If you’re looking for a weekend break that’s not too far from home, offers an array of beautiful scenary, shopping and history then I cannot recommend Northern Ireland enough!
As someone who has visited a number of countries further afield it amazes me how many places nearby that I haven’t visted. What really enticed me to Belfast were two things initially – the filming of Game of Thrones in parts of Northern Ireland along with the Titanic Exhibition. However, little did I know that I would fall in love with alot more than just that when I took my trip to Belfast….
Arriving early into Belfast meant that we had pretty much a full first day and with less than an hour flight I would highly reccomend doing this as well to make the most of your time there.
Below I have provided an itenary of each day I spent in Belfast.
DAY 1 – Arrive in Belfast around 9am
Arrive at Belfast International Airport: So we had a lovely early morning flight which meant we arrived in Belfast early with lots of time to explore the city. However, it is important to note that the Belfast International aiport is not the closest to the city and is about a 25 minute drive out. You do have a number of options however to get to the city such as bus, hire car or taxi. As it was early morning, VERY cold and Black Friday we decided to get a taxi which cost us around £35-£40. What was great about the taxi as well (as long as you get a friendly driver which luckily we did!) they give you loads of useful information about the city centre and tell you all the best places to eat/drink etc!
Check into Hilton Hotel: So my mum and I decided to splash out and stay at the Hilton Hotel central. This was mainly due to my mum being a coeliac and them having a fantastic range of gluten free breakfast options so she wouldn’t go hungry! The location was ideal, pretty much opposite St Georges market which is well worth a look around and sells pretty much everything, and a short walk into the main city centre (5 mins max).
Hop on Hop off bus tour: Whichever city I go to I always try and do the hop-on hop-off bus tour. It’s an easy and cheap way to get around while learning lots of interesting history about the area. In Belfast there are two main companies you can go with – one was an international I have seen worldwide the other was a local bus tour operator. Regardless of which one you pick both follow simmilar routes and were fairly evenly priced. Although our bus driver was questionable at times (he had an automated brain I swear to god!) it was interesting to hear about the history behind Belfast and just take in all the sights. The bus tour in total took about an hour and a half but I highly reccomend it for getting your bearings and seeing the city as a whole.
Titanic Exhibition: After our full tour we hopped on the bus again to the Titanic Musuem which was one of the main reasons I came to Belfast and it didn’t dissapoint.
The Titanic is well known around the world and has touched many hearts, particularly after the release of the famous Leo movie! Built in once the busy docks of Belfast, the Titanic museum captures the history of the time fantastically with fascinating images, stories and drawings. A highlight of the exhibition was the Shipyard ride which captured the feeling and sounds of the docks during those busy times – some workers even went deaf!
I would 100% reccommend doing the Titanic Exhibition while you’re in Belfast. It’s extremelly interesting even if you don’t know the story that well.
You can find out more about Titanic Belfast and book your tickets here.
After the museum we took a stroll just as the sun was setting back to the city centre and I caught some beautiful shots on my camera. We then went into the Victoria Shopping Mall where we grabbed a bite to eat and went up the Dome. Unfortunately, with all the Christmas lights you couldn’t really see alot but during the day you’ll get some superb views so it’s worth a trip if you have time!
Day 2 – Game of Thrones Tour with Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Not wanting to miss out on the beautiful coastal scenary day 2 of our weekend consisted of an all-day Game of Thrones tour that also included Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. As an avid Game of Thrones fan I was so excited for this and from under £40 per person I thought this trip was an absolute bargain!
It’s a fairly early start at about 8.45am where the mini bus picks you up from the tourist information centre right in front of City Hall. There we met our tour guide for the day and our other travellers. What was really nice was that there was only about 15 of us and I really felt the experience was a lot more personable.
So here are all the areas we stopped of at:
1.Carrickfergus Castle -> stopped here for about 5/10 minutes to take some photos. The castle played an important military role untik 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Northern Ireland.
2.Magheramorne Quarry -> this is the location of Castle Black and the Wall. Unfortuantely, you can’t stop here otherwise you can get in a lot of trouble but on our route we did drive past.
3.Carnlough -> This was where in season 6 the stabbing of Arya into the water was filmed. We also stop here for a quick comfort break buy snacks cause you don’t stop for lunch until late!
4. Cushendun Caves -> Photo stop in the caves where Melisandre gave birth to a dark spirit you may also see a goat in a high vis jacket!
5.Cross Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge -> It’s £5 to cross or free if you’re a National Trust member. Be warned its a bit of a walk to actually cross the bridge so I’d advise wearing a good pair of trainers or boots. There is sometimes quite a bit of a queue as well but the surrounding scenary is equally as stunning. You get to go across twice (there and back) definitely worth doing!
6.Visit the Iron Islands -> Visit to Ballintoy Harbour, location where Theon came ashore on Pyke Island, where Theon later rededicated his faith to the ‘Drowned God’, where Ser Davos seeks the help of Salladhor Saan for the Battle of Blackwater Bay, and where Gendry escapes Dragonstone in a rowing boat. This is a really beautiful little fishing port and has some stunning views.
7.Visit the Giant’s Causeway -> Visit the World Heritage Site of Giant’s Causeway where around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns have formed as a result of an ancient volcanic eruption – often referred to as the ‘eighth’ wonder of the world! Again, it’s a bit of a walk to get down there but you can actually get a bus there and back for £1 each way. It’s 100% something you should see while you’re in Northern Ireland, it’s extremely unique and not something you’ll see in any other parts of the world. We also had time here to stop for a bite to eat (be warned the pub gets VERY busy!).
8.Photostop at the Dark Hedges -> You will instantly recognise this iconic scene from the Game of Thrones through which Arya and Gendry escaped King’s Landing. Unfortunately, as we went in Winter by the time we arrived here it was dark so I couldn’t get any photos which I was gutted about, so if you can, try and time your trip in the summer where the evenings are still light!
Overall, I thought this trip was well worth the money we paid (food and drink not included). Even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones (like my mum) I can promise you will still enjoy all the beautiful scenary and the coastal route. It was really great in the small space of time we were in Belfast to see both the city and the coast.
Day 3 – Departure Day
As our flight wasn’t until around 3/4pm we had some time in the morning to fit something else in (result!). It was a toss between the Black Cab tour (I’d heard lots of good things!) or a tour of the Crumlin Road Prison which we eventually decided on.
Crumlin Road Prison Tour: Crumlin Road Gaol, is a former prison situated on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is the only Victorian era prison remaining in Northern Ireland since 1996. A 75 minute guided tour will take you through a story of what prison life was like through the ages and other interesting facts.
Now, I must admit I didn’t know much about this prison until I actually went but I did find it extremelly interesting and if you have some time to spare I would definitely recommend you do the tour.
Overall, I had a fantastic weekend in Belfast and was really pleased with how much we got to see in the time scale we had. I would advise anyone who comes to Belfast to explore both in and out of the city. Belfast’s coast is so beautiful and shouldn’t be missed, but also make sure you take some time to learn about the history behind this wonderful city.
Have you been to Belfast? Is there anything you recommend doing which I didn’t have time to do? Would love to hear your thoughts!