Saturday, July 30, 2011


Sights & Sites
Dark Hedges – off Bregagh Road; from Belfast, take M2 north out of Belfast and look for A26 (just north of Antrim), take A26 north toward and around Ballymena, about 7 miles past Ballymena look for where road forks with into A44 (Drones Road, toward Armoy & Ballycastle), take A44 for another 7 miles or so, and before reaching Armoy, take left onto Bregagh Road, until, after about 1 mile, cross over B15 (Gracehill Road), and stay straight for another mile until you cross over Ballykenver Road, then follow bend and prepare to say “Wow.”

Sights & Sites
Ballintoy Harbour – between Giants Causeway & Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge;; looks out to Rathlin Island and beyond to Scotland; exceptional for walking; narrow, winding road carries down to harbor; harbor built from limestone blocks and surrounded on land-side by limestone cliffs; well-sheltered from Atlantic Ocean by black basalt islands.
Dunnaglea-Larry Bane Bay – just west of Ballintoy Harbour; spectacular coastline containing dazzling chalk cliffs that dominate coast for almost 4km; fossils.
Sights & Sites
Fair Head & Murlough Bay – signposted off A2 (east & west of Ballycastle);; known for outstanding beauty and remote location, with views across ocean to Rathlin Island, Mull of Kintyre, Islay & various other Scottish islands; take Torr Head Scenic Route to get there.

Sights & Sites
Glenarm Castle – 2 Castle Street (Glenarm); 011-44-028-2884-1203;; since 1750 Glenarm has been MacDonnell family seat; present 14th Antrim Earl lives in Glenarm Castle, hidden behind impressive wall; castle itself closed to public – except during Tulip Festival on May bank holiday weekend & for 2 days in July when Highland Games competition takes place – but you can visit lovely walled garden anytime.

