Voted as one of the world’s top destinations for 2012, Belfast is truly a city reborn. So why not go and experience the energy of this Titanic City and the delights of the surrounding Greater Belfast area.
One ship synonymous with Belfast is RMS Titanic (and it would wrong not to mention its sister ship, RMS Olympic). There is no better place to experience the story of its origins, construction, launch and legacy – and delve into Belfast’s rich industrial and maritime heritage.
A selection of specialist Titanic and maritime tours make the Titanic Quarter a must-see on any visitors itinerary. From the cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, Drawing Offices where Titanic and her sister ships were designed, the shipways from which they were launched and Titanic’s Dock and Pump-House where they were fitted out
The cultural heart of the city, the Cathedral Quarter is the oldest quarter and centers around Saint Anne’s Cathedral, an area packed with cobbled streets, superb restaurants which cater for every taste (including local specialties of champ, Irish Stew and breads) and great pubs. Chat with locals over a pint at McHugh’s, one of the oldest pubs in Belfast dating back to 1711 and gaze across to the Albert Memorial Clock, Belfast’s answer to Pisa’s Leaning Tower. It was featured in the 1947 film, “Odd Man Out”. The history of the city is everywhere to be seen, from the architecture of magnificent buildings such as the sumptuous City Hall (home to the Titanic Memorial Garden), built on profits from the gasworks, to other civic gems such as the Grand Opera House, Ulster Hall and the Crown Bar.
The Queens Quarter, with the historical Queen’s University and the Ulster Museum, and the Lisburn Road area boast many information cafés which provide the perfect next stop.
Take a fascinating tour of the Parliament Buildings and then enjoy a stroll around its grounds. Cave Hill (North Belfast), offers a natural-viewing gallery over the city. Did you know that the giant’s face on the hill (a basaltic outcrop known by locals as “Napoleon’s Nose”) inspired literary great, Jonathan Swift, to write Gulliver’s Travels?
A short journey from Belfast City and visitors can uncover the delights of the Greater Belfast area – Lisburn, North Down, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh and Newtownabbey. Set in the beautiful Lagan Valley, the Lisburn area covers 174 square miles of contrasting scenery from the gentle drumlins of the open countryside to many picturesque towns and villages such as Ballinderry, Lambeg and Hillsborough. A not to be missed experience is the Hidden Brewery, Ireland’s oldest Independent Brewery.
For those who like to be besides the sea, North Down offers fabulous coastline, stunning scenery, layers of history, plenty of activities, fascinating museums and delicious dining. From sailing at Bangor Marina and a variety of other water sports, a host of summer family events to the stunning North Down Coastal Path and the breathtaking inland sections of the Ulster Way – there’s something for everyone.
Castlereagh has a wide-range of quality sports, leisure and recreational facilities such as Dundonald International Ice Bowl., Castlereagh Hill Golf Course and Streamvale Open Farm. Why not take a walk around the intriguing range of landscapes from the woods and waterfall of Cregagh Glen, to the grounds of Lisnabreeny House, and see the spectacular views of the city.
Sporting activities and outdoor pursuits can also be enjoyed in Newtownabbey, the gateway to one of the world’s greatest road journeys, the Causeway Coastal Route.
Then there is Carrickfergus, steeped in a past of over eight hundred eventful years, this historic walled town has much to offer the visitor. As the words to the well-known and haunting Irish folk song goes – “I wish I was in Carrickfergus…”
Facts about Belfast – Did You Know?…….
- The Birthplace of the famous RMS Titanic, Belfast’s skyline is still dominated by the huge cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard (affectionately known by locals as “Sampson and Goliath”), each of which is taller than Big Ben, in London.
- Belfast’s St George’s Market was one of the top ten markets in the UK.
- The eight sculptured Maritime Masts lining the east side of Donegal Place each commemorate one of the White Star Line Ships. Other maritime-related sculptures include “The Kit” (containing scale replicas of Titanic’s component parts) and the popular Salmon of Knowledge or “The Big Fish”.
- Belfast is the best value UK city for tourists, according to a major price comparison study carried out by TripAdvisor in 2011
- The Crown Bar is perhaps the finest Victorian ‘Gin Palace’ in the UK. Owned by the National Trust, the ornate interior has been enjoyed by travellers since 1885. Look out for the cosy snugs, elaborate stained glass and antique bell system. It is located right opposite the Europa Hotel and Europa Bus; Train Station.
