United Kingdom
Northern Ireland

Here you’ll find travel reports about Northern Ireland. Discover travel destinations in the United Kingdom of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

115 travelers at this place:

  • Day10

    Belfast

    September 12, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    It didn't occur to us how Belfast in Northern Ireland was a city with such recent history that is still evident in everyday life. Northern Ireland which is its own country is full of modern day religious/political tension dividing the city of Belfast between the Protestants who support British rule and the Catholics who support the traditional Irish culture. We took a black cab taxi tour to the various parts of town and saw murals that depicted the history and even saw the gates that are still closed every night between the two parts of town. The craziest thing for us was to learn that not many people are religious anymore but still practice this hatred for each other. Almost 90% of schools there are still segregated in 2016!

    Our favorite quote from our taxi driver was "these Protestants are more British than the Brits!" He did a great job giving us insight into the traditions still held including the annual bonfires by the Protestants which are quite massive and held right in the center of town and showed us the steel walls put up to divide the two sides which now a days has messages of peace and love written on it from tourists, as well as dents from rocks and burn marks from molotov cocktails. We got to leave our little mark as well!
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  • Day28

    Belfast

    September 28 in the United Kingdom

    Another cool day. Amazed at how different cities can be from one another. We were picked up by the black taxi and driver at 9 30 and headed off on the tour of Belfast (told from the point of view of a Catholic Taxi driver in his 60s) which lasted almost two hours. The first part of the tour took us to Shankill Rd, where he outlined the history of Belfast and the “troubles”. We visited the area and walked around the murals which have become a feature of the area. He also took us to the wall and like everyone else, we signed it. It was incredible to see it still standing at about 10 foot in each direction, separating the two parts of Belfast. He then took us to the Fall Road area on the other side of the wall where we visited a memorial garden for both civilians and IRA volunteers killed over the last 50 years. We were also shown the cages added to houses as a means of defence if they were close to the wall. He also clearly explained the meaning of the flags we see in many streets and on houses, marking the territory of each group. Turns out we are staying in the heart of Protestant Belfast! The tour ended and he dropped us in the centre of town. We spent a couple of hours looking in shops which were quite interesting. Of note was the burnt out shell of a huge shopping building which had only just gone on fire and was one of the biggest fires ever in Belfast. We wandered down to the Titanic Centre, following the river. It was an amazing building and the whole Titanic experience was excellent, particularly the fact that so much was interactive. The highlight was the ride through the building in a cable car, experiencing the boat building yard as it would have been back when the Titanic was being built. It was interesting that no relics of the actual trip are kept there as it is regarded as being tasteless yet there was a souvenir shop full of very tacky Titanic items! We grabbed a taxi ride back from town as both feeling very tired and heard yet another version of events this time from our Protestant driver! We rested up and enjoyed hot showers now that we had heard from the owner about the switch that needed to be on! We did some research and reserved dinner at a restaurant in the university quarter which was a 40 minute walk along the river and through some very interesting streets. The highlight was seeing a large flock of starlings flying in formation over the river. It really was spectacular as they grouped and re- grouped in a cloud- like formation led by one bird. We found the restaurant, Molly’s Yard easily and what a treat! It was an old stables and down stairs seated just 12 people. It was a very cute place and the staff were excellent as was the food- one of our best meals yet. We left there and walked down the road to House Belfast which was a beautiful hotel. After a lovely cocktail we caught a taxi back with one last version of “the troubles”, this time from a driver who didn’t side with either! Belfast is an intriguing place, full of history and emotion with a real edge to it.Read more

  • Day27

    Dublin to Belfast

    September 27 in the United Kingdom

    A leisurely departure from Dublin but sad farewelling the Griffins after such a lovely time with them. They dropped us at the airport where we easily found the rental car. Our drive to Belfast was on the coastal road and it was typically beautiful scenery. We stopped at a restaurant at Annalong, a deserted fishing village, where we had a fish and chip lunch, overlooking the sea. Our trip carried on until we made a major detour in an effort to locate the family home of our neighbour as he had asked us to do this. The address was 10 Cranny Lane which ended up being a very old farming area and itself was a very old farm lane. We were able to identify the house from the one in his photo and so took several photos for him. The trip into Belfast took another hour and so it was about 6 when we arrived. We were relieved to be in a gated apartment block with parking as we are in the heart of East Belfast and the families out on the street were scary to say the least. We changed and headed off on foot towards town which was 30 minutes walk. The streets were relatively empty and we didn’t feel as safe as in other cities. However we found the main eating area, Cathedral Quarter and enjoyed pizza at a very cool place before wandering around the laneways and streets full of old Irish bars. We decided on a taxi home for three reasons- very tired, safety and we weren’t sure where our apartment was!Read more

  • Day36

    Giant's Causeway

    October 9 in the United Kingdom

    Today started out cloudy but with no rain and it stayed that way for most of the day. I imagined I could see the Scottish coast but I really don’t think I could see that far in this weather.
    I started out at the Giant’s Causeway and I had expected it to be a lot bigger somehow. I did enjoy listening to the stories on the audio guide. I’m glad I had headphones as most of the other people with audio guides seem to be struggling to hear them. I keep the cheap headphones from the hop on hop off buses for this very purpose.
    The stones in the Causeway are fascinating. Many different types in such a small area.

