We could have paid for a tour and spent around $100 each, but I don’t like crowds and, let’s face it, we march to the beat of our own drums. The rental car cost just under $36 for the day and we drove a little over 100 miles. We barely used up 1/4 tank of gas- heck yea, diesel fuel!
My favorite travel hack ever!
Our new Huawei hotspot! This little thing is a lifesaver. We purchased an international SIM voucher and had wifi everywhere we went. There were minor issues that were 100% user error because I am by no means tech savvy. (If you have any troubleshooting questions, comment below).
Knowing that we only had 1 day here, I had to devise an itinerary that would hit my absolute must-see’s in a reasonable timeframe. This is always a challenge for us, because we can easily spend an entire day in one location just walking around and taking photos. We were able to make it to 4 out of my top 5 locations and left only because we were starving and wanted to make it to dinner. Had we bought extra sandwiches early on, we would have had more time. Here is my top 5:
1. Glenariff forest: This was a great first stop! It was a magical hike and it felt great to walk around and use our muscles after sitting in planes or in airports for so long (especially since we could leave our heavy packs in the car!). There’s a lovely bistro near the parking lot. They have great coffee and ice cream. I’m sure anything else one might try there is equally indulgent.
2. Dark hedges: I was hoping to arrive here very early in the morning, but flight times didn’t allow it. Be forewarned, there will be buses full of tourists on Game of Thrones tours just swarming this place. We still got some good shots, but driving around all of the people in the middle of the road was a hassle. If there’s a way to see this at the end of the day, just before nightfall, it’s worth the drive.
3. Giant’s causeway: I’ll admit it- despite its popularity, I was very reluctant to visit. From what I had seen and heard, there were some cool rocks. I have a particular weakness for interesting trees (especially good climbing trees), but rocks? Who cares? Well, let me tell you, despite the massive crowds and entrance fee, this place is worth it! The causeway is on the ocean and is also home to some stunning cliff sides, making for a stunning backdrop of dramatic landscapes and crashing waves…and, in truth, the rocks are REALLY FREAKING COOL. There is legend associated with these hexagonal pillars, and although it is hard to believe that these are not man-made, they were actually formed by volcanic activity (I still think it was aliens haha). Had I not seen something very similar (and equally baffling) in Iceland, I would have had trouble believing that these weren’t man-made. Either way, it is a sight to behold, and genuinely fun to hop around the rocks.
History & Geology of Giant’s Causeway
4. Dunluce castle: I initially picked this place because it sounded far less touristy than many of the other castles. I never had childhood fantasies of being a princess living in a castle (if anything, I wanted a sword so I could battle dragons), so the castle tours had no appeal to me. RUINS, however, absolutely fascinate me. We arrived here late and it was closed. We did the only reasonable thing I could think of- we snuck around the back. After peeking through the gate at an entrance that was fabricated and reminded me dissappointingly of walking into Disneyworld, I was glad that we arrived late. This place would have been magnificent had it just been left alone. I felt disappointed that such a wonderful place has been defiled for monetary gain. Just before we left, I climbed the stone wall, beating the hell out of my knees in the process. I walked the length of the wall, despite my fear of heights and the concerningly strong gusts of wind for the final shot in this series. Phil couldn’t watch and was preparing for me to fall to my death. Fortunately, I did no such thing, and the view was entirely worth the horror of being on a narrow and massively high fortress wall (naturally I couldn’t have walked on the shorter side. It was lacking in cliffside views!).
5. Antrim: We didn’t quite make it here, but I’ll save that for another trip. All in all, we had a great first day!
Up next: Galway, Cliffs of Moher, then we are off to Amsterdam!