Fellow short break enthusiast, Sallyann from Hampshire took the opportunity to enter our Travel Writer Competition this summer, telling us all about her short break in Belfast. We loved her entry so much, we thought we’d share it with our lovely readers…
I’m superstitious, but Friday 13th has always been lucky for me with no exception to last September when I flew out to a Belfast for the weekend. Primarily to visit relative, but I also had time to take in the city, my last visit being in 2003.
I stayed in a hotel at the Cathedral quarter, a stones throw away from St Malachy’s Church – one of the oldest churches in Belfast. Supposedly visited by Prince Charles who is said to have found it quite remarkable, see what you think?
A short walk and your right in the hub of the city. The majestic City Hall grounds were alive and kicking that Friday evening with an open air concert. I had a fab time listening to the music, all for free! Whilst I was there, I noticed a sign giving details of a cafe within the City Hall called The Bobbin Coffee Shop, and I decided to try it out the following day.
On Saturday morning I planned to visit the Titanic Quarter taking a leisurely stroll there to soak in the atmosphere. I quickly discovered the Hamilton Dock where the SS Nomadic – Titanic’s little sister ship – lives in a small dry dock. She was one of the tenders used to ferry passengers to The Titanic and she is the only surviving White Star ship anywhere in the world. Although its not a big ship by anyone’s standards, the average visiting time is still well over an hour and the vessel has disabled access too. You can’t miss it, there’s a Charlie Chaplain iron sculpture quite close by. Overall, it’s well worth a visit in my book.
The Titanic Exhibition is very imposing, set in Harland and Wolff docks area. Once inside it is spacious, airy and well set out. The tour comprises of the history of The White Star Line, the conditions of it’s workers constructing The Titanic, plus the inevitable demise of the ship when it hit the iceberg. I came away knowing a lot more than I did seeing the Hollywood movie. You can have your photo taken with the backdrop of the exhibition building or The Titanic.
Back into the city centre I went, via a bridge full of lovers locks, then a huge blue and white china fish caught my eye, but I won’t carp on about that. Looking around Belfast City centre, there are lots of wonderful statues and great architecture to take in. Try and find the pub I found, I couldn’t believe the shape of it, tiny and set on a corner. Make it your mission.
If you like to shop your in for a treat, there’s loads of great stores, famous brands and individual boutiques, plenty of eateries for all tastes and pockets. But I was off to the Bobbin Coffee Shop. Inside The City Hall, with it’s white marbled walls and pillars, lots of beautiful stained glass windows and high ceilings, a wedding was taking place. I wished the Bride and Groom good luck and just before I reached the cafe, I perused an embroidery exhibition by the Northern Ireland Patch Work Guild – fantastic material art work. It seems there are frequent exhibitions of one sort or another, all free to the general public. The Bobbin Coffee Shop was great value offering excellent home made Fayre for great prices and it seemed only the people in the know were using it – they were mainly tourists like myself. Don’t the locals know it’s there? However, their souvenirs weren’t much to right home about, very few to speak of in fact. But I’d already bought my leprechaun, shamrock goodies and potatoes bread to take home.
On Sunday the day was mine again. I had family visits in the evenings, so off to Belfast Zoological gardens I went, on the north eastern slope of Cavehill looking over the Antrim road. It was The International Red Panda Day and they were all geared up with free badges and info. The gardens and the animals are great plus there’s lots of quizzes and info for the young and old. But, it’s also an uphill climb, so if you get out of breath or struggle there is transport up and down within the park. I stayed the entire day and had hoped to go to The Crumblin Jail Tour on my way back, but that will have to wait for another time. All in all, great craic!
Planning a visit to Northern Ireland? Why not take a look at our Belfast travel guide for some inspiration on what to do in the city.