Thursday, 24 September 2015

Giant's Causeway. Causeway Coast. Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. Northern Ireland.

                                             ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
This is a trip we undertook on the first full day over in the Emerald Isle which was exploring the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland. Marion kindly volunteered to drive us in her car on what would be mainly a sightseeing trip, visiting the famous locations, known world wide, like the Giant's Causeway, seen above, and the Carrick- A- Rede Rope Bridge to reach an offshore island. We would be passing Derry/Londonderry, then the scenic seaside towns of Coleraine, Portstewart, and Portrush to get there.
As both attractions have been featured on many television programmes over the years I was looking forward to seeing them in reality but nothing prepared me for the crowds of tourists, especially as most of the other world class scenery in the Republic had been empty with only a handful of other visitors. We had grown so used to having spectacular places to ourselves over in Ireland both on the sea cliffs and on the mountains that it was a real shock to find so many people here.
The Giant's Causeway, seen above, was absolutely mobbed. There must have been several hundred people swarming over the famous pavement of hexagonal blocks and more walking down the minor road to reach it from several packed car parks. Having taken several hours to get here from Donegal we were very lucky to get a space. Don't know if it's like this all the time or we just picked a busy day but if you put all the folk here on a single block each there wouldn't be many empty spaces left.
A view from the cliffs above the causeway. It was so busy we didn't stay long here as we already knew what it looked like from loads of magazines and TV programmes. What interested us more was the parts that had not featured as heavily and were unknown to the Scottish contingent. This included a walk along the red horizontal band of cliffs, seen in the first photo which was a nice elevated balcony trail. Unfortunately, it ended all too soon , as once through the obvious notch in the red band a massive rock fall had swept away the path which meant we had to retrace our steps until we reached a flight of stairs.
More hexagonal columns, similar to the ones found on Skye, Staffa, Arthur's Seat, and Dunglass near Strathblane, Glasgow.
The line of stairs to the top of the cliffs. Good to see the place at last but we were somewhat overwhelmed by the crowds.
Carrick-A-Rede came next, which is equally famous, with its rope bridge high above the blue waters to reach a small island, seen here.This was busy as well and we had to join a short queue at the ticket booth as you have to pay 5:90 euros per adult  if you are not a national trust member. There was also a short queue to cross over to the island as everyone wanted a selfie or a photo on the bridge, including us.
I opted for a classic distance shot as taking one on the actual bridge itself didn't look very good. Not that this bothered the selfie stick crowd who only wanted a photo of themselves in it and didn't seem that bothered about the quality of the background scenery. As long as they were there and had evidence of it that was enough. A good picture setting was incidental. Alex didn't cross as he had asked if it was free to walk the km long path up to the bridge but miss out the island and received an OK for that option. Marion stayed with Alex on the main footpath as I think she'd been before years ago and walked most of the coastal path around this district.
As it was a once in a lifetime event Graeme, Bob, and myself paid our euros and crossed onto the island but after the wild, empty sea cliffs in the Republic it was somewhat of an anticlimax. To some folk this would be a major and memorable event crossing here but with our background of scrambling, visiting remote sea stacks and mountaineering it was a bit tame if I'm honest and hands in pockets stuff. We soon returned as you couldn't actually go anywhere on this tiny lump with steep cliffs falling into the sea on all sides and a well trampled grassy centre about the size of a large council garden was the prize for arriving on the island.

Having said that it was a lovely afternoon and the islands out to sea were rugged and interesting, likewise the cliffs and coastline on the journey along the Causeway Coast.. Note the man-made concrete structure on the small island. Perhaps an overhead cable and presumably buckets ran from the mainland cliffs out to here for easy transportation onto ships for this precious material. Limestone.
A wild headland. Interesting link here with good maps and photos of the area.
Limestone or chalk cliffs. We were informed that limestone was mined commercially here in past times and a large lime kiln stood nearby. Also chalk, a type of limestone, was ground into paste from nearby cliffs then used in medicine to settle stomach complaints. Amazing to think these cliffs are the result of millions of tiny shells and skeletons from dead sea creatures built up over geological time. Marble is yet another form of limestone, altered by heat. The rope bridge was originally placed over to the island to allow local fishermen to reach the lucrative and plentiful Atlantic salmon as they swam past the island on their migration route each year. Now it's tourists they catch with the bridge.
Took a lot of finding but here's a link proving that chalk and limestone cliffs can coexist together. A personal puzzle for me that needed explaining. You learn something new every day :o) 
Motoring along the actual causeway coast itself was the highlight for me as it was quieter yet had some spectacular beaches, old clifftop castles, and interesting coastal holiday resorts, perched on cliff tops. Really scenic and a popular stretch of terrain for the Irish on summer holidays and visitors from overseas.
This entire area did seem to attract more tourists though compared to the places we'd been in the Republic detailed in  previous posts. Maybe being part of the UK it was promoted more widely there as the scenery on all our trips north and south have been equally stunning but it's the landscape in the Republic that stands out simply because it's less well known, mysterious, and a complete surprise usually every time we turn a corner.
Below is a famous and iconic castle on a rock plug high above the sea. Look at- In popular culture near the bottom of this link if you think you have seen it before

As if to highlight this global popularity and instant recognition the Giant's Causeway featured in Horizon a few days later when we were back in Glasgow, using the hexagonal blocks to demonstrate the concept of the Multiverse and almost identical separate worlds existing side by side, yet unaware of each other. A radical theory some eminent scientists are coming round to grudgingly accept might actually be real and one used to great effect in Bioshock Infinite which I featured on here around a month ago in a great video. The story line and especially the ending to this game is extraordinary and poignant- the equal of any film script. I might be dumb but I'm intuitively ahead of the curve when I see great ideas that always hit me like a brick in the face. For every ton of dross you have to shovel a small gold nugget is found buried in the mediocrity of life :o)
The Curran Strand beach near Coleraine, photographed around lunchtime with windsurfers, dog walkers, families and swimmers.
The same White rocks beach late evening on the return journey. Only a few folk left. The white limestone blocks can be seen here and they give the beach its name.
Thanks to Marion again for the driving and hospitality and Graeme for inviting us over. A great trip.

Now for something completely different. Surfing the "Silver Dragon", a massive tidal river bore in China through the middle of a large city. The largest of its kind in the world.


Linda W. said...

So beautiful! I can see why it's crowded with people.

blueskyscotland said...

Evening Linda,
It is a great coastline but the difference in tourist numbers between Northern Ireland and the Republic is striking, maybe partly because that's the traditional holiday coast for the north whereas the Republic has 20 times the coastline to spread the visitors out more along it's length.

Carol said...

I suppose you have to do the touristy stuff as well really - you've got to see it... the rope bridge looks fun but not scary like they make out it is on TV

blueskyscotland said...

Spot on Carol,
If we had not visited we would always have wanted to go there and it is a spectacular coastline, just very busy with tourists. I'm a bit of a hypocrite I suppose because when I visit spectacular empty areas then wonder aloud why nobody else goes there... but if these places then did get mobbed I'll complain about that as well. The human condition :o)