The Antrim Coast: Mythical Giants and incredible geology

Monday 27 June 2011
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This is part of a trip around the Irish Coast, starting from Dublin. Cushenden, on the East Coast of Northern Ireland was my starting point. The night before I had pitched our tent in a well organised camping site, then headed into the village for a Guinness. I was surprised to find the pub in a group of white buildings placed around a village green. They looked slightly out of place. Inside all was revealed, as the architects drawings displayed on the wall, were by Clough William-Ellis, renowned for Portmeirion his Italianate village in my home country. In this instance he created a Cornish Fishing village on the Irish Coast.

The drive around the coastal road in Antrim is one of the most beautiful  in Britain. Scottish Islands rose out of the sea in the views to the East, while close to the road, the splashes of red fuchsias livened up the hedgerows. As I neared the North East corner of Ireland, I had to drive inland, but the scenery was just as magnificent. Returning to the coast at Carrick-a-Rede, I parked up in the National Trust car Park and caught the Causeway Rambler. This is one of the indispensable bus services that make walking short sections of coastal path  feasible.  Alighting at the Causeway Visitor Centre, I decided that I'd chosen  a good transport option, as there was no parking at the centre. Visitors arrive from the Bushmills Distillery (the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world) via a Park and Ride service. It is probably not a good idea to sample too much Bushmills whiskey before visiting the Causeway, if you don't to twist an ankle or something even more serious! Giant's Causeway I followed the crowds of visitors down to the Causeway itself, only pausing to read some of the information panels mounted on rotating imitation basalt columns. I had seen a lot of Giant's Causeway on TV, in magazines and on the net, but it easily lived up to expectations. Crowds of visitors swarmed all over the columns, or posed for the obligatory photo with  a background of polygonal columns and perhaps the sea in the background. Giant's Causeway Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can find links on the site that explain the amazing geology at the end of this post. Likewise, if you would like to know more of the legend of how it was formed by a giant. All I will say is that if you want a new drive or patio paved then nature or mythical giants will do a better job than the companies advertising in the newspaper. ;) Giant's Causeway The Victorians gave names to a large number of rock formations at the site. It is still possible to pick out the Organ, the Harp, the Giant's boot etc, I certainly could.  The Giant's Boot makes a really comfortable chair. I bet it has been tested more times than a well known Swedish Furniture manufacturer. However, I could see some walkers on the cliff top, and started to feel the draw of the Causeway Coast Path. Causeway Coast path In my hurry to get to the top of the cliff, I selected one of the steepest at the site and by the time I reached the top I could feel the cool air filling my lungs upon each intake of breath. It was 11 miles back to where I left the car but the cliff top views appeared to be spectacular. Fortunately, despite the moderate wind the path was not closed, as it often can be in windy conditions. Causeway Coast path The views that unfolded as I arrived above each inlet were stunningly beautiful, even on a that fairly overcast day. The deep green vegetation clinging to the sparse soils of the cliffs, with small landslides revealing iron rich, red laterites, all topped off by tall columns of basalt created some of the very finest vistas. The area is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB), an accolade richly deserved. After about 4 miles, I reached Dunseverick Castle. Although very little remains, it was important centuries ago when a road ran directly to the seat of Irish Royalty at Tara. However, the weather was now threatening more rain, and the decision was made to catch the next bus to Carrick-a-Rede. Here I visited Carrick Island, after paying an entry fee and descending the path to the renowned rope bridge. Fortunately it was open, but the windblown drizzle was quite chilling for August making the crossing a little more hairy than normal. It would have been more pleasant on a calm, sunny day, as the island has no shelter from Irish weather. The original bridge only had a single rope handrail and big gaps between the slats, but now it has a double handrail and mesh nets to prevent walkers falling. This is still not enough for all visitors as each year some have to be evacuated from the island by boat as they cannot face the return crossing. After getting cold and wet, my cup of tea in the National Trust Visitor Centre was most welcome. Useful Information Coastal bus service -Ulsterbus No. 376 National Trust Giant's causeway National Trust Carrick-a Rede Two more SuperBlog posts featuring Britain's coast: Coasteering and Cliff-diving in Wales and Sunrise at St Andrews. Further photos and comment by the author on the TravelCrunch blog. All images 1,2 , 3 by the author @eurapart, 4 and 5 by Joelle Dubois.

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