My OE - Ireland                                           
APRIL 2003
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Northern Ireland Flag
  Antrim Coast & Giant's Causeway
Northern Ireland Flag  Carrickfergus Castle

Sat 12-Apr 03	Swords - Northern Ireland   [Fine/Overcast]	UK Flag  (Union Jack) Northern Ireland Flag

Headed North through Monaghan and into Northern Ireland heading towards the Causeway Coast at the top.  Briefly visited Benone Strand (beach) and Downhill beach before visiting Mussenden's Temple - actually built as a library, on the edge of a seaside cliff.  Visited remains of Dunluce Castle - very stunning on rocky outcrop on the coast.  Had a look around it but didn't actually go inside.

Next stop was the Old Bushmills Distillery in the town of Bushmills.  The exact same site has been producing whiskey under license since 1608 (presumably unlicensed before that!).  The tour was okay and smelt nice, but seemed a little rushed.  To make up for it though I become one of the four lucky volunteers to do testing and comparisons of various Irish and Scotch whisk(e)y's, which was fun.  I got a certificate to say that I'm an official Irish Whiskey Taster, even though I chose the Single Malt Scotch Whisky as my favourite - they reckoned I needed to come back for further training!  Next I went to The Giant's Causeway nearby.

North Ireland Map
 

 

Mussenden's Temple, from Downhill Beach, Co. Antrim

Mussenden's Temple, Co Antrim

Dunluce Castle, Antrim/Causeway Coast 

Old barrels at Old Bushmills Distillery, Bushmills, Co. Antrim

Official Whiskey Taster Certificate!, Old Bushmills Distillery

Although very impressive and amazing to believe it was actually natural and not man-made, the Giant's Causeway was actually smaller than I had imagined.  The view from above was well worth the climb however.  I took a ridiculous number of photos as normal.

Headed towards Ballycastle and stayed in a B&B for the night.

Causeway Coast

Causeway Coast

The Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim

       

     Close-up of Giant's Causeway                               The Organ Pipes, Causeway Coast   

Sun 13-Apr 03	Northern Ireland - Swords   [Overcast]

Doubled back to The Giant's Causeway again to see if the tide was further out and so the Causeway bigger.  It was a bit bigger, so took more photos (included above) before carrying on around the coast towards the east.  Stopped at the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge which connects a small island used by Salmon fisherman to the mainland.  It was quite a windy day, but I decided for some reason to give it a go anyway (suicidal perhaps?).  It was absolutely crazy and I don't think I've ever been so scared!  Holding onto the rope handrails for my dear life, the wind is trying it's best to blow me out to sea, the bridge is moving under me, there is no safety net (despite what the Lonely Planet claims) and I'm scared of heights!  Somehow I made it over and back, with some photos taken to prove it.

Causeway Coast, near Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

       

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge
(with Sheep Island in background in left photo)

Popped out to Murlough Bay and Torr Head, otherwise just followed the coast road around; The Causeway Coast and on to the Antrim Coast (all in County Antrim though).  Very beautiful coastline, which reminded me a bit of the Great Ocean Road in Aussie, but without all the rocky islands.

Old Crannog, Lough Fadden, near Antrim Coast

Torr Head, Murlough Bay, Antrim Coast

Ballygalley harbour, along the Antrim Coast

Visited large Norman castle at Carrickfergus which was well worth a look - in good state of repair with further restoration going on.  After some takeaways for dinner carried on through Belfast and back into the Republic; home to Swords.

Carrickfergus Castle, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim

A couple of things that I noticed while in Northern Ireland that stuck out were that the police stations (and even some of the courthouses) were highly secured with high fences, razor or barbed wire coils etc, like a prison.  Also, some towns were very obviously loyal to the UK and had murals, God Save the Queen graffiti, Union Jacks flying and Red, White and Blue painted kerbstones; other towns (sometimes only a mile away from UK loyal ones) had Republic Orange/White/Green flags flying with no sign of a Union Jack.  Finally, other than one currency exchange booth that was probably on the border, there is practically no indication where the border is between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - at times there is no indication that you've entered another county, let alone another country!  We never saw any sign that any border stop, barrier arm or anything had ever existed - all evidence seems to have been completely removed.

Mon 14-Apr 03	Swords   [Fine and hot all week!]     Republic of Ireland Flag

Finally returned rental car after about 2 1/2 weeks (after getting lost and arriving at work late!) - had picked it up back in Cork.

Fri 18-Apr 03	Swords	[Fine]

After two weeks of classroom training and one week of alternately listening to calls and taking some calls with someone else ready to lend a hand, some of us (including myself) decided to go it alone on Friday instead of waiting until Monday.  It all went well.  Most people who know me probably know that I'm not a great fan of phones anyway, but it seemed OK.  [I quickly grew to hate it as time went on and could understand why people take guns to work and go on shooting sprees - This could suck away any remaining sanity!]


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