Tag Archives: Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland, The Antrim Coast – Just Pictures

Antrim Coast Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland, The Antrim Coast

Northern Ireland Blue Flag

Because it is a long journey, our driver on the Political Tour, Lawrence, had suggested that we should go straight to Larne before starting the Antrim Coast road drive.  We took his advice even though this meant missing out Carrickfergus and the castle and the harbour where William of Orange landed in 1690 before going on to victory at the Battle of the Boyne, the location of the last witchcraft trial in Ireland in 1711,  and where the RMS Titanic anchored up for the last time before setting off on its fateful journey in 1912.

So we drove directly to Larne and then rather rudely used the by-pass and circumnavigated the town without stopping but this didn’t trouble us because we were heading for the coast.  Along this stretch of north east Ireland runs the A2 road which is said to be the longest stretch of principal highway in the UK which clings so closely to the sea and indeed to create this road the hills were blown up and demolished to provide the foundations.

Ireland A2 Road Trip

The road here clings like Velcro to the base of the cliffs and swings around the headlands and bays in extravagant sweeps and roller-coaster twists and turns.  To our left were the glens of County Antrim decorated with dainty wild flowers and rolling gently down to the coastline and to our right was the Irish Sea and just twenty miles or so away the coast of nearby Scotland.

Along the route the road is flanked by gnarled hawthorn trees standing stoically alone by the roadside, it is, I later learn, because the locals are reluctant to cut them down for fear of disturbing the little people!

The going was slow because we stopped several times to admire the beaches and the uninterrupted views and by mid morning we had only covered a few miles north when we stopped for coffee at the walled garden of Glenarm.  It was a charming place but there was no time to stop longer than a cappucchino and soon we were back on the road.

County Antrim is one of the staunchest Protestant and Loyalist parts of Northern Ireland and we were left in no doubt about that as we drove through villages where the kerb stones and the lampposts were painted red, white and blue and a Union flag flew above the front door of almost every house.  Until that is we came to Cushendun, a harbour village abandoned by the A2 road and which is a catholic enclave emblazoned with green, white and orange.

We were in the far north east now and these stretches of the road regularly appear in top ten lists of drives in the UK.  It only ever really makes it to number two in a list of coastal drives in Ireland however, coming in behind the Dingle peninsular and having driven that only last year I have to say that I am inclined to agree with that judgement.  In my opinion It is better than the Ring of Kerry by some considerable way.   It isn’t exactly the Amalfi drive, nothing can hope to compare with the Amalfi drive but it is well worth making the effort to get behind the wheel of a car and experience this wonderful part of the British Isles.

Can anyone suggest a UK top ten drive?

Three quarters of the four hundred miles of Northern Ireland coast are protected areas and as we made the next section of the journey to Ballycastle it was easy to understand why.  The sun was shining today but it was still quite cool and I suppose that the unpredictable climate is a bonus here because if Northern Ireland had the climate of the Spanish Costas then it wouldn’t be long before they were covered in sun loungers and the shoreline would be overrun with pedalos and water sports.

By mid afternoon we reached the seaside town of Ballycastle and as the parking was free we pulled in and went to explore the beach and the harbour.  The seashore stretched some considerable way and we took a stroll along the dunes and back at the car we transferred some grains of sand from our shoes to the car floor and although we didn’t know it now this was likely to become a problem later…

Resisting the temptation of a pub stop and a Guinness we carried on now to our next destination, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge Northern Ireland

The travel guides make this sound like a death defying challenge to cross a swaying rope bridge with only irregular wooden steps and rotting rope handles to separate you from certain death on the jagged rocks below followed by a swirling watery grave as the unpredictable currents carry your shattered and broken body out into the sea.

The truth is that this is not nearly so exciting as is made out and there is no Indiana Jones sort of danger whatsoever and visitors cross over the twenty metre bridge as though on a pedestrian crossing on any town centre High Street and make their way to the rather disappointing final destination on the walk.  It is as safe as being on a cycle path in the Netherlands, as safe as a bubble-wrapped Amazon parcel delivery!

