‘Longer’ weekend and friends overseas gave us a chance to visit Northern Ireland and see the pearls of the north coastline. We took a plane to Dublin, having a friendly haven there and then we moved all together with a family car. The plan was simple – to visit the Giant!
The Giant’s Causeway, is situated at the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, in County Antrim. That terrific rock formation was created 60 million years ago, as a result of volcanic activity. They may look as piles of hexagon paving blocks. However, these are basalt columns, made of congealed lava. They create different shapes; these are high ‘organs’, ‘chimeys’ or some sort of mound called Camel’s Hump and more flat areas where we could have a closer look at these surrealist puzzles.
Cross-section of most of them shows a hexagon – six-side figure but there are also such figures of less sides or more, for instance eight. It is hard to believe that it was nature that created so equal and symmetrical columns!
Of course, a nice legend can be found in it…
There is of course one about Giant’s Causeway. So: Long, long time ago, there was a giant, called Finn McCool, who had some troubles with his Scottish friend-giant Benandonner. The latter threatened the first one. Furious Finn tore the coast of Antrim, threw that into the sea, making his way to Scotland. However, when he saw that Benandonner is bigger than him, he run back to Ireland frightened.
But the Scottish giant was already following him! There came with help (and we have a strong female aspect!) his smart wife who dressed him up like a baby, a giant-baby.
What did Benandonner think when he saw it? What must be the father like, if a baby is so huge?! He ran away in panic, destroying the causeway behind himself. Maybe the result of giants’ fight is that incredible scenery…
Driving south-east from the Causeway you can reach a wonderful beech alley The Dark Hedges. The Stuart family planted the trees in the 18th century. The road along which the trees grow goes to Gracehill House. It is not the estate though that attracts the tourists but the old trees creating the tunnel above the road. The Dark Hedges alley was used as a scenery to one episode of Game of Thrones, when Arya Stark, dressed up like a boy runs away from King’s Landing.
The fame of such places grows when it refers to iconic film series or movies. It brings to my mind Cambodia and queues of tourists in Angkor Wat temples, where Lara Croft stood under ‘that one, specific’ tree.
Downhill Demesne – it was built on the command of eccentric bishop from Derry (earl Frederick Augustus Hervey), designed by an architect from Cork, Michael Shanahan or Charles Cameron, as the bishop was famous from changing his architects during the works over his ideas. Today, there are only ruins of that baronial building from the 18th century. The area is under the patronage of National Trust, the organisation that take care of historic buildings and green spaces of Wales, England and Northern Ireland.
Close to Downhill Demesne there are also The Black Glen garden/arboretum; cenotaph, an empty monument-tomb built for the bishop’s brother George Hervey; dovecote that used to be a granary; and another garden hidden between the high walls; everything situated at the green grass premises on which the Irish sheep are grazing freely.
Mussenden Templeis a library built at the cliff’s edge, also being a part of Downhill Demesne. One can find here architectural inspiration of Vesta Temple in Tivoli; an Italian temple on the round plan. Apparently, rich earl Harvey wanted to buy it from Pope Pius VI but the latter (surprise, surprise) refused the offer, so the earl had to built his own version of Italian temple. In 1997 National Trust organisation carried out the works to strengthen the cliff at which the building is situated, as the rocks falling would lead to the collapse of the temple.
The mentioned cliff goes down to the beach, Downhill Strand.
The beach is a part of 11-kilometer long part of the seaside that offers ideal conditions for watersports, having great views, sand dunes and possibilities to watch birds nesting in the rocks. The place is also perfect for family picnics, as the cars are allowed to drive there the whole year.
And for “Game of Thrones” fans… Right there at the beach was filmed a scene when Melisandre, trying to lead Stannis to the Iron Throne, is burning the seven gods of Westeros.
Going west along the coast, leaving the Giant’s Causeway behind, we reached Dunluce Castle. It is said that the kitchen rooms of the castle, that were from the cliff’s side, collapsed once into the sea together with the cooks. That story is supposed to be debunked with painted pictures from the beginning of the 19th century that show the kitchen space. That’s how it is with interesting ‘castle stories’. Most of them are unreal… However, what is real, is that the castle is situated on the cliff, without the access to the seashore and any harbour though. So the castle was doomed to oblivion. Now, only the imagination of tourists and often visited Causeway Coastal Route make the castle alive.
Northern Ireland, just as the rest of the green island, offers a lot of attractions and beautiful places. Short distance between them is the advantages to visit all of them during the weekend. No matters (or matters?) the rainy and windy weather. Although our visit in Northern Ireland was quite short and we saw popular and typical tourist places our experience is definitely positive.