As day 2 started, we found ourselves having to leave beautiful, quaint little Ballintoy. For me, this little town stole my heart! It was exactly what I was hoping to see in Ireland and much more. It had beautiful scenery, great food ❤ – never mind having a whole bunch of Game of Thrones filming locations to explore!
Even as we left, Ballintoy didn’t disappoint. The sunrise was amazing, to say the least. Look at the green – Ireland isn’t called the Emerald Isle for no reason!
Those rolling hills, sheep (I have come to love sheep), and dramatic coastlines made us want to return to Ballintoy ASAP!!
Crossing our fingers that the weather would keep, our guide Dave and driver Fred herded us onto the bus (after taking a million pictures of that sunrise) and we made our way across County Antrim to one of Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist destinations: Giant’s Causeway! Laced with both geological wonders and Irish Legend, Giant’s Causeway was an amazing experience.
A little background on Giant’s Causeway: As of 1986, Giant’s Causeway was designated as a World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO and as of 1987, it became a national nature reserve! It’s great to know that sites like this will be protected and preserved for future generations to see.
Once our bus made it down the winding road, we disembarked and again we were given a time frame and free rein as to how we wanted to explore. The tickets to the Giant’s Causeway were included in our All Ireland Rocker tour price so we did not have to pay anything at the gates. If you are travelling on your own, it costs £9.00 for an adult to enter. The price includes “access to the new Visitor Centre, use of outdoor audio guide, orientation leaflet and parking.”
Tip: It’s really important to take the outdoor audio guide so you know where you are going and you can hear the legend that goes along with the name of Giant’s Causeway. 😉
Note: The Causeway is a bit of a walk from the visitor center. If you do not want to walk to the Grand Causeway, you can take a bus from the Visitor’s Centre down to the water and back.
As we walked out of the Visitor’s Centre with our audio guides, sadly the weather turned. Thank goodness it wasn’t pouring rain (we would eventually find that Irish and Scottish rain is much different than Vancouver rain) but it did start to drizzle as we headed out for our walk. Being from “Raincouver”, we were used to rain and it didn’t stop us from having a grand adventure!
**TIP: Remember to bring rain gear and a windproof jacket as the Causeway does get very windy! AND don’t forget those comfy walking shoes because this will definitely be another Leg Day!**
Our guide Dave gave us a very helpful hint: we were told to do the red trail backwards! Instead of following the maps and doing the trails the way they recommend, we did the red trail (the middle hardest) from the tail end.
This actually saved us a lot of time and effort. With Giant’s Causeway, there is a lot of walking (Legs Day #2!) and with the red trail, there are A LOT of stairs to climb up and go down. By doing the red trail backwards, instead of climbing the 162 “Shepherd’s Steps”, we descended them!
Exploring the scenery before us was breathtaking at every turn! We stopped every few minutes to take pictures. And behind every corner, there was another story from the Legend that explained the fascinating geological landscape before us. I don’t want to give away much of the Legend so you can hear it for yourself when you visit but the basic idea is this:
“According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet.”
There are different outcomes to the Giants’ fight, depending on which side of the channel you are on ;), but either way the story has a certain truth that the landscape proves!
**I won’t go into the geological explanation here because I do believe that the Legend is more exciting! And what better way to explore Ireland than from the point of view of a mystical legend?! There is much more information about the hexagon shaped basalt columns at the Visitor’s Centre, if you do make a visit!**
As we followed in the footsteps of the Giants, we made our way to another landmark: the Amphitheatre. On the way, we began seeing evidence of the basalt columns:
If you follow the red trail, it will lead you directly to this site. We took a few pictures from what is known as the Hamilton’s Seat, a little path that faces the Amphitheatre. The basalt columns in this alcove, between two cliffs were amazing and it truly did look like an Amphitheatre!
After we got our fill of that beautiful scenery, we continued downwards towards the coastline as the clock was ticking and we had much, much more to see! As we descended and got down to the water, we came across another part of the Legend: Finn MacCool’s boot!
It was so interesting that this rock actually did look like a Giant’s boot! The National Trust Website states that this site is one of the six best to view on your trip to Giant’s Causeway! They state that the boot was:
“Apparently lost by Finn as he fled from the wrath of Scottish giant, Benandonner, the boot is reputed to be a size 93.5!”
It’s the only rock of its type in the whole landscape so obviously the Legend is true ;)! Looking out from where the boot is located, we finally caught a glimpse of the Grand Causeway!
After that photo session was over, we continued onwards and finally came upon the famous hexagonal columns of the Grand Causeway, which lead to the sea. It was mind-blowing how nature (or rather Finn himself!) could create such a landscape. The scenery was spectacular, even on a cloudy, rainy day.
It is here that you can find the Wishing Chair! It’s a naturally formed stone throne, which is shiny and smooth from all the people who have sat on it through the decades! Don’t forget to make a wish if you come across it and take a minute to rest! When we were there, we actually didn’t know about the Wishing Chair so we didn’t get to sit on it. But this is just another reason to go back to Ireland and explore even more!
All in all, the view from this site is spectacular! If Finn MacCool built his bridge from this point, it was really a feat to place all those stones on top of each other in such a perfect formation.
We enjoyed it so much that we didn’t want to leave! If our next few days were going to be as exciting as our first two, then Ireland would exceed my expectations! Sadly, we had to make our way back to the Visitor’s Centre and continue our journey. While walking back, we came across The Camel:
“Portnaboe’s most famous resident is Finn McCool’s camel. Once a living and lively beast, the camel was turned to stone and forlornly lies along the bottom of the cliffs. Apparently he was the only steed capable of carrying Finn home across long distances.”
If you look closely, you can see the Camel’s head and hump as it lies in the water. I just loved how each little part of our walk had a story related to it. It made walking around the landscape even more exciting and magical.
To say the least, at the end of that walk we were all a tad tired. It’s not easy traversing cliffs and rocks for nearly 3 hours in the wind and rain!
Was it worth it? DEFINITELY!!!!
As we got back to the Visitor’s Centre, we decided it would be a good time to grab lunch. They have a lovely cafeteria serving sandwiches, salads and even warm food to comfort you after your long walk. After our lunch, we got back on our bus and sadly left the Legend of the basalt columns behind. Good thing we got 100’s of pictures to remember our adventure.
Our next stop would be a short one: Dunluce Castle!
Stay tuned for the next post showing the gorgeous ruins.
From Vancouver with Love,
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