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The best way to avoid the crowds and get under the skin of a place is to explore it with a local friend. That’s what walking the Causeway Coast with Eimear Flanagan or one of her team feels like. These are ‘their’ cliffs, they are proud of this landscape and delighted to share it with visitors.
This five-mile walk through the heart of Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site is a personal discovery of a spectacular coastline. The National Trust Giant’s Causeway attracts upwards of a million visitors a year – and rightly so – but few people will get to experience it quite like this. With this experience you’ll see, and hear, so much more than the average visitor to the Giant’s Causeway. “There’s so much more to the Giant’s Causeway than the main attraction,” says Eimear. “Our tour is never the same twice, depending on how Mother Nature is playing that day. The landscape is showstopping. It feels like you’re accessing something unknown, remote.”
Early in the tour you’ll see the ruins of Dunseverick Castle, which St Patrick is said to have visited back in the 5th century. As you embark on your cliff walk, your guide points out flora and fauna; there are juicy blackberries and lilac harebell in summer, and vibrant yellow gorse in spring (which, according to Eimear, smells of coconut when in full bloom). The rolling green hills lie in repose and are dotted with sheep and ponies, a gentle pastoral scene which contrasts starkly to the ocean underneath you. Some days, the sea seems flat calm; other times, it is really pretty wild.
On a clear day, your guide will be able to point out Rathlin Island in the distance, and tell you about island life. You might also spot the Mull of Kintyre, or Donegal, or hear tales of the ancient kingdom of Dalriada. And of course, there is plenty of geology along the way too. You arrive at the grand finale, the hugely popular and iconic Grand Causeway. These amazing formations, the result of a volcanic eruption, date back up to 65 million years. There’s little choice but to feel refreshed, revived and invigorated. “There’s a feeling I get almost every single time I come here, and I’ve walked the route hundreds and hundreds of times,” Eimear notes. “There’s something in our DNA as humans, connecting with the DNA of the natural environment. It’s a deep connection with nature."
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