This was a a long day. We saw A LOT. We stayed in a room above a pub in Dungloe in County Donegal in the northwestern part of the Republic of Ireland. We drove to Dunfanaghy and hike up to see the cliffs at Horn Head. It is a peninsula now but used to be an island. There was a lot of heather making the tops of the cliffs appear purple and LOTS of wind. This is part of the Wild Atlantic Way and the roads to get to these far-off places are incredibly narrow. We also trekked to Murder Hole Beach. When I say trekked…well, it included going up a few hundred steps…a few steep sandy hills, crossing a cow pasture with LOTS of cows and sheep in it, and traversing a few sand dunes. The surf was, of course, cold and crashing. We stopped in Letterkenny for lunch at Mr. Chippies, where I had the Irish version of a Cajun chicken sandwich. My Louisiana friends would shudder at trying it. When I think of Cajun, I expect a bit of a kick and some tingling lips afterwards. That is Cajun. This was more like watered down Thousand Island dressing. I was a bit underwhelmed, however, after the sandy climb to and from Murder Hole Beach, I was pretty hungry! I put a picture of the Letterkenny sign because it was something special for my Joe. He loved a show by that name…a slapstick comedy about a Canadian town by that same name. Joe always asked me if I had watched the latest season (it was totally out of my wheelhouse) but he talked about it a lot. When I saw there was a town in Ireland by that name, I wanted to make sure we stopped there and took a photo of the sign. If Joe was alive, I would have done the same thing. It was just a little bittersweet this time.
We crossed into Northern Ireland….for those of you who aren’t up on your geography or European history, that is a separate country. The money changes from Euro to pounds and so do the signs…from Irish to English and from km to miles. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (to include Wales, Scotland, and England). When you think of the “Troubles” – the time from 1969 to 1994 when the Protestants and Catholics were bombing each other and couldn’t live side by side….Northern Ireland is where you are thinking of. Our first stop was in Derry or Londonderry (depends on who you ask as to what they call it). This is an old walled medieval city with canons on the walls. We walked the walls of the city and also toured the old cathedral in town, which they have reverted to the city hall. We crossed the Peace Bridge and took photos of St. Columb’s Cathedral. After spending a lot of time walking in Londonderry, we drove east towards the Giants Causeway. This natural phenomenon is comprised of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. There are a lot of myths about how the Giant’s Causeway came into being. The one we heard went something like this:
There was once a giant who lived in Northern Ireland named Finn McCool. There was another giant who lived across the Irish Sea in Scotland named Benandonner. He had threatened Finn and so Finn ripped apart the rocks along the Antrim coast and flung them into the sea, making a walking path to Scotland, to attack. Benandonner. Finn went across the sea on the rocky path and spied on the Scottish giant, finding, to his dismay, that Benandonner was much larger than him! Finn went back to Ireland and with the help of his wife, donned the outfit of an infant. He curled up and pretended to be sleeping when Benandonner came to spy on Finn. Benandonner was shocked at the sheer size of the infant he saw….thinking his father must really be ginormous! He hurriedly went back to his home in Scotland, and tore the walkway away as he went, hoping the Irish giant Finn McCool wouldn’t follow him. Hence the story of the Giant’s Causeway.
Rich and I agreed that if we hadn’t seen so many of these formations along the coast of Iceland, we would have been in total awe of the Giant’s Causeway. It was spectacular though and we were, of course, in the wind and rain and the sun was just starting to set as we left. However, we made one more stop for me. Ever since I saw a photo of the Dark Hedges online several years ago, I wanted to photograph them. I thought we would have a hard time getting photos in as it is a pretty popular place to go now that Game of Thrones has its stamp on it. However, the weather was rainy and windy. The sun was setting….fog was rolling in. Not many people were there. Photography-wise, it was perfect. If you know me at all, you know I love trees. The more gnarled the better. I loved it!