COUNTY ANTRIM, NORTHERN IRELAND. After two days in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, I was aching to get out of the city and seeing the lush, green countryside Ireland is known for. From the tourist information center located in front of City Hall, I chose to book the most budget-friendly option for the Giant’s Causeway day tour offered by McComb’s Coaches. Our itinerary included: Carrickfergus Castle, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
The tour picked us up on the side of the Europa Hotel of Great Victoria Street, just a short walk from City Hall. The day began at 9:30AM and we were expected back at 6:00PM. We had noticed that the sun set in Belfast by 4:30PM—dark earlier if it was cloudy—so we knew we had to race for our time. Our first stop was the town of Carrickfergus, and a quick rest point at Carrickfergus Castle, established in 1177. The drive there didn’t take long, and it was great to hear the driver’s storytelling about our views in his thick, husky Irish accent.
Next, we had a two hour drive to reach Larrybane to witness the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. Carrick-A-Rede means “the rock in the road” in Scottish Gaelic. It was first erected 350 years ago to allow fishermen access the best places for catching migrating salmon on Carrick Island. Now it is strung 30m above the sea and you have the option of walking across yourself or simply walking up to take in the views. On a clear day you should be able to see the coast of Scotland. Crossing is an adrenaline rush, as the strong wind rocks the bridge.
After a brief “photo stop” at Dunluce Castle, we were on our way to Bushmills Whiskey Distillery—the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery in full operation. This was our lunch stop. We enjoyed delicious beef pot pie, sautéed vegetables, and of course a couple of whiskey samples! It was perfect for the windy, drizzly afternoon. The distillery offers a sample of Bushmills twelve-year reserve—this is allegedly the only place in the world that this type of Bushmills is sold.
Our final stop was the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. The causeway is a beach covered with basaltic columns that were a result of a volcanic eruption. This was my favorite stop because it’s such a unique location and you are allowed to climb over the rocks wherever you would like. There is no admission charge, only a fee for entering the Visitor’s Center. This includes an audio guide and access to more information and a small café. The walk from the parking lot to the causeway is brief, but they also have a shuttle service. In my opinion, if you read up on the Irish legend before, you don’t need the audio guide and can avoid the steep entrance fee. The ancient legends are part of what makes Ireland so magical.
My overall experience with McComb’s was pleasant. The driver had interesting—although often corny—stories to share about the important sites we visited and the coach was spacious enough and quite comfortable. They put a great emphasis on respecting your fellow passengers by arriving back to the coach on time so that the tour won’t be held up. My only complaint is that we felt rushed for lunch at Bushmills and only stopped for two minutes at Dunluce Castle for a “photo stop.” However, if you are willing to pay more money you could surely have a tour with more time.
McComb’s Coaches Giant’s Causeway Day Tour: 16£ per person for the full day (lunch and entrance to Causeway Visitor’s Centre and crossing Carrick-A-Rede not included).
The company also offers a Causeway Express, Belfast Hop On and Hop Off Tour, and a Titanic & Causeway Tour.
Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge: 5.60£ per adult, only accessible if weather permits, last ticket sold well before dark.