Day trip to Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland…
Ireland, Dublin and the Giant’s Causeway…the path is inevitable, almost prescribed. Two possible reactions. Curious and keenly inclined towards Northern Ireland’s solo World Heritage tagged (and most visited) site, that saw over a million footfalls in 2018. Or blasé to the point of brushing it off as yet another over-crowded tedium. Either way, we’re all adequately Google-rehearsed and Instagram-prepped, so nothing should stir up a surprise, right? Wrong. Freshly juiced from a trip to the Emerald Isle, I say this with the deepest of conviction. No amount of preparation matches up to the real deal. In this case…seeing truly is believing. And that is no exaggeration.
‘Giant’ is the theme of the trip from the word ‘go’. Driving through the legendary Boyne Valley with Wild Rover Tours, contemplate on ‘larger-than-life’ timelines of its mega landmarks like the 5000-year-old Hill of Tara and Newgrange Stone Age tombs. Hearing narratives of the side-effects of the ‘Troubles’, trace the depth of the scars left on countless affected locals and their families. And as you cross the border into the north of Ireland seamlessly into Belfast, you find yourself hard-pressed to negotiate the biggest dilemma of the day. So, will it be a vintage taxi ride reliving the war-torn past or an emotionally-tinged, state-of-the-art Titanic Visitor Experience? Both options equally enlightening, equally tragic, equally epic in proportion, so pick any. First feelings of fulfilment are guaranteed in each case. And that is just a modest introduction to a day packed with plus-sized revelations.
An abundance of drama build-up
Eye-widening and spine-stretching are endless all along the North Coast and the Antrim Coastal Drive. Tall stony cliffs stand eternally against crescent-shaped secluded sandy beaches and rock-smashing frothy waves. Fluffy sheep and oreo cows graze on velvety green carpets. The allure of wooded glens and shadowy mountains continues without a break all the way to the famous whiskey village of Bushmills. Here, balanced precariously on the cliff edge, 100 feet above the brilliant blue of the ocean, the forlorn Dunluce Castle makes a haunting picture. Fairytale romance to distressing siege to wretched ruin, it seems to spell out its eventful account in stony silence. Even from that distance, you can hear it all. Oh, and you’re almost there.
Infinity of walking trails
Finally, disembark. Car park to Causeway will be a walk. And what a fitting curtain-raiser to a stage designed to enthral even the most jaded of jaded. A downhill walking trail of about a kilometre leads to the causeway. Aptly labelled the Blue Trail, this divine 10-15 minutes walk gives you the blues, literally. Bending and curving seductively along the lava-rock studded coast on one side and lofty mountains on the other, the Blue Trail is a picture of pure Ireland.…raw, rugged, majestic, mesmerising. Red Trail offers an advanced version…a longer stroll along the upper cliffs, with views of the entire coastline…about 3 kilometres each way. And for the active hiker, there’s the Yellow Trail, following the entire Causeway coastline from Runkerry House to Hamilton’s Seat and takes several hours. Not far away is the vertigo-inducing Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, suspended 100-feet over an ocean chasm. Plenty of mountain trails there too…with opportunities to ogle at fabulous bays, silky beaches and wild grass-strewn landscapes. If only time would stop, while you soaked in all this glory. Still, enough to spoil you silly for a day.
The magnitude of natural wonders
Meanwhile, back onto the Causeway, the wonderment continues unabated. Ogle at the amphitheatre-shaped cliffs. Decode the mysteries of nature. Be drawn to the intriguing symmetry of the columns. It is a voyage back in time…60 million years ago when a series of volcanic eruptions launched the beginning of a spectacle. Time suddenly has a new meaning. Now get your head around the fascinating facts. 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. 15 to 20 inches in diameter and up to 82 feet in height at places. Spanning almost 29 kilometres of coastline. Pentagonal or hexagonal, so tightly packed that they look like man-made pavement tiles. Locate the most spectacular example…the “Organ” with long regular-shaped columns resembling the pipes of a giant organ. And then, let the heart rule. Feel the wind in your hair as you navigate the softy curved surface of the hardened lava under your feet. Watch the foaming waves swim through the scatter of rocks. Notice the sunlight and clouds create varying shades of gold to brown over the upright columns. Perch on the fabled ‘Wishing Chair’ in faux adoption of the ‘faith’. Let your thoughts flow unbridled. Just surrender to the magic.
Towering heights of legends
Drop that science hat and slip smoothly into the mythical world. For a change, embrace belief in old Irish legends and imagine Finn McCool, that mythological Irish warrior, who is associated with the creation of the Causeway. Could the 54-feet tall giant actually have used the Causeway as a collection of stepping stones to travel to the far Scottish Coast? Pre-Celt Irish locals swore he did…they actually referred to the place as ‘Clochan na bhFomharaigh’ or “Stepping Stones of the Fomorians, much before it was discovered in 1692. Then scout for unusual rock formations and indulge your inner child by interpreting their shapes. Giant’s Loom, Giant’s Coffin, Giant’s Cannons, Giant’s Boot and Giant’s Eyes are just some of the well-known ones. Particularly arresting is the Giant’s Harp, with massive curved columns sweeping down to the shoreline.
The sounds of the crashing waves continue to echo in your ears till you’re miles away. And the winding trails that lead to the evenly-carved stone columns sprouting from the earth continue to fill your mind’s eye, even till your head touches the pillow that night. No blueprint, no technology, no rules. There will be no architect to beat nature. Period.
Our ‘Giant’s Causeway, Belfast City & Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge Day Tour from Dublin’ was generously sponsored by Wild Rover Tours. Insightful commentary and well-organised itinerary made it the perfect choice. All opinions are my own.
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