Belfast, Northern Ireland


June 22, 2019

Here we are in the furthest northern spot that we have been all this trip!  It stays light here until almost 11 PM.

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Our tour to the Giants Causeway isn’t leaving until 1:15 PM today so we headed into the city of Belfast for the morning.

Belfast has a population of 270,000 in the inner city.  It was once rated one of the world’s 4 cities to avoid (Belfast, Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia).  This is largely because of the “Troubles” that dominated Northern Ireland’s politics for almost three decades from the late 1960’s.  Due to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, in recent years it has undergone a remarkable transformation.

The docklands, where the Titanic was built, are undergoing massive redevelopment.  Where there used to be over 36,000 workers, there are now only about 500. The Harland and Wolff shipyard is an icon and these cranes can be seen for miles. Our guide said that one is named Samson and the other Goliath by the locals.

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Last time we were here, we did the whole Titanic experience, including the great museum they have here.  Today we took the shuttle into the city and spent some time at the wonderful market here.  It opened at 9 AM so we came here first and we were glad we did.  This market has everything from prepared foods to fresh fish to beautiful crafts and jewelry.

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We bought some of these delicious scones – couldn’t resist. And they were worth the calories for sure. IMG_4833

We also spent time in the beautiful City Hall where there are 14 different rooms of exhibits.  Very worth a visit.

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We had lunch on the ship before leaving for Giants Causeway.  Guess what they were bringing on for our English Pub night dinner?

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Our guide today was Adrian.  He was a lot of fun, and carried on with a whole string of stories about the superiority of the Irish over the Scots. 

The drive was about 2 hours through beautiful countryside. 

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Then on to the Giants Causeway.  This is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986 and is Northern Ireland’s most famous landmark.

It was formed between 50 and 60 million years ago by an ancient volcanic eruption, but it takes its name from the legends of the giant Finn MacCool.

There are over 40,000 basalt stones and we climbed up on many of them.  There are several unique formations.

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and really just the interlocking columns that you see everywhere.

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There is a relatively new visitors center that was built in 2012 and you can take a shuttle to the stones.  We walked both ways instead of taking the shuttle.  You get an audio guide to give you information at many of the numbered places along the trail next to the stones.

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We had plenty of time to walk, take photos, and visit the center at the end.  Even time for a bit of refreshment.

On our way back, we passed the golf course – the Royal Portrush – where the British Open will take place next month.  They are very busy putting up stands, etc.  Hard to get good pictures.  Adrian said that this is the golfer,Graeme Mc Dowell’s home course.  The wind off of the Atlantic Ocean makes this quite a challenging course.

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Adrian told us that Northern Ireland is the world’s most deforested country – only 0.8% is forested. This is due to the invasions in early days when Britain wanted to become a super naval power and knew that conquering Northern Ireland would give them plenty of wood to build more ships.  They cut down most of the trees and they have never been replanted.

Adrian had a lot to say about Scotch Whiskey vs Irish Whiskey and of course prefers Irish which stays in barrels to age for 3 years and 1 day.  He says the Scots were too impatient to do proper distilling and they roasted the barley too quickly, this is why Scotch Whiskey smells smoky.  It isn’t distilled three times like Irish Whiskey is!!He says that the Irish should have never told them how to make whiskey because they screwed it up!!

We had a photo stop for Dunluce Castle which is largely in ruins now. You can see how magnificent it once was though.

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Our last stop was along the Antrim  Coast to Ballycastle.  The coastline is just gorgeous and people say it is one of the world’s most spectacular unspoiled sights. We had a view of the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge that spans a chasm that is 98 feet deep. This was once a bridge that had only one rope because fishermen who were carrying their gear on their way to do salmon fishing had only one hand to hold on. Now that it is mostly a tourist destination, there are two ropes. Our tour didn’t include going across the bridge, we just viewed it from a distance. That is a lighthouse on the cliff.  Here the light is at the bottom because the fog often covers the top!

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There was a woman in an ice cream truck (lovely soft serve vanilla). It is called a poke – an Irish slang term. Of course I sampled it!

Back to the ship for a very late dinner.  Again, still a little light at almost 11 PM!

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We had the English dinner in Terrace Cafe tonight and really enjoyed it.

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