Now that St. Patrick’s Day has past, with all its shamrocks and pinching, you may have forgotten about these emerald isles. Don’t worry, I’m here to remind you!
To start, it’s important to clarify the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This distinction is not the same as saying Indiana and Northern Indiana, for example, because Ireland and Northern Ireland are separate countries. Rather, Ireland is its own country and Northern Ireland is part of the UK (and England). Of note, Ireland is Catholic and uses the Euro. Northern Ireland is Protestant and uses the Pound. This has been its own source of conflict for the Isles, which you can learn about in various places, including the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ulster Museum is a smaller museum but contains a variety of exhibits and offers free admission, making it a worthy stop for us on a rainy day.
Belfast is also home to this beautiful city hall.
And sundry other British experiences, like cute taxi cabs and phone booths.
Belfast also boasts pedestrian street shops and the Titanic Museum, which we didn’t visit but I’ve heard is very interesting. Little remembered fact: the Titanic was built in Belfast.
What we did visit was The Crown Bar. Right across from the bus station and established in 1849, this old Irish pub features individual wooden booths, etched glass, and a good place to sample fish and chips.
So, that was our time in Belfast, short and sweet.
Even shorter was our time in the small town of Dundrum, which I only mention as a plug for visiting small Irish towns. The obvious advantage to small towns is the cuteness factor. We stayed in a hostel and relied on buses to navigate between Dundrum, nearby towns, and Belfast. I will let these pictures speak for themselves.
Finally, the hands down, favorite thing we did in Northern Ireland was the Giant’s Causeway coastal drive.
For this drive you will need a car. We got ours at the Belfast airport. Then we drove the coastal drive from Belfast to Giant’s Causeway with spontaneous stops for sheep sightings and lunch.
That’s the short way to say that there were many stops. For sheep.
For lunch at Harbour Lights Cafe in Carnlough.
And many stops to gasp at the sea meeting the mountains, a view I never get at home.
We deferred from the coastal drive a little to catch a glimpse of this ancient row of arbors called the Dark Hedges.
And on our way home we stopped to cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
All of these stops and drives did eventually lead us to our destination: Giant’s Causeway. Legend has it that a giant, Finny McCool, built this causeway as stepping-stones to help him cross the water without getting his feet wet. All we really know for sure is that it’s a result of a volcanic eruption forming interlocking basalt columns. Pretty cool!
And that was my trip.
Why you should go to Ireland:
Its easy to travel by bus or by car. Car is the obviously more adventurous option because you get to tackle left-sided driving and choose your own schedule, but either works!
It feels safe. I’m hesitant to say it is safe just because I’m sure it’s not a crime-less nation, but I argue that it is a safe place to travel, even alone.
And this is mostly because the people are so friendly and helpful. Part of it is the dialect (they just sound happy all the time). But the other part is that they really are nice. Case in point: In Dublin I tried to board a bus and upon realizing I didn’t have the right change, I ran to the corner store to buy something small. The corner store man, upon hearing my problem, gave me back extra change (charging me less than the ticket price for a Kinder chocolate egg 🙂 ). When I returned to the bus, everyone had boarded and the driver was holding the bus, waiting for me!!
And finally, because it’s beautiful, fun, and a short flight.
Feel persuaded yet?
For information on how we spent our time in Ireland, you can read my previous post here.