Belfast is certainly a different city to the place I visited in 2003. Admittedly the amazing weather and longer time I’ve had to see it have played apart, but it can’t be denied that there is a much more cosmopolitan vibe to the place now.
On our last day of driving around we kept things low key and stuck to Belfast, seeing Danny’s new house and a few tourist attractions, starting with a ‘Melbourne breakfast’. Obviously it was avocado with fancy bits on sourdough but also a smidge of vegemite too. Very nice!
Ulster Museum was on my to-do list after I’d seen it online and it was a great place to get a feel for Northern Ireland’s history, from prehistoric times to the current day.
They used to have dragons!
On the very top floor of the museum is a display dedicated to Ireland’s current #1 tourism drawcard – you guessed it – Game of Thrones.
An enormous tapestry (currently 84 metres and growing) tells the story in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry. Having seen all but the most recent season, it was interesting walking along and picking out the plot points.
The signs warning people not to touch the cloth were also in keeping with the theme.
The Museum also has a partially-unwrapped mummy. Danny said it gave him nightmares as a child. I can’t think why.
The Belfast Botanical Gardens are worth a visit if you like that sort of thing, and if you’re there on a cold day I’d definitely recommend a stroll through the heated Ravine building, which contained tropical plants from around the world.
There’s also a Victorian glasshouse with some very interesting specimens.
We took a stroll around the gardens of the big building (um… parliament? Danny, help!) in the very first photo and also drove up to Belfast Castle. It was built in the Scottish Baronial Style in 1862 by the Marquis of Donegal.
A little bit Hogwarts?
It is always nice to see historical buildings being in regular use and this castle is now a function hall and restaurant. The gardens contain sculptures, topiaries and mosaics of cats. We walked around and found a few after having a drink and a sit in the sun.
A post about the sights of Belfast would be incomplete without some photos of the murals that can still be found in various places around the city. Since my knowledge of NI history is far from complete I won’t comment on the political situation except to say that many of the more violent murals we saw years ago have been replaced but there are still a few giant paintings of men in balaclavas with machine guns in hand.
In the city centre there is plenty of (what I think of as) Melbourne-style street art. Beautiful and quirky images that go well with the new bars and restaurants.
The last bar we had a drink in was The Sunflower. Years ago people had been shot in this bar, hence the gate at the door. Now it’s a gay friendly meeting place with ukulele jam nights.
How things change!
I was sorry to leave Belfast but felt certain I’d be back.
Thanks so much to Danny and Peter for their outstanding hospitality and I look forward to repaying you in Australia!
Next stop: Carlisle and finishing off The Cumbria Way. But just before I go, a last Ulster Fry…