A Mini Adventure in Northern Ireland: Giant’s Causeway and Dark Hedges
A Mini Adventure in Northern Ireland: The Giant’s Causeway and Dark hedges.
We are, generally speaking, out-of-season travellers, in the school summer holidays we are usually booked up house sitting meaning we miss the mass of tourists flooding the popular destinations.
However…work (for Chris) has brought us to Ireland, in the middle of the holidays and so, on a sunny Saturday afternoon we turned the corner of a coastal walk along the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland and saw the endless snake of people walking to and from the Giant’s Causeway.
Ants swarming around a geological marvel.
We had begun the walk five miles east at the tiny ruins of Dunseverick Castle, where there is a small car park (with height barrier, a lay-by outside it has room for a few vans).
The neat path took us up to the cliff tops from where we could look across the water to dearest Scotland: Islay and the Campbeltown peninsula. I don’t think I’ve ever realised how close Ireland and Scotland are geographically.
The sun beat down on us as we meandered along the path, curving around deep inlets, waves crashing onto hexagonal rocks below: hinting at what was to come.
A little way along a grey cloud passed over and a brief shower of light rain took us by surprise. Then an extraordinary thing happened: a perfect rainbow appeared, not in the sky but floating on the sea.
I can only assume this was a reflection but we could see no sign of it in the sky!
However it had been caused, it was magical, a beautiful treat. Moments later the rain stopped and the rainbow faded to nothing.
As we reached a high point on the track the path slinked down before us, down to the turquoise bay. Grey basalt columns rose up from the spit of land at the edge of the bay, dwarfing the people milling around them.
The walk had made us hungry so we sat on the rocks down by the water and ate our sandwiches – I say sandwich, we actually had no bread so I’d sandwiched cheese between two fat slices of buttered fruit cake!
It was a perfect people-watching spot, there were selfies galore!
It costs £9 to visit the Giant’s Causeway via the glossy new visitor centre – which I’ve been told has an excellent audio guide – but it is free to visit the stones if you arrive on foot (and don’t use any of the visitor centre facilities).
As we arrived via the Causeway path we didn’t come across the visitor centre until we were leaving.
Unsurprisingly, for a Saturday afternoon in the middle of July, it was incredibly busy. Bus after bus pulled up from which tour groups poured out of, noisily snapping their way over the stones.
Stepping from one column-top to another it didn’t take much stretch of my imagination to see the giant Finn McCool constructing his causeway towards Scotland.
A causeway to fight a Scottish giant!
I love legends like this, ancient people explaining their world with fantastical stories.
In reality, the remarkable stone columns were formed millions of years ago: molten basalt lava cooling into geometrical octagonal columns. Isn’t nature amazing!
Awe-inspiring geology it may be, the crowds were a little too much for us and we fled. We fled as far as the road outside and the marvellously inviting ‘The Nook’ pub.
Yes, it was time for some liquid refreshment.
While enjoying our first Guinness of the trip we got chatting to some Irish tour bus drivers and guides. They told us this was quiet, just wait till next weekend: “there’ll be double the crowds!”
They also gave us some great tips for when we get to Sligo.
We’d arrived into Belfast on the ferry from Liverpool the day before, it had been an early start driving from Yorkshire to catch the 10.30 sailing.
The ferry took eight hours to cross the Irish Sea – passing the Isle of Man. On disembarking we had made a brief stop at Ikea (we’re rarely near an Ikea and I really wanted a couple more cushions for the van!) before driving north.
The evening was glorious and Northern Ireland looked so pretty in the golden sunlight: a rolling landscape of lush green fields, a patchwork of hedges and woodland.
As the sun was teetering on the horizon we saw a sign for the Dark Hedges, it was only a short detour so in the last light of the day we found ourselves wandering down the vaulted avenue of intertwined Beech trees straddling Bregagh Road.
Apparently these trees appear in the Game of Thrones tv series, they sure look like a movie set. (I’ve only seen the first couple of episodes).
So that was our amazing thirty-six hours in Northern Ireland, a brief adventure before we head south into the Republic of Ireland.