Wanderlust Wednesday is a series on the blog where we discuss travel blunders, tips and my insatiable wanderlust. So pack your bags and get ready to discover Northern Ireland.
Crossing from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland you immediately pick up on two differences: the street signs are in miles (making it much easier for us Americans) and the roads are much better maintained. You are now in the UK (though not everybody is happy about that).
Northern Ireland has a rich and controversial history marked by strife and political warfare, which is still very much present in their streets and many of their hearts. In contrast to the political turmoil, the scenery is lush and awe inspiring making for a breathtaking adventure you are sure to remember.
Here are my top picks for discovering Northern Ireland:
Giants Causeway, with its hexagonal shaped rocks, has been the source of beauty and wonder for many centuries. There are many versions of the legend, but basically it was believed that a giant by the name of Finn MacCool built the causeway connecting Ireland to Scotland. The beauty of the coastline is undeniable. So take a stroll along the rocks and daydream about the giants who built it.
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Visitors come from all over to take the Carrick-a-Rede bridge challenge! The rope bridge, which was originally erected by salmon fisherman, traverses a 30 meter deep and 20 meter wide chasm connecting the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island. While I thought the bridge would be a bit more exciting (I have a high thrill standard), the views from the island are incredible. Completing this challenge is a must, especially for the bragging rights!
Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made at the oldest working distillery in Ireland. Not only does this brand boast five award-winning whiskeys, but it is the only distillery to make triple-distilled malt whiskey. And now you can learn all about how to make their award winning whiskeys in a tour of the distillery. Plus, afterwards you can purchase an exclusive Bushmills 12 Year Old Reserve Single Malt whiskey that is reserved for visitors (a true sign that they know how to do hospitality right).
Murals of Derry
Londonderry is a city filled with a history of struggle and strife. Even the name is a point of contention, with many preferring to call it Derry. Visitors can catch a glimpse of this troubled past through twelve large murals erected in the Bogside area of town by the Bogside artists. The murals, known as The People’s Gallery, chronicle the harsh struggles of a town and people who fought for justice and their own human rights. They are powerful and full of emotion. During the Summer months, the artists offer tours of the murals allowing visitors the opportunity to chat with them and ask plenty of questions. You can book easily via their website.
Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is a city rich with history, culture, adventure and shopping. Some of the better known attractions include the Belfast Zoo, St Anne’s Cathedral, and the titanic quarter, birthplace of the one and only Titanic. For those of you looking for a little more wonder, check out Ireland’s version of the Willy Wonka factory, Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory, or take a literary tour to discover just how this city inspired the Chronicles of Narnia and Gulliver’s Travels.
Last, but not least, Irish pubs. No visit to Ireland would be complete without a trip or two or three to an Irish pub. A trick one of the locals taught me was to find the pub with the old Irish men sitting at the bar drinking a pint of Guinness. Those are going to be the locals favorite places to grab a drink; this will allow you to avoid all the touristy spots in search of a true Irish drinking experience. Mine came along with some live music and a sweet, little, old Irish man who professed his love for me. When in Ireland, people!
Have you visited Northern Ireland? What places were your favorite?