Tag Archives: travel

Northern Ireland ( Games of Thrones tour)

Being a nature lover, I  think Ireland is more authentic  and more worthy to visit than UK . I am in love with Ireland and its people. In spite of teaming with sad stories of violence, revolutions, conflicts, Irish people are very warm. I have heard many stories that Ireland is pretty unsafe, and might be still true. But I did not feel it when I was there , ( may be because I was in many cities which are much more unsafe than Ireland ). The only thing I can complain is Belfast is not designed for tourists and it was very difficult for the tour bus to stop and fetch  the passengers.

I went to Ireland  when I was very down last summer 2019 . I thought of going there alone. Luckily, one of my Uni classmates joined my trip unexpectedly. So we had a nice time , catching up.

Here are a few things I did in Ireland with my friend.

Belfast

In Belfast, I stayed in a travel lodge hotel in city center just for two nights. The first day was just to relax and look around the area. On second day, we did a Northern Ireland tour.

Near our hotel, there was St Malachy’s Church . a gothic style church which is regarded as one of the most romantic buildings in Belfast. It was built in 1941 and inspiration of the design come from the galleried chapels of rural Ireland.  We did not have a chance to go in as it was quite late when we arrived.

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Then we walked to the city center to see Donegall square. We admired the statues around that area, but we did not have chance to see Library and Titanic museum. One girl whom I met during the trip told me Titanic museum is very good to visit and you need a few hours to cover.

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I  would like to post following photos to show that architecture of Belfast is in danger of being shitted everyday by pigeons and sea gulls. Take note, they choose to shit on the heads usually.

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bad ass seagulls

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Then we walked to St Mary chapel which is the first Catholic church in Belfast. As most people in Belfast were protestants, it was such a milestone for Belfast in 1784.

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Then we walked around chapel lane and observed the mural paintings of Belfast. Belfast have many  street artists and mural paintings are used to express the idea ,  culture and political view  of people  . There are even some tours which focus on mural arts. I should do the tour one day.

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fusion of old and new buildings in Belfast

To travel around Belfast, I took the tour from Tripadvisor called ” Game of Thrones Filming locations tours of Northern Ireland. The tour was 45 GBP per each and duration was around 9 hours. The tour includes Giant Causeway, the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and the Dark Hedges.

Northern Ireland tour trip advisor

In between these places, the bus stopped at some scenic places .   Here are the stops along the Giant causeway route .

Ballygally bay and castle

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Ballagally is a beautiful beach town on Antrim coast.

Ballygally castle is the 17th century castle and it is well known for having at least 3 ghosts.  The most famous one  has been around for the best part of 400 years. The popular theory is that the ghost is that of Lady Isabella Shaw, wife of Lord James Shaw.

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Legend has it that Lord Shaw wanted a son, and when his wife delivered his heir, he snatched the baby from his wife and locked her in a room at the top of the castle. While trying to escape to search for her beloved child, Lady Isabella fell to her death from the tower window! Another theory is that she was actually thrown from the window by the cruel Lord Shaw or one of his henchmen!

Lady Isabella’s ghost is reputed to be a “friendly” spirit who walks the corridors of the old castle. Over the years many guests have reported strange experiences and have felt a presence in their rooms! There are also endless stories of unexplained noises in the night and an eerie green mist over the castle!

Ballygally Castle is very proud of its permanent ghost resident and has dedicated a ghost room for the curious travelers.

For those brave enough to visit the room of Lady Isabella, make your way to the top of the spiral staircase. if you would like to find our more about the Castle History and a Ghost Tour with a member of the hotel staff please call +44 (0)28 2858 1066.

( courtesy to Ballagally castle hotel  website )

ballygally castle ghost room

 

Carnlough harbour

The bus stopped at Carnlough harbour because it was the location in one of the scenes of Games of Thornes. Apparently, I have no idea about that movie as I have never watched it. But I like that peaceful atmosphere and there was a nice coffee shop. We were given a few minutes as a toilet break.

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Carnlough community center and there is a good coffee shop around

I saw a memorable plate about a war pigeon called Paddy at the harbour. During World war II, pigeons were used as messengers to carry coded information. Paddy was released in Normanday and returned back to the base in 5 hours time which was the fastest time recorded. Paddy lived 11 years and was given Dickin medal  which is animal equivalent of Victoria cross. Paddy was the only Irish recipient of Dickin medal to date.

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Cushendun

Among all destinations, I love Cushendun the most. It is a very beautiful town.

