retread#35: northern ireland

I was super excited that our 35th anniversary trip would take us to three Irish ports of call. Oh, my mercy, three! Both Ireland and Scotland have been on my bucket list, like, forever. Good on the Hubs for selecting this itinerary. In both, the remote northern regions were my favorite days of the trip.

We docked in Belfast, Northern Ireland.* From our stateroom balcony we could clearly see Cave Hill, inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. The rock face was all but beckoning for a hike that would surely have to wait. We wouldn’t get very far into the local history of The Troubles today, either. To top it off, the mother of all Titanic museums was in plain view, a majestic structure rising like a ship on shore. I would have loved time to explore all of this and more.

We’ve tracked the Titanic tragedy across the Atlantic, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to St. John’s, New Foundland. Surprisingly it surfaced again this week, in Liverpool, England. Once, long ago, we’d experienced a memorable traveling exhibit in Washington, D.C. Especially as a cruise convert, the Titanic haunts me. For this reason alone, I’d surely like another pass on Belfast!

However, I’ve no regrets about our plans for the day. Our destination was the Antrim Coast. Lorraine, our Tours by Local guide, mapped a full day of adventures. Scenery is easy to come by in Northern Ireland and we were not disappointed as we drove north to the Giant’s Causeway. Other points of interest were like gravy on the meat pie.

We made several stops on this day, including Dunluce Castle ruins, the dramatic dark hedges, and the famous Bushmill distillery. I’m sure Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy makes the best seafood chowder in the world. As an unexpected bonus, we were seated in the amazing Game of Thrones room. We very narrowly avoided testing our mettle on Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge — the wind and rain picked up just in time to derail those plans! But the source of my great enthusiasm and main attraction on this day was the Giant’s Causeway.

In a word: Amazing. The site was so much impressive than I’d imagined. It does look like the beginning of the world, as W.M. Thackeray observed in 1842. Indeed, tens of thousands of basalt pillars have a deeply dramatic effect. This exquisite site was begging for exploration, miles of opportunity. We could have spent days wandering the the trails. It’s easy to see how local lore emerged, the giants’ stepping stones an explanation for this wonder. I’d go all the way back to Norther Ireland just for this. You should go, too.

~ René Morley

*Northern Ireland is not to be confused with the Republic of Ireland, mind you. We’ll get to that.

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