Northern Ireland – Belfast and The Giant's Causeway
Northern Ireland – Belfast and The Giant's Causeway
There's something about Ireland that makes everyone just fell in love with it! Maybe it's the music, the culture or just the incredible landscapes with the most amazing colors you can ever find. The truth is you can't help but believe there's something magical involved. If you feel like visiting this amazing country, Northern Ireland is a must! So, I'm gonna share with you a two day tour at Belfast and The Giant's Causeway.
How to get there?
As a solo traveler, my choices were to rent a car or book a tour at Paddywagon. Since I didn't want to take my chances behind the wheel driving on a side that I'm not used to, I looked up for Paddywagon options. It's one of the most famous tours around Ireland and it has many different options from day tours up to 9 days tours leaving from different cities. At the time, I choosed the 2 day tour leaving from Dublin to Belfast and The Giant's Causeway with the driver as a guide telling you amazing stories about Ireland and traditional Irish music all along the way.
Day 1 – Monasterboice, Titanic Experience and Belfast
Departing from Dublin around 9 am we had a 15 minute stop at north of Drogheda to visit the ruins of Monasterboice where you can see a 10th century tower and some beautiful Celtic cross hand-carved by monks.
We arrived in Belfast around lunch time and the first stop is to visit the Titanic Experience (entry included). The museum has interactive expositions galleries including a dark ride and a underwater theater where you can find out facts and uncover some of the many myths that exists around Titanic. If you're already hungry at this point, there's a restaurant and a caffe inside the museum.
After 2 hours stop we continue our trip towards Belfast City where you can use the free time to walk around and visit the Crown Liquor Saloon, Grand Opera House, Botanical Gardens, City Hall, Queen's University and Albert Clock. If you are overstaying don't rush and take your time. You won't have enough time with the tour to do all this but I recommend you to take a walk around the city, visit the shopping area, eat something if you haven't yet and try to go to the tour at the City Hall which will take around 45 minutes and it's free! The building it's absolutely gorgeous even if you're not really interest in the history of the city, the architecture itself is worth a visit.
We stopped for nearly 2 hours and headed to the hostel. It might seem a little bit far away but it will take only around 25 minutes walk to the city center giving you the opportunity to visit the University quarter full of bars and music.
When booking the tour you can choose between the Backpackers price or the Economy price with a difference of €50. The first choice is the cheapest one where you stay in the hostel in shared room with breakfast included. The second one you stay in B&B’s, Apartments & Budget Hotels, all private rooms en suite with a different breakfast included suck as Continental or Full Traditional Irish Breakfast. I went with the cheapest option, but since I've booked the tour only a day before they had only a double room available for me. My room was small, with a double bed, closet and a sink. It was quite comfortable but the building was old and a little bit dirty and I couldn't use Wifi inside my room. Apparently I wasn't the only one since I saw many people from the second floor trying to use their phones at the corridors. Didn't try the breakfast since I've bought some food a day before but it was basically bread, peanut butter, jam, tea and coffee. The next morning I talked to a really nice couple who have booked the private room and they had no complains about it. Even if is only for one night, if you're really picky about your room I'd recommend booking the Economy price tour.
Day 2 – Dark Hedges, Carrick-a-Rede, The Giant's Causeway and Dunluce Castle
If you decides to spend a night in Belfast, the tour bus will pick you up around 10 am in front of the accommodation. The first stop is at the Dark Hedges aka The Kings Road, if you're a fan of Game of Thrones. I went there at the beginning of June and apparently couple weeks before there was a big storm that knocked down some trees so it wasn't as full and dark as it was expected. But it was still beautiful. My only complain would be about the time left to take pictures: only 15 minutes! It wasn't enough since that's the time needed only to walk down the road.
The second stop is at the famous rope bridge Carrick-a-Rede and also known as the set of the popular Game of Thrones. In fact, there is even a tour through the main filming sets of the series if you're interested. If you're lucky and manage to be there with a nice weather you might be able to see some Scottish island from there (entrance not included /£5.90 extra).
And then we were finally on our way to The Giant's Causeway! It is located in County Antrim at the northern coast of Ireland and since 1986 it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Also, The Giant's Causeway has often been described as The Eighth Wonder Of The World. You can enjoy the visit to the place with audio guides offered at the entrance. I usually don't enjoy those but trust me, you'll love this one, well at least I did! It's full of info about the rock formation and amazing stories behind every spot! Legends or not, you decide! The area consist of dark hexagonal shaped columns and stones, which were formed during a volcano eruption 60 million years ago. Despite the geological explanation, people always create myths and legends to explain things that makes no sense. Couldn't be different in this case!
The myth – Finn MacCool and Benandonner
Legend says that there was a Scottish giant, called Benandonner was threatening Ireland. By doing so, it end up enraging Finn, an Irish giant who grabbed chunks of the Antrim coast and threw them into the sea forming a path for Finn to follow and teach Benandonner a lesson. When Finn reached the Scottish shore, he saw the huge mistake he had done. Benandonner was massively huge so he ran back to Ireland followed by the giant and with Finn's wife quick-thinking help, Benandonner found him disguised as a baby. The angry Scot saw the baby and decided if the child was that big, the dad must be really huge. So he escaped and on his way back Benandonner destroyed the path linking Scotland with Ireland. Myth or not, I always prefer to believe at those!
After visiting The Giant's Causeway you can go to the visitor center where there's a little bit more about the history of the place, coffee shop, toilets and souvenirs.
On our way back to Dublin, we stopped at the Dunluce Castle. The ancestral home of the MacDonnell Clan is rumored to be haunted by spirits of the residents that died under mysterious circumstances.
The tour finished around 7:30 pm in Dublin. It is a little bit exhaustive but if you're in a hurry like me I'd recommend doing the tour. You can't just leave this amazing magical country without visiting the Northern Ireland!