Ireland – Day 3: Glenariff Forest Park, the Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle, Walled City of Derry

Posted: July 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

Day 3: Glenariff Forest Park, the Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle, Walled City of Derry

Day three started at the beautiful Glenariff Forest Park, which wasn’t far from where we were staying in Antrim. We took the waterfall walk because…well, waterfall! You can see for yourself the natural beauty, though no picture has ever done justice to a waterfall, which has to be experienced in the rushing sound, the spray on your face and the elemental power you feel just being close to it. It was quite the walk (I want to say two miles, but all of those up and down some pretty steep slopes) and our calves were burning by the time we made our way back up to our car.

From there it was on to the Dark Hedges. By now we had the GPS figured out, and we didn’t get lost, though we did get stopped by a parade in celebration of July 12th, otherwise known as Orangeman’s Day, where in Northern Ireland they commemorate the victory of the Protestant king William of Orange over the Catholic king James II in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne. There were concerns over violence breaking out over the parades, since tensions can still run high, as we saw at a couple of protests, but there was none at this small parade in Ballymoney. (The right Ballymoney this time.)

For those who don’t know, after their conquest, the British used the plantation method of planting their own people on Irish lands, “acquiring” them from chieftans and lords not ready to leave. They tried to wipe out Catholicism and impose their own religion as well as rule. The Feckin’ Book of Irish History, which I can highly recommend, has a great quote from Quentin Crisp: “When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, ‘Yes, but is it the Catholic God or Protestant God in whom you don’t believe?'” To me, it’s all the same God and I don’t think he or she is very excited over all the violence committed in his/her name, but no one ever asks me.

Anyway, the Dark Hedges (portrayed in Game of Thrones) were cool, but I expected an entire woodland of trees growing thickly and eerily together instead of a single copse of trees along a roadway. Still, neat, as you can see.

Next we hit Dunluce Castle, the first we’d had time to tour internally since our arrival. Dunluce Castle was beautiful and extensive, built around 1500 by the MacQuillan family, who didn’t have very long to enjoy it before it was seized by the MacDonnell’s. An entire town grew up around it, as they do, but was burned along with the castle in the Irish Uprising of 1641 and the site was abandoned by the 1680s. Discover Northern Ireland says that Dunluce Castle was potentially the inspiration for Cair Paravel in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Just look at the pictures and you can see how the site might have been inspiring!

From there it was on to the Walled City of Derry, where we walked the walls and also visited the impressive Guildhall, which we would have sworn was a church before we got a closer look. The brochure we picked up says that the walls were built between 1613 and 1618 to protect the English and Scots settlers who were planted there in order to take over and “bring the rebellious Gaelic region firmly under control”. The city was rechristened Londonderry, which to this day hasn’t entirely taken, which we know from reading as well as signs with London stricken out with graffiti along the way.

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We entered through the Bishop’s Gate (one of the four original gates), which put us close to Saint Columb’s Cathedral, which interested me because of its beauty, but also because our home church back in Maryland was St. Columba’s (same saint, different spelling). We weren’t able to tour the cathedral, since it was closed, possibly to protect it from any protests or problems arising from the celebration of the day, but the pamphlet we picked up says that it was built around 1633, and was “the first Cathedral in the British Isles to have been built after the Reformation and is a fine example of “Planter’s Gothic.” The building was virtually unchanged until 1776 when the then-bishop added 21 feet to the tower and spire. Unfortunately, it wasn’t terribly structurally sound and was taken down before it fell down and replaced.

On the walls, we found many wonderful faces, like this one we’d swear must be a forbearer of our friend Glenn Hauman. (Traveling right now, but check back for a pick of him posted alongside this one for your amusement.)

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We also found this more modern statue, which I called the Man in the Iron Mask and which Pete decided was The Man in the Iron Onesie. The real story behind it is much nicer (see plaque) and related to both sides (the Protestant and the Catholic) seeing things through each others’ eyes.

The Peace Bridge, likewise, was about bringing both sides together and relegating conflicts to the past.

The most impressive structure in the city, at least to us, was the Guildhall, built in 1887, which had a wonderful exhibition talking about the plantation period. Fascinating by itself, but our favorite part was arguably the gorgeous stained-glass windows. I say arguably because I haven’t actually consulted Pete on the matter, but, well, just look… (My favorite, BTW, is the seahorses-play-poker panel.)

We were off that night for Donegal, but not before we discovered that either our memory of sticky toffee pudding from our time in England had either been inflated or it just wasn’t the same in Ireland (at least where we’d been eating it). Dinner that night, however, did not disappoint in the least…slow roasted beef. Yum!

Side note: they have Emo gas in Ireland. You have been warned.

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