Making Memories in the North

For the last 2 days I, along with the majority of our Champlain Abroad Dublin group, was able to spend time on a program sponsored tour to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom despite being on the island of Ireland and containing much of the same history. Northern Ireland has been a hotbed for conflict and revolutionary acts for the last 40 plus years, but in the last 10 years or so much of the conflict has calmed down dramatically. Much of the conflict is the result of the Catholic and Protestants who live in Northern Ireland wanting different things. The Catholic population wants to leave the United Kingdom and become apart of the Republic, while the Protestants side with the United Kingdom and would like to keep Northern Ireland separate. This is caused incredible struggles, as neither group is willing to stand down and let their beliefs die. Despite the constant struggle, Northern Ireland is home to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes and makes for one of the most breath-taking experiences I have ever had!
Sea Cave at Dunluce Castle

As a group we departed Dublin around 8 AM on Friday morning in preparation for the about 2-hour bus ride. After a quick stop about an hour and half into the journey for coffee and a quick snack we were back on the road. From the pit stop we were only about 30 minutes from Belfast, but the majority of us fell fast asleep, just as we had been before the stop. In what seemed like no time, we arrived in Belfast and unloaded off of the bus and we quickly put into 9 different taxis where we embarked on the “Black Taxi Tour.” The tour consisted of 4 different stops throughout Belfast where the most conflict of significance had taken place. Each driver had considerable amounts of knowledge about what had taken place and were all extremely informative. For the next two hours or so we made stops on both the Protestant and Catholic sides of the city where we witnessed just a small amount of the history that Belfast holds. After the tour we were whisked away to Victoria Square where we had about 2 hours to pull out some Pounds, look in the stores, or just mill around. I, along with my good friend Alex, stopped in one of the pubs for a pint and a snack. Before we knew it we were being rushed back onto the bus and en route for the Titanic Museum.

The Titanic Museum is an absolutely phenomenal building that chronicles everything and anything about the Titanic. It is situated right where the ship was built and launched all the way back in 1912! The museum does a wonderful job of creating an immersive experience that is incredibly informative at the same time. The staff their mixes artifacts and recreations with modern technology to bring this museum to life. If you ever find yourself in Ireland and have a day or two to spare the trip to Belfast is well worth it!
Dunluce Castle

After the museum we boarded the bus and got on the road to Ballintoy. Ballintoy was the home to the hostel where we would be staying for the night. In the town there was two pubs and about 15 houses. Here the livestock definitely outnumbered the people, but it was by far one of the quaintest towns I have ever been in. That night was the Canada vs. USA Olympic hockey game and Stephen, the program director, was able to have one of the pubs play the game for us as about 25 Americans flooded into a small Irish pub. It was a truly remarkable experience capped off with a homemade pasta diner in the hostel.

Ballintoy Harbor

The following day, which marked our final day in Northern Ireland, started at 8:30 AM with breakfast and a walk down to the Ballintoy Harbor where we took in some absolutely amazing views. Minus the wind by the water, the weather was stupendous! After about an hour of pictures and sightseeing, we boarded the bus en route for Carrick-A-Rede and their rope bridge. The hike to the rope bridge was about a half mile over looking the coast high up on the cliffs with views for miles. My own panic set in when I finally saw the bridge. I should add that I am terrified of heights and it took a lot for me to cross that bridge, no pun intended. After it is all said and done though, I am so happy that I was able to cross it and take in some of the spectacular views that the other side had to offer. After boarding the bus we made our way to the Smuggler’s Inn for a quick lunch before hitting the Giant’s Causeway!

Rope Bridge

The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most incredible things that I have ever experienced. The causeway is a large coastline made from basalt rocks that are constantly being bombarded by waves and wind. The causeway is the focal point for a legend about a giant named Finn who once called that area his home. The views and experience is one in a million and it is honestly hard to put it into words how gorgeous the views are. To get the full experience you have to visit the causeway if ever given the chance, as it is one of the most peaceful and serene environments I have ever seen.

Giant’s Causeway

 After leaving Giant’s Causeway, we made our way to our final destination, Dunluce Castle. Dunluce Castle is an old, broken down castle that overlooks the ocean. It was once a beautiful sign of wealth and prosperity, but as time passed it fell from grace. Rather that restore it, Ireland has chosen to leave the building, as is, an open skeleton of the castle. From the castle you are able to see for miles, which during the medieval times would be necessary in defending yourself. But, the true treasure of this is the sea cave underneath the castle that was used as a smuggling point long ago. It is a slippery slope down, but the rewards are incredible when you are able to witness the view! It was for me, the highlight of the trip and one of the things I was looking forward to the most. This weekend turned into one that I will never forget and always look back on with fond memories.

Nick Veazey
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Spring ‘14

Champlain College, Secondary Education ‘15