Sunday, July 8, 2018

Loaded with myths, legends and folklore, Northern Ireland

Loaded with myths, legends and folklore, Northern Ireland is hauntingly beautiful. Here’s what a road trip down the Causeway Coastal Route revealed to us…

They say, it’s supposed to be about the journey, not the destination, and when I take a road journey with my friend on the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route, I can exactly see why. We begin our drive from Belfast, via the Antrim Coast Road, all the way to the UNESCO World Heritage Site from which it takes its name. Deep-blue skies, manicured green lawns, dramatic cliff edges, a stunning coastline, magnificent beaches, sleepy seaside hamlets, stunning archaeological feats – all come together to soothe our souls. Northern Ireland seems like a world away from the frantic bustle of modern life. I turn on some old-fashioned Irish music, roll down the windows and rest my arms on the door frame to let the fresh breeze blow on my face. Road trips are perfect for a laidback soul; someone who hates going by the timetable and wants to avoid all the unnecessary stress that comes with strict departure timings.


We make a quick stop at Glenarm Castle Walled Garden, a horticultural spectacle that boasts of an incomparable setting by the sea. From the mount at the top of the garden, one can enjoy a breathtaking view of the castle, sea and the estate beyond. For those wanting to take a longer break and recharge, the 19th century mushroom house offers light lunch options and delicious homemade cream teas.

Next, we are on our way to Ballintoy, one of the locations used to film the Game of Thrones television series. Home to merely 200 people, the small fishing harbour and the surrounding village has hardly changed in hundreds of years which makes it the perfect setting for the medieval saga.


For those looking to capture a true sense of Irish rural life, this one’s a not-to-miss stopover whilst touring the coastal route. Just down the road is Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge that dangles 100 feet above the sea, connecting the tiny Carrick Island and the County Antrim mainland for around 350 years. We are brave enough to cross the bridge swayed by the winds only to be rewarded by fantastic views spanning over Rathlin island as well as amazing flora, fauna and bird life. As we dare to look down while crossing the bridge, we see numerous mysterious caves and caverns being lashed by the ocean waves below. There are stories everywhere in Northern Ireland and these tales never fail to kindle child-like curiosity and imagination. When touring the region, we get to know of giants, goddesses, kings, leprechauns and banshees that have very much become a part of Ireland’s history and culture. One of the most picturesque and romantic of Irish castles, Dunluce has an air of eeriness and melancholy that only adds to its charm. A defended site from at least 500 AD, the present castle ruins keep many secrets and ghost stories. There is a tale about the ghost of a sad and troubled woman sweeping the prison tower, lamenting her lost love.

To seal the day with a tipple, we head to Ireland’s oldest working licenced distillery, dating from 1608. At Bushmills, it’s interesting to see how the unique triple-distilled Irish whiskey is produced. We experience all the sights, smells and noises as the smooth and rich malt spirit is made right in front of us. Have a keen interest in whiskey? Go for one of the tutored whiskey tasting sessions.

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