Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bushmills, Northern Ireland

By Claire
We are in another really great campground, Ballyness Caravan Park, €24. Maybe it's just the brand new, fantastic bathrooms that delights us so much. The owner is friendly and helpful and used the term "wee" a number of times. Where are we? Northern Ireland or Scotland? We've noticed a lot of towns called Bally this and Bally that. Turns out it means place of. Ness is the name of the lake here so Balleyness means place of the Ness Lake. Isn't there one in Scotland? Is this déjà vu?

We were greeted with two beautiful sights our first evening, a family of swans and a rainbow. Maybe there's a pot o' gold somewhere out there for us!

Our ferry crossing from Stranraer in Scotland to Belfast was the best we've taken. They had free internet available on board and also in the parking lot where we queued up. They even offered two free movies. We ate our picnic lunch then watched Where the Wild Things Are; but I left. I found it too disturbing even though I loved reading the book to my kids.

This morning we drove to the beautiful Antrim Coast, 4 miles away, to see the Giant's Causeway. Geologists claim the causeway was formed by volcanic eruptions more than 60 million years ago. As the lava flow quickly cooled, it contracted and cracked into hexagonal columns. As the rock settled and eroded, the columns broke off into many stair-like steps. Yeah, right.

The real story is about two rival giants. Finn MacCool lived on the North Coast of Ireland and had a great rivalry with another giant, Benandonner, across the sea in Scotland. The two giants would shout at each other across the water, and after a dispute about their respective fighting abilities, Finn grabbed a rock and threw it towards Scotland, issuing a challenge to settle this claim. Benandonner responded with another rock, saying he could not swim. Finn then tore slabs of volcanic rock from the plateau around him to pave a causeway to let his rival cross.

Benandonner had to accept his challenge; so he came across the causeway. As he approached, Finn realized how much bigger his rival was and decided on a strategy: Benandonner entered Finn MacCool's house to find the comparatively small (by giant standards) Finn dressed as a baby. Upon seeing the size of the "baby", and working out what size his father must be, Benandonner fled all the way back to Scotland, destroying the causeway as he crossed the sea to prevent Finn from coming after him. The remains are what we now know as the Giant's Causeway.

The Giant's Causeway is a National Trust site so once again, we saved money, £7 for parking and the video presentation, which was good. We took Rick Steves' advice and hiked the steep cliff-top trail with magnificent views, then down the steep Shepherd's stairway, zigzagging to the towering pipes of the Giant's organ.

Continuing on down the path, we came the to giant's boot, which proves that he was 27 feet tall!

Just around the bend, we found the causeway, a huge area of hexagonal stones.

Here are some columns still standing at a slight tilt.

This is a closeup of the steps.

We climbed around the steps, taking in the view of the crashing surf. This area reminds me so much of Pt. Reyes in Marin County where I love to hike.

We drove on another 3 miles to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, a narrow 90-foot-high bridge across a 65-foot-wide chasm between the mainland and a tiny island. Fisherman built the original bridge 200 years ago and today's bridge still gives them access to the salmon nets that are set during the summer months to catch the fish turning the coast's corner. It was a pretty, mile-long hike to the bridge where only 8 people at a time are allowed to cross. One woman was freaked out about crossing; so the guy directing things stood facing her while walking backwards to get her across, speaking to her and keeping her attention on him--not the height--the entire way across. She made it.

We saw hundreds of birds--still searching for those illusive Puffins. We didn't see any but did enjoy watching the Razorbills flying and swooping and clinging to the rocky cliffs. They reminded me of Penguins. The weather was wonderful, breezy with blue sky, and white puffy clouds. We saved another £7.50 here thanks to the National Trust.

Next up, a tour at Old Bushmills, the oldest distillery in the world. They make their whiskey (now spelled with an 'e') just like the Scots do, except that it is triple distilled. We received a generous glass of our choice plus an airplane-sized bottle to take home. I tried the Anniversary release while Chuck went for the 10-year old, knowing we can get it at home; the 400th Anniversary release is only available in the shop. I must say, I've never tasted anything so good. Smooth, smooth, smooth. How can I settle for anything less? But, it's £39.99 a bottle. I'll learn to live without it.

Our final stop was back in town where we found the post office. I went in to see about getting some boxes and shipping some of my clothes home so we can lighten our load for our return. We have bought a few things here and there.....

The boxes were fairly cheap, £2.60, but I could only ship 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs.) per box or risk spending a small fortune. I guess the price really jumps after 2 kilos. I took the boxes back to Homer where I started dumping things into one of them then filled a bag to take along so we could figure out how much we could send. It was a bit of a process, and I didn't get to send as much back as I'd hoped but it has definitely left some empty space inside Homer to the tune of £40. It beats the $200 airline charge for an extra suitcase!

I made an Irish Stew for dinner (no meat) and Chuck asked me if a spoon would stand up in it.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~ John Muir

1 comment:

Elisabetta said...

Wonderful fotos, as always, & they do remind me of the stretch from Stinson up through Pt Reyes.

Re: Glasgow.. 2 days ago I met a couple here from Glasgow; they said the "For Let" signs you mentioned were the consequence of the population dropping from 2 million to about 700,000. The youth have moved elsewhere to seek work.

Anyway, this couple had retired to New Zealand but retained their Scottish accents; the whole family was here for a "castle wedding".

Arrivederci from Umbria!