Ever heard the phrase “mighty oaks from little acorns grow”? Well, turns out it’s the same for beech trees.
As mentioned in my previous post, I’m back from a few years living abroad and have decided to make more time to discover and explore the great things in and around Northern Ireland. The purpose of this new hobby is primarily to expand my own cultural knowledge but, let’s just say, hypothetically, if it happens to make my Canadian friends jealous and more eager to come visit then, in the words of Charlie Sheen, winning!
Earlier this week I set off to check out number one on my list –The Dark Hedges.
This phenomenal stretch of road near Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, was originally planted in the early eighteenth century by the Stuart family and has become one of the most photographed natural landscapes in the country. What began as an impressive entrance to their Georgian mansion (now Gracehill Golf Club) today continues to astound visitors from all over the world; and for good reason – it’s simply mesmerizing.
Luckily, conditions were great to take a few shots for you guys, but I’m convinced it would be just as beautiful in stormy weather, if not even more mystical. I love how winter has left the trees entirely bare at the moment allowing full exposure of their branches, which hover above the road like witches’ bony fingers. According to legend, the Dark Hedges are haunted by “The Grey Lady” who glides through the trees at night; a maid from the main house who died in suspicious circumstances. Spooky, eh?
This natural beauty spot has, of course, been recognized by us locals for many years, but has recently made it’s way to the bright lights of Hollywood, or rather HBO, where it has been used during location shooting for Game of Thrones. The fantasy series which has turned much of the world into over-excitable, sniggering history nerds (I’m not judging, I’m one of them) films mostly in Northern Ireland, and has transformed several local sights into international attractions; a welcome bonus for NI tourism. The Dark Hedges serve as the entrance to King’s Landing in the opening episode of Season Two.
As I strolled through these enormous, aged arches I couldn’t help but feel rather insignificant in comparison, and surrounded by such wondrous natural scenery my mind quickly began to wander. I thought about how much these trees have witnessed, the changes that have occurred around them over the past 200 years whilst they have remained untouched, and I thought about their creator, Mr. Stuart. In a world of over 7 billion people, it’s inspiring to think how the single action of one man continues to grow and benefit the world for generations beyond his own lifetime.
These, of course, were afterthoughts; my first was that I had somehow fallen down the rabbit hole into Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, and would soon be peering into the grinning face of the Cheshire Cat. I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer… Although the sun was shining, the January winds are quite unwelcoming at the moment, and so with one last look I headed back to the warm haven of the car. As I glanced in my rear-view mirror I saw an odd-looking ginger man dancing through the trees… “Only in Ireland”, I thought, and continued over the hill.
So there we have it, the first item has been successfully crossed off my list. I live relatively close to these trees so I guess after 23 years it was time to give them the appreciation they deserve. If you’re ever out this way, they’re definitely worth visiting; but remember your GPS as they’re very well hidden. I’m already hungry for more mini-adventures and, weather permitting, will continue to bring you more explorations soon- so stay tuned!
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