2012 Fall Caitie Taylor External Programs Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway

Along the tippy top of Ireland is the Antrim Coast. The winding coast road runs alongside the jagged edge and offers breathtaking views. On a clear day, you can see Scotland in the distance! The cars drive so close to the edge and the road is so tiny that it can be pretty dodgy at times. On the left side of the car are fields with sheep and cow grazing, and also towering rocky cliffs with precariously perched rocks. A bit alarming are the triangular, yellow warning signs with pictures of falling rocks – kind of like how in America we have caution signs for pedestrians crossing, or blind children zones. I just hoped that no rocks would fall while I was driving down the road.  On the right side of the car there is a metal barrier and a steep drop into the ocean! If you imagine the map of Ireland, the rugged outline consists of a lot of bends and twists in the narrow coastal road and can definitely make a person, like me, who is easily car-sick, feel really queasy.

Along the route to the Giant’s Causeway, one passes through a lot of little towns. (With great names!) Like Ballymoney, Ballygally, Waterfoot, Cushendall and more. “Bally” means town, therefore it makes sense that a lot of small towns in Ireland begin with that prefix. There are seven glens that make up the Glens of Antrim. It is especially beautiful when the sun is shining. Despite the chilly temperature, my day trip on Sunday was a success. I went with my friend from Germany and we took a bus tour which drove us to the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-rede Rope bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey Factory! It was a really fun day.

The Giant’s Causeway is sometimes called the “eighth wonder of the world” because it is quite amazing. It is a huge site of stacks of perfectly six-sided stones that are all interlocking, like honeycomb.

The legend of the Causeway is about the giant Finn McCool and his rival Scottish giant, Benedonner. Finn was building a bridge to Scotland and picked a fight with him in hopes of defeating his rival. Benedonner came over to Ireland to fight Finn, but when Finn saw how much bigger he was than himself, he ran back to his wife Oonagh and told her he had thought better of picking a fight with the Scottish giant. Thinking quickly, she helped Finn play a trick on him. Oonagh dressed him up as a baby and put him in a large cradle. When Benedonner came to Finn’s house, Oonagh invited him in. When the Scottish giant saw how big Finn’s baby was he was scared of how much bigger his daddy was going to be! Just to be sure to scare him off, Finn’s wife played a few more smart tricks on him. She offered him some bread that she had secretly baked stones into and when the Scottish giant bit into the bread, he broke his tooth. But he saw Finn’s “baby” eating the same bread (without stones) and wondered how the baby was able to! Oonagh also told Benedonner that Finn and his friends liked to practice throwing big boulders to each other, but when Benedonner tried to lift one up, it was too heavy for him and he dropped it on his head. The Scottish giant retreated home to Scotland and both giants tore up the bridge, leaving just the ragged ends at each coast.

The Giant’s Causeway was actually formed by a volcano, but I prefer the legend of Finn McCool and his smart wife as the reasoning for the unique formation of stones.

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Carrick-a-rede rope bridge is a tiny bridge that leads to an old island where fisherman used to go to fish and live for a few months during the summer. Before it was a tourist attraction, the bridge was a lot more flimsy. It was nothing more than some wooden planks with a rope as a handrail. Now the bridge has been fortified and there’s no chance of anyone falling into the water below. The only scary part is the height of the bridge, so I just crossed keeping my eyes away from the 30 meter drop into the water below me.

Since it’s coming up to Halloween, I’ll share a ghost story that we heard when the bus stopped for a bathroom pit stop at Ballygally Castle. In one of the corner turrets of the castle, there is a tiny room called “The Ghost Room”. They say that it is haunted by the ghost of Lady Isobel Shaw who fell from the window to her death after being locked in the room by her husband and starved. Apparently people who have stayed in the hotel have woken up in the middle of the night hearing voices or the shuffle of a ladies dress on the ground. I don’t normally believe in ghost stories but I got quite an eerie feeling walking up to the tiny room and listening to the story sent chills down my spine!

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