I realize this post is overdue, I’m sorry! Matt and I have been so busy since we’ve been home from Northern Ireland that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write. I finally have a little break, so buckle up your seat belts and get ready!
First off, I have to say that we really, really loved Belfast and Northern Ireland. It was such a great trip and we’ve already planned our next trip back! Hopefully after that one I’ll be able to whip up a guide.
So, we got to Belfast via train. It was only like €15 per person and we were in comfortable seats with a big table and plenty of snacks. We just hopped on at Connolly Station in Dublin city center, and two hours later we had arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The only way we even realized that we went over the “border” was because our phones sent us an alert letting us know we were officially in the UK. We brought our passports with us just in case, but we didn’t end up needing them at all!
From the train station in Belfast we hopped on a quick city train to Victoria Station, which is right in the middle of everything. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Belfast City Center, just two minutes walk from Victoria. It’s a brand new property and it was really convenient! We arrived pretty late on Friday evening, so after we arrived we had a quick pint or two and went up to bed.
Saturday morning we booked a tour of the Giant’s Causeway on the Paddywagon. It is absolutely the most touristy looking bus in all of Ireland, but they have award winning tours and it really was a great value. I was cringing a bit getting on it just because I see them all the time in Dublin, but it was grand. Our tour guide was amazing and we got to see a lot of Northern Ireland and famous Game of Thrones locations along the way!
We departed from Belfast City Center, from the bus shelter in front of the famous Europa Hotel, on Great Victoria street. It is famous because it is the most bombed hotel in all of Europe! But we’ve been assured it’s more than safe now haha. Anyway, we got on the bus and took a drive through the rolling farmland of county Antrim to the North Coast of Ireland. It was breathtaking!
Then we made our way to the Causeway Coast where we could see views of Rathlin Island, and even the Scottish coast. The views along this coastline were really beautiful. We visited the most popular natural phenomena in Northern Ireland, the Dark Hedges. The trees were planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family to impress their guests as they arrived to their grand house. Many of you will recognize the Dark Hedges as the King’s Road from Game of Thrones (pictured above)!
Next we carried on to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Carrick-A-Rede is situated near the charming village of Ballintoy. It is AMAZING. Like, I would go on a tour just to go here. Definitely a little scary. There are SO many scenes from game of thrones that were shot here, I was in heaven. I won’t say which ones to avoid spoilers, but if you love game of thrones, you’ll love this place. It’s the real life Iron Islands. The views are breathtaking, once again. We walked a little over a kilometer up winding paths and hills to get to the bridge. It’s perfectly safe, but once you’re on it, it’s really bouncy and kind of scary! You cross to a little island with more beautiful views of the coast, and then cross over the bridge once more to the mainland. You can see in the video below. After the bridge, we took a quick lunch stop.
Then, we went on to the Giant’s Causeway. The causeway is said to be built by the Irish giant Fionn and his Scottish rival Angus. It’s a crazy expanse of hexigonal columns rising up from the sea. You can climb all around them and just really take it in. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. The weather was absolutely amazing when we were there, too. The sun peaked out and the water looked super blue and there was a light breeze. If you ever have a chance to go up to the Giant’s Causeway, I really really reccommend it. It’s extraordinary.
After the causeway, we arrived at one of the most dramatic castle ruins in the world – Dunluce. We were amazed at the way this old castle hangs over the edge of the cliffs. Part of the Dunluce Castle fell into the sea in the 1600’s, and some servants died in the tragedy. Since that time, it is believed to be haunted by the very same servants. It was creepy, but really cool!
We arrived back in Belfast around 5pm in downtown Belfast. We grabbed a burrito from Ireland/the UK’s closest thing to chipotle, Boojum. It’s good, y’all, but we still miss chipotle haha. But beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to Mexican food in Ireland. We went back to the hotel for a quick rest, and then we went out on the town!
Belfast has some really, really cool nightlife. We ended up at this place called The Duke of York, reccommended to me by a coworker. IT WAS SO COOL. It basically takes up a whole block and it commands the alley next to it with string lights and tables and benches. The inside is covered floor to ceiling in different old signs and advertisements and mirrors and bottles. It’s really eclectic and fun. The furnature inside is all old fashioned. It was absolutely jammed and everyone was having a good time. There’s live music upstairs, but you can hear it all throughout the building and even outside. We had a really good time here! Next to the Duke of York are a ton of other pubs with live music, so we wandered around there for a while as well.
Sunday morning we went on one of Belfast’s famous black cab tours. If you like history or just want to learn more about Belfast from a local, you absolutely have to take this tour. Honestly, regardless of your interests, if you’re in Belfast, you should take this tour. It’s only £15 per person, so it’s definitely worth it.
A black cab comes and picks you up at your hotel and a local and experienced cab driver takes you on a private tour of Belfast. For over 30 years, Belfast was involved in a civil war. The war was fought between the nationalist catholic community and loyalist protestant community. Out of the chaos came some of Belfast’s most recognisable landmarks, like it’s spectacular murals. The 90-minute tour takes you from east to west, north to south, taking in both sides of the community and how they depicted their war efforts through extraordinarily detailed murals. All the black cab drivers have lived through the bloodshed and give you an insight into the history behind it all and their own experiences living through it. We even got to go to the peace wall and sign our names on it.
It was an extremely eye-opening experience. I can’t speak for everyone, but I actually knew very little about the civil war in Ireland. I certainly didn’t know that a giant wall still stands today, still separating the catholic from the protestant side. Like, there is still so much trouble and contempt in the area that the wall is still necessary. It’s crazy. Police officers still have to check their cars on a DAILY basis for bombs. The conflict may be much better than it was, but unfortunately, it is not over. Our driver was absolutely fantastic and he gave us some really great insight into what actually went on and how it affected his community. Personally, our cab driver had lost his father, brother, and many friends in the conflict. He said he likes to give the tours now because he wants to make sure people know what happened, and he hopes that it never happens again.
After the tour, our cab driver dropped us off at St. George’s Market. It is the last surviving Victorian covered market, and it’s HUGE. They have everything from local wares to food and drink. We had a really nice time here. If you have a chance to go on a Sunday like we did, I’d really reccommend it. It’s the best day for it and the best stalls are there. We had the most amazing hot chocolate and french fries (healthy, I know). We even got some art for our place!
After the market we went back to the hotel and packed up and got on the train home. It was a really, really amazing weekend trip. Like I said before, we’re already planning to go back! The people were really great, despite their super heavy accents. A northern Irish accent is COMPLETELY different from a normal Irish accdent or a Dublin accent. It’s so up-and-down that it almost sounds like they are singing when they talk! But they were truly lovely people, in our experience. I really want to come up with a guide to Northern Ireland/Belfast, so hopefully I can do that after our next trup!
That’s all for now! Let me know what y’all think.