UK's Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge & Giant's Causeway
On my way out of Ireland I made sure to reserve one last day for a trip from Dublin to the UK. The tour to Giant's Causeway cost €46.85 through Giant's Causeway Tours. At 6:30 a.m. about 50 of us met at Molly's Statue and boarded the bus (definitely a larger group but my only last minute option). About an hour into the trip we stopped for snacks and a bathroom break and then continued on.
Day 1: Morning | Admire the Dark Hedges
Our first stop was the Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, where scenes from Game of Thrones were shot. This gorgeous tunnel of beech trees was planted in 1775 by homeowner, James Stuart, to create an imposing approach. Today, about 90 of the 150 trees still stand. Some have been lost due to poor health or weather.
We only had a few moments to capture photos so either run ahead or stay behind to get a few without a crowd. After the Dark Hedges, we carried on to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which turned out to be my favorite spot of the day.
Day 1: Early Afternoon | Cross Carrick-a-Rede Bridge
The bridge at Carrick-a-Rede was built over 350 years ago by fisherman looking for Atlantic salmon. This rope bridge was built from mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island to reduce the need for boats. Unfortunately, due to pollution and fishing pressure at sea the last salmon was caught there in 2002.
The area felt completely isolated and undisturbed. The landscape was unspoiled and full of bright blues and greens. We walked along the edge of the cliff toward the bridge for about 15 or 20 minutes. I couldn't walk more than a few feet without stopping to admire the view.
As we got closer to the bridge everyone formed a single file line and began to cross one-by-one. The bridge wasn't too scary but it did sway in the wind a bit. On the opposite side, there's a tiny platform used as a lookout point toward the ocean. Then you must turn around and head back the same way.
It was such a sunny gorgeous day, I couldn't have asked for anything more. Once back on the mainland I quickly made my way toward the gift shop near the entrance. Inside the shop, I bought a few bars of fudge and a "recycled" wool blanket made from end-cuts of yarn (not sure why they're calling it a rug).
Once back on the bus we stopped for a quick lunch and then we were off. It's important to note that Northern Ireland is split from Ireland and is part of the United Kingdom. However, they have an open border so it's not necessary to get a visa or deal with passports. We didn't even have a checkpoint at the border.
Day 1: Late Afternoon | Explore Giant's Causeway
About 15 minutes by bus was Giant's Causeway, the final destination. I'll admit after Googling images of the Causeway it was a bit disappointing in real life. It just didn't feel as grand as the images made it out to be. That being said, it was still pretty cool.
Giant's Causeway is made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns resulting from an ancient volcanic eruption. In 1986 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Most of the columns are hexagonal in shape and can be used as steps to explore the area. Just watch how close you get to the edges, security will shout at you to return to a safer area.
The Causeway has become quite popular, especially since it's Visitor Center was built in 2012. But most people don't realize you can enter the site on your own through the tunnel on the right hand side. It isn't necessary to enter the Visitor Center and pay the €12 fee. Once through the tunnel, the walk toward the columns was about 15 minutes. They also offered buses going back and forth in case you need a lift.
As it often is, the weather didn't hold out and by the time I reached the columns it began to sprinkle. Thank goodness I packed an umbrella and coat.
After an hour, I walked back up toward the bus to meet my group and we took off back toward Dublin. What an amazing experience!
Side Note: Make sure to keep track of time because your tour bus will leave without you!