Samuel Johnson is reported to have said the the Giant’s Causeway was worth seeing but not worth going to see and whilst I would take issue with him over that I think his assessment could easily be applied to Carrick-a-Rede!

If the bridge is a disappointment (especially having paid £6 each for the privilege) the coastal walks are not and the thirty minute walk there and back from the inevitable National Trust centre and souvenir shop provided splendid views along the rocky coast in both directions and today with the sun shining we could almost make out people waving to us from Scotland.

This part of the coastal drive was almost over now so back at the car we drove the final few miles towards the Giant’s Causeway and our hotel for the night, The Smuggler’s Inn.

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: ROY G BIV, Giant’s Causeway Rock Garden

rock plants

As we climbed over the basalt column rocks I saw Richard taking photographs of the wild flowers and this gave me an idea!  I went searching for some blooms of my own and discovered these unusual specimens.

I had never heard of ROY G BIV, I have always remembered the colours of the rainbow as Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.

Postcards From Northern Ireland

Titanic Experience Belfast

He, I know not why, shewed upon all occasions an aversion to go to Ireland, where I proposed to him that we should make a tour. JOHNSON. “It is the last place where I should wish to travel.” BOSWELL. “Should you not like to see Dublin, Sir?” JOHNSON. “No, Sir; Dublin is only a worse capital.” BOSWELL. “Is not the Giant’s-Causeway worth seeing?” JOHNSON. “Worth seeing, yes; but not worth going to see.” – Boswell: Life of Johnson

Not so long ago most people would no more of thought about visiting Northern Ireland than North Korea, it wouldn’t have crossed their minds to go to Ulster more than go to Uganda and Belfast would be in a travellers wish list that included Beirut and Baghdad.  Now things are changing and some upcoming posts I will take you on a short journey through the Province.

Giants Causeway Northern IrelandDunluce Castle Northern irelandNorthern Ireland Map Postcard

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular – The Giant’s Causeway

Giant's Causeway Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

The causeway  was formed about sixty-two million years ago over a long period of igneous activity when this whole area would have been situated in an equatorial  region,  experiencing  hot and humid conditions.  The unique sprawl of hexagonal basalt columns that make up the Giant’s Causeway was formed when lava broke through the earth’s crust and cooled rapidly as it hit the sea.  The fascinating patterns in the causeway stones formed as a result of rock crystallization under conditions of accelerated cooling, which usually occurs when molten lava comes into immediate contact with water and the resulting fast accelerated cooling process causes cracking and patterns.

There is a uniformity to the patterns that confused people for a long time and before the geological process that formed the causeway was fully understood some were convinced that it was the result of the labours of an earlier civilization that had built a sort of paved highway across the sea to Scotland.  What made this credible for them was that the same rock formations occur at Flingal’s Cave across the water.

Northern Ireland, The Antrim Coast

O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant”  –  William Shakespeare, ‘Measure for Measure’

When visiting Northern Island there was one special place that had to be seen: The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim on the north-east coast.

The Giant’s Causeway is a geological wonder of the World consisting of about forty thousand interlocking basalt columns resulting from a volcanic eruption about sixty million years ago.  Most of the columns are hexagonal in shape, but there are some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about twelve metres high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is nearly thirty metres thick in places.  It was declared the only World Heritage Site in Northern Island by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987.

In a 2005 Radio Times poll, the Giant’s Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.   The top three were the Dan Yr Ogof National Showcaves Centre in South Wales, The Cheddar Gorge in Somerset and the White Cliffs of Dover.  These competitions are always subjective of course and open to challenge.  I have never visited the Dan Yr Ogof National Showcaves Centre, Cheddar Gorge is worth a visit but I’m not at all sure about the White Cliffs of Dover!  Making up the rest of the top ten were the Jurassic Coast, Loch Lomond, Cwm Idal, Staffa, St Kilda and Lundy Island.