Bars & Nightclubs
Fibber Magee – 38-42 Great Victoria Street (Robinsons’ rear bar, across street from Hotel Europa); 011-44-028-9024-7447;; Belfast stalwart.
Crown Bar – 46 Great Victoria Street; 011-44-028-9024-3187;; among most beautiful bars on earth.
Duke of York Pub – 7-11 Commercial Court; 011-44-028-9024-1062;; traditional Belfast bar crammed with original mirrors and memorabilia.
Grill Room – 10 Donegall Square South (in Ten Square hotel); 011-44-028-9024-1001;
John Hewitt – 51 Donegall Street (in Cathedral Quarter); 011-44-028-9023-3768;; live sessions on Tuesdays.
Kelly’s Cellars – 30-32 Bank Square (in Cathedral Quarter, few blocks walk from Merchant Hotel); 011-44-028-9024-6058;; built in 1720, 1 of Belfast’s oldest pubs.
Maddens – 74 Berry Street (just down street from Kelly’s Cellars); 011-44-028-9024-4114;; opened in 1751; live sessions every night, starting at 9:00 p.m. and going until 1:00 a.m. on weekends.
Shu – 253 Lisburn Road; 011-44-028-9038-1655;
Malmaison – 34-38 Victoria Street; 011-44-028-9022-0200;; rooms in lushly furnished, 62-room hotel are smallish but smartly outfitted.
Merchant Hotel – 35-39 Waring Street; 011-44-028-9023-4888;; former 19th Century bank; stay in Philip Larkin Suite (has oversize double shower) or Seamus Heaney (best views of city and countryside); also, Room 106’s bathroom has 1 of bank’s original vault doors; make sure to have afternoon tea in “Great Room” and see rooftop garden gnomes.
Ten Square – 10 Donegall Square South; 011-44-028-9024-1001;; 23 rooms; Asian-influenced bedrooms and bathrooms are huge; reasonable rates; good bar and restaurant.
AM:PM – 67-69 Botanic Avenue; 011-44-028-9023-9443;; moderately expensive.
AM:PM – 38 Upper Arthur Street; 011-44-028-9024-9009;; moderately expensive.
Deanes – 36-40 Howard Street; 011-44-028-9033-1134;; longest consecutive Michelin star maintenance (11 years) in Northern Ireland.
CoCo – 7-11 Linenhall Street; 011-44-028-9031-1150;; chic & modern; locally-sourced menu.
Deanes Deli – 1 College Gardens (near Queen’s University); 011-44-028-9038- 2111;; mid-priced.
Ginger Bistro – 7-8 Hope Street; 011-44-028-9024-4421;; generously portioned dishes, all under $15 at lunch; homey and elegant; try fisherman’s pie or pork belly.
Grill Room – 10 Donegall Square South (in Ten Square Hotel); 011-44-028-9024-1001;
Mourne Seafood Bar – 34-36 Bank Street; 011-44-028-9024-8544;
Nicks Warehouse – 35-39 Hill Street (in Cathedral Quarter); 011-44-028-9043-9690;
Shu – 253 Lisburn Road; 011-44-028-9038-1655;
Simply Deanes – Outlet at Bridgewater Park; 011-44-028-4062-7220;; salads and sandwiches.
Tedfords – 5 Donegall Quay; 011-44-028-9043-4000;
Harper Taxi Tours – 011-44-028-9074-2711 or 011-44-077-1175-7178 (cell);; driver Ken Harper narrates history from C.S. Lewis’ birthplace to shipyard where Titanic built, to elaborate murals on Shankill and Falls Roads, depicting “troubles.”
Ewing’s Fishmongers – 124 Shankill Road; 011-44-028-9032-5534;; best smoked salmon in Ireland.
Sights & Sites
Albert Memorial Clock – Queens Square; 011-44-028-9031-2424;; erected in 1865 in Gothic style to commemorate Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert; at 113', offered excellent vantage point for birds-eye Titanic launch view; built on land reclaimed from Lagan River; features Prince Albert statue, as well as ornately carved crowned lions and floral decorations.
Botanic Avenue – lively after-work scene.
Botanical Gardens – College Park; 011-44-028-9031-4762;; contains 2 important buildings, Palm House & Tropical Ravine, as well as a children’s playground, bowling green, walking routes, rose garden & assorted tropical plants, mature trees & flower beds.
Crumlin Road Gaol – 53-55 Crumlin Road; 011-44-28-9074-1500;; former prison in north Belfast; only Victorian era prison remaining in Northern Ireland (out of service since 1996).
Linen Hall Library – 17 Donegall Square North; 011-44-028-9032-1707; founded in 1788 by artisan group as Belfast Reading Society; in 1792 became Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge; in 1802 moved into permanent premises in White Linen Hall; leading Irish studies center in northern Ireland; also houses collections devoted to genealogy, poet Robert Burns & northern Irish performing arts.
Queen’s University Belfast – University Road; 011-44-028-9024-5133;; stunning building in lovely corner of Belfast.
St. George’s City Food & Garden Market – 12-20 East Bridge Street; 011-44-028-9024-6609;; Saturdays from 9-3; Victorian covered market where jazz band plays while you shop.
Titanic Ulster – Queens Island; 011-44-028-9076-6386;; visitor attraction & monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage; on former Harland & Wolff shipyard site; make sure to see S.S. Nomadic (on Hamilton Dock, next to Titanic Belfast exhibition center (, which was original tender ship to Titanic.
Ulster Museum – Botanic Gardens; 011-44-0845-608-0000;; 8K square ms public display space; applied & fine arts, archaeology, botany, ethnography, geology, industrial archaeology, local history, numismatics, Spanish Armada treasures, local history, numismatics, industrial archaeology, botany & zoology.
Victoria Square – 1 Victoria Square (Town Centre); 011-44-028-9032-2277;; shopping; also, excellent city views from glass dome.

