This is only the third installment of my “European To Do List” series and I have already started getting some complaints about my made up itineraries. Just to be clear, all of these posts are hypothetical. At first I was trying to be more realistic in terms of the amount of time and resources I would have available to me, but maybe I should just let my imagination run wild. Think up plans as a roaming gypsy with an unlimited budget. It will at least be more fun that way, right?

The next destination on my list is Northern Ireland.


Why do I want to go?

Because I have been putting it off for a long time. Northern Ireland is like the guy at the end of the dinner table who you’ve wanted to talk to the whole time but haven’t had a chance as you’ve been too busy talking to everyone else around you. That is to say, I have been everywhere else in the UK except Northern Ireland. I’ve even been to Wales. I know it isn’t hard to get to, but it has always just seemed so out of the way – geographically and mentally.

Why else? The north coast is supposed to be spectacular with incredible coastal trails and insane rock formations. One of the most famous whiskies in the world is produced up in there as well, in Bushmills. Guess which one.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also interested in going to learn more about the conflict that has been going on there since the 1960s, albeit much more subdued at this point. Sure I can look up information on the internet, watch films, read books…but nothing compares to hearing about it from people living there and seeing the infamous Derry and Belfast murals in the flesh.

Where will I go?

First stop will be Belfast. Since things have calmed down there and investment is pouring in, more and more people are saying the time to go is now. Lots of cool restaurants, hotels and clubs have been popping up. From what I hear (and have personal experience with), Belfasters like to have a good time which makes me certain that I will, too.

I’d also like to check out Derry as it is supposed to be more “hip and artsy” than Belfast. I like hip and artsy. Not to mention, lots of history in this town. It’s the last walled city in Ireland and also where Bloody Sunday went down.

Finally, I’d like to spend some time wandering around County Antrim, the picturesque north coast. There are supposed to be cute villages, sweeping landscapes, and giants. Or there used to be giants? Whatever the case may be, I’d really like to take a walk out on Giant’s Causeway one of these days. It looks awesome and any chance I can get to see a UNESCO World Heritage site that Gary Arndt hasn’t, I will take.

How will I go?

The easiest way would be to fly. I see cheap flights to Belfast all the time, especially from other cities in the UK.  But seeing as we don’t care about the cost anymore, nor the amount of time it will take to get there, I’ve got a better idea.

Assuming I will be in London beforehand (because I am in London), I am going to take the extremely long scenic route through England, Wales and Ireland. Why? Because even though I have been to both Wales and Ireland, a little revisit to both wouldn’t be a bad idea. I was in Cardiff for a fieldtrip back in 2003, but only for the day and was studying urban regeneration – pretty boring. It would be cool to do something fun while there and maybe even stay over for a night. Then the next day I would take the train to the west coast and hop on one of the Fishguard to Rosslare ferries. From Rosslare I would either make a detour out to Kilkenny because there is a pretty hot castle there, or just head straight up the coast by train towards Belfast. I imagine that 6 hour ride is lovely and seeing as the only two times I have been in Ireland I was in Dublin, I’d like more countryside this time around. An extremely long route, I know, but it will enable me to kill multiple birds with one stone in the process.

What did I miss this time? Anyone ever been to Belfast, Derry or County Antrim? Taken a ride up Ireland’s east coast?