Cashendun is a ferry port which is a stone throw away from Scotland. It has become popular because of its colorful past, exotic architecture, caves and churches. Clough-Williams-Ellis ( 1883-1978 )  was the famous  Welsh architect who designed some of Cushendun buildings. We did not have chance to visit those buildings.

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Cushendun port

 

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Cushendun beach
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Cushendun residential area

I  found an interesting seat called Fuldiew seat at the cushendun port. In 1803, a tragic story of two lovers happened  . The tomb of the boy  was dated back to 1803 which can be found in St Parick’s church.  The  legend  has been told repeatedly for over 200 years with some embellishment . The Fuldiew seat was erected to commemorate the tragic story of lovers   by district development association in 2013.

The story of Fuldiew story was like that . An 18 year old boy named John McAlaster had a childhood sweetheart, Mary,  to whom he was engaged. John went out to sea as a sailor and  supposed to come back to Cushendun to mary Mary . Instead, he died aboard , killed by someone and his body was returned to his home town by ship . Mary was not aware of that in the beginning . However, when she found out about the tragic death of her lover, she  died of broken heart. People found her dead body lying next to tombstone of John. She wrote some words on the tombstone using sharp stone.

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Fuldiew seat

Dunluce castle

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Dunluce Medieval Irish Castle

Before we arrived at Giant cause way, the bus stopped near Dunluce castle which was built around 1513. The iconic ruin of Dunluce Castle bears witness to a long and tumultuous history. First built on the dramatic coastal cliffs of north County Antrim by the MacQuillan family around 1500 and later seized by the ambitious MacDonnell clan in the 1550s during an era of violence, intrigue and rebellion.

We did not go to the castle although you can choose to go if you are interested in seeing archaeological remains. Entrance fee is 5.50 Euros for adult and it opens daily.

( Courtesy to Dunluce castle  , Discover Northern Ireland )

Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO world Heritage site. I had never seen many hexagonal stones lying close and fitted to each other before. These columns of stones were transformation of larva erupted from fissure of volcanoes.

Before you venture there, please look carefully at below photo. It is the map of Giant’s Causeway and one of the main attractions is Wishing chair. Unfortunately, the chair was occupied a long time by some tourists that time ( may be not aware of the fact that they should give chance to others, even it does not mean our wish can be granted by simply sitting on it ). So I did not have a chance to sit on it. Basalt stones are cold , shiny,  smooth and quite nice to sit on them actually.

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When I googled it, I found out the photos of Irish women sitting on it in 1900 with the hope of selling their religious memorabilia ( mirrors, hair brushes , booklet etc ) to travelers. The chair is perfectly formed by columns of basalt stones.

Pic. National Library of Ireland Ref.: L_ROY_02236
Info. Giant’s Causeway wishing chair

To make your wish come true, you need to wiggle 4 times, then rub the stone to your left  with your left hand. saying your wish before sitting.  ( you never know unless you try it yourself )

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The science says these beautifully stacked stones were formed 60 millions years ago. However, another side of story is a legend. According to Irish legend, Giant Causeway is formed by an Irish giant named Finn McCool who got into trouble by fighting with Scottish giant called Bennandonnar. The latter wanted to claim Ireland as his property. Enraged Finn threw away boulders into the sea to make a way towards Scotland. After arriving Scotland, Finn noticed he could not beat enormous Bennandonnar and had to run back to Ireland by passing through Giant Causeway  . He was rescued by his witty wife who conned his enemy by portraying Finn as a baby. Bennandonnar ran away thinking Finn as the  son of his enemy.  His enemy thought if the baby was that big, father would be impossible to beat.

 

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beautiful landscape of Ireland

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Dark Hedges

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Dark Hedges were rows of very old beech trees which were planted in 1775 by owner of the property James Stuart. The intention is to create an imposing approach to unwanted visitors.  Like other places of Ireland, the folk believed that trees are regularly visited by ghosts.

The place became popular because of Games of Thrones movie. The old trees are surreal and gives very artistic illusion . I am quite upset to see tourists wrote graffiti on the trees.

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Carrick-a-Rede bridge

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The highlight of the trip is Carrick-a-Rede Bridge which was situated along Giant Causeway route .  The bridge connects mainland and a small island called Carrick-a-Rede. You need to walk  around 30 minutes   to walk up and down the hills to reach the bridge.  At least, you need  1 hour to visit the bridge . The island was formed from volcanic eruption and it was linked to the mainland by a flimsy bridge  . The bridge was made of plunks linked each other with wires of ropes.

