Every city has its literary giants and Belfast is no exception. Authentic Ulster promotes a tailormade CS Lewis tour which takes a fascinating three hours. While my 11 year old daughter, her friend and I enjoy the wisdom of our entertaining guide Sandy Smith, we discover that the mountains at Cavehill provided the inspiration for one of the most famous giants in literature.
Cavehill is visible from several parts of the city and resembles the profile of a giant lying on his back. Sandy informs us that while Jonathan Swift was visiting Belfast and looking at the same mountain he found inspiration to create the character Gulliver. It’s the perfect start to the tour, as we stand at the site where the young Clive Staples Lewis spent his early childhood. My daughter is already enthralled without the need of a flashing screen or interactive exhibit. The Chronicles of Narnia is undoubtedly the series that CS Lewis is best known for and Sandy is quick to question the children in our group about The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe. He then takes us to Lewis’s Grandfather’s house which was the rectory attached to St Marks Church.
We stand at the front door and see that the young Lewis would have been at eye level to the beautifully moulded door knob − the head of a lion. The wardrobe story is next and we are taken to Belmont Tower which is only around the corner. A permanent exhibition holds all the information needed to become proficient in the CS Lewis story. Here we learn it was Lewis’s other grandfather, who worked at the Harland and Wolfe shipyards, that crafted the famous wardrobe where he used to play hide-and-seek as a child.
I’m surprised the girls enjoy the educational part of our trip so much but it’s time for something completely different. We Are Vertigo is an adventure zone with trampolines and ski to keep kids busy on a rainy day. All that jumping gives the girls huge appetites and we are ready to taste some of the best cuisine in Belfast. Graze restaurant on the Newtownards Road is a gem with a menu to suit all tastes. The girls opt for a steak and mini burgers while I’m sent to nirvanha as the scallops melt in my mouth. Graze has a really good wine list and they play excellent music too.
We spend the night in the Hastings Stormont Hotel on plump pillows and mattresses. After our hearty breakfast, where I pop a drop of Bushmills in my porridge, we set off for W5. The girls scale the new Climbit exhibit a little too quickly but they have to be dragged out of the Go exhibits. If you’re thinking of taking the kids up to Belfast for the day to see the Titanic or W5 I recommend staying the night and finding the other attractions unique to the city. The Mac at St Annes Square is another cultural experience which just might surprise and you won’t go wrong by eating in 4th Wall − a funky restaurant with great service, it’s good for lunch and only across the square from the MAC. But the real takeaway is that the girls want to call to the library on the way home to find a certain book!
Michelle Jackson is the author of Six Postcards Home published by Poolbeg Press. For more information see www.michellejackson.ie follow @mjacksonauthor
To experience the CS Lewis Tour visit www.authenticulster.co.uk ,
For activities see www.wearevertigo.com, www.w5online.co.uk Follow the Northern Ireland tourist @DiscoverNI or see www.discovernorthernireland.com