Northern Ireland Will Slowly Trap You with Its Subtle Charms
It was with a good deal of trepidation that I first set foot in Northern Ireland. Having grown up in the UK during the 80s the images I associated with this part of the country were of balaclavas and tanks. I’m sure that the region’s past reputation puts a lot off people travelling here but the bad days are over and the fact I ended up staying for a year shows how highly I rate the place.
Welcome to Belfast
I honestly had no idea what to expect of Belfast. There is no other UK city which I have approached with such a degree of uncertainty. When I first started walking about the city centre I was impressed by how at home I felt but there was something strange going on. I couldn’t put my finger on it for hours but I finally worked it out; there were no loud noises. I was used to city centre streets and shopping centres being places filled with screaming children and teenagers. Here, everyone of all ages seemed to walk about conversing in hushed almost reverential tones. This introduction to Belfast made me feel even more at home for some strange reason.
Some Sight Seeing
I’m going to be brutally honest here; there isn’t a lot of traditional sightseeing to do in Belfast. The city centre is a bit of a ‘hotch potch’ of old buildings, new buildings and empty spaces. I ended up working in a part of the city called the Golden Mile but I couldn’t find anything golden about it. It doesn’t matter though. This isn’t what Belfast is about. It is a welcoming city with warm people and a great vibe to it. After a while I didn’t even notice the surroundings (as usually happens in any city) so don’t worry if you aren’t exactly blown away by the look of the place when you first arrive. Probably my favourite part of the city was the walk alongside the Lagan River. This is a lovely stroll which takes you out of the city and into the countryside in a matter of minutes. Stormont Estate is another nice place to go and spend some time. The Queen’s University building and City Hall are also pleasant to look at.
Away From the City
I was lucky enough to get a job in Belfast which involved a lot of driving around the country. There are some great towns and villages in Northern Ireland which I can highly recommend. Close to the capital there is Carrickfergus, which has a fantastic castle and which hosted a lovely medieval festival the day I was passing. Ballycastle, Ballyclare and Portrush are some of the other places I spent time in and really enjoyed. The towns in Northern Ireland seemed to me to have a bit more character and life to them than many across in mainland UK, which is a great thing for any place to have.
My Favourite Memory
It is always worth considering whether you have a special memory of a place which stands out above everything else. In the case of Northern Ireland I took advantage of the long summer evenings to drive up to the Giant’s Causeway one day. This is probably the most famous tourist attraction in the region and I can definitely recommend going to see it late on a summer’s evening. The sky was clear and there was no one else around as we strolled about the wonderful rock formation taking silly pictures and generally enjoying life. The road back to Belfast is a wee bit scary in the dark, as it is pretty windy and I almost had a heart attack when a sheep jumped out at my car from the darkness. It was worth it though, although I’m not sure if the sheep agreed.
Northern Ireland doesn’t have the kind of razzmatazz or stunning attractions to hook you right away. However, if you want to spend time in a place where it is easy to make friends and feel at home then this is a top class destination.