Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Tour Day 1 – A Coastal Walk and A Rope Bridge

After a day of travelling, we drove into the beautiful village of Ballintoy – one of our absolute favourites! And I think you’ll see why soon enough!

Ballintoy!

We arrived at our hostel РSheep Island View Hostel, home for the first night of our All Ireland Rocker tour. After dropping our bags off at the hostel and claiming our beds for the night, we were ready for an adventure. For a small village like Ballintoy, there was actually quite a bit in the area to see!

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The beautiful Antrim Coast, approaching the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and island

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One of the famous local attractions is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This 20m long rope bridge stretches from the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island. Salmon fishermen used to cross to Carrick-a-Rede Island frequently during the salmon season. Nowadays, it is a tourist attraction. For the adventurers, there is the thrill of walking on a swinging suspension bridge 30m above sea level. For the nature lovers, there is plenty of flora and fauna on the island for you to observe and enjoy. On a clear day, it is said you can see clear across to Rathlin Island and Scotland!

Can you spot the boat towards the right side of the photograph? It is supposedly used to ferry scared tourists who cannot bear to cross the rope bridge back to the mainland!

Another increasingly popular attraction is Ballintoy Harbour. Some of you might recognize it from a little TV show called Game of Thrones? Exterior shots of Pyke and the Iron Islands were filmed here at Ballintoy Harbour.

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Before heading off on our adventure, there were several recommendations given to us by our tour guide:

  • We could head down to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and walk back to the hostel via the main street; or
  • We could head down to Ballintoy Harbour and back via Harbour Road; or
  • We could head down to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, walk down the coast to Ballintoy Harbour, walk up Harbour Road and back to the main street.

Guess which option we took? Let’s just say it was LEGS DAY #1!

Tip: Make sure you bring a good, sturdy pair of walking shoes for all of the adventures and exploring you will be doing! Preferably waterproof!

Our kind bus driver Fred drove a group of us down to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, to save us time and a walk. We got there rather late and since they were closing in 15 minutes, we unfortunately didn’t get a chance cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. We didn’t think it would be worthwhile running across the bridge and taking a quick look and running back across. So we’ll have to save that for our next trip!

The good news was that only the bridge was closing. The coastal walk down to the bridge was still open. So we decided to go for a nice walk along the North Coast from the car park to the actual Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

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As we neared the rope bridge, we turned around and were treated to this beautiful scene of towering cliffs and rolling waves. The raw beauty of nature never ceases to amaze me! And for¬†any sharp-eyed¬†Game of Thrones fans out there, you might even recognize this as the Stormlands and the scene of¬†Renly Baratheon’s camp in Season 2.

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Here we are looking out at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

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We stayed awhile here watching tourists cross the rope bridge. It didn’t look that swing-y from afar, but I¬†think¬†it would be a fun adventure!

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After admiring the view from around the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, we started our trek back.

We walked from the rope bridge back to the car park and from there, took a leisurely coastal walk Рthrough the fields, just admiring the vibrant green of the Emerald Isle, the slightly gloomy but atmospheric skies that afternoon and the ocean stretching out towards the horizon.

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Looking back at Ballintoy from the coast

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Can you spot Ballintoy Parish Church? It’s in the background, blending in with the sky.

Our coastal path led us to the Ballintoy Parish Church. We took a right turn from there and followed the road down to Ballintoy Harbour. Or, some of you might recognize it better as Pyke and the Iron Islands. But even without being featured on Game of Thrones, we still thought it was a very charming and quaint harbour.

As it was getting late, we started heading back up Harbour Road towards the main street of Ballintoy. Be mindful of the traffic when you are walking up or down the road to the harbour.

About halfway up Harbour Road, I took this photograph and it is one of my favourites. This is the Ballintoy Parish Church, which has a long and rich history in the area. A lone white building standing fast Рblending into the sky but at the same time in contrast with the ground.

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And of course, we can’t be in Ireland and not talk about the sheep! Look at these fluffy guys! We were told not to chase sheep at night. Not sure why specifically at night… And no, we didn’t chase the sheep during the daytime hours either!

We promise we were not chasing these guys! One started running and the rest followed. Brought to mind the ‘flock’ or ‘herd’ mentality…

After our lovely coastal ramble, we wandered back to our hostel. Stay tuned for more on our evening in Ballintoy!

