Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ireland's North - Part II

There was no obvious indication of our crossing into Northern Ireland (the UK) other than speed limits changing from kph to mph and prices changing from euros to pounds sterling. We arrived in Derry in the early afternoon and since we were only staying one night, set out on foot to see the sights.
We used our Rick Steves guidebook to get the most meaning from the Bogside Murals, which memorialize the events of January 30, 1972, better known as Bloody Sunday. The 12 murals are painted on the ends of residential flats along the streets where the protest march took place and 14 innocent people were killed by British troops.
We also used our guidebook to "Walk the Walls" of Derry. The walls were built from 1613-1618 and are almost 20 feet high and thick, forming a mile long oval loop that encircles the city. It is free to walk on top of them and there are informative signs along the way. We walked the most interesting half, then proceeded to the new Peace Bridge, a pedestrian bridge across the River Doyle linking the predominantly Protestant Waterside neighborhood with the predominantly Catholic Cityside neighborhood.
Our next stop in Northern Ireland was Portrush, a Victorian resort town. As it was the off-season, and much too windy & cool for enjoying the beach, we primarily used our B&B as a place to rest and do laundry. This area is also home to several enticing attractions: Bushmills Distillery, Giants Causeway, and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, all of which we visited and can highly recommend.
Giant's Causeway video
After driving the scenic Antrim Coast road along the northeastern corner of the island, we arrived in Carrickfergus where we spent an interesting hour touring the Gasworks Museum before continuing on to Belfast, rendez-vous point for our weekend with my friend Louise White, who flew in from London to see us. After a late dinner and leisurely hours spent catching up with Lou, we got a good night's sleep in preparation for a full day of sightseeing.
A great way to see Belfast is the open-top bus tour, which makes a full loop of all the sights in 1.5 hours with the opportunity to hop on & off as many times as you wish. We also enjoyed the free City Hall tour which provided an interesting glimpse of the inner workings of this still divisive city's government. After requisite pints of Guinness at historic White's Tavern, we had a delicious dinner at the popular Made in Belfast restaurant followed by another round of beers at the atmospheric Crown Liquor Saloon.
The following morning we enjoyed a full Irish breakfast before thoroughly exploring the lively St. George's Market but then, sadly, it was time to take Louise back to the airport and say goodbye. Afterward, Greg & I made our way to Dundalk, mostly in pouring rain. As we had crossed back into the Republic of Ireland, I have covered the remainder of the trip in an already published post Ireland's North - Part I

Here are the links to all of my photos for this region:

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