May 23, 2015
Finn McCool aka Fionn Mac Cumhaill was one of the great heroes of Irish legend. He was big (size 47 shoes) and strong and a skilled warrior, but not very wise. Lucky for him, he had a very smart wife. When he heard that there was another great giant living across the sea channel, he decided to challenge this other giant. He wanted to secure his reputation as the biggest and baddest of them all. so he broke loose columns of basalt rock and threw them into the sea to form a causeway, allowing him to stroll over to Scotland to find this giant. When he got there he realized that Benendonner, the Scottish giant was much larger and more powerful than himself. So he hightails it back home, with Benendonner in pursuit. His wife comes up with a plan and puts a bonnet on him and tucks him into bed. Benendonner arrives, she tells him her husband is out and invites him in for tea. She tells him they must talk quietly because the “baby” is sleeping. Benendonner sees Fionn lying in bed, and thinks to himself that if the baby is that large, the father must be truly formidable. So he excuses himself and heads back to Scotland, never to be seen or heard from again.
The one thing I knew from the start that I wanted to do/see in Ireland was the Devil’s Causeway.
It is a fascinating and unique geological phenomenon on the northern coast of Ireland. I had seen pictures of it and wanted to see it for myself. What I didn’t realize, until I started planning this trip is that the Causeway is in Northern Ireland, not in the Republic of Ireland. No problem, there are ways to get there. Surprisingly, although it is a popular destination, there is not a lot of tourist accommodations nearby. There are lots of companies that provide day trips from Dublin, but the drive is so long that they need to start early in the day and they can’t spend much time there. So I added Belfast to the itinerary and booked a day trip from there. The Giant’s Causeway did not disappoint, it is a fascinating and beautiful site. Well worth a visit.
The tour company also took us to the Bushmill’s factory where we got to sample some 12 year old whiskey. I have never cared much for the taste of whiskey, but this was a entirely different from anything i had been exposed to, smooth and delicious. The bartender explained that Irish whiskey is the best because it is triple distilled, American whiskey is distilled only once. Unfortunately, you cannot buy the 12 year old Bushmill’s, it is only available for tasting at the distillery!
We also stopped to walk across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. A high, narrow bridge to a small island that was first built centuries ago, by and for the local salmon fishermen. The official story is that they needed passage to the island to tend to their nets, although it has also been suggested that the island was used by smugglers, pirates, and other tax evaders. It has been rebuilt, made stronger and safer, and is now a popular tourist attraction.