Redland Green School

RGS Bristol

Year 12 English Literature Trip to Northern Ireland October 2012

Sunday, 21 October saw seventeen Year 12 students leave Bristol for Northern Ireland accompanied by Miss Heaney and Mr Hague. After an evening flight and bus journey, we arrived at the oddly-named Vagabonds Youth Hostel in the University area of Belfast. The ominous sounding name belied a friendly and comfortable youth hostel which bore witness to some of the worst games of pool ever conducted on a damp, stained pool table. Indeed even the spectators had to stay outside to avoid the putrid air as ‘The Decimator’ showed off his skills. One nil to the boys as the girls enjoyed an unexpected leisurely lie-in.

The first port of call on the journey west was the Giants’ Causeway centre, taking in the Glens of Antrim en route. So-called due to the myths of Finn MacCool, the weather proved glorious as we explored the unique basalt columns, posing for many picturesque photo opportunities.



Next stop was the city of Derry, our base for the next three days. A guided tour around the city’s ancient walls was a fascinating insight into the history of the city and the area. Adrian, our guide, taught us about the history of the city, from St Columcille’s founding of a monastery in an Oak Grove to the more recent, troubled past. Miss Heaney’s dad was also on hand for some ‘expert’ knowledge, using his Latin skills to full effect. 

After a demanding traipse around the city walls, it was on to the Everglades Hotel, which promised little on first glance. Once inside, the opulence of the four-star rating became apparent and after a lecture from a local historian Roy Hamilton on the Flight of the Earls, it was on to the three course dinner. Yum.

An early start (and an expansive breakfast) on Tuesday morning saw us back on the bus with Dessie and off across the border into Donegal. Two countries in one day! Mr Heaney was on the microphone, drawing our attention to a myriad of details as we passed through the wild countryside. We stopped off at Grainan of Aileach, an ancient fort, which was the seat of the old Ui Neill clan, pre-dating the history of Hugh O Neill of the Flight of the Earls. After this it was off to the Famine Village on Doagh Island.

As you can see, there was time for a spot of tea and a scone before the tour around the ‘unique’ and ‘home-made’ museum. The guide was a wealth of information, having lived in this remote, traditional community until as recently as 1984. We learned a lot about the conditions of the rural Irish community as would have been experienced by the inhabitants of Baile Beag in Friel’s Translations. We also got to experience the haunted house, which seemed to exist solely for the proprietor’s entertainment. A truly terrifying experience, especially for Mr Hague and Miss Heaney, whose screaming echoed through the corridors! 


Ballyliffin for lunch was the next stop before we arrived back in Derry at the Tower Museum. This tour helped consolidate everything we had learned and even presented an opportunity to dress up as the Spice Girls. They seem to like their odd mannequins here! Some free time (shopping!) before walking along the River Foyle to the hotel, where we had another three course meal before being whisked into the city by taxi for a Film Festival. The screening of Wim Wenders’ ‘Paris, Texas’ divided opinion, but certainly provoked debate.

Wednesday morning saw us leaving Derry for Belfast and the Titanic Centre, one of Northern Ireland’s newest attractions. The interesting and interactive history of the making of the infamous craft proved too much excitement for some other school groups who almost gained some extra students when Joe and Jack were asked to leave with them. The confusion cleared up, it was on into Belfast city centre for some free time (more shopping!) before heading to the airport and back to Bristol. Phew!