Northern Ireland

There are plenty of flights both to Belfast International and also to Belfast George Best which is much closer to the city. There is a regular bus service number 300 which goes from Belfast International into the city centre and takes about 45 minutes.

Twenty years ago I would have chosen to go almost anywhere else but things are very different now. Belfast is a city that has been thoughtfully modernised but has preserved its cultures and its architecture. It has learnt to shake hands, move forward and perhaps agree to disagree over politics and religion but instead of fighting over it, they reflect on the futility and loss of life on both sides and mostly concentrate their energies on just being a great city and embracing their own cultures whilst quietly accepting the other as part of their history, there will always be an element of bitterness and anger but none of this is evident in the modern city centre nor the pubs where everybody just wants to sing, dance, play music and enjoy the craic.

The two things I loved most about Belfast were real pubs full of character and the street art. Street art is a reflection of Belfast’s famous icons, singers, sportsmen, shipbuilding and Guinness mostly in the area known as Donegal Square and also on the sides of buildings all over the city. The famous murals and the Peace Wall are a symbol of a troubled past.

Belfast has two hop on hop off bus tours that leave half hourly and are both very similar. There is little to choose between the two and both have a live commentary which is very informative and often humourous. You can use your ticket to get discounts at Titanic and Crumlin Road Gaol. City and Titanic currently has a Groupon deal for £6.50 and it is valid for 3 days so it is excellent value

The new Titanic exhibition is more than just a museum. The building itself is unique, a fabulous piece of modern architecture over 4 floors. The exhibition has been so well designed and you could not fail to be impressed by it. Allow at least 2 hours. The ticket also includes the SS Nomadic, the last surviving White Star Line ship. It may look small, but there is enough to keep all the family amused for about an hour. You can also visit the Harland & Wolff docks.

Crumlin Road Gaol is an hour long tour through the jail. The guide was excellent and told us about the 150 year history of the jail from Victorian times until it closed on 31st March 1996, just over 20 years ago. This tour is £8 with a £2 reduction with City and Titanic Bus Tour.

Belfast has so much to offer, art, museums, culture and history, fine architecture, great shopping, proper pubs, whatever your taste you should find it in Belfast.

There is so much more to Northern Ireland than just Belfast and as the weather was absolutely gorgeous we saw the scenic Antrim coast with its lovely beaches and little villages at its very best and Mull of Kintyre just 12 miles away was clearly visible. The tour was excellent value at £25 (I can book this for you). The tour stops at Carrickfergus, a lovely fishing port and castle, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Bushmills and finally the famous UNESCO World Heritage site, Giants Causeway. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, there are tours running to the film scenes for about the same price, maybe another time.

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