Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

So this is not the first time MegaPixelTravel adventures have visited the Giant’s Causeway, Ron visited the site in 2007 which you can read about here. Suffice it to say, Northern Ireland tourism has exploded since then and the site is far busier these days.

I took the Red Trail which is a bit of a hike but the views are worth it!

The site is now busy as ever and tourists are fortunately still able to explore the site, although there are more attendants around the site they seem to take a back stage approach to managing the site. Although they are best to ask about how close to the water’s edge is advisable.

As far as one can go!
Das Boot!
Tourists Wandering over the top of the Giant’s Causeway
Rock Outcrop along the Path to Giant’s Causeway

Can you Spot Humphrey the Camel?

Guess its time to see about grabbing a tea… oh look another castle!

Dunluce Castle which you can only see from the highway (the bus did not stop) as you are leaving.
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Dark Hedges and Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge – Ballintoy, Northern Ireland

After Belfest our Shamrocker Adventures All Ireland Rocker tour bus continued north towards the coast lines. Along the way we made a few stops!

Game of Thrones Fan? Well I’ve not inadvertently visited two major sites for Kings landing, with Dubrovnik Croatia being the other. I guess I should get around to watching that series…

Proof I was here!

The dark hedges basically line a road between two fields, one end is very popular and the site of most of those famous “Dark Hedges” photos you always see with tones of tourists clamoring to get selfies and photos. We came in from the other end of the trail… less people so viola!

The other end of the Hedges – I only had to photoshop out 3 tourist!

After our brief stop at the hedges we continued north to Ballitoy, a quaint small village along the north shore of the island where we will be staying the night in order to get us quickly to Giant’s Causeway in the morning.

The view from the front of our hostel and pretty much the entire village!

There is honestly very little to do in Ballitoy other than head down to the shore and get some breaths of fresh ocean air. Since I brought my Z6 and Sirui Video Monopod I decided to give some long-exposure photography a go as we quickly lost the light.

Night finally set in and we headed back up the hill to the town
(Photoshopped Star Filled Sky as it Was Cloudy)
The Fullerton Arms – The Only Pub in Town.

Once it was dark we returned to Ballitoy and some of us, despite the rain decided to check out the local pub, the Fullerton Arms. I wanted to try some local Irish Ciders, and get some solid Irish experience. There was live music at the arms and it seemed like a pretty lively place.

Its a Saturday night so for entertainment the locals tried to play matchmaker with some of the female tour-mates and local lads from around town. It was all in good fun but we eventually turned in as we had an exciting day tomorrow and some of us (me) were going to try to stick in an extra event before we left.

Famous Rope Bridge just outside Ballitoy, Northern Ireland

I and a few other adventurous souls woke up early in the morning in order to make the trek to Carrick-a-Rede, a rope bridge that you can walk over (with a ticket). We didn’t have time to wait for it to open, which is fine by me (I’m not the biggest fan of heights – despite what that zip-lining video I took may disagree).

At this point I need to start thanking my Shamrocker Adventure Tour Mates for taking the time to capture some photos of me… I’m too often always behind the camera to remember that I need to show I actually visited places!

Okay, now on to the main attraction for which I’m in Northern Ireland for… the giant’s Causeway!

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Belfest Black Cab Tour

Belfest is the capital of Northern Ireland and a major hub for “The Troubles” where historically Protestants and Catholics have dueled over the fate of Northern Ireland and its place within the UK and Europe. This has resulted in a very segmented city with distinct neighborhoods. The black tours gives you a opportunity to travel to various neighborhoods circumventing the complex series of walls wind through the city.

Our Shamrocker Adventures bus dropped us off in the center of the city where the Black Cabs were already waiting to take us through the city.

Black Cabs Ready to Whisk Us Away

This particular Black Cab company is Big E Taxi Tours and reachable at 07968477924

Away we go!

After learning about the catholic struggle during the troubles we moved to a location which separates the city with a significantly taller wall (taller than the Berlin wall) which is known as the “Belfast Peace Wall” as it separates the warring communities and keeps the peace.

A major street now has a walls on both sides

The black cab drivers gave us markers so that we could write on the wall, quite a few people took them up on their offer.

Next the cabs brought us to other side of the Peace Wall and a monument garden for people who were killed during the troubles called the Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden.

Finally the tour was done and we got dropped off at the St. George Market to wander the stalls in search of lunch and any trinkets we might spy and want from our short time in belfast.

Now to figure out where the bus is parked…

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All Ireland Rocker – Tour Start and Overview

I signed up for a 7 day Shamrocker Adventure’s “All Ireland Rocker” bus tour which encompasses the entire of island of Ireland including the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I picked this tour company for a few reasons, the main one being that it hits ALL the major “Ireland Landmarks” you can think of without going in-depth thinking…

  • Giants Causeway
  • Inis Mor
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Dublin & Belfast
  • Dingle Peninsula
  • Blarney Castle
The Tour from Busabout Website (URL Linked)

Now for this tour I am breaking one of my cardinal travel rules, always stay two nights in each location of interest. However Ireland tourism doesn’t really have though kinds of tours offered and still appeal to adventurous souls like me; rather the two night trips cater to a more silver haired crowd. The second thing I’ll mention is that the tour is offered by Shamrocker’s Tour which is a sister company to Busabout – so you can book the same tour on either company. There is a similar arrangement for Haggis Tours in Scotland so don’t spend too much time comparing the two sites… its the same offers with slightly different marketing package. So there you have it and away I go!