    Yesterday the car notified me that one of the tyres had low pressure. I put air in it and we were fine until the evening when it happened again. It happened again on the way to the Giant’s Causeway and so once I was done I found a service station, put air in the tire and rang the car hire company. I was informed that I was liable for the tyre and the cheapest option would probably be to have it repaired myself. Fortunately the service station I was at had a tyre repairer attached so I soon had it sorted out. Fortunately the tyre was able to be repaired. I’m not sure what it was - probably a small piece of glass or metal as it was no longer there. At £16.50 I think I got off quite lightly.

    I then wound my way down between the Glens of Antrim and the coast road to Belfast. The Glens were very pretty. Forrests mainly. I stopped at Glenariff Forrest Park and went for a short walk.

    I’m in Belfast for the next three nights.
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  • Day37

    Touring Belfast

    October 10 in the United Kingdom

    Finally the rain has gone. It was a beautiful day today, cool but not cold and nice and warm in the sun.
    I started out with the hop on hop off bus tour. I sat up the top on the left, as I usually do and found myself ducking whenever we went under trees.

    I hadn’t realised that the city was still so divided. I was vaguely aware of the political situation when I was younger but did not really know much about it. The bus took us through both Protestant/Unionist and Catholic/Nationalist areas as well as along the peace wall which divides neighbourhoods. There is still signs of the conflict. The most sobering being the houses/flats with mesh covering the windows.
    In the Catholic areas street signs are in English and Gaelic, in the Protestant areas they are in English only. The union flag and Irish flag fly in their respective areas and there are so many murals and memorials.

    I got off the bus at the Titanic museum. The museum is great and very well done. It gives a history of industry and shipbuilding in Belfast and then then the building of the Titanic right through to the aftermath of the sinking. I spent quite a lot of time there looking at all the exhibits.

    I also met up with another Pokémon playing internet friend. It was nice to trade Pokémon but it was even better just to talk to her, get her experience of living in Northern Ireland and hear her perspective on various topics. We chatted for quite a while before I went off and finished the museum.

    I got back on the bus and the next part of the tour took us up the Parliament House. All vehicles are searched as they enter the gates although this was quite perfunctory. The guard took a look on the back seat and didn’t bother going upstairs. On the way back we again went through separated parts of the city.

    I got off opposite the Europa Hotel. It’s the most bombed hotel in Europe, having been bombed over 30 times. It’s around the corner and up the street from where I am staying.
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  • Day38

    Politics and a dinsoaur

    October 11 in the United Kingdom

    Today was mostly about politics and the conflict in Northern Ireland. I started out with a black taxi tour. It was educational, interesting, eye opening and sobering. My driver Kevin was 9 when the Troubles started and he’s lived in Belfast all his life.
    His insight was interesting and I saw much more than I did yesterday on the hop on hop off bus. He took me to the IRA museum. That was sobering, especially to think that this happened during my lifetime.
    One thing that did make me laugh was one of the rules at the Armagh Women’s prison.
    “Letters may not be smuggled in or out of the prison unless permission has been given beforehand”
    I saw rubber and plastic bullets that were used, they are huge. I had just assumed they were normal bullet sized.
    Part of the peace wall is covered in messages and graffiti. Bill Clinton was the first to write on the wall. I also wrote a message.

    At the end of the tour Kevin dropped me off at the City Hall. They have a comprehensive exhibition on the history of Belfast. Again it was interesting.

    From there I went to the Ulster Museum. They have “Dippy”the diplodocus carnegii dinosaur on display at the moment. He used to be in the foyer of the natural history museum so while I missed him in London I saw him here. To be honest I’m not that excited by dinosaurs but the rest of the exhibition that looked at the various differences in animal species in Ireland and the UK.
    They also had a special exhibition on the events of 1968.

