2014 – Day Thirty Two

Big day today. A giant of a day, you might say.

Lots to see and do on this top end of Ireland. One of the most famous sights is the Giant’s Causeway, a unique geological phenomena.

We almost don’t make it – the motor home is too big for the park and ride car park, but Chris saves the day with a clever bit of maneuvering.

The Giant’s Causeway is steeped in myth and legend as well as being a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s the result of intense volcanic and geological activity – some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of cooling and shrinking of successive lava flows. It’s quite a sight – the shapes are almost perfect in their symmetry.

The locals though, prefer the folklore version of events. Legend has it that the causeway was built by a giant, Finn McCool, and the walkway audio guide is peppered with anecdotes and tales of him and his clashes with a Scottish giant over the sea. Things that
science explains, such as the enormous stone that clearly is not of the same origin as the basalt pillars – a boulder dropped by a glacier, brought from many miles away, find a much more fanciful tale in legend – Finn’s armchair, seeing as it’s shaped like one. There’s also Finn’s granny, Finn’s organ (ahem… a pipe organ…not the one you were thinking of) and so on it goes.

The only real drawback is the crowd. We thought the cliffs of Moher were busy – it’s not a patch on this. The Causeway is crawling with people, leaving little chance for the perfect photo. The ticket office tells us that they have 42 coaches booked in today, not counting those who come without a tour group and that yesterday, even with the rain, some 3,000 people came through. Pretty amazing. We seek refuge in a cliff walk, and see the “organ” up close and some pretty cool views of the harbour. Peace at last. The cliffs are of totally
different stone – a deep red. Iron rich perhaps?

Buoyed with a sunny day, we decide to also attempt the Carrick-ARede rope bridge, which is not far from the causeway. The bridge (eek…rope!!!) links the mainland to Carrick Island. For 350 years, fisherman have strung a rope bridge 30 metres above the sea to allow them to catch migrating salmon. These days it is a tourist attraction, with probably (hopefully) a much sturdier version of the bridge.

The drive there is along the Larybane coast way, featuring white limestone cliffs and we park in the old quarry. It’s a kilometre’s walk to the bridge, and I’m beginning to panic. I really don’t like heights and my palms are sweaty at the thought of it. Still, it’s a nice walk
and I figure that I’ll make the call as whether to cross or not when I get there. Chris of course is unperturbed. He’d probably hop over on one leg just to prove he’s not scared.

The views on the way up are reward enough – the limestone cliffs are really beautiful in the afternoon light and the beach curves around them. As a bonus for being so brave, I am rewarded by a herd of those funky black and white striped cows grazing along the
way – photographic proof at last. They are furrier than usual too. Very pleased to have seen them again.

And so we arrive. There is no queue, but there is a new hurdle to overcome. To get to the bridge you have to go down an almost vertical set of steps. Virtually a ladder. Fabulous. If there is anything I am more scared of than heights, it’s ladders. But I’ve come this far, and forward I go. Luckily, Chris and I cross alone – even with just the two of us, the bridge bounces and sways like crazy. Holding on for dear life, and chanting “don’t look down, do not look down” I pick up the pace…and make it across. Yay!

The island is quite wild, and quite small. Very steep though- more rocky steps to climb and tiny foot width size pathways criss cross it. There are of course all the usual furry suspects who live here, who of course we don’t see, but we do get to see some incredible birds. On the water, a huge group of them are fishing – gulls of all types and cormorants are most visible. We have the binoculars so can also see nesting pairs and chicks along the cliff face on the sheltered side. We see one chick, still a fluffy ball, but he’s size of a cat – he’s huge! The guy on the gate later says that he could have been a kittihawke – the largest of the gulls.

On the ocean side, the views are also spectacular. Carved into the cliff edge is a grotto of vibrant greens – it must be moss growing on the rock face. It’s almost a cave, give it couple of hundred thousand more years and it probably will be.

We lap the island and head back for the climb down and back across THAT bridge. This time we queue as people coming to the island have right of way. It’s interesting to watch them as they cross, the dare devils, the selfie obsessed, and the terrified. One lady is almost frozen to the spot when her son makes the bridge sway and shake. She’s pretty cross at him to and let’s him know when she’s safely off.

Finally, it’s our turn and I ask Chris to go first, and turn back so I can take his picture, then taking up my chant across I go too. The ladder/stairs are better going up, but only because the only thing I can see is Chris’ back vs the plummet below. I have no idea how the fishermen did it – they had a more shaky version of the bridge and did it one handed, the other carrying fishing nets!

Adrenaline fuelled, we head back to the car, taking a moment to take more pics, see if we can spot Sanda Island (it’s off this coast) with the binoculars (we can’t) and find a nice black lamb gracing with the funky black and white cows. We also see a jelly fish in the
water – it’s the size of a hubcap!

We’ve decided to go out for dinner tonight, given that we can park easily. A local has recommended the Bushman’s Inn, and she was right. We have a fabulous dinner of local produce and finish off with Irish coffee.

Chris confesses that turning around on the bridge freaked him out a bit. Ha!

Sanda and Chris’ big day out!