Happy Saturday from Derry!
This morning we left Belfast and headed for the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (Irish name: Carraig a’ Ráid, translating to “rock of the casting”), which was about an hour and fifteen minutes away. The original bridge was built several hundred years ago by salmon fisherman, who needed a way from the mainland to the Carrickarede Island to cast their fishing nets. The current bridge was built in 2008, is 20 metres (66 feet long), and stands 30 metres (98 feet) high over the water.
Carrick-a-Rede is part of the National Trust, a charity whose goal is to protect and preserve historic places in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and as such, we had to each pay a few pounds to cross the bridge. You actually have to park some distance away from the bridge, but the 1 km walk has some gorgeous views of the coast and the ocean.
We also walked past grassy fields with sunny yellow wildflowers, and “Oreo” cows, which Lee loves, and are nick-named because of their black bodies with a thick white stripe in the middle. Walking across the bridge was exhilarating, and I actually wished it was much longer! Laura Douglass captured this photo of me with a huge, goofy grin on my face while crossing the bridge over to the island:
As you can see, the bridge is sturdy and is perfectly safe. I can understand someone hesitating from crossing if they are afraid of heights, and we heard that apparently some people make it over to the island, but are too afraid to walk back for whatever reason, and have to be taken off the island by boat. Dramatic! It was a bit cloudy and overcast this morning, but the views were spectacular, the seabirds noisy, the fresh air invigorating, and the entire experience inspiring.
On the walk back from the island to the mainland, I snapped a cool picture from the bridge:
Once we left Carrick-a-Rede, which is in County Antrim, we headed towards Giant’s Causeway, a short 20 minute drive. Lee first took us to a pub for lunch, where I had a fantastic Steak and Guinness pie, which is essentially a puff pastry filled with beef and vegetables and cooked in Guinness. Yum! On the drive, Lee told us the legend behind Giant’s Causeway, and the tale of the Irish giant named Fionn and the Scottish giant Benandonner. The story goes something like this: Benandonner challenged Fionn to a fight, which Fionn accepted. Fionn then built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet one another. But, once Fionn realized that Benandonner was much bigger than he was, he hid. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguised him as a baby and lay him in a cradle, so when Benandonner saw the size of the ‘baby’, he assumed that its father, Fionn, must be the largest giant of them all. Benandonner fled back to Scotland, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow.
The less exciting reality is that the causeway was formed by an ancient volcanic eruption, and is composed of 40,000 basalt columns of solidified lava. These columns have essentially formed stepping stairs that allow visitors to climb and explore, dip their toes in the ocean or tide pools, and enjoy the views of the Northern Atlantic Ocean.
I had a blast exploring the causeway, and even climbed up some of the taller columns that the others wouldn’t. I’ve always loved to climb – and being tall gives me a distinct climbing advantage!
We left the causeway after a few hours, and finished the drive to Derry, which took just over an hour. On the way, Lee, as always, had a bit of a history lesson for us – Fun Fact: A surefire way to distinguish whether or not someone is a Loyalist or a Nationalist is by what they call Derry. The Protestant Loyalists call the town “Londonderry,” while the Irish Nationalists simply call it “Derry.” Lee arranged for us to take a walking tour of Derry. Derry is similar to Belfast in many ways, and has experienced violence and strife from The Troubles. We saw more murals and heard more heart-breaking stories, but also learned a great deal about the past and present of the city.
One of the most simple and yet affecting sights we saw was the monument dedicated to the victims of Bloody Sunday – where 14 protestors and onlookers were killed in Derry by the British Army on January 30, 1972 during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march. You may have heard U2’s popular political protest song “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” which details The Troubles, and the horrors of Bloody Sunday…
And the battle’s just begun
There’s many lost, but tell me who has won
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
We have had a long day traveling about Northern Ireland and walking around Carrick-a-Rede, Giant’s Causeway, and Derry… So Lee decided to take us all to a pub in Derry called The Ice Wharf. Our group had a great time, eating, drinking, and chatting; some of the group then walked to a bar down the street, but it was extremely cramped, so the girls and I went back to The Ice Wharf to hangout and enjoy a few ciders. A DJ was entertaining the crowd, and it was so much fun to relax like a local and enjoy Derry. There were many “Hen Parties” present, which is the equivalent of an American Bachelorette Party, and those girls were highly amusing! All in all, it’s been yet another great day in Northern Ireland.
I will leave you with this bit of awesome graffiti that I encountered on our walking tour around Derry this afternoon:
I’ll write from Dublin tomorrow night!
Wishing you all sweet dreams and chicken wings,