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International,Travel

Why A Visit To The Northern Ireland Coastline Is A Must-Do

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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

Dark Hedges

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).

dark hedges

Tips:

  • 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

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

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.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

White Cliffs

 

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 rope bridge line

 

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.

Mixture of excitement and fear from the swinging bridge.

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.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

How sick is this view?

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.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Tips:

  • 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.

Giant’s Causeway

giants causeway

Giant’s Causeway

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.

giant's causeway

Hexagonal colunns of lava

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.

Scallops in the tidal pools

 

**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.

mermaid chair

Mermaid Throne

Tips:

  • 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.

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Belfast

Belfast

Belfast City Hall

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.

Check out my own personal Ireland Travel Pinterest board that I used to help me plan my trip.  Get inspired and go!

Love it? Pin It!

 

 

 

Lifestyle,Travel

Adventure and Travel Goals for 2017 and a Look Back at the Best Adventures of 2016

adventure and travel goals 2017

I know many people are so looking forward to saying goodbye to 2016. There were certainly some dark moments collectively as a nation and for many people close to me in their individual lives. However, I’m happy to share with you my adventure and travel goals for 2017 and take a look back at all that I’ve been blessed to see and do and experience and smile with gratitude.

Adventure and Travel Goals Recap of 2016

  1. Get scuba certified – Fail
  2. Visit Discovery Cove – Fail
  3. Stay in a houseboat – Fail
  4. Visit 3 national parks I’ve never visited before – Pass. This was ambitious and I knew that.  I did visit 2 new national parks and 1 that was sorta kinda new.  My son and I went to Cache National Forest in Utah/Idaho. We visited Fort Pulaski National Monument in Georgia, a first for my son but a repeat visit for me.  We also went to Cumberland Island National Seashore.
  5. Travel to Key West by boat – Fail
  6. Stay in a treehouse – Fail but not for lack of trying.
  7. Plan another solo international trip – Pass….I planned one. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take that trip and had to cancel it. I was all booked to fly to Paris and Germany to visit the Christmas Markets. Real tears over that one.
  8. Visit the UK – Pass. I went to London and Wales and added Ireland to that itinerary. It was an epic trip and I still have so much content to share with you from that trip.
  9. Stay in a castle – Pass. I stayed in the Chateau Rhianfa in northern Wales. Definitely a highlight of the year!
  10. Swim with manatees – Pass. My son and I were able to do this in January and I’m hoping we will be able to squeeze in another one in 2017.
  11. Visit Devil’s Den Prehistoric Underwater Spring – Pass. I checked off this one on New Years Day!
  12. Go Luxury Glamping – Pass. Not once but 3 times! I did luxury glamping at a dude ranch, in Utah at Conestoga Ranch, and in Texas hill country.
  13. Visit at least one other European country on the UK trip – Pass. I went to Ireland
  14. See Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Pass. It glorious and a must do for any true Harry Potter fan
  15. Zip Line at a new location – Pass. My son and I zip lined in Texas hill country over springbreak.
  16. Explore at least 6 new local parks – Fail.
  17. Visit more Florida beaches I haven’t visited before – Pass. I went to Anna Maria Island
  18. Tent Camping trip – Pass. We camped in Cumberland Island Georgia with Outdoor Afro
  19. Visit California again – Fail.
  20. Travel internationally with my son – Fail. But….it will definitely happen in 2017.

I also had quite a few adventures I didn’t plan.

  • paddle boarding for the first time
  • eating ostrich for the first time
  • playing with baby kangaroos and baby lemurs
  • doing an overnight backpacking trip
  • watching a sea turtle necropsy
  • clay shooting
  • watching a rodeo
  • riding a horse through a field of rodeo bulls
  • visiting a nudist resort
  • seeing the bog bodies of Ireland
  • seeing the Rosetta Stone
  • visiting a Texas vineyard and winery
  • Doing a rib ride in Wales
  • Rode a jet ski for the first time
  • Won best local blogger in Tampa
  • Went to Mall of America
  • Visited a 2  new waterfalls
  • Did my first Dapper Day at Disney

Not bad, not bad. 60% of the adventures I set out to have I was actually able to accomplish. I work 40+ hours a week and I’m a mom to a high school football player that keeps me pretty busy so being able to get that many adventure and travel goals completed is doing pretty darn good. I get emails and messages all the time from people who are baffled that I’m able to do this. Many say they want to but they just don’t have the time.

My advice is that you have to be intentional. I made a very intentional list of things I wanted to see and do for the year and I planned to do them. There are only 2 things on my list that I planned but wasn’t able to execute due to circumstances I couldn’t control.  As opportunities were presented, I also looked at how they fit in with my goals. Is it something I really want to do? Is it worth my time and energy because doing this may take time and money away from my ability to do something else that was on my list.

Choose your where you place your money and energy wisely. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of spending energy doing things that honestly don’t add any value to our lives. If you don’t plan you can guarantee that you won’t do any of the things you say you have the desire to do. So, if your goal is to have a family trip next year start planning now!  Whatever your goals for next year, your first step is a plan of action.

Adventure and Travel Goals for 2017

  1. Get scuba certified
  2. Visit Discovery Cove
  3. Visit Dry Tortugas National Park
  4. Visit 3 national parks I’ve never visited before
  5. Take a cruise
  6. Stay in a treehouse or a houseboat
  7. Plan another solo international trip
  8. Visit Maine
  9. Swim in a cenote
  10. Visit a new Florida spring
  11. Visit 3 new Florida State Parks
  12. Glamping Trip
  13. Take a cooking class in Paris
  14. Ride the London Eye with my son
  15. Zip Line at a new location
  16. Explore at least 3 new local parks
  17. At least one tent camping trip
  18. Go on college visits with my son
  19. Travel internationally with my son

Ain’t nothing to it but to do it!! I’m entering 2017 with an open heart and an open mind. I’m ready for the adventures and travels that lie ahead for me this year.  It’s going to be bitter-sweet because this year will also bring about the beginning of my son’s senior year of high school so in a way it’s the beginning of the end of his childhood. I’m not sure how prepared I am for that, but I’m determined to make the most of the time we have left together.

I wish you and your families a prosperous and adventure filled new year! Now go and be great.

Happy Adventure Year!

Great Outdoors,International,Travel

How to Hike Lagoa do Fogo in the Azores and Not Die

DSC_0012 (640x426)

 

My first international solo trip to Sao Miguel, Azores, an island in the Atlantic governed by Portugal, is still to date one of the best trips ever in the history of evers. When I planned my solo trip to visit the Azores, one of the places I was really fascinated by during my research is Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire). This is a volcanic crater lake high up in the mountains. I saw pictures of its blue/turquoise waters and I knew I had to see it with my own eyes. Read More »

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