Seeing Northern Ireland for the First Time

Posted by on Oct 7, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments

Wild and lonely landscapes of Northern Ireland

Wild and lonely landscapes of Northern Ireland

A few days ago, on a foggy, Irish morning in the city of Dublin, I met up with a group of tourists on Suffolk Street at the Discover Ireland Center. We all had one thing in common. We were going to spend the day in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, we were going to get there on a Paddywagon Tour. I’d never been to Northern Ireland and it was at the top of my list of places to see before I left the great city of Dublin. Needless to say, 7:30 in the morning is pretty darn early to hit the road, but our tour guide, John, assured us that if we couldn’t keep our eyes open on the way to Belfast, there would be a little over two hours for us to catch a wee nap. So with a few English pounds in my pocket for the day, I was ready for anything.

For a mere €60, Paddywagon Tours will escort tourists in their comfortable coaches across the border of the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland. I wanted to see the Giant’s Causeway and so did about 50 other people from all over the world, an eclectic group of various ages and nationalities. A couple of hours later, as promised, we found ourselves making a stop in Belfast where we added other tourists to our group. John promised us that on the return trip we would have about an hour to wander around Belfast.

Our tour guide was a one-man show. Not only did he sit competently behind the wheel of our bus and maneuver the highways and byways of Ireland, but he also entertained and educated us along the way, all with that charming Irish accent, don’t you know. A natural-born storyteller, when he wasn’t making us laugh, he was educating the group to Northern Ireland’s not so distant past before peace was finally brokered and the age of fear could be put to rest.

Rugged Coastline of Northern Ireland

Rugged Coastline of Northern Ireland

Leaving Belfast, we traveled for another hour to our first actual stop, Carrick-a-Rede. Other than a short coffee break, we had not been off the bus to stretch our legs and I was more than ready. If you find a road trip to be tedious, this almost 13-hour-day tour might be a tad too long for you. I never tire of looking at the Irish countryside, so that wasn’t a problem for me. However, at Carrick-a-Rede, we were given the opportunity to walk the trail along the north Atlantic coast and cross the rope bridge and back again with time to spare. What once used to be a bridge that served fisherman in their quest for the great Atlantic salmon is now enjoyed by tourists from all over the world. The fresh air and outstanding natural beauty combined is intoxicating. For me, a true nature lover, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. The air was bracing and the views were spectacular, not much cloud cover that day.

Crossing the rope bridge

Crossing the rope bridge

 

Views from the rope bridge

Views from the rope bridge

 

Walk to the bridge

Walk to the bridge

You don’t have to be a marathon runner or in tip-top physical condition to enjoy this tour, but beware that there is a great deal of walking, some uphill, if you want to take advantage of the beautiful vistas this trip offers. Both the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede walks were done independently of the group, however, and thus could be taken at whatever speed an individual preferred. I liked that!

The Giant’s Causeway was just another 20 minute ride beyond Carrick-a-Rede and was kind of like landing on another planet. The terrain is inexplicably beautiful but bazaar at the same time. Geologists explain the strange land formations as possibly due to volcanic eruptions, but regardless of how these formations came to be, it is a quite a curious place to explore.

Odd but real rock formations

Odd but real rock formations

Giant's Causeway rock formations

Giant’s Causeway rock formations

Interesting pass at the Giant's Causeway

Interesting pass at the Giant’s Causeway

We were given several hours to explore the Giant’s Causeway. It is worth noting that although this certainly gave me time to walk the mile plus down to the water’s edge where I got many photos of these strange formations and walk back up the hill where I grabbed some lunch, for those who would prefer to explore the other trails that wound about, the time allotted would not be sufficient. One way to squeeze more time in for walking would be to bring your own food. I hadn’t done so and was starved by the time I did get to have some lunch, but ended up losing about 40 minutes of time that I would’ve preferred to use for walking and exploring. There are, however, a number of places on the premises to choose from for dining. I do want to mention that there are shuttle buses that run continuously throughout the day for those who prefer to skip the walk, but it was a glorious day in terms of weather and I welcomed the opportunity to be outdoors for as long as possible.

 

Before we knew it it was time to head back to Belfast, however, we did stop ever so briefly in order to take photos of the lonely remains of Dunlace Castle in the distance. I would have loved to have had the time to explore this remnant of the past. Finally, on our return to Belfast, we were once again given permission to do a walkabout of the immediate area. That gave me just enough time to see the Titanic Memorial Gardens at City Hall, take a few great photos of the impressive architectural structure of City Hall and sit with John in a café to conduct a short interview. If you’re really interested in seeing more of Belfast, Paddywagon Tours offers a trip that includes a black taxi tour of the city where you will gain historical perspective of the political unrest that once was such a part of Belfast. You can also visit the Titanic Museum and hear all about the glory days of Belfast when they were successful ship builders on the world scene.

The remains of Dunlace Castle

The remains of Dunlace Castle

 

Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall

Before we knew it, the time had come to board the bus. The two-hour-plus drive back to Dublin offered beautiful pastoral views enhanced by the twilight of the evening. The landscapes of Ireland are truly one-of-a-kind. Thanks to DayToursWorld.com for arranging such a wonderful introductory trip to the beautiful country of Northern Ireland!

This trip was arranged by DayToursWorld.com in partnership with Paddywagon Tours.   

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Teresa, I love your photos! Do you use a favorite app with your iPhone, when you take your pictures – or do you edit with an app afterwards? My husband and I have traveled through some of Ireland-but didn’t make it up north. Hope to go again and see areas we missed the first time. Looks lovely!

    • Connie,
      Sometimes I edit after I take a photo with camera+. Thanks for the mention!

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