Visiting Northern Ireland as a part of our UK trip for Christmas was a dream come true, euphoric part being the Giant’s Causeway and the Antrim coast tour. Antrim is one of the six counties that form the Northern Ireland. And we would be road tripping through the Glens of Antrim which makes for a spectacular train of picturesque landscapes along the Antrim coast to the only UNESCO heritage site of Northern Ireland – the Giant’s Causeway.
Our tour was scheduled to commence from Belfast city center at around 9 in the morning. We reached the tour company office early and as there was some time before we set off we decided to have a quick breakfast at the Subway next to the tourist office. Soon the guide led us to a bus waiting across the street.
It was Christmas time and the city was beautifully decorated with ornate lighting which was resplendent against the omnipresent overcast sky. The tour was one of the best natural trails with a bounty of surreal scenic vistas all along to keep us rapt, the only downside being the limited no of stops to account for the small daylight hours. We got ourselves seated at the window seats in the last row with intent to click as many pictures possible on the way.
Our first moment of awe on the tour was a coastal town with a cluster of black roofs sprouting through the green landscape. In the backdrop, the azure hues of sea and the skies created a magical fusion at the horizon. The melted snow had formed tiny poodles everywhere. The meadows were peppered with frolicking sheep munching on the wet crunchy grass.
Awe-inspiring coastal views, pristine beaches, undulating hills punctuated with windmills, small pretty towns, and the rugged rocky cliffs. Everything around oozed charm and beauty enough to leave us in a trance.
Our first stop was a photo stop for the Dunluce Castle. We were greeted with a rush of chilly sea breeze as we exited the bus. On our left the ruins of the medieval castle perched precariously on a steep basaltic cliff. The castle is said to have a traumatic history as the legend speaks of how on a stormy night the kitchen collapsed into the lap of the sea and this incident led to its abandonment.
We pottered along the road overlooking the coast. We leaned upon a carpet of thick velvety grass edging the road and relished the stunning views of the waves crashing the rocky coastline below.
Bushmills Whiskey Distillery
A visit to the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery is part of the tour but as it remains closed during the Christmas vacation we, unfortunately, had to skip it. A guided tour of the distillery provides visitors an insight into the distillery process and 400 years of history followed by tasting experience.
Finally, we the most awaited part of the tour was here – the Giants Causeway. It had started drizzling when we reached though we were a bit disappointed the rendezvous with the incredulous black stone columns was exhilarating and nothing could dissuade us. Everyone jumped out of the bus well equipped for the rain and started scurrying towards the causeway. Few minutes ahead the rain had stopped but it was still windy and we could manage a few quick snaps.
The route winded through the rocky terrain for some 20 minutes and we finally had the first glimpse of a hill made of columns. And suddenly as if by our wish sun shone and the sky brightened up. There are estimated to be around 40,000 basalt columns all as a result of a volcanic activity. Then there was a ‘Giant Sleeping’ which has some funny legend behind its naming. We enjoyed watching the waves splattering the columns and clambering the age old stones and snapping some amazing pictures.
At the start of the trail where the bus drops there is a small cafe. When we returned it was jam-packed and there was no space even to stand. Soon the bus arrived and we were happy to be relieved of the bad weather. We next headed to the famed rope bridge and our guide dreaded it to be closed due to the weather condition. And we could hear everyone in the bus sigh with disappointment. We were neutral as we weren’t even sure if we would want to cross it with a year old kid to accompany.
On the way is the village of Ballintoy where one of the series of the Game of Thrones was shot and the St Gobban church in Portbradden which is recognized as the smallest church in Ireland with two seats.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
And much to the utter disappointment of everyone, the bridge was closed and all we could do was click pictures of the bridge and the stunning views around. The 20 m wobbly bridge hovering 30 m over the ravine connects the mainland to a tiny rocky island of Carrickarede. The island was once a great spot for Salmon fishing and hence the fishermen have been building a bridge here for over 350 years. In the instance of unexpected weather changes, the visitors have been taken off the island by boat.
Just a few miles ahead of the Ballycastle town on the way back we came across an astounding phenomenon of the lake of Loughareema or the Vanishing Lake which vanishes within hours. The reason being the lake sits on a leaky chalk-bed with a sinkhole that often gets blocked up by peat and once it opens up all the water from the lake drains into it.
If time permits one can visit the beautiful coastal towns of Cushendall and Cushendun. Cushendall has some of the lovely Irish Georgian buildings still intact. Glenariff is a valley in County Antrim and Glenariff Forest Park has several pools and waterfalls which make for spectacular forest trails.
At dusk, as we snuggle up warm, a feeling of melancholy is piqued to bid adieu to this land of sublime natural beauty. And the guide starts singing ‘The Green Glens of Antrim are calling to me’ and deep inside our heart we harbor a strong desire to return back soon.
Have these pictures piqued an interest to plan a visit to this beautiful land? Do share your thoughts.
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