Saturday, July 11
We had a lie in (that’s Irish slang for sleeping in, ya’ll!) on Saturday morning and it was wonderful! We all ate breakfast and got ready for a big trip along the North Coast. Dr. Campbell picked us up at 9:30 a.m. and we were on our way.
We stopped to see Dunluce Castle and continued our drive to Giant’s Causeway.
The Giant’s Causeway is a natural rock formation in Northern Ireland and was voted the 4th best natural wonder in the UK. The formation consists of hexagonal, interlocking basalt columns varying in height surrounded by the Irish Sea. A legend is tied with Giant’s Causeway that surrounds a magical giant, Finn McCool, who supposedly built the natural formations.
Quote of the Day: “This is prime real estate for birds!” – Rory O’Loghlin (looking around at Giant’s Causeway)
We stopped and had lunch at the Causeway Hotel.
After the Giant’s Causeway, we went to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The footpath to get to the rope bridge is very beautiful and has many wonderful vantage points to take in the natural beauty of the surroundings. The rope bridge was traditionally used by fishermen who erected the bridge in order to check salmon nets. There used to exist only one rope hand rail, but has been replaced by a two hand rail by the National Trust. The Carrick Island can be accessed by the rope bridge and is incredibly stunning – you can even see Rathlin Island and Scotland! Carrick-a-Rede is of special scientific interest because of its flora, fauna and unique geology. It is also a fantastic site for bird watching (which we all witnessed by the foul odors coming from some of the rocks and crevices of the island).
The rope bridge is slightly daunting and only 8 people can go across it at a time, so we had a bit of a wait going to the island and from the island in order to get across safely. The view is stunning, but it is slightly alarming when the bridge sways over the sea and jagged rocks below!
As we continued to drive along the windy roads of NI, Ciara and I had a musical theater sing-a-long. After an hour and a half of singing, harmonizing and “theater talk”, I think we wore out everyone else in the car. 😉 We stopped in New Castle to drop off two young ambassadors who went to stay with someone who is a part of the Ulster-Scot Society and the rest of us proceeded to visit Dundrum Castle. It was quite magnificent! There was the cutest little boy running around and was climbing down the stairs, jokingly playing with his dad and granny. At one point, he shouted in a scary voice: “Hold on, I’m going to find my GRANNY!” It was pretty hysterical to see a little boy pretend to be that serious. You could see the twinkle in his eyes as he laughed boisterously upon finding his beloved granny.
We stopped and grabbed tea & coffee at a cute little restaurant and made our way back to the cottage. We made dinner and chatted together before Dr. Campbell and Mrs. Campbell took us to see a bonfire as part of the July 12th festivities.
What are the Eleventh Night bonfires?
The annual Eleventh Night bonfires are lit at various times across Northern Ireland and is a part of the Twelfth festivities. The Eleventh Night is associated with the Glorious Revolution (1688) and Williamite-Jacobite War in Ireland (1689-91). The bonfires commemorate the lighting of fires on the hills to help ships navigate through the Belfast Lough at night. The bonfires are a symbolism of deeply rooted historical and cultural events that have taken place. The rift between Protestants and Catholics dates back 400 years and is noted in the festivities leading up to the Twelfth. As of recent, some bonfires have involved sectarian and loyalist paramilitary displays, with symbols of Irish nationalism/republicanism and symbols of Catholicism burned in the bonfires. Some bonfires will contain sectarian slogans, such as “Kill All Taigs” (KAT) or “Kill All Irish” (KAI).*
*This is not to say that all bonfires are this way or all individuals participate in such violence. In recent years, both Protestants and Catholics strive to work together in peace as traditions are upheld every year.
Some bonfires can become violent or rowdy, due to alcohol-fueled violence amongst those in attendance. Some have raised concerns for health, safety and the environment because bonfires are built as large as possible and are oftentimes surrounded by houses and other large buildings. Roads and homes have been damaged in years past and can sometimes require clean-up and repairs.
Sir Tryone Guthrie connection
Dr. Campbell and I discussed theatre on the way to Giant’s Causeway and he noted the historical background of Tyrone Guthrie and asked about his relationship to Minnesota. Frankly, I didn’t know too much about his background, so I wanted to share here for other Minnesotans to read about (and other interested individuals, too!).
Sir Tyrone Guthrie joined BBC in Belfast, Northern Ireland on September 15, 1924 and his voice was the first heard on the new service. He became a director for various productions around the world: Scotland, Australia, England, America, Finland and Israel. He became the first director of the Old Minnesota Classical Theatre in Minneapolis, now known as the Guthrie Theater. The theater opened on May 7, 1963 with a production of Hamlet. The idea grew out of a series of conversations between Sir Tyrone Guthrie and his colleagues, Oliver Rea and Peter Zeisler, who wanted to create a theater a part from Broadway. The Guthrie stood out from many companies due to its unique structure and now works in partnership with the University of Minnesota and its B.F.A. theater majors to create a unique Artists-in-Residency program. The Guthrie is known for its productions, history and programs and is a “living organization reflecting the culture and human spirit of its audiences today.”