I’ve been to Belfast a few times in the last couple of years and it’s a great place to bring the kids. This article was published in 2013 in the Sunday World, The whole family visited the Giants Causeway and carrick-a-rede bridge but I’d wait until the weather warms up before going so far – there’s lots to do in Belfast and the Titanic and W5 are a must with the kids!
Like many southerners, I used to think that Northern Ireland was somewhere you went to get cheap booze before Christmas. However, after our holiday plans were changed I needed to find a good destination for a last minute family break.
And after packing in a lot of family activities on our whistlestop tour, our abiding memory is the sheer beauty of the place.
We had packed up the car and took the short journey from Dublin up the M1 to Belfast. stop was at the Titanic exhibition set in the Harland and Wolfe quarter of the newly revamped docks.
I was on to a winner with my nine-year-old, Nicole, who loves anything
to do with history and lapped up the gory details. There are plenty of buttons to press and interactive exhibits to keep the kids moving at a steady pace through the exhibition without getting bored.
Our first stop was at the Titanic exhibition set in the Harland and Wolfe quarter of the newly revamped docks. This is truly a wonderful experience and do not go to Belfast without visiting it.
We continued with the theme a few meters away on board the SS Nomadic and if you are taking the trip to the Titanic Quarter the Nomadic is a must see.
Admission is £22 for a family of two adults and two children. It is the actual vessel that took the first and second class passengers from the port of Cherbourg before they boarded the Titanic.
There were period clothes and uniforms for the kids to dress up in and the staff were very hands on and keen to impart information.
We finished the day off in W5 which is an interactive science museum that will amuse kids of all ages for hours. However after our trip to the Air and Space museum in
Washington earlier this year my twelve-year-old son was hard to impress but Nicole had to be dragged out the door with Dad in tow at closing time! At £23.50 for a family of four you could fill an entire day here.
About twenty minutes outside the city, the family run LaMon Hotel and Country Club was the perfect place to relax after a busy days sightseeing. The friendly staff cater well for kids and the food was excellent and reasonably priced.
We had two other must sees on our bucket list next day and we headed for Portrush, a busy seaside town.
Our hotel was the Ramada set on the main street and in a great location for all that the town has to offer. We had just missed the
International Police and Fire games on the beach the previous day – but we had more pressing commitments – we had to go see a giant.
The causeway interpretive centre is designed to blend into the natural landscape and built using local materials.
The Giant left his shoe behind at the Giants Causeway
My son and I had to hurry the other pair along as they got caught up colouring at one of the many exhibits. Entry into the centre is £21 for a family ticket.
We took audio guides but you can get a real 3D person if you want and the causeway guides are famous for their navigating skills and wit over the centuries. These rock formations have become mystical and the inspiration for stories and legends as the years have passed.
We lunched on homemade soup and scones outside the centre in ‘The Nook’ which is a converted schoolhouse, then took the winding road to Carrick-a-Rede. The scenery became more stunning with each mile and it was easy to see why this route is classified as one of the most beautiful in the world.
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, like the Giants Causeway, is part of the national trust and the staff were all local and genuinely welcoming.
A family ticket is £14 and took us on a long walk through beautiful scenery – there were lots of steps to negotiate before reaching the rope bridge to the fishing island so not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs. The bridge was flimsy on first impressions, but the crossing was exhilarating leaving us all feeling a great sense of accomplishment.
Once on the tiny rock island it became clear what all the fuss was about. Below, the water was a crystal turquoise and with stunning chalk-cliffs in the distance we could have been on a film set.
And to think that it was up the road from us in Dublin all this time made us wish we had visited our northern friends sooner.