On Wednesday February 8th The transition Year group had a 5.30am start for a Geography/History tour of Belfast and Surrounding area. On day one they took in the Titanic Experience and Harland and Wolfe Shipyard. A fantastic interactive tour that explained how the Titanic was built in Belfast, survivor stories and what the Titanic looks like now at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Day two was action packed. After a 7.30 am breakfast the group took the coastal road of the Glens of Antrim to firstly see the famous Carrickreed Rope Bridge which almost everybody braved to cross. Then it was on to the Giants Causeway which was surely the highlight of the day. The waves were crashing against the famous landmark which made for fantastic photo opportunities. The group were surely taken away by the attraction and a student remarked to one of the teachers that many groups only stay for ten to fifteen minutes on the rocks and head off, our TY Students stayed an hour and a half! After lunch the next attraction was “The Dark Hedges”, a fete of nature that is now made famous by the TV series “Game of Thrones”. Then it was back to Belfast and before we headed back to the Hostel we had the much anticipated trip to Victoria Square Shopping Centre for a few hours.
The final morning was both a fascinating and a deeply moving experience for the students. It was spent with two ex-prisoners, One former IRA prisoner and one former UVF prisoner. The ex-IRA prisoner took us up the Falls road and into the Heart of Republican Belfast. He told his own personal story as well as showing us murals, peace gardens and areas that had been bombed during the years of the Troubles. Once he got to the “Peace Line” where he could go no further, he handed us over to the ex-UVF prisoner who was equally fascinating, open and honest about his time in the UVF. He brought us to bomb sites and murals. He also showed us the Loyalist areas of today, that to our students looked badly poverty stricken. At the end of the tour our students posted messages of Peace and Hope on the “Peace Wall”. It was a fitting way to end the trip to Belfast. We had seen the rejuvenation and the vibrancy of the city which looked like any other in the first few days but were also reminded of the deep divisions that still exist between the different communities in the North of Ireland. We arrived back to Bantry after a fantastic journey on Friday night feeling tired, educated and lucky.