Spent my first day in Belfast not in Belfast at all, but back on a train heading north. I wanted a peek at the Giant’s Causeway, as it plays a role [at least in the backstory] of one of my books.
Seems I caught the best day of the year for it, or Finn McCool was in the mood for basking, perhaps, because if the sun did not come all the way out, at least it was warm. And for the proclaimed windiest part of Ireland, it was also strangely calm.
I had a good look at the amazing stones – the product of ancient volcanic activity — with the rest of the tourists, and then left most of the people behind as I headed up the Shepherd’s steps. [I wondered all the way up if anyone had ever fallen off them…but not that I could find!]
[This shot was taken from above the steps, on a far bluff overhanging the ocean. That zigzag you see in the centre is the steps — all 168 of ’em!]
After a beautiful afternoon on the wild coast, I spent the rest of the time in Belfast exploring the city, including the Crumlin Road Gaol [home, at one time, to every Irish politician worth his or her salt]. And yes, women and children were housed there, though that stopped long ago. The prison itself, however, was open all the way through the Troubles, and right into the 1990s. Over the 150-year history, 17 men – only men – met their ends here, dangling from the hangman’s rope.
This photo of Crumlin Road Gaol is courtesy of TripAdvisor
It was a breathtakingly interesting place. More horrifying to me than even Alcatraz, at least to my mind.
Another day I ended up on what I have to say was the un-spookiest ghost tour ever, in that it was full daylight on [nearly] the longest day of the year. Still the guide was excellent and I learned a lot about Belfast and its denizens, nonetheless.
It was a lovely city to visit, even hard on the heels of the exiting leaders of the G-8.
Speaking of whom… the ferry ride away from Eire was made all the more eventful by the hundreds [likely more than a thousand, but details are scarce…] of UK police officers returning home after their spectacularly uneventful duty, guarding said leaders. The ferry I was on travelled to Craigryan from Belfast, but there were cops from all over the UK, from Scotland down to Wales filling up the waiting rooms and taking up all the lounge chairs for the speedy [and very calm] ride back.
For the first time in my life, I felt completely free to leave my computer unguarded while I ran off to the washroom!
Sad to say farewell to the beautiful island of Eirinn, but I leave with many memories of its unforgettable people and places. I’ll be back as soon as I can! Next, however, is my beloved Scotland.