After a great few days exploring London we boarded a plane and headed to Belfast, Northern Ireland. There were quite a few things we wanted to see in Northern Ireland, so we rented a car for ease of travel. We spent a couple of days in Belfast before hitting the road and heading for the northern coast.
|Northern Ireland's Flag|
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries that make-up the United Kingdom (the others being England, Scotland, and Wales). The capital and largest city is Belfast, while the population of the whole country is just over 1.8 million people. The flag you see above is the official flag of Northern Ireland, but there has been a lot of civil unrest (commonly called The Troubles) within the country since the late 1960's and there's a strong division amongst the population. The unionists/loyalists, who are mostly Protestants, consider themselves British and want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, whereas the nationalists/republicans, who are predominantly Catholic and consider themselves Irish, want to separate from the United Kingdom and create a united Ireland. The unionists fly the flag you see above, while the nationalists will fly the Irish tri-colour to show support for their beliefs. The Troubles officially ended with the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement in 1998, but there has been sporadic violence since then.
|Northern Ireland (dark green) as part of the United Kingdom (light green)|
We weren't nervous to be in Belfast, but we had read that tensions still run pretty high in certain places so being smart and aware (like you should while traveling anywhere) were important during our time in the country. I am happy to report, however, that we did not experience any negatives our entire time in Northern Ireland and it was a spectacularly beautiful place that I would have liked to have spent more time in. As previously mentioned we started our trip through Northern Ireland in Belfast. Our hotel was quite central so we were able to walk to most of the sites including City Hall, which was completed in 1906.
|Belfast City Hall|
|The Big Fish is a large sculpture of a salmon that is adorned in ceramic tiles, which are covered in news stories relating to the history of Belfast|
|Albert Memorial Clock|
|St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast|
|While walking down Donegall Place the clouds parted revealing a crescent moon high above a glowing City Hall|
|This section of the Peace Wall is covered in graffiti|
|Christine on the back steps of the castle|
I actually had three great grandparents who purchased tickets for Titanic's maiden voyage, but luckily all three somehow missed the boat! I guess sometimes it's okay to be late!!
|Titanic Belfast sits in the Titanic Quarter of the city|
|This is the slipway where Titanic was constructed. The blue line indicates the outline of the massive ship.|
|The Dark Hedges|
|Christine standing beside the Organ formation|
|The Giant's Causeway|
|The Causeway stretches all the way into the sea|
|The rain made all the rocks very slippery|
|Chimney Stacks in the distance|
|This unique rock, known as the Giant's Boot, is said to have belonged to Finn MacCool|
|The ruins of Dunluce Castle|
|Exploring the castle while trying to stay warm|
|The Gatehouse controlled entrance to the inner-workings of the castle|
|View of the castle from the East Tower|
|Dunluce Castle perched on the edge of steep cliffs|