Ireland From The North + South + Everywhere Between
I’ve officially spent four months living 3,787 miles away from home. Throughout that period I have seen + done so much across Ireland. I obviously couldn’t quite make a separate blog post for each place I visited, event I attended, experience I encountered, so I wanted to go back + share some of those remarkable moments that deserve a bit of recognition.
Northern Ireland — Giant Rocks + Giant Conflict
A reflection I wrote for my Irish Life & Cultures class:
Our weekend tour up North began in the heart of Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. While there is extensive character + history to be uncovered in this city (history that is currently + continually being made), my adventure-seeking, nature-loving heart was anxious to escape the concrete confines + enter into the alluring destinations that give the Emerald Isle its name. Once we passed out of Belfast, we entered into a serene journey along the astonishing Antrim Coast through rolling green pastures, hills, glens, leading us up to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge + then further on to Giant’s Causeway.
The Causeway has left countless locals, scientists, visitors, and the like in absolute awe + wonder for centuries. Each of these observers walk away with their own interpretation + reflection on the mystery, pondering what may have caused the Causeway. From the geologists' perspectives, the rugged coastline was formed around 60 million years ago when volcanic lava cooled + formed into the shaped rocks + pillars. On the other hand, there are individuals who do not believe that the spectacle is a natural feature, but rather it is better explained through local folklore. The story, in short, is recalled that the Irish giant Finn McCool (Fionn Mac Cumhaill) formed a path from these coastal rocks in order to reach a fellow Scottish giant across the way. For me? Well, after viewing the incredibly intriguing location, I would like to take a contrasting approach to the previous two speculations mentioned. The striking, scenic surface is so intricately + intentionally fashioned into puzzled shapes of hexagonal columns, perfectly round discs, symmetrical stepping stones. For this, there is no sense made from an accidental eruption explanation. The only answer lies not from the hands of giants, but within the hands of a creative God who envisioned + established each of these elements making up the world that we experience. Whatever you may choose to believe about its origins, all can agree that the Giant’s Causeway is a staggering stroll back in time, an inspiring + imaginative location, a sight to truly be seen + reflected upon.
The Ring of Kerry + Skellig Ring
Continuing along The Wild Atlantic Way to The Iveragh Peninsula, my family and I embarked on the stunning scenic drive along The Ring of Kerry + the extended Skellig Ring. After passing through Cahirsiveen town, the birthplace of the iconic Irish figure Mr. Daniel O’Connell, a narrow country road led us down to the ruins of Ballycarbery Castle, while following another path gave us an encounter with the gorgeous rocky coast + teal-gray waves of the Atlantic. It started snowing on us along Ballinskelligs Coast — an area of bright green pastures lining high hills, more bright teal waters with large rolling + crashing waves against dark rugged rocks. Despite the luminous clouds overhead, the vibrant yellow gorse + daffodils in bloom illuminated the landscape surrounding. We made a quick stop in the colorful harbor village of Portmagee for lunch at the only place open (Sunday + winter season = everything in Ireland is closed), providing us with the BEST spread of various seafood including chowder, hake, mussels, prawns, crab claws, salmon, mussels! Following our delicious delicacies, we passed over the bridge to Valentia Island just in time for God to open up the snowy clouds + remove the haze that had previously been covering the Skellig Islands (you may recognize these beauties from some Star Wars films). The sheep in the pasture were contently confused with our presence + our fascination with the landscape that they get to call home everyday. Not only did this weather change cause us to catch a glimpse of the skelligs, but the most vibrant full rainbow arched overhead for the remainder of our drive that evening.
The shift in terrain from coast to woodland signaled our entrance into Killarney National Park — the oldest of six national parks in Ireland. It is full of snow-capped mountains in a 360° view, golden valleys lying below that are studded with many lakes, hidden waterfalls, deer, goats. We were just passing through as golden hour loomed which was unreal! The evening was settling in as we made our way up to Torc Waterfall, Muckross House, and Ross Castle to close out our circular drive.
Glendalough + The Wicklow Mountains
My entrance into Wicklow Mountains National Park began with some nice waterfalls descending down rocky mountain sides including the waterslide-esque falls of Glenmacnass. The terrain consisted of dense forested mountains with green, red, gold hues which then led out into vast open plains with no trees in sight but large mountains + hills popping up in every direction. We stopped for lunch in the only place for miles — it ended up being the town of Glencree which was the site of Operation Shamrock where German kids came to Ireland after World War II to escape some of the hardship. Continuing back the same way, we then passed Lough Bray + the more captivating Lough Tay. This lake is also known as Guinness Lake by the locals because of the dark brown colored waters that wash up against the golden sand shore, + also because it is part of the Guinness Estate property. Our drive continued with yet another full rainbow that arched over Lough Dan + a Scouting Ireland camp around the corner which made my brother quite happy! The combination of the rainbow, lake named after Dan (my dad’s absolute best friend that just recently passed away), the scenery + scout camp all in one place at one time was just one of those “God moments” that only He could orchestrate, leaving each of us suitably speechless.
Bray to Greystones Coastal Cliff Walk
The morning that my family left Dublin, I decided to keep the momentum going in order to beat the homesickness that was sure to catch up to me. I took the DART out to Dún Laoghaire to enjoy a nice walk along the water of the harbor town that led me up to The People’s Park where I perused the tempting food options set up for their Sunday Market. It was a delightful sunny + somewhat warm day but as I was about halfway around the stretch of market tents, all of a sudden the blue skies darkened + it started to SNOW? This lasted only about 5 minutes before the warm sun came out again like nothing had happened — pretty peculiar if you ask me, but that’s Ireland’s weather for ya. I boarded the rail once again to head a bit further south towards Bray. I embarked on the cliff walk there that extends to the next town, Greystones. It was a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful start in Bray along mossy cliffs + rocky mountain sides above teal-blue, seafoam color waters that I can’t get enough of here! There was a bit of a rough patch about halfway through the trek with lots of mud + puddles + the snow from Dún Laoghaire had caught up to me again! Then I passed through grassy trails lined with yellow gorse + pasture smells. After about 1.5 hours/7 km, the walk ended a bit underwhelmingly in Greystones where the area was covered in construction + residential development. As I continued to the DART station, though, the town improved as a somewhat beach community with homes, shops, restaurants in a light + airy atmosphere. I definitely foresee this being a walk I come to do a few more times while I am here!