Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Exploring Northern Ireland in 2 Days, Part 3, Armoy Harbor, The Belfast Zoo, The Belfast Castle and The Cat Garden

We stopped at White Park Bay overlook to take pictures of the beach on the way to the Armoy Harbor.  I couldn't take enough pictures of the water.  It's a pure blue that's just beautiful. Because it was early morning, it was hazy just as an Irish morning should be.

The harbor was beautiful.  I love being on the water. And there was a little restaurant there serving breakfast, but we'd already eaten.  Darn. But we were so focused on the scenery and taking pictures we didn't really need to eat too.

I swear the water looked like glass.

We checked out of Lime Park and had a few hours before we had to catch the ferry in Larne. We decided to go to Belfast.

We went to the Belfast Zoo.  I'm not a big fan of zoos I really think the animals, though they probably don't live as long, deserve to be free. But I had a few favorites that I got to see. Like the mercats.

Don't they look comfortable laying in a pile. The ultimate family unit.

I loved this rhino sculpture. How funny.

I love the elephants but they were so unhappy. Their enclosure was being worked on and they were stuck


Since I started this blog with an exploration of Scotland and its castles, I thought it only fitting that I ended it with the last castle we saw.  Belfast Castle in Belfast, Ireland.

The original Belfast Castle was built by the Normans in the 12th Century. It resided in the heart of the city.  It was the home of Sir Arthur Chichester.  The castle burned down in 1708 and instead of building back on that site they decided to rebuild in the suburbs.

(This is the side of the castle)

The current castle was built between 1862 and 1870 by the 3rd Marquess of Donegall.

The Castle was designed in the Scottish Baronial Style by Charles Lanyon and his son.  
(This is the entrance side of the castle)

After Sir Donegall's death and his families finances kept them from keeping the castle and it was sold to the 8th Earl of Shaftsbury. He completed the castle.

                                                        (This is the back side of the Castle.)

In 1934 the 9th Earl of Shaftsbury presented the castle to the city of Belfast.

We were allowed to take pictures of parts of the interior. it was beautiful.

( The ceiling was gorgeous.  I think the designers in Scotland and Ireland are sky light crazy.  You saw them everywhere. )

In 1978 the city of Belfast refurbished the castle over a 10 year period.  
 The Garden is refered to as the Cat Garden.  It is beautiful.

I was sorry to leave Ireland so soon. I'd have liked to have stayed another two weeks and seen more. Maybe one day I'll get to return to both Ireland and Scotland and see all the things I didn't get to see this trip. 

I want to thank all you readers who have followed my efforts so faithfully.  I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.  Being able to reflect and write down my thoughts and feelings, as well as all the historical significance of the places we visited has been a wonderful experience.
Thank you all for coming along for the experience with me.

  I'm not sure what my next blog will be about. It's going to be tough to top this one.

I'm going to take a few days off to ponder that. But I'll be back soon.

Write on,   Teresa R.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Exploring Northern Ireland in 2 days, Part 2, The Giant's Causeway, A Train Ride and The Rope Bridge of Carrick-a-Rede

The Giant's Causeway is the 4th most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.  It was created when hot lava or Basalt cooled too quickly and formed  unusual rock formations. On the way down to the site, which is about a 20 minute walk from the tourist center, I took some pictures of the coastline.

50 or 60 million years ago, the Antrim area of Ireland was subject to intense volcanic activity. During this period a lava plateau was formed by the eruptions.

As the lava cooled it contracted and  the flow was constricted thus creating the unusal rock formations. And they really are most unusal.

Some of them are hexagons, octagons, and they look as though they were hand cut to fit together.

Some look like giant prisms.

And others like stepping stones.

What facinated me was how they shot straight up and factured vertically instead of horizontally.

Some of these columns shoot 36 feet into the air.

The Irish are known for their blarney. Just some.  One version of the legend that goes along with the Giant's Causeway is that it  was created by a giant whose name was Fionn Mac Cumhaill, ( Finn McCool). Fionn spent many days trying to create a bridge to Scotland so he could face another giant named Bennandonner. Exhausted from his labors, Fionn lay down and fell asleep.  Bennandonner grew weary of waiting for his apponent and crossed the bridge to meet him.  Fionn's wife, Oonagh saw how much larger Bennandonner was than Fionn and grew concerned for her husband. She covered Fionn with a blanket and told Bennandonner that he was her baby. Seeing how big the child was, Bennandonner grew concerned about just how big Fionn could be. He ran across the bridge destroying it and throwing the stones into the ocean so that Fionn could never get to him. 

