When I was planning our trip to Ireland, I didn’t speak with many people who visited Northern Ireland. But, I had one colleague who really encouraged me to go to Giant’s Causeway, and I am so glad she did! Our day on the Antrim Coast was one of my favorites of the whole trip!
We scratched our original plan of going from Ashford Castle way up into County Donegal. Instead, we drove straight to Bushmills in Northern Ireland, so we would be within minutes of the places we wanted to visit on the Antrim Coast (instead of two hours away like originally planned). I was getting a bit weary of driving the Irish roads, so it was a really good change of plans. We stayed at The Bushmills Inn, which we loved! The oldest part of the inn dates back to 1608! The hotel was expanded in 1820 and further expansions have continued until very recently.
This was one of the days when we got to experience how varied the weather can be within a few minutes. We went from bright, sunny skies to torrential rain within minutes more than once throughout the day. Let’s just say we put our rain boots and jackets to good use!
Our first stop was Dunluce Castle. This castle sits in ruins. It was abandoned after its kitchen fell into the sea in 1639! I can’t even imagine how spectacular it would’ve been to live in a place like this – perched on top of a cliff with sweeping views of the dramatic coastline!
Next we visited Giant’s Causeway, which was incredible! There are two stories for how this bizarre rock formation came to be. One is scientific about some volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago where the lava cooled quickly in the water forming these shapes. But the second one is what I’m choosing to believe…
There was a giant named Finn who lived in the area. He heard there was a giant living across the water in Scotland, so he built a path (or causeway) to spy on the other giant to see how big he was. He was horrified to find out the giant was significantly bigger than him. He rushed back to his side in a panic, but the other (bigger) giant was now coming across the path! Finn’s wife advised that he dress as a baby. When the bigger giant barged into their home looking for Finn, his wife told him her husband was out, but he might be interested in meeting their baby. The bigger giant was so scared to see such a huge baby! He could only imagine how big the baby would be as a fully grown giant that he went running all the way back to Scotland breaking up the causeway as he ran.
Don’t you agree that option #2 is WAY more interesting?!
Giant’s Causeway rivaled the Cliffs of Moher as our windiest destination, but we enjoyed climbing out on the hexagonal rocks and hiking up above the causeway for some incredible views!
[Check out Finn the Giant’s HUGE shoe!!]
I don’t know anything about Whiskey in general – let alone Irish Whiskey. But, when in Rome…err, Bushmills! We went to the Bushmills Distillery, which is the oldest licensed distillery in the world. King James I granted the license to distill in 1608! The tour was really fascinating, but I took one sip of my free sample and no more! Whiskey is definitely not my thing!
And as if that wasn’t enough adventure for one day, we had to test our bravery by visiting the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This rope bridge is suspended 100 feet above sea level. It was originally constructed by fishermen 350 years ago! They used it to fish for wild Atlantic salmon, which were best to catch in the waters below. It’s about a mile from the entrance to the bridge, but the scenery is magnificent! I’m not afraid of heights, but the bridge moves A LOT more than anticipated! Definitely not for the faint of heart!
We topped off the day with dinner at Deanes at Queens in Belfast (after a bit of a debacle figuring out where to drop off our rental car). I guess it was a bit of a celebratory dinner, since I didn’t crash the rental car in the eight days I drove it around the island!
Like my colleague, I’m going to become an advocate for visiting the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. It is a day well spent!