Ireland of Dreams: County Antrim

A trip north of the border to the Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and the Busmill's Distillery

The only place that came close to rivaling Rathnashee for the prize of "best full Irish breakfast" on the trip was two days later at Killennan House, a genteel nineteenth-century farmhouse just outside Londonderry/Derry.

The reason that city has two names is that it is in Northern Ireland, where neighborhood allegiances are painted on the curbs and lampposts (red, white, and blue stripes for Protestants; green, white, and orange ones for Catholics).

Pro-British Protestants call the city Londonderry. Independence-minded Catholics chafe at the "London" part and call it Derry. To avoid the issue, most folks call it "Londonderry-slash-Derry"—though one local radio pundit has since shortened that to "Slash City."

The reason we were in Northern Ireland—when we had planned to spend the entire trip just in the western part of the Republic of Ireland—was, again, because the weather had chased us from where we had planned to be: Country Donegal.

We had stayed in the town of Donegal only long enough for me to buy a tweed hat at the famed shop of Magees, file some stories at an Internet café, and wait for a very damp bicycle race to hum through town. However, the plans to spend a few days exploring this wild northwest corner of Ireland was less than inviting under steel-gray skies that were raining buckets.

So we popped across the border to hit Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast, mainly so I could see the famed Giant's Causeway, a unique section of coastline formed by bundles of thin, geometrically precise basalt columns thrusting out of the sea.

What I hadn't realized was that, along the way, I'd get to explore the impossibly dramatic ruins of Dunluce Castle, perched atop a cliff high above the crashing Atlantic.

Or gaze down at the rickety Carrick-a-Rede rope footbridge connecting the mainland to an offshore seastack.

Or tour the distillery Bushmill's, just a short drive inland from the Causeway—after all, man cannot live on Guinness and Murphy's alone; whiskey is sometimes necessary.

And wouldn't you know it: that turned out to be the only full day of sunshine and blue skies we got in two weeks?

» On to: Musical County Clare

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in September 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.