The Giants Causeway is on the northern coast of Northern Ireland and is a World Heritage site, like the Redwoods or Mount Everest. Formed by the gentle, cross dressing giant Finn McCool eons ago, visiting the site was one of the reasons I planned my holiday trip. I’d missed it on my first visit and I really, really wanted to check it out.
I got up early, had a hearty Irish breakfast and hit the road. I took the scenic route because driving in Ireland is fantastic and I wasn’t in a terrible hurry. I skirted Derry (not Londonderry, which I am very clear on now thanks to my Irish friends!) and headed north.
As I was rocking out to my holiday playlist (Christmas Queens, available on iTunes) I noticed a sign for a picnic area. Hoping it would have a nice view, I pulled off. Turns out that was an excellent decision! The road curved up to the top of the mountain so not only were the views stunning, the drive was fun!
When I came back down I made great time and arrived in Bushmills right before lunch. I had planned to visit the Bushmills Distillery while I was there but I discovered it was closed so I continued on to the Giants Causeway. They have a very nice welcome center and I picked up my ticket and a headset for the audio tour and headed out. The views were magnificent and I followed the trail down the cliff to the bay.
Afterwards I took the bus back up to the top of the cliff. It was heated and it was a cliff. Totally worth the 1 Euro fare! Besides the bus driver was great fun.
I passed through the cafe and since it was way past lunch I picked up a cage free egg salad sandwich and a bag of onion and cheese crisps (an Irish national treasure if you ask me!) I wasn’t sure I’d mastered the Irish driving enough to risk eating and shifting and dodging parked cars so I enjoyed a fine parking lot picnic with an exceptional view.
My intended route involved skirting Belfast and then taking the M1 towards Dublin. It was still fairly early and at that point I was having a terrific time belting out Madonna tunes so when I saw the sign that said “Bronte Homeland” I decided to hop off the freeway and take a look. Who doesn’t love the Bronte sisters? So I drove around some absolutely exquisite countryside with hairpin curves, tall hedges, and occasional cars speeding by in the other direction. Eventually I passed the Bronte Steakhouse but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Charlotte, Emily or Anne grew up. I ended up running into the freeway again so I hopped back on.
The next item of interest I saw was a sign for a viewpoint. That had worked out really well for me earlier in the day so I decided to hop off and try again. That road also went up a mountain, but the road wasn’t very well maintained and there were broken down tractors and crumbling barns littering the sides of the road. I never actually saw a pull off to take a picture of the view, but there wasn’t any other traffic so I stopped on the road and took a few shots.
I got back on the freeway and continued to my hotel. Luckily, I’d programmed the long way into my gps and I wasn’t on the freeway long.
I’d booked a room at Cabra Castle. It’s a magnificent castle in the middle of nowhere about an hour north of Dublin.
As I was checking in, I noticed several wedding parties were arriving as well. It was very festive and super crowded. The lady at reception told me I was in luck, my room was off the courtyard and I could drive around and park right in front of it. I had not idea what that meant until I drove out there. I was actually in the Milking Parlor.
So it was slightly less princessy than my first castle stay. Almost like I was living my fairy tale in reverse order. I unloaded my bags and then set out to explore the castle a bit.
I was going to go to the hotel restaurant for dinner, but the place was a maze, there were no seats at the bar, and there were bridesmaids everywhere! I ordered up some rooms service and spent the evening trying to understand how radiator heating worked.