Last year, Kasha and I had an opportunity to use up a little leave. We decided to visit beautiful Belfast and see the famed crisp sandwich cafe (which is sadly no longer open) and all the best the Northern Irish capital had to offer. While the city had its charm and allure, our favourite experience happened when we went left the city on a day trip to the iconic Giants Causeway.
The dramatic road that lead us to this magnificent sight is known as the Causeway Coastal Route, and stretches all the way to the very north of the country. There are a number of different tour companies that offer the tour, with many offering exactly the same itinerary for different prices. We opted for a guided tour with Finn McCool, a bargain at £18. The bus rolled down early in the morning to pick us up straight from the hostel and we were on our way.
The day we booked the tour, the heavens opened and the rain came down like an overturned bath. Any hope of a sunny picture at the Giants Causeway seemed unlikely already. However, with a chipper Irish driver at the helm telling hilarious stories of colourful characters, drunk tanks and Irish folklore we soon forgot all about the weather.
As we drove along the winding Road we cut through Larne, a port city which apparently contains absolutely nothing of interest whatsoever, our driver in fact called it one of the most boring towns in Ireland… so we were all quite thankful to drive straight through it. Our first proper stop was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, a tiny spit of land adrift in the sea which was once used by fishermen to hunt for salmon. The bridge does charge admission to cross (£10 for non-members), as it’s technically a National Trust owned.
The 30-metre deep chasm will have your knees trembling and your heart racing, so it’s definitely worth the money to cross it. The windswept grass, craggy cliff faces and salty sea air all make for a picture perfect view of Northern Ireland’s untamed coast. Also, make sure to hold on tight to the rails when the wind howls past, which it often does.
It’s always the small details that make a trip so memorable, so when our driver said we were making a slight detour, we had no idea what to expect. As luck would have it, we were driving a smaller vehicle than usual as our tour group was small enough to fit into a mini-bus rather than a coach. This allowed us to get down some of the country’s narrower roads, and leading us to the impossibly charming St Gobban’s Church; the smallest church in Ireland. The 10-feet-by-four worship site is located in the tiny hamlet of Portbraddon, a quiet hideout where the only sounds are the waves gently crashing on the shore.
The rain crashed down again en-route to the Giants Causeway, and all hope of a selfie or even reasonably sun filled pictures seemed lost. However as we settled down to a cheap meal in a cafe / restaurant around the corner (note: meals are not included with your ticket) the heavens shone with light and the clouds seemed to disappear, leaving us only with the whistling wind and some of the most jaw dropping, unique landscapes I have ever seen.
Legend has it the thousands of basalt columns that make up the bridge were created by the great Irish giant Finn McCool. Scientists however will argue that actually the unique columns were created by enormous volcanic pressure. Whatever you believe, this natural wonder is magnificent to behold, well deserving of the title as Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the stones can be a bit slippy, so watch your step and wear good footwear (I know right that’s such a mum thing to say).
Our adventure up the thrilling Causeway Coast ended with a brief swig of whiskey at the Bushmills Distillery, Ireland’s oldest working distillery – with history dating back to 1608 – and a wander around the ruined exterior of Dunlance Castle. There is usually a £1 entry fee here, but it was closed when we visited. The extraordinary legend that surrounds this castle will give you a good giggle.
Whiskey, ruined castles, tiny churches and a truly awe-inspiring coastline; if there is one thing that will make me come back to Northern Ireland time and time again, it’s a chance to experience the natural beauty of this incredible, unspoiled part of the UK.
The Causeway Coastal Route is one of the most stunning road journeys in the world. Have you travelled along a road that rivals it? If so I’d love to hear your thoughts, so comment below!