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Walking back to our hostel to get ready for a night out in Ballintoy! ūüėČ

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!

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Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker Tour Day 1 – The Dark Hedges

After our stop in Belfast, we headed north through County Antrim.

The next destination on our All Ireland Rocker Tour was the Dark Hedges. This beautiful tree-lined avenue was meant to awe visitors as they made their way towards the Stuart family mansion РGracehill House. These beech trees were planted in the 18th century. Even in the year 2015, we were awed at the sight of the hauntingly beautiful trees and the dramatic avenue.

Even though the Dark Hedges are a beautiful natural phenomenon, there was another reason drawing our tour group and thousands of other visitors here.

The Dark Hedges were¬†made famous as “The King’s Road” in season 2 of Game of Thrones. I don’t watch Game of Thrones (I watched one episode and it just so happened to be the Red Wedding episode. Let’s just say… I didn’t have the appetite to watch any more episodes!), so here’s Ioana: “For those of you who watch the series and don’t remember the scene – this is the road Arya Stark travelled down when she escaped from King’s Landing, disguised as a boy, to join the Night Watch.” This very popular show¬†is filmed in Northern Ireland. Given¬†its dramatic and beautiful scenery, it’s not surprising that Northern Ireland was chosen as a¬†filming location.¬†Since the rise of this show, tourism in Northern Ireland has increased – particularly with Game of Thrones fans visiting various filming locations. There are guided tours dedicated to visiting the show’s¬†filming locations – including The Dark Hedges, Larrybane and Ballintoy Harbour. There is even a Game of Thrones afternoon tea that you can partake in!

We got off the bus at the bottom of the avenue and made our way slowly to the top, where we would meet up at the bus. As we wandered through the Dark Hedges, we noticed there were some trees with broken branches and there were some tree stumps by the avenue – if you look closely in our photographs, you might be able to spot them. The life expectancy of a beech tree is about 150 – 200 years. Since these trees were planted in the 18th century, they are quite old! Some trees have broken branches, while others have died and all that is left are the tree stumps. I wonder whether new beech trees will be planted to preserve the Dark Hedges… Or whether nature will be allowed to take its course.

Since the rise of Game of Thrones, the number of tourists searching for this previously quieter and relatively unknown site has increased dramatically! Dave, our tour guide, told us new signs had to be put up to guide wandering tourists to the Dark Hedges. If you are planning to drive to the Dark Hedges, check out these directions given by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

Due to its popularity, there are often many cars, buses and visitors on this avenue. Make sure you are mindful of cars and buses while walking down this public road!

Tip: If you are traveling in a tour group, you might end up with your trip mates’ heads in your photograph – unless you arrange something with your group! ūüėČ Maybe you can all¬†take turns¬†taking¬†a photograph of the Dark Hedges at the bottom of the avenue before walking up as a group?

If you are travelling to the Dark Hedges independently, you can be more flexible and visit during the quieter hours of the day, when the tour buses aren’t there!

You could also plan to take advantage of a rising or setting sun – which would make for a spectacular and memorable photograph!

Trying to get a clean shot of the Dark Hedges can be difficult with lots of people and cars travelling up and down this avenue!

To get a good photograph of the Dark Hedges, I waited for the rest of our tour group to walk on ahead, then turned around to look back down the avenue. I was lucky enough to snap this photograph while there were no cars or people in my shot and it is one of my favourites!

The Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

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Review: For any Game of Thrones fan, I’m sure I don’t need to say it – but this would be a must-see if you are in Northern Ireland! Another plus? There is no admission fee to see the Dark Hedges , although it might require some navigating to find it. You might even consider doing a Game of Thrones roadtrip through Northern Ireland, taking in other filming locations¬†in the area. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board even has a (very comprehensive!) suggested itinerary for Game of Thrones fans!

Even if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, the Dark Hedges showcases nature in a beautiful way and make for some memorable photographs. If you’re in the area, we would suggest stopping by for a quick visit – perhaps earlier or later in the day,¬†if you want it all to yourself.¬†

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Next up is one of our favourite of the trip – Ballintoy!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie
LettersofWanderlust3


© Letters of Wanderlust, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of any written material and/or photographs without express and written permission from this site’s authors is strictly prohibited. Please get in touch if you would like to republish any of our materials or if you would like to work on a project together!