Tag Archives: northern ireland

Giant’s Causeway and Belfast Northern Ireland

 

The next leg of our trip to North Ireland takes us to the mystical Giant’s Causeway then on to Belfast, the epicenter of the Northern Ireland “troubles”. Here is a retrace of our trip so far:

londonderry-to-belfast

The Giant’s Causeway

Giants_Causway.pngDrenched in myth and legend, the Giant’s Causeway is a beautiful coastal outpost located on the north shore of Northern Ireland.

The product of years of intense ancient volcanic activity, it’s 40,000 basalt columns provide beauty and mysticism and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.

Legend has it that it was carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool. Gaelic mythology says that Finn McCool was challenged to a fight by a Scottish giant, Benandonner. Accepting the provocation, Finn built the causeway across the North Channel to meet and duke it out with Benandonner.

giants-causeway

There are opposing stories of how the fight went. One legend says Finn easily defeats the Scottish giant. Another says Finn makes his way to the meeting point and sees how big the Scottish giant is and begins to hide.

Following closely behind, Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and puts him in a cradle.When Benandonner sees the size of the baby, he figures that Finn’s father must be a huge mighty giant so he retreats back to Scotland, destroying the causeway across the Northern Channel so Finn’s father cannot come after him.

giants-causeway-2

Evidence of Finn McCool are everywhere, you can see below that his Mom kept his baby shoes for posterity.

fin-mccool-shoe

The landscape here is beautiful, it is surrounded by basalt columns that extend up the to the apex of the cliffs.

giants-causeway-basalt-columns

We trekked to the top of the causeway and were rewarded with a spectacular view:

view-from-top-of-giants-causeway

After descending, we decided to test our lungs a bit more and climbed to the other summit of the cliff where we were met by sheep.

giant-causeway-sheep

The Gemstone Chronicles

Our story of the Giant’s Causeway would not be complete without sharing a book with you called The Gemstone Chronicles. Written by a high school friend, Bill Stuart, the story is about a couple of kids that discover a fairy cross while rock hunting with their grandfather.

After finding out that an elf was imprisoned in the fairy cross, they mistakenly released the elf and embark on a journey to a land of giants called Celahir to help in the elf’s return to his homeland. In book 3 of the 4 part series, their journey takes them to the Giant’s Causeway. If you like books like Harry Potter and Narnia, you’ll enjoy this story.

Belfast: A City of Troubles

Our final stop in Northern Ireland was the capital city of Belfast. Known to most as the “troubles”, Belfast has been the epicenter of violence between Irish Protestants and Catholics.

You may remember from my last post that King Henry the 8th started the Protestant religion when the Catholic church would not grant him a divorce from his first wife. Prior to this, Ireland was primarily Catholic and as the Protestant religion began to spread across the nation, it caused unrest and division within the country.

belfast-walls

After hundreds of years of religious strife, it all came to a crescendo in Belfast in 1920. Ireland was partitioned into 2 separate countries. The Republic of Ireland was mainly Catholic and Northern Ireland Protestant.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) began a campaign of violence against Catholics that lasted for several decades and most of this violence centered around Belfast. Of the 465 killed in the conflict, 90% were civilians. As we drove around the city, there were clear signs of the conflict, with tons of war graffiti and wire laced walls.

belfast

After the unrest cooled in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement, the city began a rebuilding period. We visited the Titanic museum, this is just one example of the new Belfast.

titanic-museaum

Ireland and Brexit

You may remember that the Republic of Ireland is an independent nation while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland is part of the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom just voted to leave the EU.

This has major implications for Ireland. Since the Republic of Ireland will continue being part of the EU and Northern Ireland will not, they may have to erect a border between the countries. Leaving the EU may also have trade implications for Northern Ireland as the EU provided free trade and travel between the participating countries of the EU.

For years, many Irish citizens have wanted to reunify the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland into a single country as it was before the turn of the 20th century. Now that the  UK is leaving the EU, this may be an opportunity to make this change. Then no borders would be needed and all of Ireland could continue to benefit in being part of the EU.  But there’s still a lot of deep resentment between the countries, so only time will tell if this will happen.

