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Ireland Trip

Northen Ireland – March 2015

After a road trip focused on South Ireland 2 years ago, this time we decided to visit Northern Ireland.

Also, we made a 4 days road-trip in order to visit most part of the land:

I appreciate being 25 not to pay any extra fees to rent a car.

Indeed we can now take plane instead of ferries, and enjoy the only 1:30 flight instead of 17:00 on a ferry.

irlande1Once in Dublin, we found the Hertz’s desk to rent our car for the week.

At that time, we had some fears, because the car was a right hand driver vehicle and we had never drive this kind of car (2 years ago, we took our own in the ferry).

By the way, we had a good surprise, because we booked a Ford Ka (A category) and we finally get  a Full Option Volkswagen Polo for the same price.

irlande2Let’s go for 300 Kms, we left “Republic Of Ireland”, drove toward “United Kingdom” and more precisely in Belfast, the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, where was built the well-known RMS Titanic.

Finally, we finally get used to the left-hand driving, it was unusable and surprising the first day and that’s all.

Once we arrived, we left our bags at the B&B where we booked our first night, went to find a lunch and took a trip in the city.

Belfast is a big city: one of the interesting thing to see is the Titanic museum, situated within the heart of Titanic Quarter, where we spent lots of time in the afternoon.

irlande3

The tour explores the history of the famous barrel-vaulted Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices where Titanic and the rest of the mighty ‘Olympic’ class ships were designed, and provides an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the men who built Titanic – the world’s most famous ship – in Belfast’s historic shipyard.

irlande4We topped off this day with a shopping tour and a quick dinner in the city centre, before we left the civilization on the next morning.

After eating a Cooked Breakfast (never say “English Breakfast” in Ireland/Scotland), we drove toward « Causeway Coastal Road ».

The route follows a majestic coastal road starting in Belfast and ending in Londonderry.  Hugging the coastline and dipping inland to rural glens and villages for approximately 200 Kms (120 Miles), the route may not cover huge distances, but each location is worth savouring.

First stop after drove 60 Kms and 2 Hours, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, the bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It is thought salmon fishermen have been building bridges to the island for over 350 years.

carrick-a-rede1The bridge is mainly a tourist attraction and is owned and maintained by the National Trust, in 2009 it had 247,000 visitors. A large car park is available 800 metres away.

Luckily, the weather was good, although the bridge was moving a lot because of the wind, and it was really impressive.

The good thing about “Cooked Breakfast”, it’s that you’re not hungry before at least 16:00 and just a sandwich is enough until dinnertime.

So, we took the road to Bushmills, where we booked a room in a Bed and Breakfast for the night.

We tried a first stop at the B&B at 15:30, but obviously it’s too early, no admittance before 17:00.

So, we decided to go to lunch and ate a sandwich in a typical little cafeteria, and then we went to the “The Old Bushmills Distillery”.

bushmills3 bushmills1The company that originally built the distillery was formed in 1784, although the date 1608 is printed on the label of the brand – referring to an earlier date when a royal licence was granted to a local landowner to distil whiskey in the area. After various periods of closure in its subsequent history, the distillery has been in continuous operation since it was rebuilt after a fire in 1885.

The distillery is a popular tourist attraction, with around 120,000 visitors per year.

The smell of the hot whisky will follow us during the trip, where we saw (use of cameras was strictly prohibited during the trip):

  • The transformation of malt grains: we learnt that the ovens, which are used in Ireland, are close to avoid a smoked taste (in Scotland, they use open ovens to feel this smoked taste).
  • The alembic: Irish whisky is usually distilled 3 times (only 2 times in Scotland)
  • The barreling and the storage during 15 years.
  • The bottling

At the end of the trip, we were invited to a little tasting experience.

bushmills2After this long and very full day, we went back to our Bed & Breakfast where we decided to spend a quiet evening.

The next day, after the traditional “Cooked Breakfast”, we took the road again, and drove toward “Giant’s Causeway”.

The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills. The Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland declared it a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a national nature reserve in 1987.

Much of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.

Once arrived, you can find a large car park and a visitors’ information office, which provide souvenir shop, cafeteria, service area and toilets. Then the staff give you an audio guide and you can go the area which is 2-3 kms away, by 2 ways:

  • Walking (approximately 1 hour)
  • Take the bus (every 20 minutes)

Considering the weather conditions, we choose the second option.

causeway1According to the legend, the columns are the remain 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.

Then, we took the road again toward Londonderry, which was our final destination of the day and by the way the end of this “coastal road”.

dunlunce_castleTwo hours later, we arrived and immediately noticed the strange atmosphere that reigns here.

In fact, we were just at the border between the United Kingdom and Ireland, we saw many graffitis and flags, pro-Irish or pro-British.

londonderryThis city inspired the band “U2” for the song “Sunday Bloody sunday”, because it’s an event that took place here.

Bloody Sunday, sometimes called the Bogside Massacre, was an incident on 30 January 1972. British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march against internment.

Thirteen people died: thirteen were killed outright, while the death of another man four months later was attributed to his injuries. Many of the victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers and some were shot while trying to help the wounded. Other protesters were injured by rubber bullets or batons, and two were run down by army vehicles.

londonderry2So, Londonderry is a big city, we spent lots of time in the town centre, took a trip along the river and went shopping.

Then, we went to the B&B where we went to bed early, because we had a long road to do the next morning.

Indeed, after eating our usual Cooked Breakfast, we took the road to your final point, Dublin, where we left the car and took the plane for the return to France.

One thing is certain, we will come back again 🙂