Aug 1 2012 By Ben Spencer
Belfast travel feature Image 1
IN BELFAST, you really need to know the best places to go, a friendly barman told me.
I’d stepped into the city centre pub to escape the lashing rain on my first evening in Northern Ireland’s capital. And while the weather outside was dreich, the welcome from the locals was anything but.
After a pint of obligatory Guinness I was sent on my way to enjoy the stylish Cathedral Quarter – filled with lively bars and places to eat.
The area was also home to our comfy and welcoming hotel, the Ramada Encore.
Belfast has shaken off the shackles of its troubled past and this confident and bustling area is testament to that.
A short taxi ride away is the earthier, but just as fun, university area, with its leafy streets, coffee shops, pubs and curry houses. It’s a top spot for those on more of a budget.
It should come as no surprise that Northern Ireland offers a great night out, but Belfast has just as much to offer during the day.
For my first full day in the city I visited the city’s newest showpiece – the glittering £98million Titanic Belfast museum. Housed in a stunning building designed to evoke the shape of the liner, the museum was opened 100 years after Titanic left the city of her birth.
Spread across nine galleries and over four floors, it takes visitors back through time to tell the stories of the passengers and crew. There’s also up-to-date video of the ship’s last resting place.
Another local recommended we try the famous Black Taxi Tours of Belfast’s political areas, for another insight into the city’s history. The 90-minute tour took in vivid murals and memorials on both sides of the Troubles, but it ended on a positive note when I asked our driver if peace was here to stay.
“There are still incidents of terrorism,” he said. “But there’s no appetite for fighting any more.
“People want peace.”
I travelled to Belfast by ferry on the smooth Stena Line crossing from Cairnryan, relaxing and enjoying
a free movie on the way.
This meant that I had my own car for the stunning drive from the city along the Causeway Coastal Route to the Giant’s Causeway.
The famous stones were breath-taking and the area has a serene beauty to it.
A short drive away you will also find the Carrick-A-Rede rope and plank bridge, which sways 24 metres above the churning sea – not one for those with a fear of heights!
Just like the bridge, Belfast is a swinging, exhilarating place.
Visit once, and you’ll be back for more.
Ben visited Belfast courtesy of www.discoverireland.com.