Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Belfast Tour, Northern Ireland

On Saturday morning I took another bus tour but this time up to Northern Ireland.  This tour was a highlights tour of Belfast, along with some other scenic points up north.  From Dublin, it's only a couple of hours north to Belfast. 

There wasn't any border check between south and north.  The only differences were the road signs.  In Ireland, all of the signs are in both Irish and English and the distance is in kilometers.  In Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the UK, everything is in English and listed in miles. 

Belfast is the largest city up north and the second largest on the island.  It's the UK's 18th largest city.

There are hundreds of political murals in Belfast and the vast majority of them promote either republican or loyalist beliefs.

One of our first stops was at the Eileen Hickey Museum.  It opened in 2007 and is a Republican museum staffed by volunteers.  The museum is quite powerful and shows Northern Ireland and the Troubles from the Catholic, Republic point of view.

The peace walls are intended to keep the peace between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods.  They run over 34 km (21 miles) across Belfast.

What's unbelievable is that more walls have gone up since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.  It's difficult to comprehend how two Christian groups, Catholics and Protestants, have to erect barriers to deter violence between each other.

The current plan is to remove the walls by mutual consent by 2023.

Belfast City Hall was built in 1906 and was renovated in 2009.  On one side is a Titanic memorial.  Here's a Rick Steves video I found on YouTube which gives some Belfast highlights.

©Rick Steves

The Titanic museum opened in March 2012 at a cost of £77 million (~$129 million).

We then journeyed to Downpatrick to visit Down Cathedral.  Here we saw the grave of St. Patrick who is credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland

Our next stop was the St. Patrick Centre where we learned more about Ireland's patron saint.

Then it was on to Dundrum, a small seaside village, which is home to the remains of a Norman castle.  The castle dates back to the 12th century.

After a few photos we started to make our way back to Dublin.  Along the way we stopped to see the Mourne Mountains which is the largest mountain range in Northern Ireland.

This was another long day trip.  We drove around 500 km (311 miles) and saw quite a bit.  It was a good introductory visit to Belfast.  Next time, I want to spend a couple of days in Northern Ireland so that I can fully explore Belfast and perhaps try to see things from the Protestant point of view.  I also want to visit the Giant's Causeway which is only a couple of hours away.

No comments:

Post a Comment