    From the museum I caught the hop on hop off bus again. I wanted to hear what they had to say again. This time the tour guide was an older guy compared to the younger woman yesterday. They seemed to have quite different perspectives. He was not that optimistic about the removal of the peace walls. The guide yesterday tended to view it more as history, which to her it probably was.
    The bus was the last one of the day so I finished up in the city. I took a walk to find Vistoria Square, a shopping centre with a dome on top that gives views of the city.
    From there I got some dinner and headed back to the hotel. My phone battery was very low so I tried to find my way back using the street signs but was having no luck. Fortunately my battery lasted until I got back here.
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  • Day39

    Autumn Roads

    October 12 in the United Kingdom

    I left Belfast today to head back to Southern Ireland. That’s what those in Belfast were calling the Republic of Ireland. I was able to pick out some of the Belfast sayings. One of the displays at City Hall yesterday was on language and how the language and accent of Belfast has devolved from the English and Scots who were planted there as well at Gaelic. I somehow managed to chose Ulster Scots as the language on the audio guide and I couldn’t switch it back to English. I did try to listen for a while but had to give up. Apparently if you leave the audio unit off for a while it jumps to Ulster Scots. They had to give me another one.

    Anyway I digress. It was a lovely day to start, surprising as Storm Callum was meant to hit Belfast in the early hours of the morning but I woke to a cloudless sky. By the time I left the hotel it had clouded over. I realised that across the road was a unionist section of the city - Sandy Row. A mural there was of King William/Billy. It replaced a more militant mural saying “You are now entering Loyalist Sandy Row Heartland of South Belfast Freedom Fighters”and had a painting of a masked gunman. The replacement is much more mild.

    Yesterday the tour guide had said that the mountains surrounding Belfast were wonderful and gave a great view of the city. I set out for Black Mountain. The GPS wouldn’t recognise it so I put in Black Mountain primary school. I ended up in suburbia opposite a heavily fortified police station.
    Divis gave a better result but when I got there I couldn’t see the city.

    I made my way south along Lough Neath towards Armagh. The main reason for visiting Armagh was that my Creasy ancestors settled in Armagh in South Australia. That’s probably where the similarities end. I did find a lovely park with Priory ruins.

    This time I new the exact moment I crossed the border, mainly as there was a grey line on the GPS. Before I crossed that line I saw signs for Customs and Excise and also money exchange. There was no signs saying you are now leaving NI or entering Ireland and I was on a major road. Just a sign welcoming me to County Louth. A lot of the talk in Belfast on the news is how Brexit will effect the Northern Ireland/Ireland Border as there are so many crossing and some woman near Londonderry has her house in one country and her veggie patch in the other. No one seems to have come up with a solution yet.

    As I headed further south it got wetter and wetter. The scenery is still stunning though with all the autumn colours. One area I came across was full of apple orchards, it’s obviously picking time.

    I’m in Navan tonight so I can explore the ancient sites in the area tomorrow. Tomorrow’s my last day, I fly out on Sunday.
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  • Day6

    Bus Tour

    October 21 in the United Kingdom

    Not even 10 minutes into the trip and already our guide was giving us information on the tunnel we were passing through. The Dublin Port Tunnel is the longest urban tunnel in Ireland. That may not be a sight to see, or a destination on a map, but I found it pretty interesting. Now we're off and running, all the while enjoying classic Irish weather (light rain), and beautiful countryside. I can say confidently that I'm quite grateful for my first souvenir on a day like this.

    After driving for a while and stopping to get food (I got a chicken and bacon toastie), as well as use the facilities, we were back on the road. Suddenly, the tour guide says "Okay, were about to cross the border so get out your passport and ID's." pausing long enough that everyone on the bus had a moment to panic, she then says "Okay, go ahead an put them away, we've crossed the border." I thought it was a pretty funny way to bring the whole Brexit situation to light, and that they're still not sure what will happen with their border, but that may be because I would have been able to produce those documents. One of the other things she mentioned is that in Northern Ireland (U.K.) they use miles, whereas the Republic of Ireland uses kilometers.

    Our first stop along the tour was at Dunluce Castle. It had stopped raining, so we didn't really need our jackets, but to call the weather blustery would have been a vast understatement. Our tour guide informed us that it was originally owned by the McQuilllan family, but was taken over by the McDonnell family in 1550. Although this was just a photo stop, it was lovely to look at, and apparently it's the castle that is used for the Greyjoy castle in Game of Thrones.

    Nearing our second destination of the day we had to pass through Bushmills, where they're very well known for whiskey. Our guide also informed us that Bushmills is the oldest whiskey distillery, ever, and they started by using the water from the river right next to it. I guess Ireland wins that round. Finally we pulled up to Giant's Causeway, the place I've been looking forward to most. After a lovely walk down the cliffs, and roughly 20 photos later, the rock formations can finally be seen. Giant's Causeway was formed 50 to 60 million years ago when lava flowed up the coast to form hexagonal pillars, and the ones with iron in them have a deep red coloring. On a clear day, because it's only 17 miles away, Scotland can be seen from the causeway. Truly, breathtaking scenery.

