Saturday, 24 August 2013

A Money Challenge Involving Frugal Fun and Travel

A Frugal Trip to Northern Ireland.

This is the summary of our frugal day trip of Thursday 22nd August 2013. It began at 5am on Thursday 22nd August and ended at about 11.30pm that same day. When we got to where we were going, the sun shone!

I hadn't been to Northern Ireland since 2009, when we went for the day to explore Belfast, enabling me to tick off 'Visit Ireland' from my list of 'things to do' for that year.
The Challenge - A budget of £100 to complete another couple of items from my bucket list.

This trip took care of items 8 and 9 out of a possible 10 on my current list, so I have now moved number 10 to a new list and made it number 1 - you know, on accounts of my still being here and actually managing to achieve it? I need a new list so there are other things to move on to during and after the final quest from my previous list - in search of Aurora Borealis.
The Bucket List - Items 8 and 9
8. Visit the Giant's Causeway
9. Walk across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Budget = £100 for two of us (I seldom go anywhere alone, I'm a wimp.)

Northern Ireland is quite convenient for those of us living here in the sometimes forgotten southwest corner of Scotland. We're now 26 miles from the ferry port, since they closed down Stranraer and moved all operations to Cairnryan. This is a blog post about fulfilling an ambition on a small budget.

Trip to Northern Ireland's Antrim Coast

Fuel to and from port - £8.70 
Secure parking for the day - £5
Return coach and ferry tickets - £32 x 2 = £64
Carrick-a-Rede Bridge (group) fees - 2 x £5 = £10
Giants Causeway - FREE (We didn't go in the visitor centre or use the shuttle bus service.)
Coffees on the ferry - 2 x £2.50 = £5 (Including as many  free refills as you want.)

Total = £92.70 or £46.35 per person

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is under the control of the National Trust, so members can walk across to the tiny island free of charge. (My membership lapsed some time ago into the depths of non-frugality.) The queues for crossing this bridge are staggering, meaning we had no time to explore the area - by the time we crossed to the island, we'd to about turn and rush back to catch the mini-bus. For those of us who were on the tour, we were charged £5 per person, which I thought was a little naughty; the National Trust webpage clearly states £4 per person in a group. I guess the tour company make themselves an extra £1 per person by issuing these tickets but that £1 difference could have covered the cost of a certificate to say you crossed the rope bridge. We didn't bother buying one after that.

The Giant's Causeway
This is as awesome to walk on as it looks, although the place was absolutely mobbed with fellow tourists and day-trippers. Despite this, we did find a quiet spot to sit down and eat our sandwiches while taking in the magnificent views of the stones, sea and surrounding cliffs. In the event I am ever fortunate enough to return to this area, I would choose to spend more of my day exploring these surrounding paths and rocky outcrops in an attempt to fully appreciate the scale of the Giant's Causeway.
The view we had from our chosen picnic spot on the Giant's Causeway.
The stones themselves are quite fascinating, as are the little rock pools that can be found among them. Walking from stone to stone was like crossing a fantastic, wild patio made up of thousands of hexagonal stone slabs. (They aren't all hexagonal.) Their differing heights made me think of Indiana Jones attempting to avoid the one step that could trigger a deadly onslaught of rising and falling rock columns, as they suddenly sink underfoot, casting the unsuspecting walker down into an abyss. I've never seen anything related to Game of Thrones*  but several filming locations can be found around this area of Northern Ireland. In fact, there's now a specific tour for fans to visit these filming locations.
The Giant's Causeway is now a world heritage site and has a very modern visitor centre of eco-friendly design. The building is set into the hillside and completely disguised from above by its turfed roof, over which you can walk. The first I realised I was on the roof was when passing the massive skylight windows. Many people were walking over these, but I found that a little disconcerting. The other rather disconcerting thing about this visitor centre is that it houses the main public toilets, tea room/restaurant and the gift shops. Nothing bad in that, you might think, except that it would have cost us £8.50 each just to get into the building! No thank you - a walk over the roof and down to the shore to appreciate the natural wonders of the Giant's Causeway was sufficient for us. There is a shuttle bus available, but this costs an extra £2 per person, again not very frugal or green, for that matter. Besides, it's only a short walk for anyone with a modicum of fitness.

Old Bushmills Distillery

Old Bushmills distillery is said to be the oldest licensed whisky distillery in the world, funded in 1608. Our day trip included a brief stop here, just long enough for a quick trip around the visitor centre shop and for some photo-taking. This hadn't been part of our original itinerary, but it was a worthwhile stop just to be able to say we've been. Needless to say, we neither imbibed nor purchased any bottles of Bushmills whiskey.

