Off on the first day of our tour bound for Derry (Londonderry). First stop was a surprise one, at the Dark Hedges, better known to Game of Thrones fans as the King’s Road. It is an avenue of beech trees which forms a canopy of leaves over the road, and ehich were planted by the Stuart family to impress visitors to their Georgian Mansion, Gracehill.
From there, on to Bushmills Distillery, where we were give an tour of the facility and an informative introduction to the production of whiskey (with an ‘e’ as opposed to the Scottish ‘whisky’) At the end we got to have a ‘wee dram’ just to wet our whistle! Unfortunately, photography was not allowed, so not much for a photographic record of this visit.
Next stop was Dunluce Castle, another place that GOT fans would recognize as Castle Greyjoy. These are the ruins of a castle first built in 1500 by the MacQuillan clan, then taken over by the MacDonnell clan in the 1550s, led by their warrior chieftain, Sorely Boy MacDonnell.
Our final stop of the day was at the famous Giant’s Causeway, a unique area of rock formations along the coast, and which, as legend has it, was formed by the giant, Finn McCool. It is essentially some 40 000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns which are the result of volcanic fissure eruption. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can walk down to the causeway and walk all over the rocks, provided you have decent footwear. There is a path that leads up to the top of the cliff, however, time constraints did not allow for us to venture up there. It is a most impressive sight, but someowhat less so, due to the hordes of tourists climbing all over it, which is probably true of most travel sites in the world.
On to Derry, where we checked in to our hotel, then decided to walk over to the Peace Bridge and head to the other side of the River Foyle for dinner. The Peace Bridge was opened in 2011 and was built to improve relations between the Unionist side and the Nationalists. During the Troubles, neither side ventured into the other’s side of the river, but with a spirit of reconciliation, this situation is improving.
On the way we stopped at the Guild Hall, which looks like a very ornate church, but which is in fact Derry’s city hall. On the bottom was an exhibit about the Plantation, the early attempt by the English to settle this part of Ireland, and which gave good insight into the roots of the unrest between the English and the Irish. It is a beautiful building with lots of stained glass.
Dinner at the Walled City Brewery was great! We each had a flight of three beer of which I surprisingly enjoyed all three! Only drawback was that Irv ordered the duck and it took almost 40 minutes to get our meals. But well worth the wait!
A walk back over the Peace Bridge and back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest after a long day.