So exactly how much CAN you squeeze into 1 day????
Trip Start Jan 01, 2009
143Trip End Dec 31, 2009
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Where I stayed
For the overview....we had to drop off the Hertz rental car at the ferry terminal in Stranraer. Ferry to Belfast, then cab ride to Belfast City Airport to pick up a new Hertz rental car. Then drive the Coastal Causeway route along the top of Ireland, stopping in Carrickfergus Castle in Carrickfergus, Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge near Ballintoy, and the Giant's Causeway near Bushmills. Then we drove down the center of Northern Ireland and Ireland down to Athlone.
Now, the parking for Hertz in Stranraer is behind the Ferry Terminal building that is to the east of the main building. So once you find it, then you have to take a free shuttle bus to the main terminal building to check-in and pick up your tickets
The ferry to Belfast from Stranraer is, in a word, ginormous. It can fit buses and lorries 8 wide inside it. The interior is like being in a strip mall with a giant food court in the middle, shopping, an arcade, and a small casino. And they had internet, though it was slower than an arthritic snail! You can check basic email, but don't try to upload videos or pictures while you're aboard. Now it wasn't stormy out or anything, but except for the sea going by outside, I couldn't tell the difference with sitting there as with sitting in a cafe...
Once you get into Belfast, there isn't a Hertz rental place at the terminal but you can go to the City or International Airport. It was cheaper for us to rent from the City Airport. There is a bus that goes to the airport for cheap, but we missed it. Instead of taking the taxis parked right outside the terminal, we used the phone right before you walk outside that direct dials to Value Cab, which is cheaper. Real cool guy was driving and talked to us about the drive out to Giant's Causeway.
While I was getting the car in the airport, Jacqui was going through the tourist books and that's when she found out about the Causeway Coastal Route and all the fun stuff to see along the way
First stop along the way was Carrickfergus Castle...the last surviving Norman Castle on the isle of Eire. It is 800 years old. It's in a great state of restoration with lots of informative signs all over the place. They've even got dummies in various areas of the castle to show what the people would have been wearing and doing. And if you go all the way to the top of the Keep, there is a game room with floor-size chess and chutes & ladders. Enjoy the pics.
Then it was quite a drive out to Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, but it was well worth it to stop. The day we were out there it was very clear and we could see all the way to Raithlin Island and the the Isle of Arran behind it
The highlight of my day was getting out to Giant's Causeway. I'm not a light guy so I can't really jump and play around on most surfaces. If I were to jump off my couch onto the floor I'd probably end up in the basement. But Giant's Causeway is like a Giant Playground. I can run jump and hop up and down along the rock formations with no worries of breaking anything. For those that don't know, the Giant's Playground (I mean Causeway) was formed when lava filled in a valley a long time ago. Then as it the lava cooled it cracked into geometric shapes that went pretty far down. So the Causeway looks like it was built as a giant cobblestone road but it's all natural. How cool is that?!? Once again, enjoy the pics.
Then we drove down the interior of Ireland to Athlone. Northern Ireland (thanks to the English) has speed cameras still but not nearly as much as the Brits have in their part of the UK
We finally made it into Athlone a little before 11pm. We were staying at St. Ruth's Farmhouse...which was kind of like staying with your grandmother. This sweet woman Helen had stayed up to wait for us and made hot chocolate and gave us some cookies on arrival. Basically you rent a room upstairs in her house for the night and she sleeps downstairs and makes breakfast in the morning. And her dog is very sweet and it thinks it's purpose in life is for all the new people to rub her belly.