Go Green, Discover Northern Ireland

Culture

Photo by Michael Reiss

This might just be the ideal time to: “Press the green button and go Ireland.” The emerald isle rolls out its verdant green carpet to greet every visitor who sets foot on its lush terrain. And so it was, as we began our tour of cool Northern Ireland.

Let’s begin with Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The city is a compact, dynamic, vibrant metropolis that spotlights the history, culture and customs that make Northern Ireland a unique tourist destination.

Start your visit with a Belfast taxi tour led by a qualified Blue Badge Driver/Tour Guide, to introduce you to the sites and the complex history of the country and Belfast City, which is divided into several quarters.

Photo by Michael Reiss

In the Titanic Quarter you will encounter one of the largest urban waterfront redevelopment projects in the world. Within this complex is Titanic Belfast, an impressive architectural structure shaped like the hull of a ship. It stands as a monument to the city’s maritime heritage. Most notably, its legacy includes the construction of the RMS Titanic that crashed into an iceberg and sunk in 1912.

The galleries within the monument take you on the journey of Belfast’s rise to industrial and ship building prominence. They then focus on the Titanic ship itself–including its construction, crew, passengers and its fateful demise and resting place in the deep blue sea below. The interactive media, visual displays, and ride through a simulation of the building process is riveting, as is the view of the ship’s remains at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Having taken in the scope of this waterfront area, it’s time to enjoy the luxury of the five-star boutique Fitzwilliam Hotel. There are many superlatives to mention. The hotel’s location in the heart of the city –within easy walking access to many points of interest, restaurants and bars–makes this member of the Preferred Hotels and Resorts an easy choice.

Photo by Michael Reiss

The sophisticated décor, accommodating staff, well appointed, comfortable rooms and the dining and cocktail lounge make for a five-star stay. Whether you enjoy the copious breakfast selections, a delectable dinner, or the elegant finesse of high tea, the reputation of the AA Rosette Restaurant at the Fitzwilliam Hotel will not disappoint.

Michael J Reiss

Once settled in, it’s time to hit the streets to explore all the city has to offer. Start at the Belfast Welcome Centre to get oriented and decide what sites to visit. Some of the highlights of Belfast were the impressive exterior of Belfast City Hall and its Garden, St. George’s Market with food, craft, live music, and plenty of contact with the locals.

Photo by Michael Reiss

The Ulster Museum next to the Botanic Gardens and Queen’s University were also favorite stops on our two-day visit.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Dinner at Home Restaurant was thoroughly satisfying. Their menu featured locally sourced products fashioned into creative, healthful, eclectic recipes that were artistic and delicious.

Photo by Michael Reiss

We also dined at Howard Street Restaurant, one of the local’s favorites and with cause. Every dish was crafted to combine the best of Irish ingredients with modern techniques and international influences. Our seafood hotpot was flavor-filled and redolent with the freshest local seafood, a culinary tour de force.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Our Blue Badge Qualified Driver/Guide, Billy Scott, met us promptly at 9AM. He skillfully introduced us to the history, stunning scenery and captivating points of interest along the Causeway Coastal Route stretching for 120 miles from Belfast Lough to Lough Foyle on our way to Derry.

Photo by Michael Reiss

 Among our favorite stops was Carnlough Village with its picturesque harbor and the historic Londonderry Arms Hotel once owned by Winston Churchill.  Many visitors along this scenic route also walk the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge strung ninety feet above the chilly Atlantic on their way to the Giant’s Causeway.

Photo by Michael Reiss

The Giant’s Causeway is an awe-inspiring landscape of mostly hexagonal basalt columns jutting out of the sea formed from volcanic eruptions some 60 million years ago. Look out for the distinctive formations of the Camel, the Wishing Chair and the Harp.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Scenic villages, historic castles and breathtaking views surround you as you make your way to the picturesque, historic walled city of Derry.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Amelia Ehrhart, Bill Clinton, Princess Di and the Derry Girls all got it right. Derry is a walled city with so much more to discover and enjoy.

To appreciate the significance of the walled City of Derry, join a guided walking tour offered by Martin McCrossan City Tours. Derry is the only remaining completely intact (and never breached) walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of walled cities in Europe.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Built between 1613 and 1618 the walls were constructed as defenses for the seventeenth century settlers from England and Scotland. Approximately one mile in circumference, the walls form a walkway around the inner city, providing a unique promenade from which to view the layout of the original town.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Additional points of interest include the award-winning Tower Museum, the Guildhall, the Museum of Free Derry, and The Siege Museum–all offering in depth insight into the multifaceted history of the city and its citizens.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Some of the greatest pleasures are found by meandering the walkable streets lined with shops, coffee houses and pubs. Chance chats with the locals over a pint and live music provides a glimpse of daily life with a dash of wit and humor for good measure.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Stay within the charming, walled city at the Bishop’s Gate Hotel. Located in the Cathedral Quarter section, this 1899 Edwardian architectural gem blends the best of tradition and urban luxury. Tastefully restored rooms and public spaces harken to its history while providing the comforts and conveniences of an upscale modern accommodation including a well-equipped fitness center.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Their lounge and restaurant, The Wig and Gown, includes a variety of menu options from pub fare to upscale two and three course offerings in a traditional, wood paneled, cozy, clubby setting. Service in both the hotel and dining venues is warm, accommodating, and professional.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Derry will spoil you for choice of noteworthy restaurants. New to the city is Artis by acclaimed chef Phelim O’Hagan and his wine steward wife Samantha. Their tasting menu with wine pairings is artistic, innovative, and delicious. The wines selected were eclectic and perfect accompaniments to this world class cuisine.

Photo by Michael Reiss

One of the most memorable courses was the Scallops with Tomato, Garden Peas and Curry paired with Chateau Pajzos, Tokaji Furmint 2018 from Hungary.  This Michelin Star quality venue is sure to satisfy the most discriminating gourmet.

Photo by Michael Reiss

Brown’s is an established restaurant name that is sure to come up on most recommended lists. We enjoyed a meal at Brown’s In Town, their casual eatery. An eclectic menu provides options for every taste. Our favorite was the mussel special with an addition of the local fish of the day enrobed in a succulent tomato sauce just right for sopping up with the charred sourdough accompaniment.

Northern Ireland is a small and significant country whose tourist numbers have consistently increased. Its gorgeous green landscapes, picturesque villages, captivating history, and value proposition attract many visitors.

The real draw is the passion and character of its citizens. The spontaneous encounters with the locals will give you the greatest insight into the warmth, wit, and wisdom of these proud and resilient people. They will make your visit memorable and deepen your desire to return. Explore the richness that makes Northern Ireland a giant adventure awaiting your discovery. To help plan your stay, visit: Discover Northern Ireland.

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