Today, we visited rural Northern Ireland. I’m here to tell you, it’s gorgeous.
But first, we awoke in an overcast Belfast. Overnight, we could hear beleaguered hotel staff shepherding a British stag reveler to his room (notice a theme?). There was confusion as to where his friends were staying but they weren’t big fans of him lying in the hallway. By the way, ours was the 10th floor, home of the Bill Clinton Suite. I took this picture for my Mom. She’ll be so proud.
I’d be pissed if I were Clinton since it was across the hall from the elevator. Sidebar: I’m still not sure what was going on, but a ton of people were rappelling down the face of our Hotel this morning as we waited to pack up our things. The people watching seemed festive, so I assume nothing was awry.
After taking a few pictures of the murals in Belfast (no, no, certainly not intimidating!), we decided to take the quickest motorway north for more time-sensitive places first.
The skies cleared as we arrived in Bushmills. We drove right past throngs of Sunday churchgoers to find the Distillery tour, where Bushmills has bottled for hundreds of years and where their new owner Diageo now bottles Jameson’s. There were families in our tour — reminding me of the time my parents took me on the Anheiser Busch tour. Sadly there were no clomping Clydesdales here, so I don’t know if the kids carried away the same positive memories I did. Nor could they get any stuffed animals to keep for the next 25 years. Old Bushmill’s should look into mascot opportunities. Lunch post tour in the distillery was great. Irish Stew Steak on potatoes! I bet there was whiskey in that and the lunchroom lady kept calling me Love.
Next stop: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Tour. This isn’t the sort of thing I’d normally hunt down, but it was on our way to the Giant’s Causeway draw. Tip: I’d go out of my way for this place; it’s gorgeous. You hike to the rope bridge to take in more views which were spectacular.
Finally we arrived at today’s biggie: The Giant’s Causeway.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also part of the National Trust, like Carrick-a-Rede. Mr. T had heard of this amazing geological formation years ago & suggested we visit. Stacks and stacks of hexagonal stones. It might not have made my radar otherwise & was a vacation highlight. Legend has it that Finn MacCool built the road to visit his lady in Scotland & a rival giant smashed it all up. In the interest of conservation (of our time), we took the bus to The Stones. Wise move, because we had plenty of energy for the cliff walk remaining. The coast views were amazing.
After our walk, we took advantage of our location to continue a drive through the Glens of Antrim. Shortly after the Causeway stop, Mr. T & I switched driving duties. Confession: there was a half an hour there where I thought I might die. I started looking out the side window instead. It was getting pretty late in the day & we started worrying places would close up shop on Sunday nights in such a rural region (less than 2 million people in all of Northern Ireland). So we stopped at the end of the Glen drive in Carnlough.
Turns out, Carnlough is the home of the Londonderry Arms – one of the best un-researched happy surprises of our trip. I now understand why food folk rave about Duck Confit. Their “Crispy Confit of Duck Leg nestled on Champ and braised Red Cabbage drizzled with a sweet Chilli Sauce” is to DIE for, Bahbara. To die for. The cabbage was a surprise hit as well. I cleaned my plate of it, for the first time. And now that I brought it up, another surprise of this trip has been learning the Irish are obsessed with two spice profiles right now: Cajun or anything with Sweet Chili sauce. In some of the less notable establishments I was grateful for that sweet chili bottle hanging about. Also helpful to know — champs = mashed potatoes. That took me a week to figure out.
As seen on the M1 Motorway, just north of Dublin.
The rest of the drive was dedicated to getting back to the Dublin Airport. We arrived closed to midnight with a few mishaps (I’m blaming the space cadet from yesterday at Dublin Airport Hertz) but everything got turned in and we wandered to the taxi stand to catch a ride back to the city centre. This was the third or fourth day of suspended flights in European airspace & the place was eerie. We had to wake up the driver at the front of the queue. He drove us back quickly, lamenting the slowness, how it would be 2 weeks before any resumption of normalcy, and he laughed a little too heartily at our upcoming Saturday plans to fly to Italy. Hrmph. Well, there are far worse places to be stuck than the British Isles.
For more pictures of our day in The North, here’s a slideshow.