Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland. It is variously described as a country, province or region of the UK. Northern Ireland shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west. As of 2011, its population was 1,810,900, constituting about 30% of the island's total population and about 3% of the population of the United Kingdom. Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Northern Ireland is largely self-governing. According to the agreement, Northern Ireland co-operates with the rest of Ireland – from which it was partitioned in 1921 – on some policy areas, while other areas are reserved for the Government of the United Kingdom, though the Republic of Ireland "may put forward views and proposals".
Northern Ireland was for many years the site of a violent and bitter inter-communal conflict – the Troubles – which was caused by divisions between nationalists, who see themselves as Irish and are predominantly Roman Catholic, and unionists, who see themselves as British and are predominantly Protestant. (Additionally, people from both sides of the community may describe themselves as Northern Irish.) Unionists want Northern Ireland to remain as a part of the United Kingdom, while nationalists want reunification with the rest of Ireland, independent of British rule. Since 1998, most of the paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed campaigns.
Stopped in Donegal for a quick coffee and gas - the weather has turned quite wet so no point in staying, I continued north to spend the night in Bushmills (Northern Ireland) so I could visit the Giant Causeway the next day. I arrived after dark in Bushmills and this was the first time I had not booked accommodation in advance. I could only see one hotel in the village and it had an AA rating so I thought I would check out the price. Let's just say I blew my budget on this hotel but it was very nice. The next day I realized all the B&B were located outside the village so I really should have booked in advance as they would have been too difficult to find in the dark.
The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea.
Of course, Carrick-a-Rede also boasts an exhilarating rope bridge experience. Traditionally fishermen erected the bridge to Carrick-a-Rede island over a 23m-deep and 20m-wide chasm to check their salmon nets. Better them than me!
The rope bridge originally consisted of a single rope hand rail which has been replaced by a two hand railed bridge by the National Trust. Once you reach Carrick Island, the reward is seeing the diverse birdlife and an uninterrupted view across to Rathlin Island and Scotland. There is only one way off the island - back across the swinging bridge! Unless you stay on the one side and just take pictures!
It was a kilometer from the car park to the bridge so at least I am getting some walking excerise today.
Once in Ballycastle I drove through the town to the beach to get one last look at the Giant Causeway and the amazing scenery.
Love the sign - perhaps suited for Oak BayIt was very difficult to say goodbye to this part of Ireland as I knew this would be the last time I would see the Irish coast - for now anyway! I'll be back! The coast of Ireland is unlike anything I have seen before - simply the best!
I drove inland heading south bypassing Belfast and on to Dublin back to Sharon and her mum who have been such wonderful hosts. Thank you to Kathleen (Sharon's mum) for setting an iteninary of things I should see while traveling around ireland - you were spot on! I think kathleen has already started to work on the iteninary for my next visit!
My rental car outside the gates.
I am off back to England tomorrow to spen a few days with relatives before I return to Canada on November 15th. I have fallen in love with Ireland so I hope to take the luck of the Irish with my on my next travels.