Antrim - The Giant's Causeway

Random punter on the left, plastic bottle on the right - c'mon guys


If Nat Geo don’t have the North Antrim Coast as one of the “The World’s Most Beautiful Drives” then they are a shoddy publication relying on subscriptions from 18th century anthropologists and teenage boys. The drive is freakin’ out of this world! (National Geographic is a fine magazine, just playing with you guys).

You’re right there, ripping past the wild Irish sea, the car twirling itself around ragged rockfaces. It reminded me of long drives taken in New Zealand 20 years ago (for stories on those doozies - read here).

In Ulster, we were pelted by the rain, as we popped into small towns, only to slot out again a few minutes later. You know you’re running out of things to say when your car game becomes Name that Town. Northern Ireland has come a long way since the Good Friday Agreement, but driving around the top of Antrim, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to superficially label the towns as you drive through them. Small neat quiet towns with a war memorial and enough union jacks to carpet Canada - Unionist (bing, bing, bing), scraggy bustling towns with loud kids wearing GAA shorts and not a flag in sight - Nationalist (bang, bang, bang).

I kept telling Dom I had no idea this gorgeous drive existed. I grew up assuming that when you crossed the border the road would be lined with Ian Paisley types on one side shouting and roaring abuse, and RA heads on the other side lobbing bombs across. I didn’t even see a hint of a paisley shirt or smell the scent of sulphur.

It wasn’t all ‘them versus us’, a lot of the towns were a happy mix of everything. It was interesting to see primary schools described in their signs as “Integrated”, presumably Catholic and Protestant. Almost an anachronism given the melange of modern day. I think we shouldn’t forget the past though and the lessons learned that brought us to our 2020 enlightened (r)evolution. History is always just one page back, and we still have a chunk of the book to go. Immediately following war and atrocities we are so careful to do the right thing, so fresh to the error of our ways, but time - that great healer and giant eraser - can make way for an arrogance, and a complacency, a return to old ways in a new fashion. Study history kids, it’s the key to the future.

When we travelled up North a few years ago, we took a coastal diversion to the Old Bushmills Distillery. The world’s oldest distillery! For those of you fond of a nifter, Irish whiskey is distilled 3 times and spelt with an ‘e’, Scotch whisky is distilled twice and spelt without the ‘e’. These things are of no importance to anyone outside of whiskeeey drinkers.

Getting on to the Giant’s Causeway, Roisin must have asked me 50 times what it was, and I seemed to have about 50 stories in my head as to how it was formed. The boring fake story doing the rounds is that it’s a World Heritage site made 60 million years ago when lava cooled into hexagonal pillars.

The truth is the ancient Irish hero and giant Fionn MacCumhaill challenged a fellow giant in Scotland to a fight. To enable the big Scotsman’s arrival, Fionn made a series of steps or a causeway across the sea. When he spotted the enormous man arriving, our Irish ‘hero’ got a case of the wobblers, he threw on some baby clothes (don’t ask me, I didn’t make up this story) and got his wife to pretend to be his Nanny (it gets weirder). The Scottish guy arrived, shouting for a fight with Fionn. The wife/nanny showed him the “sleeping baby” who was Fionn pretending to be his own baby son (still with me?). The giant thought to himself “wow, that baby’s about 10 foot tall, his Dad Fionn must be ginormous, I’m outta here, see ya”. The giant hot footed it back across the causeway and Fionn, presumably still in his nappy, destroyed half of the causeway so the giant could never return.

Do you think there is any connection between this local story and its proximity to the oldest strongest whiskey in the world, perhaps? I don’t think Fionn comes out of this looking great; These are our Irish heroes, ladies and gentlemen.

Whether you believe the Fionn story or not (it’s 100% true, fact checked by Trump’s people) it’s a bit of fun to scramble over the perfectly formed basalt pillars.

Our plan was to tipple across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge a plan which had evaded us on that previous trip, as it had been closed due to high winds. However, this time Covid locked it down. One day we’ll make it across, even if we have to dress up as babies and entice Scottish giants to fight us.

Enough with the legends, it was time to check out another thing the North is famous for, it’s loughs. For this we would leave ‘Norin Iron’ and head to a place where ancestrally I believe my people are from, Donegal.

<<PREVIOUS POST                    NEXT POST>>