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The bridge was originally used by salmon fishermen during summer . It is no longer used for fishing as salmons are very scarce now. It was used only during summer in the past and dismantled during winters. However, as the site became a tourist attraction, the bridge has been  open year round as long as the weather is permissible. Rope access specialists have to check the safety all the time . When the weather is bad, tourists are not allowed to cross the bridge. We need to give entrance fee and need to walk quite a while. There are lots of  stairs . The view of the rocky coastline mixed with basalt , hardened larva  ( dark rock ) was mesmerizing. I was glad that we had a good weather that time.

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When we pass the bridge, it means we are passing  through the mouth of volcano. I can imagine the skill of fishermen as they used to cross the road with one hand holding the rope and one hand holding bits and pieces of fishing gear and fish.

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I was scared to cross it, but managed to do it with encouragement of my friend.

The trip lasted for 9 hours and we were tired when we arrived back. Even with that, we managed to go to a buffet dinner and had a fantastic meal.

I will write about tours in Republic of Ireland soon.

Thank you for reading.

Hnin

Laxey Heritage trail and snaefell Mountain

If you come to Isle of Man, Laxey is the exact place you should not miss. Laxey is a small town in the North of the island called Isle of Man where you can learn the lives of miners who worked precariously in the past.

Isle of man is the island in the Irish sea between England and Ireland. It used to be a hard place to live due to unpredictable weather and isolation. A few hundred years ago , a lot of islanders left the island to move to the prosperous countries such as America and Australia. However, discovering minerals such as lead, copper , zinc in Laxy gave a boost of economy and the area became the hub of migrants . Isle of Man exported all these treasure to UK and Wales.

In Laxey, you can go for Laxey heritage trail, I would rather start with the church, where a lot of miners used to go. The lives of miners were very precarious and nobody knew whether they could get hurt at work. Some laborers could be as young as 12 year old. When they got injured or lost their lives, there was no compensation that time and people could be in bed for months out of injuries such as fractures or chronic illnesses related to mining.

Christ Church Laxey where miners and their families used to pray for safety , health and wealth of their beloved people.

The Church shows the faith of the islanders in mining villages. It opens daily from 10 am to 4 pm and there is no entrance fee. But you can give some donation for maintenance of the church. You can also see stories about people inside the church and it will not disappoint you.

outside of the church

Then you can go and see Laxey washing floor where the stones were extracted from the mines and cleansed with water. It is now regarded as community area.

Laxey washing floor. The wheel here is a smaller version of Lady Isabella

From there you can walk across the road to have a cup of tea at ” Ham and Egg Terrace”. The Terrace was the longest line of purpose built industrial housing under a continuous roof of line on the island in 1860 . It was nicknamed as ” Ham and Egg Terrace ” after most houses started selling tea and meals to visitors in their front rooms. The terrace still maintains its charm after 150 years. The Terrace is next to the statue of Miners.

Ham and Egg Terrace
My friend’s parents who were very happy in Laxey

From there , you can walk towards Laxey wheel ” Lady Isabella “. Entrance fee is 8 GBP and it can be free if you have purchased the annual ticket for heritage trails .If you are not afraid of height, you can climb up the stairs to see the panoramic view from the top of the wheel.

Glenn and Mumu on Laxey wheel

Lady Isbella is the largest wheel in the world and it was created to remove water from the mines into the river.

I have also walked inside the mine and I was not comfortable knowing the suffering of miners ( cold , wet and dark inside the mines). we met a very nice gentleman who told us how fragile our society became. ( I am sure he is referring towards us ). In a nutshell, we have a better life obviously compared to 100 years ago, but still we cannot convince ourselves that we are content and happy. I am feeling a bit embarrassed right now.

From Laxey wheel , you can also stroll along the Laxey beach where you can simply relax and watch some people either swimming in the sea or walking around . There is a shop called ” the shed ” at the end of Laxey beach and it is a nice cafe.

Laxey beach

If you are interested to walk around, you can also walk in Laxey village or stroll along a row of shops just beside the road.

A clock on the shop

Some houses are very pretty and located just beside the stream.

houses beside the river

a house at the bank of river, my dream house
a lovely house with a boat inside.

There are some wild flowers on the trail too.

In Laxey, there is woolen mills where you can purchase some expensive wool products such as kilts, jumpers , hats. You can see the woolen mill at the end of the village.

