One of our last adventures as an engaged couple was a road trip at Northern Ireland. But before I list down the things you should do in and around Belfast, you need to know that the trip was AWESOME! You see, this is going to be a long post and I just want you to know that it’s worth your time. 🙂
We drove to London Gatwick first and left our car with Purple Parking. If you want to have a safe place for your car before you board in your plane, you might as well get the services of Purple Parking. It is seamless and definitely a great value for your money. You can even book online and things should go smoothly from then on.We then flew with Ryan Air and guess what, our fare was less than $120! What a great deal, isn’t it? Right after reaching Belfast, I knew that I will have a blast in Northern Ireland.
So if you want to experience what we had, read our tips below.
1. Rent a Car – Drive to the Giant Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Bridge
We highly recommend that you rent a car from Auto Europe Company to get the best deals. Their cars are also in pristine condition so you don’t have to worry about having troubles on the road. With your car, head north to Giant Causeway and be amazed with this grand view.If you must know, Giant Causeway is located in County Antrim and was a result of an ancient volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Here you can find interlocking basalt columns which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
2.Visit the HMS Caroline
This is Belfast’s newest attraction and a must – visit most especially if you are a maritime – buff. HMS Caroline is a World War I Light Battle Cruiser. When you are inside the ship, you would be able to see the engine room, the captain’s cabin, galley kitchen to name a few. But what I love about this place is that there are interactive exhibits which anyone would truly adore. HMS Caroline definitely holds a part of Ireland’s history and visitors are lucky to be able to experience it.
3. Explore the Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic
If you are still hungry for more ships, then take a tour at the Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic. Titanic, as most of us know, is one of the most famous ships to this day. In the museum, you will get to know more about its origin and the people behind the massive man – made structure. Similar to HMS Caroline, there are interactive exhibits to make your visit even more exciting. As for the SS Nomadic, it is the only surviving White Star Line vessel today.
4. Take the Train (2 1/2 hour) to Dublin for a day trip!
We also recommend that you visit Dublin for a day trip. Why don’t you take the train and enjoy the view for 2 ½ hours? Ride on Translink which offers great value, fast and frequent services, in comfortable coaches on key routes around Northern Ireland, to Dublin Airport and Dublin City Centre.The ride is also one of the smoothest we have even been into.
5. Go on a Game of Thrones Tour – North and South
When in Northern Ireland, one should not miss the best Game of Thrones attractions. And this is highly encouraged even if you are not a fan of the series. You can actually choose a tour based on your taste. Regardless if you want to see the Northern Locations with Giant Causeway or Southern Locations with Castle Ward of Game of Thrones, Brit Movie Tours can give what you exactly need.
- Dark Hedges
The amazing tree – formation known as the Kings Road is actually real! If you can recall, it was the scene where Arya Stark pretended to be a boy to escape. Just another quick trivia, we owe these trees to the Stuart Family as they planted these during the 18th century.
- Castle Ward
Oh Winterfell! Most scenes from Game of Thrones’ pilot season were shot in Castle Ward. It is where King Baratheon first set foot at Winterfell. I’m sure you will have flashbacks here. I know, I did. You can even see how happy we were trying out the wardrobe.
- Tollymore Forest Park
Tollymore Forest Park is known to be the first state forest park in Northern Ireland. For Game of Thrones fans, this is the Haunted Forest. Explore the area and who knows if you might see direwolves here? 🙂
- Cushendun Caves
Do you want to go where Melisandre gave birth to the shadow baby? It’s the Cushendun Caves. Just so you know, the caves were formed over a period of 400 million years! Historical, indeed.
- Ballintoy Harbour Beach
Ballintoy Harbour Beach was the location where Theon Greyjoy went back to the Iron Island. But Ballintoy Harbour is not just about being a Game of Thrones location. Tourists would also enjoy a number of restaurants and can even buy cute souvenirs.
- Inch Abbey
During the ancient times, Inch Abbey used to be a huge monastic site. However, Game of Throne fans would remember this as the site where Lady Catelyn Stark heard the ghastly news about Ned’s death.
