Monday, March 25, 2024

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and Gardens, Alloway, Scotland

Robert Burns was the eldest of seven children born to William Burness and his wife Agnes Broun in this cottage on January 25th, 1759.  He was to become the national poet of Scotland who wrote lyrics and songs in Scottish and English. His song Auld Lang Syne is world-renowned, and often sung on New Year's Eve.

Our Cosmos Tour's first stop in Scotland was to the town of Alloway, where Robert Burns was born. We stopped at The Burns Birthplace Museum Monument and Memorial Gardens. designed by Thomas Hamilton, was completed in 1823.

Although our bus tour of the "Highlights of Ireland and Scotland" took place in late October, the gardens were still in bloom and the fall colors added extra beauty.

We discovered that the gardens are a highly sought-after location for wedding photography!

Our view walking across the "Brig o’ Doon," immortalized in Burns’s poem “Tam o’ Shanter.

Walking along the winding paths in the memorial garden and reading the signs on the monuments was a delightful experience.

The Burns Monument was completed in 1823 and soon became a destination for those wishing to pay homage to Burns. 
Inside the monument is a carved bust of Robert Burns and...

...statues of characters from his most famous poems--Tam o' Shanter, Souter Johnie, and Nanse Tinnock.

The Monument and Memorial Gardens were celebrating their 200th year during our visit!

An example of Robert Burns' unique Scottish dialect.

Some of the beautiful flowers we saw in the Robert Burns Memorial Gardens. They reminded me of words from a song/poem he wrote during his short life--Burns died in 1796 at the age of 37. 

Here is a well-known stanza:

"My love is like a red red rose
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Love's like the melodies

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Belfast, Titanic Museum and Ferry Ride to Scotland!

Our Cosmos Bus Tour of the "Highlights of Ireland and Scotland" last October made its last stop in Ireland in the late afternoon in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Belfast is the principal city and port of Northern Ireland standing on the banks of the River Lagan and connected to the open sea through Belfast Lough and the North Channel It is second to Dublin as the largest city on the island of Ireland. 

Our bus drove around the city so we could see the sights from our windows. I have been fortunate to visit Belfast for an extended period in the past and have written many blog posts about it. The first prior post shows an overview of the city and is on this link.  Another post about a few of Belfast's markets, bars, and a cathedral, can be found on this link.  I also wrote about a tour I took in Belfast that I took that profiled the nationalistic strife that was experienced in Northern Ireland in this post about The Troubles on this link.

As you can see from the photo collages it is a city comprised of both old and modern structures.

We checked into our hotel and then took a walk to find a good pub in which to have dinner.  I felt nostalgic about going to The Crown Bar, as I enjoyed a few meals there in the past.  It is one of the most famous pubs in Belfast and I enjoyed the atmosphere there, but it was very crowded with too long a wait the evening we were there.

Our tour guide had also recommended Robinsons Bars so we headed there instead, where we had a delicious seafood chowder, served with brown bread.

The next morning we had our last taste of the traditional Irish Breakfast! Breakfasts were included in our tour, as well as some dinners, and most of the hotels we stayed at served breakfast as a buffet, and the generous hearty food filled us up all day.

After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and our tour took us to see The Titanic Museum!  

The last time I was in Belfast the museum was being built in a revitalized area of Belfast which is now called the Titanic Quarter,  I wrote this blog post in the past about The 100th Anniversary of the Titanic, and this blog post is about the famous "Unsinkable Molly Brown," whose home in located in Denver, Colorado.

As you can see in the lower right photo collage above, Titanic Studios are also in the area. This facility has welcomed international productions including ‘'Game of Thrones'’, ‘'Your Highness'’ and ‘'City of Ember.’'

Belfast was the largest and most productive shipyard in the world at one time and the city's main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, built the ill-fated RMS Titanic.  Although shipbuilding has been in a steady decline the twin Harland and Wolff yellow shipbuilding gantry cranes are nicknamed "Samson and Goliath," and still dominate the skyline as landmark structures of the city, as you can see in the lower left of the photo collage above.

I am standing in front of  The Titanic Museum!

