After a few days of several phenomenal site visits and learning, our class had the pleasure of going on a day trip to Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. We stopped at a few places along the way, which I’ll describe in more detail with pictures included. Warning: a very picture-heavy post, and extremely, extremely beautiful.
Our tour bus was driven by a lovely Irishman named Mac—he engaged us with a great deal of knowledge about Irish history, flora and fauna, old Irish songs, and terrible (wonderful) jokes. As he took us through the countryside, where we stopped first at The Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle. Once used to bear fruit and vegetables for the castle, it now remains as one of Ireland’s oldest walled gardens. It was so serene and stunning, and made for some great pictures!
Our next stop was Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, a 100 ft high bridge located on the coastal cliffs of County Antrim. Even before signing up for this trip, seeing Ireland’s coast was on my bucket list of things to do. I didn’t know when I was going to visit, but I knew I had to at some point in my life. When I saw the final itinerary for our trip that had our trip to the coast listed, I knew it was going to be one of my most favorite day of the trip. The pictures I had seen on the internet beforehand were beautiful, but being there in person to take in the atmosphere was breathtaking. Everywhere I looked, I saw beauty (if my hair wasn’t in my face from the ferocious coastal winds). I can’t describe the feeling I felt while standing in the long grass, watching the ocean crash against the cliffs and the sun sparkling on the water. It was magnificent. In a way, it gave me pride as someone with Irish heritage–it almost felt like a piece of me was home.
Lastly, we visited the main attraction: Giant’s Causeway. Mac shared with us that it’s unique hexagonal patterns of over 40,000 basalt stones were created from lava cooling from contact with the ocean after a lava outflow about 60 million years ago. It served as a bridge of sorts, to connect Ireland and Scotland. Neolithic people were first to use this path, followed by the Celts that brought their language to the area, and then the Christians. Although St. Patrick gets all the fame and glory, I found it interesting that he was not actually the first person to spread Christianity to Ireland—instead, it was a man named Palladius. The Vikings came last and contributed their maritime language and knowledge to Ireland. Coming from a country with only a few hundred years of history, I think we often forget how some countries have several thousands of years of history carried with them.
Although the main part of our day was sightseeing, Mac did teach us a bit about the tension between Northern and Southern Ireland—an issue I didn’t know much about until today. The issue goes back centuries, and tension between the north and south still thrive today. Riots between Catholics and Protestants became especially bad from the 60’s until the early 90’s. These conflicts were referred to as “The Troubles”. They say time heals all wounds, but in this case, the wounds still linger. I like to think that as time passes, perceptions change with how society evolves—however, much time as passed and the underlying tensions remain in existence. Although the issues seem to have settled for now, we can only hope that peace will stay.
Overall, this was a wonderful trip– everyone in our group couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was. With several weeks behind us and more ahead of us, I can’t wait to see what we’ll experience next. Adventure awaits!