Derry, Northern Ireland
Monday, Oct. 7
We left Donegal at 8:30 for the short drive to Derry, Northern Ireland. It is also known as Londonderry, depending where you are. Because it was a beautiful sunny morning, we could make a stop at Grianan of Aileach, which is a circular defensive stone fort on top of a high hill. It was probably built in the 8th or 9th century by sun worshipers. It was excavated in the 1800s. It evidently was quite a treat for our guide to bring us here because the weather us usually too bad.
We arrived in Derry were we were turned over to our local guide, Ryan. We first drove through the “Bogs” area where we saw the many murals inspired by the almost 30 year long time called “the Troubles.” It began with the Battle of the Bogside in 1969 and ended with the Belfast Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This time had riots, political unrest, hunger strikes and other violence because of disagreements over the status of Northern Ireland. The core of Derry is surrounded by walls which still exist, and we walked on the wall part way.
To commemorate the peace in the area, they have built a “Peace Bridge” just for pedestrians over the Foyle River. It is a lovely curved bridge and we had a chance to walk on it during some of our free time. We also checked out the museum in Derry’s Guildhall. We were on our own for lunch, and headed for the “Pickled Duck,” maybe just because it sounded quaint, but the food was good.
In the afternoon we spent a little time at the “Free Derry” museum, which chronicles the Irish fight for freedom. We then checked into our “boutique” hotel, the Bishop’s Gate Hotel Derry, which is lovely. For some reason we were given the handicap room. Everything was normal until you looked into the bathroom. Then there were all the aids you could imagine, but no shelves. I got the small ironing board out of the closet and set it up in the bathroom, giving me a place to spread out my stuff. Dinner was all of us together at a local restaurant.
Tuesday, Oct. 8
Today was beautiful and sunny, which was excellent since we had several outdoor activities scheduled. The first stop was at an overlook viewing area were we could look down on the Garrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, which connects a small island and the mainland. It was built by salmon fishermen in the late 18th century. The bridge is about 100 feet high and 70 feet long and is now reinforced with steel cable. For those of us who were not going to do the long walk to get to the bridge, this was our only chance to see it. We then moved to the parking area and many, including Melanie, hiked the trail and took stairs down to the bridge and crossed it, one at a time. Of course, you had to come back. There were ropes to hang onto on either side. Meanwhile, Paul and I enjoyed some hot chocolate in the small cafe. It was very windy, but still sunny.
After lunch at a local restaurant we continued to Giant’s Causeway. This spectacular geologic formation along the Antrim Coast is made of columnar basalt. We from Oregon recognize it, as we have quite a lot of this volcanic basalt along the Columbia River Gorge. This area was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. These vertical columns are hexagonal in shape and are somewhat curved to fit together perfectly. Although the wind was still strong, at least it did not rain on us. Our guide said this was only the second day she had been there this season when it was not raining.
On the way back to the hotel we made a short stop at the Old Bushmills Distillery where some had a chance to sample some of their famous whiskey. It was a long day and we ended up having something in the bar before heading to bed early.
Wednesday, Oct 9
This is a transfer day to Belfast. More about that next.
Grace and Paul Pitzer are retired school teachers who love to travel and share their stories and photos with others.
Chronicles Grace's journey through breast cancer
Grace and Paul Pitzer
We hope you will keep checking back regularly to see what is new. I'm always out and about with some camera and love to stretch my skills and add to my volume of work.
Motto: "Pack light and take lots of pictures."