I’m from Ireland and a part of the country I’ve never visited is Northern Ireland.
Living in Dublin, Northern Ireland is only a stone throw away (about a two hour car journey).
My friend and I (who is my go to companion when it comes to travelling to new places), made the decision one weekend to visit the north of the country.
We didn’t have the full weekend to explore the area (entirely my fault because time was against me… if my friend is reading this, I’m sorry again! I know you wanted to spend the full weekend there x)
But during the time we had, this is what we saw…
Brief and not informative at all history lesson:
I’m putting my hands up and telling you that I don’t know an awful lot about the divide between the Republic and the North. It could be because that it was taught badly to us in school or it could also be my lack of interest to know. But here is what I do know.
Ireland is split into two. You have the Republic of Ireland (which I am from) and then you have Northern Ireland which is made up of six counties and is under British law.
Some people would love the nation to be united as one, while others are happy with the way things are. Because of this, it can be a touchy subject. Things got very bad at one point and that point in Irish history became known as ‘The Troubles’.
The divide in my country is not something that’s ever effected me since I’m originally from the other end of the country. But for others the violence and the divide is something that has been very real.
But this blog isn’t a history lesson. It’s a travel piece on my experience in a new place; and as usual I’ll talk about the attractions I visited, the people I met and the food I ate. But also the thoughts I had and the differences I saw by just crossing over a border in my own country. Nothing dramatic of course, there wasn’t border controls, or any feeling of fear, it was just the surprising changes that I saw but naively I’ve never really thought about.
Along the way we stopped in Belfast city for lunch. We went to this coffee shop called “Established Coffee”, where they served hipster food and hipster coffee. Think the word kale being thrown around a lot, openspaced layout and eveything made from wood and you have an idea of the place
But myself and my friend can be quite pretentious when we get together, so this type of vibe suited us perfectly.
It was strange after ordering our food to hand over pounds ( the money there even looks different from the pounds you get in England!)
Something else that surprised me, but that I was expecting to happen was the change in signposts on the road. One moment the road signage were white with the name in English and then the translation to Irish, and then next the signs were green. The speed also changed from km/h to miles per hour. Also the housing was notably different and within a few moments of crossing the border I spotted British flag flowing in the wind.
I think uncertain is the best way to describe how I felt. It was something I knew was going to happen but it still made me feel uneasy for a few moments to realise this didn’t feel like, and I suppose wasn’t, my country anymore.
Anyway enough of the patriotism.
Our next stop was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Co. Antrim. It’s a bridge that connects to a small island off the coast, this little island is where for years fisherman fished for salmon and then would carry it across the bridge.
They have a timed ticket system going on that only leaves a certain amount of people make the walk to the bridge at allocated times. I should note that the weather was phenomenal this weekend so the attraction was packed with tour buses and people on day out’s like ourselves.
Storytime: We actually just missed the latest time slot by a few seconds meaning that we had to wait another hour before we could cross the bridge. Because of the the time limit we were under if we waited the hour we would have to skip another destination we had planned but if we left we would have wasted all the time driving there for nothing. As we debated what to do (while feeling very sorry for ourselves) we decided we would wait the hour. But when we went up to get the later tickets, the lovely young man who had originally told us there was no tickets left did us a sneaky favour and handed us earlier tickets he had at his disposal. He didn’t need to do this and was doing us a complete and utter favour but it was such a lovely gesture. I think fondly of that lovely young fella every now and then ❤
The walk to the bridge was breathtaking with views for days. When we got to the point of crossing the rope bridge I felt shaky (I have a fear of heights) but I managed to cross over without fainting (yay). The bridge itself isn’t that long and doesn’t take that long to cross, but I still wasn’t pausing for too long to take any photo worthy poses.
On the island we got a little talk from the tour guide about the purpose of the island and the job of the fishermans that was very informative and interesting
Fun fact: The bridge used to have only a rope railing on one side, so the fisherman used to carry the salmon across on their back while holding on to a railing on one side; and nothing protecting them from falling over on the other side.
Next on our list was the Giant’s Causeway. When we got there we were a bit surprised that we had the pay for this place aswell. But what they don’t make clear is that you’re actually paying for the interactive museum and the car park, but if you drive your car down to the Causeway you can see it for free.
The rocks were incredible and it was surreal to imagine that nature alone created it all. This place again was mobbed (there was even two separate wedding parties there taking photos!), so it was hard to get pictures/ try and scramble over the rocks without falling over or pushing someone in to the sea.
Our last stop was Dunluce Castle, but by the time we got here the castle was closed and we couldn’t go inside but instead we explored the outside of it and admired it from afar.
Our day was coming to an end and we wanted to drop by our B&B before we headed out for dinner. Arriving at Hall’s Farmhouse B&B in Coleraine we weren’t really sure what to expect (B&B’s can sometimes be hit or misses as you know), but we were pleasantly surprised. Firstly we were greeted by a beautiful golden retriever (always a good sign) by the name of Maggie. Our hosts Sonia and Ivan greeted us at the door and were unbelievably friendly, and the room we were shown to was lovely and spacious and very tastefully decorated. We didn’t spend long once we arrived though because we were starved since we hadn’t eaten since Belfast.
We tried to find a place to eat in Portrush, the town nearby, but I’m not exaggerating by saying that every place was booked out. We soon gave up and tried another smaller town which was close by, but this place was also packed for the night. At this stage we were delirious with hunger and ended up driving back out to Coleriane to a local hotel. We finally got food here and I nearly cried with relief when my fish and chips were placed in front of me.
The next day (I’m going to wrap this up quickly because I’ve just realised this blog is so long haha); we had lovely chats with Sonia before she served us a fab breakfast, then we said goodbye to Maggie, grabbed our suitcases and headed on our way.
(I never managed to take any pictures of the B&B, but you can find Halls Farmhouse B&B on TripAdvisor and Booking.com 🙂 )
We made a quick visit to a beach, but we didn’t have long because I needed to get back to Dublin to catch a train home.
So there you go! That was my trip to Northern Ireland! I think when I visit again I’ll explore Belfast City better, and I’d like to see the Giant’s Causeway again but when it’s a lot quieter.
Have you ever been to Northern Ireland? Did you enjoy it?