There are similar stones to the Causeway found at Fingals Cave on the Isle of Staffa in Scotland.

After leaving the Causeway we walked back up the hill, about a 2 mile walk and then down to the bottom on the other side to a small miniature train station.  Having driven all over Scotland and having done a fair amount of driving in Ireland already, we decided to take a ride on the small train.  I borrowed Mitsi's picture of the engine because her's turned out much better than mine.

I hope the engineers of these small trains were paid well, because they came off of them pitch black from the smoke. They were steam engines and the oily smoke that billowed out of them stained their skin. It did give you an idea of what it would be like to travel on a train in the 1800's.  I've often read in westerns and in some books about India how the smoke would come in the windows and stain the peoples clothing. But in the heat, I suppose you'd do anything for a breeze. 

I did manage to get some wonderful pictures of the Irish scenery even though we couldn't lower the windows of the train.

We left the train and went on to  the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Carrick-a-Rede means "a rock in the road". For 350 years there have been rope bridges built to span the space between the mainland and this small island. The first were built by fishermen so they could salmon fish from the island. From earliest time until the mid 1960's almost 300 fish a day were caught. Then it trickled to 300 a season. Now the salmon are gone and fishermen don't bother any longer.  


Walking down to the bridge we were able to take some wonderful shots of the Irish coastline.

I suffer from Vertigo. Very -very-bad vertigo. James Stewart had nothing over on me in the movie Vertigo.  I knew I couldn't walk across the bridge so I took pictures of Mitsi while she did it. So, she has proof she walked across.

The current bridge was created in 2008 and is made from wire and rope so it is very safe.

For those of you who are like me and suffer with vertigo,  you can take a vertual tour of what it's like to stand on the bridge and look around at this site.

While I waited for Mitsi to come back a little bird kept me company.  


Tomorrow we'll go to the harbor at Armoy, Belfast Castle, and the Cat Gardens and take a peak at the Zoo.

Write on,
Teresa R.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Exploring Northern Ireland in 2 days, Part 1, The Ferry Trip and Lime Park

We arrived in Ireland on the 6th of June. I hadn't been on a Ferry since I was very young. The guys who load them really know what they're doing. 

 The ships now have certainly taken a turn for the better.  I felt like I was in the bar of the Starship Enterprise.

I don't know what it's like to travel in bad weather on the sea in a ferry, but our crossing was so peaceful that we both fell to sleep for at least and hour. 

They even have stores inside.  I bought my son, Daniel, a Guinness Shirt and baseball cap.  Guinness beer is his favorite, and of course it's a very popular beer in Ireland and Scotland.

Here's our sister ferry that docked just ahead of us. We weren't allowed to go out during the trip so this was my only shot at a picture. Look at how blue the water looks. It was that way the entire time.

We chose to take the ferry and take the car since we were going to have to fly out of Edinburgh on June 8th and would need the transportation to the airport.  As long as we stayed in Northern Ireland we didn't have to pay any extra fee to take the car. If you go to Southern Ireland--The Irish Republic there was an extra fee for insurance. 

It cost about 225 pounds round trip for 2 people and the vehicle. About $345.00.

We drove off the Ferry and headed toward our B and B, Lime park, in the Antrim area.  We  got into a discussion of whether or not Ireland looked any greener than Scotland. What do you think?

This is still Sheep country.  Every field had them in it. After they're sheered the farmers mark the ones they intend to send to market with paint. We came over the hill and one of the farmers had marked them with red paint and they all look wounded. Mitsi and I groaned aloud.  

We arrived at Lime Park in the late afternoon. At one time the complex was a working farm. The buildings there are about 300 years old. They have been converted into self-catering apartments and artist's studios.  It's a lovely- lovely place and I spent some time taking pictures of it.

        Look at the sod roof on this farm building. It's used to store feed. The owners still have horses.

Our apartment was called the Long Barn.  Which at one time it had been. We burnt peat in the fireplace at night. It was great!

This is the downstairs door to the Long Barn.It was beautiful there. Around every corner was something pretty of which to take a picture.

This is one of the back doors of the Long Barn. Each bedroom had it's own little door out into a courtyard. 

This is the little Pigs house. They call it that because it's very small with only one bedroom.

The buildings had real slate roofs. I was facinated with them.

Yes, that is a bathtub and No, I didn't catch a leprechan taking a bath in it.

This is the front door of the Long Barn.

Tomorrow we'll go to the Giants Causeway and take a train ride.

                                                                                                 Write on, Teresa R.