Going into this trip, I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what Ireland would be like and, after years of reading travel blogs, I also had a long list of places and things I wanted to see. But when it came to Northern Ireland, I had almost no idea what to expect. Northern Ireland was simply not a place I knew much about, save for hearing a few bad stories on the news. Perhaps heading north without any clear expectations was a good thing, as I was pleasantly surprised by just how awesome I found Northern Ireland to be.
We left Westport and traveled north but, before crossing the border, we made a quick stop at the grave of W.B. Yeats (which also happens to be home to a rest stop). We spent a half hour or so stretching our legs, wandering through the graveyard, and peeking into the church, which featured a pretty mural over the altar and a gorgeous organ in back.
We climbed back onto our bus and, at last, made our way into Northern Ireland! Our first stop was the town of Derry, and our first stop within Derry was the Bogside neighborhood, a Catholic area and home to many events during The Troubles. The Bogside’s political murals were one of the most striking and memorable things I saw during this trip.
From the staunch Catholic neighborhood, we headed to a staunch Protestant one. It was fascinating to see the streets immediately change to being decked out in the red, white, and blue of the Union Jack; even the curbs were painted to reflect loyalist pride.
While on our morning walk through Derry, we saw a mingling of both present and past. We caught glimpses of the modern day in the town’s colorfully decorated streets (in celebration of Derry hosting a music festival, The Fleadh), but we also encountered the past as we walked the city’s old walls, built in the 1600s.
After lunch, we wandered across the Peace Bridge, an EU-funded project built in 2011. The bridge was quite futuristic and offered lovely views of the Foyle River and Derry itself.
As mentioned above, Derry was hosting a music festival while we were in town. While there were “professionals” all around the city, we also walked by quite a few budding young musicians. Adorable!
From Derry, we drove to Portrush, a lovely seaside resort town. Before heading to dinner, we took a quick walk along the water. I mentioned before how the blues and greens of Ireland blew me away in Dingle, but I think these colors were even richer in the north – the blues especially.
We also stumbled upon a small garden which had an interesting variety of flowers. These were a few of my favorites:
For dinner, we ate at our restaurant’s hotel, the Counties Restaurant & Bar. There, I had the most decadent entree: a goat cheese and onion tart. I’ve written countless times about my goat cheese salad obsession while in Ireland, but this was on a whole other level. It was rich, gooey, and oh-so-delicious.
What better way to cap off a day in Northern Ireland than a glorious, goat-cheese-induced food coma, am I right?!