TRAVEL

With its rugged beauty, it’s no won­der North­ern Ire­land is the spec­tac­u­lar back­drop for TV epic Game of Thrones.

Friday - - Contents -

1 TAKEA BELFAST CITY TOUR

With witty com­men­tary and great views, a hop-on-hopoff bust our is one of the best ways to get a feel for the North­ern Ir­ish cap­i­tal. No­tonly will you see breath­tak­ing ar­chi­tec­ture (even the City Hall is pala­tial, with its baroque re­vival façade and cop­per-coated domes) and the renowned Queen’ s Univer­sity, but also the gi­ant H& W cranes, Ti­tanic’s birth­place, Cathe­dral Quar­ter and Queen’ s Quar­ter, the dark C rum lin Road Gaol and world­fa­mous mu­rals on the Falls and Shankill roads (visit- belfast.com).

2 GO ON THE GAME OF THRONES TRAIL

Its rugged coast­line, his­toric cas­tles and incredible scenery made North­ern Ire­land the ideal set­ting for the hit fan­ta­syepic Game of Thrones, which has been a mas­sive hit inthe UAE. Film­ing of sea­sons one to four of the se­ries took place in the Ti­tanic Stu­dios in Belfast, but lo­ca­tions all over North­ern Ire­land in­clude the Cushen­dun Caves, where Melisan­dre gives birth to the shadow baby; Ballintoy Har­bour, which dou­bles up as Pyke and the Iron Is­lands; Tol­ly­more For­est Park in County Down, set­ting for the Haunted For­est; and Down hill Strand as Dragon­stone, where the Seven Idols of West er os were burned.

At Cas­tle Ward, the set­ting for Win­ter­fell, you can even dress up in cos­tume and take part in an archery con­test at the very place where B ran was taught by Jon Snow.

3 VISIT THE TI­TANIC BELFAST MU­SEUM

Belfast iswhere the ill-fated ocean liner RMS Ti­tanic was ac­tu­ally built, and Ti­tanic Belfast is ar­guably one of the best mu­se­ums in the­world, with an ar­ray of in­ter­ac­tive dis­plays, a dark ride tak­ing vis­i­tors through the con­struc­tion of the ship, replicas of the cab­ins, com­puter graph­ics giv­ing an in­sider’s view ofwhat itwas like on board, as well as an in­cred­i­bly mov­ing minute-by-minute ac­count of the fi­nal hours af­ter it struck the ice­berg on April 15, 1912.

There’ s also an ex­tra­or­di­nary ex­hibit show­ing high­def­i­ni­tion footage fromthe

ship­wreck. Sim­ply un­miss­able (ti­tan­ic­belfast.com). In the Ti­tanic Quar­ter you can also see the SS

No­madic, the last sur­viv­ing White Star Line ship, built as a ten­der to RMS Olympic and RMS Ti­tanic.

4 EX­PLORE A CAS­TLE (OR TWO)

If it’s myths and leg­ends you’re in­ter­ested in, North­ern Ire­land has more than its fair share; it also has beau­ti­fully pre­served cas­tles and stately homes. Par­tic­u­larly worth vis­it­ing are the ir­re­sistibly ro­man­tic Dun­luce Cas­tle, which dates back to the 14 thor 15th cen­tury and has an out­stand­ing lo­ca­tion on a rocky out crop with breath­tak­ing sea views (visit at sun­set, when it’s at itsmost jaw-drop­pingly beau­ti­ful); Car­rick­fer­gus Cas­tle, built in the mid 1170s as a vis­i­ble demon­stra­tion of the mighty power of the Nor­mans; and Gle­n­arm Cas­tle, which­was com­pleted in 1756, and is in a tran­quil vil­lage next to a river.

5 DIS­COVER THE ANTRIM COAST

The Antrim Coast is con­sid­ered one of the great­est tourist routes in the world, with high­lights such as the Mourne Moun­tains and the Glens of Antrim. It’s a des­ig­nated Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty, and boasts un­spoiled golden beaches, dra­matic cliffs, steep coastal val­leys, hills, pic­turesque har­bours and vil­lages.

For thrill-seek­ers, awalk along the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, a 30m-high bridge sus­pended over a 20m-wide chasm should give enough of an adrenalin-rush; you’ll be re­warded with as­ton­ish­ing vis­tas and sea bird­watch­ing dur­ing nest­ing sea­son. Other high­lights in­clude Glen a riff For­est Park in Bal­ly­mena, known as ‘the Queen of the Glens’, which has a unique water­fall walk way; and the He­zlett House in Col­eraine– this that ched cot­tage dates back to 1690, mak­ing i tone of the old­est homes in North­ern Ire­land, and it’s an in­trigu­ing glimpse into the past. Golf fans will en­joy see­ing the world­fa­mous golf cour­ses like Royal Portrush, Port­stew­art, and Lough Erne, de­signed by Nick Faldo.

6 SEE THE GI­ANT’S CAUSE­WAY

Lo­cal leg­end has it that the Gi­ant’s Cause­way was carved by the gi­ant Finn

If it’s MYTHS and LEG­ENDS you’re in­ter­ested in, North­ern Ire­land has more than its FAIR SHARE with BEAU­TI­FULLY PRE­SERVED cas­tles, STATELY HOMES and jaw-drop­pingly gor­geous sea views

McCool – and i fyou look closely at var­i­ous rocks you can even see his ‘boot’ and ‘wish­ing chair’; but sci­ence tells us that the Un es co World Her­itage Site, with its polyg­o­nal col­umns of lay­ered basalt, is ac­tu­ally the re­sult of a vol­canic erup­tion 60mil­lion years ago, which makes it an ab­so­lute­must-see for any­one in­ter­ested in ge­ol­ogy and of course chil­dren who may be learn­ing about it at school.