Ireland A2 Road Trip

We drove to The Giant’s Causeway from Belfast using the A2 coast road on a sunny day with a cloudless blue sky one February.  Some people claim that this is one of the most scenic coast roads in Europe.  The first town was Carrickfergus where William III landed with his troops in June 1690, was the scene of the last witchcraft trial in Ireland in 1711  and where the RMS Titanic anchored up for the last time before setting off on its fateful journey in 1912.

I was immediately struck by the beauty of the coastline and the friendly villages on the way as we passed through Ballygally, Glenarm and Cushendall, all small towns clinging to the rugged coast and with the Glens of Antrim, sculptured by the ice age, as a backdrop.

Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge Northern Ireland

This friendliness was a revelation to me as the only images that I had in my head were those associated with the troubles in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Bearing that in mind, what was helpful was that in each of the villages we passed through we knew exactly where political loyalties lay because the lamp posts were either painted red, white and blue or orange, white and green depending upon whether they were predominantly loyalist or republican.

The Scottish coast is only about twenty-five kilometres across the Irish Sea and there were good views across to snow capped mountains in the distance.  We stopped frequently on the way to admire the views at the many panoramic viewing points.  Finally we drove to the village of Bushmill’s, which is best known as the location of the Old Bushmill’s Distillery, founded in 1608 and is the oldest licensed distillery in the world.

Three kilometres from Bushmills was the Giant’s Causeway.

Giant's Causeway Ireland

The visitor centre was rather a disappointment because the permanent  one had burnt down in April 2000 and all that was here now was a temporary wooden shed with a few exhibits, an inadequate restaurant and a ticket office.  The Causeway attracts over half a million people a year and I imagine that this must make it rather crowded in summer but today being the middle of February it was short of visitors which made it much more enjoyable.

The causeway  was formed about sixty-two million years ago over a long period of igneous activity when this whole area would have been situated in an equatorial  region,  experiencing  hot and humid conditions.  The unique sprawl of hexagonal basalt columns that make up the Giant’s Causeway was formed when lava broke through the earth’s crust and cooled rapidly as it hit the sea.  The fascinating patterns in the causeway stones formed as a result of rock crystallization under conditions of accelerated cooling, which usually occurs when molten lava comes into immediate contact with water and the resulting fast accelerated cooling process causes cracking and patterns.

There is a uniformity to the patterns that confused people for a long time and before the geological process that formed the causeway was fully understood some were convinced that it was the result of the labours of an earlier civilization that had built a sort of paved highway across the sea to Scotland.  What made this credible for them was that the same rock formations occur at Flingal’s Cave across the water.  We know now that this was completely daft but it is a nice story nevertheless.

An even better story of course is the legend that the Irish giant Finn McCool built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner.  When he arrived in Scotland he was alarmed to find that his opponent was much much bigger than him so he immediately returned home in a panic pursued by Benandonner who crossed the bridge looking for him.  To protect Finn his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him and pretended he was actually Finn’s baby son.  When Benandonner saw the size of the baby, he assumed the father must be gigantic and he fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway as he went in case he was followed by Finn.

It is an interesting fact that in Irish Finn McCool becomes Fionn mac Cumhaill the hunter-warrior of Irish mythology and the nineteenth century Irish revolutionary organisation known as the Fenian Brotherhood took its name from the inspiration of these legends.

I liked the Giant’s Causeway, it certainly goes into my personal top ten (which is getting rather overcrowded now) and I have to say that I think it deserved to come a bit higher in the Radio Times poll of top ten UK natural wonders.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Detail

Giant's Causeway Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland:

O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant”                                                                                                                                          William Shakespeare, ‘Measure for Measure’

When I visited Northern Island I knew that there was one special place that I had to see while I was there: The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim on the north-east coast.

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

Giant’s Causeway Northern Ireland

When I visited Northern Island I knew that there was one special place that I had to see while I was there: The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim on the north-east coast.

Read the full story…

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

When I visited Northern Island I knew that there was one special place that I had to see while I was there: The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim on the north-east coast.

Read the full story…