On our way, we spotted a few murals that we saw in our previous day’s city tour. Here’s one of them. This was made by the Protestants.
|Wouldn’t you feel scared seeing this?|
Then, we passed by Europa Hotel, the most bombed hotel in the world. Our first cab driver as well as the guide from our City Tour talked about this hotel. It had been bombed 28 times during the Troubles.
|Who would want to stay in the most bombed hotel in the world?|
This is supposed to be the first integrated school in Belfast. I didn’t catch the name of the school but my research pointed me to Lagan College. Not sure about this though.
|Would love to study in a school this beautiful!|
As I said in Part 1 of our Northern Ireland Tour, the main reason we were in Belfast was to see the Giant’s Causeway and cross the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. But before we could get there, we made a few quick stops along the way.
Our first stop was the Carrickfergus Castle, a Norman castle built in 1177. We didn’t stay long enough to go in since we still had a long way to go to get to the main attractions. But we did stay long enough to take a few photos.
Next, we made a quick stop for coffee and toilet break somewhere near a pier. Ariel and I skipped the coffee since we had a heavy breakfast. Instead, we just walked around to take photos.
Finally, we reached the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. Well, the jump off point to be precise. Turned out we still need to walk about a mile to get to the bridge. We were given an hour to do as we please. A few of us decided to make the trek to the bridge while the rest of the tour passengers opted to just roam around near the coach parking area. We paid the £5.00 fee to cross the bridge, and started our mile-long trek. We walked as fast as we could through the gravel lined path, up and down the hilly terrain. By the time we got to the bridge, we were short of breath, though still cold under our thick jackets. Tourists crossing the bridge were monitored and when the wind is too strong, the management closes the bridge as there is a danger of it tipping over. So, on this day, it was windy enough to give the bridge a good sway, but not too strong to tip over.
|I took this photo then I went ahead to cross the bridge first.|
|After crossing the bridge, one has the option to walk to the top of the hill.|
|Ariel went to the top while I stayed below, conserving my energy
for the return trek to our coach.
|And this was the photo Ariel took of me. It was a long way up,
I just used a zoom lens in the previous photo.
|This was Ariel crossing back to the starting point.|
|My knees were shaking as I crossed the swaying bridge
and I couldn’t let go of the rope.
|We stopped for a few photos on our way back.|
|Pausing to catch my breath|
When we got back to the bus, two of our tour mates (is that even a word?) were late. Our driver, spotting them from afar, told us that he will start driving out of the parking lot and make the two think that he is leaving them. He then told us to wave goodbye as we pass by the couple. Cruel, I know, but it was all in the spirit of fun. It was hilarious how the couple started running once they saw the bus moving. Ha! No one got late again after that.
Next up, the Old Bushmills Distillery. It is known as the oldest distillery in the world. It was licensed to operate in 1608, but has been producing whisky since the 1300’s. It was purchased by Diageo in 2005. Now, it is a major tourist stop in the Antrim Coast. They offer whisky tasting and they have a gift shop where tourists can buy their famous whisky along with souvenir items. I picked up a couple of ref magnets as souvenirs.
|Already feeling a bit warm|
Finally, we arrived at the main attraction, the Giant’s Causeway. I’ve read about it before and wanted to see it which is why we booked a flight to Northern Ireland. So anyway, the Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was voted as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the UK. It is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Of course, that’s what science tells us. Local lore explains that the columns were a result of warring giants. The folk lore is more interesting of course.
Our coach stopped at the visitor center. The columns are still quite a distance away. Thankfully, there were shuttle buses available to take visitors to the stones for a small fee (£5.00 if I remember it right).
|Apparently, there are similar formations in other parts of the world, but
the Giant’s Causeway is the biggest and most spectacular.
|Of course, Ariel had to climb to the highest columns.|
|Love my hair! LOL!|
After exploring the Giant’s Causeway, we finally had time to sit down for super late lunch (it was already past 3pm).
|Photo op while waiting for our food to be served|
|Ariel ordered Fish and Chips (which he never does!) and it was the best
I’ve tasted in the UK. I love that the green peas were mashed (that is not
guacamole!), and there is coleslaw on the side.
|Of course I had to try the local dish – Irish Stew. It’s like “nilagang baka” with
mashed potatoes. I like it, quite tasty and the meat was very tender.
Side story. Before we started our tour, our Tour Guide/Driver asked us to familiarize ourselves with the people around us, specially those seated near us. This is to help us check if anyone is not back in the bus before we leave each stop. The coach was not full and tourists are mainly couples or families, but there was a single American-Asian guy and a single American young lady, both traveling alone. The guy was seated on the first row, just behind the driver, while the lady was seated way at the back, in front of us. I noticed that they both crossed Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and they took pictures of each other as souvenirs. By the time we were done with the Giant’s Causeway, they guy transfered to the seat next to the young lady. So, when we were about to go, the couple seated in the same row as the guy’s original seat alerted the driver and told him that the guy isn’t in the bus yet. Our crazy driver chuckled and said, “Oh, he found himself a lady and transfered over there at the back. These things happen you know, you travel alone and you find someone. Maybe I should change the name of my bus to The Love Bus.” And then he started singing The Love Boat, but change boat to bus. That really gave us a good laugh, to the embarrassment of the two single tourists.
Then we made our way back to Belfast. Our Tour Guide dropped us off at the airport in time to catch our 9:00pm flight back to London, thus ending our quick but definitely memorable Northern Ireland sojourn.
Click here to read about Day 16,