Day 2: Giants Causeway, The Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, Bonamargy Friary
This was one of the great days, even though we got off to the wrong start. We programmed Ballymoney into the GPS to head toward the Dark Hedges (from Game of Thrones) and were pleased to see that our destination was only an hour away. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an hour in the wrong direction! It seems there are several Ballymoneys throughout Ireland, and unless you’re specific with the GPS about what county you’re in, it’s going to take you to the closest. Once we got ourselves figured out, we were back on the road, this time headed for Giant’s Causeway, since as Highlander would say, There can be only one.
It was a long drive, but so well worth it, as you can see for yourself. The beauty and the landscape were almost otherworldly, a result of volcanic and geological activity. The columns you see are basalt and, get this, made of interlocking hexagonal stones! The site encompassed three bays, each just as beautiful as the next. And the legends! Loved them. It seems that Fionn mac Cumhaill, the giant who lived at the causeway (evidenced by the remains of his pipe organ still seen on one of the peaks…or chimney stacks, depending on who you listened to) was in the habit of shouting back and forth to the giant he could see across the way in Scotland—the typical gianty “grind your bones to make my bread” sort of banter. One day Fionn (pronounced Finn) decided to take up the challenge and built a bridge of columns across the water. But on getting closer and seeing the size of his opponent, he decided to give it up and fled back across the bridge, losing one of his boots in the process. The Scottish giant, Benandonner, hot on his heels, Fionn retreated to his home, where he took to his baby’s cradle, bonnet and all. When Benandonner came calling, Fionn’s wife told him there was no one home but her and the baby. When Benandonner got a look at the giant child, he reasoned that the child’s da would be too big to challenge and fled back across the bridge, destroying it as he went. Thus ending the only story in Irish history that went off without a fight! There were other great stories. On another peak, you can see Fionn’s gran, who he turned to stone when she wouldn’t give up the drink (harsh!).
Next we were on to the impressive Carrick-a-Rede Bridge only seven miles away. I’d like to say that we were equally impressive and walked it, but we drove. It was walk enough from the visitor’s center at the bridge to the site itself! But a beautiful walk and good on our calves. Carrick-a-Rede, I learned from the brochure, means rock in the road and comes from Carraig-a-Rade in Gaelic. Fisherman strung the bridge (at first nothing more than three ropes—one to walk on and one to either side of it as handholds). Terrifying and incredible to think of these men braving the rope bridge across a deep ravine to get to the good fishing spots and then carrying their catches back across the uncertain footing…particularly when the winds blow. (As we found at the Cliffs of Moher, the winds of Ireland can be gale force, but maybe they stayed home those days!)
After a long, glorious day hiking up and down hills, cliffs, basalt columns, rope bridges and all, we came across a wonderful find on the way to our hotel, the ruin of Bonamargy Friary, founded around 1500 by Rory McQuillan, chief of the local family in control of the area at the time. (The plaque at the site said McQuillan, various online sites have it MacQuillan.) Beside being scenic, there was the wonderful story of The Black Nun, Julia McQuillan, who was a prophetess and recluse whose final resting place is marked by an unusual round stone at the chapel entrance. Legend has it that she haunts the chapel still, though the more religious would probably say “watches over it” instead.
Everywhere we went there were sheep, marked by patches of color on their rumps. We decided they’d all been in a massive paintball battle and still bore their war wounds with pride. (Yes, yes, we know it’s probably a way of distinguishing between flocks, but that’s not nearly as much fun now, is it?)
2 thoughts on “Ireland – Day 2: Giant’s Causeway, The Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, Bonamargy Friary”
Woooooow!! How beautiful, Lucienne!! LOVE!!!!
I didn’t get to go to the Giant’s Causeway when I was in Ireland, and I felt the lack! 🙂
The sheep (ewes) have dye on their rumps because the shepherds put dye on the underside of the rams. When a ram breeds a ewe, the shepherd knows both that the ewe was bred and which ram it was. Talk about wearing a scarlet letter!