You know when you move and one of your friends comes to visit so you have to think of stuff to do to make sure they’re not bored off their face and never want to come back? This blog post is about one of those times. Back in October when my cousin Haley came to visit, I wanted to take her somewhere cool because hello, I live in Ireland and you have to do cool stuff when you go to Ireland. The problem? Most of the cool scenic places are a bit further away and I don’t have a car. Womp wompppp. The solution? A Groupon for a trip to Giant’s Causeway with transportation included!
I’d never heard of Giant’s Causeway before but where there’s a Groupon there’s a way. Oh, and the Instagram pictures looked cool – that’s what really matters, right? With promises of an awesome day from tour company Finn McCools, the itinerary consisted of exploring Belfast, the Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle, Cushendun, Carrick-a-Rede and Giant’s Causeway. It also mentioned stopping at a few places that have something to do with Game of Thrones – don’t ask me what because I don’t watch it, but this was Haley’s selling point.
The day started super early, with the coach bus taking off from Dublin City Centre around 6:45am. The bus wasn’t too packed and the seats were pretty comfy, which means I may or may not have slept for the first hour of the ride. After a few ZZZs I got to take in some of the scenery on the way to the first stop. When the tour guide hopped on the mic, it was the last thing I wanted to hear. You know on TV when they show the most monotone, boring, uninterested tour guides ever? Our guide, Tara, was the furthest thing from that. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t super hyped up and annoying – she was the perfect middle ground. I couldn’t believe how much she knew and was super impressed with the way she was able to talk about it without being boring. It was easy to tell that she loves her job and has a passion for everything she was talking about. She was definitely a big part of what made the day so much fun.
After a quick pee and coffee break, we hit the road for another hour until we arrived in Belfast. The bus parked right outside of Belfast City Hall and we had about 45 minutes to wander around. Since it was so early, most shops were closed but we got to check out the city hall grounds, which were actually pretty cool, and the Titanic Memorial, which I didn’t even know existed.
After my 5th coffee of the day, we hopped back on the bus and headed for the Dark Hedges. Apparently a few episodes of GoT have been filmed at The Dark Hedges but I was a bit underwhelmed by this stop. I could totally see how the trees (yes, it was just a bunch of trees) would look cool in a TV show or movie but actually seeing it in person was a bit blah. The only thing that redeemed this stop was all the background info we got from Tara – for example, the trees were planted in the 18th-century. Crazy, right?
Next up was Dunluce Castle, which is 100% the crumbling castle of my dreams. The castle is literally falling apart so we couldn’t get too close, but the bus pulled off to the side of the road and we got about 10 minutes to check it out from a distance. It may not look like much from my photo but it was easy to look at the structure and imagine how amazing it probably used to be.
After we boarded the bus and drove a short distance, we arrived at Giant’s Causeway. We had the option of grabbing a shuttle for €1 but it was a nice day so we took the 15 minute hike instead. I thought I was going to see a bunch of rocks (no, that’s not the proper term) but I was absolutely blown away by what I saw. Surrounded by beautiful cliffs and bright blue ocean on the right and about 40,000 unique interlocking basalt columns and more ocean to the left, the sight was absolutely breathtaking. It’s actually so stunning that it was named the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.What really made this experience so amazing is that we were able to walk out onto the columns and get fairly close to the water. Oh, and Haley only got a whistle blown at her once! After standing there with my mouth open, wandering around and taking 934 pictures, we found a dry spot and had our lunch in the sun. Seriously, best lunch spot ever.
Our last stop of the day was the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like it is. We paid an extra €5 to cross the bridge but anyone who didn’t want to venture out and possibly plunge to their death had the option to do another free activity with the tour guide. It took about 10 minutes to reach the small bridge that links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. The bridge itself spans about 65 feet and is almost 100 feet above the rocks and water below. As someone who’s not afraid of heights in the slightest, I have to admit that when I actually saw the bridge I was metaphorically shittin’ in my britches. The wind was crazy strong and I was about 96% positive that it was going to pick me up and blow me over to my tragic death. There was only a short line (there are people controlling traffic onto and off of the island) and we got through it in about 5 minutes. Even though I was slightly scared for my life, being on the tiny island was 100% the highlight of my day. Even though it was tiny, the island was covered in the greenest grass and quite literally had views for days. If the wind wasn’t so strong, I could’ve stayed there for hours just soaking it all in.
Whether you live in Ireland and need to entertain a visitor, live here and have never been to the north, or are planning a trip to the Emerald Isle, adding a Finn McCools tour to your to-do list is an absolute must. I loved it so much that I’m heading out for another with my parents tomorrow, so stay tuned for a Cliffs of Moher ft. Finn McCools blog post!
Until next time…