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