September 20 & 21, 2019 – Northern Ireland
Written by Jim
When planning this trip, one place was a bit of a question mark in our minds: Northern Ireland. There were a couple of positives to crossing from Scotland to Belfast. One was the 2 hour ferry ride being a LOT cheaper than the 8 hour ride from Liverpool to Dublin. The other was that Northern Ireland is part of the UK, so there would not be an international border crossing at the port. The downside (in our minds) is the stigma that Northern Ireland carries from its past troubles. Just hearing the name Belfast conjured up past images of a war-torn country we had so often heard about on the evening news back home. Truth be told, there is still an underlying uneasiness in that part of the UK. But we also found the place filled with helpful and generous people, along with some beautiful landscapes. And the roads were some of the best we encountered our entire trip.
Our ferry service across from Cairnryan, Scotland to Belfast was Stena Lines. Once we drove our Scout onboard, we climbed the stairs to the Hygee recliner lounge we had booked ahead of time. At £6 a seat, it was a tremendous bargain.
That became even more evident when we left the lounges quiet surroundings for the main passenger area to use the restroom. The place was a zoo!
Upon our arrival in Belfast, we looped around the harbor to a place that has intrigued me since I was a kid: the Harland & Wolfe Shipyard, which is the birthplace of the Titanic.
Yes, they still are in business after all these years.
In the early 1900’s, a trio of large luxury liners were built by them for the White Star Line; the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. Just ahead of where those ships were assembled. , a large, glistening museum now welcomes visitors. Having seen the artifact exhibit a number of years ago in Florida, my interest wasn’t in the museum…
…but rather to be able to stand within the great footprint of the ship. They have it laid out in the plaza from bow…
…to stern. They have the layouts for both the Titanic and the Olympic, which were built right next to each other.
They even detail where the ship’s funnels were. The museum sits in the background in this photo. What an amazing experience to be able to stand where the legendary liner was constructed.
The next day, we headed north to the town of Bushmills. Our first stop was Bushmills Distillery to sample their products.
The pours were huge! Unfortunately, we didn’t care for their whiskey, so we ended up not finishing the flights. I guess if we liked them all, it would be hard to pick a favorite! We may have liked their offerings better, if we would have chosen a more expensive tasting. We will remember this in the future.
We then parked the motorhome in a Park and Ride lot and took a bus to Giant’s Causeway.
This geological feature along the coast is reminiscent of the columns of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. With it being a weekend and a beautiful day, it was packed with tourists. There is a mythological legend about how it was created, which details that it was created by a giant and that it once led to Scotland. The feature does indeed follow a fault under the sea all the way to the Scottish Isle of Staffa.
The columns rose up quite a ways along the shore, mostly in a hexagonal pattern.
It was a gorgeous day to spend along the Irish coast!
Next up, we cross the border and head to the Republic of Ireland in search of Diana’s maternal grandfather’s roots. That was quite a journey with some very helpful people joining in along the way. We even met up with another American with Irish roots who all of you will recognize. Be sure to check that one out in our next post. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!