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6. Go on a Bicycle Trip around the City
We would also like you to try a Bicycle Trip around the city organized by Belfast Mic n Bike. This is not your ordinary bike tour because you get to see some of Belfast’s maritime and industrial heritage. Imagine the fun of learning new things, reaching places and at the same time, shedding off pounds from eating too much Irish food. 🙂
7. Do the Black Cab Tour
This is a must do if you are in Belfast. It is highly recommended and you get to enjoy the Black Cab tour and the friendly drivers that will take you back in time by re-telling history on the road. It is very informative, educational and enjoyable all wrapped in one nice cab.
8. Pay a tribute to the City Hall – it is free!
Anyone would be truly amazed on how the City Hall of Belfast was made. It’s massive and covers an area of one and a half acres. Its Victorian style is nothing but classic. In the grounds of City Hall, you can also find the Titanic Memorial. We suggest that you visit it at night and see the structure being illuminated.
9. Learn about the history at the Crumlin Road Gaol
If you want something different yet unique in Belfast, you might as well go to Crumlin Road Gaol. But I have to remind you that this tour isn’t for the faint hearted. Just so you know, Crumlin Road Goal is an infamous prison which is more than 150 years old. Apart from housing high – ranking people, it is known to have a number of paranormal activities. In fact, there’s a tour that will specifically give you the creeps. Before we forget, you might want to have a reservation and note that tours start every day at 10AM.
10. Check the Public Arts scattered around Belfast
Belfast is also a haven for lovers of arts. You just go around the city and you will find more than 150 pieces of masterpieces. Now, we are giving some of the best and notable ones that you should be able to take photos of.
- Big Fish in Donegal Quay
This is a 10 – meter long salmon created by local artist John Kindness. The scales of the huge fish is made up of ceramic tiles with different texts and images that showcase the history of Belfast.
- Monument to the Unknown Woman Worker in Great Victoria Street
This famous sculpture was made by Louise Walsh. Originally, the sculpture was intended to reflect the red – light district. However, the sculptor had a better idea and made something that will reflect women’s rights.
- The Searcher
You will love this if you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, or if you are a lover of arts in general. Wouldn’t it be nice to pay tribute to the creator of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?
- Spirit of Belfast in Cornmarket
This amazing sculpture is made by Dan George and was seen by the public last September 25, 2009. It is also known as the ‘Onion Rings’ because of its look. Irish people are certainly witty, don’t you think?
- Beacon of Hope in Queen’s Bridge
Also known as the Thanksgiving Sculpture by Andy Scott, this is the second largest public art sculpture in Belfast.
11. Visit Belfast’s Historic Houses
Belfast has a number of historic houses which are fortunately, available for the public to visit. We have gathered a few and hopefully you will be able to check most of it during your trip.
- Malone House
Opens at 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Address: Barnett Demesne, Belfast BT9 5PB, United Kingdom
Everything in this Georgian Mansion is just beautiful. To date, a lot of people are using the mansion for different events such as weddings and conferences.
- Belfast Castle
Opens at 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Address: Antrim Rd, Belfast BT15 5GR, United Kingdom
In here, you can find one of the most amazing views of the city as it stands 400 feet above sea level.
- Stormont Parliament Buildings
Opens at 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Address: Belfast BT4 3XX, United Kingdom
This is the home to the Northern Ireland Assembly where you can also marvel its great gardens and surroundings.
- Hillsborough Castle & Gardens
Opens at 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Address: Main Street, Hillsborough BT26 6AG, United Kingdom
Considered one of the best historic properties in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle & Gardens is the official residence of the Royal Family when they are in the area. The State Rooms at the ground floor are actually open for the public.
- Mount Stewart
Opens at 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Address: Portaferry Road Newtownards BT22 2AD
If you want to see amazing gardens, then you better head to Mount Stewart. It has majestic designs and you could see a number of world – famous artifacts.
