Belfast it is the capital of North Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. There are officially no checks in the boarder between Ireland and Northern Ireland because of the Good Friday agreement that ended the “Troubles”. We decided to drive up to Belfast, about 2 hours away (in comparison, that would be like driving from Penang to Ipoh).
Day #1: Belfast Titanic
We arrived just before lunch, first stop was at Belfast Titanic. This is supposedly one of the best tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. Titanic was built in the slipway just beside the museum. The museum shows the glory days of cross Atlantic cruise liner and why Belfast is primed to build these ships (all do to with supply chain, just like modern days). What I found interesting is the replica of the different classes of cabin for the ship and the “ride” that takes you through the various station that made the ship. The ticket also allowed us to visit SS Nomadic, the tender boat for Titanic just beside the museum. Smaller boat but you get to see boats look like in the good old days.
For dinner, took the train from Laynon Place station to Botanic. A short walk away, there’s plenty of Asian restaurant around. We picked one where we got a place to sit and had pretty good fried rice and fried noodles. See many young people there, presumable students and also what looked like student accommodation.
Day #2: Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede
Heard about the Giant’s Causeway from documentaries and the kids also read the story of the giants from a book they borrowed. On this day, there was an orange warning for weather, where we are expecting heavy rain. On the way to Giant’s Causeway, we stopped by Carrick-a-Rede where there is a rope bridge to cross a chasm to another island. Since it was raining, the staff at the car park entrance told is that the bridge is closed but we could walk all the way to the entrance of the bridge (and they charge £8 for car park I believe). It was a long wet hike with the rain. As we walked back, we saw couple of people in hi-vis walking past. We didn’t think to ask, but they were there to open to door for people to cross the bridge since the rain has stopped. We were too far gone to walk back to cross the bridge. Also we need to get to Giant’s causeway way as daylight was short.
There are a few parking options at the Giant’s causeway. Parked and had lunch at the Causeway Hotel which is in the same area as the Giant’s causeway visitor center (pay £10 for the parking but can use that to offset lunch). You would need to pay extra for the visitor center (which we did not go). There is a long walk down the hill with heavy winds and seas to the causeway. It was impressive and a lot of opportunity to take photos. You can walk further on the trail but not with the kids. If you cannot walk, they provide a bus from the visitor center to the causeway. You’ll have to pay a few pounds for the ride.
Day #3: Malin Head
Why Malin Head? I was told you can see the Aurora from there. This is the northern most point of the the Island. When we arrived late evening, it is still drizzling. Driving on the rural roads and in the dark is a special challenge for anyone. We stayed at Seaview Tavern, the rooms are above the bar and comes with breakfast. We had dinner there when we arrived since there’s nothing for miles. A person that was only made known to me as “The Owner” by his staff also owns the petrol station and convenience store next door which also acts as the post office.
Did not see any Aurora since it was raining the whole night.
In the morning we drove to Malin Head and walked along the cliff. Then it’s the long drive home to Dublin. Took almost 5 hours to reach home since the maps don’t want to cut across Northern Ireland (for some reason) and took us south around Northern Ireland.
We stayed at Hilton Lanyon while in Belfast. Pay to park at the nearby parking garage that is not affiliated with Hilton. Got some discount on the parking through some code that Hilton sent to us. The hotel is walking distance to Lanyon Place, the main train station. Very strategic location and would probably stay there again to get around.
What we learned
- There is good asian food in Belfast, off the botanic stop. Seems to be a university area, see a lot of young people around.
- Belfast, compared to Dublin, is more metropolitan. You get to see more diverse people and definitely more built up.
- We figured out that we can take the train from Dublin to Lanyon Place, then to elsewhere in Belfast. There’s a few more places in Belfast that we have yet to visit.
- When I tell people that I am coming to Ireland, most people refer to the “Troubles” and the bombing by the IRA. All that you hear is in Belfast, not the republic. Seems they are more sensitive here on the topics of nationalism and religion. Didn’t see any problems with our short foray into the city, definitely need to spend more time here in the future.