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The first in this summer’s “suggested day trips”

Belfast, Northern Ireland (part 1)

Ferry tickets vary in prices throughout the year and in general, it’s cheaper to book in advance. TIP: I booked on St Patrick’s Day and got my ticket for £5 pp. Look out for special deals in newspapers too. They will email you reservation details and a booking number. There is no need to print this off as long as you can quote the number when you check in but beware that phone signals at both ferry ports seemed intermittent and emails are generally stored in the cloud! You may also be asked for ID so take a passport or your photo driving licence.

Stena Line operate six sailings per day to Belfast on the Superfast VII and the Superfast VIII. The sailings that I use are either the 7.30am or the 10.30am sailing. As a foot passenger you need to be at the terminal a minimum of 30 minutes prior to sailing which means leaving Balkissock by either 6.30am or 9.30am respectively.

An 8am breakfast will give you plenty of time to make the later sailing but, not surprisingly, I’m not up to cook breakfast at 5am for the earlier sailing. If pre-arranged, I will provide a lighter breakfast of cereal, fruit, toast, tea or coffee at 6am or email me for a bespoke package.

The sailings are approx. 2hrs 15 mins and there’s lots to do on-board to keep you occupied including a small cinema which normally screens a children’s film, a shop, games machines, several eating outlets, outdoor area (for smokers) and loads of sofas and comfy chairs to sit and chill and relax.

Jump on a bus at Belfast port and for £2.00pp you’ll be in the city centre in approx. 15 mins. TIP: don’t forget to ask the driver where to catch the bus to return to the port later in the day! You can also get a return ticket at a slightly reduced price.

What can I do in Belfast?

Tip: if it’s your first visit I’d suggest visiting the Visit Northern Ireland Tourist Office opposite the City Hall just around the corner from the bus drop-off point. It’s a treasure trove of leaflets and souvenirs.

A guided tour of Belfast on the open top bus:

There are two different tour operators and my daughter, her partner and myself used the “City Sightseeing Hop On – Hop Off” bus. The cost was £12.50 (adult), £10.50 (concession), £6.00 (child) £31.00 (family: 2 adults & up to 3 children).

The lady doing the commentary was very witty and it was an enjoyable 90 minute bus ride. You can jump off at any of the stops to look around or visit the attractions and then catch a later bus to continue the tour.

Belfast

Stops on the tour included the Titanic Exhibition and the Parliament buildings (TIP: be careful of timings if getting off at the Parliament buildings as busses are not allowed into the grounds after 3.30pm). 

Titanic Exhibition Belfast

The tour included information about the troubled recent history of Northern Ireland, of division and renewal and the bus drove past the Peace Wall and through the areas of the city that saw the worst of the Troubles.

Belfast mural

 

Belfast City Hall:

Free entry.

View the beautiful stained glass windows depicting events in Belfast’s history and it’s links around the world.

Stained glass window

Guided tours are available although we couldn’t get booked on to one the day we visited.

Belfast City Hall

TIP: If you’re going to do a blog … get a much better photo of the outside of the building!!

Belfast City Hall

The return journey:

I generally get either the 3.30pm or the 7.30pm ferry to return to Cairnryan. The latter arrives at 9.45pm and taking into account disembarking and driving, I’m back home about 10.30pm.

Please note that there is a very long walk from check-in, along the gangways and onto the ferry. I would imagine that Stenaline have someone to assist you if you’re infirm or use a wheelchair but I didn’t think to check.

Cars can be left in the Stena Line car park at a cost of £5.00 per day. TIP: pay for your parking on-board on the return journey to save you waiting in queues at the terminal.

I’m planning on visiting Belfast again later in August with my grandson and we’ll take the other bus tour which will take us to Belfast Zoo and we’re planning on visiting the Titanic Exhibition too.

My husband is heading there with friends in September and I suspect that Game of Thrones will be on the agenda!

So … watch out for Belfast the sequel!!

All prices were correct April 2017.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge B&B (c)

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Check prices and book online here

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