Northern Ireland

Olympic torch visits Giant's Causeway en route to Derry

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Media captionTriathlete Peter Jack: "It was an amazing feeling standing on top of the Causeway"

The Olympic torch has visited the furthermost point of the Giant's Causeway and crossed the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in County Antrim.

On day 17 of the torch relay, the famous flame visited some of Northern Ireland's best-known landmarks.

It was also carried on a eight-man rowing boat on the River Bann before ending the day in Londonderry.

The flame crossed the city's Peace Bridge, built to symbolise a shared future for the city.

There, up to 100 people were involved in minor scuffles with the police and the torchbearer was sent on a diversion route to reach the bridge.

A police statement said they believed a number of dissident republicans were involved in the protest, which was not in opposition to the torch.

The flame's headline moment came earlier in the day when it was held aloft on the Giant's Causeway by Peter Jack , who has run 10 iron man races and was also a torchbearer in Coleraine.

As he balanced on the famous hexagonal columns, he was clapped and cheered by crowds of more than 1,000 people.

Mr Jack said it had been "fantastic", adding his climb had been precarious.

"It's the kind of thing you don't want to fall on, so I was watching my feet and it was so good being able to turn round and wave at the crowd once I made it to the top there," he said.

The Giant's Causeway is made up of thousands of hexagonal basalt columns formed by volcanic activity 60 million years ago but folklore has it that they were the work of a giant named Finn McCool.

Image caption Clare Leahy carried the torch across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

The BBC's Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson said of the relay: "Today it's really been the tourist trail and the highlight was the Olympic torch on the Giant's Causeway."

He said the relay has been "a real unifying event".

He added: "Dare I say it, the Olympic spirit is really kicking in in Northern Ireland."

Before its trip to the Giant's Causeway there was another precarious journey as the Olympic flame was carried onto the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge by PE teacher Clare Leahy from Coleraine.

The bridge was originally put up by salmon fishermen so they could cross a 30m-deep, 20m-wide chasm.

After visiting the landmarks, the torch relay began when Seamus Reynolds held the flame aloft as it was rowed out on the River Bann at Coleraine.

Next to carry the flame was Denis Broderick, from Magherafelt, who has raised £65,000 on charity cycle rides. He dazzled the crowds by beginning his relay leg with a high-kick.

On its 45-mile journey, the Olympic torch also visited Dunluce Castle on the north Antrim coast as well as Coleraine, Articlave, Castlerock, Downhill Beach and Bellarena.

After arriving in Derry, which will celebrate a year as the UK's City of Culture in 2013, it crossed the city's Peace Bridge .

Belle Coote, 58, from Ballygawley, who was nominated for her work in the community , carried the flame to the middle of the bridge where she handed it over to Meabh Fisher .

The 13-year-old from Londonderry was nominated for her bravery in battling a permanent health condition.

Day 17 of the relay ended when the final torchbearer, Darrel Harpur , from Strabane, lit a cauldron at the evening celebration in St Columb's Park, where 12,000 free tickets to the event were quickly snapped up. The entertainment was headlined by local Bellaghy band General Fiasco .

There were 60 torchbearers on Monday and among them were Stephen McImoyle and Leanne Scott, who are getting married in an Olympic-themed wedding on 27 July, the day of the Games opening ceremony in London.

Miss Scott told the BBC: "We are going to name our tables after some of the countries that are competing in the Olympics."

The Olympic torch relay is visiting Northern Ireland for five days, on its first day - the 16th day of the relay - the flame visited a number of landmarks including Stormont, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and Carrickfergus Castle.

On 5 June , it will be relayed to New Buildings, Magheramason, Bready, Ballymagorry, Strabane, Sion Mills, Omagh, Dromore, Irvinestown, Enniskillen, Fivemiletown, Clogher, Augher, Aughnacloy, Caledon, Armagh, Portadown, Gilford, Banbridge and Newry.

The following day the flame makes a trip to Dublin - its only visit outside the UK besides Greece - and then returns to Newry, Lisburn and Belfast.

While it is in Dublin, there will be a celebratory event at St Stephen's Green in the city centre.

The final leg of the relay, on 7 June, will take in Newcastle, Dundrum, Clough, Downpatrick, Crossgar, Saintfield, Ballynahinch, Templepatrick, Antrim, Ballyronan, Magherafelt, Ballymena and Moorfields.

Later that day, the torch will leave Northern Ireland for Scotland.

A total of 8,000 people will carry the flame on its 8,000 mile, 70-day journey around the UK to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on 27 July.

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