I’ve been enjoying weekend breaks up north over the last few years, so I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Hollywood A lister Nicole Kidman Loves Belfast. It’s no surprise that the star loves this city so much as there is so much to do. And it’s only two hours from Dublin.
- Named by Lonely Planet as Best in Travel in 2018 (along with Causeway)
Belfast is an eclectic mix of the old and the new with the famous yellow Harland and Wolf shipyard gazing at the mouth of the Port. It has a remarkable arts festival in it’s 59th year and great venues to see music.
In recent years it has become a culinary capital with restaurants such as OX http://oxbelfast.com/ being awarded Michelin Stars. Perhaps lesser known but one of the best meals I’ve ever had was in Graze Restaurant https://www.grazerestaurantbelfast.com/
Belfast is great for Kids
- We took the CS Lewis tour which is the home of the great writer who gave us ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series.” We got to see how visits to his grandfather inspired the character aslan, Read my feature here. http://thenoveltraveller.com/narnia-isnt-all-that-far-away-its-in-belfast/
- Another writer was inspired by the Belfast landscape 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.
- Titanic is great for all the family but the SS Nomadic, former tender of the White Star Line, was built in 1911 and is wonderful for kids. Mine got a great laugh out of seeing the original Crapper made toilet.
This 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.
- The W5 museum is a wonderful facility and best interactive science museum on the island. The climbing frames will really tire the kids out It is located in the Titanic Quarter so you can see all the attractions close by – when we were up there we watched an ice-hockey match at the Odessey Arena.
Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Forest Park
Colin Glen Forest Park is home to the amazing eight foot tall Gruffalo, complete with knobbly knees, turned out toes and a poisonous wart on the end of his nose and his very famous friends. From entering through the Gruffalo Archway, through the forest park to a beautiful Gruffalo themed seating area next to the cascading Colin river, your children will be completely amazed at meeting their favourite Gruffalo characters, whilst getting out in the fresh air.
If you’d like to Walk in Nature then see Winter Walks
The Belfast Hills offer beautiful scenery encompassing a variety of nature and wildlife. Take a stroll amongst the trees in Colin Glen Forest Park, enjoy an energetic walk to McArt’s Fort on Cave Hill or admire the view from the rugged landscape of Divis Mountain.
Explore Parliament Buildings and the beautiful surroundings of the Stormont Estate. View the House on the Hill from the majestic lawns and flowerbeds that envelope the main avenues. Explore winding forest paths mapped out for walkers and joggers, and discover ducks in the wetland habitat and red squirrels.
For All the Family explore the Mourne Moutains and slieve donard is a great climb
Only an hour from Dublin up the M1 are the beautiful Mourne Mountains. Those of us on the east coast see them on most clear days but the view from them is spectacular. Slieve Donard is 850m above sea level, but I took expert guidance with Martin McMullan from outdoor activity specialists One Great Adventure. His company is based at Castlewellan https://www.onegreatadventure.com/and they offer all sorts of activities from coasteering, to Kayaking to mountain biking. He encouraged us gently up the hike and informed us of the local history along the way. The Slieve Donard walk is well maintained with great parking below the town of Newcastle and it took less than two hours from Dublin.
Martin Mc Mullan’s company is based at Life Adventure Center. He took us on the leisurely informed stroll which was five hours from start to finish. The pathway is very accessible and it is over 850ft high making it a good mountain to start the four peak challenge
Places to stay
If you’re looking for somewhere special to stay then the newly opened Titanic Hotel is going to be on the hitlist for any Titanic fan.https://www.titanichotelbelfast.com/
Titanic Hotel Belfast opened its doors for business on 10 September 2017. This luxury 119 bedroom hotel is in the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff, builders of Titanic, and will provide the perfect destination for anyone travelling to Titanic Quarter on business or for pleasure.
The Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices, the earliest parts of these historic buildings, date from the 1880s and over the following 100 years played an important part in the design of many of the world’s most famous ocean liners, the creation of the ‘floating hotel’ and influenced the design of many of today’s cruise ships.
Interesting facts: •Heritage spaces retained in the development include the telephone exchange, which received the first communication of Titanic hitting the iceberg. The board room, directors’ entrance and lobby and former directors’ offices are also preserved. •Drawing office one will house a temporary six-week exhibition from Sunday’s opening, telling the story of the conservation and construction of the buildings and hotel. After that, daily tours will be on offer to showcase the heritage features
The Hastings Hotels
The original Grand Central Hotel opened on Royal Avenue in Belfast on Thursday 1 June, 1893….In the ensuing years Winston Churchill, King Leopold of Belgium, Billy Graham, Al Jolson and Mario Lanza were some of the distinguished guests who relaxed on the magnificent ornamental bed of room 217 – the hotel’s most celebrated suite. The doors shut in 1969 but re-opened in 2018 as a new reincarnation of modern city luxury.
The observatory lounge on the top floor has probably one of the best city views not only in the city but in any European city.