Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Quick Look At Northern Ireland

The bulk of the time I was in Ireland was spent in the Republic of Ireland.  I did a day trip to Northern Ireland as part of an organized group.  It was a really long day but it was nice to be able to see a couple of sites in Northern Ireland. The tour included a visit to the Carrick-a-Rede island rope bridge, the Giant's Causeway, and short stop in downtown Belfast.

The Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge wasn't anything spectacular.  However, the views of the coastal region at the site and on the drive to the site were nice.  The rope bridge itself crosses a 20 meter gap, and is located in the spot that was traditionally used by salmon fishermen to cross to the island.  The original rope bridge used by the fisherman was much more rustic with only a single hand rail.  The bridge used today is fairly sturdy and wide.  The island and the pathway to the rope bridge have great views of the ocean and on a clear day you can see a portion of Scotland.

The Giant's Causeway is a UNESCO world heritage site made up of unique basalt rock formations which were created during an ancient volcanic eruption. There are a number of folk stories and legends surrounding the site and how it was formed.  One of the more well known stories suggests that the causeway is the remains of a bridge that a giant named Finn McCool built to cross from Ireland to Scotland.   The intersection of folk lore, natural heritage, and scientific explanations is interesting on this site, however very little signage is located near the actual site.

There is a formal visitors centre on site, however if you walk around the centre you can access the
causeway without paying a fee.  This resulting in missing out on some of the interpretative aspects but if you're on a budget or a time limit it might be the way to go. 

The Giant's Causeway is an extremely popular natural heritage site.  There are also very few restrictions on where visitors can explore.  There are a couple of different walking paths which approach the site and a number of shoots which climb up the surrounding rocks and hills.  Visitors are able to sit on the rock formations, climb up the honeycomb looking rock clusters, and walk freely along the rocky shore. 

Given how busy the site is and how unrestricted access is to the site I wonder about the long term impacts of turning the Giant's Causeway into a tourism destination.  The human element inevitably has some impact on the condition and maintenance of the site.  The Giant's Causeway is a beautiful piece of natural heritage tucked on the coast of Northern Ireland.  I could have easily spent a multiple hours walking around and exploring the site and the surrounding area.

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