Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 9. Derry

Today was by far, one of my most favorite days of this trip. It was jam-packed with loads of fun, incredibly beautiful sights and we got to explore new and old places in Ireland that made the both of us feel beyond grateful!

Robin and I had an early start to our day because there were three places we wanted to visit apart from getting a better look at what Derry was all about:

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It’s something I’ve wanted to do this since my trip in 2008. But because we barely squeezed in a visit to Giant’s Causeway before dark, we totally ran out of time to even attempt to check this out.

Giant’s Causeway. While I’d already seen it, Robin hadn’t. And it’s really something you’ve got to see for yourself!
Bushmill’s Distillery. Since we were right in the area, there was no reason why not!

Quickly- the B&B we’re staying at is absolutely gorgeous. Probably the most ABC-approved B&B I’ve ever stayed in. It’s inside a beautiful Georgian home with four levels (we were on the third) and chocl full o’ beautiful tapestry, rugs, paintings and furniture. The dining room (which we only peeked into) had a table set beautifully. I highly recommend it to anyone staying in Derry and would absolutely stay there again.

Because Robin & I were the only ones staying in the B&B Saturday night, we were asked to walk around the corner to the Saddler’s House- another B&B Peter & Joan Pyne own. So we got out of Derry after a delicious breakfast where we learned that one person staying at the Saddler’s House had selected this B&B because Joan was considerate enough to put recipes of her bread (and other things I’m sure) on the website for the B&B.

From our morning walk for breakfast

Off we went to the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. We were lucky to have an absolutely beautiful day filled with lots of sunshine and blue skies. And holy cow was the Causeway Coastal route stunning. At points I felt like I was driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. I think it’s safe to say that it took our breath away. And sadly, I don’t think these pictures will do it justice. Regardless, here are a few pictures from our drive to the rope bridge.

I’ve traveled quite a bit throughout Ireland and I have to say this is some of the most beautiful coastline I’ve had the good fortune to see in all of Ireland. More than once, similar to yesterday, Robin and I commented out loud how grateful we were to be doing this and to be in such a beautiful part of the world.

First stop was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This is a rope suspension bridge that links the mainland to the tiny Carrick Island. It spans approximately 60 feet and is nearly 100 feet above the rocks below. It’s sort of a sad story. Because it was originally put in place for salmon fishermen. Salmon season used to last from June until September and they’d catch almost 300 salmon per day. By 2002, that number dwindled to 300 per season. And now it’s no longer used by fishermen during the salmon season.

It is, however, a huge tourist attraction for the obvious beauty and thrill of it, with nearly 300,000 visitors a year. After the fact, I learned that you can see Scotland from there.

Robin and I took the short but beautiful walk to the rope bridge where we both went back and forth on whether we’d actually cross it or not. It’s a freaking suspension bridge, 100 feet above the ocean and all sorts of rocks. It sways in the wind. It looks unstable. You cross a wooden plank and hold onto the two rope railing and hope like hell you aren’t one of the fools who can’t face the walk back and have to be taken off the island by boat! I can’t even imagine a time when it had only a single handrail and large gaps between the slats. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to cross it then!

We took these super steps down to the bridge and then we started walking out, Robin in the lead. She gave it a good try, but only made it out a few steps before turning around.

I thought I could talk Robin into doing it, but it's not the type of thing you can do if you're at all feeling unsure! Respecting her decision, I handed off my iPhone and asked her to record me making the trek across the bridge.

It was fun and scary and exhilarating and absolutely gorgeous. It was peaceful, yet the adrenaline made it seem like I was in a crowd of thousands. I love love loved it and am so glad I did it! I went across it once and was videotaped and videotaped it myself on my real camera and then on the walk back to the car, we turned around at one point and the view of the bridge from one vantage point (not that far from the bridge crossing) was so rad that I handed off my real camera to Robin, ran back and crossed again so she could take a picture of me crossing from that point. It was so worth it!

From there we headed down the road and passed more incredible sights

And then went to Giant's Causeway. I had been here, briefly, during my 2008 trip. Back then, we arrived after the access for the public had officially closed, and essentially had the place to ourselves. Today was a different story. We got there around 11am(ish) and it was crawling with tourists. It was also a pretty cold and windy day, making it a little bit unenjoyable when mixed with so many other people. But we took some pictures, marveled at the natural beauty and then hiked back up the hill and headed into Bushmills to do a tour of the distillery!

We hadn't made reservations for the tour and, while it was recommended, we took our chances. I was a little nervous, especially after running into a couple of different tour buses at the rope bridge and Giant's Causeway. But turns out that concern was for nothing. We walked in, got our tickets and then started a tour just a few minutes later.

Unfortunately no pictures are allowed inside the tour, so you'll have to take my word that it was fascinating! We learned a lot (my favorite factoid was hearing that they bottle Jameson and Paddy Irish whiskey at Bushmills) and they did an amazing job of describing whiskey in a way that made you believe you could drink it all day long. At the end of the tour we had a complimentary hot toddy in the world's smallest glass and went along our merry way.

Although the day was super jam packed with lots of driving and walking and taking pictures, I really wanted to explore Derry upon our return. There is so much history there- it's where Bloody Sunday took place as a result of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. I had heard about the Walled City and the Bogside Murals and wanted to check all of it out.

Unfortunately I didn't have time on my side and with the sun going down, I had limited time to explore. I was also out by myself in a historically unsafe neighborhood and although the city is a million times safer than it once was, I was still easily spooked.

I checked out the Walled City for a bit, walked around, took some pictures

And then hoofed it down to the memorials.

It was weird to be in a place where I knew so much fighting and killing had gone on. Walking around the murals, you got a sense for how much destruction had happened and yet, you also got a very good sense of how much had been rebuilt.

I'm glad I checked out this part of Derry. I wish I had more time to explore, but with it being dark and all, I just didn't feel like it was the smartest thing to do.

It was a low-key night- dinner and in bed early- which was the perfect way to end a perfect day!


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