JULY 25, 2005
Darren's mom's lineage traces back to the MacQuillens of Ireland. Back in the 9th or 10th century, the MacQuillens owned the land that you see here:
Darren and I hadn't planned on venturing into Northern Ireland until Darren did a little research and discovered that Dunluce Castle, which sits precariously on a cliff overlooking the north Atlantic, sits directly on the land that his family once controlled. That is, until the marauding MacDonnels came along and pillaged and plundered and ran us off our land. The MacDonnels are the ones who built the castle you see here. All that remains of the MacQuillen castle is what's left of the north wall; most of it fell into the sea centuries ago, carrying several kitchen servants to their deaths. We tried to take some family portraits here, but between uncooperative boys and the gray skies, none of them turned out well. The castle ruins are amazing. We spent quite a lot of time exploring them and letting the boys have the run of "their" castle.
From Dunluce, we continued along the Antrim coast to the Giant's Causeway - a series of 40,000 tightly packed basalt columns that form a trail from the base of the coastal cliffs and disappear into the sea. Similar columns can be found off the coast of Scotland, which lends credence to the popular legend of a giant named Finn MacCool, who built the causeway so that he could cross the sea to see his lady love without getting his feet wet. (Actually, they're the result of vocanic activity 60 million years ago, but the Finn MacCool story is more fun, and the locals swear it's the more accurate portrayal.) Darren and I hiked up and along the coastal cliff and then back down to the causeway. Nancy and the kids took a bus down and waited on us. The photos of the actual causeway are on film, but here's a view from the trail we took:
From Giant's Causeway, we went to Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, which hangs 80 feet above the sea and wobbles and twists as soon as you stand on it. Made of boards strung between wires, it connects the mainland with a tiny island 65 feet away. Aidan had looked forward to the bridge all day (he has a strange fascination with bridges of all kinds), and Darren and I both tried to prepare him for what laid ahead. We were sure he'd be terrified, so we tried to talk him into staying behind with Grandma and Ian. But he was determined. Here they are looking out toward the island. (24 miles in the distance, you can see Scotland on the horizon.)
When we got there (a 3 km hike from the car), it was Darren who didn't think he could cross! But he conquered his fear of heights and stepped out onto the swaying, bobbing, bouncing bridge, with Aidan leading the way. Aidan was all smiles the whole way across. Dani and I had gone ahead so I could take pictures as Darren and Aidan crossed. They did the same for us on the way back.
Although enjoyable, it was an extremely long day. We spent a total of 10 hours in the car, with badly labeled roads and many wrong turns in the process. When we got home, we were all tired, cranky, and out-of-sorts. So we took the next day off (Tuesday the 26th) to regroup, do laundry, and relax.