Up early after yesterday’s drive along the first part of the Causeway Coastal Route as today, I will be visiting the Giant’s Causeway amongst other locations.
It was a beautiful morning so to make the most of it I decided to head straight to the Giant’s Causeway to arrive before it became overcrowded with visitor coaches which would make capturing acceptable images almost impossible. Well, that decision paid off as I arrived at the car park just after the Visitor Centre opened. It’s no surprise this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A geological wonder with over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the Giant’s Causeway is the result of intense volcanic and geological activity. The Causeway provides a glimpse into the Earth’s most ancient past. An epic 60 million years old legacy to the cooling and shrinking of successive lava flows.
For those visiting just be warned that it is up to a 25-minute walk downhill to reach the Causeway but like my visit to the Glengariff Waterfalls Walk you do have to walk back up. There is however an alternative Shuttle Bus you can take if you don’t feel up to the walk.
The Giant’s Causeway is steeped in myth and legend. carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool, who left behind an ancient home of folklore. Just a short walk from the main Causeway is Port Noffer Bay where the Giant’s boot is located. Apparently lost by Finn as he fled from the wrath of Scottish giant, Benandonner, the boot is reputed to be a size 93.5!
There are four stunning walking trails awash with breathtaking views of jagged cliffs and bays lashed with wind and waves. Having walked to The Amphitheatre viewpoint and back I then tackled The Shepherds Steps back to the Visitor Centre. There are 162 steep steps – once a rough narrow path passable only by sheep and their sure-footed shepherds.
By the time I had got back to the Visitor Centre, it was filling up with more and more visitors so I moved on visiting Pans Rock which although not one of the better-known locations there is a rather unusual bridge. The rock’s which are accessed via the bridge are the remains of an iron salt pan, lying at the far end of Ballycastle Beach which juts out to the sea and is a popular location for fishing.
Onwards to my next stop at Kinbane Head and Castle. The name Kinbane means white head and refers to the white limestone on which the castle stands. Not much of the castle remains, and the path up to it is narrow and stepped. Besides the wild, unspoiled beauty of the headland itself, Kinbane Castle is also perfectly situated so as to offer impressive views both looking back toward the cliffs along the mainland and out to Rathlin Island and beyond in the North Atlantic Ocean. In other words, if you’re looking to capture landscape photos that embody the dramatic scenery Northern Ireland is known for, you won’t want to skip this one.
Next, I just couldn’t miss visiting Carrick-A-Rede which means the rock in the road. The road is the sea route for Atlantic salmon on their westward journey past Carrick Island. It is also home to the rope bridge which at 100 feet above the sea as for over 350 years allowed fishermen to cross regularly to access the best places to catch the migrating salmon. Also known as “the bridge across the ocean” it now presents a challenge to thousands of visitors each year who go to enjoy the same views and high thrills. It was not my original intention to walk the bridge particularly as there was a fairly strong wind gusting through the gap between the mainland and the island. I did, however, pluck up the courage to walk it and it certainly is something I would recommend everyone should try. No photos I am afraid I was too busy hanging onto the rope handrail. 🙂
Conditions for landscape photography with grey overcast skies were not improving but I made a point of visiting Ballintoy Harbour, Whitepark Bay and Dunservick Castle but nowhere provided images I feel worthy of sharing. What I did notice in this area was a profusion of mainly white and black pebbles on some of the beaches. Fault-lines can be seen well in Whitepark Bay and also at the picturesque and geologically fascinating natural Ballintoy harbour. On the north side of the harbour is basalt and the south side is limestone. The action of the sea has resulted in a mixture of black (basalt) and white (chalk/limestone) pebbles which has provided another image for my “Intimate Landscapes” Collection
One location I was keen to see was the “Dark Hedges” so named from “Game of Thrones” and driving inland I eventually found them only to be disappointed that the road which passes through the Dark Hedges was like a car park despite road closure notices. With very little alternative parking I took the view that if you can’t beat them join them. Trying to get a photo without people or cars in the frame was unfortunately impossible so yet again regretfully I have nothing to share.
Apart from the Giants Causeway, the day for photography had been mostly disappointing but still very enjoyable. I returned to Bushmills with the hope that the next day would improve and so it did has I made a brief visit to Dunluce Castle. The Castle was built in the 1200s by the 2nd Earl of Ulster, Richard de Burgh, on the site of an earlier fort dating back to the time of the Vikings. Dunluce is the most picturesque of all the Irish castles. It stands on a basalt block with sheer vertical faces dropping 100 ft straight to the sea. It is separated from the land by a deep chasm, which once had a drawbridge and a cave runs from the sea right underneath the castle to the land beneath the bridge.
Unfortunately, that is the end of my all too brief visit to Northern Ireland but if you have enjoyed following along there are more photos to be seen in the Northern Ireland galleries.
Please make sure you join me next time and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed as I drive and photograph the whole of the Wild Atlantic Way starting in Donegal.