It was quite hard to leave my soft and comfy bed at the Galgorm Resort the first morning of our stay in Northern Ireland. But Eliska and I had plans to explore the northern coast of the country. We headed out after our delicious breakfast to the first stop on our itinerary: The Dark Hedges. If you are a big Game of Thrones fan then you may be familiar with this avenue of beech trees because it was used as the Kings Road in the second season. I haven’t watched the show but if you do than visiting Northern Ireland to see some of the spots the show used for filming should be on your bucket list.
The drive to the Dark Hedges was scenic and quiet. The roads took us past rolling green hills speckled with cows, lots of cows. We parked our car at the south entrance of the avenue but there was already a big tour bus of people there. A big tip I want to share with you, if you plan on visiting the Dark Hedges or the Giant’s Causeway (our second stop) go early! When we arrived the people slowly began to get back on the bus but we knew another bus was going to arrive soon. If you don’t want hundreds of people in your photos then I suggest you go early because by the afternoon the sites were mobbed by tourists. We got most of our shots within a few seconds as tour groups came and went but it wasn’t easy and we had to be quick.
So what exactly are the Dark Hedges? This avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century to create a dramatic and captivating entrance toward their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House. Two centuries later the trees have made an enchanting avenue and have become one of the most photographed natural wonders of Northern Ireland.
There was a slight breeze as we walked down the road, below the canopy of trees. Occasionally a car or tractor would pass through, dodging tourists. We took our time admiring the surrounding landscape and sneaking in as many photos without people as we could. Once we were satisfied with the footage we got we hopped back into our little car and google mapped our next destination: Giant’s Causeway.
Along the northern Atlantic coast is the mysterious and majestic Giants Causeway. Stories of how the coast was formed vary from mythology, legends and geology. As we walked through the visitor’s center we were greeted with the cool breeze from the ocean and a view looking out at the Portnaboe cove. To the right we took the path that descends down to the water. As the path bends at the base of the Great Stookan, you are standing in the windiest spot in all of Northern Ireland. We were not disappointed, it was extremely windy!
Continuing down the path, we hiked along the curve of the Port Granny to the Grand Causeway. Geologically around fifty to sixty million years ago the Antrim Coast witnessed powerful volcanic activity. Highly fluid molten basalt penetrated through chalk beds to form lava plateaus. As the lava cooled down horizontal contractions fractured like drying mud. This process left pillar like structures scattered along the water’s edge. We took our time exploring and capturing the beautiful pillars, each shaped like a hexagon. It felt like we were walking on abandoned honeycombs.
According to legend the columns are what remain of a causeway built by a giant, a bit of a different story than how they geologically were formed. An Irish Giant, Fionn mac Cumhaill was challenged to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the fight and built the causeway as a place for the two giants to meet. There are two versions of the ending, the first one is that Fionn defeats Benandonner in a fight. The second is that Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes just how big the competition is. Oonagh, Fionn’s wife, agrees to help him by disguising Fionn as a baby. When Benandonner sees the size of the “baby” he assumes that his father is much larger than he is. He quickly turns around and in his hurry back to Scotland he destroys the causeway so that Fionn cannot follow him.
However you believe the causeway was created, you must admit it is a spectacular creation. We could have spent the entire afternoon walking along the coastline but had to make it back in time for our Celtic Ritual treatment at the hotel. As we started to head back towards the visitor center the sun came out and it looked as if someone had turned up the saturation on the water and greenery around. To show you just how beautiful the colors were, I didn’t edit any of the photos below. Also as a note, we were leaving around two in the afternoon and the place was starting to become packed with tourists. Again, I recommend coming to the Giant’s Causeway earlier in the day so you don’t have as many people in your photos and a much more peaceful experience.
Northern Ireland proved to be as charming as I imagined. Even though we only had one full day, we were able to discover two new places. There is so much more to see and I hope I can return soon and have the same sunny weather as I had this trip. It barely rained on us, and only when we were inside =o)
x the adventurer