Northern Ireland And The Giant's Causeway

November 7, 2014

The sun shines through low clouds, picking out the rolling hills and lush picture postcard landscape for which Ireland is rightly famous.

From Belfast to the Giant's Causeway a narrow, winding country road, follows the the rugged coastline.

The rugged, and these days sheep free, Sheep Island lies between the mainland and Rathlin Island, some five kilometres further offshore.

The Giant's Causeway is made up of approximately 40,000 huge interlocking  columns of layered basalt, the result of volcanic activity, some 60 millions years ago. Today it is one of Northern Ireland's top attractions and its only UNESCO site. 

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People have been visiting the site since 1693 and the causeway is steeped in myth and legend. Some say it was carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool, who decided to built a causeway of enormous stepping stones across the sea to Scotland in order to fight his rival, Benandonner. 

Further along the North Antrim coast is Dunluce castle. The castle dates back to the 14th Century but it was abandoned in 1639 when part of it fell in to the sea during a heavy storm. 

Today tourists can visit the castle and climb its inner walls. 

The notorious Crumlin Road Gaol opened in 1845 and closed in 1996. The prison and the Courthouse opposite became famous for holding both Republican and Loyalist prisoners during the troubles which began in 1960s. The opposing groups were held different wings of the prison but that did not stop them targeting each other from both outside and within the prison. In the prison’s early days women and children were also held in the prison often for minor crimes such as stealing food or clothes.

A unique aspect of the gaol was the tunnel that connected the jail to the court house opposite, so prisoners could be taken from the cells to the courthouse and back without chance of escape, although according to old guards, fights did tend to break out between Republican and Loyalist prisoners as they passed each other on the way to court despite being hand-cuffed and chained.

 

The prison was re-opened as a museum in 2003 with some parts restored and others, such as A Wing left untouched, as they were left in1996.