Our Diver and Tour Guide

Today we leave Dublin and head straight to Belfast with a few stops along the way. The tour pickup point is the Four Courts Hostel in downtown Dublin (which is partly why I ended up staying at the Hostel).

My “Excited” Face on Bus Tour when I accidentally snap a photo of myself when I’m trying Vlog…

One Final Note: For this trip I brought with me my iPhone 6s+ (with Osmo Mobile 3) as well as my Nikon Z6 and GoPro Hero7 for capturing the journey. Its been two long years since I’ve traveled while I was working on my master’s so I’m admittedly a bit out of practice… I’ll back fill vlog posts on the site as I edit and upload them at a later date.

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Four Courts Hostel – Dublin Ireland

For my first night in Dublin I stayed at the four courts hostel. I choose this hostel after as it was the starting point of my Shamrocker Adventure All Ireland Tour.

Continental Breakfast

The hostel has basic accommodations and walking on stairs is a requirement. Their are three common areas in the hostel, the kitchen galley, a quite reading room and another event room where they occasionally show movies.

Banksy Artwork

The hostel walls are covered with various recreations of Banksy artwork.

The hostel is located on a Main Street and there was quite a bit of traffic noise through the night. The beds were comfortable and using the provided duvets is required.

In the morning I jumped on my Shamrocker Adventure Tour – All Ireland Rocker with our Tour Guide Gemma and Driver Joe.

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Proof – Pizza Restaurant Dublin Ireland

On my way back from Open Gate Brewery I spotted a pizzeria with a wood stove and decided to drop in for a pizza.

Wood fire pizza stove

I was sat outside on the small terrace, I had quite a bit of time to look over the menu and selected the Meat Legend Personal Pizza.

The Drink and Pizza Menu

Once ordered the pizza and Strawberry Lemon-aid show up shortly fresh from the oven and kitchen. The drink was very favourable and I wish I had asked for the recipe as I suspect they used real strawberry exact vs. “Flavours” which we get back in Canada.

Again… I Started to eat before remembering to take a photo for the blog. I was quite hungry by this point in the evening.

Now back to the Hostel to get a night sleep before my Shamrocker Tour starts in the morning.

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Open Gate Brewery – Dublin Ireland

The open gate brewery is about a 5 minute walk around to the back of the storehouse. Unlike the storehouse which is a tourist circus the storehouse is a quiet affair which opens later in the afternoon.

It does require you to buy a ticket online in advance and was mainly filled with Irish locals (accents) and clearly a “date night” destination or with friends. There is a gate with a door man who will ask you your name and check you off the list.

What makes this pub unique and worth the visit is that this is where Guinness has it’s experimental beers. With various IPA and other beers available with unique flavours and colourful names.

Who wouldn’t want to try an IPA which goes through a Pineapple serving stage?

The 9€ entrance fee covers one pint of beer of your choosing OR a flight of beers to test. I went with the latter as you can see below.

Right to Left: Pineapple Cintra, Here we Gose gain, Papa don’t Peach, Honey + Fig Ale

Now I should premise that I’m not a beer drinker but I did quite enjoy the smoother flavours and having just drank a pint and a half of Guinness at the storehouse I wasn’t going to push it. But with some small slider burgers I ordered in addition (food prices were quite high) here is the results.

Testing beer #1

Each one was a unique beer, the two on the right ended up being too bitter/punchy for me while two on the right were quite good and if I had more room I could see getting a pint of the Honey + Fig Ale; that was delicious.

The verdict – Less Beer means I liked it more

Finally part of this pub purpose is to gather feedback from clients and there was a large blackboard where you could indicate what you thought out their latest products.

Most current brews

Finally it should be noted that when I say “experimental” there could be just a keg or two of each beer brew and often each flavour is only available for a limited time so when you visit it could be completely different selection, but it definitely worth the walk over from the store house.

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Guinness Storehouse – Dublin Ireland

Despite leaving almost an hour late from Toronto Canada we landed only 20 minute late at 11am in Dublin. In typical Irish weather it was partly cloudy and the sun was peaking trough.

At the airport I jumped on the 747 Public Air transport for 7€ one way (12€ round trip), it dropped me off about a block away from my hostel for the the night. I’ll review the Four Court Hostel in the next post after a good night sleep but this afternoon I had planned to be a tourist and check out the Guinness Storehouse and the Open Gate Brewery.

Both these attractions you can purchase tickets in advance on the Internet, I highly recommend it as the Storehouse line was about 1 hour, while the open gate brewery was walk in but you had to be on the list as entrance is limited.

Guinness Store House

The Guinness store house is located about a 15 minute walk from the Four Courts Hostel and very easy to find as there are several banners and signs and tourists pointing the way.

