I’m an Irish girl born and raised in the Republic of Ireland yet I had never been to Northern Ireland. Shocking, I know. I’m admittedly guilty of always casting longing glances afar and my wanderlust tends to cause me to miss out on the wonderful places that are available right on my doorstep.
So, I decided to use the October Bank Holiday as an opportunity to adopt the role of and play tourist in Ireland for a day. Inspired by being an avid fan of a Game of Thrones, I felt it was time to venture north.
We left Dublin at 6:30am to embark upon our road trip beyond the border.
The Dark Hedges
We arrived at The Dark Hedges roughly around 9am and were extremely fortunate to get our Instagramable picture without anyone else in the shot. There were several cars pulling in to the side of the road at the bend just before the Dark Hedges’ stretch of road began. We practically had to jump out of a moving car in our rush to beat the other enthused tourists and capture our solitary images.
Winter is coming, as the ominous ol’ saying goes, and autumn had touched the looming gnarly trees that leered over the road.
The early morning sun played with the bare branches to cast shadows and create a fascinating eeriness as you walked beneath the massive iconic trees. A perfectly apt aura for Halloween. It was easy to see why it had been chosen as the King’s Road in Game of Thrones.
After pour stroll through the Dark Hedges was over, it was time to continue onwards in search of giants.
I’d always wanted to explore Giant’s Causeway. It is more widely spoken of than The Dark Hedges and I’d grown up listening to fabled tales of fighting giants dwelling at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located at the very top of the Emerald Isle, the coastal walk along the cliffside as the rolling waves crash against the rocky shore makes for a wonderful outdoor excursion in itself. A journey that is all the while building in the anticipation of something magical.
The 40,000 interlocking basalt columns (no, I didn’t count to check) moulded by an ancient volcanic eruption are surreal. It’s mind blowing to think that humans didn’t shape these near perfect hexagon columns. They form great steps and provide a lovely perch to sit upon while watching the wonder of nature in its element.
Things to Know
The Dark Hedges and Giant’s Causeway is 20 minutes apart by car, so it’s entirely possible to fit two of Northern Ireland’s natural tourist attractions in the same day.
Parking at The Dark Hedges
It’s completely free to park at the Dark Hedges. You’re meant to park along the roads that lead to the Dark Hedges’ road so as not to ruin the mystical illusion.
Parking at Giant’s Causeway
It costs approx. £10 per person for an all-inclusive ticket, which includes car parking. I personally found this quite disappointing for the price seems rather excessive and exploitive of a natural heritage site. Especially considering that it’s perfectly free to walk along the coast, so parking is what you’re actually paying for along with access to the visitor’s centre.
To reiterate, you don’t need a ticket to walk along the coast and visit Giant’s Causeway. What the ticket provides is parking and whatever other amenities are available on site.
You can drive down the hill and park at the heritage train station for £6 and walk up the hill. It’s about a 10-minute walk away.
We parked at the nearby pub called The Nook for lunch and then walked over to the Giant’s Causeway after. There is also a Park and Ride service available from the nearby town, Bushmills.