- The first Scottish settlers to Ireland arrived in North Down in 1606. Bangor also had an Abbey for over 1500 years, founded in 558 AD. You can find out more at The North Down Museum.
- Groomsport celebrates its links with America and Independence day every July. Pay a visit to Cockle Row Cottages, which stages regular weekend events during the summer. Interested in this? Why not also visit Grey Point Fort in Helen’s Bay or Andrew Jackson Cottage, Carrickfergus (check opening times in advance).
- The Queen bestowed the title “Baron and Baroness Carrickfergus” to Prince William and Catherine Middleton on their wedding day.
- Harry Ferguson, the first Irishman to build and fly his own aeroplane was born in Hillsborough. Visit the memorial gardens opposite his birthplace.
1. Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast, an unbelievable, unmissable experience. Located in the heart of Belfast, right beside the historic site of this world-famous ship’s construction. Titanic Belfast is the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience. Housed in an iconic, six-floor building, this state-of-the-art visitor experience will tell you the story of the Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900’s, through her construction and launch, to her famous maiden voyage and subsequent place in history – only in Belfast!
Whilst in The Area Visit: Titanic’s Docks and Pump House, Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices, SS Nomadic, T13, Belfast Barge.
Editorial Note: When we paid a visit to Belfast in June 2013, we did the “Titanic Experience” as part of our weekend in the city. For those interested in the White Star Line and everything about it, it is a must see. Even if you are not, you’ll leave very much more informed. As a guideline the Titanic Belfast takes around two and half hours to do it justice, in its own right. The SS Nomadic is another must see, as it has been restored to its original interior, showing how people were transferred from Cherbourg to the ship. Take a visit to the Docks & Pump House, and walk in and around the actual dry dock where the Titanic was fitted out. The Belfast Barge was actually built in the Netherlands, and is now a museum. A visit is well worth it whilst in the city.
2. Ulster Museum
Come face to face with dinosaurs, meet an Ancient Egyptian mummy and see modern masterpieces with a visit to the Ulster Museum. As Northern Ireland’s treasure house of the past and present, the museum is home to a rich collection of art, history and natural sciences and free to all visitors. From Ireland to the South Pacific, ancient relics to hands-on-activities, the museum offers something for everyone from the simply curious to the enthusiast. NB This experience is closed on Mondays (except Bank Holidays).
3. Ulster Folk; Transport Museum
Step back in time and uncover a way of life from one hundred years ago. Discover town and countryside with cottages, farms, schools and shops to explore as you wander through the beautiful parkland of the Folk Museum. Chat to costumed visitor guides as they demonstrate traditional crafts. Climb on and off majestic steam locomotives or experience the sensation of flight in the Transport Museum bursting with horse-drawn carriages, electric trams, boats, motorbikes, fire-engines and vintage cars. At TITANICa: The Exhibition, discover more than five hundred original artefacts including loan objects from RMS Titanic that were recovered from the bottom of the icy Atlantic, then walk the historic streets and meet the people who lived in her time with “The People’s Story” exhibition. NB This experience is closed on Mondays (except Bank Holidays).
4. Saint Anne’s Cathedral
The cathedral was consecrated in 1904, its foundation stone having been laid in 1899. The transepts were added in the 1970s and the “Spire of Hope” as recently as 2007. It has many beautiful stained glass windows, some stunning mosaics, and an interesting labyrinth marked out on the floor at the entrance, leading the visitor from the door towards the sanctuary. There is a funeral pall commemorating those who lost their lives in the sinking of the Titanic. Nearly four metres by two and a half metres in indigo, it represents the midnight sea, with crosses of different sizes and shapes to symbolise the loss of lives sinking into the dark ocean. Services daily.
5. Belfast City; Greater Belfast Tours
Uncover the remarkable story of the Titanic, the world’s most famous ship; built with passion, determination and pride – right here in Belfast. Experience the Titanic story by boat, luxury car and bus tour or a guided walk around the historic Titanic Quarter. Or see a different view of Belfast from an open-top bus, black taxi or bike tour. Enjoy some of the city’s most impressive and evocative sights, including its open air gallery of passionate and provocative wall murals. Themed tours include C.S. Lewis Tour, Titanic Trail and Belfast Music Tour. Beyond Belfast don’t miss the Hilden Brewery and Hillsborough Castle Tours, Carrickfergus Walking Tours and Bangor Fishing Trips and short sea cruises. All of these excursions can be booked through World of Transport Travel, so please provide us with your requirements.