Also well worth a visit is the state-of-the-art Vis­i­tor Cen­tre. De­signed by award-win­ning ar­chi­tects He neg han-P eng, it has walls of glass, basalt col­umns and a grass roof that gives you a 360-de­gree of the Cause­way coast­line, aswell as in­ter­ac­tive spa­ces. If you’re feel­ing en­er­getic you can take a walk along the cliffs, but ne­go­ti­at­ing the Cause­way it­self can be a bit of a chal­lenge, so wear trainer sor walk­ing shoes.

Theweather is al­ways un­pre­dictable in North­ern Ire­land – wear a wa­ter proof so you can take full ad­van­tage of the stag­ger­ing scenery, and try to visit either very early in the morn­ing or at the end of the day, when your views (and self­ies) won’t be spoiled by the crowds, and the light is at its glo­ri­ous rose-tinted best.

7 SHOP

Belfast of­fers some su­perb shop­ping. At Vic­to­ria Square you’ll find brands in­clud­ing Ap­ple, LK Ben­nett, House of Fraser and Ur­ban Out­fit­ters, aswell as a food court of­fer­ing some­thing to suit ev­ery taste, while in the Out­let Vil­lage, just 25min­utes south of the city, you’ll find de­signer brands in­clud­ing Jaeger, DKNY Jeans, Calvin Klein and Tim­ber­land, with dis­counts of be­tween 30 per cent to 70per cent. Mean­while Austins depart­ment store in Derry– older than Har­rods or Macy’s– stocks Marc Ja­cobs, Ralph Lau­ren and Dolce& Gab­bana. Take an ex­tra suit­case.

8 VISIT STGE­ORGE’S MAR­KET

Built be­tween 1890and 1896, this is one of Bel fast’s old­est at­trac­tions, a gor­geous Vic­to­rian build­ing with stalls sell­ing every­thing from fresh

No visit to North­ern Ire­land, the place that gave the world LEG­ENDS like VANMORRISON and James Gal­way, would be com­plete with­out lis­ten­ing to some LIVE MU­SIC, and Belfast is very LIVELY at NIGHT

meat and fish to an­tiques and fresh fruit. It’s widely ac­knowl­edged as one of the best mar­kets in the UK and Ire­land. On a Satur­day and Sun­day there are crafts and an­tiques on of­fer and spe­cial­ity foods from around the­world, as well as live­mu­sic; re­lax with a cof­fee and en­joy the at­mos­phere and peo­ple-watch­ing.

9

LIS­TEN TO MU­SIC

No visit to North­ern Ire­land, the place that gave the­world leg­ends in­clud­ing Van Mor­ri­son and flautist James Gal­way, would be com­plete with­out lis­ten­ing to some live mu­sic, and Bel fast in par­tic­u­lar is very lively at night. Try the Em­pire Mu­sic Hall or the John He­witt on Done­gal Street.

10 EAT

Tra­di­tional North­ern Ir­ish cui­sine is ab­so­lutely de­li­cious, and is heav­ily dom­i­nated by hearty com­fort food, in­clud­ing champ, amix of mashed pota­toes and spring onions, and veg­etable rolls – slices of pep­pery minced beef flavoured with fresh leek, car­rot and onion. It­would be al­most rude to leave with­out at least at­tempt­ing to de­vour an Ul­ster Fry– afull break­fast fea­tur­ing the very pop­u­lar and mor­eish grid­dle breads (soda bread and potato farls, fried or grilled un­til crisp and golden).

An­other favourite is por­ridge, made with rolled oats, milk or wa­ter and a pinch of salt or sugar, and topped with crea­mand brown sugar if pre­ferred. And of course Ir­ish stew– with meat, pota­toes, car­rots and onions, and served with doorstep-sized slices of but­tered bread – is al­ways pop­u­lar.

You’ll find fresh seafood every­where, too, even oys­ters. But there are some ex­cel­lent and very trendy res­tau­rants to try, par­tic­u­larly in Bel fast, all of­fer­ing world-class qual­ity at very rea­son­able prices. Among th­ese is Shu (shu-restau­rant.com) on the hip Lis­burn Road, where spe­cial­ties in­clude slow-cooked shoul­der of lamb with au­bergine caviar; and Deanes, run by Miche­lin-starred chef Michael Deane. Pop­u­lar dishes in­clude Hi­malayan salt-aged Del­monico rib steak. Deanes also operates six other eater­ies in the city (michaeldeane.co.uk).

With such a haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful back­drop, it’ll be easy to be­lieve you’re in the dark, mad world of Theon Greyjoy and Jon Snow

Don’t miss one of Belfast’s most iconic build­ings, the City Hall, or the story of the ill-fated ship at the Ti­tanic mu­seum

Ota am ra vel maio­rat us­damus dolores restibearum as an­delis aut enda des niminum in­ulpa con­se­quo inumquid

Af­ter walk­ing through the spec­tac­u­lar Mourne Moun­tains and Gle­n­arm Cas­tle, you’ll want noth­ing more than to tuck into some com­fort­ing Ir­ish stew

Top: the stun­ning Down­hill Strand por­trays Dragon­stone in GoT. Above: Fitzwilliam ho­tel is the city’s new must-be-seen-at venue

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