We’ve never been on a cruise that has been so heavily influenced by the tide tables. We had to leave Dublin by 2pm to avoid getting stuck there in the low tide and we couldn’t pull in here until 11am. And when we did we all stood in awe as the captain brought us in a narrow channel, twirled the ship around 180 degrees in a spot so tight we had inches to spare, and then backed us down the channel past a few other ships to the berth.
We’ve never been to Belfast and still cannot really say that we have, since we boarded a coach and headed right out of town to the Giant’s Causeway. Luckily, the ship will stop here again on the next cruise and we’ll have a chance to see this city notorious for all the violence it has seen in the last forty years. The countryside was rural and agricultural. We haven’t seen so many happy cows in a long time.
The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its unique geology. It is an area of approximately 38,000 stone columns, the result of volcanic activity 60 million years ago. Most of the columns are hexagonal and are so uniform in shape, they look like they have been made by a machine. The tallest are about 35 feet high. The Irish who are in love with fairies and leprechauns, have a fantastic explanation for this spot as well involving a giant who threw the stones down to challenge his Scottish rival giant. Eight bus loads of us left the ship to visit this site, but the area was so huge, it felt like we were almost alone as we hiked the high cliffs and descended to the area near the sea where many of the pillars had broken into chunks. The bright blue sky and sunshine showed the area to its best advantage.
Nearby we also stopped at Dunlance Castle. For those raised on the castle at Disneyland, we’ve learned that castle can mean a lot of different things. This one was at its best 500 years ago when it was furnished with Persian rugs, tapestries, Irish harps, and damask curtains. But its location on the cliffs left it vulnerable to the strong winds and the sea and when a chunk of the castle fell into the ocean, the lady of the house decided to move back to town. Today it is a picturesque ruin, but enough remains to provoke the imagination of glorious days gone by.