Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Giant's Causeway

A view of the Titanic Belfast Visitor Centre
Before heading to the Giant's Causeway, we stopped at the Titanic Belfast Visitor Centre, where the infamous ship was built. The visitor centre focused on the ship itself, rather than the climactic failure. But I the most memorable part of the visit was the fascinating architecture.

Before long, we were out on the road, driving along the coast of County Antrim.
ABC: Another Bloody Castle (at this point in our visit, I was still snapping pictures of every stone relic we passed.  
The drive from Belfast to Londonderry/Derry (it goes by both -- more about that in my next post.) is captivating, filled with rolling green hills and harsh ocean views. I never tired of it, but only managed to capture glimpses for you. I took too many pictures from the bus window; they are all marred by reflections and blur.

Fortunately, our tour director scheduled periodic stops.

The road dips and follows the coast of County Antrim.
The drive was very reminiscent of the Cape Breton Trail in Nova Scotia.

At last, we reached the Giant's Causeway - the site I had most wanted to see. It did not disappoint. At first, it just looks like a bunch of stepping stones, as if someone had laid a patio with little attention to keeping things level. But each of these stones is actually just the top of a pillar.
If you look carefully, you can see that the stone-tops are either slightly concave or slightly convex.
This is a natural part of the formation and is not caused by erosion.

Stephen atop one of the mounds.

I have no idea who these people are.
It goes on and on . . . 
Apparently, this formation continues right across to Scotland. Our guide explained that there are two explanations for the rocks. One is the geological explanation about rocks crystallizing in a peculiar manner, but the preferred story is that Finn Maccool could face the Scottish giant, Benandonner and battle for the affections of Finn's wife, Una. ("There's always a woman involved," said the guide.) The story doesn't really explain why Finn had to fight for the woman who was already his wife, but there you have it.

The stones were surprisingly difficult to walk across - smoothed as they were. There were also warnings about walking on the ones close to the water as they were quite slippery. I was surprised that there were no barriers or designated walking areas.

It was here that I also learned that the white spots I'd seen on rocks along the way was actually lichen.
I was quite relieved that it was not bird poop.
After our time there, we drove inland to Derry/Londonderry.
A picture taken through the front window of the bus. (You can see the driver's shirt and seatbelt in the reflection.
At this point of the trip, Steve and I were fortunate to be sitting at the front of the bus, and I had no trouble with motion sickness. Out of courtesy to everyone on the tour (51 people) each day we rotated in a clockwise fashion. We started out at the front and gradually moved further back.

You can see how narrow the roads are and how close the trees. When I sat further back, if I looked out the window the trees whipped by at dazzling speed, my eyes jumping from trunk to trunk. No wonder I felt ill! More about that in a future post.

As a refresher, here is the portion of our trip that this post covers.

View Ireland Tour 2013 in a larger map

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