Northern Ireland Coast
May 2, 2017
On Tuesday morning we rode along the coast north of Ireland, visiting the Bushmills Distillery, and the Giant’s Causeway. But first, we stopped at a golf course where Father David held the flag.
Conor explained the differences between Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, and “that paint stripper you make in the States.” (He also said that the “e” in “whiskey” is for “excellence.”) The brief version is that Scotch is distilled twice; Irish whiskey, three times; and the “paint stripper,” just once. The Old Bushmills tour was much more interesting than I was expecting. Their different single-malt products undergo the same process until aging. They differ in length of aging and the amount of time in barrels that had been used for different liquids earlier. The 21-year variety starts in American bourbon barrels, then in sherry casks, and the last two years in Madeira drums before bottling. We saw samples of the wood from the different barrels. At the end we had a choice of which variety to sample, and I chose the 12-year, which was aged mostly in sherry casks. It tasted very nice. This was definitely not a Methodist tour.
The Giant’s Causeway is just a few miles from Bushmills. The columns are the remains of a causeway built by the Irish giant Finn MacCool. He was challenged to a fight by a Scottish giant just across the North Channel. So he built the causeway so the fight could take place. But he saw that the Scot was even bigger than he was, and went back home. Here the historical record seems to diverge. One version has it that Finn's wife disguised him as a baby, and when the Scottish giant came across the causeway and saw him, he figured that the father was too big for him, and he tore up the causeway in terror and threw most of the pieces here. Then the giants lived in peace across the channel from one another for many, many more years. There are still similar pieces of rock on the Scottish side around Fingal's Cave, also an inspiration for Mendelssohn's music. (See also the Edinburgh page.) The time frame of this version is more in accord with Creationists' timetables than more geological versions.
Below is a picture of the organ pipes. The giant is said to play the organ just once a year. The formation also looks like a lion's face.