Land of the gi­ants

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

spot) next to City Hall. Then, fan­ning out along Done­gall Place and Royal Av­enue, it still pos­sesses the odd quirky shop that isn’t part of a ma­jor chain or de­sign dy­nasty.

The glass-roofed Castle­court Cen­tre on Royal Av­enue, com­plete with foun­tains and cafés, is the largest cov­ered shop­ping area in the city, and there are a num­ber of other smaller ar­cades in the sur­round­ing side streets. Prob­a­bly the best of th­ese is Queen’s Ar­cade, with a slew of jew­ellers and some small, spe­cial­ist bou­tiques.

In ad­di­tion to the city-cen­tre malls and restau­rants, there is also a chance to sam­ple some­thing slightly dif­fer­ent by head­ing to­wards the bars, clubs and restau­rants near the stu­dent quar­ter around Queen’s Univer­sity.

Well worth a visit here is the tra­di­tional Beatrice Kennedy restau­rant, which mod­estly de­scribes it­self as “a Belfast in­sti­tu­tion”, but comes up with the goods in the shape of hearty Sun­day lunches which can, if nec­es­sary, be walked off at the nearby free-ad­mis­sion Botanic Gar­dens.

Billed as a “diminu­tive Kew gar­dens”, and com­plete with a Vic­to­rian palm-house built in the 1830s, the gar­dens also play host to the Ul­ster Mu­seum, which in­cludes an im­pres­sive top-floor gallery show­cas­ing the works of Ir­ish and Bri­tish painters.

If you feel like es­cap­ing the city, and ven­tur­ing out into the nearby coun­try­side, day-trips fall into two main cat­e­gories — the many at­trac­tions within easy strik­ing dis­tance and a few which are fur­ther afield but well worth the ex­tra ef­fort.

Belfast Cas­tle, the Cave Hill Coun­try Park and Ban­gor by the sea can all be reached in un­der 30 min­utes. The leg­endary Moun­tains of Morne are around an hour away to the south of the city and the his­toric Gi­ants Cause­way is about a 90-minute drive in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

Mur­phy’s law, of course, dic­tates that of th­ese, the most im­pres­sive is the fur­thest away, in the shape of the fas­ci­nat­ing and spec­tac­u­lar Gi­ant’s Cause­way on the north-east coast. A world her­itage site, it is a na­ture re­serve with 15 miles of foot­paths pro­vid­ing a per­fect plat­form to take in the truly breath­tak­ing views.

The quick­est way to get to the Cause­way from Belfast is via in­land roads that take un­der two hours. But a longer route out of the city — along the coastal roads — re­ally does re­pay the ex­tra ef­fort and the ad­di­tional 30 min­utes or so.

Along the way there are views of ma­jes­tic cliffs and in­ac­ces­si­ble bays bound up in myths and leg­ends stretch­ing back for thou­sands of years, along with much talk of ship­wrecks and gi­ants tak­ing haven in some of the quaint fish­er­men’s cot­tages that are dot­ted around the area.

If you are look­ing for some­thing a lot more lux­u­ri­ous in the way of ac­com­mo­da­tion but still want to cap­ture the ben­e­fits of rural Belfast, you

North­ern ire­land’s mag­nif­i­cent par­lia­ment build­ing, Stor­mont Cas­tle

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