11 Dec Road Trip Through Northern Ireland
Visiting the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge has been on my mind since I was in middle school, so when we finally planned a trip to the island of Ireland, we decided we had to head to Northern Ireland for a few days.
Although we were hesitant to do so, renting a car seemed to be the best option for our road trip along the beautiful coastline. After some coaxing, I assured Micah that he would do just fine driving a manual on the “wrong” side of the road. My manual driving skills are a tad scary, so I left the driving up to him; even still, we were both slightly terrified of the day that was ahead of us. With extra insurance to put us at ease, we were soon on our way, and driving white-knuckled in the rain.
As we approached the coastline, the views turned from small towns into ocean side cliffs, and even through the rainy haze, the landscape was beautiful. The path of the road twists and turns up and down the coast and in and out of trees. Along the way, there are many lookout spots to stop if you want to take a break and enjoy the expansive views.
Our first official stop was the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and my heart sank as we pulled up. Due to the high winds, the bridge was closed to visitors–since I had been dreaming of crossing this bridge for so long, I was quite upset that the weather wasn’t cooperating. We did get to walk the path to the entrance of the bridge however, so I was able to at least get a glimpse.
The bridge has been rebuilt a number of times throughout its 350 year history, and was originally installed by salmon fishermen. In the 70’s, the bridge had only one handrail and large gaps between the slats. The most recent reconstruction of the bridge was in 2008 and although it still looks scary to many, it is a definite upgrade from what was there in the 70’s. After some pictures (and pouting on my part) we made our way to the Giant’s Causeway.
The Giant’s Causeway is a short drive down the road from the rope bridge, and for a fee, you can access the visitor center and parking. You can also park in various areas nearby for free and walk to the causeway if you would like. The visitor center opened in 2012 and has a small exhibition exploring the causeway, an audio guide that you can listen to while walking outside, a cafe and a gift shop. The Giant’s Causeway is a unique sight to see–the basalt columns and honeycomb patterns create a beautifully intricate design that is hard to stop staring at. I found myself wandering aimlessly, my eyes focused on the ground in front of me.
Dunluce Castle was our next stop and it is super close to the Giant’s Causeway. This castle is right alongside the road, and part of it is almost hanging off the edge of a cliff. The Dunluce Castle is actually located on a small outcropping and it looks like it almost grew right out the rocks. We just had to try heel clicks out front of the castle–Micah’s turned out great on the first try–mine, not so much! The castle was closed by the time we arrived, so we just walked around the grounds and took in the views from afar.
A tad bit better…
After all this exploring and heel clicking, we were hungry for dinner, so we road tripped back to the town of Ballycastle for a bite to eat. I had heard rave reviews for Morton’s fish and chips and we weren’t let down. We each ordered a piece of fish with chips and about fell out of our seats when we opened up our boxes–the piece of fish was huge! It was at least twice the size of my hand and very well could have been split between the two of us.
Just down the street from Morton’s is an ice cream spot called Maud’s–we heard great things about their ice cream, but unfortunately it was closed when we tried to stop in for a treat.
By this time is was already getting dark, and we figured since we were already next to the coastal road, we should just continue along the same route that we took earlier that morning. Big mistake. It was dark, foggy and still raining, all while driving on the “wrong” side of the narrow winding road next to a cliff and drop off into the ocean. It was a tense drive all the way back and not near as pretty in the dark. Unless you have to, we would recommend a different route when driving after dark–it will definitely save your steering wheel from the death grip!
We never felt so relieved as we did that evening getting back to our hotel. Exhaustion finally set in and we were ready for some crash time, even though it was an amazing day full of exciting road trip stops and adventures.