A Weekend in Northern Ireland

When you travel, you can’t always expect things to go as planned, and that was my weekend in the north, or at least the last day of it. But, I am getting ahead of myself. On Friday, I and my travel companions packed the car and headed four hours northeast to Belfast. For those who don’t know Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and the country’s largest city. I had never been to Northern Ireland and was excited to explore the capital.

We arrived at our Airbnb and then went to the grocery store to buy food for the weekend. I always shop around when I get accommodations when I travel, but I often find when I travel with a group, Airbnb always has the best deals. Plus, the apartment often has a kitchen, so you can save money on food by making meals instead of paying to eat out. We settled in and made dinner and relaxed before walking to the city center to check out the town.

The next day was spent exploring Belfast. Belfast has a rich history, especially during the twentieth century. Our first stop was the Titanic Museum. It was a little expensive, but it was worth it. The Titanic was built in Belfast and its sinking had a large impact on the people of the city. The museum explains everything from the renovations to the Harland & Wolff shipyard to accommodate the magnitude of the construction of the Titanic and her sister ships to exploring the wreckage of the Titanic’s final resting place.

Our next stop was the city center. We walked to Yardbird for lunch and the streets in that area were beautiful. The brick buildings were complimented by murals of every variety. Belfast is known for its murals associated with the Troubles, but its other murals are just as beautiful and represent what Belfast has become. The Yardbird is in the second floor of the Dirty Onion and is in the oldest intact timber-framed building in Belfast, which was built in 1680 by a fishmonger. The rotisserie chicken is the best food I had had in a while.

Next, we went to City Hall, St. George’s Market, and the Crumlin Road Gaol. The Gaol is a big part of Belfast’s history, opening in 1846 and finally closing its doors in 1996. It had seen suffragettes, loyalists, and nationalists, including a president of the Republic, Éamon de Valera. The Gaol is a monument to the darker side of the history of Belfast and to how the Northern Irish people overcame monumental social and political divisions to become the thriving city it is today.

On Sunday, we left Belfast and headed towards the coast. The weather, however, was not on our side. We ran right into a snow storm. I am not a novice to the art of driving in the snow, but the tires on the car were not up to the job. There were several times when I thought we were not going to make it up a hill and on one occasion, we didn’t. We were trying to get to the Dark Hedges, which were made famous by the Game of Thrones series. There were about six cars stuck on the top of the hill and we ended up having to turn around and go back the way we came without seeing the famous stretch of road. In the end, we did not get to see all that we had planned, but we did get to the Giant’s Causeway.

The last day of our trip involved a stressful and long drive, but Northern Ireland in the snow was beautiful. It’s a reminder that while traveling, as in life, you can’t expect everything to go as planned. But, however long the last day of my Northern Irish adventure, it was a great weekend with great people. I can’t wait to go back and see everything we missed.