I've been up to Northern Ireland a couple of times over the past 3 years but this trip was definitely different to those of the past! I saw golf for the first time, revisited Belfast and gave it another chance, and saw one of my top destinations in all of Ireland that I'd yet to visit! (happy dance here)
Our first day up North started out with a looong drive. We were headed for Portstewart, which is on the Northernmost coast.
In true Irish fashion, it was miserably rainy at the Irish Open. (In the picture below, those are rivers of mud we are walking through)
Unintentionally in honour of the 4th of July, we grabbed hot dogs to warm up. As always, mine has a bite out of it before I thought to take a picture because my stomach rules my brain.
That night we stayed in Belfast in the Europa Hotel, the most bombed hotel in Europe. In actuality it was in a really convenient location and the inside was gorgeous.
We walked around the nearby streets until we settled on Kitch for dinner. I am so glad we did because it was absolutely delicious! And the service was really exceptional as well. They even had a veggie menu with vegan options, which made it really inclusive. I would go back in a heartbeat!
We went for after dinner drinks at The Crown. Think saloon, but European.
They had these little booths with tables to sit in and have a drink. (Or you could have a drink at the bar, of course, which was much easier to get a spot at)
The next morning, before we left, we had a little exploration of Belfast. During my last trip to the city I wasn't what you would call impressed. It seemed a little barren and unwelcoming. But this time around I was really surprised by all of the interesting architecture and funky little side streets.
I mean, how cool is The Dirty Onion?!
Killian even managed to find this old church I'd seen from the road while we were driving to the hotel. It was tucked away in this little narrow street with some forgotten tracks on the road and tiny houses along its side. Some of the windows were broken and there were plants growing from the top. I honestly could've stood there looking at this place all day long. I wanted to go inside and explore! It looked like something from a Halloween haunted house movie.
We crossed the river to head over to the Titanic Museum.
I had gone to the museum during my study abroad and actually quite enjoyed the exhibits. But it was a bit of a time crunch so I hadn't gotten to explore the surrounding area. This time I got to the SS Nomadic and maps of the area during the construction of the Titanic.
On our way back to the hotel we found this really cool street filled with gorgeous planters and old road signs. It had such a friendly but quiet vibe to it.
After a quick lunch we headed back towards the coast to go to Dunluce Castle. I have wanted to go to this castle for so long! I've seen pictures and videos and it's pinned about 5 times on my Pinterest board. It felt like a long time coming for sure.
It definitely lived up to my expectations. Literally on the edge of this cliffside, the view from the castle is almost as impressive as the structure itself.
When it was built, it had a drawbridge to the mainland. Now there's a bridge built over to it, which you can access underneath for some wonderful sea views.
I loved all of the wildflowers and chirping birds. It seems like they'd nested in little nooks of the rocks. They blended in fairly well to the rocks, as you can see below.
One of my favourite parts of this castle, especially in comparison to others I've visited, was the intact chimneys. There was one in nearly every room, and you could still see straight up through them.
We stayed at the castle until close. It was nice because we got a few minutes where we had the castle entirely to ourselves! Something I hadn't realised before this trip was how close Dunluce is to the Giant's Causeway. We had some time to spare before dinner so we drove up, parked on the street, and walked down to the water. There's a path that takes you down, which you can walk for free or pay for a bus. Of course, the trip up is a nightmare in comparison to the stroll down.
We enjoyed the views for a little while before we headed to dinner for the evening. For more pictures of the causeway from 2014, click here. For more pictures of Bushmills and Northern Ireland, click here.
The next morning we took a walk down the beach in Portrush after we checked out of the hotel. I don't visit sandy beaches too often, so it was a nice little treat. The stunning views definitely helped, and the warm(ish) temperatures were a nice bonus.
Below you can see Dunluce Castle to the left of the arches. It really blended into the cliffs!
We climbed up and around the rocks to get some better views at the end of the beach. Slippery, but worth it
There were lots of spots were the low tide had left huge pools of water (big enough to swim in) but they were crystal clear, so you could see fish swimming inside which was really neat!
Most of the sea anemones in the tide pools and rocks were closed but I lucked out and found this one lil guy! And how cool was the seaweed?!
After our morning walk we went back to Portstewart for the golf. We went around to a few holes, nearly got hit by a stray ball (a foot away!), and grabbed some more grub before shipping out for the long haul back home.
I still have a few things to cross off my northern bucket list, but it's good to be back in Dublin. Until next time!