“You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” – By Allison Contreras

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I was not prepared, neither physically nor mentally, for what the past two days had in store for me. I say this in both a positive and negative sense. I’m not going to lie, hiking The Giant’s Causeway was extremely difficult. The cliffs, hills, and beating sun tested my patience as I trekked from one destination to the next. Though the blisters on my feet and the sweat stains on my shirt act as the day’s battle scars, the scenery I was surrounded by was beautifully rich and forever memorable and that alone is enough to make every second worthwhile.

Mentally, I wasn’t prepared for exactly how serene The Giant’s Causeway was going to be. The moment I turned the corner onto the first stretch of shoreline, I was instantaneously paralyzed with awe. It was one of those moments where I just couldn’t move simply because I was afraid of missing any portion of the view. It was as if nature had strategically placed every individual stone in a way that perfectly framed the curvature of the approaching ocean line. Every corner I turned offered a view even better than the last, continuously reminding me that the world we live in an extraordinarily beautiful one. I had endless opportunities to turn the day’s experience into a negative memory, but the opportunity to see what I saw made it impossible to view it in any other way but extraordinary. It was nearly indescribable.

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After soaking in every inch of the Causeway’s views, we made our way to Dunluce Castle. Again, I was absolutely taken back by how strikingly beautiful it was. The entirety of the landmark was made up of stone-covered walls, loosely forming what used to be a cohesive building. This landmark is also one of the places where Game of Thrones is filmed, which I’m sure would have been even more amazing If I watched the show.

It was interesting because the castle, to others, is simply a part in a film. The way the castle is portrayed through media, whether it be trailers, advertisements, or a scene in an episode, can easily allow people to forget that there is real value behind such a “prop.” I’m sure many people aren’t aware that it’s a real castle that was once functioning and flourishing. It was interesting to keep that in mind while I was learning about the landmark’s history, actually educating myself on the value behind “just another house” in Game of Thrones.

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Similar to the Causeway, the following day we endured yet another long, steep hike for the sake of a once-in-a-lifetime view at Slieve League. Though I was terrifyingly close to the point of muscle failure, I was yet again surprised at exactly how gorgeous Ireland is. We were surrounded by mountains and cliff formations that shot directly down into the water, creating a beautifully frantic waves and outstanding scenery. I wouldn’t have traded today’s experience for much else.

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After a long, eventful, and enriching couple of days, I left the tours with a lot of new knowledge and insight into the landmarks that Northern Ireland has to offer. The scenery I saw was something that will permanently be ingrained into my mind, and for that, I’m forever grateful for the opportunities granted to me on this trip.

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