A Weekend in Northern Ireland

When we were traveling around Ireland, my girlfriend and I also paid a visit to Northern Ireland, the British part of the island. We took a bus from Dublin, where we spent most of our time, to Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital. Buses, by the way, are by far the best form of public transport in Ireland.

Belfast is, as you will most likely know, a city with a rather violent recent history. It is also the city where the Titanic was built . Those were the two things that I knew about the city before we went there. I think it’s vital not to have high expectations when traveling, because they can only lead to disappointment. I didn’t expect much from Belfast, but I’m not lying when I say that the city blew me away.

Belfast City Hall
Titanic Memorial in front of the Belfast City Hall

It became my favorite city on the entire island after Kilkenny, but that’s really just a small town.

Weekend Breaks in Belfast Northern Ireland

We spent three full days in Northern Ireland, two of them exploring Belfast and the third traveling along the absolutely marvelous Antrim Coast.

Day 1: West Belfast

One of the best ways to explore Belfast, and particularly West Belfast, is a so-called Black Taxi Tour. We decided against that, though, because it’s also fairly expensive. You can also rent a car at Belfast Airport if you feel like driving. We simply walked around.

This is not a pretty place, but that’s not what attracts visitors in the first place. It is where most of Belfast’s fights and battles took place; it was literally a war zone not too long ago. Even two decades ago it wouldn’t have been impossible to walk around the area like we did. There’s still a feeling of tension going over there nowadays, and it’s advised to stay away on ‘march days’.

Weekend Breaks in Belfast Northern Ireland: Peace Wall in West Belfast
The Peace Wall

The two main roads in West Belfast are Falls Road and Shankill Road, which are respectively the Catholic republican and Protestant loyalist neighborhoods. Although peace has been restored, the two neighborhoods are still separated by a wall, the Peace Wall, which has fortified gates that can be shut in case tensions flare up again.

Weekend Breaks in Belfast Northern Ireland: Political Murals in West Belfast
Political Murals in West Belfast

The main highlight in West Belfast is the murals that can be seen all over the place.  There were meant to provoke, show political points of view, protest, and even glorify terrorist groups.

Day 2: Titanic Quarter

Belfast’s docklands were the world’s epicenter of shipbuilding in the beginning of the 20th century. Several enormous ships were fitted out there, but the most famous of them all was RMS Titanic, which was launched in 1912. At the time it was the largest ship ever built.

Weekend Breaks in Belfast Northern Ireland: Thompson Graving Dock, Belfast
Thompson Graving Dock, Belfast

Nowadays, the area doesn’t look anything like what it used to a century ago, although some of the docks, including of course the Titanic’s fitting dock, can still be visited.

Weekend Breaks in Belfast Northern Ireland: Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast

This is a surprisingly beautiful part of Belfast, consisting of ultramodern apartment buildings, waterfront parks and the futuristic Titanic Belfast museum.

Day 3: Antrim Coast

On the third day we went and explored the glorious Antrim Coast, which extends from Belfast all the way to the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Again, we took a bus – this time a tour. These tours were generally fairly cheap and always convenient, but the price that that you do pay is a total lack of freedom.

Weekend Breaks in Belfast Northern Ireland: Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle

Our tour led past spectacular places, such as Carrickfergus Castle, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the Bushmills Distillery, which is the oldest legal whiskey distillery in the world.

Weekend Breaks in Belfast Northern Ireland: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Our fun-and-history-filled weekend in Belfast, Northern Ireland ended at the fantastic Giant’s Causeway – still one of my favorite places in all of Ireland.

Weekend Breaks in Belfast Northern Ireland: Giant's Causeway
Giant’s Causeway

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About Bram

Website: http://www.travel-experience-live.com

Bram is a Belgian guy who's currently living in the USA. For over four years now, he has been wandering the globe, with jobs here and there in between. So far, his travels have taken him to four continents and twenty-two countries. Bram likes to try different styles of travelling: from backpacker and adventurer to tourist and local, he has been all those stereotypes and probably will be many more in the future. You can follow his adventures on his travel blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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