’s. I absolutely cannot fault the attention to detail though: from the tickets decorated like boarding passes, to the authentic bistro cafe, to the replica of the 1st class stateroom it really is very, very well done. The highlight for me was probably the immersive 3D tour of the ship from boiler room to first class dining room which was breath-takingly realistic. Not only did it show what the ship would have been like, it also reaffirmed for me what a stellar job James Cameron did of capturing the essence of the Titanic.

1pm: Dunluce Castle

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Here’s what you could’ve won!

Listen, it’s Ireland: I never expected Caribbean sunshine and 35 degree weather but by the time we got to Dunluce castle I was cursing the clouds and mist and rain with all I had. You might recognise Dunluce castle as House Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, but you certainly wouldn’t recognise it from my photographs. I genuinely thought my tour guide was joking when he said we had arrived because there was nothing in front of us but a blank, empty field. We were probably 400m away from the castle but it may as well have been 400 miles – we couldn’t see a thing!

1:30pm: The Giant’s Causeway

IMG_5909Thankfully the mist had cleared a little bit by the time we arrived on the north coast, but it was still treacherously misty and slippy on the walk down to the Causeway. This hexagonal rock formation is caused by columns of basalt lava cooling and hardening, but I much prefer the legend of the giant Finn MacCool. Finn (or Fionn) was challenged to fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner so he built the Causeway so the two could meet. When he arrived, he realised that Benandonner was far bigger than he was at almost 90 feet, so he fled back across the sea, all the while being chased by the Scotsman. Finn’s wife, Oonagh, dressed him up as a baby and hid him in a crib to keep him safe. When Benandonner arrived, he couldn’t believe his eyes: if the baby was that big then the father must be enormous! He ran from Ireland, destroying the causeway, and was never seen on Irish soil again. All that remains is the Causeway at the north of Ireland and the same basalt columns on the Scottish isle of Staffa where Benandonner once lived.

2:30pm – The Nook

9629258882_fe7ecd036b_bIf you go to the Giant’s Causeway, it’s practically compulsory to stop at the Nook – the tiny little schoolhouse-turned-pub at the top of the causeway which sells classic pub food as well as traditional Irish options and lighter choices. The seafood chowder with Irish soda bread is amazing and I have heard very good things about the steak and Guinness pie. Remember that if you came from Dublin, you are now officially back in the UK so you can spend any sterling you have leftover in your wallet!

4pm: The Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge

IMG_5867The Carrick A Rede rope bridge has an incredible and dangerous history as a prime spot for salmon fisherman to dangle off a rickety rope bridge and drop their nets into the sea below. Now it’s (hopefully) much safer, but it is still absolutely incredible and was probably my favourite part of the day. Even in the mist, the views over the cliffs and ocean were insanely beautiful – so beautiful in fact that they managed to take my mind off the steep walk to and from the bridge!

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Obviously I wish that the weather had been better, but there is something really atmospheric about those mountains appearing from nowhere shrouded in mist and it makes for some wonderfully dreamy photos.

8pm: Back to Dublin

The drive back to Dublin is the perfect time for a quick nap to refuel ready for a night out in Temple Bar or a big day of sightseeing tomorrow!

Come back later in the week to read about day 2 of my trip in Dublin!

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