Northern Ireland: Day 1

After my first British Studies exam of the semester wrapped up last Wednesday, I hopped onto a bus with some of my peers to go to Birmingham, England. From there, we flew to Dublin, Ireland, for the first of two long weekends of the semester. Upon arriving at our hostel, myself and my roommates went immediately to bed because on Thursday we had to be around and ready to go at 7:30 am.

On Thursday morning, I hopped onto the green Paddywagon tour bus with my fellow students to head to Northern Ireland.

Now, call me ignorant, but before coming to England, I thought Ireland was its own island-country. However, this is not the case. Ireland is located in the south with Northern Ireland up above. Furthermore, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, and Wales). This is making BREXIT even more of a headache because goods will not be able to pass between the country borders easily once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Another thing to note is currency. With Northern Ireland being a part of the United Kingdom, the pound is used while Ireland uses the Euro.

Our first stop of the day was at the Dark Hedges in Stranocum, Northern Ireland. I had absolutely NO idea that our tour would be stopping at this iconic forest.

Years ago, I pinned a photo of the Dark Hedges on my “Traveling Through Europe” board on Pinterest. I did not really believe I would see the Dark Hedges in person because I assumed the trees were in the Irish countryside.

When Aaron the bus driver announced stop number one of the day was the Dark Hedges, I was ecstatic! We had 20-30 minutes at the Dark Hedges, so I hopped off the bus and walked quickly to see the mesmerizing trees. My Pinterest dream came to life before my eyes! In the pictures, the trees look a bit lackluster and nothing special. In person, however, the branches interweave with one another in a magical and eerie way.

We loaded back onto the bus and headed to the Carrick-a-rede bridge in Ballintoy, Northern Ireland. The rope bridge was used by fishermen back in the day and links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede . To cross the bridge, it costs 10 Euros. I felt the money was well spent!

Upon arrival, Aaron passed out the tickets and we all began the short walk to the bridge. Once again, we had a limited amount of time as Carrickarede so I walked briskly with my friends and snapped pictures along the way of the coast.

The Northern Ireland coast

Eventually, I made it to the rope bridge. I went across and found the views of the coast to be even better!

Once I had my fill on the scenery, my friend, Kirby and I crossed back over the bridge and started to head back to the bus. We opted to take a different path back to the main one and the views were amazing! The sun decided to peek out from behind the clouds on our way back.

After everyone hopped back onto the bus, we stopped at a restaurant to grab some Irish food. I ate Guinness and Steak Pie. The food was yummy and filling! I 100% could taste the Guinness and in the pie, which had me a bit worried for my Guinness tour the following day as I could not decide if I like the flavor or not.

Guinness and Steak Pie!

Once lunch wrapped up, everyone got back on the bus to head to Giant’s Causeway. This area is famous in Northern Ireland for its rocks, which are columnar in shape made from basalt. Quite honestly, I had never heard of Giant’s Causeway before going there and the rocks did not disappoint!

Before seeing the famous columns, you can grab an audio guide and go through the museum. The audio guide also continues outside along the paved path that leads to Giant’s Causeway. I personally did not stay in the museum long nor use the audioguide. My objective was to experience the unique view in all of its glory.

After two hours, everyone hopped back onto the bus to head to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Here, we had only an hour. I felt so cheated! 60 minutes is simply not enough time to see a city, let alone in the evening. I guess it is an excuse to return…?

I would love to go back to Belfast later on in my life to see the Titanic museum and learn about the Peace Walls that are used to diffuse the religious tension in the country that is still prevalent between the Catholics and the Protestants. The capital city holds so much history that I did not have the opportunity to see and learn.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, was the last stop of the day. Aaron drove us all back to our hostel in Dublin. From there, my friends and I went in search of dinner. We ended up at a Mexican restaurant similar to that of Chipotle/Qdoba. I know a burrito is not Irish food, but man did my 6.55 Euro burrito with guacamole taste good. Sometimes, you need a taste of home while traveling.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo