Ireland Day 13 and 14
Good morning. I took a little break from the Ireland posts for a few days. Currently in Rocky Point the skies are partly cloudy, the temperature this morning before daylight is a balmy 50 degrees F with rain coming tonight and tomorrow. Much needed, although the timing could be a bit better. It is Halloween, and the rain is set to begin around 5 this evening. Bummer.
Our home. Pelican Butte reflected in Pelican Bay on a gorgeous fall afternoon.
For us, the weather has been perfect, almost. We have been moving part of our home to Mo’s apartments in town, leaving the other part here at the big house in Rocky Point. Mo’s brothers were fabulous, Dan and his wife coming from the Portland area and Don coming from Spokane to help us do the heavy lifting. Original plan was to simply use the pickup and trailer, but after many days of sunshine, rain was forecast for our single moving day, so we rented a U-Haul.
Good plan! We never could have done it otherwise, and we never could have done it without all the great help we had from Mo’s wonderful brothers, and the dogs of course.
After the move, the sun came out and we slipped out on the creek for a gorgeous fall kayak. Brother Don, who builds his own very fine wooden kayaks, was less than excited about our older kayak, since it developed a big leak in the back end, and he spent much of the trip bailing with a sponge.
But those are other stories to come later. I still have a few more tales of our trip to Ireland to complete.
Belfast continued: On Saturday morning we woke once again to impossibly good weather, with a bit of cloudiness, but no rain in sight. We had prepared for this trip, knowing that Ireland was always rainy, knowing that we would have to deal with raincoats and umbrellas and be willing to accept that there is a price for all this green.
Somehow God and Mother Nature smiled on us for the entire 15 days we spent in Ireland, with an unheard of two weeks without rain except for that little spitting shower we encountered at Newgrange early on in the trip.
The day began with a bus tour of Belfast rather than a walking tour.
Since the city is not exactly charming, I didn't mind that much, especially when we saw the graffiti, and the giant fence between a Catholic and a Protestant neighborhood to prevent them from throwing bombs at each other.
All the guides proclaimed how peaceful things were now, how wonderfully calm it was and yet the depression and sadness in the air was palpable. I can imagine, like most big cities, there are wonderful aspects to Belfast, but we didn’t really have time to explore in depth.
After our bus tour, we took in the Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic museum located at the port of Belfast where the Titanic was built. If you click on the link to the museum, you will see some rather impressive moving graphics. The videos on the website are very good, showing what I tried to manage with my phone to much less success. The museum is huge and glitzy, and quite Disneyesque, There are several floors of excellent displays relating to the design and building of the great ship, as well as its demise. There was a cafeteria and a restaurant, a bar and a gift shop with lots of Titanic memorabilia for sale.
In spite of how well done and obviously expensive the museum was, the commercial aspect of the whole thing really bothered me. Let's make a bunch of money on the crash of a ship and the loss of all those lives. It didn't feel like a memorial, but more like a Disney ride. The museum is part of the Northern Ireland attempt to increase tourism in Belfast, which still lags far behind that of the Republic. Still, riding the little cars that followed a track through the darkness to the sounds of the rivets pounding steel was fun. The museum does an excellent job of showing the complexity of building a great ship in the early part of the 20th century.
However, we had something much more wonderful in store for us that afternoon, the finest reason of all to visit Northern Ireland, an excursion to the Giant's Causeway on the Atrim Coast. Just a little over an hour north of Belfast, the Causeway is a magnificent exposure of huge hexagonal basalt columns that resulted from ancient lava flows from fissures in the underlying limestone.
Quoting from the UNESCO website:
The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast is a spectacular area of global geological importance on the sea coast at the edge of the Antrim plateau in Northern Ireland. The most characteristic and unique feature of the site is the exposure of some 40,000 large, regularly shaped polygonal columns of basalt in perfect horizontal sections, forming a pavement. This dramatic sight has inspired legends of giants striding over the sea to Scotland. Celebrated in the arts and in science, it has been a visitor attraction for at least 300 years and has come to be regarded as a symbol for Northern Ireland.
The property’s accessible array of curious geological exposures and polygonal columnar formations formed around 60 million years ago make it a ‘classic locality’ for the study of basaltic volcanism. The features of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast site and in particular the strata exposed in the cliff faces, have been key to shaping the understanding of the sequences of activity in the Earth’s geological history.
The visitor center was excellent, filled with fascinating displays that we chose to forego in favor of the real thing. With just under three hours to spend, we wanted to enjoy the hiking, the views, and the geology, although I would have liked to see the displays if there had been time.
We had just enough time to walk the trails to the famous part of the Causeway so often pictured in photographs, with hundreds of people playing on the steps of the columns and crawling around with delight. It might have been nicer if not so crowded, but I guess that is also the price to pay to visit a World Heritage UNESCO site on a sunny Sunday in early October in a land where it has been raining for months.
Once we passed the most popular area, and continued along the narrow trail, the crowds thinned a bit and we had time to drink in the magnificent views of basalt flows, columns, the red interbedded laterites, and basalt chimneys. Again, it was an exhilarating and beautiful hike, and the area is managed extremely well with the visitor center built into the side of the mountain and using renewable resources for power.
It was a wonderful afternoon, with the sounds of the sea and crazy wild trails to follow along the rocky coast.
Mo and I talked about this as I was writing, and for her, the Causeway was one of the highlights of visiting Ireland, and for me it is still a toss up between the Causeway and the Cliffs of Moher. I would suggest not missing either if you choose to visit Ireland.
Note: Since I am already nearing the end of my monthly data usage allowance, with 13 days left to go, the link to the photos on SmugMug will be added to this blog at a later time. Check back if you want to see them, or remember to go to my SmugMug photo page with the link listed in the left sidebar of the blog.
Next: Leaving Belfast, we return to Dublin, and our last day in Ireland