We'd been postponing our first trip to Northern Ireland all year long, waiting for nice weather. We found a short break in the clouds that coincided with a free weekend in late July and headed north.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, a separate country from the Republic of Ireland. The currency is the pound, like England, another reason we kept postponing the trip, hoping that maybe the dollar would get stronger. If you'd like to read up on the history of how and why Northern Ireland is separate from the Republic, this Wikipedia overview on what is referred to historically as "The Troubles" is a good place to start.
The drive from Galway to County Antrim is about 5
We stayed two nights at a charming B&B out in the country about 45 minutes south of the coast called Drumenagh Brae. The owners, a young couple, built their dream house and made it a B&B. It's a working farm too. Very quaint, quiet but with contemporary rooms -- modern and as nice as high-end boutique hotel chains. Their hospitality was fabulous too; the best we've experienced in Europe.
We spent our first day driving along the Antrim Coast Highway, touring all the top sights:
- Dunluce Castle
- Bushmills village and Old Bushmills Distillery
- Giant's Causeway, an UNESCO Heritage Site -- probably the most incredible geological formation we've ever seen in our lives
- Ballintoy village
- Kinbane Castle ruins
- Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (we both crossed -- not nearly as scary as the rope bridge we crossed in the Swiss Alps)
Coast Road Trip Photos:
We spent our second day in Belfast; the city experienced much conflict and destruction during The Troubles. Rebuilding is still in full force: cranes dot the Belfast skyline. It's quite a sleepy city on Sundays (pretty much nothing was open), but we still tried to see the sights:
- A walk along the Belfast Lough
- Albert Memorial Clock and Queen's Square
- A walk through The Entries (tiny alleyways of businesses)
- Parliament Building
- A ride on the Belfast Wheel
- Crown Liquor Saloon
- St. Anne's Cathedral
- A walk down the famous Shankill Road to see all the painted murals by Ulster loyalists -- seeing all this paintings depicting bloody political/religious conflicts that occurred not many years ago was fascinating
It was really fascinating to see how different this separate country can be, even though it's connected to Ireland and was once part of Ireland. The Northern Irish really make a point of it to show their loyalty to the Queen and the United Kingdom. Monuments to Queen Victoria were everywhere in Belfast. Flags fly on homes, lightposts and street intersections.
Belfast City Photos: