Close to the Giant's causeway are the ruins of Dunluce Castle a 13th century castle built by the earl of Luster. Pathetic castle was abandoned after 1690 when the family that owned it fell into poverty after a military defeat.
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and famous for its shipyard which produced the Titantic. After years of unrest, peace has returned to Northern Ireland and with it Belfast has been reborn as one of Europe's up and coming cities.
Worth to visit, the Castle is thought by many to be the most picturesque and romantic of Irish castles
And is located dramatically close to a headland that plunges straight into the sea along the North Antrim coast
I know the First World War was a long time ago now, and Harry Patch, "the last Tommy" died last year, thereby severing the last living link with that conflict. The Second World War is obviously much more recent, and there are still many people living who were alive then, including many who served. One of my uncles was in North Africa and Italy and I had two Aunts in the WAAF. Most tragically, my Uncle Tommy was ubused to death by the Japanese whilst a prisoner of war, having been worked on the Burma Railway. In Northern Ireland, as indeed in many parts of the United Kingdom, there are public war memorials in almost every town and village, and many more private ones in Churches, schools and the like.
The monument pictured is situated in Tandragee, Co. Armagh (my family's village) and is fairly typical of the type of thing you will find. The second image is of the Remembrance Day servcice in 2012. Remmbrance Sunday is always held on the Sunday nearest the 11th Novemeber each year. This is due to the fact that the Armistice ending the First World War was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
There are a couple of things that are of interest in relation to this subject. Firstly, at the time of the First War, all of Ireland was under British Rule and, whilst conscription was enforced on the mainland, it never was in Ireland for political reasons. Despite this, many hundreds of thousands of men from all over Ireland volunteered, from both sides of the political and religious divide. Many, many thousands of them did not return or returned wounded, some maimed for life both mentally and physically. Such is the nature of war.
Another interesting thing is that when the memorials were erected, in the years immediately after the War, no provision was made for their upkeep. All efforts were on getting sufficient funds to erect the things in the first place, and the question of upkeep just did not arise. An Act of Parliament in 1925 stated that local authorities could use their funds for upkeep although to this day there is no statutory obligation so to do. Thankfully, though, most seem to be in a good state of repair. I think it is only right that we remember the sacrifices of our forefathers.
The excellent Imperial War Museum with it's main site in London is currently co-ordinating a marvellous project to create a National Inventory of War Memorials all over the United Kingdom. If you live in the UK, you may want to contribute yourself using the attached link.
As you travel round Northern Ireland, perhaps you may wish to stop and think for a moment about the horrors these predominantly young men endured.
Carrickfergus is the large castle you can see as you land at Belfast Airport. It is to the north-west of Belfast, so sit on the rights side flying into Belfast and the left when flying out. You can then see it. The castle was built in 1177 by the Norman John de Courcy to defend the approach to Belfast Lough. De Courcy was a knight and grandson of another knight who invaded England in 1066 with William the Conqueror. Despite no authority from King Henry II, De Courcy defeated the different Kings of Northern Ireland and Carrickfergus was the first Irish Castle. He was quite an adventurer and it took years before an English King could put a stop to his freewheeling ways.
Carrickfergus was a thriving trading town before a single house was constructed in Belfast. Originally it was strategically built so that 3 of the 4 sides were on the water of Belfast Lough. It is not today due to land reclamation projects. After being built it was attacked, in order, by the Scots (1597), Irish (Nine Years War 1595–1603), English (1690) and French (1760). Except for the brief overthrows, Carrickfergus castle was garrisoned continuously by the British Army for almost 750 years. In the 1700’s it was a prison. Later it strengthened and served as a magazine and armoury until 1928 when the British Army finally left. During World War II it served as an air raid shelter. Today it is managed the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
You can walk into the main gates for free. After that it’s a reasonable admission fee. A lot of the castle is full of mannequins and mock-ups. The real beauty is the view from the walls.
The venue inside the castle can be hired for birthdays and weddings and host 60 people. They offer an audio tour and gift shop.
Opening Times 2012-2013:
1 Apr – 30 Sep 10am – 6pm daily
1 Oct - 31 Oct 10am - 4pm daily
1 Nov – 28 Feb 10am – 4pm daily
1 Mar – 31 Mar 10am – 4pm daily
(Except Christmas and New Year)
If you have the chance you have to go and catch an Ulster Rugby match at Ravenhill Stadium. The Ulster fans are passionate and fill the stadium regardless of who is in town to play. Get caught up in the banter or sing along with the chants and catch a great game!
Make sure you try to get there early if you are in the general seating area. It is first come first serve in the standing section! Wear your Ulster jersey or t-shirt. Or at least wear something red and black....
The ruins of Dunluce Castle stands on the edge of steep cliffs on the north Antrim coast, overlooking the sea. The first castle was built on this site in the 13th century by Richard de Burgh, and it has after that also belonged to the Mac Quillin and the Mac Donnell families.
Sorley Boy MacDonnell captured the castle in 1584 and when he four years later got hold of some of the treasures from the Spanish Armada ship Girona, which got shipwrecked nearby, he restored the castle. Sorley Boy’s son Randal MacDonnell was made the 1st Earl of Antrim by Queen Elizabeth.
Interesting to know, but awful, is that in 1639 part of the castle (mostly the kitchen) collapsed into the sea, killing seven of the servants working in the kitchen. After that the lady of the castle didn’t want to live there anymore. Who can blame her!
Dunluce Castle was abandoned in 1690 when the Mac Donnell family lost much of their fortune and power as they supported James II at the Battle of Boyne.
When I arrived to Dunluce Castle it had not opened jet so I took the path down to Mermaid’s Cave below the cliffs. When I came up again some more people had arrived and were taking photos. The gates were soon opened and I went inside and paid admission. No more people entered the gates and it turned out that the other people had just stopped to take photos from the outside, so I was the only visitor when I was there. In the reception they told me that that was not uncommon. Admission is only £2 (March 2011) and I would strongly recommend others to pay and enter, and not just take a quick look from the outside.
I started the tour in the building opposite the reception and souvenir store, where I saw a short film about the castle’s history. The narrator was a descendent of the Mac Donnell family, rulers of the castle. It was interesting and then I went on to the courtyard and crossed the bridge over to the part where the main buildings/ruins are. The cliffs surrounding the ruins are very steep and the view along the coast impressive!
Dunluce Castle is open between 10 - 18 from Easter to September, and between 10 - 16 from October and Easter.
Derry - cool city with ancient walls - see Derry pages for more
Belfast - great city with good nightlife and a buzz of things to do. See Belfast pages for more.
White park bay - stunning beach, pretty remote, hardly anyone there - the waves are gentle, a great place to stop off and stroll. Theres a hostel right on the beach which must have one of the best locations in the uk.
Dunlace castle - set in a great location looking out to sea. Not much of it left, but worth a stop.
Giants causeway -you have to walk a fair way down to get to it, about 30mins. The car park charges £6 to park!! the bay itself is stunning. Personally, i didnt find the giant steps themselves all that spectacular, just a bit odd. Very touristy so go early to avoid the crowds.
Portrush - beautiful beach.
Dunseverick castle-nothing much left of it but still worth a look as its in an interesting position, on its own bluff, with high cliffs.
Ballintoy is a lovely little village situated along the coastal road, about 8km west of Ballycastle. The village is mainly gathered around the main road. Behind the village is Knocksaughey Hill and in front of the village fields are slopping down towards the sea.
I’m happy I made this my base while exploring the North Antrim Coast and Giant‘s Causeway. It is easy to travel by bus along the coast (even if the buses are not very frequent) and it is a beautiful and peaceful area to walk around in. Just outside the village is Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and 1km down from the main road is the picturesque harbour.
There are places for accommodation, both in and around the village, and there are two pubs and restaurants. I saw there are a few shops, but they were not open when I visited off season.
Not much remains of Dunseverick Castle. The small ruins are from a castle built in the 16th century, which was destroyed by General Munro in 1642. A tower survived for many years, but it finally collapsed into the sea in 1972.
Dunseverick was for long an important site. Already in 1525BC a fort was built here by one of the Kings of Ireland, Sobairce. In the 5th century Saint Patrick visited the castle several times and in 870 the castle was attacked by Vikings.
The ruins are situated on a rock surrounded by the sea on three sides. Even if the ruins are not impressive the surroundings are beautiful and the history interesting. I passed the site when I walked along the Causeway Walk between Giant’s Causeway and Ballintoy, but at Dunseverick the main road is running very close to the sea so you can see the ruins even from the car or bus.
This was our first stop on our Northern Ireland tour. We didn't get time to go in just to have a quick photo stop and admire the area. I am not sad we didn't go in - you sort of end up with castle overload pretty quickly in the UK. Mind you it is so close to Belfast and if you were spending a few days there it would be worth a trip up to it and have a look around the entire area.
The main attraction on our Northern Ireland day tour was of course the Giant's Causeway. It was a little more touristy 'up the top' where there were at least 2 or 3 different eateries and many touristy shops. There was a bus down to the actual causeway and back (we were lazy and chose this option both ways). Ideally one really should walk down to really appreciate it but the windy weather and time contraints due to being on a tour pushed us to take the bus.
One of those places you must visit when in Northern Ireland whether you chose to believe the whole geological history or the story of the Giant's. Fascinating all the same and brings out the kid in everyone as you climb over the unique rocks.
Taken off the website....
There are two ways to approach the Giants Causeway. It can be reached directly by road, either on foot or using the seasonal Ulsterbus service (buses accessible for people with disabilities.) 0.8km, 0.5 mile to Giants Causeway. A longer circular walk follows the cliff path to the Shepherd's Steps and back via the Giants Causeway. 3km, almost 2 miles.
It's a small town on the coast with nice pubs, shops and restaurants. I saw many B&Bs and small hotels.
You can walk waterfront area, and visit small castle and aquarium. The view of the port and the town from the round tower on the hill was really nice.
It was a nice stop to take a break from driving.
As the city of Belfast develops its tourist potential, the 'Titanic' has been seen as an icon of the city that can deliver (unlike the real thing) tourists in their thousands.
The tourist authorities organise a number of events and activities / exhibitions. Throughout the summer months there are walking tours (4 pounds), coach tours (approx 12 pounds), and boat tours (appox 7 pounds) that take in many of the sights and sites associated with the building of the most famous of ships.
The ex-shipyard area is also being developed as the 'Titanic Quarter', with new offices, restaurants and cafes etc.
The Giant's Causeway is a very impressive natural sight, which dates back several million years, when Northern Ireland was influenced by a lot of volcanic energy. The Causeway consists of Basalt, which emerged from cooling lava. Amazingly, the hexagonal black stones are formed in a perfect geographical shape - that's why people tried to explain the mysterious perfection with legends and stories of the giant Finn MacCool who built the stones in order to cross the sea and get into competition with another giant over in Scotland (they found similar stone formations there) - that's where the name "causeway" comes from. Some stones have created bizarre formations which have phantastic names such as the Harp, the Organ and the Camel's Hump. So, there's a lot to explore!
Just two bus lines are going there from Portrush - no. 172 and 252, which takes about half an hour (see http://www.translink.co.uk for more information). With a car it's much more convenient! Even though it's not so easy to get there with public transport, it's worth the visit, especially when the sea is rough and powerful and when rain and sun are creating rainbows. :-)
I recently stayed in this hotel as part of a romantic night out and was disappointed in the food,...more
If we would ever visit Belfast again, we would stay there again, though keep in mind many rooms do...more
Spent a night in here in December 2007. Went to Derry for a function which was being held in the...more