I wasn’t supposed to write about my recent Northern Ireland road trip until the Finnish Irish Week campaign between the 12th and 19th of March. I just couldn’t wait, so I decided to give you a little sneak peek to the highest highlights of the trip. Highest, as the real meaning of the word.
If you’re following my adventures on Instagram, you might have already seen these photos. If not all, at least some of them. As you probably know it yourself, it’s the very top moments that normally end up first on your Instagram feed. These are the very top moments of my 4-day road trip in Northern Ireland. The moments that first found their way on my Instagram account.
As you might be able to guess from the post title, these highlights happened when I was high.
The highest highlights of the Northern Ireland road trip
As usual, I was travelling with Daniel. I probably wouldn’t even take a road trip like this without him, as I’m happy to allow a Brit to do all the driving in countries where you need to drive on ‘the wrong side of the road’.
We could have managed so much more in 4 days, if it was possible to fly directly from Finland to Belfast. But it isn’t, so we started the road trip from Dublin Airport.
Since the very beginning, we chose the coastal road instead of the M1 motorway. Already in the first village, Ireland welcomed us by throwing the waves of the stormy Irish Sea on the road. The waves washed our rental car on the outside completely. And a little bit inside too, as it happened that the driver’s window was a little bit open.
Gone with the wind above Newry
The first highlight awaited us just a couple of kilometers after crossing the border. Flagstaff Viewpoint in Newry is worth a stop for so many reasons. You can drive all the way up, which is great if you’re on a tight schedule, or if you’re not so fond of hiking up a mountain. [MAP]
Even if the sky wasn’t all clear, Flagstaff Viewpoint offered us fantastic views over Carlingford Lough, towards Mourne Mountains and Cooley Peninsula. The weather in February was kind of pretty, just a little windy. A little.
It was so windy that the wind blew me off the stone fence that I climbed on to take these photos. And I ain’t a small or fragile girl, I can tell you!
During the first day of our Northern Ireland road trip, we got to experience another high highlight before the sunset. Just about an hour drive from Flagstaff Viewpoint, on the top of Castle Hill in Dundrum, the ruins of Dundrum Castle served us the last rays of sunshine. It was just a shame that the round, ragged castle tower was closed for visitors.
The ruins of Dundrum Castle are free to visit. The place is quite an impressive experience, as are the views that are spreading from the top of Castle Hill of Dundrum.
A hike to a waterfall and a challenging scenic route
We started our second day of the Northern Ireland road trip by taking a little hike to Cranny Falls. [MAP]
The trail starts from the village of Carnlough. It was once a railway for transporting limestone from the mountains, but nowadays there’s no sign of a rail. The railway has been replaced with a nice path that is easy to walk on. The trail is taking hikers to a viewing point and to the actual sight, the Cranny Falls waterfall.
Altogether the route is approximately 4 km long, there and back. It’s easy all the way, but on the way to the viewing point there is a small uphill. Nothing too rough, though.
Causeway Coastal Route is the name to the official coastal route of the Antrim County of Northern Ireland. The route is clearly signed, but you should keep a map in hand. When you’re driving from south to north, after the village of Cushendun, the road splits in two.
The official Causeway Coastal Route curves left and takes you a little bit inland for a while. The road turning right is called Torr Head Scenic Route. If you’re approaching from north, the crossing of these two routes is in the village of Ballyvoy.
Scenic route it is, indeed, there’s no doubt about that. The narrow road twists and turns on top of the dramatic cliffs of the coast. It’s extremely challenging to drive if you’re not used to roads like this. Again, it’s good to remember that driving on the left side of the road is something we’re not used to. Not even British-born Daniel, as he has been living in Finland for the past 13 years.
The Torr Head road is so narrow that when you’re passing another car, one of you needs to stop on the side of the road to avoid accidents and awkward situations. Passing another car, especially if it’s a huge truck, is anything but easy in a 90-degree curve in a steep uphill.
Yet I’m telling you, take Torr Head Scenic Route. Because the views along this route are worth all the sweat and tears that the driving might cause you.
After Torr Head Scenic Route we were supposed to continue to the famous rope bridge, Carrick-a-Rede. This is what we did, but we didn’t expect that the rope bridge would be closed due to strong wind. We had to make a quick decision.
The result of our decision was to leave the rest of the coast for the following day, and take the most direct route to the legendary city of Londonderry. This historic city with two names, and with two of many other things, deserves its own post during the Irish Week. After all, it was the only city we visited during our 4-day road trip in Northern Ireland.
It was Valentine’s Day. We were walking along the circular city wall in Derry. This view just took my breath away, and the heart-shaped balloon made the moment perfect.
Hidden gems and return to the rope bridge
During the third day of our Northern Ireland road trip we returned to the Causeway Coastal Route. Now, we were driving from north to south, so the first stop of the day – and the first highlight – was the famous ruins of Dunluce Castle.
The ruins are standing on top of a dramatic cliff. The entrance fee to the castle is £5 for an adult, £3 for children between 4–16. We didn’t mind paying, as you don’t find castle ruins this impressive too often. Even if I often avoid paid sights during my travels, when the admission fee is going for good causes, like preserving historic sites, I’m happy to pay. Of course you can admire the castle from outside for free, but Dunluce Castle is definitely worth a proper exploration.
If you only want to do all things free, take the stairs down on the southern side of the castle. At the bottom of the stairs we found another highlight, a very surprising one. If you want to know more about it, you must come back to the blog in a couple of weeks time.
The third day of our road trip was calm enough to keep Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge open for public. This is how the bridge looks like from high up.
The rope bridge itself was a fun experience, and apparently extreme enough to make some of the visitors to change their minds when they arrive to the bridge. Even if they have paid the admission fee to cross over the bridge, £7 for an adult.
Adventurous, and sometimes a little bit crazy as I am, the bridge didn’t much scare me. Even if it was a fun experience, we found the true highlight by accident a little walk away from the bridge. Because, I truly enjoy myself the most when I get to climb high up to places that might not be wise to climb on.
You’ll get to read more about this adventure as well in a couple weeks time.
The highest highlight of our Northern Ireland adventure
The fourth, and the last full day of our Northern Ireland road trip, started with a hike on Cavehill, a mountain decorating the view in Belfast. The 7 km circular route, Cave Hill Walk, truly was the highest highlight of the whole 4-day trip. [MAP]
The highest, indeed. The peak of Cavehill reaches up to 370 meters. I’ll share with you a detailed story about Cave Hill Walk a little bit later, with all the do’s and don’ts included. But let me first show you how the surroundings of Belfast look like when seen from high above.
I hope these photos gave you a nice little taste of what’s coming up in the following weeks. And I hope these photos gave you a reason to return to my stories later on, as well. Because the best stories about our Northern Ireland road trip are yet to come.
We carried out this trip as a part of Finnish Irish Week campaign that takes place between the 12th and 19th of March 2017. Partly, the trip was organized in co-operaton with Tourism Ireland who provided us with accommodation for 2 nights during the trip.
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