“She was fine when she left here” is an expression you see and hear everywhere in Northern Ireland, especially if you are in Belfast, and more specifically if you are at the Titanic Museum. This is of course in reference to the Titanic itself, which was built in Belfast, and then sailed to Southhampton for its maiden and only voyage. “Built by an Irishman. Sunk by an Englishman.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. My itinerary for Northern Ireland started in Derry/Londonderry and had me traveling down the stunning Coastal Causeway to Belfast.
It’s hard for some of us to think of Northern Ireland without thinking of The Troubles, defining the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants which raged until 1998 with the signing of the Peace Accord. This history has come to life lately with the explosion of the hit series, Derry Girls. Taking place in the mid 90’s up until the Peace Accord was signed, it profiles the days of five teen Derry Girls (although one is an English boy) against the backdrop of The Troubles. The show has classic sarcastic Derry humour but has opened up the world to what life was really like in the streets of Derry during this time, leading up to and including Bloody Sunday, in which 14 were killed in riots.
But while I heard of the many tragic tales which came out of this time period, both in Derry and in Belfast, I also learned of the pride of the Northern Irish through their long and sometimes violent past, told alternatively in real facts, and in fable, and the optimism to which they are looking towards the future.
I interviewed Sandra Moffat, the manager for Canada, Tourism Ireland, on my latest Go-To Grandma radio show and podcast, and you can listen to that on Saturday December 17th at 7:30am on Zoomer Radio, or find that when it’s up on the podcast, here.
My complete itinerary for the trip is listed below, with links for your convenience. From city walking tours, to taste and smell sensations, a visit to a classic British Pantomime show, a horseback ride on the beach, and steps on the Giant’s Causeway, not to mention standing in the show of the ghost of the Titanic, this trip was one I would highly recommend Canadians to consider in the 2023 travel plans.
Any opinions are of course, my own.
I flew Air Canada into Dublin and made my way to Derry and Belfast, and back, via a combination of an airport bus, cab, tour bus, and train. Transit is reliable and easy to figure out through the Translink schedule. I found Value Cabs to be efficient and reliable within the city of Belfast.
Day 1: Derry/Londonderry
Derry Girls Afternoon Tea , Everglades Hotel
(Show creator Lisa McGee stayed and wrote at the Everglades hotel. The blackboard stating the differences between Protestants and Catholics, used in the show, is on display in the bar here.)
Guildhall: free admission
Guildhall Square, Derry
Derry’s original Guildhall (so named in acknowledgement of the connection with the City & Guilds of London) was located in the Diamond area of the Walled City. The new Guildhall, relocated to Guildhall Square and opened in 1890, was financed by The Honourable The Irish Society. Damaged by fire, with only the clock tower surviving, that building was replaced by the current structure which opened in 1912. One hundred years on, and following an £10 million restoration and renovation programme, the Guildhall is ready to open its doors and welcome visitors.
24 Bishop Street, Derry-Londonderry
The exquisite Grade B1 listed Bishop’s Gate Hotel is perfectly positioned within the historic city walls in the heart of Derry City’s Cathedral Quarter. Built in 1899, Bishop’s Gate Hotel blends stunning Edwardian architecture, stylish appointments and luxurious facilities that have been sensitively restored to pay homage to the rich heritage of the building, whilst exceeding the contemporary needs and desires of its guests. The restaurant within the hotel serves up traditional and unique Irish fare. Breakfast can be included in your stay (recommended).
Day 2: Derry/Londonderry
Guided walk of the Walled City. Charlene McCrossan provides insider info and lively stories to make your Derry Girls tour perfect. Visit the sites of a significant funeral, a fight that almost happened, and a Halloween Party for swans. Tour lasts approximately 1hr30.
Far and Wild, Foodie cycling tour:
Tour guide Lorcan led me through the streets (up and down) of Derry, stopping to try local fare and visit historic sites along the walls.
This unique brewery is well worth the visit. Unique blends (including one that was filtered through oyster shells) and fun stories abound. Make sure you ask about the Amelia Earhart connection.
70 Ebrington Square & Parade Ground, Derry~Londonderry
Union Hall Place
An award winning visitor attraction, the Tower Museum contains two permanent exhibitions:
The Story of Derry details the history of the city from its geological formation to the present day, covering periods as diverse as early monasticism, The Plantation and Siege of Derry through to the recent Troubles; the second permanent exhibition, An Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera recounts the story of the demise of the ship in Kinnego Bay, Donegal and the subsequent recovery of artefacts which are now on display in the museum.
Dinner , Badgers Pub
This pub is famous for its fare and lively interior, but also for the Derry Girls mural painted on the side of the building.
Day 3: Coastal Causeway Route
I traveled with a private tour guide from Derry. If possible, this is a great way to get the history and find the most significant stops along the way. Car rentals and online guides are also available, but be reminded that they are a left hand driving country.
Horse Riding with Crindle Stables
6 Carrowclare Road, Limavady
This visit included in-stable training and culminated with a beach ride on horseback, ending at the Downhill Beach and the stunning Mussenden Temple.
