April 6th – Ayre, Cairnryan Port (Scotland) to Belfast, Carrickfergus, Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills (Northern Ireland)

This day started very funny with us waking up very early (about 5 a.m.) and heading down the stairs to be greeted by the B&B homeowner. She was in her nightgown and looked up at us from behind the desk with her glasses on her nose as we descended the stairs. She said in a heavy Scottish accent, “It’s past half, where in the world are you going this time o’ the morning”. We laughed and said we had a ferry to catch. She gave us a motherly grin and said, “Thanks for staying, travel safe, but be quiet, I don’t want you waking the other guest up.” We laughed and thanked her for the stay and lovely home. We would have to wait for the next trip to try out the second B of the B&B. Cierra was bent on making the 0700 ferry ride, because the next one wasn’t until 0930. We were cutting it close because the GPS said we would be there at 0650 and according to the website you are supposed to be there 30 minutes early. We were apparently a little farther north than we thought. I told Cierra worst case scenario we would just grab some breakfast and catch the next one.
All worked out in the end as we sped into the port and pulled up to the ferry line. Our ship (the Stenna Line) was still there and the lady at the gate informed us that the boat leaves at 0730 and we were right on time to begin loading, so in essence we ended up being 30 minutes early on accident. Buying our fare, we drove up onto the ship, parked and headed up topside for some breakfast and refreshments. The Stenna line was awesome (comparable to the equally Irish Ferry ship company) and came complete with a movie theater, kids play area, game room, lounge area and excellent dining options. We checked up on work email, let the kids play and enjoyed a smooth cruise across the sea, arriving in Belfast right on time, at about 0915. Driving off the ship, we headed north east through the Belfast city and stopped at Carrickfergus Castle. Carrickfergus town and castle boast some of the oldest walls in Northern Ireland (or Ulster as the Northern Irish call it). The castle itself was constructed in the late 1100’s and had withstood multiple sieges, kings from both islands and even cannon balls. It is one of the oldest and well preserved castles in all of Ireland. Snapping a lot of pics and absorbing as much as history as possible without driving the kids bananas, we finally headed north again towards the Giant’s Causeway (but not before heading the coolest and even free kid’s park, complete with zip line ever, almost directly across the street from Carrickfergus Castle).
At the tip of Northern Ireland and just south of the Giant’s Causeway, we stopped in the famous town of Bushmills, famous because of its whisky. Bushmills Distillery boast the oldest license to make whisky in the world and has been in business for a very, very long time. The grounds are beautiful, the whisky is amazing and clearly the brand speaks for itself. No wonder they have been in business so long. We stopped for lunch in the town at the Old Bushmills Inn and instantly fell in love. Cozy, quaint, cute, however you want to describe it, we fell in love. Roaring fires, old wooden beams and dating back to a very long time ago, the food was to die for, the service amazing and Cierra checked, we were in luck, they had vacancies. We signed in for a room, but wasting no time kept the luggage in the car and hopped back in the car for the 2 mile drive north towards the Giant’s Causeway.
Finally, now on this our 3rd trip to Ireland, we were at the Giant’s Causeway. We were greeted with a brand new facility and kid’s museum, complete with large movie screen explaining the legend behind Finn McCool and the Causeway.  We watched the short 5 minute film at least 5 times (kids could not get enough) and made our way around to all the kid fun and entertainment. They had drawings, things to touch and play with, interactive videos, games to play, science experiments, it was well done and highly recommended by Weatherly Travels! Pulling the kids away from all the cool gadgets and things to play with, we finally made our way down the hill to the Giant’s Causeway itself. We were memorized by the beauty of the sea hitting the rocky cliffs and shoreline and easily reminded of why we love Ireland so much. So blue, so green, so peaceful, so beautiful. Heading down the hill, the Causeway finally revealed itself and I honestly have to say, it was exactly how I envisioned it, and that does not happen often. We walked out on the stones and just took in the moment. It was sunny, rained and snowed in a span of about 15 minutes. Another thing we love about Ireland, you can have all 4 seasons in just one day! We captured priceless pictures, found a few pennies in between the rocks of Finn’s home for good luck and then walked the shoreline before heading back up the hill to the museum for more fun and games with the kids.

 

Leaving the museum, we drove east along the Giant’s Causeway hugging the tip and rugged cliffs of Northern Ireland. The blue sea stretched far as the eye could see and if you looked hard enough, you could faintly make out Scotland in the distance, our home for the last week and a half. Our tour included a stop off at the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Our hike down to the famous bridge was a bit scary in that an approaching storm looked pretty nasty, but luckily the storm parted right around us and we were blessed with good weather. The bridge was shut down for the day due to the inclement (and/or pending bad) weather, but we were able to walk right down to it and snap a few really good pics. Tired from the long day, hiking, boat and car rides, we headed back to the hotel, warmed up the kids, had a fabulous dinner at the Inn and retired for the evening.
Tomorrow, south to Dublin and on to Wales and England for the home stretch.

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