When we first talked about visiting Ireland we decided that the best way for us to experience Ireland would be by car. We liked the idea of being our own tour guides. We hoped to find some hidden gems (castles, ruins etc.) as we adventured along some of Irelands incredibly small, winding roads.
Our first day started at 5am (Ireland time) or about midnight our time. And after a quick pass through customs we picked up our rental car to begin our journey towards Northern Ireland. We knew that driving on the left side of the road, on the right side of the car would take a bit of getting used to. However, nothing prepared us for the challenge of trying to get the car into reverse! As it turns out you have to push the shifter down and then over to reverse. A local who was kind enough to provide us advice on on the matter, other wise i'm not sure we would made it out of the lot.
One of the first things we noticed as we started driving was how green everything was. Spring had not really hit Ontario yet, the trees were just starting to bud at home. Spring comes much earlier to Ireland then it does to Canada.
Our first stop was Carrickfergus Castle, a Norman Irish castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, on the northern shore of Belfast Lough.
After a walk around Carrickfergus, we headed over to the Dark Hedges, a tricky place to find if you don't have GPS. Using your phone as your sole source for directions is not recommended as many places in Ireland have no cell reception. It is considered a good idea to get GPS with the rental of your car. However, that being said there were a few places that could only be found with the help of our phones, the Dark Hedges being one of those places.
If you are a Game of Thrones fan then you may be familiar with the Dark Hedges, the stunning tree tunnel that appeared in season 2 and was referred to as the King's Road. The beech trees that line this this road were planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family in order to impress visitors on the approach to their home, Gracehill House. As the trees grew larger they created the amazing tree tunnel we see today. Over the years some of the trees have fallen, mostly due to storms, however new trees have been planted to replace those that have been lost.
From the Dark Hedges, we then made our way to the Giants Causeway, another incredibly popular destination in Northern Ireland. The walk from the Visitors centre is easy going down, however it is worth the 1 pound for the bus ride back up.
From the Giant's Causeway we headed over to Dunluce Castle, a now-ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland. It is located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim, and is a quick 20 min drive from the Giant's Causeway.
Our first day in Ireland was fun but we were pretty worn out by dinner time. Staying up for such a long time finally caught up with us. We tried sleeping during our flight but found it nearly impossible. So after a nice dinner we grabbed a room at a Tavern near Bushmills and called it a night.