The ocean below me, I watched the waves smash into rocks, listened to the kids bickering on the trail ahead of me thinking, this would not be a good time for an annoyed sister to give her brother a mischievous shove.

The hike, a condensed version of the original 33-mile trek of the Northern Irish Coastline to the World Heritage Giant’s Causeway, planned to appeal to my 19-year old daughter. I hadn’t considered her patience or the attention span of her much younger sibling. The 13-year old already tried our nerves a day earlier falling from the clearly marked ‘DO NOT CLIMB’ trees on Bregagh Road.

After our annoyance ebbed, I scratched off the long journey opting for the Green Route, an hour and a half hike, filled with cliffside views of the Causeway. Before we set out, we walked over the 350-year old Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It was there my husband opted to drive to the end of the Green route and meet us at our destination – the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that comprise the Giant’s Causeway. He had tired of our travel companions already, mainly due to poorly chosen antics of the 13-year old as we traversed across the 1,000 foot ravine and the constant chatter as he trio quietly spot Razorbills guard their nests in the cracks and crevices of the sheer cliffs. I am sure he used his two-hour respite from us to quietly explore the region’s flora and fauna, searching out Kittiwake, Common and Black Guillemots, Peregrine, Shag and Fulmar birds.

We set out on our condensed trek. The clear day provided us views as far as Scotland. Aside from my fear of an un-railed path and 2,800-foot drop, the hike was wondrous. About half way in, I relaxed, convinced we raised smart children who knew not to fall off a cliff. We captured beautiful photos, panoramic views and heart-pounding snaps of them smiling, feet dangling precariously over cliff sides. 

My mind eased as the path widened to some breathtaking pastures filled with what we had come to call Happy Cows during the 12-day Northern Ireland family road trip.

The cow moniker came from my husband’s persistent hollering of “COW” during our rides. Having our own cow-filled farm, his passion for these cows seemed peculiar. He explained they look so much happier, prompting a family cheer of “HAPPY COWS” for the remainder of the journey.

Over an hour into the hike, we turned a corner to see the splendor of the Giants Causeway, result of an ancient volcano fissure eruption, below. We disregarded fears and clamored down the cliffside trail eager to set foot on the hexagonal stepping stones. Spotting my husband hanging in a smoothed out lava chair, we called on another awe-filled tourist to take our family photo. We gathered together, sweaty and smiling, with the solidified lava cliffs behind us.

I hollered,  “Say Happy Cow!” 

The perfect complement to a photo album filled with happy cows.