Sights & Sites
Dunluce Castle – 87 Dunluce Road (between Portballintrae & Portrush, connected to mainland by bridge); 011-44-028-2073-1938;; in 13th Century 2nd Ulster Earl Richard Óg de Burgh built 1st castle at Dunluce (in McQuillan family hands by 1513); earliest features are 2 large drum towers about 30' in diameter on eastern side, both relics of stronghold built here by McQuillans after they became lords of Route; McQuillans were Lords of Route from late 13th Century until displaced by MacDonnell after losing 2 major battles against them during mid & late-16th Century; Dunluce Castle later became home to chief of Clan MacDonnell of Antrim & Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg (from Scotland); in 1584, Antrim Glens seized by Sorley Boy MacDonnell who takes castle, keeping it for himself & improving it in Scottish style; Sorley Boy swore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth I & his son Randal made 1st Antrim Earl by King James I; 4 years later, Girona, galleass from Spanish Armada wrecked in storm on rocks nearby; ship cannon installed in gatehouses & remaining cargo sold, funds being used to restore castle; MacDonnell’s granddaughter Rose born in castle in 1613; Dunluce Castle served as Antrim Earl seat until MacDonnells’ impoverishment in 1690, following Battle of Boyne; since that time, castle deteriorated & parts scavenged to serve as materials for nearby buildings; in 2011, major archaeological excavations found significant remains of “lost town of Dunluce,” razed to ground in Irish uprising of 1641; lying adjacent to Dunluce Castle, town built around 1608 by Randall MacDonnell, 1st Antrim Earl & pre-dates official Plantation of Ulster; may have contained most revolutionary housing in Europe when built in early 17th Century, including indoor toilets that only had started to be introduced around Europe at time & complex street network based on grid system; Dunluce Castle thought to be inspiration for “Cair Paravel” in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia; in 1973 castle appeared on inner gatefold of multi-million selling Led Zeppelin album Houses of Holy; Flight of Doves (1971) filmed here; Belfast-Derry railway line run by Northern Ireland Railways connects to Coleraine & along branch line to Portrush; scenic walk from Portrush alongside Dunluce Castle & Giant’s Causeway & Bushmills Railway in Bushmills.
Giant’s Causeway – 44 Causeway Road; 011-44-028-2073-1855;; UNESCO World Heritage site; geological formation on northeast Atlantic coast; jagged headland of neatly packed columns that point towards Scotland.

Sights & Sites
Cushendun – sits off A2 coast road between Ballycastle & Cushendall; sheltered harbor at the Dun River mouth and Glendun (1 of 9 Glens of Antrim); Mull of Kintyre in Scotland is only about 15 miles away across North Channel and can be seen easily on clear days; most of village and parkland around Glenmona to north owned by National Trust.

Downpatrick (includes Castleward & Strangford)
Sights & Sites
Audley Castle & Field – Audley’stown Road (Castleward); 011-44-028-9054-3030;; 15th Century castle, on rocky height overlooking Strangford Lough; 3-story tower house named after its 16th Century owner, John Audley.
Castle Ward – Strangford (between Downpatrick & Strangford); 011-44-028-4488-1204;; 18th Century National Trust property; overlooks Strangford Lough; 820 acres; landscaped gardens, fortified tower house, Victorian laundry, theater, restaurant, shop, saw mill & working corn mill.
Inch Abbey – off main road to Belfast; 011-44-028-9181-1491;; large, ruined monastic site on Quoile River’s north bank in hollow between 2 drumlins; features early Gothic architecture.

Sights & Sites
Tollymore Forest Park – Bryansford Road; 011-44-028-4372-2428;; Northern Ireland’s 1st state forest park; 1.6K acres; at Mourne Mountains’ foot; panoramic views over surrounding mountains and sea; 4 walking trails signposted by different colored arrows; features many follies including barn dressed up to look like church, stone cones atop gate piers, and gothic-style gate arches; walks along Shimna River marked by many natural and artificial features; experimental forest plots of exotic trees such as monkey puzzle, eucalyptus, giant redwoods & Monterey pines.

Sights & Sites
Downhill Beach – near Castlerock (can go to 66 Portstewart Road, Coleraine, for Visitor Information); 011-44-028-7034-7034;; 11km sandy stretch; birdwatching, nature walks, sand dunes & waterfalls; make sure to see Mussenden Temple, among Northern Ireland’s most photographed buildings.

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