My Travel Map

My Travel Map

07 September 2008

Northern Ireland

Derry city, Northern Ireland. I was personally expecting some kind of border crossing after our day of driving through Galway, Sligo, and Donegal. Yet, when we got into N. Ireland, the only thing that gave it away were the license plates and traffic signs. It took me a couple minutes to realize that the speed had switched from kph to mph, which meant the people behind me weren't too thrilled. Anyway, Derry city, also known as Londonderry, has long been an English stronghold in the country (since the 1500's). It is an interesting and lively city with an even more interesting history. Its city center is still surrounded by its medieval city walls. Still fully encircling their original perimeter, these represent some of the best preserved city defenses in Europe. Missy and I walked around on top of half the circumference, but had to get down since they access points are locked up at sunset.

One of the 4 gates along the wall. The wall has plenty of placards discussing the history. Bishop's Gate is seen here with its placard and a few tidbits.

Derry has plenty of murals. Many are republican, but this is a unionist one. Derry was one of the hottest of hotspots during "the troubles." Bloody Sunday occurred here, and for a time, there were sections of the city, called Free Derry, which were essentially run by the IRA and definitely not places where English or Unionist citizens were welcome.Derry City Independent far the comfiest, welcoming, and clean hostels I have ever stayed in. I don't even know if you can call this a was more like staying at a good friends lovely townhouse. It was decked out in various Asian art, furniture, and Buddha statues and had amazing washrooms.

Our double bed room. I wish we could have stayed here for a was a great hostel and a cool city to explore, but we were nearing the end of our trip and still had plenty to see!

The Antrim Coast....a must see stretch and a must do drive. The Antrim Coast road runs around the northeastern coast past picturesque coastline and many amusing attractions, both natural and man made.

The Giant's Causeway...remarkable to see despite having to share it with way too many tourists.

Walk around while at the causeway, especially if the weather is as nice as we had when we were there.

These polygonal basalt columns are the Giant's Causeway. There are an estimated 37,000 of them ranging in height from a few inches to 10's of feet. Hexagons are the most common shape, but they can have as many as 10 sides. Irish legend has it that Finn McCool (actually Fionn Mac Cumhaill in Irish), a warrior from Ulster, fell for a woman giant from Scotland and built the causeway to cross the sea to get to her (the fault line along which the formation lies does indeed resurface on a Scottish island), and another legend tells of Finn building it to go to Scotland to fight another giant. The legend goes on to say that when Finn got to Scotland, he was surprised by the superior size of his Scottish foe. He fled back to Ireland and was pursued by the other giant, but Finn cunningly had his wife build a giant crib in which he hid cuddled up in blankets. When the Scottish giant showed up to fight, he in turn was frightened by the sheer size of Finn's "baby" and fled back to Scotland...good moral to that one eh?!?

According to geologists, the causeway actually formed by a massive subterranean explosion that shot molten basalt up to the surface where it cooled and basically crystallized into these shapes.

We had a beautiful day while we were driving the coast road. It started out overcast, but the sun cleared the clouds away, leaving perfect blue skies and this amazing ocean of turquoise.

The Carrick-a-rede rope bridge...definitely worth checking out. The island is connected to the mainland by an old rope bridge (which is now reinforced by steel cables), which was originally built by fishermen. It was hilarious to see how frightened some people got when it was their turn to cross, I loved it!

Belfast, the capital of N. Ireland. Belfast is a very large city, and Missy and I only spent a few hours here. Overall, I found the cities of Northern Ireland to be much too big and industrialized compared to their equivalents in the Republic. Both Derry and Belfast seemed like they had lots to offer though, and I hope that if I ever get back to either, I will be able to spend a bit more time enjoying them.

There was a continental food fest going on outside of City Hall, seen here. There was plenty of food from all over Europe here, which was really cool. Missy and I ended up going for a bit of French (a potato and cream with ham dish...and absolutely delicious) and a bit of German (bratwurst). This will end my Irish post. Our last full day, Missy and I drove back from Belfast to Dublin via Dundalk and the Bru na Boinne site, with its prehistoric tomb-mounds and passage graves. Overall, I absolutely loved Ireland, and will do my best to return again sometime in the future.

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