Monday, May 27, 2013

Sunday, May 19th

NORTHERN IRELAND

                Pulled out early to head for Northern Ireland, officially part of the U.K. and uses pounds instead of euros as it’s currency. (exchange rate beware!) Our first stop was the Dunluce castle. This medieval castle is on the Antrim coast. It was rather intact and extensive, despite being on the coast and exposed to the constant elements. Lydia and I really enjoyed it, and we made sure to wander around all the areas possible without paying (sounds terrible of us, but we enjoyed the ruins  as we could without all the cost). It was interesting to take the lower walkway below the castle, looking up at the steep towers, ducking through an archway that leads to the ocean…perhaps that once served as a dock? Underneath the castle we could see a small tunnel as well. Needless to say, our imaginations were ricocheting around excitedly.
                Bushmills Irish Whiskey Distillery

   Rather interesting, despite my skepticism that it would be. Lets face it, I like drinking whiskey, seeing the process and touring facilities isn’t usually my thing. It turned out to be good, especially since I know absolutely nothing about differences in taste and terminology thrown around. Best of all, the tasting at the end. I was excited my family was on board with getting a shot of each kind they had there. Don’st ask me specifics, there were 4… and varied from most recent honey gold color, black bush, 10 year old malt, 16 year old malt, and 21 year old malt. There was also a Irish Honey one as well but we did not get to try. It  was a wonderful part to the afternoon. I can’t explain the differences, but it was so very good. Every single sip. I wish we could have sat back and just relaxed, whiskey that is good should not be tossed down (it makes your nose sting) but sipped slowly and appreciatively. Best with good friends.

                Giant’s Causeway!



    In my opinion, worth the long drive up north. If your not into natural  phenomena’s, or types of rocks found in only a couple locations on the planet,  it might not be worth it. However, if you do dig these things (like me, and certainly like my sister) then it is a good thing to swing through.
 We walked through the tourist area, with the serious amounts of crowds, followed the coast and then instead of cliffs…there were these hexagonal shaped rocks!! I don’t mean a small cluster, or a distant patch. The whole beach side became these tightly packed stepping stones. Many were flat to walk upon, or else they would become long and cylinder shaped so one could step up or down them. Some were even too tall for that, just able to lean against, or look up at in the one spot. There were some different shaped ones, with 5 or 6 sides. Bu there were all symmetrical, and fit together so very well. Lydia and I had fun bounding all over the place and taking pictures. I didn’t even fall! This is impressive with my high pull of gravity, and the center of some of the flat hexagons the water would collect and turn the rock slick.






       Rope Bridge
Let me be perfectly clear. I hate heights. I mean it, I do. This rope bridge is suspended 30 meters inbetween two CLIFFS, over the ocean. 98feet!!!! But Lydia wanted to do it, and these sorts of things are always more fun when not alone. So, we went traipsing over this rickety bridge made of NOTHING BUT ROPE. And couple bits of wood here and there. Apparently it was used by the salmon fishermen to go to the little island to check their nets. Fishing was a huge part of this area for over 100 years until the industry vanished from too few fish. I cant imagine going over that flimsy bridge in all kinds of weather and winds. It crosses over the mouth of an old volcano. apparently you can see the different type of rock below you on the way back? I didn't look down, but I suppose it would be an interesting contrast, if one wasn't focusing on things like moving forward and breathing at the same time. 



A quote was posted on the walkway there by Charles Leonard Thomassan, when he visited in 1851 from Kentucky, USA. “For the boiling breakers are every dashing themselves madly between the rocks hundreds of feet beneath, and the rope bridge is thrown about by the wind like a fabric of thread. Few trust themselves upon this airy fabrication but Mr. Wilson and I for the honor of the old Kentucky braved all the terrors-and passed to and from the rock”.

    From this point on Ireland, on a clear day like we had, you can see a small smudge of land in the far off distance. This is Scotland! Not nearly as far as I imagine…adding to the list for future adventuring.

               








  Our last sight of the day was the Dark Hedges
We were given directions and told it’s one of the favorite hidden treasures around here. It is right on a public road. We followed impeccable directions down unassuming country roads, when suddenly, we saw the trees on a road of a left hand turn. These trees make you feel like you could enter Narnia or any wonderful and imaginative place.  The trees bend and reach towards one another at the top, shaping a type of doorway. They do this for a whole stretch of road, so it becomes a long tunnel. The light is muted by the leaves and it is extremely peaceful.




                Made it back into the Republic of Ireland for the night, in Blackrock. We pulled in late (9pm)  and dove into the nearest open pub (difficult to find serving food this late on a Sunday). But she served us some hot soup and soda bread and we had a pint while trying to find a B&B to stay at. Worried about finding a place, she called herself to check for room availability at one of the street. Just a few miles outside of town (so no socializing this evening). Thank goodness there was room! We were given precise directions and told to come back if we could not find it. No worries, we dragged into the room and plopped onto the well cushioned and appreciatively pillowed accommodations and knocked out. But not before we opened and shared that bottle of French wine. 

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