Two Giants – one Road

Ariana and I took a train to Portrush – just about as far as you can go north in Ireland without swimming into the ocean.  Portrush is a small town just before getting to one of the big tourist sites in Northern Ireland – the Giant’s Causeway.  The Causeway is a UNESCO site and one of the most unusual geological formations in the world. Tall tubes of hexagonal shaped rocks emerge from the shoreline – a result of volcanic activity from 50 to 60 million years ago.  An identical type of formation exists in Scotland directly to the east in a place called Fingal’s Cave.  This gave rise to a myth about an Irish giant and a Scottish giant challenging each other to a fight.  The Irish giant builds the causeway to get to his foe only to realize, from a distance, that his enemy is much bigger than expected.  The mother of the Irish giant then disguises her son as a baby to escape.  However the Scottish giant, seeing the baby, assumes the father must be his opponent and a giant of all giants. Terrified he flees destroying the causeway behind him.

Geology seems boring by comparison to this tale.

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Carrickfergus Castle – Northern Ireland

If you have heard the word “Carrickfergus” before may have listened to a song about the place from Charlotte Church who sings:

“I wish I was in Carrickfergus
Where the castle looks out to sea.
I would swim over the deepest ocean
For my love to be with me.
But the sea is wide and I can not swim over
Nor have I the wings to fly
I wish I had a handsome boatman,
To ferry me over, my love and I.”

Our Airbnb had a view of the ocean from our apartment in Carrickfergus just down the block from the castle.

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Dunnottar Castle – William Wallace slept here

imageThe winds that sweep over the ruins of Dunnotar Castle closed it to visitors the day I arrived.  I got some photos by standing not too close to the edge of some cliffs.  Good thing too, at one point I was almost blown off my feet.

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Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle

To show perspective I'm sitting on the recumbent stone.
To show perspective I’m sitting on the recumbent stone.

image

This stone circle out in the middle of Aberdeenshire’s hills and farms is one of the few complete stone circles anywhere.  So many circles were destroyed over the centuries because they were in the way of ploughs or building sites.  For some reason this one still has all its stones.

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Aberdeen Scotland and the Royal Infirmary

We caught a train to Aberdeen in order to explore some of the countryside in greater Aberdeenshire. This would include standing stones, castles, and simply some relaxation time in a smaller city as Edinburgh was a bit overwhelming at times.  Everything was going fine until we were rushing to the train station and Ariana fell on her face and cried out.

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The Scots – we are rescued

It’s a big risk to talk in generalities about any one group of people as any group is made of individuals.  I’ll take a chance.  On our first day in Scotland (yes this blog is not always in order of events) we had an experience on the bus I’ve never encountered in the US.

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Almost blown away at Edinburgh Castle

Castle gate to Edinburgh Castle
Castle gate to Edinburgh Castle

At 1:00 PM everyday a gun is fired from the walls of Edinburgh castle to signal one o’clock.  Why one o’clock and not 12 noon was one of the details I dicovered on my free public tour and visit to the castle.  The Edinburgh castle is massive and still considered a military base.  Men in kilts march in and out carrying modern small arms as well as pikes and swords.  They are there partly to protect “the honors” or Crown Jewels of Scotland which are on public display.  I was a cold and windy day.  While my home town of Ithaca NY was experiencing temperatures in the 90″ – I was being blown around the castle walls by cold winds

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Rosslyn Chapel’s intense beauty and mystery

Rosslyn Chapel emerges from the green hills near Edinburgh
Rosslyn Chapel emerges from the green hills near Edinburgh

We never read the Da Vinci Code but that didn’t stop us from exploring a place that seems suspended in time and space.  Do the floors underneath the chapel house the Holy Grail or only the buried remains of royalty in their armor?  Whatever may be the case the Chapel itself has a presence of holiness within and around its carefully preserved walls.

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I follow in the hand prints of J.K. Rowlings and rub a dog’s nose for good luck

Nothing in recent memory has brought so much fame to Edinburgh as J.K. Rowlings who drew inspiration from alleyway streets and gravestones of this city when she wrote the Harry Potter series.  We took a free tour which pointed out, among other things the coffee shop where Ms. Rowlings sat as she penned the first book of the series.

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