I was recently in Belfast with a group of friends, and we decided we'd like to go on a bus trip to Giant's Causeway. McComb's has their office in the hostel where were were staying, so we decided to go with them (We had first looked at the Paddywagon trip... I wish we had gone with them).
Anyhow, we left the hostel at 9:15 and headed to our first stop, Carrickfergus Castle. The driver, Stephen, talked to the passengers over the microphone as if we were children, chastising passengers when they talked over his commentary. At one point, he "shhhh"ed the passengers! I found it rude and insulting, as everyone on the tour was an adult. Frankly, we paid for the trip, and if we want to talk to each other, we were going to. We weren't in any way loud or distracting. He was just upset that we weren't silent for his commentary.
At the first stop, the driver informed us that the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant's causeway were not free. He told us that they were £6.50 each, but that we could buy a ticket from him in advance for £10.00 that would cover both admissions. He explained especially that at the Giant's Causeway, without the ticket, we wouldn't be able to go into the visitors center, which had the gift shops, coffee shop, and toilets, or use the shuttle busses. It seemed like a good deal at the time, so I bought it (as did many others).
We drove up the coast road, and it really was a nice drive. However, the driver's jokes weren't funny, especially because there were a lot of non-native English speakers. At one point he said, "Does anyone know why the paint the sheep different colors? To tell the Protestant ones from the Catholic ones!" Not really that funny, because some of the non-native speakers took his statement literally, and we had to explain that he was joking.
We then got to the site where the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge is. The fact of the matter is, you can walk around all of the trails for free. You only have to pay if you are crossing the bridge itself. That was the first moment where I had an inkling that the driver wasn't totally honest with us. Also, when we got there, one woman asked the driver to purchase the double pass for both, and he refused to sell it to her. He told her that it was a special offer and that if she didn't buy it when he first offered, too bad.
So we did cross the rope bridge, and it was great. But still, I wasn't happy with the driver, and it only got worse. After we left, we headed to Dunlance Castle, but it turns out that it's not even a visit. He stops the bus for about 2.5 minutes so we could get out and take a photo, but we didn't even get close to it.
Next, the driver gave us a big story about how they had tried all of the different places for lunch, but that eating at the Bushmills distillery was the best. He told us that the restaurant served Guinness and Steak Pie as a specialty, and he rattled off a few other items. He then told us that we wouldn't have enough time for the Bushmills tour, but lunch would be worth it. It wasn't. When we got there, it turns out that the "restaurant" was actually a cafeteria run by the same company (Aramark) that runs the canteen at the University I work at. Talk about disappointment. It was the same mass-produced food that I see every day and there was nothing special about it. The driver had made it sound like the Guinness and Steak Pie was a specialty, but it was just barely suitable. I would have much rather eaten at a local pub or something.
We then headed on to Giant's Causeway. When we got there, it became apparent that we had been totally snowballed. Yes, it was true that to get into the visitors center, (which had the gift shops, coffee shop, and toilets), you needed to buy a ticket. However, RIGHT NEXT to the visitors center, there was another building with a pub, restaurant, toilets, souvenir shop, and snack shop! He basically made it seem like we wouldn't be able to use the toilets or purchase a beverage unless we bought this ticket. I felt like such a fool. When I mentioned this, he said, "Well, the ticket includes an audio tour." Seriously, what did I need an audio tour for when I was going to be walking along rocks and stuff? Also you did not need the ticket to walk the road out to the cliffs. That is completely free, even though he made it seem like you needed a ticket. And, the shuttle bus he mentioned when trying to sell us the tickets was an additional £1 each way. You can guess that I didn't use them.
The causeway itself and the surrounding trails are beautiful, and I'm glad I made it out there. Next time, we'll either rent a car or find another company. I felt conned, and frankly was embarrassed that I got taken advantage of. I'm generally travel savvy and don't get sucked into tourist traps, but he was certainly misleading, and I won't travel with the company again, nor will I recommend it to any friends.
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