Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ireland: Glenveagh Castle and the Giant's Causeway

Having explored the west coast of Ireland, we next headed to the north.

We made a quick stop to visit the grave of W. B. Yeats.

The kids were just happy to stretch their legs and get some wiggles out, but I loved reading this poem to them: 
The Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

We arrived in Donegal county at Glenveagh Castle.  Built in  the 1870s, it isn't really that old, and it is more of a mansion than a castle.  The location is super remote, and then you arrive at this beautiful lake.

We took a shuttle to the castle, and were given a time for a tour.

In the meantime, we explored the grounds and gardens.

Ohhhh, I just love these gardens!

The flowers and vegetables planted together and it was all just beautiful. The interior of the castle was very richly appointed as well and we were glad we made the trip to see it. After a good night's sleep, our next place to see was the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. The entry to Northern Ireland was uneventful, with the main differences being that the roads were suddenly much, much nicer, and the currency changed from Euros to British Pounds.

The Giant's Causeway is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  (We like those a lot, can you tell?) The unique hexagonal rocks were formed when the lava from a volcanic eruption cooled.  Then over time, sections of the rock were pushed up or eroded down creating this awesome place to climb around.

We bought two storybooks early in our trip- one with short stories about leprechauns and the other with Irish legends.  I read them to the kiddos a bit each day on our drives. The legend of the Giant's Causeway goes like this: 
The Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn's wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the 'baby', he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this. (This version is from Wikipedia.)

"The Pipe Organ"

We spent a lot of time enjoying the causeway down by the ocean and then hiked up the nearby hill to take in the view from above.

It was a long walk, but the kids enjoyed this place a lot.

SO cool!

I took a lot of pictures of rocks, y'all.

Just a few more... I promise.

The kids really loved hopping from stone to stone.

And so did the Daddy-o.

We really like taking family photos on the edge of cliffs.
After some lunch and shopping at the visitor's center (Irish stew, scones, yumminess,) we drove to the Glens of Antrim.

 We got out and walked around a bit, but it was buggy and we were tired, so we decided to call it a day and head back to our lodgings.

This is where we stayed in Northern Ireland.  It is a hostel called the Slemish Barn in Ballymena. We had a private family room with bathroom and the shared spaces were very comfy. The second evening we were here, the local fiddlers association was being recorded in the living room by the BBC for a program about Irish music and stories.  We weren't able to be in where they were recording, but it was a neat opportunity to sit in the lobby with the kids, in their jammies, and listen to some great music.

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