Northern Ireland

My mom and I drove from Dublin up to Northern Ireland for a short visit. As with Ireland, you'll need a car. We stayed in the town of Portstewart for two nights and from there was able to explore the surrounding areas. 

Photographs by Camille Seaman and Tala Parker

Tollymore Forest Park (£) - 

On our way to Portstewart, we stopped in Tollymore Forest. It's not exactly on the way, but it wasn't too far off track. Tolleymore is a beautiful park with a handful of different trails to explore. During the 1700's, follies were added, scattered across the park to make nature more interesting for the Georgians. The park was also used for a few scenes in Game of Thrones. Walking through Tolleymore was marvelously enjoyable. 

Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House (£) - 

The Downhill Demesne is a beautiful spot on the hillside by the coast. It features three main structures and two elaborate gates. The largest feature is the ruin of the manor house. Up until World War II, the house was a fully functioning and furnished building. Then, when the owner couldn't afford to pay the taxes, the roof was removed, thus allowing nature to reclaim the site. Another interesting building is the Mussenden Temple, a circular structure perched on the very edge of the cliff. The temple was once a library but is now empty. When it was first constructed, it was written that a horse and carriage could drive around the building, but today it is mere inches away from the sheer cliff face. Downhill Demesne also has several lovely woods on its property which can be explored. There is also a very fun looking children's adventure play structure hidden away between the trees. 

The Hezlett House (not pictured above), is an example of what a rich farmers house would look like in the 1700's. It was furnished and felt very authentic. I would recommend checking it out if you are interested in history. 

Giant's Causeway (free if you go after hours) - 

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The Giant's Causeway stones got their hexagonal shape when lava cooled at the perfect temperature and crystallized. I visited after the park had closed and I am so thankful that I did. Even hours after the park had closed there were still many tourists. I can't imagine what it would be like to go in the middle of the day. 

Dark Hedges (free) - 

The Dark Hedges are two rows of massive trees that line a road. They seem to reach for each other, twisting together and creating a dense hedge of branches above. In reality, it is only an optical allusion that causes the canopy to look so dense; when you're far away, the tree branches overlap, but when you go draw closer you realize the trees don't touch. Photographing the sight is extremely difficult, though Game of Thrones was able to manage it with a long lens and fog machines. I visited the Hedges near sunset, and still, there was a small crowd of cars and people. I'd recommend going then anyways, for I heard from another tourist that it was ten times worse when she visited in the middle of the day due to the Game of Thrones tour buses.