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Northern Ireland: Belfast and Giant’s Causeway

by Katy Rysemus

First things first: our International Society here at University of Limerick is outstanding! They were brave enough to bring 105 (yes 105!)  international students on a three-day journey to Northern Ireland. I honestly did not think it was possible to pack in so much adventure in a 72 hour time frame. I obviously was proven wrong after my journey to Northern Ireland, in particular Belfast and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Giant’s Causeway. This is going to be a long post, so bear with me!

The adventure started at 4:30 on a Saturday morning, when I had to wake up to be at the bus by 6am. This was not an easy task; 4:30am is never a fun time to wake up but I did it. In total it took around 5.5 hours to get from Limerick to Belfast. Our first stop upon arriving in Belfast was Belfast Castle. When I hear the word ‘castle’ I always expect something from Medieval times but this place was more like an elaborate, beautiful mansion. I was a little disappointed that most of the inside was closed off due to events but we were able to explore the grounds outside. It was beautiful! The garden was lovely and the variety of cats, stones, shrubs, bronze, and tile added greatly to the character. There is also a park on the grounds but there is an age limit which was incredibly sad because there was a rather nice looking rope swing and jungle gym that enticed the inner child in most of us colleges students. But alas, the kind man guarding the playground would not let us play.

Next, we made it to the hostel. I was eager to see just how all 105 of us would fit into one hostel but they did it! This was my first hostel experience and it was rather eventful. The room I was placed in was a 22 person room with one bathroom. I heard one of them say “well this shall be interesting in the morning” and all I could do was nod my head in agreement. It was crowded but we all made it work, taking turns and being polite for the most part.

The next morning we all loaded onto the bus and headed north to the coast. Our final destination, Giant’s Causeway, is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is clear why it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The stormy Atlantic, the amazing hexagonal rocks, and the incredible views make for a stunning and awe-inspiring experience. It was a cold a blustery day but it was beautiful nonetheless. We were able to do an audio tour which was pretty cool because it tells you the legend of the giant, Finn McCool, and how the stone formations came to be. It’s definitely a story to look up! My favorite part of the whole place is the hike up onto the cliffs above. It’s about a 3km hike and not for the easily deterred but it was beyond worth the effort! Standing on top of the cliff, the wind whipping around me, the rain biting into my cheeks from the wind and the sea salt dried to me cheeks, was so intoxicating. Standing on the cliff, the causeway is in front, (on a clear day, you can see Scotland in the distance!) and the Northern Irish country side to my back, the beauty of the place is absolutely breathtaking. I took tons of pictures but I also took several moments here and there to just stop, close my eyes and breathe and experience everything around me. I can describe the beauty as much as I like but in reality, there are no words that accurately describe it or do it any sort of justice.

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