The first of the epic travel days! Ambitious, but SO worth it! First, up early to check out, have some breakfast, and head back to the airport to get our car. We had a great cab driver coming in, so we asked him to come back and pick us up this morning, which worked out great. Unfortunately, at the airport, we discovered that we had to pay a ludicrous amount in insurance - tip for future travelers, if you book through Expedia, make sure the country in question actually takes that insurance and doesn't require their own. Anyway, by the time we sorted all that out, we were a little behind and I had to make some quick adjustments to the list.
We headed to Newgrange, which is a 5000-year-old passage tomb about forty minutes north of Dublin. Beautiful little countryside with sheep and cows and green all over the place, and then this huge, ancient thing in the middle of it. The tour was fun - it's apparently very popular for field trips, as we were behind a group of kids. I'm a tad claustrophobic, and the entrance to the tomb was VERY narrow, which was a little scary, so I had to breathe slowly and remind myself that I've been up pyramids and into Niagara Falls and snorkeled with sea beasts and such - this was nothing. Inside is really fascinating - a round burial chamber that the sun hits every winter solstice for five days. Sadly, they wouldn't let me take pictures, but I'm sure there are shots of the carvings and such online somewhere.
After Newgrange, I had to nix the plan of stopping in Belfast and we just headed North. Jason was a trooper, managing the wrong side of the road without a hitch. We ended up having lunch across from the Norman fort of Carrickfergus, which was on my list, but we didn't have a chance to go in. I have a few million photos with telephone poles or errant bushes blocking key cool things all over the place - unfortunately, there's only so much time, and I wanted to make sure we saw the big things.
We paused at Carrick-A-Rede, where the rope bridge is, to take a few pictures, high on the Northern Coast, but we were losing light, and I wanted to make sure we had time for the real prize - Giant's Causeway. We got there just as the last bus was headed down, so we had to trek back, but oh, what a sight! Thousands upon thousands of basalt column formations that look like steps stretching out along the coastline - it's bizarre and unearthly, and you can totally see why the early people decided it was the remnants of a Giant's bridge to Scotland. Truly one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen. I took eight thousand pictures. Enjoy.
After saying goodbye to the Causeway, we finished our trek up the Causway Coastal Route with a stop a Dunluce Castle, which was the inspiration for C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. At the moment, its other claim to fame is that it's falling into the sea. It's a pretty impressive collection of ruins perched on a green hill over the North Sea. At least, I was impressed. The nearby sheep didn't seem to care, but then again, they're locals. The castle was closed for the night, but the exteriors were what I really wanted, so it worked out perfectly.
Another forty minutes took us to Londonderry, the famed Walled City where Bloody Sunday took place. It's beautiful at night, and we had a chance to walk along part of the old walls after dinner. I don't know how much we're going to see of it tomorrow - there's a lot to see in the south, but I think we'll take a quick drive and get more of an overall impression - the Peace Bridge, St. Columba's, and Ulster University, which has some nice medieval buildings. On that note, nice B&B. Off to do some work and head off to bed.