After so much unrest in Northern Ireland, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get the chance to visit, but we were lucky enough to spend one day in Belfast while cruising with Celebrity Cruises – I can defiantly say that one day was simply not enough.
Belfast is a city that is full of history and is quite fascinating to see and hear about. Here are five things you must see when exploring Belfast, Northern Ireland.
But first, like most tourists wanted to see as much as possible and after a lot of research, we booked a private day trip with Keith Graham’s Taxi Tours.
The private tour was brilliant as it allowed us to design our own itinerary. We emailed Keith with everything we wanted to see and asked if we would be able to fit it all in between 1 pm and 10 pm … to our surprise the response was yes! – we visited in August so the sun didn’t set utill around 9 pm.
Keith picked us up from the Belfast cruise terminal in his super comfy 8 seater van and took us to see all of the sights. This tour was a real highlight of our trip and Keith certainly made the day fun and entertaining!
The Giants Causeway
Legend has it that The Giants Causeway was built by a giant named Finn MacCool. Historians say that the 40,000 or so pillars were created over 60 million years ago due to volcanic activity. Either way, this is an impressive sight to see on the Antrim’s coastline. Make sure you wear some suitable shoes so you can walk in amongst this unique historical marvel. The Giants Causeway is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and does attract a small fee. Definitely worth a visit, it does remind me of the coastline around Kiama back home in Australia. We stayed for around 2 hours as we walked up and along the cliff edge, the views were amazing!
I just adore Dunluce Castle, I fell in love with it the minute I saw it. This is a medieval ruin which dates back to 1500’s. It was built by a family called the MacQuillan’s and was seized by the MacDonnell’s in the 1550’s. Dunluce Castle is dramatically positioned on the edge of the cliff and has stunning views that overlook the green hills and ocean. You pay a small fee to enter where you will be able to take advantage of some unique photo opportunities or simply enjoy the history of the castle up close. If you’re short on time and still want to capture a great shot, there are plenty of vantage points on the side of the road where you can take a happy snap of the castle in all its glory.
Dark Hedge Road
If you are a Game of Thrones fan then you will definitely have heard of Dark Hedge Road. If you’re not then you will still enjoy this stop as it looks like a mysterious tunnel and a little spooky if I’m honest. Shock horror! I have never watched Game of Thrones and I’m possibly the only person in the world that hasn’t but nevertheless, I still enjoyed Dark Hedge Road. James Stuart planted the Dark Hedge back in 1775. He planted about 150 beech trees so they would become a grand entrance to his new home. Due to the age of the trees, some of them have fallen over which leaves the hedges a little sparse in places but still draws the Insta crowds. What I did like is that across the road from the Dark Hedges is an old castle that backs onto a golf course. You can find one of the Game of Thrones carved doors in the clubhouse. The doors are all over Northern Ireland and are carved from the Dark Hedge Road trees that have fallen over.
Old Bushmills Distillery
This is the worlds oldest working distillery that has been making whiskey for 400+ years. For a small fee, you can take a tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery to see how whiskey is made or you can do what we did and do a tasting. I am not a real whiskey drinker and the three different types of straight whiskey really made my toes curl but it was a great opportunity to sit back and enjoy what they tell me is smooth Irish whiskey.
We made sure we had time to stop for a pint in a local Ballycastle pub! The funny thing is for some reason we thought Ballycastle was actually a medieval castle. But no, it’s just a small coastal town in County Antrim. Once we arrived the penny dropped why Keith looked puzzled when we said we wanted to see Ballycastle. Haha, it was a beautiful town nonetheless.
Thoughts, opinions and photos shared here about Five Things You Must See When Exploring Belfast, Northern Ireland are entirely my own.