Dark Hedges and Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland - #63
Dear friends, let me take you on a journey behind the scenes of one of the world's most popular television shows, Game of Thrones. Let's explore the Dark Hedges and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is home to some of the most pristine and untouched landscapes in the world. It is this rugged natural beauty that attracted the producers of HBO's hit show, Game of Thrones to the country. Filming took place in more than 25 locations around Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has been put on the world map several times. It is famous for being the birth place of the Titanic and home to one of the most extraordinary natural occurring phenomenon's, The Giant's Causeway. These are definitely reasons to visit the beautiful country. Just like most countries in Europe, it has its fair share of a violent past, with wars lost and won on these very lands. The only positive thing these wars brought about is the phenomenal castles they left behind. There are more than 40 castles spread out across this small country. On the entire island of Ireland itself which is made up of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, there are a whopping 30,000 castles collectively.
To find me, look for my Chihuahua's face
Our first stop on this adventure is going to be the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It is located on Northern Ireland's north coast, about a 75 minute drive from the capital of Belfast. The tiny rope bridge connects the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It is only 20 metres/65 feet long and sits approximately 30 metres/100 feet metres above sea level. The rope bridge is a tourist attraction and is owned and maintained by the UK National Trust. It welcomes over half a million visitors from around the world each year. I must warn you, it is extremely windy and the tiny rope bridge that is no wider than one person across, sways a lot in the wind. This means that the attraction is only open subject to weather conditions, for safety reasons. It is believed to have been constructed over 350 years ago by salmon fisherman trying to access the tiny island. Unfortunately, due to overfishing, salmon no longer live in the sea around Carrick-a-Rede.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
I am ready for the steep descent
My brother is as well
Once you arrive at Carrick-a-Rede, you have to walk quite a distance before you get to the rope bridge. There are a lot of steep steps that can be very slippery. It is not wheelchair accessible and I would recommend the journey to only those that are steady on their feet. There have been several accidents where elderly people have slipped and injured themselves. The only way to receive medical treatment is by being airlifted to Belfast. Unless your travel insurance covers airlifting for medical treatment, your helicopter ride would not only be painful physically but for your bank account as well. When walking down the steep steps and slops, be careful and take your time. The scenery is breathtaking and not something you want to rush anyway. Another tip, I highly recommend that you bring wind-breaker coats and jackets with you. It gets very cold, especially with the skin piercing winds off the North Atlantic ocean. My family and I visited in the summer months and as you can see, we still had to wear our coats.
Once you have visited the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, I would strongly suggest that you also visit the Giant's Causeway. It is only a 20 minute drive away and is an incredible sight. The Giant's Causeway is an incredible natural phenomenon. Scientist's predict that it was formed over 60 million years ago by intense volcanic activity that created step-like hexagonal columns stretching miles across the sea from the tip of Northern Ireland to the Western coast of Scotland. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986 and has attracted over a million visitors every year since. It is Northern Ireland's number one attraction and has been named the 8th Wonder of the World. You can read more about the Giant's Causeway in my blog ‘Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland- Travel #51’.
The shapes of the rocks along the Giant's Causeway are so intricate and beautiful. I have never seen rocks that are so perfectly shaped and naturally occurring. I am a lover of everything to do with dinosaurs. I have even contemplated many times on studying to be a Paleontologist. I suppose I still can, it's never too late to study. The reason I mention this is because many scientific studies indicate the development of these intricately shaped rocks occurred at the same time as the extinction of the dinosaurs. Could the same intense volcanic activity that gave us these beautiful rocks have also contributed to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. I guess we will never really know. I like to view the beauty of these rocks and appreciate the vast and untamable power of our incredible planet.
The Giant's Causeway
I noticed that the soil around the causeway coast is a rich red colour that I had only ever experienced before in the Australian Outback. As I mentioned, the Giant's Causeway was created by intense volcanic activity. This means lots of lava. Following the outpouring and cooling of each lava flow, there was a prolonged period of inactivity. This allowed the topmost section of the land to be exposed to persistent weathering which in turn formed a soil rich in iron called laterite. When the iron in the soil oxidizes, the soil turns red. I had always assumed that the red soil in Australia had something to do with how hot it was. This is not true and very prevalent as it is certainly not ever hot here on the causeway coast.
Unlike Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the Giant's Causeway is wheelchair accessible. There is even a shuttle bus that runs frequently to take you from the state of the art visitor centre to the site of the rocks. My younger brother is wheelchair bound and found it easy to maneuver. He is definitely an inspiration to me as he has not let his wheelchair hinder his global travel adventures. He has literally been all around the world in a wheelchair. My mother who has difficulty walking sometimes also managed to enjoy the Giant's Causeway. These are factors that you need to take into consideration when planning a family holiday.
Our final stop on this journey is to the Dark Hedges. The iconic setting for many scenes in the Game of Thrones series. The Dark Hedges are about a 20-minute drive from the Causeway Coast. It is quite hard to find. Even though many tourists manage to eventually find the one road that features the famous over-lapping trees. There are no landmarks to guide you there. My family and I managed to find it only because we drove past the Dark Hedges Estate, a hotel in which you can stay. We parked at the hotel and walked across the road to the see the trees. Unlike the Giant's Causeway, these trees are not naturally occurring. The beautiful avenue of beech trees were planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century. This is what makes this avenue so unique. The trees were planted to create a grand entrance to the estate. Little did they know, it made a grand entrance as the King's road leading into King's landing in Game of Thrones hundreds of years later.
Entrance to the Dark Hedges Estate
The Dark Hedges are nothing short of incredible. It is no wonder that it has been attracting painters and artists for centuries. There is a little bit of a spookiness to them. The way that the trees interlock makes the avenue very dark even in the middle of the day. I would suppose that is how it got its name as the Dark Hedges. The Irish are very superstitious people and there are legends about almost everything. Locals believe that the hedges are haunted by a spirit known as the Grey Lady. The Grey Lady is thought to be one of the housemaids of the Estate who died mysteriously hundreds of years ago. Whatever you believe, this place is a sight to be seen.
I hope you have enjoyed my blog on the Dark Hedges and Rope Bridge, Northern Ireland, thank you for reading and I look forward to sharing more adventures with you, until next time, Vegoutt Everybody!