Co-ordinates: 54° 437 ’ N – 05° 54’ W
Air temperature: 13° C
Wind: 8 knots
The bow thrusters that seem at times to be located just underneath my pillow, woke me at 6 am as we were pulling up alongside the pier in Belfast. It was a grey morning with clouds all around us, but the green hills of Northern Ireland stretched out behind the city and beckoned us to come explore.
Most people headed off on a full-day bus tour. The drive was beautiful along the winding coastal road, through small towns and hills covered in blooming purple heather, and on to our first stop of Carrick-A-Rede rope suspension bridge. Paths led along the rocky coast and we enjoyed delightful views of the sea cliffs and green slopes around. A few flowers were still in bloom here at the end of summer and a few somewhat lonely seabirds circled the cliffs.
For those without any fear of heights, the swaying suspension bridge with a view straight down onto the waves rolling on to the beach beneath us was quite exciting. Not everyone ventured across, but the scenery on either side was beautiful.
Next was lunch, served in a hotel up on a hill with a gorgeous view out onto the sea. The roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with pavlova for desert was substantial, and positively delicious.
Our main goal on this tour was to make a visit to the Giant’s Causeway – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a geological wonder with over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, and the result of intense volcanic and geological activity. Options existed for getting down to the seashore where the basaltic columns were best seen. Small shuttle buses ferried those less willing to walk up and down, and paths, some which zig-zagged across the landscape led hikers on shorter or longer trails as they wished. The columns descend in a kind of pathway down to the sea and people were climbing all over and around them to further appreciate their strange structure and appearance.
We had two hours to explore at leisure whatever appealed to us most at this site. Eventually we gathered at the bus to return via a more direct route that went more inland rather than along the coast, back to the ship.
In the evening before dinner, Richard Sidey showed us the film he had been working on all voyage – a record of this journey that allowed us to appreciate all we had seen and done since boarding the Silver Explorer in Tromso two weeks ago.