Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Giant's Causeway Tour, Northern Ireland

After my whirlwind trip to Sweden for Eiko's birthday it was on to Dublin for some R&R.  As an early Christmas present Krasimir booked us on a day tour to Northern Ireland to visit the Giant's Causeway.

This was a full day tour.  Our tour bus left Dublin at 6:30 AM.  After about four hours we arrived near Ballintoy, in County Antrim, to visit the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

About 350 years ago, salmon fisherman built a rope bridge between the mainland and an island.  The bridge has been replaced over the years.  The current bridge was installed in 2008 and cost £16,000 (~$25,000).  The 20 meter (65 feet) bridge is about 30 meters (100 feet) above sea and rocks. 

I'm not a big fan of heights.  So hanging out 30 meters over the North Atlantic isn't exactly my ideal sort of fun.  But I survived.

The area is quite beautiful.  I'm told that on a clear day it's possible to see Scotland.

After the bridge, we made a brief photo stop of medieval castle ruins.  Dunluce Castle is surrounded by steeps cliffs and is accessible only via a bridge.  The castle is said to have been the inspiration for the famous castle in CS Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia.

Then it was on to see the Giant's Causeway.  On the northeast coast is an area with around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns.  The columns are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

The columns form stepping stones that disappear in to the sea.  Most of the columns are hexagonal but some have only four sides and some have as many as eight sides.

Legend has it that the columns are what's left of a causeway built a long time ago by an Irish giant named Finn MacCool.  One day a Scottish giant named Benandonner challenged Finn to a fight so Finn built the causeway to Scotland.

In the version I heard, Finn discovered that Benandonner is quite large so Finn hides.  His wife, Oonaugh, dresses Finn up as a baby and puts him in a cradle.  Benandonner sees the size of the baby and assumes that Finn must be the biggest giant in the world so he flees back to Scotland.  He destroyed the causeway as he fled so that Finn could not follow him.

The Giant's Causeway was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.  It's the only site in all of Ireland.

On our way back to Dublin, we stopped for an hour in Belfast.  Not a lot of time but it was long enough to check out the Christmas market at city hall.

It was was very nice day but quite long.  We got back to Dublin around 7:30 PM and ended up covering about 500 km (311 miles).

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