Blogger, scholar and poetry aficionado Maeve O’Brien is based at University of Ulster, Coleraine, where she is currently completing a thesis on American poet, Sylvia Plath. Maeve has been documenting the trials and tribulations of a PhD student on her blog, The Plath Diaries, for several years. We’re grateful to Maeve for taking time out of her busy schedule to guest blog on this occasion.
‘A few weekends ago I decided to make the journey ‘upland’ from County Tyrone to the Giant’s Causeway. I grabbed my raincoat and boarded the Derry~Londonderry to Coleraine train, arriving at the causeway just a short bus journey thereafter.
Despite living in Northern Ireland, my visits to the Causeway are few and far between, and I hadn’t visited since the new (new to me at least!) Visitor Centre has opened. When I arrived at the site, I was pleased to discover a little vantage point in the car-park that afforded astounding views of the North Coast – I stopped to take a few photographs.
It wasn’t coincidence that I had timed my trip to coincide with the National Trust’s Burns Weekend. While you’ll have heard of Finn McCool, and perhaps even his arch-nemesis, Benandonner, a series of events over that weekend honoured another giant of Scottish culture – poet Robert Burns.
I registered at the warm and cosy Causeway Hotel for the Burns lecture and lunch. Following the bagpipe-fuelled presentation of the haggis, we were treated to some authentic Scottish fayre in the form of haggis, “neeps” and “tatties”… the menu elicited much amusement from all who consumed it! The dessert of cranachan (which consists of oats, cream, raspberries and whisky) went down much more easily than the mains. Indeed, our “honest, sonsie faces” were very glad “o’ the puddin’-race” – the literal pudding, of course. I have since decided that I am not a fan of haggis!
Following lunch, I poured myself a coffee and settled down to enjoy a talk on Robbie Burns, presented by Dr. Ivan Herbison, of Queen’s University Belfast. Sitting in the regal dining room of the Causeway Hotel, listening to the afternoon rain pelt off the windows between bursts of watery sunshine, the setting was perfect for an animated talk on Robert Burns and the Ulster-Scots poetic tradition.
I was especially taken with the speakers comparison between 19th Century weavers and poets: the weavers wove clothes but the poets wove words. Dr. Herbison even delivered a few verses of Ulster Scots which was especially illuminating!
It really is rare that you can have such an interesting afternoon that encompasses poetry, beautiful landscapes, familiar (but unusual!?) food and lively conversation.