Northern Ireland

Two days, two nights – and two tourist attractions. We had a short visit to Northern Ireland, passing flags showing either the loyalist or the nationalist support. While driving we were wondering what they thought about our vehicle, and its military look…

Belfast
Titanic. It was here that she was built. Belfast in Northern Ireland. Early in the morning and we were down by the docks, admiring an impressive building that houses the new museum and biggest tourist attraction in the city – Titanic Belfast.
This city has a long and proud ship building tradition, with Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries leading the way. When the shipping industry was at its peak, three signature vessels were ordered by the White Star Line: Olympic, Britannic and Titanic. While two of them had the unfortunate fate of sinking at sea, Olympic sailed for many years.
As we know, the Titanic was named “the ship that could not sink”. Her story is so famous and special because she sank on her maiden voyage in 1912, after an encounter with an iceberg.

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From the glass bottom of the “submarine” we can look down at the “wreck”   Wallace Hartley’s violin

When Dr. Ballard found her in 1985, he was of the opinion that she was a grave that should not be touched. Today however, several artifacts have been removed from the wreck. There are concerns about Titanic’s condition on the sea bed, and many people believe that the wreck should be left alone.
We had expected to see some actual artifacts in the museum, but apart from a violin that was on loan for a short period of time, there were none. The museum focuses instead on Belfast’s position as a shipbuilding city and of course the planning and building of the Titanic. From rivets to wallpapers. Very interesting.
We learnt about the passengers on board and the aftermath of the accident – but not so much about the actual sinking really.

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The museum building itself is very impressive – from multiple angles it gives the impression of standing directly in front of the bow of a huge ship. Inside, they have several multimedia shows that give a great representation of the discovery of the wreck on the ocean floor, an “elevator experience” taking you through the different decks of the ship – lower to upper class – and a ride through the dry dock, past those who riveted the ship.

Ten minutes walk from the museum is the dry dock and pump house. You can walk down into the dock and walk the whole ship’s length, which gives a better perspective on the ship’s size. Not to mention the feeling of being in an historic place.

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Giant’s Causeway
The giant ‘Finn McCool’ built a bridge across the sea to Scotland, so he could duel with the giant Bennandonner. The Scotsman took the call. Finn, however, was intimidated by the size of the Scot and ran back home to his wife, Oonagh, asking her to help him hide. She dressed him as a baby and laid him in a giant cradle. Bennandonner saw the “baby” and ran home to Scotland in the belief that Finn, the baby’s father, had to be enormous having such a huge child. On his way back home he destroyed bridge, so Finn would not be able to cross it again.

In reality, it is believed that volcanic activity 60 million years ago, created the hexagonal basalt columns. There is said to be nearly 40,000 of them. It is incredible that nature can make something so perfectly defined and look so man made.

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Giant’s boot

These strange rocks are one of Northern Ireland’s few major tourist attractions and have been for many years. Of course we had to pay a visit while passing through here. National Trust’s large parking lot filled up and the rocks gradually looked like an ant’s nest with people swarming around to admire them and take pictures.
We did too, but when it became hard to take pictures without one or more tourists in the frame, we grumbled a bit and went further along the path. The entire coastline here is incredibly beautiful and you could just head on, had it not been for the landslides a few years back.
While the day before had seen strong winds and rain, it was sunny today and quiet. We were lucky – again!

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National Trust’s Visitor center

Important: The area of Giants Causeway is free to experience. What you pay for here is parking and entering the National Trust’s tourist center. We did not know this, so when we visited the site’s website, we found no information other than that it cost £ 8.50 entrance fee.
Not until we turned up did we find out. So if you’re on a bicycle, bus or on foot, or have some place else you can park your car, the rocks are free. 🙂

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The hostel
Earlier, we had passed a sign that pointed to a hostel further along the road. Since prices are often cheaper when booking online, we used the tourist center’s Wi-Fi and checked what was available in the area.
On hostelworld.com we found a hostel literally right in front of our noses. 200 meters down the road was Finn McCool’s Giant Causeway Hostel. It looked very promising from the website and at a very good price too, so we booked and jumped into the car to see if it was true.

The reception was like a home coming. A fire burning in the hearth and a very relaxed atmosphere. – Just get your gear and make yourself at home in your room. You can pay now or when you check out, no problem. By the way, would you like some dinner?
The owner of the hostel, William, is South African and realized that Northern Ireland was where he wanted to live. A stone’s throw from Giant’s Causeway, he has found his paradise and his home is also the hostel. Therefore there are not many rooms here, and the hostel has an intimate, friendly atmosphere.
There are either 4 or 6 bed dorms. We shared a 4 bed dorm with a very nice lady from Canada. The bathroom was simple but homely and a nice hot shower felt just greeeeeat!
We desperately needed to do some laundry and luckily there was a tumble dryer here too. We checked our emails and did our online banking, not to mention a little socialising. How wonderful it is to just sit around a kitchen table with a glass of wine and chat with a group of people from different countries. Netherlands, Germany, Canada…
A freshly cooked breakfast too, after a good night’s sleep. The stay here cost approx. £12 per person inc. breakfast, plus a little extra for laundry.

William (the owner), Irene, Alberto and Kelly – thank you! 🙂

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