The weekend following the west coast trip, our plan was to head up North to check out the Giant's Causeway in particular, as well as some of the sights and attractions in that area. We got out of the apartment fairly late on Saturday morning, and started up the highway in the direction of Belfast. For whatever reason, we decided to pass on going into Belfast on this trip. It's been a little while now, so I can't remember exactly why. At any rate, we ended up at Carrickfergus Castle, which is not far out of Belfast. On this particular day, there was a fencing contest going on inside the castle -- what a cool place for a fencing competition! This particular castle has been kept in fairly good shape by restoration. We wandered in and around the castle for awhile before heading across the parking lot for lunch.
We hopped back into the car after lunch and took the coastal drive up towards the causeway. The coastal drive is a fair amount longer, but we had heard from trusted sources that it was worth it. That advice turned out to be true. The drive was beautiful, causing us to stop several times to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. It turned out to be a really good thing we did go up then rather than the next day since the weather was far superior on Saturday compared to the next day! But I get ahead of myself.
We passed the sign pointing the way to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and since it wasn't too late yet and the weather was still very nice out, we decided to head there first before heading to the B&B. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge connects Ireland to a small grassy and rocky island. In times past, the safety of crossing the bridge was a bit questionable, but what's in place today is a much safer incarnation. The walk up to the bridge is maybe a half hour hike with some truly spectacular views. The lovely weather, and the wonderful views made the walk well worth it, even without the bridge at the end!
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge itself was solidly built, and led the way over to a beautiful little island to walk around on. There was some cliffs to be a little careful of, but it was lovely and peaceful on the island. We took a bunch of pictures, and wandered around for awhile before returning to the bridge and the walk back to the car.
Our next stop was the B&B which was just outside of Bushmills. It was a lovely little place, and the lady there kindly directed us to the Smuggler's Inn for dinner when we asked for recommendations on a place to eat for dinner. So we headed there, and it was totally delicious! We got lucky and scored a table in the corner in what was basically a totally packed place. There was a pile of food, and potatoes done in a gazillion different ways, and some great atomsphere in there. Late in our meal, a couple of guys came in and started playing some traditional Irish music, and they were really quite good. So all in all it was a wonderful little evening.
The next day we got up relatively early for breakfast and then headed up to the Giant's Causeway -- a natural formation that I've wanted to see since I saw some of my sister's pictures from when she was there. Unforunately, the weather didn't cooperate with us, and it was misty with a bit of a rain. Still, the causeway is definitely a beautiful area. The area consists of a couple of kilometers of walks along the coast and cliffs. Down on the coast there's a series of pentagon and hexagonal stones at many different heights. It is a pretty crazy looking thing -- definitely worth seeing!
We spent a couple hours walking around the causeway and taking pictures before hopping back in the car and heading further along the northern coast to Dunluce castle. Unlike Carrickfergus which is in pretty good shape, Dunluce castle is a ruined castle. Apparently, part of the castle fell off the cliff into the ocean while people were living in it! They've since stabilized the cliffs, and the castle is pretty cool to explore in its ruined state.
From there, we continued down the road to Portrush beach, where despite the mist was quite a nice place. There was a big sandy beach and we even saw some people heading out into the water to go surfing!
After all this sight seeing is was definitely time to head back to Dublin. It was a very good weekend trip!