Thursday, 13 August 2009

Have you ever been to Northern Ireland?

Last week when I was in Belfast I was stopped by 2 Australian ladies, who were asking for directions. It suddenly hit me that people are now actually coming to Northern Ireland as tourists.

Up until a few short years ago, Belfast was synonymous with The Troubles and the only direction people were going was out.

Thankfully with the Peace Process Northen Ireland is becoming a popular place to visit, especially with those who want to trace their roots.

So I thought I'd do a short series on my homeland and act as unofficial tour guide!

It may surprise some that even though it is part of the island of Ireland, it is part of the United Kingdom. (Long story!) It has a population of 1.6 million and is made up of 6 counties. The best way to remember the 6 counties is Fat Lad - Fermanagh, Antrim, Tyrone, Londonderry, Armagh and Down.

I'm going to start my tour in the capitol - Belfast.
Belfast has changed beyond all recognition from I was a child. Then there was little investment and no tourism. The only hotel was The Europa that had the dubious record of being the most bombed hotel in Europe.

The only high street shops I remember are C&A and Marks and Spencer. but with millions of pounds having been poured into the city in the past decade, it is now buzzing and there is an almost palpable sense of excitment and expectation.

Without a doubt the best way to see the city is to hop on an open top bus I did this with some Scottish friends and it's a brilliant way to get to see the sights.

Did you know for example, that The Titanic was built in Belfast and there is the Titanic Quarter where the ship was built and which is being totally regenerated.

Then there's Stormont where the Northern Ireland Assembly sits and a few years ago you could have bumped into The Chuckle Brothers, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness - political foes that made an uneasy truce.

Or how about stopping at Crumlin Road Goal that has now become a tourist attraction and is open to the public.

Of course, no visit to Belfast would be complete without a visit to the murals that are part and parcel of Belfast. This artwork on the gable ends of terrace rows tell as much of the history of Northern Ireland since the 1960's as any historical textbook.

And finally, though I could add much more, I'd say have a look at Queens University

City Hall and Belfast Wheel

Belfast Castle overlooking the lough

and of course finish off your day having a meal at one of the many restaurants that the city has to offer. And onto a pub or a club if you so desire!


  1. wow, the university is a really beautiful building. imagine studying somewhere like that!

  2. beautiful! Queens university is gorgeous. I've never been to Northern or Southern Ireland, I must go some day.

  3. yes it's really stunning! unfortunately I didn't go there, I went to the other one :D

  4. I have never been but my late grandfather was ireland, and my hubby goes at least once or twice a month with his work, he is there at the mo, he built the water feature at custom house square beside the clock,

  5. I love learning about this stuff. I learned a bit about Irish history when I visited cities in the republic. I also met some fellows from Belfast in London. They considered themselves British--is that common?

    While in college, I met Don Mullan and was fortunate enough to spend a few hours asking him questions about the bloody sunday massacre. He said some things, told some stories, that shook me to the bone.

    I'm so glad you are giving us a tour! About the Titanic, interesting it was built in Belfast. When I was in Allihies, we took a ride on Ireland's only (?) cable car to Dursey. We then walked miles to the edge of the island and when we got there facing the ocean, our guide told us we were standing on the last piece of land the Titanic saw before it sank.

    Beautiful photos! I look forward to the next leg of the tour :)