Another big city that has always been on my to-do list is Belfast, and in general, Northern Ireland (and that’s not just because of Game of Thrones)! After a very short yet boozy plane ride, we arrived in torrential rain, and after running straight into the nearest taxi, the driver kindly informed us that we’d better get used to it – as it’s always raining in Belfast. But not to let that put us off, we headed straight to our accommodation before getting ready to go out for food and drinks in the Cathedral Quarter, where we’d be spending the majority of our nights. It’s no secret that the Cathedral Quarter is the heart of Belfast nightlife, and the Dirty Onion and the Thirsty Goat pubs were our particular favourites.
Waking up to another rainy day, we spent Friday hopping in and out of some of the main central tourist attractions. A visit to Belfast of course isn’t complete without a trip to the Titanic Museum. Having seen the film numerous times, I was keen to find out more about Titanic’s history, and this museum does give you a really in-depth exploration of the creation of Titanic, its voyage, and the resulting disaster. I do think there were interesting parts to the Titanic museum, however I did find the layout confusing and quite awkward for getting around people. Understandably, it was very busy in there, and this made it difficult to get to the information boards to read. I think I would have preferred more of a focus on the disaster too, with more testimonials from survivors. However, the museum is definitely still worth a visit.
After the Titanic museum, we visited Crumlin Road Goal prison, which is the only remaining Victorian era prison in Northern Ireland. The entry price for this includes a guided tour, and our tour guide really made the experience, as she was so knowledgeable and really helped us to imagine just how horrific the prison would have been. Many artifacts are still in place, such as the flogging rack and hanging noose. It shocked me to find out that children as young as seven were imprisoned there, and to see the eerie execution room concealed behind a sliding bookshelf. Alongside the harrowing details, our tour guide did also tell us more humorous stories about escape attempts, including the one prisoner who is the only one to have escaped successfully. I think all in all, this prison was the highlight for me.
On Saturday we got up bright and early as we’d booked a full guided tour to Giant’s Causeway, with a few other stop offs in-between. Despite being told that it always rained in Belfast, we were greeted by a beautifully sunny and warm day! I’ve only ever done one guided bus tour on holiday before, and I always thought I wouldn’t enjoy them very much, but it is interesting to hear all the detailed history from a tour guide as you pass the landmarks. I knew a little bit about the Giant’s Causeway having studied a bit about Finn McCool in a Celtic studies module at university. Named one of the greatest natural wonders in the United Kingdom, the Giant’s Causeway consists of ‘basalt columns’, caused by an ancient volcanic eruption. It’s crazy to thing that it’s completely natural, as from a distance, it could almost look like a man-made sculpture. The walk to the causeway itself is also beautiful, and you get some wonderful views of the sea and the cliffs.
Our tour also included a visit to a whiskey brewery where we sampled a whiskey-based cocktail, and a visit to the Carrick-a-Rede, which is a little rope bridge suspended 100 ft above the sea. From the pictures I’d seen of this, I was expecting quite a long rope bridge, especially after I saw the queue to walk it. However, I found it quite anit-climatic! The bridge itself is quite short, although the views on the other side of it are definitely worth the trip. On the way back, we stopped off at a couple of castles, some of which were more intact than the others, and we were even treated to some Irish songs sung by our very own tour guide!
On Sunday, we reluctantly had to head home and I realised that a couple of days just isn’t long enough to explore any big city! As a big Game of Thrones fan, I was gutted I didn’t manage to squeeze in any Game of Thrones sights, or the costume and prop exhibition that is currently on there. I guess it just gives me an excuse to go back very soon!