After being announced as one of the ’12 trips everyone should take in 2017′ in the Independent Newspaper at the end of last year, Belfast was catapulted into the spotlight for all of us travel lovers and tourists alike to flock. Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, its name means “rivermouth of the sandbanks”.
I thought I would write this blog as I had the pleasure of visiting Belfast and the Causeway in early 2015 before SOSTRAVELUK was born! I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the area and what there is to see and do. Feel free to contact me about any information for future trips.
After an early morning flight of 55 minutes from Newcastle, we arrived. Lucky for us we had shared this experience with our friends from Manchester, who were both born and bred in Northern Ireland. Our very own tour guides!! We chose to pick a long weekend to explore Belfast and the Causeway, friday and monday were spent exploring Belfast and its attractions. Over the weekend we stayed at a cottage rental on the causeway. This way you get to experience both sides of Northern Ireland in 4 days.
Whats to see in Belfast?! Plenty.
Titanic Belfast experience, recently named ‘Europe’s top travel destination’ for 2016 in the World Travel Awards held in the Maldives. This visitor attraction explores the story of the Titanic in a what only can be described as a ‘come to life’ experience. I was blown away with all the interactivity available and the ride you can take through the attraction, both technology and history come together so seamlessly you feel as if you are a part of such a prominent part of history. From reading the letters of people on board, to hearing the distress calls and looking at the cabins. There is so much to see you can easily spend a day here. The highlights for myself were going into the Ocean Exploration Centre which is the final stop on the visit around Titanic, where you can stand on a glass floor where underneath the ocean floor lies, learning about the sea and underwater footage explaining how vital it is to protect the oceans. And secondly walking out to the shipyard and going to very end, pretending to have my very own Jack and Rose moment! (I know…)
Prices start from-
Standard Adult £17.50
Children are free under 5 years old
Over 5 to 16 years old £7.25
Family ticket (2 adults/2 children) £43.00
Seniors/Students £12.50 weekdays £14.50 weekends
There is a late saver ticket too, you can see the experience an hour before closing at a reduced rate.
Child under 5 free
Child 5-16 £5
White Star Premium Pass includes- The Titanic Experience, A souvenir picture/Activity pack, The Discovery tour and SS Nomadic
There is also a gift shop at the end, along with restaurants, cash machines and free wifi.
As you are walking along to Titanic Belfast you will pass SS Nomadic. This is a the original tender ship to the Titanic. It was launched on the 25 th April 1911 in Belfast and is now on display in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.
Europa Hotel Belfast
This is the world famous Europa hotel is situated in the heart of Belfast City. It is known as ‘Europes most bombed hotel’ as the hotel was damaged 33 times by the IRA Bombs between 1970 and 1994. It has hosted many a celebrity and VIP, including Bill Clinton who visited twice in 1995 &1998, definitely worth a visit whilst visiting Belfast. We went to see it and crossed the road to The Crown Liquor Saloon.
We enjoyed a pint of Guiness in here, this bar dates by to the 1820s, situated on Great Victoria Street in Belfast. It is a great example of ‘a Victorian gin palace’ and Belfast’s best known and most bombed pub. The pub has been refurbished twice and restored to its former glory. Inside it still has the carved mahogany booths and gas lamps from its origins.
This is a public park situated in Belfast, first opened in 1828. It cover 28 acres and features a Palm House, Tropical Ravine House which most popular attraction is the Dombeya that flowers every February. The gardens are a popular attraction with tourists, workers and students, as Queens University is nearby. We had a lovely walk through the gardens and enjoyed its beauty.
This is the civic building of Belfast City Council and is situated in Donegal Square. Opened on August 1st 1906, it has the architectural style of Baroque Revival and Edwardian Baroque. It has lovely grounds and is worth a look, as within the grounds you can visit the Titanic Memorial Gardens or picnic on the lawns.
Other attractions to visit are the Ulster Museum, Grand Opera House, Parliament Buildings, Belfast Castle and zoo plus many more.
