Yesterday we took a field trip to the Antrim Coast. Everywhere we went was stunningly beautiful. I don’t have much to say about the day, except that I just can’t get over how beautiful it was. Hopefully some of these pictures can do it justice.
The first stop was Dunluce Caste. Here is what our hand out had to say about the site: “Dunluce Castle is one of Ulster’s best know castles, and it was built on a prehistoric promontory fort site. The castle comes in two parts, the older structure on the headland and a sprawling mass of buildings on the mainland opposite. The headland was first fortified in stone and mortar by the Anglo-Norman family, the de Mandevilles (later the McQuillans), sometime toward the end of the 13th Century. It then became one of a change of coastal strongholds stretching from Greencastle on Carlingford Lough in the south to the other Greencastle in Donegal in the north. So was secured the seaways of the Anglo-Normal holdings in Ulster.
From the 13th century until the 16th century, there was constant traffic between Western Scotland and Antrim. In the galleys plying these waters came the Scots mercenaries, the ‘Redshanks’ – seeking employment with the Irish chieftains in their constant warfare with each other and the English. In the 16th century, the Scottish MacDonnells displaced the McQuillans from Dunluce but then lost it for a time to the English. The castle fell into decay after the wars of 1641-1642. In 1928 the Earl of Antrim, a MacDonnell, transferred it to the Government of Northern Ireland for preservation.”
I loved walking around the ruins, but I had a hard time imagining what the castle would have been like when it was up and running. I mostly loved the view of the ocean, which reminded me of sitting on top of my grandparent’s roof at their house in the Caribbean.
Our next stop was the Giant’s Causeway, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hand out said “The Causeway is a spectacular section of the north coast with cliffs averaging between 160 and 200m in height and is noted for the thousands of basaltic columns, mostly hexagonal in shape, which are found both at sea level (the Grand Causeway) and in the cliffs fronting a succession of magnificent bays. The basalts are the result of the cooling of lava extruded in Tertiary times, but it is only the younger Middle Basalts which show the well formed columns. they are separated from the Lower Basalts by a bed of soft laterite, the result of a long period of weathering of the Lower Basalts under tropical conditions. This red bed, up to 10m in thickness, adds much to the Causeway’s attraction and the lower walking path follows it.
The upper cliff path, which links the Causeway Centre to Dunseverick and Whitemark Bay, provides fine views of the lower causeway and the wide bays cut into the cliffs some of which show remains of old kelp kilns, once used for burning seaweed for iodine extraction. In one such bay, Port na Spaniagh, the Spanish Armada galleass, the Girona, was shipwrecked with the loss of 1300 men including her captain, Don Alonso de Leiva. The Girona was discovered in 1967 by Robert Stenuit, a young Belgian diver, and its treasure, the most important Armanda one yet found, is housed in the Ulster Museum in Belfast. ”
I enjoyed the Causeway the best out of all of our stops yesterday because we got to go off on our own and explore the area. It was a lot of fun climbing over all of the rocks, and hiking up to the top of the Causeway. There were a lot of people there, but if you wandered far enough on the trails, you could find some personal space, which was absolutely wonderful. We had a geologist come with us on the field trip, and he said that the hexagonal pattern of the rocks is not that uncommon; however, it is a World Heritage Site because it is right by the ocean, creating a stunning effect. The hexagonal pattern is created by extremely rapid cooling of lava. We were told to think of mud that dries really quickly. It tends to dry in similar hexagonal shapes that curl up a little bit at the ends, just like the lava. The area is home to many Gaelic myths and legends, which also makes it a very popular attraction.
On the drive back to Belfast, we followed the coastline, which was really beautiful. We passed through a lot of small seaside towns that reminded me of the Oregon Coast, but with way less people. All in all – a great day. I am still loving every minute of this incredible adventure.
Today (Sunday) we went to mass at St. Mary’s, the oldest Catholic church in Belfast. It wasn’t a very large church, but if was very, very pretty inside. After mass we went to the famous St. George’s Market, an indoor farmer’s and craft market. It was built between 1890 and 1896, but it is still a very popular place. They had so many beautiful jewelry and art stands – something for everyone. There was also a lot of fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables. We loved the live band that was playing in the middle of the area too. Energy filled the whole room – vibrant colors, wonderful smells, and magnificent sights. The absolute highlight of the day was the lemon crepe that I had at the market. For those of you that don’t know, I believe that lemon is the flavor of the gods. It makes my tongue sing. One of the stands at the market was making fresh crepes, and they had a lemon flavored one. It was phenomenal.
Next week we will be focusing on Ireland Cultures and Society. I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, but we will be incorporating that into a lecture tomorrow somehow. On Tuesday we will be taking a field trip to Derry/Londonderry, which has been in the news a lot lately because of bids to have the name officially changed back to Derry. Here is a very brief article about the name conflict. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/jan/30/northernireland.rosiecowan. Wednesday’s lectures will be focused on the Conflict in Northern Ireland. Thursday’s on language, and Friday’s on Belfast industry and culture, with a field trip to the Titanic Museum in Belfast.