The Irish countryside provides some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. The picturesque panoramic views at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the Giant’s Causeway make a visit to the Northern Ireland coastline a must-do.
The Dark Hedges
The first stop of the tour took us to the Dark Hedges. This is a long tunnel of beech trees lining a country road, made famous because it’s a location featured in a scene from Game of Thrones.
As a Game of Thrones fan I was certainly looking forward to seeing this attraction in person. At one time there were about 200 trees planted in the 18th century but now there are only about 90 left.
Many of the trees have damage from just being old and they are susceptible to damage by storms. It was infuriating to see tourists allowing their children to climb these 200+ year old trees despite the admonishment from the tour guides present.
In fact there was one girl who climbed into one of the trees and then we heard a loud ‘thud’. I like to think that her fall from the tree was the tree’s way of defending itself. (she wasn’t seriously hurt, but her ego definitely took a hit).
- It gets crowded and very congested.
- If you can rent a car and drive yourself to arrive early in the morning you will have much better views and fewer people.
- I would have liked to walk all the way to the end of the road but unfortunately we just didn’t have enough time since we were with a tour bus.
- Don’t climb the trees or allow your children to climb the trees!
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Our next stop took us to the coastline to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. So what is it? It’s a rope bridge that you can cross over to a small island. That’s all I knew about it. My friends selected this tour and I didn’t ask any questions. I just paid my money and came along for the adventure.
We were blessed with phenomenal weather during our trip with mild temperatures and no rain at all. The weather along the coastline was perfect to appreciate the natural beauty of the countryside.
As we made the hike from the parking lot down to the rope bridge the views took my breath away. Seeing the towering white cliff faces meet the clear turquoise waters was everything! I was mesmerized.
There was a line already formed to cross the bridge from tour buses that arrived sooner than ours, but who cares about standing in line with awe-inspiring views like these.
The wind down near the cliff’s edge had started to pick up and I was afraid I would lose my scarf and my hat when I crossed the bridge. As we neared I saw that the bridge wasn’t very long, only 60ft, but it was definitely high up, 100ft to be exact.
They only allow a few people to cross at a time and only one direction at time which is why the line queues up so long. The wait was worth it to get to the small island.
I’m not gonna lie, it was a little bit scary. I’m not afraid of heights but with the wind blowing like it was (see my flying locs in the pic below???) that bridge was definitely a little bit swingy. But I made it across.
The views are crazy from this vantage point! It’s very rocky terrain and uneven so you definitely have to use great care as you maneuver around on the island. I was more worried about the other tourist bumping into me than my footing to be honest.
On the way back to the tour bus out of nowhere I got overheated. I started to feel dehydrated and I left my water on the tour bus like a dummy.
My friends went ahead to get me water and I laid down along the path to rest. As I laid there these 2 adorable little girls and their mum walked past and then the little girls ran back over to me. They wanted to make sure that I was ok.
Another family of Spanish tourists stopped and offered me “agua”. I was so grateful for the kindness of these strangers. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, my high school spanish was enough to communicate.
After gulping down the water I started to feel better almost instantly. As I stood the little girls helped me up and they wanted to walk along with me to make sure I was alright.
By the time my friends made it back to me I was feeling much better. It was so great to experience genuine kindness from other travelers in another part of the world. It’s great to see that the human spirit is still alive and well.
- The lines can get really long. As soon as you exit the tour bus make a bee line for the rope bridge queue.
- Wear comfortable shoes with grip for the uneven terrain and half mile hike.
- There are restrooms near the parking lot.
- Bring water and jacket and inhaler and anything else critical. It’s quite a hike to make it back to the parking lot so if you think you might need it bring it!
- Bring British Pounds if using cash since this is Northern Ireland and they are apart of the UK and don’t use the Euro.
After stopping for a quick lunch at a cute little restaurant near the rope bridge, we headed over to the Giant’s Causeway site. This is a World Heritage Site and quite a natural wonder.
The coastline is lined with columns of interlocking hexagonal lava from an ancient volcanic eruption. There are tidal pools to explore down below as well as spectacular views from the path up high on the cliff.
I loved walking out to the tidal pools and I even saw scallops! There’s also a cool rock feature that I dubbed the mermaid throne which is a great photo-op.
**Update: One of my readers has informed me that the rock structure is actually called the Giant’s Boot. Meh….Mermaid Throne is way more awesome and more diva like.
- This attraction gets crowded too so beware.
- There is a tram that will drive you from the visitor’s center down to the causeway if you don’t want to make the trek on foot. The only downside is that it fills up and you have to wait for it to go down and make the return trip. It can take up time if you are limited by a tour group as we were.
- You’ll need British Pounds for the tram.
- You can purchase audio headsets for a self guided tour from the gift shop.
Our tour concluded with a quick stopover in Belfast. We literally had enough time to stop, take a bathroom break, grab a snack and then get back on the bus. The architecture in Belfast was really intriguing and I wish I had the chance to spend a bit more time there to really see how history has shaped Northern Ireland to be so different from Ireland.
If you are staying in Dublin it’s easy to find a tour to take you to the Northern Ireland Coast to explore these amazing attractions. Be prepared for an early start and an all day adventure. It cost around $70USD in advance and we left around 6am and returned around 6pm.
I really enjoyed my time in Northern Ireland. My friend Amy at Two Drifters has inspired me to see other destinations in Ireland like Killarney and Galway. A return trip is definitely a must.
Check out my own personal Ireland Travel Pinterest board that I used to help me plan my trip. Get inspired and go!
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