By pre-booking the day trip tickets, travelling as foot passengers and taking all our own food with us, this made for a very frugal set of life experiences and provided us with some great memories. The Giant's Causeway made me think that a trip to Staffa and a visit to Fingal's Cave might well become a feature on a future list of 'things to do' but, then again, the site of the sea-going liner sailing out of Belfast harbour made me think of cruising a little further afield, which means I would also need to renew my passport and find a willing companion with similar goals and aspirations. Hmm... I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

I don't think we did too badly considering how much we packed into our day. 5 hours of cruising, 'Brave' playing on the big screen, free Wi-Fi on board, all the coffee we could drink, some crochet time for relaxation and a lovely bit of top-up suntan while out enjoying some of Northern Ireland's top visitor spots and we each came home with change to spare. At less than £50 per person, this has to be a trip worth making.
I'd like to thank frugal friend who accompanied me on this trip, making it possible for me to travel to Ireland in the first place - her excellent company was much appreciated. I think we chatted non-stop from the minute the day began until we got home again. Hopefully, she managed to find some new inspiration for future gem stone creations while we were off on our travels.

Until next time,
NYK in Frugaldom

* Affiliated link


  1. Delighted the sun was out in welcome for you and that you were able to stay within budget.

    1. Despite the mix-ups and changes to tour itinerary, we had a great day, well worth the visit and it was easy to stay within budget, especially when so little time gets spent in any one location. Carnlough was the other place we stopped plus a very brief stop at the viewpoint overlooking White Park Bay = what a glorious beach that has!

  2. argh blogger just ate my comment. Try again...

    Thank you so much for this post and for adding the prices. We will visit family at the end of September in south west Scotland. we normally go to Edinburgh for the day. you have given me the perfect day trip.

    Thanks for adding the prices, it will make it easier for me to convince people that it is within budget

    1. Don't forget Stena also accept Tesco Club Card points, cant say exactly how it works now as I no longer have any Tesco points, but worth investigating. There's also free travel for students (Ts & Cs apply) plus special early bird £5 return for foot passengers. They usually have some awesome deals available and they seem to be updating their website just now.

  3. Sounds like you had the most fantastic day in Ireland NYK.

    Thanks for sharing the pricing...this has given me the confidence to try some frugal trips myself.
    Have a great weekend dear lady.

    1. Thank you :) I can highly recommend these frugal trips, they almost make me want my bus pass! LOL I have a few more trips in the planning pipeline and would like to take eldest DGD with me, as I think she's old enough to start exploring the country and having some fun while doing it. :)

      Have a great weekend, glad this blog posts has been helpful. :)

  4. It's inspirational for others to see just how much fun and different experiences you managed to pack into your frugal day trip Nyk! Would love to see the Giant's Causeway one day but have only managed a trip to Eire to date.

    1. I'd love to go exploring all the cliff walks but know there are just as many, probably more, that I want to explore here in Scotland. Staffa looks amazing and you can land on the island and walk to Fingal's Cave, apparently. Only learned that via Wiki this afternoon. :)

  5. How amazing! Another wonderful experience now crossed off your list.

    Frugal fun and travel indeed.

    Sft x

    1. I have now begun the next list and will budget ach trip to within a penny of my life. LOL Nothing as far-flung as your expeditions, though, I've far too much still to explore right here without jet-setting. Cruising still looks fun, though, especially northwards during Aurora Borealis season! :)

  6. Well done on keeping within your budget and managing to get those items ticked off your bucket list!

    Thursday must have been the day for N.Ireland/Scotland day trips. We met up with good friends on Thursday at M&D's at Strathclyde Country Park. They'd managed to get a good deal for the family to get the ferry and bus from N.Ireland to come over for the day. A bit of a different trip to yours, but with 5 under 12's, a good day at the fair was had.

    Look forward to hearing about you ticking more off your bucket list!

    1. Sara,, where are you based? I grew up in Motherwell district and remember them building Strathclyde Park! LOL M&D's was a later addition, so I have never actually been there but my kids (in their 20's now) have been often. :)

      Still to complete my next list but will update the page as I include new things to do. :)

  7. This is worthwhile thinking about for when we next travel to Britain. How far is the ferry from Carlisle?


    1. I would reckon it to be just over 100 miles from Carlisle to Cairnryan, but the Belfast bus runs that route twice a day, so it's easier to get to the ferry terminal from there than it is from here, if you are travelling without a car. LOL

  8. So Glad that you had such a good day. Want to go back again and take D as he's never been. It was Kyle's adventure playground until he was about 2 1/2 as we lived not far away for awhile.


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