McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Category: Northern Ireland

Day 9 – Back to Dublin and a puddle jumper to Edinburgh

We left Belfast this morning… Honestly-we didn’t really like it there. Sorta felt like the Detroit of Europe lol I doubt I spend any more vacation days there in the future 🙂 

It’s about 2 hours to drive straight back to Dublin, but we made a couple stops along the way. 

Our first was looking for the Kilnasaggart Stone. We drove down this crazy one lane car path and couldn’t seem to locate it. Stopped next to this awesome tunnel… Finally found something online with better directions. Turns out it was through two fields in someone’s backyard. Lol I don’t think anyone had visited in a while.

  

Over a stone wall

  

Through the first field  

Over another wall into a second field    

Through a gate 

One lone stone pillar.    

    

Next stop on our way was Monasterboice. I knew they had a round tower from the 900s that you could ascend in the summer and tons of high crosses with intricate carvings. It did not disappoint…but my camera batteries died so I only have iPhone pictures for the rest of today  🙁

   

            

  

   

So after that, we were done with all the planned events prior to the flight. It we had 4 hours to kill. I remembered something I wanted to originally see in Dublin on our way out of town the second day… So I thought the Wonderful Barn might be a good way to kill some time. This strange barn was an outreach project. In the 1740s there was famine in Iramd. A rich widow of a politician created work for the locals by having them build this Barn.   

         

So we headed on into the airport. Norah made friends with the bear

  

I picked up a couple knick knacks

    

Found this gem in the bathroom. I think all public restrooms should have straightening irons hot and ready for use.’  

Goodbye Dublin 

We arrived in Edinburgh and found it a pretty easy city to navigate and drive. Can’t wait to go out exploring tomorrow 🙂 we walked around after parking our car in a garage for the night and found lots of neat statues and monuments

  

                 

We stumbled on this kababs counter off the main drag and decided to give it a shot . Mixed kabob…hmmmmm

    

Well, I am falling sleep…so ignore any major typos haha and I will post way more Edinburgh pictures tomorrow. For now- here is the view out of our bedroom window. It’s like something out of a fairytale story!

  

Day 8- Giant’s Causeway and Belfast

As promised, we woke up and went to see the baby sheep this morning. Norah was excited. They were so cute. A couple were only a day old.  

  

 

        

We had stayed above a really great couple’s garage for the night and this snow covered mountain was our view. It was awesome

 

We tried to find this pyramid some guy built in the middle of the woods to be his grave because he was obsessed with Egyptian things…but we couldn’t find it…so it was on up to the coast to th Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge because we apparently have a death wish. For years and years every summer, the fisherman of the area would string up a rope bridge to this small island so they could fish for the season. Nowadays the rope bridge is still there…but I’m not sure it’s any safer.  Lol this definitely wasn’t an American tourist spot. Just a piece of rope separating you from the rocks 40 feet below!

   

                

 

Next we drove over to Giant’s Causeway- probably the most famous natural phenomenon in Ireland/Northern Ireland.

Columnar basalt with hexagonal jointing. Kegan was nerding out 🙂 (for once it wasn’t me! Ha)

On the shuttle out to the point.   

        

     

“Everyone knows that giants hate to get their feet wet, that’s why they built a footpath to Scotland”    

On our way to the car, we saw our first red telephone booth

  

The next stop was The Dark Hedges- a country road with 200 year old birch trees growing on each side. If you’ve ever seen Game of Thrones, it’s where the filmed “the Kings road for a lot of scenes.

 

It was a very cool road

 

  

 

  

We were tired, wet and cold ….some of us more than others….  …so it was time to head to Belfast.  (I’m going to die In the morning when she sees this lol)

We stopped to see one more round tower in Antrim along the way. I just love the round towers… 

  

Belfast is famous for shipbuilding, including the Titanic… The dry docks are visible from any point of town.

  

A very industrial city…with a long history of violence. The “troubles” are captured through murals and graffiti everywhere you go all over the city. Almost everything is either art or graffiti covered…

   

          

We had to print out boarding passes for our flight to Edinburgh tomorrow because we are flying RyanAir…a very low cost airline…but every little thing costs you including printing boarding passes at the airport- to the tune of $70 a person. So we asked our host for the evening, Valerie, who rented us her 3 bedroom townhome for the night- where we could go. She suggested the library, so off we went. The library looked exactly the same as a US library and they charged 1 pound for 15 minutes of Internet and 15 pence for each printed sheet of paper (so about the same as the U.S. Too)

We then headed downtown while Donna watched the girlie at the house, hoping to eat at a seafood restaurant we heard was great… But we got there and they were closed. Across the street was a place called City Picnic- so we thought “what the heck” and decided to go in there.

