Belfast City Break
This was our first visit to Belfast as a couple. I’d flown into Belfast previously on a work trip, before heading to Portadown, but that was many years before. Who knew that Belfast boasted two airports? Amanda had booked the flights and spotted how easy it was to get a train from the airport to the city centre. Unfortunately, this was based on us arriving at the George Best Belfast City Airport, whereas we arrived at the Belfast International Airport, which was 20 miles away with no direct train service. So, we hopped on a shuttle bus and headed into the city centre and our hotel called The Flint on Howard Street. It was an excellent choice, very boutique, and just perfect for our 3-night stay.
The weather forecast was not looking brilliant and, apart from the prerequisite pub crawl, we had three things we wanted to experience: the famous murals in the Catholic and Protestant areas, the Titanic museum and the Giant’s Causeway. Day 2 was looking the better day for driving north up to the Giant’s Causeway, so day 1 was to be a wander around the city centre and then over to the Titanic museum, with day 3 put aside for the murals.
The Titanic museum is great and well worth a visit if you get chance. The engineering feat was unbelievable, and the stories of the crew and passengers were truly thought-provoking. The scale of the ship was immense, and the museum did a great job of getting this across to their visitors. The route back found us stopping at numerous bars, some great and some weird. Hill Street is the place to visit, with The Dirty Onion and Yardbird being my personal favourite. Great beers and fantastic musicians helped us pass the night away. Another cool place was the Bullitt Hotel.
We hired a car for our day 2 adventure and headed north. First stop was The Dark Hedges, an avenue of twisted and spooky looking trees, famous for being used in a scene from The Game of Thrones TV epic. Next was a short, but weird journey, across to Cushendun Caves. The most direct route took us over a remote and lonely moor that resembled something in North Yorkshire. At one point, we were driving through a foot of snow and in our small Citroen C3 hire car it was a delicate journey to say the least. Our next stop was at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It was a kilometre walk from the car park and then a short, but precarious, stroll across the actual rope bridge. It was erected for fishermen over 250 years ago so that they could catch Atlantic salmon from the small island. Then, we finally made it to our ultimate destination of the Giant’s Causeway. To get to the iconic photography spot it was a long and hilly walk, but well worth it. The area is made up of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. It is stunningly beautiful.
Day 3 and the walk around the area between the Shankill Road and the Falls Road was a sombre reminder of ‘the troubles’ that blighted the city throughout the ‘70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The ‘Peace Wall’ was a huge barrier between the Catholic and Protestant communities, with the murals commemorating the victories and losses on both sides. A lot of the murals have been painted over with happier and more positive graphics, representing the new era of hope and tolerance.
Belfast was a city break that equalled Prague, Barcelona and Dublin in my book. There is so much to do and see. The people are so friendly and can talk your ears off given half a chance. The surrounding countryside and the Antrim coastline are beautiful. We will certainly be back!