Kings, Fishermen & Giants – Discover Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Giant’s Causeway Day Tour
Ireland is a destination which reminds me to stop and enjoy the beauty of this world. It can provide the hustle and bustle of a city when I need it, but it can also provide a true sense of quietness through its rolling plains, coastal mountains and rugged cliff lines.
Growing up on a farm in rural Australia might explain my longing to experience more than the hustle and bustle of the city. I wanted to see, hear, taste, smell and feel all that Ireland had to offer. As a result I found myself boarding the Irish Day Tours bus for the Northern Ireland Giant’s Causeway day tour at a very eager hour in the morning.
The Dark Hedges
Are you a die-hard Game of Thrones fan?
The Dark Hedges consist of a hauntingly beautiful avenue of twisted beech trees. At our first stop I walked down Bregagh road my mind couldn’t help but wander as I thought of all the history the trees had witnessed over the years. Our guide informed us that the Stuart family planted the trees in the 18th century, eager to impress visitors approaching their Gracehill House mansion. If only they’d known 300 years later the avenue would become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. One of my favourite television series came to life at this stop. Retracing my steps I imagined myself surrounding by the Games of Thrones characters as they made their way down what’s known as ‘Kings Road’.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Do you have your wits about you?
Do as the fishermen did over 300 years ago and you’ll find yourself suspended 30 metres above the Atlantic Ocean. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge gives whole new meaning to the word precarious.
Hopping off the tour bus I collected my rope bridge ticket, brimming with confidence. The coastal path to the bridge distracted my fellow hikers from the challenge that lay ahead of us. Complete suspension between the land and the sea, laying one’s life in the hands of a creaky fishermen’s bridge.
Tickets and niceties were exchanged and the steep stairway decent to the bridge began. Windswept hikers completed their second journey back across the bridge as we waited patiently for our turn. One deep breath and I began my 20 metre journey from the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island, known in Irish as the “rock of the casting”. As I swayed my way across the bridge, I tried to imagine doing as the fishermen did and casting a net into what was once a hotspot for salmon fishing.
The rugged and completely uninterrupted views across to Scotland and Rathlin Island were incredible rewards for making the journey across. Visitor’s voices were drowned out by the swell of the Atlantic Ocean and the vocal seabird colony below. Rope bridge crossing or not, the 1km path hugging the Northern Ireland coastline provided more than enough thrills alone. Photos will never do a good view justice. Just remember, if you do complete the journey across, don’t make the stomach dropping mistake of looking down on your way back.
Can your imagination stretch as far as the Atlantic?
I’ve always been the one to favour a great story over a truer recount of events. As a result I thoroughly enjoy what’s referred to as the ‘Irish version’ of events. With Carrick-a-Rede conquered and the Irish coastline in our rear view mirror we set off for the notorious Giant’s Causeway. During the drive our guide recounted a tale of giants, and a story of science, leaving it up to us which to believe.
You should know that no two tales of the origin of the Giant’s Causeway are the same. Perhaps you’re lively Irish guide will tell you their favourite version of the story. Legend has it that Irish giant Finn McCool was defending Ireland from a Scottish giant known as Benandonner. Large chunks of the coastline were tossed into the ocean by the Scottish giant, forming a perfect pathway to Ireland.
Finn’s quick-witted wife however, placed a blanket over her husband, disguising him as a baby. In a hilarious twist of fate Benandonner was convinced that Finn’s baby was that big his father must have been enormous. Scared to death the Scot fled back home, ripping the causeway up along the way.
Science however, tells a different story. The magical site is said to be a result of a volcanic eruption from 60 million years ago. Lava crashed, burned and cooled very rapidly. Cracks then arose, forming the dramatic basalt columns which now serve as the stepping stones for visitors. Regardless of what you choose to believe, no one can argue that the Giant’s Causeway doesn’t make a pretty picture.
We made our way along a path hugging the very edge of the cliff. The track gradually revealed a canyon made up of a carpet of green slopes. At the base of the slopes we discovered a giant’s playground – perfect volcanic columns stacked like the pieces of a puzzle. This view alone explained why the Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and why thousands of tourists visit each year. A contrast between serene green paddocks dotted with white sheep, and moody black shades of the basalt columns created a surreal environment. Words can never do justice to a place such as the Giant’s Causeway. The site is truly one of a kind.
I once read that there are two seasons in Ireland; winter and June. But don’t fear. Whether you encounter the sunshine or the rain, I can more than guarantee that you will experience truly spectacular views.
To experience this for yourself I highly recommend the Giant’s Causeway Day Tour