From the historical building site of the Titanic to current Game of Thrones sets, with its beautiful rugged coastline and its turbulent modern history, Northern Ireland has so much to see and do. Champlain Study Abroad Dublin students were busy taking in the sights and embarrassing the culture on their two day excursion to Belfast and the northern coast.
It was rise and shine early on Friday morning as we boarded our coach early to travel north over the border counties into Northern Ireland. A brief introduction to the area, its culture, and traumatic recent history, was given to students as they crossed the border in the United Kingdom. First stop was the famous Black Taxi Tour, where students got a crash coarse in living through ‘the Troubles’ in Belfast from a local cab drivers who brought them into the heartlands of the violent past. Stopping on both sectarian sides of the Peace Wall, students witnessed the provocative political murals visible everyday in these communities, learned the stories surrounding them, and how both sides are currently moving forward towards lasting peace.
Afterwards students were given some free time to explore Belfast city center and change their Euros for Pounds Stirling, before visiting the monumental Titanic museum in the city’s docklands. At the Harland and Wolf’s dockyard site responsible for building the infamous ship, now stands the detailed Titanic museum providing a fascinating insight into the history surrounding the ship, including the lives of the workers, the construction process, the horrific disaster and the on going exploration of the wreckage
After a double dose of history, students were back on the bus, and headed further north to their hostel, but not before a slight detour to walk ‘The King’s Road’,or the Dark Hedges as locals call it, the setting of the Game of Thrones road to the northern Stark family lands in the popular show.Then it was on to the village of Ballintoy, our resting place for the night, but before students lay their heads to rest,it was off to the local pub to join in the local craic listening to some music and enjoying the warmth of the turf fire. It wasn’t long before students and staff had taken over the pub, singing a collection of Irish and American songs accompanied by a local musician.
On Saturday morning, with throats a little hoarse from singing the night away, students wandered down to the nearby coastline to witness the amazing rock formations, stare across the sea at Scotland and visit another Game of Throne’s set of the Iron Islands, home to Theon Grayjoy. Before a hefty lunch at the Smuggler’s Inn, student’s bravery was tested as they faced the renowned Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge towering above the rocks and sea to the tiny fishing island.
Next stop was the must sea world heritage site Giant’s Causeway, an unworldly formation of basalt rock stretching into the ocean. Program Director and Doctor of Geology, Stephen Robinson, was in his element explaining how the octagonal rocks came into existence. Students hopped from rock to rock examining the amazing natural wonder, but some took the time to reenact the Led Zepplin album cover taken there decades before.
Finally before returning to Dublin, students toured the clifftop fortification of Dunluce Castle perched on the edge of the sea, and wondered below to its sea cave, fabled as a location where local mermaids lure young men. Thankfully, none of the Champlain students were snared and everyone made it back to Dublin that evening. All in all, it was great visit to Northern Ireland and the countless recorded videos of students and staff singing their hearts out will haunt and embarrass them for years to come.
Head Resident & Activities Coordinator
Champlain Abroad Dublin