Monday, August 25, 2014

Dunluce Castle, Portrush Coast and Derry

Our final Sunday on the island of Ireland was actually spent in Northern Ireland, which is variously described as a country, province or region of the United Kingdom. I didn't know what to expect from an area that until fairly recently had been embroiled in civil unrest and strife between its Protestant and Catholic communities.  But it had elements that were just as captivating as what we experienced in the Republic.

Dunluce Castle
A visit to Giant's Causeway took up most of our day, and the chance to see that natural wonder was a main reason why we booked this particular trip.  Those images merit their own separate post, which I hope to get to soon.  Along the way we passed the ruins of Dunluce Castle, which dates back to the 14th century and has a magnificent location on a basalt outcropping overlooking the North Atlantic.

Portrush Coast
Dramatic views of the ocean marked the entire area, including this spot along the coast near the town of Portrush.

We spent the afternoon in Derry, or Londonderry depending on whether you're Catholic or Protestant.  The city was a focal point of Northern Ireland's civil rights movement, and the place of the tragedy immortalized in the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday.  The Catholic population was long segregated to this slum area, known as Bogside.

Londonderry Guildhall
The city boasts an impressive Victorian Guildhall, one of the city's most recognizable landmarks.  It's actually been destroyed twice -- by fire in 1908 and bomb attacks in 1972 -- but rebuilt both times.

Londonderry Guildhall
The building has 23 stained glass windows, most of which represent groups such as carpenters, fishmongers, painters, musicians and glaziers.

Londonderry Guildhall
The Guildhall has a massive pipe organ with more than 3,100 pipes.  As I was processing this picture I inadvertently rotated it 45 degrees and found the diagonal lines made it much more interesting.

I couldn't help but be saddened by Derry's recent history, but also hopeful for its future as relations between the two factions have improved considerably since the end of "The Troubles" in the late '90s.  Christianity has enough problems.  It doesn't need open combat and bloodshed between different denominations to further undermine its primary message of salvation.  The fact that very thing has occurred so often -- not just here -- shows how imperfect people truly are and how powerful and insidious Satan can be.

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