Little did we know, it was an “American Hamburger joint”. It was the cutest thing! Haha

Their whole schtick is that they sell all American foods….so it was hilarious to see a wall of things like Nerds candy, Jif peanut butter, Trix cereal… 

And they made cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes. That’s it. Lol

The food wasn’t very good being objective… But I give them a definite A for effort and theme… and Declan- I believe the owner or manager- told me that if I didn’t like it, that I was to remember that his name was Brian and that the restaurant was McDonalds when I wrote my review. Lol

   

   

We were boring for the evening, doing laundry… I must be making it a little rough on everyone because they are all sacked out before 10pm. 🙂

Tomorrow will likely not have much to report as most of our day will be traveling but we have a couple sites to see 🙂 good night!

Couple other photos from Belfast

   

     

Day 7 – Boa Island and Crossing into Northern Ireland

Today we officially crossed over into the UK…even though we are still on the island of Ireland.  (I say that because before I started researching, I didn’t realize that Ireland was its own country, but that Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom.)

Great Britain laid claim to the entire island of Ireland in 1801… And that continued until 1921. Northern Ireland was very industrial, whereas most of the rest of Ireland was very agricultural, so N.I. never had the the famine problems or other major social issues. Also, the Northern Ireland area was very Protestant-like Great Britain, and therefore didn’t want to be a part of Ireland and be the minority in a Catholic controlled country, so they remained a territory. They have their own flag and their own culture…but only something like 17% of the population wants to end UK control.

From the 60s through the 90s- Northern Ireland had a lot of unrest. They call it “The Troubles”. Basically the whole Catholic vs Protestant thing still continued up through the 60s in Northern Ireland and finally boiled over to the point that Great Britain played Mom and Dad and took over Northern Ireland by suspending the parliament in Northern Ireland.

This direct British control was totally unacceptable to the Irish Republican Army “guerrillas” which were fighting for a total removal of British influence and Northern Ireland becoming a part of the Republic of Ireland…and the fighting started and continued for over 30 years. 

I think the only reason it ended was because the economy was good, the original fighters had “turned over” to a younger generation…and they just realized it was never going to happen. lol

If you’re over 30 or so, you probably remember some news stories about the terrorism in Northern Ireland on the news. I barely remember bombings and some machine guns and masked men…

So, in 1998, they signed a treaty that basically said any talks of merging NI and Ireland would need votes supporting it from both sides…and with a 17% approval…that’s pretty much proved a very vocal (and terrorist) minority are responsible for the unrest. 

Things still happen here- a couple months ago apparently there were riots and marches here and just last night a woman was shot in both legs in Belfast and they claim it was a “paramilitary style attack”. It’s a big deal here right now it seems. 

So anyway… We started out today on some flat rocks leading into the UK. It looked like brown dirt…almost mud…but it was hard rock! Strange landscape.  

We were headed to something I had found online a couple months ago… An ancient Celtic idol that had been found here around a lake and placed in a cemetary. 

We drove out onto a small island called Boa Island in the middle of a lake (Lough Erne) looking for this stone.

Finally found a farm with a small white sign on their cattle gate. 

If you look close it says “Janus figure”  

There, in the middle of an old family cemetary was the old Janus figure and the “Lusty Beg Man”

It’s called a Janus figure because it is two sided-one side male, one side female- like the two-headed Roman God Janus. However, it actually represents a Celtic diety and its believed that it dates just before Christianity came to Ireland.  

          

 

  

They found this guy on a nearby island about 10 years ago and I guess decided he needed a friend and brought him on over to the cemetary with the Janus statue.  

  It amazes me that this sort of history is just sitting and weathering in a field here and not in a museum or protected in some way! I guess when you have this much history around you start taking it for granted.

We drove on and came across a waterfall along the road- I made Kegan hike back to it haha he teased about how if he didn’t come back that I should come find him…I told him I was going to use the insurance money to buy a castle. Lol  

  

 

Saw a sign for another stone circle along the road so we stopped.    

  

This one was excavated from a peat bog. As we were walking on the ground it felt very springy and fluffy almost. 

 

Norah was helping by adding rocks to the circle haha 

  

We continued on down the road and came to the town of Strabane. Randomly we saw these Giant 12 ft metal statues on the side of the road.  

  

 

 

We had time to kill in the afternoon before going to our rented room for the  night so we added in a little mini side trip about 40km out of the way up to the northern most point in Ireland called Malin Head. Glad we did! Very cool-but freezing and windy- area 🙂

   

Note the trailers on the right side…maybe we can afford one of these “castles” haha        

       

The tower was used to contact ships and then in World War 2 as a communication hub. They wrote “Eire” in rocks to let planes flying over know they were over Ireland- a neutral country in the conflict. 

After leaving Malin Head we became locals and went to Tesco for some groceries. Tesco is like the Walmart Supercenter of Ireland

 

  

  

 

I did find a couple gems though… Like this: 

 I mean…and they say we’re fat in America….

 I did buy this at a gas station today. Malted hot chocolate? Yes please!

We are staying in the guest house garage apartment on a farm tonight…and the sheep are “lambing”…so I’ll try to get some pictures of them in the morning before we head out. 🙂