We decided to take the Allen’s Tours excursion to Giant’s Causeway, in County Antrim. The bus driver, Ian, was a wealth of information, Irish “craic” (jokes and enjoyable conversation), and “useless bits of information.”
Our first stop along the coastal drive, was at Carrickfergus Castle (left), a 12th century Norman structure and the place that King William III of Orange (aka King Billy) first set foot on Irish soil. This was a photo shoot stop, so we did not tour the interior.
Further up the coast, we stopped at Carrick A Rede where we crossed a death-defying rope bridge 98 ft. above the ocean rocks. It was bouncy and you had to time your pace so you wouldn’t fall; I managed to do it without holding the rope rails, a personal point of pride. According to Ian, no person has fallen from the bridge, only a dog. Now the bridge has two sides and dogs are prohibited from using it.
As we drove towards Antrim, Ian told us about the “Guinness Cows” that munched on grassy hillsides. These black and white cows are Belted Galloways; someone on the bus said they looked like Oreo cookies.
We passed through the nine glens of Antrim. A glen is a valley, typically one that is long, deep, and often glacially U-shaped, often with water running through it. As we admired their rich beauties, Ian regaled us with diverse and magical stories, combining the colorful history, myth and the traditions of the communities within the glens. There were several waterfalls and even a vanishing lake. Lake Laughareema is a “chalk ‘plug hole’ bunged up with peat.” In times of heavy rain, these block up and the lake fills, only to empty again in a matter of days.
The Giant’s Causeway is steeped in myth and legend. Some say it was carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool who left behind an ancient home full of folklore including Giant’s Boot, The Wishing Chair, The Camel, Giant’s Granny, and The Organ (below).
There are four stunning trails around the park, but since we were time-limited, we visited the odd-shaped stones, the organ, and then climbed 162 steps to the cliffs. I can see why this geological wonder appeals to so many people with its breathtaking views of jagged cliffs and bays lashed by wind and waves.
Without a watch, I was in a hurry to get back to the bus, not wanting to miss it. Dennis was lollygagging, taking pictures, and enjoying the view. I could not imagine why he was not in a hurry…it never entered my mind that we had plenty of time (15 minutes). When I got to the car park and couldn’t find the bus, I was upset and angry at Dennis for making us miss the bus. Joke on me…but bad karma for rest of day. Dennis must be a saint!
Our last stop was at the Bushmills Distillery. This was basically a photo shoot and tourist attraction, selling Bushmills whiskey and paraphernalia. Dennis and I shared a dram of 12 year old reserve. Since we don’t normally drink whiskey, we could not determine if this was better than others, but it helped improve my mood. Some people purchased a sampler (five shots of various blends). Within about 10 minutes, they consumed the drinks…I wonder if they were able to differentiate between the different liquors.
Below are additional pictures of the Giant’s Causway; it was so spectacular.