6. Belfast Castle and Carrickfergus Castle
The magnificent sandstone building of Belfast Castle is a familiar landmark, overlooking the city from a prominent site four hundred feet above sea level on the slopes of Cave Hill. Also experience the sights and sounds of Cave Hill Country Park, a Green Flag awarded park. Approximately eleven miles away from Belfast stands Carrickfergus Castle, one of Northern Ireland’s most striking monuments and the first building of its kind in Northern Ireland. Today, this eight hundred year old castle is open to the public for fun days out and for those wishing to learn more about its history.
7. Patterson’s Spade Mill
Watch as billets of red hot steel are hammered into perfectly balanced spades at the last water-driven spade mill in the British Isles. The Patterson Family made spades at this site at Templepatrick for generations using tools and techniques little changed from the Industrial Revolution. Take a step back in time and see firsthand how the common garden spade is created using age old methods. Bespoke hand crafted spades can be made to order.
8. Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum
Based in Lisburn’s oldest building, the seventeenth century Market House, the Irish Linen Centre/Lisburn Museum brings to life the story of the Irish linen industry and showcases one of Ireland’s best known industries and its importance to Lisburn. Take can audio-visual tour and see the weaving centre and hand looms. The centre also showcases events and exhibitions which recreate and honour Lisburn’s rich, local history. While In The Area Visit: Coca Cola Visitor Experience.
9. North Down Museum
Learn the fascinating saga of the area in Northern Ireland’s most visited small museum, located around a covered courtyard at the rear of Bangor Castle. The story of the region’s history, archaeology and wildlife unfolds before you through a series of exciting audio-visual displays and intriguing exhibits. Key artefacts on display include the Bronze Age Ballycrochan Swords, the Bangor Bell and the Raven Maps, the only complete folio of Plantation era maps in Ireland. While In The Area Visit: Bangor Walled Garden and Bangor Abbey.
10. Belfast Zoological Gardens
The zoo is a safe haven for over one thousand two hundred animals. It emphasises conservation, education and focuses on breeding rare species. Among rare animals housed here are red pandas and Barbary lions. Adjacent to Cave Hill Country Park, Belfast Zoo extends up Cave Hill, so be prepared for panoramic views over Belfast Lough and County Antrim. Like This? Also Try: W5, Pickie Family Fun Park, lagan Valley Leisureplex, Streamvale Open Farm, aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory, Dundonald International Ice Bowl and the Urban Sports Skate Park.
Belfast Nightlife – After Dark……
· Enjoy the cultural experience beyond Belfast at Theatre at The Mill (Newtownabbey) and Island Arts Centre (Lisburn).
· Get spooked with a Ghost Walk in Belfast or a seasonal Graveyard Walk in Bangor.
· Enjoy the music at one of the many iconic music venues in Belfast – try the Empire, Laverys, Duke of York, Black Box, Oh Yeah Centre and An Culturlann. Sessions are also held in the Greater Belfast area.
· Take in a Belfast Giants ice hockey match at the Odyssey or go to the dogs at Drumbo Park Greyhound Stadium, Lisburn.
Find a Place to Stay in Belfast…..
Northern Ireland isn’t just awash with picturesque panoramas, exciting happenings and delectable places to eat – there are endless wonderful places to sleep over too. Countless venues, lodgings, rooms and crash-pads.
With spectacular views , charming owners and a real sense of Northern Irish hospitality.
The range is varied from dormitories and campus accommodation to hotels, bed ad breakfasts and self-catering.
Belfast and the surrounding areas have a plethora of different places to stay, and there is sure to be somewhere that will suit your budget. In addition to the renowned Europa Hotel in Belfast there are plenty of excellent three, four and five star hotels, there is a range of apartments to rent, all of which can be found within the city centre, or certainly within easy reach of the city centre.
There are regular flights to Belfast, from most parts of the UK, with Aer Lingus, British Airways, EasyJet & FlyBE, depending upon your departure point. United Air Lines operates a service from Newark to Belfast International, enabling most parts of the USA; Canada to be reached with just one or two connections.
World of Transport Travel can help you plan your holiday to Northern Island, from a short weekend break to a longer vacation we can assist you in creating the perfect getaway to suit your budget. So please contact the friendly team either by phone or email and let us quote you today!