Posted by: mdmusingsie | September 21, 2014

The North (cuid a dó)

(Note: I broke this post up into two pieces as, although they were on the same day and tour, they are vastly different in tone and subject matter.)

We continued north from Belfast, heading for one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world – the Giant’s Causeway, but not before stopping for a photo opportunity of Dunluce Castle (I can see Donegal from my castle). The impressive ruin sits on the cliff edge of the Antrim coast – maybe a little too close, as history states that part of the kitchen fell into the ocean during a dinner party. Tourism to the castle has likely skyrocketed since the base of the castle features in the Game of Thrones HBO series.

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Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

Quite a large complex

Quite a large complex

A light mist threatened the start of our tour, by the time we reached the Giant’s Causeway, the sun was out and it had turned into a glorious day. Like the Cliffs of Moher, the Giant’s Causeway is just as impressive whether you’ve seen it once or many times. The columns of basalt, many perfectly hexagonal or octagonal in shape were formed by lava from underwater volcanoes. Legend has it giants crossed from Ireland to Scotland over the causeway, including Finn MacCool.

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From a distance this looks like the face of a dog

From a distance this looks like the face of a dog

As tall as trees

As tall as trees

A dying breed - located outside the restaurant at the Causeway

A dying breed – located outside the restaurant at the Causeway

Our last stop was at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge  once used by fisherman to get to their salmon nets. Although the rope bridge, far less precarious than previous iterations, is secured by hefty metal chains anchored into the rock, crossing the bridge is not for the faint of heart. It’s at least a 20 minute walk from the car park to the bridge, parts of which are down stone stairs. Just when you think the worst of the hike is over, you find out you have to climb down near vertical metal stairs to reach the bridge. The stairs freaked me out more than the bridge of rope and wood hanging nearly 100 ft above the water.

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Cave in the cliff as seen from island accessed by Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

After several minutes of meditation to shore up my nerve and a few more deep breaths as I told myself I’d come all this way, I may as well go for it, I made my way slowly down the stairs. I was able to look down into the water as I began my stroll across the precipice, hands firmly gripping the rope, but as soon as people got on behind me and the bridge began to sway my eyes became fixed on the destination as my grip on the rope tightened.

Once across the bridge, you can walk along the path up to the top of the island and around to take in the wonderful views (I can see Scotland from my island/bridge). We were given a limited time at the site and since some of that time had been taken getting up the nerve to cross the divide and the fact that my camera battery died just after crossing the bridge (I didn’t get any pictures of the bridge itself but did get one of a cool cave you can see from the island), I amassed my nerve for the return journey. (A friend did take a photo of me crossing so when I get it from her I will post it.) It would have been nice to cross the bridge without others behind to set it swaying, but I wasn’t bold enough to request it (I found later others had) so I wasn’t able to enjoy the experience as much as I might have liked. At least the weather was clear, calm, and dry, otherwise I might not have had the nerve to cross at all.

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