As we drove from Dublin towards Belfast, it was rainy and overcast.
By the time we reached the town of Drogheda, about an hour away from Dublin, the sun was out again. We saw a pub named “Darby O’Gill’s” sharing its name with a movie we had watched before our trip. A castle tower was in the middle of the main street. Danny asked if the castle broke down and that’s why it’s in the middle of the street.
We visited the town’s church, famous as the home of Oliver Plunkett’s severed head, on display in a glass case. Some of his bones are on display in a separate case.
From Drogheda we headed to Carlingford. Some of us enjoyed the beautiful water views and some of us napped.
We spent the night in Belfast, at a gorgeous house, rented through Air B&B.
The boys especially loved trying on a helmet the friendly homeowner had purchased last year in Rome.
While we were out for dinner that night and waiting for our food to arrive, I read to the boys from the guidebook about how volcanoes had formed the Giant’s Causeway. A nearby diner interrupted to say, “That’s not the real story though. Would you like to know how it was really formed?” And of course the boys did. He told us the story of Finn MacCool, an Irish giant who had built a causeway between Northern Ireland and southern Scotland so he could walk across without getting his feet wet.
Finn then walked across the causeway and saw, up close for the first time, his rival Benandonner. Seeing that Benandonner was a larger-than-expected hulking giant, Finn was afraid and ran back across the causeway towards home, losing a boot on the way (more on that boot later) as Benandonner chased him. Finn arrived home and asked his wife Oonagh to quickly hide him before Benandonner arrived. Oonagh cleverly disguised Finn as a sleeping baby and put him in a giant crib. When Benandonner saw the size of the giant “baby” he immediately fled in terror, scared of the size of whatever massive creature had sired such gigantic offspring. As Benandonner ran back to Scotland, he destroyed the causeway to prevent anyone from following him.
Danny and Patrick loved the story and couldn’t wait to see the causeway and look for giant babies and a giant boot!
For dinner I had seafood chowder and crab claws (which the boys thought were witches’ fingernails). Poor Kev was feeling a bit sick and slept in my arms while the rest of us ate.
The next morning we drove around downtown Belfast. We saw where the Titanic had been built and although we did see the famous murals painted on the sides of Belfast buildings, there was too much fighting and screaming from the back seat, so I don’t have any mural pictures!
We left Belfast and stopped at Carrickfergus castle where we found even more rain.
We continued our drive and visited the famous Bushmills Distillery. Brian and I split a small taste of 12-year old single malt whiskey, sold only at the distillery. The boys had apple juice, sold everywhere.
Patrick and Danny had fun playing in the British phone booth.
Bushmills is so famous it’s even on the money!
That night we stayed in Portrush, right on the water, in an apartment with a view of an amusement park. We had a nice dinner and I made the stellar decision to order a slice of cheesecake to go which I enjoyed with wine and Brian after the boys went to bed.
The next morning, after much anticipation, we headed to the Giant’s Causeway. Although it rained before and after our visit, it was thankfully dry while we were actually there.
The Giant’s Causeway is made up of about 40,000 interlocking pentagonal and hexagonal stone columns formed from an ancient volcanic eruption or a legendary giant, depending which story you believe.
The boys were happy to see Finn MacCool’s lost boot on the shore. This boot-shaped rock feature is aptly named “The Giant’s Boot” and in the proportions of a modern adult male, the boot would be a size 93 1/2. Danny found a snail in the grass and asked me to take a picture of it.
Another famous feature of the Giant’s Causeway is “the organ” – a peninsula of interlocking rock pillars that resemble a church pipe organ.
All three boys enjoyed playing with the handheld audio guide.
After walking all around the Giant’s Causeway, we had lunch at the hotel restaurant on the property. The menu featured a few things we couldn’t decipher (goujons, camps, floury bap) and Brian joked that we would probably understand the menu better if it had been written in Spanish. Brian and I went with what we knew – Guinness and Irish stew. Goujons, it turns out, are panko-breaded chicken pieces, and they soon became a staple of the boys’ diet on our trip. Baby Kev was finally starting to feel a bit better and he ate two sugar cubes before his lunch arrived.
Patrick and Danny spent a lot of road time arguing over whose side of the car had more cows and then regularly tried to change the rules of the game to their own favor. “Windmills count as 10,000 cows.” “Sheep count as twenty-nineteen-ten cows.” “Plants and flowers count as thirty-one hundred-million cows.” This went on for hours. Weeks, actually.
Our next stop was Dunluce Castle, a dramatic seaside estate perched high on cliffs. Danny, knowing that at some point on our trip we’d be staying at a castle with my parents and siblings, asked us, “Is this the castle where we are going to stay with our cousins? This place doesn’t even have a roof!” Patrick saw the castle ruins said, “This place is so, so, so cool!” Finally, it was sunny and gorgeous after a fair amount of rain the previous few days.
Danny and Patrick had fun with the dress-up and pretending to do a little excavation in the welcome center.
The windows in the castle, especially the large two-story bay window, were really impressive.
Kevin was dead-set against us taking a nice family picture here.
Patrick and Danny were particularly interested in the remains of the old fireplaces.
We continued our drive and stopped at the Drumskinny Stone Circle for everyone to stretch their legs a bit. All three boys enjoyed running around and climbing.
We spent the night at a B&B fishing lodge owned by an older couple who had four adult sons, one of whom died last year when a tree fell on him. The B&B owners are now raising his kids. The owners work all day on their farm and B&B, and then at night head to town to work at the restaurant/pub they own. They sure work hard all day, every day.
We had dinner at the family’s pub. Patrick and Danny were interested in Guinness. Don’t worry- they didn’t actually drink any! I had delicious salmon.
The next morning, we visited the Belleek Factory. It is in Northern Ireland, just across the river from Ireland. Do you see the Irish flag on the other side of the river?
Incredibly the boys touched and broke nothing in the Belleek store. Patrick and Danny were both happy to be photographed next to a large Belleek statue of St. Patrick (only minor complaints from Danny about the lack of things named Daniel in the store).
Stay tuned as we continue on our journey heading back south to Ireland, towards Westport.