While Clas was at his conference I had a whole week in Dublin on my own. Yet after two days walking I felt like getting out from the city, just a little bit. I had seen most of the sights already and wanted to see more of the country. So I checked what there was and decided to go on a Giant’s Causeway day trip.
Giant’s Causeway is in the far north and it’s a long drive from Dublin, three hours one way. But all the photos I had seen on those strange stone columns stretching along Northern Ireland’s seashore made me want to visit that specific place.
What are these giant stone columns, who piled them like that and how does it feel like to walk on them?
So one morning before nine I was standing outside the tourist office opposite to Trinity College and waiting for my bus to come.
I was going on a Gray Line tour and would be back at 20:30 the same night. Most companies start this tour an hour earlier but as I’m at least partly on vacation 9 sounds better.
The tour was not only going to Giant’s Causeway but also to three other top sights of Northern Ireland: the ruined clifftop castle Dunluce, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Dark Hedges.
Giant’s Causeway Day Trip on the Map
This was my Giant’s Causeway day trip itinerary, three hours one way to the top of Northern Ireland and back to Dublin the same evening. The bus took the Belfast route but we didn’t go in the city.
Before Belfast we crossed the border to Northern Ireland which we didn’t notice at all. The difference was that kilometres in road signs became miles. And they use the British flag instead of the Irish and the British pound rather than euros.
It’s a question what border crossing in this place will be like in a year or two. At least you can’t forget to bring your passport.
So on the way to Causeway Coast we only stopped once, about an hour after departure:
The bus was good and I took a window seat. I had packed two IPhone power banks and a British adapter to make sure I can work on the motorway but I didn’t need those things. The bus had USB sockets above all seats which saved me from all troubles :).
Around noon we reached our first destination on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast, the ruined Dunluce Castle. That was the first Game of Thrones site of the three we were going to visit today.
It was just a 10 minute photo stop and we didn’t go inside the castle. So I took a lot of photos that all look the same since I was standing in the same place.
Our guide told that the wealthy MacDonnell family lived in Dunluce Castle in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were the earls of the area.
The castle has no roof left and parts of it have collapsed in the sea. That happened one night when the kitchen staff was preparing the dinner. The castle’s kitchen, kitchen staff and the well prepared dinner disappeared in the sea.
The next stop was Giant’s Causeway, our main destination where we almost spent two hours.
The bus left us at the visitor centre made of similar stone pillars as the magic natural ones. The guide stayed in the bus and we were free to walk down to the ocean shore and explore the famous stones in our own pace.
It was a scenic fifteen minute walk downhill and there is a shuttle bus for those that are unable to walk.
The Giant’s Causeway is the most famous sight of Northern Ireland and it’s a real wonder. It looks like a huge number of stepping stones were rising from the sea.
In all there are 40 000 of these stepping stones. They are basalt columns that interlock with each other. They are very closely packed so they sit tight.
This makes me think about Lego blocks. Maybe a giant has been playing with his Lego? Some columns are higher and others lower so they make staircases you can walk on. The highest stones are 12 metres.
Most columns are perfect hexagonals and they mostly measure 30 cm across. Some of them have less sides, four or five and others can have up to eight sides.
Walking on these stone steps is easy – but not in all places. Sometimes it’s like balance training and you can’t guess which stones are moving.
There are two theories on how these stones came about. The first is that cooling and shrinking lava created them some 60 million years ago as the lava cooling formed a pattern. The second story is that a giant created them as he needed stepping stones to get across the sea to Scotland.
There are similar stairs on the Scottish side which supports the theory. The giant’s name was Finn McCool and the reason why he had to get to Scotland was to fight against the Scottish giant.
Whatever was the reason these stairs rising from the sea are an impressive sight and definitely worth seeing.
Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and parts of the Game of Thrones were filmed in this special place.
The Giant’s Causeway area has colour coded walking trails. I took as many of them I had time with but had to skip the rest. There is no time for any long hikes on a bus tour. Instead I walked back to my bus since the next sight was waiting for us…
Carric-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Our next stop Carric-a-Rede Rope Bridge was just a short drive away. In this place too we had to walk a kilometre from the car park to the bridge. It was a very scenic clifftop walk, a nice and easy one but there are long stairs towards the end.
So that was a relaxing walk but the bridge is not that. Carrick-a-Rede bridge is not an easy one to cross. It’s 20 m long, it’s bouncing and swinging in the wind and it’s 30 m above the water.
Crossing the rope bridge was an optional activity and there was an extra fee (eur 9) for that. Only a part of our bus group wanted to try it and I was one of them!
It helped me that I decided not to look down and it also helped me cross the bridge that I had my phone in my hand (which of course was the stupidest thing to do).
All the way on the bridge I had to concentrate on not dropping my phone in the heavy wind. So I had no time to get worried about other things like the 30 m below my feet.
The Carrick island is a small and rocky one and there is not much to do – but it has the scenery, all the way to Scotland! The turquoise ocean, the seabirds and the rough cliffs with yellow spring flowers make a perfect combination.
But why do they have a hanging bridge in this kind of location? And who needs to get to such a small island?
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was built some 350 years ago by fishermen. They needed to get to the small island since it was the perfect place to catch salmon. So they made a bridge and used it every day to get to their nets.
After the hanging bridge we turned back south but there was one more stop, the Dark Hedges.
The Dark Hedges is an avenue of beech trees that the local Stuart family planted. They wanted to have an avenue leading to their country home.
The Stuarts planted some 130 trees of which 90 remain. Today the trees have grown wild and they almost fill the road. But they look magic. Depending on where the sunlight comes from you can see the trees in different ways.
I would think mornings and evenings might be ideal times to visit. We were here in the early evening and I really liked what the alley looked like.
What do the hedges look like in summer when the trees have leaves? Or in autumn? I’m sure this place is amazing at all times of the year. At least spring sun makes the trees shine like an artwork.
And as you maybe know the Dark Hedges too were used in the Game of Thrones.
Back to Dublin
After the Dark Hedges is was straight back to Dublin. I used the journey for communication and sorting out my photos and before I noticed we were back on Grafton Street.
I felt so happy for having been on this Giant’s Causeway day trip. The tour gave me so much as it took me to one of the most beautiful parts if Ireland. The itinerary was well planned and the guide very informative. And what I especially liked was that I was free to explore the sights on my own.
As I am a blogger I love to take photos from different ankles and always walk a bit off the path. On this tour I had a chance to do exactly what I wanted without causing delay to the rest of the group.
I enjoyed the sights so much that I used all my time for the them and there was no time left for either lunch or coffee where we stopped, even when that was on the program. On my next bus trip I will bring a water bottle and something to eat, just to be prepared. But the wonderful thing about this was that my Irish pub dinner tasted super delicious that night, a Dublin dinner with live music of course!
If you are interested in taking a similar trip from Dublin it costs EUR 49 (2018) and you can check the details on the Gray Line website: Gray Line Ireland Giant’s Causeway Tour.
More on Ireland Travel
As I was visiting Ireland recently there will be more posts on Ireland. At present I have a wonderful guest post on a road trip in Ireland which you can find on the Ireland category page.