Two years ago, Hubs and I did a major three week long road trip to Ireland and Scotland. It turned out to be so incredible that we really wanted to see more which meant a trip to Northern Ireland. We flew into Dublin and rented our adventure wagon and headed up to the other Irish country, north. Although, in hindsight, Hubs and I never looked into flying to Belfast, because we purchased our airline tickets with points and didn’t have many options to begin with.
Hubs and I checked into one of the most amazing AirBnB’s we’ve ever stayed at near Ballymena, which is about 20 minutes from Belfast and a great base to all the natural wonders we were there to see. We spent a week there and covered a lot of ground. We were lucky to be able to take our time and not rush, which is something we’ve come to appreciate living in Europe. It’s just how it works here, there’s more emphasis on a work/life balance. As Americans, with the “reduced” vacation time, the travel style had been “let’s try to cram as much as possible in ‘X’ amount of time” where we basically saw a place for hours, maybe a day, and then off to the next.
The scenery in Northern Ireland will knock your socks off. Everywhere you turn there’s another breathtaking landscape. If you have mobility issues, it might be hard to enjoy a lot of the sites fully, as there is some hiking involved at the popular sites, including: steep climbs/descents, uneven surfaces, and stairs. Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge have about a 1 km walk (15-20 minutes) from the car park to the actual site.
The Giant’s Causeway is probably the most well known tourist site in Northern Ireland. There are 40,000 interlocking, six-sided, nearly perfectly hexagonal, basalt columns that are the result of volcanic activity 60 million years ago. It’s really a sight for the eyes. We spent a good hour and a half just moving from one column to the next, admiring the hexagonal shapes, colors and hearing/watching the ocean water slamming against them. It’s places like this that make us wonder how we’d do this later in life if we were somewhat physically compromised? Hubs has had two surgeries on his knee, so for him, it’s especially important that we do all the traveling we can while we’re still healthy and mobile. It’s a piece of unsolicited advice that has been given to us many times by retirees we’ve met on our tours/travels.
The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is in close proximity to the Giant’s Causeway, so you could do both in one day. However, after reading a lot of other people experiences, it’s best to do the rope bridge first thing in the morning as the site opens. The tour buses and school kids tend to arrive around 10-11AM, so we bypassed all of that by getting there early. It’s a similar case with the Giant’s Causeway – get there super early or later in the afternoon when, certain, obnoxious tour groups have left.
As you see from the pictures, we were extremely lucky to have amazing weather throughout our stay in Northern Ireland; such a rarity in this part of the world!