Monday, 3 July 2017

Northern Ireland: The Giant's Causeway and the Causeway Coastal Route


The scenic Causeway Coastal Route and the Giant's Causeway are definitely some of the most gorgeous attractions Northern Ireland has to offer, and luckily it's easy to experience both even if you're not willing to drive yourself as there are plenty of organised bus tours on offer. We booked a tour with McComb's Coach Travel, which is the company that has an office adjacent to the hostel we were staying at, Belfast International Youth Hostel.

The tour itself was amazing, but unfortunately I can't say the same thing about our driver/tour guide Alan from McComb's. During the tour, he first shouted into a Japanese man's face for eating on the bus (like REALLY shouted, instead of politely asking him to please not eat on the bus), mocked a group of Belgians for their foreign English accent, told a girl off for asking for the wifi password because "This will be your new challenge for the day - surviving without wifi!!!", and finally towards the end of the tour when he was dropping people off at their hotels and hostels, his behaviour and attitude towards the ones staying at a hostel was absolutely appalling. He chose to drop the hotel people off first because according to him, they were worth more, and then went on to say horrible things that I choose not to repeat here about anyone staying at a hostel. Since most of us had booked the tour through the office at our hostel, most of us also got off at the hostel, including several grandpas, families and older couples. Because yes, many different people stay at hostels for various reasons. Insulting and judging people is not something I will ever consider a joke, and so because of this driver, I'm not sure how willing I am to recommend this company. I'm sure there is something better available. Having said that, though, McComb's seems to be one of the biggest bus tour companies in Northern Ireland...Let's hope we just ended up with their worst guide!

Anyway, now that I've got that off my chest, let's move on to the actual experience. This particular tour takes you to quite a few places: Carrickfergus Castle, the Old Bushmills Distillery, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle, and the Giant's Causeway. When we went, the price was £25, and the tour will take pretty much the whole day. For any Game of Thrones fans, there are also tours taking you to locations from the TV show - I'm sure it's a fantastic experience as well!

So, our first stop was Carrickfergus Castle, which unfortunately was only a very brief photo stop and a chance to go to the toilet. I love the song Carrickfergus ("I wish I was in Carrickfergus where the castle looks out to sea") so it was really cool to be there, I have to admit.



We then continued along the coast to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which we had the chance to cross for an extra fee. We obviously chose to do that - you even get a certificate to prove you've done it! The bridge is not particularly big, but it's still a cool experience, so I would definitely recommend going for it. You're not in a hurry, either, which is nice as you can really take the scenery in and admire the natural beauty of Northern Ireland.



















Julcsi with her certificate!



It was a completely fantastic experience to cross the rope bridge! Beautiful scenery, fresh air, a little bit of exercise...loved it!

Our next stop was the Old Bushmills Distillery where we had lunch. The distillery also offers guided tours, but since it wasn't one of our main destinations this time, our visit was limited to eating and looking around in the shop.




After the distillery, we had a quick photo stop at Dunluce Castle before heading for our final destination, the Causeway itself.


Dunluce Castle.
The Giant's Causeway consists of around 40 000 basalt columns caused by an ancient volcanic eruption. According to legend, however, the Irish giant Finn MacCool was challenged to fight with a Scottish giant, and Finn then built the causeway so that they could meet for the fight. One version of the story has it that the Scottish giant fled, destroying the causeway behind him.

The Causeway is positively swarming with tourists and it's really difficult to take a picture without anyone in it. However, despite the too many people, it's a magical place and I absolutely loved being able to visit it! As someone who doesn't feel confident about driving in a foreign country, I'm so thankful for these organised tours!
























And that's pretty much the tour. Beautiful nature, fantastic destinations, enough time for all the main attractions and wandering around on your own...the only minus was the obnoxious and unfriendly driver, which I guess put a damper on quite a few of the people in the group's day. But, I'm glad we got to go, and I would recommend all of these places for all the nature lovers out there!

My next update will most likely be all about Cardiff, Wales. In between Ireland and Wales, I also went to Stockholm to see Madonna, but I don't think I'll be posting about that, so I guess it's safe to say stay tuned for Wales :)!

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