Day 1 (Friday): I arrived at my friend – Lucy’s house in the evening, which was located on a farm in County Londonderry. On my way to the farm, I noticed that on either side of the road, there were cattle farms – full of sheep and cows. I didn’t realise that Northern Ireland had such a huge cattle economy. I met her mum and dad – who were both such lovely people. Initially I was having trouble understanding her dad, as he had a thicker accent than the rest. But as the conversation went on, I began to understand his pronunciation – o aye!
Day 2 (Saturday): The following morning, after we had soda bread for breakfast (a Northern Irish treat), Lucy and I set off to the north coast. The sun was out, which made my whole experience in this country all the more enjoyable. As we were driving along, we went past a sign that said “Castle Rock”. As a huge Game of Thrones fan, at first I read the sign as “Casterly Rock”!! We pulled in to discover an amazing beach – and I mean an actual beach! There were lifesavers and all! To top it off, it reminded me of the beaches that I grew up on located on the South Coast of Sydney, Australia. I took my shoes off and went for a walk down the beach, loving the feeling of the sand between my toes.
As we continued along the coast, my belly started to rumble. We decided it’d be nice to have a spot of lunch at the coastal town of Port Stewart. This was a very nice place – somewhere that you’d come to for brunch on Sunday. We went for a pleasant stroll along the promenade, where there were lots of families with their children and old folks just chillin’ on the park benches – nice vibes in Port Stewart.
We finally arrived at our main destination – The Giant’s Causeway – one of the wonders of the UK and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A wonder it was indeed! Just a tip – if you are planning on seeing a lot of the UK, I would advise you to become a member of the National Trust. You will gain free entrance into A LOT of places – so it’s definitely worth it! Also make sure you wear sensible footwear here i.e. closed shoes NOT flip-flops, unlike my friend Lucy – she actually got interviewed about her choice of footwear by one of the staff members and even got photos taken of her feet!!!
The Giant’s Causeway was absolutely breath taking! Interlocking hexagonally shaped basalt pillars lined the cliffs of this beautiful stretch of coastline – the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, with a backdrop of green mountains. It almost felt like I was on the set of Lord of the Rings – the landscape was spectacular! We walked around to the various parts of the Causeway – which slowly was beginning to be overcrowded by Japanese and American tourists. At one point we sat down and chilled for a few minutes – just to take in the natural beauty that was surrounding us.
Next stop on the coastline tour was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. NOTE: National Trust members have free access. As we made our way down to the bridge, we saw people walking back – they look tired, which made me dread the journey back… We arrived at the rope bridge – which was only about 20m long and 30m above the rocks below. In any case – my inner child came out as I subtlety rocked the bridge as I made my way across…. We then made our way back to the farm for a good nights rest – after all this sight seeing we were knackered.
Day 3 (Sunday): The next day we drove to Belfast. As a citizen of Northern Ireland, Lucy suggested that we should go on a “hop on hop off” bus tour of the city, as it would be much safer seeing as though we also wanted to see some historic rough neighbourhoods…. You see, it was coming up to Marching Season – this is when the Battle of the Boyne is commemorated and everyone wears orange, as it was “King Billy’s” colour. It is also a time when there is conflict between the Protestants and Catholics. The bus took us to the Shankill and the Fall, which is a renown rough neighbourhood. We also went past the Peace Wall. The neighbourhood did not look particularly safe – so I was glad we were on a tourist bus! We saw the many murals depicting the Hand of Ulster, Ulster Freedom Fighters holding guns and wearing balaclavas, King William and Bobbie Sands. As a street art lover, this is what I really wanted to see. After seeing all of this, its as though I could feel the bitterness in this city… To be quite honest, I didn’t particularly like Belfast as a city – I didn’t feel safe or any charm of the city….
As the Titanic was built in Belfast, there was a museum, which had an amazing architectural design. The weather was becoming grey, so we made our way to Stormont. We managed to get a car park right out the front – yaaay! We walked through the gates, and as I gazed off to the distance, there was a huge white neo-classical building with columns. Leading up to the Parliamentary building was a maroon road, which has very large trees lining either side of it – simply stunning!
I really enjoyed my trip to Northern Ireland, and I recommend that you definitely go and explore this beautiful country! I would highly recommend renting a car if you would like to see the north coast – it’s the best way to see it really… And make sure you go beyond Belfast – as I reflect on my trip now, I am so grateful to Lucy for taking me around the north coast – otherwise if I had gone on my own, I would have only seen Belfast. This definitely would have left an unpleasant impression of Northern Ireland… Luckily for me this wasn’t the case! Huge shout out to my friend Lucy and her folks for their warm hospitality – such great people!