After seeing the sights of Belfast we headed out to the Causeway in our rental car, you can also take the bus and train trips up here. The views on the way are very scenic indeed, It took 1 hour 20 minutes to arrive at Portballintrae from Belfast, which is 60 mile away. Portballintrae is a small seaside village it was perfectly situated to the nearby attractions of Giants Causeway, two mile away, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and four miles from Portrush. We stayed in a cottage by Causeway Rentals, we throughly enjoyed walking around the area and along the beach. We visited the nearby BayView Hotel for drinks and walked to Old Bushmills Distillery, using the car for trips to Portrush, Giants Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
The Giants Causeway is a sight to behold, whether you want to believe the scientific story behind it or the myth. I ll tell you both anyway and you can decide! Legend says that Giants Causeway was created by Finn MacCool during a fight with a Scottish giant Benandonner. As Finn pushed the giant rock columns into the ocean bed, in order to create a sturdy causeway to Scotland, so Benandonner had no excuse to come and fight him. Scientists believe it was formed by a volcanic eruption over 60 million years ago and that it formed the 40,000 columns of layered basalt that extend out to sea. I prefer to believe in the myth!
When you take a tour of Giants Causeway you begin at the visitors centre and walk with an audio guide along the route (available in many languages and for the visually impaired) telling you the story of Finn MacCool, so that every point of interest you pass is explained, it’s marvellous and thoroughly enjoyable. It held my attention the whole way around the site and I left feeling uplifted and happy to have learnt more about this magical part of Northern Ireland.
Must see’s along the way are-
and I am revealing no more…..
This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only one in Northern Ireland, it is situated only 3 miles from Bushmills town.
Group Adult size 15 £7.60
Group Child size 15 £3.80
Giants Causeway is a MUST DO if you are visiting Northern Ireland and I would throughly recommend it to anyone.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy, it’s origins date back to 1755 when salmon fishermen erected it. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrick-arede, it spans 20 metres in length and is 30 metres in height above the rocks below. The meaning of the name is “rock of the casting”. You are allowed to cross the bridge for a fee, if you dare! It is not for the faint hearted to say the least. I walked it and I promised myself I wouldn’t look down, I did and the fear set in. I was thrilled to put my feet back onto solid ground and proud of myself with my special certificate for walking the bridge.
Fees for crossing the bridge-
Portrush is a small seaside resort town in County Antrim, the name means ‘Promontory Port’. Well known for it’s beaches, White Rocks, West Strand and East Strand along with the Royal Portrush Golf Club, the only golf club outside mainland Britain to host an open championship. We enjoyed a walk along the seafront early one morning with breakfast in one of the seaside cafes and we spent Saturday evening in one of the many restaurants Portrush has to offer!
Old Bushmills Distillery
Bushmills Distillery is the oldest working distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland on it’s north coast in the village of Bushmills. We walked from Portballintrae to the village in about half an hour, as its just under 2 miles away. King James the 1st signed the original ‘grant to distil’ in 1608 and there has been distillation here ever since. They use the unique water from their own stream and Irish barley. Products they are known for such as Bushmills Original, Bushmills bush and the Bushmills 10 year old single malt. The tour of Bushmills is an interesting experience especially to a novice in whiskey. On the tour you get to look around the working distillery, see, smell and take in the whole process of whiskey making. At the end you are offered a drink of whiskey or a soft drink if preferred, in the 1608 bar, this is all included in your tour price. The highlight of visiting the actual distillery is Bushmills is the only distillery to make the triple distilled single malt whiskey, where copper potstills are used to distil this special spirit. They say that the triple distil creates a smoothness and richness found in the Bushmills whiskies. There is a shop and a restaurant. The shop sells a 12 year old single malt that can only be bought from there. Whiskey lovers take note!!
Child 8-17 £4 (no under 8s are allowed on the tours)
Family (2 adults 2 children) £21
Groups of 15+ people £6
We stopped by Dunluce Castle on our back to Belfast on the Monday after checking out of our cottage. This is now the ruins of the medieval castle, located on the edge of a rock. Situated between Portballintrae and Portrush. The castle dates back to the 13 th Century when Richard Og de Burgh, the 2nd Earl of Ulster built it.
I would highly recommend a visit to Northern Ireland, Belfast and the Causeway have much to offer all. With reasonable flights available on low cost airlines, my tip would be to book up and go!