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SWMBO reluctantly joins the countdown.

On September 29th, after 175 days, we de-zombified our van. It was hard to believe that 25 weeks of driving around Europe were over! After returning the van to the Peugeot dealer, we headed to Beauvais, the (highly inconvenient) location of a discount airport about an hour north of Paris. We hunkered down for 10 hours, playing cards and waiting for our Ryanair flight to Dublin.

Geese across from Beauvais Airport (Hertz car rental in distance)

Geese across from Beauvais Airport (Hertz car rental in distance)

We arrived at Dublin airport late at night, picked up our rental car and drove a few minutes to our B&B. Our host was incredulous that we had been travelling since early February. The next morning we headed north to Bushmills, a tiny town in Northern Ireland close to the north coast. We’re staying in a lovely rural cottage outside Bushmills for three days. We selected it because it is only 1 mile from the Giant’s Causeway. I teased Onlyboy that it’s been a long time since we’ve visited a site that was both National Trust and UNESCO World Heritage.

Our cottage for three days

Our cottage for three days

I’ve never met anyone who’s been to the Republic of Ireland and not enjoyed it. Usually they say that they liked it despite the weather and that the people were always joking. As a result of the “troubles”, not as many people come to Northern Ireland. The exception is the Giant’s Causeway, the most visited site in Northern Ireland. Everyone we met was on a daytrip from Dublin (Republic of Ireland).

Brand spanking new Giant’s Causeway visitors’ centre

Brand spanking new Giant’s Causeway visitors’ centre

We were ready for rainy, windy weather with hats, mitts and raingear. We definitely needed them for warmth on the bluffs and at one point we did get a little spattering of rain. Other than that, we had a most glorious day.

You can visit the Giant’s Causeway site for free but if you want to avail yourself of any services (café, parking, visitor centre, guided tour, audio guide, etc), you have to pay the entrance fee. The price for a family is £21/$40.

gc columns2

Well done Finn McCool!

We are members of Heritage Canada and through a reciprocal agreement, we get into National Trust sites for free. All of the National Trust sites we have visited have been outstanding and well worth a visit. I would go so far as to recommend paying the Giant’s Causeway entrance fee no matter what – consider it a donation to the National Trust. Also, the Giant’s Causeway receives an extra £3.45/visitor from the National Lottery Fund. I think we’ll stop by again tomorrow for a few minutes just so the National Trust can make a few more pounds.

View of the giant’s haystacks from upper path

View of the giant’s haystacks to the left, upper path

View of rolling hills to the right, upper path

View of rolling hills to the right, upper path

We had heard that there was a beaten path to the site and an unbeaten path with stunning views. We asked the parking attendant for the lowdown and he explained to us how to get to the red (unbeaten) path. If you don’t have mobility issues, I would highly recommend the red path. The normal path follows the road down to the causeway. It is a gentle downhill walk on a paved surface. It is crowded and there are buses that whiz past.

The beaten path

The beaten path

We opt for the upper road - no one in sight except us!

Here we are just above those people – no one in sight except us (cliff on left)!

The unbeaten route is part of a long distance footpath system in Northern Ireland. You go up a flight of stairs and then walk along the cliff top. It is windy and you must stay on the path or risk falling to your death but you probably won’t see another soul and the views are amazing. We held Lastborn by the hand and made sure the other kids weren’t goofing around. To get to the causeway, you descend over 160 stone stairs down to the coast and see some impressive geological sights along the way.

Stone stairs on the red path

Stone stairs on the red path

Impressive sights on the red path

Impressive sights on the red path

Note that your audio guide will assume you are taking the low road so you’ll have to fiddle with the order of narration. Personally, I don’t like drinking in outstanding beauty while having someone (other than my family) nattering in my ear. I prefer doing research before or after and just enjoying a site or museum without an audioguide.

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Who needs an audioguide?

Once you get down to the main site, it is crowded but when we visited it wasn’t too bad. In the late afternoon, a warden told Fahbio that they had counted just over 1000 visitors that day whereas in the summer, they get about 6000/day. We opted to take the shuttle bus back to the visitor centre. It is free for members or £1/$2 per person otherwise. If we had had to pay, we would have walked back on the low path.

Fahbio and Lasborn wave to the waves

Fahbio and Lasborn wave to the waves

Onlyboy loved the Giant’s Causeway

Onlyboy loved the Giant’s Causeway

In the fancy new interpretive centre, the kids enjoyed learning about Finn McCool, the giant of the Giant’s Causeway while the parents enjoyed lattés.

Pennies hammered into the rocks

Coins hammered into the rocks

Today’s Quote of the Day comes from the lovely guide Xjemal, an Albanian in Macedonia, who emailed me this response when we arranged where to meet.  He was going to guide us on a 12 km long mountain path and I explained that we would be hiking with four children including a four-year old.

We are not going to run. You are going with Your family for joy and pleasure. We are going slowly but surely! With will of God I will wait for family… in the corner of street Dimce Mircev in front of store, maybe You have to bye some water, juice and food for this journey…

Thus began an epic nine hour walk.