Northern Ireland - Round The World Tour 2 2003 Day 184
Near Giant's Causeway
Friday 12th September
The absence of any timekeeping devices anywhere in the brick, other than the clock on the dashboard, is somewhat of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s great not to have to continually worry about the time or being late for anything. On the other, I’m never very sure of whether or not I’ve slept in too long in the mornings. This morning was one of those mornings. I think I slept a bit more lightly than usual, all the time worrying about mischievous kids and the havoc they might have been getting up to around us. I also had a few passing thoughts of a bomb being attached to the underside of the van. A bit far-fetched, perhaps, but I did grow up hearing news reports of car bombs and other incendiary devices exploding from time to time during the troubles right here in Northern Ireland. Truth be told, I was actually more worried about whether or not the little buggers might have scribbled graffiti all over the brick whilst we were asleep. At one point, one of them came up to the van and rocked it a little from side to side in a great display of daring to his egging onlookers. It was just a little bit of spirited fun on the part of the kids. I might have done something similar when I was a teenager also.
Once we finally mobilised ourselves into action again this morning, we took off and drove the half kilometre or so back into town to finish up taking a look around. We still wanted to have a look at the Tower museum that the guidebook recommended so much. The tourist information office visitor’s car park was full this morning so we had to find another place to park. The coach park just a couple of hundred yards farther did the trick – and it was free.
On the way to the Tower museum, we passed the Bloody Sunday museum. Since it was there in front of us, we went in and had a look around. It wasn’t until this point that I realised just how central and pivotal the city of Derry (originally so named but re-named to Londonderry several decades ago) was to the ‘troubles’ of Northern Ireland. The event described and remembered as Bloody Sunday was the final spark that launched the region into near full-scale war and political turmoil that still ripples today. The museum does a pretty good job of reflecting on the turbulent and relatively modern history of Derry and is a poignant reminder of the unrest that underscores the reasons for all the barricades, guard towers and surveillance cameras that make up much of the landscape of this city. Although the political issues at the core of the conflict are not resolved, the city does appear to be a vibrant, bustling and friendly place all the same. School kids in their school uniforms are all over the place and the shopping centres are full of consumers going about their daily routine. If it weren’t for the wall murals, painted curb stones depicting either the red white and blue or the orange white and green, depending on whether or not that part of town is inhabited mainly by Catholics or Protestants, and of course all the segregation by extremely high fencing in certain locations, you might think that this town was no different to the next.
After taking in a dose of political history at the Bloody Sunday museum, we walked around the corner to the Tower museum. Where the Bloody Sunday museum concentrated on one slice of modern political history, the Tower museum was much more comprehensive and we embarked on a tour through the history of Derry from pre-history right up to modern times. I’ve come to expect great things from museums in Ireland and this one was no exception. It was well worth the cost of admission and a truly fascinating experience.
The museums that we visited this morning were great but there is such a thing as museum overdose and we might have fallen foul to this had we continued for much longer. Accordingly, we went in search of a small, out of the way, little restaurant and had lunch. The Irish seem to treat lunch as the main meal of the day and neither of us was able to polish off the full plate load of food that we were served.
With our internal reserves now well and truly topped up, we left Derry/Londonderry and headed for the northern coast of Ireland towards the Giant’s Causeway. I had a bit of a sore throat coming on and so we stopped just the once along the way for a photo opportunity before continuing on to a camp-site just a couple of kilometres short of the geological landmark. The castles and other tourist attractions will still be there tomorrow when we explore the area.
This part of the country reminds me a lot of the some of the scenery that we saw in South Africa. I’d still say that the Republic of Ireland (especially in the South) might be a little prettier but then we have spent much of the time up here in the North dealing with logistical problems with less time actually spent taking in castles and other interesting attractions.
We finished off this evening with a stroll along the coastline for a few minutes. Rain is now lashing the brick and there have been some very strong winds knocking us from side to side. Hopefully, this cold front will have passed by the morning and we will be able to enjoy the delights of the northern coastline before heading back towards Belfast to catch the ferry to Scotland.