The famous partition of the two district territories of Ireland, the Republic of Ireland in the South and the U.K governed Northern Ireland both boast monumental beauty. After spending much of my time seeking routes in the South- it was time to explore the mighty coastal district of the North.
Departing from Dublin city, in which I always base myself (with family) when I visit my second homeland, I chose to hop on board the famous Extreme Ireland Day Trips to ensure I saw the most of what the North has to offer. Meeting in central Dublin at 6.20am, we set off on our epic adventure to the Antrim coast.
Northern Ireland, although riddled with turmoil, war and distress throughout the ages, now stands as one of the world’s richest heritage sights. The coast line is famously used in films with scenery that shapes the imagination. From ancient castle ruins to natural wonders, the Northern coast is dotted with beautiful sights.
The first POI on departing Dublin was the border between the North and South. If you blinked, you could miss it, with a simple sign and a few cameras placed on the freeway. It was amazing that this once brutal division between the two territories is now so open. For those with just a day, it is best to make your way to the coast direct. I would suggest (just like our tour) making your way to the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge first and beat the crowds (plus get the best weather as the winds pick up in the late afternoon!).
Carrick-A-Rede is a sight beyond belief. The rickety rope bridge dangling between island stacks is a thrill. It is insane to think fishermen used a scarier version of this bridge to cross for hundreds of years, carrying all their gear and using just one hand in crossing!
The bridge, first erected in 1755 (so now over 250 years old!) was used by the local fishermen to get the best position whilst fishing for Atlantic salmon who migrated in the vicinity. You will still see the salmon fishery on the little island and the adjacent cliff-side walks are a must do.
With sights set on the Giants Causeway, we were dying for a decent meal. We headed to a local village for a classic Irish pub lunch, which you will find all along the Causeway Road. If you ever get the chance, a classic steak and Guinness pie will never do you wrong!
Full bellied, we made the short trip to the Giants Causeway. UNESCO listed as a geological wonder of the world, this coastal astonishment with over 40,000 basalt columns interlocking across the waters edge will take your breath away. Use caution however, with high winds and rain storms a very likely possibility, it can be rather dangerous on the cliff faces. The area itself is very interesting, with hiking trails for those a little more adventurous, or grab a shuttle to 1km walk to the main Causeway.
The story behind the Giants Causeway is still a legend in the area, with science telling us it was created by successive lava flows cooling and shrinking over 60 million years. The locals still believe otherwise. The story of Finn the Cool, an Irish giant who smashed down the land between Ireland and Scotland whilst running from his combatant along with an abundance of folk tales and mythology surrounding the natural landscapes make this one the strangest places on earth and a bucket list item for many including myself.
Next, take a short visit to Dunluce Castle, which is said to have inspired the Chronicles of Nania and see what once was seen as the grandest castle (in over 3,000!) across Ireland.
Making our way back to Belfast city, it is a truly great region full of winding roads, lush green fields and small local villages. Keep your eyes open and you may even spot a leprechaun or two!
Entering Belfast for just an hour, there is no better place to start that the Town Hall. One of the most expensive and grand buildings in modern Ireland, it will take your breath away. Surrounding this is of course fantastic shopping, museums, the concert hall. If you have time on your trip, make sure you check the Titanic museum out as it is a fascinating stop.
The Extreme Ireland day tour will show you all of these sights, along with interesting commentary, so it will not disappoint those looking for a one-day glimpse into the magical North. For those staying longer in Belfast, just remember that it is in fact not the Euro as it’s currency and most places will only accept the pound, so ensure you have yourself the correct finances!
If you have a few more days in Dublin, be sure to check out the other day trips by Irish Day Tours and Extreme Ireland which are always exciting!