I’m not ashamed to say that I didn’t know Northern Ireland was a part of the U.K. and not Ireland. So when our tour bus was halfway to our destination, I was surprised to hear the tour guide announce something about having our passports. My heart sunk immediately because I didn’t bring it. I’m usually good about these types of things, but I didn’t know it was needed. What were they going to do? Throw me off the bus at the border? Shouldn’t that have been something they checked before I even got on the tour bus?
“Oh, shit!” the guy seated next to me exclaimed as he turned to his wife to announce that he didn’t bring the family’s passports with him. I didn’t feel so bad at that moment. At least I’d be sitting at the border with other people. I realized at that moment that the entire bus had gotten silent because no one had their passports with them.
“I’m just kidding!” our tour guide said in an Irish accent after a long pause, and there was a huge sigh of relief all over the bus. A distinct border between Ireland and Northern Ireland didn’t even exist. Bruh, you can’t play with people’s emotions like that!
My trip to Northern Ireland with Wild Rover tours included a trip to Giants Causeway, Belfast City & Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge. I normally don’t use tours because I like to go at my own pace, and I like to visit an attraction before the busload of tourist arrive. However, I used this company for Northern Ireland and my trip to the Cliffs of Moher as well. One thing I noticed about Wild Rover was that they had problems overbooking. There were two pickup locations in Dublin for the tours, but the bus usually filled up at the first location. There was an instance where a couple that arrived at the second location couldn’t do the tour because the bus was already filled. They were furious because they had already paid and planned for the day. The guide explained that the company had seen a surge in bookings, and hadn’t been handling it well. The issue may have been resolved by now, but I would arrive early to the first pickup location just in case.
When we made a break stop at a gas station on our way to Belfast, our tour guide recommended we buy something for lunch there because of the time constraints and the lack of available food options at the causeway. There was a restaurant at Giant’s Causeway, but he warned that they moved slowly and most of the time would have been spent eating lunch and not viewing the causeway. I heeded his warning and grabbed a random sandwich.
The first part of the tour started in Belfast. There was the option to take the black taxi tour or visit the Titanic museum. I chose the black taxi tour without a second thought because I hadn’t had any interest in the Titanic since fourth grade. Everyone except for the family seated behind me took the black taxi tour as well.
To make a long story short, there has been deadly conflict between the Protestants, who think Northern Ireland should be a part of U.K., and the Catholics, who consider themselves Irish and think the area should be a part of Ireland. There are over 100 peace walls that separate the two communities, and people come from all over the world to sign it in support of peace between them. There was a sign that requested for people not to write on the graffiti artwork, but I don’t think the police fines anyone for doing so.
The black taxi tour took us to the wall, and the guides explained the conflict that has been going on in Northern Ireland for decades. We started at the Catholic side, and then drove through the gates to the Protestant side. The gates open in the morning to allow people to cross, but close at night to keep the communities separate. There was a significant difference in communities on each side of the wall, and the level of energy.
We arrived back to the bus with enough time to browse the Titanic museums gift shop, but nothing unique caught my eye. It was typical gift shop items, so I hopped on the bus, and prepared for the visit to Giant’s Causeway. I can’t quite remember the tale of how this got its name, but the legend is about a giant by the name of Finn McCool. In reality, the rock formations came from volcanic activity millions of years ago.
The entire area was breathtaking. One can take the scenic route walking trail to the main area, but I took the bus for £1 each way for the sake of time. I stood there admiring everything as I ate my gas station sandwich. I did some slipping as I climbed some of the uneven rocks, but I could have roamed around the area forever. The water, the rocks, and the hills were all just so peaceful, even with a crowd of tourists. A part of me wished that I didn’t book a tour because I wanted to spend more time roaming around, yet everything felt so rushed.
Then we headed to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The short bridge was created by fishermen, and it really was nothing more than another extremely beautiful area hyped up as a tourist attraction. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the breathtaking views – I truly did. Scotland is in view on a clear day, but this wasn’t a clear day. It was beginning to drizzle a bit.
I don’t have footage of me crossing the bridge because I was afraid my phone would fall, and I was not trying to replace an iPhone in another country. I’d rather just hold on to the memories in my head. I was shaking a bit as I crossed, but it was totally fine. The long walk to get to the bridge showed stunning views of Northern Ireland. I was glad we arrived when we did because there were busloads of people that arrived just minutes after us. They weren’t able to cross the bridge because the line was too long, and it was starting to rain.
The long day was quite adventurous for me. When we got back to Dublin, I grabbed some fish and chips and headed to bed. I recently read an article that claimed Giant’s Causeway was ranked as one of the worst tourist attractions in the world. I couldn’t believe it because just seeing the beauty of it was worth the long trip from Dublin.