Hi everyone! As most of you are aware, we have just been home again for a few weeks to see family and friends and of course to attend 2 amazing weddings. Fortunately for us, we were also able to see some new venues and features in Northern Ireland and increase our appreciation for our home country. Keep reading to see if you have visited any of these places and if not, maybe they can be on your bucket list 😉.
Grand Central Hotel Belfast – The Observatory
This is a new hotel recently erected in Belfast and is the second tallest building in the whole of Ireland (second to the Obel Tower, also in Belfast). However, it does boast to have the tallest bar in Ireland. The observatory is on the 23rd floor and has the most amazing view of Belfast. It really is spectacular. You will be taken in the elevator by a concierge and taken to a seating area available. Luckily, we had arrived before most others so we could choose where to sit. You can also take a walk around to see the city from every view possible. The seating areas are stunning and very comfortable. The service is lovely, friendly and welcoming staff. The drinks are pricey, for example £15 for a cocktail and £8 for a pint but to be honest, you get what you pay for. The view is outstanding and I suppose it’s not something you would do every day. It’s a really amazing experience for a special occasion and definitely worth a trip if you are visiting Belfast.
Glass of Thrones
I was fortunate enough to be at home at the same time as the Game of Thrones final season. As many of you know, the majority of filming for this amazing show, is in Belfast!!! To celebrate this milestone of the 8th and final season, 6 stained glass windows were erected around the city centre, 1 for each episode. You can walk from Belfast City Hall to Titanic Studios to witness these Glass of Thrones installations, displaying scenes from seasons one to eight of the show. Each window represents the trials and tribulations of a different house, and at the final window you can take a picture on the Iron Throne. For a map of where to find these, click here. I personally loved seeing a new window being unveiled each week. They are exceptional and if you’re a fan of the show, this is a must see. It’s also a good way to explore Titanic Quarter.
Belfast street art
This was completely accidental but it is amazing to walk through the streets of Belfast and see new street art popping up everywhere. It shows that we are a city to be reckoned with in the culture stakes and we are ever progressing. I did want to find the infamous Belfast mural as I had seen this all over Instagram. Having lived in Belfast for over a decade, I had to see it. You should definitely take a walk through the city to find these art pieces. You can find these mostly in the Gaeltacht Quarter and Cathedral Quarter. Bear in mind these are nothing to do with the peace murals. These would be representative of a more forward thinking and inclusive Belfast IMO.
Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort
Now this is a place that I have been dying to try. So when my sister said she wanted us to go, I was delighted 😁. The spa treatment here is unreal, even better than I had imagined. It had a huuuuge area with lots of facilities. Leave your clothes in a locker (changing facilities are even impressive) and don a Galgorm dressing gown/robe/house coat (whatever you call it in NI). When I entered the spa area I was overwhelmed. It’s like what you would see in a movie. People walking around in the robes, pools, hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms everywhere, indoor and outdoor. There are chill out areas with relaxing chairs and loungers and even an ice room. I was honestly so impressed. We even had the chance to have a Celtic sauna treatment that was fantastic. It was unbelievably hot in the nicest possible way and you receive a nice cold mocktail afterwards. We had lunch here too and you are invited to eat in your robes. A very surreal experience but you will really feel like it’s a special occasion. I cannot recommend this enough peeps. We even went on a cold and wet day but it didn’t faze us at all. Ps. The photos do not so this justice at all.
City of Derry Jazz Festival
The biggest jazz festival in Northern Ireland is held in the amazing Derry ~ Londonderry City. If you don’t know Derry that well, a bit like myself, then this is the perfect chance to explore the city and see it in all its cultural glory. The festival has been happening yearly since 2001 and it is 1 of the leading Irish music events of the year. There are street performers, food stalls and live music performing in all the bars in the city. As the bars are all in close proximity, you can easily hop from 1 bar to another to experience as many live acts as possible. The lineup is HUGE, far too many artists to mention but you can check out the website here. Details are already up for next years event in 2020 🎷 🎶 . Oh and while you’re in Derry, you have to check out the Derry Girls mural, I’m sure you’ve seen the show on Netflix! Hilarious…and the paining of the girls is outstanding.
Portballintrae Causeway Loop
Ok so in my opinion I have saved the best until last. This walk was one of my highlights at home, especially because I was able to do this with my parents. Everybody knows about the Giant’s Causeway but instead of heading straight there and spending a fortune on parking, you can complete a small enough walk from Portballintrae to the causeway and see the breathtaking views the north coast of Ireland has to offer, the best coastline in Ireland IMO, yet often overlooked when people think of the Irish coast. Not only will you see coastline but you also see beaches, rock formations, cliffs, sand dunes, a really old railway line and the most quaint little railway station you have ever seen, bridges, rivers and countryside. It has to be every walkers dream to see all these things!! The walk over the 3 quarter mile bridge is short but it is pretty stunning to walk over the Bush River – apparently so dark as the river runs through Bushmills where they make the whiskey 😋 🤷🏼♂️. I’m not very good at directions but you can find them here. This is a walk you will want to experience and you will finish at the Giants Causeway. I still love coming here even though I’ve seen it many times but when Northern Ireland has a blue sky, this part of the world is fantastic.
Thanks everyone for reading. It’s lovely to showcase Northern Ireland. It has a lot to offer and every time I return home, there is something new to discover. Be sure to check it out if ever visiting Ireland or the UK.