Escalators between each level, there is also elevators to one side and stairs for going down.

The storehouse is so named because it was once the site where Guinness was stored in barrels. However the whole building has been revamped into a exotic tourist attraction with a “pint glass” centrepiece up the middle which apparently could hold 10 days worth of production of Guinness.

Various slogans donned almost every wall at the store house.

Each floor is dedicated to various stages of the Guinness mantra, starting with the ingredients and malting process with higher floors dedicated to advertising history, proper tasting techniques, and how to pour your own Guinness.

Tasting Room Sampler with various aromas being pumped in the room to help enhance the experience.

While I found the tasting room quite a cute experience the real fun was where we learned to “pour our own Guinness” out of real keg taps.

Apparently taking this “course” makes me a certified Guinness pourer…

After pouring your own perfect Guinness with the direction of their hands on instructor you get to enjoy your pint of Guinness in a traditional Irish pub setting specifically for drinking.

It was perfect before I took a sip… honestly… would I lie?

Now if pouring your Guinness isn’t of interest to you then you can take your 1 drink voucher all the way to the top floor where they have the “gravity bar” which has panoramic windows over looking the entire 44 acre Guinness estate which includes the modern brewery and various supporting buildings.

View from Gravity Bar

Finally I headed back to the ground floor which has an extensive Guinness merchandise from pint glasses, clothes to other nick knacks with Guinness label imprinted on it. Glassware could also be engraved if you do choose. There is also a separate section for women clothing. Given the location I found the overall prices to be reasonable and not entail a huge markup.

The Merch Store

Next I head to the Open Gate Brewery where Guinness has various experimental beers…

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Heading to the Emerald Isle (and England)

As a graduation gift to myself (who else is going to buy me cool travel presents) I decided that I should finally visit the Emerald Isle (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) as everyone else in my family as done so at least once… yay heritage!
For most of the Ireland Portion I’ll be on a Shamrocker Tour, afterwards I’m heading to Southern England to visit with my brother and some free-styling adventure travel.

A hint of what’s to come!

Given my down-sizing a few years ago in order to move to Toronto for school and a 1 bedroom apartment I had to divest of a few larger pieces of equipment and especially a large assortment of travel bags… So I did a bit of Pre-Trip Shopping 🙂

I also rarely (if ever) drink, for me its more a taste of the culture when I travel, although yes… for some reason I can’t seem to avoid checking out every brewery/winery/distillery I come across. Guinness is apparently the drink of Ireland so I managed to grab a can and give it a go… I’m told it tastes better in Ireland… one can only hope!

Guinness in a can – pre-trip dive into Irish Culture
Evening Flight out of Kingston Airport
Seat in the last row of the airplane #winning!
There are like 8 people on this plane…
Toronto… I was literally down there 3 days ago… (Irony)
Bombardier Dash 8-100 Airplane
Tiny Bombardier Dash 8-100 Airplane landed in Toronto

So of course this tiny little airplane was not going to fly me all the way to Ireland, but in Pearson International Airport fashion… its time for a walk-about in haste to board the next (and much larger) plane!

Long story short… I made it to Ireland, now to find some Guinness.

Spoiler: Guinness is not hard to find in Ireland
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The Rex Hotel and Jazz Bar

I needed a place to stay last minute in Toronto, quick look online and the Rex fit two main categories. It was inexpensive and well located for where I needed to be the next morning. Plus there was the bonus of live entertainment and food onsite which made for an appealing one night stay.

The Rex Jazz Bar (Hotel Entrance is around the corner to the left)
I arrived at night after a long day of surface travel

Check in at the hotel was pretty straightforward once you located the entrance, then I headed straight to the bar where a live band was setting up to play (fun note: staying at the hotel meant you get to skip the cover charge at the bar!)

Live Twelve Piece Jazz Band – You Like Jazz right?

The band was exceptional and played a variety of musical pieces, several of which were composed by various member of the band. Overall a solid performance!

After a long day of Travel, Familiar Comfort Food are the best… wait is that avocado?

At this point in the day is when I remember to eat, I ordered the Rex Burger and a cider from the menu. Wait staff were kind and managed the patrons during the breaks between songs. While it did slow the ordering process a tad, better than then trying to yell over the music.

Mason Jar Cider – Yum!

The Hotel… right… so the hotel is above the Jazz Bar, and the entrance is at the back. The receptionist is kind and originally from Ireland with a thick Irish accent (I’m heading to Ireland in three days… what a coincidence!) and the Rooms are quite spacious considering the cost.

The Room!

The bed has much to be desired (its basically a metal spring bed, good for a night but I’d be hard press to sleep comfortably on it for a week). Also of note while there is a functional sink in the room, the bathroom is down the hall and shared.

It should be pointed out that in order to stay at the Rex you really need to enjoy Jazz music until 10-11pm at night. Because the hotel is directly above the bar you will hear the jazz music until closing. Its not ear shattering, but you can’t turn it off.

Wake up to a Beautiful Toronto Morning

So I enjoyed my one night stay at the Rex, but then I love good Jazz music lulling me to sleep 🙂

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