WALK IN TI­TANIC’S WAKE

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - ASK THE TOUR GUIDE - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

Lonely Planet named it the world’s best re­gion to visit in 2018 and Belfast has an al­lure that runs deeper than its trou­bled past. “I can as­sure you that vis­it­ing the re­gion will be one of the most mem­o­rable as­pects of a trip to Ire­land,” says Back-Roads Tour­ing tour leader Breda O’Donoghue. “The soft lilt of the spo­ken word, the gen­eros­ity, kind­ness and pas­sion of a peo­ple that have en­dured and sur­vived a dif­fi­cult and re­cent pe­riod in their his­tory, will stir you and move you im­mea­sur­ably.”

Be­fore you go to Belfast, these are her tips:

A TALE OF TWO HALVES

For most vis­i­tors, there is lit­tle knowl­edge this is­land was di­vided po­lit­i­cally al­most 100 years ago and that, to­day, we re­main two dif­fer­ent en­ti­ties – the Re­pub­lic of Ire­land and North­ern Ire­land. Those who re­call some of the im­ages beamed across the world may still well ask whether or not there is still a “war” in Ire­land. Thank­fully, any hos­til­i­ties have now been con­fined to the his­tory books, al­low­ing for the seam­less, bor­der­less and trou­ble-free move­ment of peo­ple across the di­vide.

“I’M FLY­ING, JACK”

A must-do in Belfast is a visit to the Ti­tanic Quar­ter where you can ex­plore The Ti­tanic Ex­pe­ri­ence. As it is one of the busiest tourist des­ti­na­tions in Ire­land, I strongly rec­om­mend book­ing on­line.

Al­low any­thing be­tween 2.5 and four hours, and pos­si­bly longer, to dive into the his­tory of the city that earned it­self the name “Li­ne­nop­o­lis” and to ex­plore the jour­ney of the in­fa­mous Ti­tanic from its con­struc­tion to its tragic end. Al­though there are restau­rants in­side, there is noth­ing nicer on a good day than to pic­nic out­side on the wa­ter’s edge.

NOT JUST PO­TA­TOES

The Ir­ish boast some of the best raw in­gre­di­ents for world-class cui­sine. Think farm­house cheeses, seafood, smoked salmon, lamb, beef, soda bread, po­tato cakes, ba­con and cab­bage.

You’ll find plenty of eat­ing houses in the Cathe­dral Quar­ter and one of my favourites has to be Graze – it’s un­pre­ten­tious, mod­est and great value for money. They also have a cock­tail bar up­stairs, per­fect for pre-din­ner drinks. After­wards, head to The John He­witt – a won­der­ful old-world pub of­fer­ing a very im­pres­sive pint of Guin­ness and live mu­sic most nights.

LESSER-KNOWN TOURS

No trip to Belfast is com­plete with­out do­ing the eye-open­ing Black Taxi tour, tak­ing you through the trou­bled his­tory of Belfast.

Other fine at­trac­tions in­clude the Crum­lin Road Gaol, the Ul­ster Mu­seum and Botanic Gar­dens, Belfast Cas­tle, and the C.S Lewis Trail – a self-guided walk­ing trail to places that in­spired the au­thor.

Or, head to SKYTrek – a high-ropes course and zip line park where you can en­joy stu­pen­dous views of Belfast city at the Colin Glen For­est Park.

IN THE LAND OF GI­ANTS

A drive along the Cause­way Coast takes in dra­matic coastal cliffs with un­spoilt beaches, his­toric cas­tles and sweet lit­tle vil­lages.

I sug­gest start­ing at the 800-year-old Car­rick­fer­gus Cas­tle and travel to Ire­land’s first World Her­itage Site, the Gi­ant’s Cause­way, pass­ing Car­rick-a-Rede rope bridge and the old­est li­censed whiskey dis­tillery in the world, Bush­mills.

For fans of Game of Thrones, which is ac­tu­ally made in Belfast, there are guided tours avail­able to key film­ing lo­ca­tions along the Cause­way Coast.

WATCH YOUR WAL­LET

The cur­rency used is Bri­tish pounds but some banks pro­duce ban­knotes specif­i­cally for North­ern Ire­land which can be dif­fi­cult to ex­change once you leave, so swap them in a shop or bank.

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