A day in the North …
This month I travelled to Dublin, Ireland for a long weekend adventure. I had a few extra days up my sleeve so I decided to venture out and see more than just Dublin. I did a little bit of research before my flight and came across the tour company Wild Rover, who run multiple day trips from Dublin and had fantastic reviews too. The two trips that initially caught my eye were Northern Ireland’s Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway and Ireland’ Cliffs of Moher. I decided to book the first tour venturing up to Northern Ireland, a separate country to the Republic of Ireland for those who weren’t aware. There were three pick up points all quite central which made the early start that little easier. The unexpectedly full coach departed Dublin for Belfast at 7am led by our fantastic tour manager Peter and coach driver Paddy. It was due to be a long day with quite a lot of driving but it would prove to be well worth it. We stopped at services along the way for some breakfast and of course, COFFEE!! We arrived into Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland around 10:30am where we had an option of two included tours; 1. Political Black Taxi Tour or 2. Titanic Museum Visit. Although both options sounded very interesting I decided to sign up for the Taxi tour, especially after Peter very clearly let us know that Leo and Kate would not be making an appearance at the Titanic Museum. Having never studied any Irish history throughout my schooling in Australia I found the taxi tour very insightful and confronting. We were divided between a few taxis and travelled to the significant sites in groups of three cabs. For those unaware, as I was, of the history between Northern Ireland, Ireland and the UK, some basic details revolve around the population being divided on whether Ireland should be independent of the UK or remain. I’m not going to write much more on the matter because I really only have a vague understanding of the matter, so if you want to know more, do some reading or head to Belfast yourself and do this tour, you will not be disappointed. The drivers of the tour were representative of both opinions; catholic (wanting to be independent of the UK) and protestant (wanting to remain within the UK) and were also individuals who have lived through the Troubles. My cab driver was a proud protestant named Joel who was fantastic, happy to answer any question and providing plenty of insightful information as well as sharing his personal stories and experiences through the Troubles in Belfast. This made the tour very interesting and gave a very real insight into the troublesome past of the area and highlighted that the troubles were happening in the very recent past. We visited catholic and protestant areas of the city in addition to the Peace Wall, which we were encouraged to sign. Whilst driving around the city we drove through the gates which divide the two groups; which are still actively used today. I was gobsmacked at this fact! And further to this most of the population of Belfast is divided not just residentially but also through schooling.
The tour completely exceeded my expectations, and had me wanting to learn and understand more about the history of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We regrouped with the individuals on our tour that visited the Titanic museum and headed further north to the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. Along the drive, we caught sight of the scenic snow-capped landscape, reminding us just how cold it was outside. The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge is a world-famous salmon fisherman’s rope bridge that leads to a small island. The island itself was a little uneventful but the scenery of the coastline was breathtaking and we managed to explore it just before the heavens opened up and the rain started.
We still had a decent drive before hitting the Giant’s Causeway, so we were all hoping that the weather would clear before our arrival. The weather improved slightly but still wasn’t fantastic when we arrived. When we arrived, we had a few different routes to approach the Causeway from as well as two options for lunch. To get to the Causeway we could: 1. Catch a shuttle to the causeway for £1 each way, 2. Walk along the road to the causeway or 3. Walk the scenic trail above the causeway and approach from the alternate side. I decided to take option 3 and get a bird’s eye view of the causeway as well as an up-close encounter. The trail was a little wet and muddy but it provided breathtaking views of the area which were well worth it, especially since the rain had temporarily stopped. The Giant’s Causeway is extremely impressive; both from above and up-close. Unfortunately, the rain came back, harder than before, bringing hail with it which made the visit a little less enjoyable and shorter.
I headed back for a spot of lunch at the ridiculously, busy local pub which was to be expected considering the weather. We regrouped again for a final time before starting our drive back to Dublin but not without a quick photo stop at Dunluce Castle.
The drive back to Dublin was a long one getting us back into town around 8:30pm. So it was a tremendously long and exhausting day but what more could you want out of a day trip. I couldn’t have been happier with the trip, it was great value for money and a wonderful way to see some of Northern Ireland.