Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Once upon a time there was an Irish giant named Finn MacCool who lived on the shores of Northern Ireland with his wife and infant. Finn was definitely a cool guy, but he was short, as giants go. He stood only 52-feet, 6 inches tall. Across the Sea of Moyle in Scotland lived a proper huge giant named Benandonner, who was not so cool. Benandonner was constantly yelling across the water at Finn, claiming to be the stronger giant.

One day, Finn decided to build a causeway across the sea so the two could meet for a contest. Finn worked tirelessly, laying sections of the dense local rock in an interlocking pattern leading to Finegal’s Cave on the island of Staffa, where Benandonner lived. He laid the final stone in darkness and, exhausted, returned home and fell fast asleep.

Ancient people, not understanding the geological forces that created these basalt columns, believed they were the remains of a road built by a giant, thus the name Giant's Causeway

Ancient people, not understanding the geological forces that created these basalt columns, believed they were the remains of a road built by a giant, thus the name Giant’s Causeway

The next morning, Benandonner strode across the causeway, eager to do battle. His thunderous footsteps woke Finn’s wife, Oonagh, who took one look at Benandonner and realized her husband was doomed. The quick-thinking Oonagh covered her sleeping husband with one of her nightgowns and tied a bonnet on his head. A moment later, Benandonner confronted her. “Where’s that coward husband of yours,” he demanded. “Shhh!” replied Oonagh, stepping aside to reveal her husband in peaceful repose. “You’ll wake the baby.” Benandonner panicked. If the baby was this big, how much larger would Finn be? He fled back to his cave, tearing up the causeway in his wake, so that Finn could not follow.

This delightful story refers to what is today known as the Giant’s Causeway on the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland. It has, of course, no basis in fact. Today we know Read More

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Click on title to view photo in large format: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is one of the most popular sites along the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland. It was first built 350 years ago by Salmon fishermen, who used it to haul their catch from the Rocky Island to the mainland. Today the bridge attracts thrill-seekers and bird watchers. I wasn’t sure I’d have the courage to cross the 100-foot high swinging bridge, but it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. Not only was I able to stop in mid-bridge and let go of the ropes to pose for a photo, I also Read More

Portstewart Strand Beach, located on the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland

Click on title to view photo in large format: The golden sands of Portstewart Strand sweep more than two miles along the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland. In addition to being popular for surfing, body boarding, and swimming, the beach is also a favorite with bird watchers. With new toilets, external showers, improved first aid facilities, and an on-site restaurant, families find it particularly attractive. Portstewart Strand has been awarded a Blue Flag award for the Read More

Ballintoy Harbour in Northern Ireland was used as a site used during the filming of season two of Game of Thrones

Click on title to view photo in large format: Ballintoy Harbour sits at the foot of a narrow, steep road that descends to the sea from the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland. For years a sleepy little fishing wharf with a pocket beach, Ballintoy Harbour was lately made famous when it was used as a site during the filming of season two of Game of Thrones. Fans of the HBO series will recognize it as the location where Theon Greyjoy lands back in the Iron Islands after years of servitude to the Stark family. It is also where he first reunites with his sister, and where Read More

Of all the Irish cities I visited this spring, it was Galway that most captured my heart. It’s small enough to be walkable, has a quirky Latin Quarter, plenty of history, lovely parks, and a fantastic waterfront. But what most impressed me was the music in Galway. It poured from every pub, and street musicians seemed to be performing on every other corner.

Music in Galway is everywhere and many, like the Galway Street Band, seem to play for the pure joy of performing

Music in Galway is everywhere and many, like the Galway Street Band, seem to play for the pure joy of performing

Early in the day my friend, Val, and I stopped into Tigh Fox Trad House Pub. Luckily, we arrived during a demonstration of Irish Step Dancing, performed by one of their servers. Still following the sound of music, we walked through the Spanish Arch. On a small plaza on the shores of the River Carrib, people were practicing the Tango. In the Latin Quarter, we stumbled upon the fantastic Galway Street Band, a motley collection of musicians who obviously played for the joy of it. The group included musicians young and old, male and female, and instruments ranging from Read More

Basalt columns on the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

On the northeast tip of the island of Ireland lies a geologic formation so unique, so astonishing, that legends were created to explain its existence. The Giant’s Causeway, as it is known, was formed when a volcanic eruption was covered with newer layers of lava, placing the underlying material under extreme pressure. The trapped Basaltic rock, forced to cool slowly over eons, formed naturally into crystalline columns. Though most are hexagonal (having six faces or facets), some have five, seven, or even eight sides.

Today we understand the geologic process that formed these Basaltic columns, but those who first laid eyes on the site in the late 17th century had no understanding of crystalline structures or volcanism. To them, the columns marching into the sea looked like fragments of an ancient roadway, built by a mythical giant named Finn MacCool. Finn was said to be Read More