Sometimes you plan for a trip months in advance, and other times you decide almost last minute, and this time it was the latter case. And as usual these quick trips always come from a dinner out with some friends, when a friend of mine suggested to go to somewhere in Ireland for a weekend. You always say “why not?!” but until you have the car and the B&Bs booked you tend to think that nothing will happen. But that wasn’t the case thankfully, and we decided to go for 3 days in Northern Ireland, a trip that from Dublin is not that far, it takes less than 2 hours to get to Belfast, and around 3 to get to the very top of this island.
So, me, my lovely girlfriend, and our good friends Giuseppe and his wife Veruska (two photographers and two very supportive girls) we started the trip, heading first to one of the most (not very) hidden gems in County Antrim, the Dark Hedges.
The Dark Hedges is a country road surrounded by dead trees that forms a sort of tunnel. Well said in this way it doesn’t sound very attractive, but if you look this picture down here it’s probably much better as a description of the place. It became a more known place in the past few years, especially after it has been used in an episode of the Games of Thrones, which by the way it has been shot mostly in Northern Ireland.
After the Dark Hedges we headed to the coast to possibly the most known tourist place up there, the Giant’s Causeway.
That was my third time there, but it’s one of the few places, alongside Connemara or Donegal, where you can go a thousand times and you will never get sick of that place. It’s simply wonderful, despite the amount of the tourists around (yes even on the very first days of January it’s crowded) and despite the huge tourist center build a few years ago, it’s still a place you must see if you come to Ireland.
Also this time the weather was decent, and thanks to my friends patience, myself and Giuseppe took some lovely long exposures here (check out Giuseppe’s photos), even if it wasn’t easy due to the amount of tourists walking in front of my camera (grrrr!).
After that we had a very early dinner in a pub right before the Giant’s Causeway, the Smugglers Inn (which is a nice place in terms of ambient, but was “okay” in terms of food), and right after we headed to our first B&B for the weekend.
Now, lets talk about the B&Bs we used for the weekend, I don’t generally talk about these things, but for God’s sake, these two B&Bs have been the best places I ever slept in my life, absolutely outstanding, and I’m not talking about Ireland, I talk in general, and in my life I’ve been in several places, so I have a bit of experience.
The first one was the Carnately Lodge (9.3 out of 10 on bookings.com), maybe it doesn’t look good from the outside, but trust me it’s beautiful inside and the couple who lives there were super friendly. After this B&B I couldn’t think that anything else could beat it, but then the night after we went to Lillikoi Bed & Breakfast, and it was superb! Beautiful location, yeah a bit out from Derry, but the view is beautiful and the B&B itself was outstanding, they even baked some homemade cookies and cupcakes to welcome us. In Italy in this cases we say that “they make us feel like kings”, and if their rathing, 9.9 out 10 it seems incredible, trust me there are no tricks here, it’s a 10 for me without a doubt. So if you plan a trip in Northern Ireland, I highly recommend these two places.
Back to the trip. On the second day we woke up very early to reach a place 20 minutes away from the first B&B, (and if you are a photographer with a bit of self respect you must wake up before the sunrise, because if these places are beautiful during the day, on a clear day at sunrise it’s simply magical, and you have no excuses to being a lazy ass) to a place I never been before, and it’s kinda unknown, or at least from the masses, called Torr Head. It was a bit scary to get there because the road was completely frozen, and to get there you have to drive through very small roads with plenty of steep downhills, but the view was outstanding from there, and we manage to reach a small beach right under Torr Head, and despite the cold wind, it was an incredible place to photograph.
Next stop: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge!
On the way to Derry / Londonderry, on what's called the Causeway Coastal Road, one of the most scenery roads in Northern Ireland, and a few kilometers before the Giant's Causeway, there's this place called Carrick-a-Rede, which the only attraction, apart the beautiful seascape, there is a rope bridge that connects a small island to the mainland, and where you have to walk at far too many meters over the cliffs.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm afraid of heights, and the other time when I went here I refused to walk on this not very stable bridge, but this time I decided to show off to the rest of the world that I'm a MAN, and I did it! It was scary, very scary for me, but if you look straight and you think to happy things, it's not that bad.
To be honest £5.60 to cross a 20 meters long bridge is a bit of a steal, but I assume it helps the microeconomy of the area, so it's kinda for a good cause at the end.
After several hours in the cold wind we start to head torward Derry / Londonderry, our final destination for that day, and we stopped for lunch in Portrush, a very nice town, where we discovered that every year in one of their beaches, there is a kinda of photography festival, where people sleep over on tents to take photos at the sunset and sunrise.
After a nice lunch in a local (and quite popular, as when we left there were a lengthy queue for a table, sooo glad we arrived early!), we finally headed to Derry / Londonderry, a city that I wanted to see from years and I never had the chance before, a place where the battles between the unionists and the nationalists are still alive. People from outside Northern Ireland tends to think that the IRA it’s history, but if you visit these places you will see that it’s everything but history, and they still make you clear where are the areas of the nationalists and where are the ones of the unionists.
I’m not here to say who is right and who is not, in my opinion when there’s a war or a “civil” war, nobody wins and nobody is fully right.
Anyway, the pictures I took are just to document that some events are not history here, but they are still the present, and people don’t want to forget what happen, no matter which part you support.
So after some snaps in Derry / Londonderry, we finally headed to our last B&B and to a cracking night in the only pub of the closest village to our accomodation, which sometimes is a bit surreal, and you really feel like a stranger as when you enter into places like that everybody look at you, not in a bad way, but just because they are surprise to see someone that it’s not from the village.
Anyway, to end this post, I just wanted to thank you Giuseppe and Veruska as we had a cracking weekend, and down here you can find some other photos I took that weekend, while here you can find the full set.