Lunch Bushmills Inn
9 Dunluce Road, Bushmills, Co Antrim
The Bushmills Inn had the Canadian flag flying in my honour, following a tradition of flying the flag from the furthest away visitor that day.
60 Causeway Road, Bushmills, Co Antrim
Formed over 60 million years ago, when molten lava cooled suddenly on contact with water, the Giant’s Causeway is an awe-inspiring landscape of mostly hexagonal basalt columns. Look out for the distinctive formations of the Camel, the Wishing Chair and the Harp. A UNESCO World Heritage site.
39 Dunamallaght Road, Ballycastle
This hotel recently earned the honour of one of Norther Ireland’s best hotels. A unique Northern Irish hotel experience with the rooms facing on to an outdoor courtyard. The lounge and restaurant are the perfect setting for the views of the Ballycastle area. Spa on-site.
Day 4: Coastal Causeway Route & Belfast
Causeway Coastal Route
Traveled to Carnlough via Cushendun and Cushendall. Stopped in Carnlough and Glenarm, visiting Game of Thrones filming sites along the way. We continued along the Coastal Causeway Route through the Ballygally hotel and had coffee at The Ghost Room. Then on to Larne and Carrickfergus and into Belfast by lunch time.
1-3 Great Victoria Street, Belfast
Dinner Muddlers Club
Taster Menu was fantastic, representing traditional flavours in a gourmet fashion. Highly recommend wine pairing to go with this eight course meal. Reservations well in advance are recommended for this hot spot.
Evening exploration of Cathedral Quarter
The area takes its name from Belfast Cathedral, also known as St Anne’s Cathedral.
The oldest part of the city, Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter has experienced a renaissance over the past two decades with many pubs, clubs and hotels now trading in the area. Creative learning and cultural opportunities abound in the Cathedral Quarter thanks to the many arts and cultural organisations based in the locale. The Cathedral Quarter’s dynamic mix of activities, set against the backdrop of some of the city’s oldest and most beautiful streets and buildings, makes the area one of Belfast’s most vibrant places to live, study, work and visit.
Pubs and clubs in Cathedral Quarter:
- Babel W: bullitthotel.com/play/eat-and-drink/babel
- Bert’s Jazz Bar at The Merchant W: themerchanttopel.com/index.php/berts-bar-dining.html
- The Cloth Ear W: themerchanthotel.com/bars-restaurants/the-cloth-ear/
- The Dirty Onion W: thedirtyonion.com
- The Thirsty Goat Belfast W: facebook.com/thethirstygoatbelfast
- The Duke of York W: dukeofyorkbelfast.com/tour-outside0.html
- The Sunflower W: facebook.com/sunflowerpublichouse
Day 5: Belfast
Hop on Hop off bus tour
Donegall Square West Departure Point (beside Belfast City Hall)
Bus itinerary: Timetables & Tour Duration – Belfast City Sightseeing
Arrive Titanic Belfast bus stop
The bus is directly across the street from the museum and hotel.
The Titanic Experience at Titanic Belfast
1 Olympic Way, Queen’s Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
Visiting the Titanic Belfast was a big highlight of the trip for me. Interactive displays, historical moments captured, voices from survivors…even a theme park ride through the construction setting. Visit the café for Titanic inspired treats as well. Tickets should be purchased well in advance.
Titanic Hotel Belfast – Lunch & Tour
Queen’s Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
Lunch in the Drawing Room 2 doesn’t disappoint, with tiles on the bar from the same batch used in the Titanic first class washrooms, a clock from the Carpathia, and other mementos. Book the tour if you can to hear all about the history of the engineering and production of the Titanic, from these offices.
Day 6: Belfast
Explore St George’s Market:
12-20 East Bridge Street, Belfast
Saturdays open from 0900-1500: Food and Craft Market with live music. Terrific handmade Irish treasures and food
I did my own self guided walking tour of the Line of Duty filming sites. Visiting the headquarters of the anti-corruption unit was a thrill for me, even though it was an insurance company office tower, closed on the weekends. You can find a guided tour here.
Taste and Tour – Sensorium:
62-68 High Street, Belfast, A unique taste and smell experience that culminates in a cocktail made up of your favourite sensations.
Cinderella Pantomine at the Grand Opera Theatre
The recently refurbished theatre is gorgeous. Check out their schedule for current shows. Conveniently located next door to the Fitzwilliam Hotel.
Evening exploration of the Linen Quarter
The Linen Quarter is the area in the immediate vicinity of the City Hall which stands on the site of the White Linen Hall, demolished in 1896. Once nicknamed “Linenopolis”, Belfast was the world leader in the production of fine Irish linen.
Pubs and clubs in the area include:
- Crown Bar W: nationaltrust.org.uk/the-crown-bar
- Sweet Afton W: sweetaftonbelfast.com
- Rita’s W: ritasbelfast.com
- The Perch W: theperchbelfast.com
- The Foundry W: en-gb.facebook.com/foundrybelfastclub
Pug Uglys Belfast W: www.puguglys.com
For more images and information on my trip to Northern Ireland, make sure to check out my Instagram posts @KathyBuckworth