Northern Ireland: Likely to Cause Wanderlust

Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway

There’s nothing like an amazing trip to spur motivation. Ireland is that for me right now. Although my visit was short, it was all I needed to convince me it was time to start up my blog again.

Last month, I attended TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) in Killarney, Ireland. I’ve attended this awesome conference three times in the past, and am especially excited about it now, since we’re hosting it in the Finger Lakes next year. Yay!  Years ago, it was TBEX and the incredible people that I met there that made me want to start Byte-Size Travel in the first place. And now, it’s this trip that has me inspired all over again.

Ireland was a work trip for me, but like any travel lover, I took advantage of an extra weekend to do some exploring. I first visited Ireland during my study abroad, but in true college-student fashion, I pretty much just showed up and figured out what I was doing on the fly. In Ireland, that meant landing in Dublin, staying in a hostel, and taking a bus to the Cliffs of Moher. My love of glass did take me to Waterford the first time, which was a lovely side jaunt.

Over the last seven years, I’ve developed my lengthy bucket list, and was fully prepared to tick off a few of the items. My main objective was actually not in Ireland at all, but Northern Ireland: the Giant’s Causeway. I’d seen plenty of pictures, but nothing could have prepared me for the stunning beauty that I found along the coast. Some 40,000 interlocking hexagon-shaped basalt columns rise out of the sea, a product of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago. I’d seen the towering basalt columns at the beach in Vik, Iceland, so I expected to be just as impressed as I was by those. But the epic scenery found in Northern Ireland literally had me pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

I read an article about the Giant’s Causeway that described it as a “portal to Earth’s most ancient past.” I just love that. The columns fit together a like jigsaw puzzle, piecing together one incredible story full of both history and legend. Sure, it could be the result of lava cooling and contracting, but it could also be the handiwork of Irish giant Finn MacCool who built the causeway to go fight a Scottish giant who was threatening Ireland. (Check out the article for the tale).

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Legend or lava, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is breathtaking. We visited through a bus trip with Paddywaggon Tours. Years ago, it was the company I booked for my visit to the Cliffs of Moher, and I still remember our bus driver Shawny singing Backstreet Boy classics as we drove along, field after rolling green field. This tour included a few other points of interest that were high on my bucket list, like the Dark Hedges, a group of 18th-century trees that have grown to create an eerie and crazy dramatic landscape today—which is why Game of Thrones has used it as a filming location. Coincidentally, I also saw more GoT filming locations in Iceland—and I’ve never seen an episode!

Dark Hedges

Dark Hedges

Also on the tour was the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which links the mainland to a tiny island that was used by salmon fisherman. Visitors can pay a small fee to cross it, but it was closed when we visited since the wind was too strong. There’s nothing like plummeting into the ocean to ruin a lovely holiday! The hike is about .6 miles to get to the bridge, and it’s absolutely stunning. Totally worth the walk, even if the bridge is closed. The journey is the destination, right?

Rope Bridge

Rope Bridge

We stopped in Belfast for a hot minute before ending the night, back in Dublin where we went to an incredible little pub called Merchants Arch right at the end of the Ha’penny Bridge. We certainly lucked out—there was phenomenal music, seemingly free-flowing hard cider, and an atmosphere I just wanted to bottle up and bring back home with me.

Belfast

Belfast

All of this was just the beginning of my adventures in Ireland. Next week, I’ll share stories from the unparalleled Dingle Peninsula, which is about to be famous as the backdrop for the upcoming Star Wars movie.

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