Next Stop: Scotland

We spent 2 weeks on this trip to Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, so I will continue chronicling our journeys over the coming weeks. The next blog will cover our visit to the Scotland and the Isle of Skye.

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A Tale of 2 Countries: Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

After visiting Galway, we made our way to Northern Ireland, stopping along the way to take in the beauty of The Republic of Ireland.  Here is our trip path thus far:

galway-to-londonderry

Tobernalt Holy Well

After leaving, our first stop was at a sacred site called Tobernalt Holy Well in Sligo, Ireland. It was an eerily quiet place that is off-the-beaten path — very few tours take you there. It was established in the 5th century during Celtic times — long before Christianity made its way to Ireland.  To enter, you make your way through a tree laden entry and you are reminded that these are sacred grounds.

tobernalt-1

tobernalt-2

You are immediately met with beautiful flora and babbling streams.

tobernalt-3

As you make your way up the path, the quietness of this place consumes you. All you hear is singing birds and the trickle of water.

tobernalt-4

The path culminates in a cross and crucifix scene on an elevated hill.

tobernalt-5

Onwards towards Donegal

We continued our journey towards Donegal and stopped at a scenic coastal overview that was just a few miles from a castle (notice the castle in the distance).

castle towards donegal

The inlet led out to the sea as I caught a glimpse of a fishing boat in the distance.

boat-in-the-distance

Pictures don’t do it justice, but here is a panoramic view of this incredible place.

panaroma-of-castle

Donegal Castle

We made our way to Donegal, the castle is just off the main square. Built in 1474 by the O’Donnell clan and restored in 1990. In 1607, after the Nine Years war, the leaders of the O’Donnell clan left Ireland in the Flight of the Earls.

donegal-castle

In 1611, the castle and its lands were granted to an English Captain, Basil Brooke. The O’Donnells severely damaged it to prevent the castle from being used against the Gaelic clans. But it was quickly restored by its new owners. Brooke also added windows, a gable and a large manor-house wing, all in the Jacobean style.

donegal-castle-interior

The Brooke family owned the castle for many generations until it fell into a ruinous state in the 18th century. In 1898 the then owner, the Earl of Arran, donated the castle to the Office of Public Works.

Tale of 2 Countries

Many of us may not realize that The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are two separate countries even though they share the same island.

nothern_ireland_and_republic_of_ireland_map

It was not always so. For many years there was a single republic but in May of 1921 they split. During the split, Northern Ireland decided to stay in the United Kingdom (UK) but The Republic of Ireland did not. This has major implications with Brexit — we’ll discuss that in our my next post.

Londonderry Northern Ireland

So why the split? You have to go back to earlier times. In 1521, Henry the 8th (the king of England) wanted to divorce his wife. Since England was Catholic, he asked the Pope to grant the divorce. The Pope refused so Henry the 8th basically said “screw you — I will create my own church, I will be the head of that church and it will allow my divorce.”!  That’s when the Protestant religion and the Anglican church began.

Londonderry's a beautiful city

Londonderry’s a beautiful city

For many years, Ireland was torn between Protestant and Catholic religions. The northern part of Ireland pledged allegiance to the king and the Protestant faith. The southern part of Ireland wanted to stay with its Catholic roots.

Beautiful Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Beautiful Londonderry, Northern Ireland

So in 1921, the debate came to its final boiling point and they decided to split the country. Derry was the demarcation of the split, so they decided to split that into 2 cities (Derry in the Republic and Londonderry in Northern Ireland).

Londonderry

Londonderry

The River Foyle separates Derry and Londonderry and The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

derry-and-londonderry

There are still hostilities between Ireland and Northern Ireland and groups like the Irish Republic Army (IRA) fuel the fires of discontent. More about that in my next post.

I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures I took of Derry (on the other side of the river). We took a quick trip up a mountain that offered incredible views of the surrounding area.

derry

Panoramic View of Derry

Panoramic View of area just outside of Derry

Next Stop: Giants Causeway and Belfast

We spent 2 weeks on this trip to Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, so I will continue chronicling our journeys over the coming weeks. The next blog will cover our visit to the Giant’s Causeway and Belfast.

If you are not subscribed to our blog and would like to subscribe so that new posts come directly to your email, scroll up to the right top section of this page and type in your email address.

If you missed the prior posts, you can see them here: