Ireland Adventures: Belfast, Giants Causeway and More Northern Ireland

Ok so where did we leave off on my Ireland adventures? I think we’d just finished up day one.

So day two was definitely one of my favorite days of the whole trip. We took a day trip outside of the Republic to Northern Ireland, spending time in Belfast, Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede.

Quick history lesson to put this day in context: Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. It is under British rule and is not part of the Republic of Ireland. This has caused tensions for years and years between the Nationalists (often Catholic) and the Unionists (often Protestant). Nationalists want all of Ireland to be united as one, free of the UK. Unionists often identify as British and want to remain part of the UK.

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Political sign leading up to the elections in Northern Ireland Untitled

For years the tensions between the two, referred to as “the Troubles,” were very violent. When my mom visit Ireland years ago, she couldn’t even go to Northern Ireland because it wasn’t safe. Since the Good Friday agreement in 1998, things have gotten a little bit better. Obviously, I was able to go and visit, but tensions still exist, and in Belfast, the peace wall between the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods still stands (though there have been talks to eventually remove it — people that live there have lots of strong feelings about this).

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The peace wall

Because of all this history, seeing Belfast was a really cool experience for me. We took a black taxi tour, and our driver took us around the city telling us about different historical events and the symbolism of the murals painted on walls and buildings around the city.

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Megan and me in our black taxi

I had heard that it’s pretty easy to tell whether your cab driver is Catholic or Protestant based on how they frame certain stories for you. We asked our cab driver if he was religious and he said no, but after about five minutes with him, it was pretty clear he at least culturally identified with team Catholic.

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He often admitted violence came from both sides, but he made it sound that any violence that started on the Catholic side was largely in retaliation for violence from the Protestant side. I would have loved to repeat the tour with a Protestant cab driver to see how some of the same stories were framed.

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Aside from seeing the murals, he also took us to see the church where many of the talks leading up to the Good Friday agreement were held.

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And we finished our tour with him by signing the peace wall.

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Being Irish Catholic myself, I found this half day trip to Belfast fascinating. The history and the tension is ages old, but at the same time still really recent. It felt like we were in the midst of living history while we were there. I know I’m lacking the words to describe this experience well, but it was powerful and really captivating.

After leaving Belfast, we headed for the coast of Northern Ireland. We made a quick stop at Dunn Luce Castle, where some of Game of Thrones has been filmed. This was the only bit of rain we got that day, which seemed fitting for the setting. 13087007_10105110425363452_152739935737771268_o
My crazy hair is kind of blocking the castle ruins

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You can see the castle ruins over my shoulder

Then we headed on to Giants Causeway. The Causeway was formed eons ago as a result of volcanic activity in the area, leaving these stunning columns along the coast. If you believe the legend, the columns were built by giants (hence the name), and the causeway was eventually destroyed so that giants from Scotland could not battle the giants from Northern Ireland.

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Today, it’s a World Heritage Site that attracts tourists from all over for the stunning views of the coastline and the hiking opportunities.

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We spent a while here taking in the views and hiking around.

Our last stop on our Northern Ireland trip was to Carrick-a-Rede, another point along the coast with stunning views. From here we could see all the way to Scotland (even though it was a bit cloudy).

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We enjoyed some more hiking and got to cross the famous rope bridge that was originally built by salmon fishers to access one of the little islands off the coast.

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After spending the last half of our day along the coast breathing in the fresh ocean air, we were all pretty tired. But we headed back to Dublin where we spent the night exploring O’Connell Street, home to the General Post Office, which served as the headquarters for leaders of the Easter Uprising.

We also crossed Ha’Penny Bridge and wandered around Temple Bar for a bit before crashing back at the hotel. 13095900_10104558416952738_5743732281575536220_n

Ha’Penny Bridge

And the was day two in the books. Snapchat story with highlights below:

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