Laxey woolen mills

Just beside the main road, you can also see The flour mill where has been the source of bakery . The mill was constructed by the same engineer who built Lady Isabella. Prior to that, the local people had to bring their corns to Lord’s mills to grind in 17th and 18th century.

Laxey Flour mill

After going to nearby places, there is some prehistoric stones near Laxey called ” King Orry’s Grave”. It is at least 30 minutes walk from Laxey wheel and just beside the Minorca train station. Only MER ( Manx Electric railway ) can arrive this and please do not be confused with Snaefell railway which only goes up the snaefell mountail. Here is the information how to go to King Orry. ( credit to https://www.transceltic.com/isle-of-man/king-orrys-grave )

Getting there

On the East coast of the island in Minorca near the village of Laxey.

  • By car – Minorca is near the village of Laxey where the B11 crosses the A2 which is the road between Ramsey and Douglas.
  • By bus – Routes no. 3, 3A, 3B, and 3C from Ramsey and Douglas. Take the nearest stop to Minorca, then walk along the A2 to the site.
  • By tram – Take the Electric Railway to the Minorca stop. Walk along the B11 to where it crosses the A2.

This site is the largest known Megalithic tomb on the Isle of Man and is said to belong to King Orry, an almost legendary character revered by the Manx as their greatest king and founder of Mann. This mythical figure is based on King Godred Crovan, a Viking warrior who created the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles upon his arrival on the Island in 1079.  But at actual site, it was mentioned that King Orry was never buried there and at the time of excavation, only one skeleton remain was discovered. The tomb was abandoned in neolithic time. According to the painting at the site, it seemed like the tomb was immediately next to the beach and it was assumed that people gathered around the tomb and did a lot of activities such as dancing and eating.

King Orry’s Grave

King Orry was credited for the introduction of the island’s legal system and his arrival on the island is seen as the starting point of Manx history . He was also responsible for founding the Crovan dynasty, his descendants who ruled in Mann and the Isles for almost two centuries.  ( Information credit goes to http://www.visitisleofman.com ). King Orry’s grave was separated into two parts and one of them is behind the private house, however, visitors are allowed to visit freely.

pre historic stone

Last but not least, you can visit Snaefell mountain which is the island’s only mountain, its summit is 2036 feet ( 621 metres ) above sea level. The name Snaefell comes from the Norse meaning ” snow mountain “. To reach the summit of snaefell, you can either take Snaefell railway or climb from bungalow station ( which is situated on the mountain road to Ramsey ).

Snaefell Mountain Tramway is different from Manx Electric Railway . The latter operates between Douglas and Ramsey.

Snaefell railway was opened on 21 August 1895 and carried 900 visitors on the same day. It has been a popular tourist activity even after introduction of competition from motor buses. The journey can either starts at Laxey train station ( 12GBP for return ) or at the bungalow station ( 8GBP for return ).

summit of Snaefell

At Bungalow station, you should get off and observe the statue of Joey Dunlop . He was named as ” King of the Mountain ” as he won TT for 26 times. TT is a motor cycle race in Isle of Man which has been operating since 1907. TT attracts a lot of bike lovers all over the world.

Statue of Joey Dunlop

For the first time, I climbed snaefell by riding on the tram. I went there with my friend Glenn and we had a good time on the train. I felt like we were back at least a century back as the tram is very old and rattling . It was so much fun.

At the top of the mountain, there was a cafe called ” summit cafe ” where you can purchase breakfast, lunch and dinner .

Meals are not sold on the tram. But you can book one of the special dining events held at the Snaefell summit cafe such as sunset dinners ( suitable for couples ), seven sunday lunch and Pie in the Sky, featuring stargazing and supper with the island ‘s Astronomical society.

Glenn having the time of his life.

It is a belief that you can see seven kingdoms from summit of Snaefell such as England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the kingdoms of heaven and the sea.

Snaefell mountain tram

In Celtic times, the domain of “otherworld ” was to be found in the heavens above Snaefell. More recently in late Vitorian times, an observatory was established at the summit of Snaefell to enable astronomers to study the stars from the highest point on the island.

My boyfriend was worried when I decided to climb Snaefell. 2000 feet does not mean the height from the base, it simply the height from the sea level and the mountain is manageable even for someone like me who does not do regular exercise.

Even with this tiny achievement, I have to say that I am happy to have been at the summit of Snaefell by climbing.


Hninn