We explored the main exhibit on the first floor of the museum, but unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could finish viewing the entire collection.  You can see some of the historic photographs in the museum exhibits on this link, and some of the Titanic artifacts in the museum on this link.  

Our bus tour had begun its journey towards the ferry that would take us across the North Channel and into Scotland!

It began to rain while we were on the ferry, but we had comfortable seats inside.

As we approached Scotland it greeted us with a rainbow!

Close-up of the beautiful rainbow.

We returned to our bus, which was also on the ferry, and we saw our first glimpses of the Scottish countryside.

An island far off the southwest coast of Scotland--it may be Ailsa Craig Island?

Our bus was on the way to our first stop in Alloway, Scotland--the birthplace of poet Robert Burns--on my next post.

This was our first visit to Scotland and I was so excited to see it!

Monday, March 11, 2024

The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

On our October bus tour of Ireland and Scotland we left Dunlace Castle along the Antrim Coast--see my last post--and traveled north towards our next stop: The Giants Causeway.   My husband and I have been fortunate to have visited this beautiful part of Ireland in the past. I've blogged about it here, and here, but we were still fascinated to visit this unusual area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption from 50 to 60 million years ago

Informational placards at the Giant's Causeway site--double-click on the photo to enlarge it to read it.

As in many places in Ireland, there is a myth or legend about the Giant's Causeway, from which it got its name. According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway or path built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two could meet. 

In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much bigger than he is. Fionn's wife, Sadhbh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him into a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the "baby", he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn would be unable to chase him down. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal's Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.

The Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland is rated one of the top five road trips worldwide and it is easy to see why. The road hugs narrow strips of coastline between the sea and high cliffs, between green valleys and gentle hamlets.  The yellow-flowered shrub is gorse which grows wild all along the coast.

The entire Antrim Coast is stunningly beautiful!

Our tour bus then drove to an overview area where we could see the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in the distance. Carrick-a-Rede means the rock in the road. This area near Ballintoy is the sea route for Atlantic salmon on their westward journey past Carrick Island. For over 350 years fishermen had strung a rope bridge 30 meters above the sea to allow them to access the best places to catch the migrating salmon. Today, the bridge is mainly used as a tourist attraction. It presents an exciting challenge to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year!  It was closed at this time of the year, but we were able to walk across it years ago as you can see on this blog post.

An informational placard at the overlook about this part of the Antrim Causeway Coastal Route. Double-click on the photo to enlarge it to read it.

We were now on our way to Belfast where we would visit the new Titanic Museum and the next morning our tour would take the ferry over to Scotland! More on my next post.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Dunluce Castle on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland

My husband and I went on a "Highlights of Ireland and Scotland" bus tour with Cosmos last October. During the tour, our bus stopped at the western Northern Ireland Antrim Coast to see the famous Dunluce Castle. The castle ruins sit on the edge of a basalt outcropping in Bushmills, County Antrim. Visitors must cross a bridge connecting it to the mainland to reach the castle.

I've been fortunate to see this castle on prior trips to Ireland which you can read on these blog posts--here--and--here.

The castle’s main structure was built by the McQuillan clan in 1500 and was hotly contested by their rivals, Clan McDonnell, who eventually seized the prized location in the mid-1500s.

Legand says that Maeve Roe, the daughter of Lord McQuillan refused to marry her father’s chosen husband, as she was in love with another man. As punishment, Maeve was tossed into the castle’s tower and locked away until she changed her mind. With all hope lost, the young woman’s beloved launched a daring rescue, but upon their escape, the pair of soulmates were drowned in the waves at the nearby Mermaid’s Cave which is located at the bottom of the cliff where the castle stands,. Local legend says she can be seen still keeping watch in the tower and her cries can be heard on stormy nights.

We viewed the castle from a parking and viewing area called Magheracross, where we had a beautiful view of the surrounding craggy cliffs and beaches.

There was beautiful scenery all around

Over the years, Dunluce Castle has been featured in several productions, including the hit TV series “Game of Thrones,” where it served as the iconic Castle Greyjoy.

Many myths and legends are associated with Dunlace Castle, which you can read on this link

Looking toward the opposite view of the castle, towards County Donegal in the distance.

Our tour's next stop and my next blog post, is the Giant's Causeway, which is one of the world's most unusual places!

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