IRELAND: May 9 – 14, 2019
We loved the beauty of Ireland’s rugged coasts, the music, pubs and Guinness, and all the friendly folk we met! It was a bit strange with Northern Ireland using the same currency as the UK (pounds) and being part of Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland using the Euro and being part of the EU.
Our visit to Belfast was too short and is the one place we wished we had an extra day. We missed the Titanic Museum and the Mural District, to name a few sites. However, we took a 9 hour day trip and it gave us a chance to see a lot of Northern Ireland.
Belfast has had a history of conflict, aka ‘The Troubles’ since the late ‘60’s. Most working class neighbourhoods of Belfast are still segregated along ethnic, political and religious lines. These zones – Catholic/Republican on one side and Protestant/Loyalist on the other, are marked by flags, murals and graffiti. We saw the flagged areas from our bus tour.
Tour – Game of Thrones and The Giant’s Causeway
Our tour guide, Jenny, was hilarious and she knew everything there was to know about Game of Thrones. 80% of the series was filmed in the Belfast area and/or the green room at the Titanic Studio. The filming of GoT added 30 million pounds a year to their economy. All extras had to be from Belfast and she herself had been an extra many times. Her best performance was that of a dead Wildling, while her best friend pranced naked in a brothel. The cast was often seen in town at pubs and restaurants. All of Belfast knew Jon Snow would be returning after his ‘death’ at the end of Season 5 because Kit Harington still lived in his rented house. Jenny had some great stories and we got to see a few sites that were familiar to us.
Braavos Canal – this is where Arya crawls up the harbour steps after jumping off a bridge in order to escape her killer.
The Dark Hedges – on the Kings Road, North of Kings Landing, Arya escaped from King’s Landing, disguised as a boy
Filmed at Cushendun Caves, Glens of Antrim – near Storms End and the birth place of the Shadow creature
That’s it for GoT!
Giant’s Causeway – The Giant’s Causeway is an ancient volcanic battlefield and one of Ireland’s most unique landscapes.
The coastal path led us down to the Giant’s Causeway where the tops of 40,000 mostly hexagonal, perfectly horizontal, columns form a pavement of stepping stones and then continue and disappear under the sea. This incredible sight inspired many legends of giants striding over the sea to Scotland.
The 162 stone steps; ‘Shepherds Steps’ lead you down to the “Organ”; enormous columns, as high as 39 feet, towering over the bay.
I really enjoyed Joe’s reaction to this site. Normally cautious on slippery stones, he raced around in awe, smiling the entire way and snapping pictures of everything.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – The 30 minute walk to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was invigorating and the view was fantastic.
Joe was brave enough to cross this 20 metre span suspension bridge but the height of 30 metres kept me on the sidelines with some other ladies. I heard that if the winds picked up, they would close the bridge, and people could be stranded there for hours! Also many visitors, unable to face the walk back across the bridge, have had to be taken off the island by boat!
Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland with nearly two million in the Greater Dublin Region. Most of the population lives in the suburbs. The city centre city is relatively small and easy to get around by foot. Dublin is a vibrant city with lots of nightlife, sights and good eats.
We met a surprise visitor for dinner in Dublin. Our daughter-in-law Amy was passing through, after being in Portugal to attend a wedding. So nice to see family!
Our hotel – ‘The Spencer’. I saved a few coasters for our youngest son, Spencer!
Near our hotel, an authentic replica of the Tall Ship Jeanie Johnson was moored. The original ship made 16 emigrant journeys to North America between 1847 and 1855, carrying over 2599 people with no loss of life. It was very small for such a journey! There are 7.3 million names on record of passengers arriving at Canadian ports between 1865 and 1935.
The Great Famine was a period in Ireland between 1845 and 1849 of mass starvation, disease, and emigration. During the famine, about one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island’s population to drop by 20% – 25%. This display was near the Tall Ship.
Temple Bar District is a tourist destination in Dublin’s ‘cultural quarter’ and the centre of Dublin’s nightlife. We arrived on a Saturday and the district lived up to its name of being wild. There were many stags and stagettes going on and the pubs were overflowing. Some of them simply lock the doors when they reach capacity. We walked through the area a few days later and it was noticeable quieter.
Ireland’s oldest bar is the Brazen Head, opened in 1198 AD. We enjoyed a pint of Guinness here.
We took an interesting tour from Dublin and saw some fantastic sites. The tour lasted 13 hours – think that was a record for us, but worth every minute.
Kilmacduagh Monastery: The ruins are sometimes referred to as “the seven Churches”.
The Cliffs of Moher run for about 14 kilometres. At their southern end, they rise 120 metres (390 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean and, eight kilometres to the north, their maximum height is 214 metres (702 ft). We loved the walk along the tops of the cliffs, but were a little leary about the spots with no barrier. It was a long ways down! Such a gorgeous shore.
The Burren is a landscape and hillside covered by limestone, dolomite and gypsum. We were treated to a nice view of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands.
Galway Bay was our final stop on this 13 hour tour. The village is filled with shops and restaurants and we wandered and poked around the quant area.
And so our time in Ireland and Great Britain was over and off we flew to Amsterdam. We were happy to be returning to the land of cars driving on the right side of the road. We are sorry to be leaving behind the only English speaking countries on this trip….