We recently spent three nights in Belfast and we enjoyed it very much.
However, one more night would have been advantageous. Our flight from England was delayed thanks to President Trump’s arrival and all the extra security that entailed.
So by the time we got to our hotel it was about time for our evening meal – we didn’t have that much time to explore the city.
The second day was taken up with what turned out to be a fantastic trip around the County Antrim coast, which lasted most of the day.
The third day we had already pre-booked a visit to the Titanic Experience and the Game of Thrones exhibition, both in the same general area on the city’s outskirts. This took up most of the day too. We did do a little exploration that late afternoon.
And then our return flight back home was at 8:20 the following morning, so we were up with the lark to catch that.
So, despite a very full two and a bit days, we didn’t get to see as much of the city as we would have liked.
What we did glean, however, is that Belfast is lovely and the people are lovelier. We will return.
Part of our trip around Northern Ireland’s gorgeous County Antrim coast involved a stop at the world famous Giant’s Causeway.
I have to say that it was indeed everything I was expecting, from the cool, wet weather to the very touristy atmosphere.
That said, the place is simply stunning. Nothing can prepare you for walking over those truncated basalt columns, watching your step, while eyeing in disbelief that such a place actually exists, spreading out ahead of you towards the sea.
Made a World Heritage Site in 1986, the Giant’s Causeway lies right at the northern end of Northern Ireland.
The official story is that it’s between 50 and 60 million years old. In a nutshell, it’s the result of strong volcanic activity causing lava flows which formed a plateau, cooling relatively quickly, resulting in the distinctive hexagonal columns.
A similar process or effect occurs when mud dries in extreme heat, though you don’t get the height of the columns of course.
So much for the ‘official’ story. Any self respecting local here would tell you that’s all hogwash.
A Battle of Giants
What really happened, perhaps not that many generations ago, is that Finn MacCool, an Irish giant, was confronted by a Scottish giant challenger, called Benandonner. Finn, who couldn’t wait to tackle this upstart, built the causeway to get across the North Channel to Scotland.
There are basically two versions of the story. In one, Finn beats Benandonner conclusively. In the other Finn runs away from Benandonner after realising that he’s even bigger than himself.
So, using some feminine guile, Finn’s wife, called Oonagh, makes out her husband to be a baby, even going to the extent of placing him in a cradle.
Benandonner is fooled by this, thinking that if the baby is this big, then how big is the father? In shock, Benandonner trudges back across the causeway, taking it down on the way so Finn cannot follow him.
Science versus ‘Myth’
Strangely enough, in the corresponding part of Scotland around Fingal’s Cave on the isle of Staffa, there are some very similar columns of basalt.
Now, the scientific community would have us believe that this is merely part of the same lava flow from many millions of years ago. Of course it is.
Every May in north Lincolnshire in the east of England there is the West Lindsey Churches Festival, ‘A Celebration of Open Churches in West Lindsey’.
The idea is to raise interest and money for the upkeep of these historic buildings, icons of English cultural and Christian heritage.
To be honest, I’m not sure if we’d ever heard of it. The link only came up last week from the web, so I thought it would be worth a visit. We were very glad we came.
Our first stop was at the pretty village of Nettleham, at the Church of All Saints just a few miles north east of the magnificent city of Lincoln.
Nettleham is a large, seemingly thriving village of around three and half thousand souls with lots of local stores and some pubs, a heartening sight if there ever was. Inside the church we were greeted very courteously by the volunteers manning their stalls of old books, games, crafts, or selling food and drink. They were all very helpful, keen to tell us about the church and the village.
Sadly, in the 1960s there was a serious fire at All Saints, the result of arson. Since then the church has been restored very well, notable features being the new stained glass window at the east end and the roof.
Of course, there are no benefits from fires, but one of the things revealed by the tragedy was a series of medieval wall pattern illustrations, of the type which used to bedeck all churches before the Reformation, after which nearly all were whitewashed over.
Naturally, one of the benefits of going to these events is sampling the local cakes. We got a piece of carrot cake and apple cake, washed down by the proverbial cup of tea. The prices too, are very reasonable. We even took away a whole lemon drizzle cake!
Yes, it’s all very English and a jolly good thing to. I can’t speak highly enough of everyone inside, they made us very welcome.
The village of Nettleham is also very pretty and worth exploring, with a running stream making lovely feature.
And a little history
Incidentally, Lindsey, in which Nettleham lies, is not merely a division or riding of historic Lincolnshire, along with Kesteven and Holland; Lindsey was once a kingdom in its own right, ruled from Lincoln around thirteen hundred years ago, before it was swallowed up by the much larger Mercia.
After that there was a manor house here, called the Bishop’s Manor House, as it eventually became a possession of the Bishops of Lincoln. Sadly this is now demolished.
But it’s not all about the past. There is very much to see and enjoy here today, not just at the Churches Festival – it’s well worth a visit at any time if you’re nearby.