On my recent adventure to the Emerald Isle I had a bunch of places I wanted to visit along the East Coast of Ireland and researching how to see them all I found one company who were a good fit for me, Paddy Wagon Tours. I’d heard about previously heard about them from some friends while backpacking Europe a few years’ ago and had liked their line up for the Giants Causeway tour.
On the morning of the tour I’d been running late. I’d over-slept my alarm despite going to bed crazy early the night before and was really regretting that as I ran to the meeting place. Sadly for me, the bus still left about ten minutes late and I arrived about ten minutes early so I really didn’t need to rush after all.
On their big green bus I passed through what felt like a huge swath of the country. Having a cheeky nap seemed a great idea after days’ and days’ of early mornings and late nights.
I awoke to our chatty driver Sean giving a quick drive-by tour of Belfast on the way through (we would return here for a short stop on the way back). He told us about the troubles briefly pointing out that there are plenty of places that he couldn’t go “espehsally in a big green bus” knowingly I smiled to myself, remembering friends from Dublin telling me that they didn’t fancy visiting the Northern Irish capital because there were places they couldn’t go with their thick Southern Irish accents.
We passed through towns that were said to inspire the Game of Thrones series and Sean would talk about how he could see clear parallels between Irish history and The Game Of Thrones itself however, the dragons confused him.
We saw the three hundred year old trees used for filming the Game of Thrones. This photo stop for me was a bit of a disappointment as I would have liked photo’s with just me and the trees as everyone would, it’s a shame none of us could get ourselves worked out so the photo’s could be taken and everyone had run around in everyone’s photo’s making all photo’s taken at the site while I was there look too touristic.
After that photo stop there was another outside Dunluce Castle, the famous ruin on the side of the ocean cliffs that I’d been dying to see on my last trip to Ireland but had missed. The stop was brief but as all I wanted was a photo to show my grandmother I’d been there, that was fine.
The highlight of the tour and what myself and some of the girls’ on my bus agreed was more beautiful than the cliffs of Mohr was the Giants Causeway. It’s really breathtaking to be there. The pictures cannot do it any real justice (although of course I’ll share mine with you!). this has been a well-touristed site for a long time and for good reason! I walked over the apparent ruins of the giants causeway (really the remnants after a volcanic eruption). And was totally in awe. I never paid much attention to geo-sciences (sorry geo-sciences!) but this site would be one to spark many a scientists (and artist and poets) imagination. Although it’s beauty is not traditional, symmetrical beauty as people so prize in nature the causeway had its own swagger, like the ugly duckling who’d grown into a beautiful swan and still had that attitude of “I don’t care how I look, this is who I am”. After visiting the causeway I was pretty quiet on the bus to lunch, just thinking about the place.
Lunch was pretty fab, not just because a busy day makes you hungry! I had the Irish stew and would recommend it if you took this tour as the other traditional looking steak and Guinness pie didn’t look very exciting). All of the meals are around eight or nine pounds sterling (this is Northern Ireland remember they don’t use the Euro here). Although it’s better to pay by cash in sterling you can also pay by card. Try not to pay in euro’s as the rate is crazy high.
Next, the isle of Carrick-a-Rede! Here I paid the extra eight euro and took the rope bridge across. Of course, I was terrified and my legs turned to jelly moments after crossing (the lovely Irish girl on the other side told me I didn’t look scared at all, oh… such a lie!) but I crossed, for you guys. So I could tell you how it was and you’ll be happy to hear that it was awesome! If you’re frightened of the 100 meter drop onto a cliff or the ocean if anything goes wrong with that terrible wooden bridge you might want to hold on tight to the railings and not look down, just look right in front of you like I did. And don’t stress about the bridge moving too much, it will move a whole lot but you’re here already and you’re not allowed to turn around, walk on now! The photo’s you’ll get on the other side are well worth it (and the bragging rights too!).
Later we visited Belfast for an hour or so. Although this doesn’t seem much time to do anything you might want to read a few of the things mentioned on my Belfast self-guided walking tour or you could just go to the top of the central shopping center’s tower for a good (free) view of Belfast for a few photo’s (view as seen on my Instagram) before taking some odd shots in other places, grabbing a coffee and jumping back on the coach.
The tour ends back in Dublin. You’ll be tired but remember to pick up all your things before you leave, thank your driver and smile to yourself, you did it! You did cross the bridge too right?
Throughout the day we would have different people arriving back to the bus late and this meant that the tour wound up being longer than it had been scheduled to be – if you decide to book this one you’ll want to keep that in mind – for me the tour ended thirteen hours after it began. Of course I was tired and didn’t end up doing anything after it besides packing my bag for my flight the following day (which I didn’t miss although I was tempted to!) Ireland has quickly become one of my favourite places in the world, besides Laos of course.
A big thank you to Paddy Wagon Tours who provided a free seat on this tour so I could review it. Please note also that all other expenses were paid for by myself (ie. Accommodation, flights, food, tour extras, etc.)
Over to you guys! What would you recommend to first time visitors to the Emerald Isle? Please comment below so others’ can read and follow your advice should they choose to do so.