- Castle Ward
Opens at 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Address: Strangford, Downpatrick BT30 7LS, United Kingdom
If you really want to be taken back in time, one of the perfect spots would be Castle Ward. The 18th – century mansion will give you a glimpse of the location used in Game of Thrones. Winterfell, anyone?
- The Argory
Opens at 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Address: 144 Derrycaw Rd, Dungannon BT71 6NA, United Kingdom
You can do so many things at The Argory. Aside from the beautiful interior, your kids will enjoy the garden and farmyard. Perhaps, you can shop a little or sip a hot beverage for a while.
- Florence Court
Opens at 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Address: Enniskillen BT92 1DB, Northern Ireland
The place is well – maintained and you get to feel the history upon entering the structure. You can also have delicious cakes and tea, perfect way to kill time.
Please note however that opening times may vary depending on the area of each historic house.
12. Visit the St George’s Market
St George’s Market is the last Victorian covered market in Belfast. Don’t miss St George’s Market every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and enjoy wide selection of fresh produce and other trinkets which you can take home for your families and friends.
13. Enjoy your Pint and Cider at Belfast Beer Gardens and Oldest Pub!
If you’re going to have a pint of beer, don’t forget to visit the oldest Irish Pub in Belfast — the historic Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Square! And when you are done with that, go pub hopping at these great places.
- The Bar + Grill Restaurant
Amazing food choices that feature Northern Irish produce. You better prepare for their beef and partner it with a good selection of ciders.
- The National Grande Café
They have a wide selection of drinks and this has become a favorite of locals and tourists for some quick bites. You will also love its atmosphere and most people keep on coming back. That explains a lot, don’t you think?
- Dirty Onion
Would you like to visit one of Belfast’s oldest buildings? Then you should pay Dirty Onion a visit. Everything here is recommended, from the location, food, beers up to the service. One word to describe it – Excellent!
- Duke of York
A traditional pub with amazing interior that will take you back in the old days. It is recommended by most tour guides as locals love this place too.
- The Perch Rooftop Bar
If you want to relax and have a great background music, this is where you need to go. They have great cocktails and the ambiance is perfect to make new friends.
- Cutters Wharf
Looking for tasty food? Cutters Wharf could be your best bet. Recommended if you want to have a quick snack, or if you wish to stay longer with friends.
- The Parlour
Get some of the mouth – watering pizza and enjoy it with your drinks. The price is even reasonable and there’s no doubt that The Parlour usually ends in one’s favorite places to eat in Belfast.
14. Go to Cave Hill and Belfast Castle for the Best View of the City
As mentioned, this is one of the historic places you need to go to most especially if you dream of having the best view of Belfast. This is a spot one should not exclude in their itinerary. We are telling you, it’s worth it.
15. Go on a Titanic Harbour Boat Tours
This is a romantic getaway which I would recommend for couples. But that doesn’t mean that the whole family will enjoy this too. You will be taken to the historic Harland & Wolff shipyards and of course, the Titanic sites around the harbour.
Where to Stay?
One of the most luxurious hotels in Belfast. If you want superb service, then better pick Fitzwilliam and enjoy high – class amenities and services.
If you want to have a splendid view of the city, choose Apple Apartments Belfast and enjoy the spacious rooms and its amenities such as your own kitchen and washing machine.
A perfect spot if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can definitely find the peace you are looking for.
Now, if you want to get the most amazing rooms and have the greatest deals, check out Room Auction’s services. They helped us with our accommodations and I must say, the service was outstanding and because we are their newest Ambassadors!
When to go?
The best time to go to Northern Ireland would be during summer or from June to August. This is so you can maximize the long days. The sun rises at 5:00 AM and ends at 10:00 PM. That means, you have plenty of time to do your tours and enjoy what Belfast, Northern Ireland has in store for you.
Some of the trips and accommodation mentioned above are given to us on complimentary basis. Thank you to Visit Belfast for the warm welcome but as always all opinion written here is my own.