Our first outing in Belfast was actually out of Belfast, on our second bus tour. The main attraction of this one was Giant’s Causeway, which is a super cool geological phenomena that I will explain more later. First: a castle. Carrickfergus Castle, to be exact.
Can you find the wee soldier on the ramparts?
In front of the castle there is a statue of Prince William of Orange, since he used to be in charge all up in those parts.
Now, William of Orange is famous for a very different reason than just Carrickfergus and the little fact that he ended up the King of England. He is also credited with the orange carrot. Yes, you read me right. Without this dude here, we wouldn’t be buying orange carrots in the supermarket. …we’d probably have more variety, actually, seeing as how the purple and white carrots were way more widespread before the orange took over… but anyway, back to the story. William was a pretty popular guy in Northern Ireland and also in the Netherlands. The Dutch just loved this guy. And I mean really long lasting love–the kind that inspires farmers to breed special vegetables in homage. According to the tale (and various google results), the dutch farmers bred purple and white and maybe other colored carrots together to get what we know today as the orange carrot.
After Carrickfergus Castle we drove through mini-tunnels and over roads and past pretty rivers and stuff.
(I give that last one a five out of five, would drive past again.)
We stopped again at some cliffs that you could cross on a rope-bridge. The bridge is right between the mainland and that first big hunk of not-mainland.
Can you see it, there on the right?
It’s a long way down, folks.
On the walk to the rope bridge we passed some cows. Striped cows, to be exact.
At first I thought they were all wearing white blankets. But no.
In other, closely related, news: my sister seems to have found her spirit animal.
After the cows we actually did cross the rope bridge.
It’s actually a lot steadier than it looks. It hardly sways at all. Even Monkey took it pretty well–although she had a ride.
On the other side of the bridge were a couple row boat pulley systems, which I’m pretty sure are no longer in use. They were originally used to lower men and boats up and down from the water below to check fishing nets and traps.
There was also this extremely unspecific warning sign:
And less ambiguously, these gorgeous views:
After the rope bridge we went to lunch. At a distillery.
We had Irish lamb stew/pie with mashed potatoes, and a slice of whiskey cheesecake for dessert. It was all very tasty!
After lunch we stopped briefly for a photo-op of this old castle:
I have to tell you I don’t remember the story behind this one, except that it was abandoned when a back section literally fell off into the ocean, and the people inhabiting it at the time didn’t know how to rebuild it.
I look very smug for some reason, though.
Then, we finally, finally got to Giant’s Causeway. Where it was raining. Because, Ireland.
Before you look at these pictures, let me explain in the simplest way possible what Giant’s Causeway is and how it came to be. So, first; Giant’s Causeway is an area of shoreline in Northern Ireland composed of really super old stone pillars, each of which is hexagonal (has six sides). Some of these pillars are low enough to serve as stairs, and are so flat and even it appears that they are man-made. In fact, according to geologists, the pillars of Giant’s Causeway were formed by slow cooling lava about a bajillion years ago (and yes, that’s approximate). The lava made a deep pool, which took hundreds of thousands of years to cool; because it was so deep, the top cooled off faster than the bottom–just like when you blow on your cup of coffee to cool off the top later and make it drinkable, the air and water cooled off the top layer first. Because of it’s cooling process, as the lava hardened it began to crack, and these cracks appeared at regular intervals because of geological reasons that basically come down to the basic shape of stone is hexagonal. (You know how salt is always square? Like, when you look at tiny bits of salt they’re always cubes. Well tiny bits of this rock are always hexagonal.) At the wind and sea broke down bits of the other rock layer, they exposed the hexagonal pillars underneath, which is what we see there today.
So why is it called Giant’s Causeway? Well, there’s an old Irish legend that tells the story of the giant who lived here, named Finn McCool. Now Finn McCool wanted to expand his territory, and he could see Scotland just across the water. He thought he could fight the Scottish giants and get their land–easy-peasy! So he decided to build a causeway, or road, over to Scotland, and he used all the handy stone pillars to build it with. However, when Finn McCool got to Scotland, he discovered that the Scottish giant Benandonner was even bigger than Finn McCool, and the Irish giant was afraid to fight him. So Finn McCool ran back across the causeway to his wife, Oonagh. But Benandonner ran after him! Luckily, Oonagh was very intelligent and quick-thinking. She wrapped Finn McCool up in some makeshift baby clothes and put him to bed. When Benandonner showed up, she proudly showed him her “son”. Benandonner assumed that such a huge baby would grow up to be an even more enormous adult, and became afraid in return. He didn’t want to face whatever father had given that baby such big genes! So Benandonner ran straight back to Scotland, and tore up the causeway behind him as he went, which is why it now only exists on the Irish coast.
And there you have it, folks! According to Irish legend, men don’t know how to pick their battles and also apparently don’t know what babies look like. But don’t worry, the women are there to help you out.