    As a side note, because our bus had gone off somewhere during our time, people kept coming up to me asking if I knew when it would be back. I can only presume that I was the only person they recognized from the group because of my purple hair. At least I was able to reassure them that they wouldn't be left behind.

    From the causeway we continued on to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, but due to the windy conditions we aren't able to cross over it, which was fine because we only had an hour at this stop. I suppose them not wanting us to get blown in to the ocean is a good thing. The bridge was made as an alternative to boats to get to the island for fishing. After stepping off the bus and spending 15 minutes walking the wrong way (the pictures were worth it), I was able to powerwalk down to the rope bridge to at least take a picture before making my way back to the bus. I was also the only person not wearing a jacket, apparently because I'm a lunatic.

    A short drive later we were pulling up to Dark Hedges. This road has beech trees over 230 years old and were planted to create an imposing entrance. One hundred fifty trees were originally placed along the path, but after a severe storm in 2016 only ninety-nine remain. This was another location that Game of Thrones has filmed, so unfortunately there was no way to get a photo without tourists in it, but it was still very impressive to see.

    On the way back to the bus from the final stop I stumbled upon a small walkway. At first I thought it might just be a garden that wasn't in bloom, but walking through I realized that it was filled with fairy homes. Dozens of them. Certainly an unexpected surprise, but a fun way to end my trip before heading back to Dublin.
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  • Day11

    Finding Portrush

    September 24 in the United Kingdom

    We packed our bags and double checked nothing was left behind. After handing our door pass in and thanking the staff for moving us to a ground floor room we headed off to the bus stop to go to the airport to pick up the rental car. It was very brisk outside, lucky to be above 0 degrees. We needed bus 16 and we could see one at our bus stop but we were not going to make it in time, even running against the red light. Of course we missed the second bus 16 which arrived and departed a minute later. It was a 30 minute wait before the next number 16 arrived. This seemed very unusual as the buses run every 6 minutes. We piled on the bus, hoisting our bags in the luggage hold and enjoyed the 40 minute bus ride to the airport. At the airport I signed all the necessary papers and was given a Renault Captiva, diesel, because diesel is about 10 cents a litre cheaper than unleaded petrol in Dublin. The Budget rental guy wished me a belated happy birthday but offered no discount. Before getting the shuttle to pick the car up we had a coffee and hot chocolate, possibly the best ones so far. The Captiva is black with a white roof, has a few scratches and dents which were duly photographed as supposed proof they were there at pickup time. The drive to Portrush was an uneventful and boring 3 hours. The car has satnav but only for Ireland and Malta. An interesting combination of countries and nothing for Northern Ireland. That morning we had activated our Vodafone sim which gave us 6gb of data which will hopefully allow our phone to get us to the right location over the next four weeks. We arrive at our hotel which ended up being a B&B. We rang the buzzer but no one answered so I sent a message to the contact number and didn’t get a reply. We decided to have lunch as it was after 2:30pm. We parked on the Main Street near the water and walked to a flash looking pub. Portrush is a lovely looking seaside town with no obvious signs of commercialisation. We entered the pub and MDW asked me for her normal glasses which I normally carry in my pocket, as she had her sun glasses on. I said I didn’t have them so she entered wearing her sunnies. Must be in the bag in the car.
    We were seated and asked if if we wanted a drink. MDW had a Coke Zero and I asked for lemon squash. They didn’t have lemon, only lime, apple or orange. MDW said I should try something new so I settled for lime squash. Our drinks arrived and we struggled to hold in our laughter as my drink was a lime cordial. You know, what you give the kids or grandchildren to drink. Not only was it a lime cordial, it hardly had any lime flavour. By now MDW had tears streaming from her eyes down her cheeks and snot bubbling out her nose but I was determined to savour every sip. The strength was so weak I maybe should have got a glass of tap water. How much are they going to charge me for this drink! Our food was delicious and extremely filling. Time to go to the B&B after getting milk from Tesco.
    We arrive at the B&B and the operators showed us our room. It’s pretty good although no fridge but as it is so cool outside, the window ledge will do as our milk fridge.
    We also search our luggage for MDW’s glasses. We couldn’t find them so I rang the Dublin hotel who said they had them in the office. Looks like we will be going back to the Central Apartments on our way to the Dublin Airport next week.
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  • Day9

    Northern Ireland

    September 11, 2016 in the United Kingdom

    Irish (I wish haha) we could go back to the beautiful landscape of Northern Ireland! It's hard to compare the scenery of the north and south but both in their own ways were equally perfect!

You might also know this place by the following names:

Northern Ireland, Nordirland, Irlanda del Nord, Irlanda del Norte, Irlande du Nord, Šiaurės Airija, Noord Ierland, Северная Ирландия

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