Travel

Travel guide to Northern Ireland

September 15, 2015

I was going to do one comprehensive guide to Ireland, but then I was going through my photos and decided there were too many to fit in one post! So I’ve split it up into sections and will be sharing them one by one, including one about getting around.

First up: The North!

A stunningly beautiful landscape, Northern Ireland is a place full of history and tradition. Part of the United Kingdom, the motorway (freeway) that takes you from the Republic of Ireland to the North does so without fanfare. In fact, the only way we knew we had crossed the border was because the signs had changed from kilometers to miles!

There are many tours that leave from Dublin and go north. Whether you take a day trip or a few days trip, Northern Ireland is definitely worth a visit. (Especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan and want to check out some of the locations they use for filming!)

Belfast

Belfast is a city all its own. While we didn’t spend time there this trip, I have been there on trips previous and it is extremely interesting. If you are at all into history (which you should be if you’re in Ireland!), I would highly recommend a black taxi tour of Belfast. The drivers explain some of the troubled history of the city and the country, including conflicts between Ireland and England and Catholics and Protestants. Super interesting.

Giant’s Causeway

A natural wonder, the Giant’s Causeway takes you to the very tip of Northern Ireland. The entire place is shrouded in folklore and legend. Stacks of hexagonal rock formations from an ancient volcanic eruption line the shoreline.

Giant's Causeway

You can take a bus from the visitor’s center down to the causeway, but we chose to walk. It is a bit of a trek, a little over a half a mile I’d say, but that wasn’t a big deal. The visitor’s center has free handset things to take with if you want a “tour” (these are popping up everywhere, replacing human tour guides). We each took one but only listened to a few of the commentaries—it was more enjoyable just to look around, but they came in handy when we wanted to know why the rocks are hexagonal.

Giant's Causeway panorama

I love the folklore surrounding the causeway. Finn McCool the Irish giant was feuding with a Scottish giant, and the story unfolds from there. There’s even a camel named Humphry!

Giant's Causeway 2

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

Fishing was a major industry in Northern Ireland, and salmon runs were (and are) common. Fishermen would string rope bridges from the mainland to island outcrops to get a better location for fishing. That’s what the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge originally was but has since been turned into a tourist attraction. I’m not a fan of heights, so I scurried across this bridge in a hurry, but my brave friend walked slowly and looked down and absolutely loved it.

Rope bridge 2

The entire walk to the rope bridge is incredibly scenic, as is the drive from the causeway to the bridge (only a few miles).

Rope bridge

Bushmills Distillery Tour

The little village of Bushmills was conveniently on our drive, so we just had to stop to do a tour. I’ve been on brewery tours before, but never a distillery tour. One thing I enjoyed about Bushmills is that you walk through the actual distillery, meaning they are making whiskey as you walk through. Sweet!

Bushmills Distillery

And as an added bonus, everyone on the tour gets a Bushmills whiskey of their choice at the end of the tour.
While I don’t have the name of the pub we ate at, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have good food at any pub, affectionately known as “pub grub.” We ate pub grub almost every day on this trip and were never disappointed.

One thing you must try is brown bread and soup. Any kind of soup, though it’s usually some kind of vegetable soup or chowder. Spread some Irish butter on the brown bread, dunk and be prepared to fall in love.

That’s it for this round of travel. Check back, as I have more photos and tips from our trip planned!

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