Belfast is all too often missed off Ireland travel itineraries but the lively capital of Northern Ireland deserves to be known for more than its political unrest. This was the city that famously built the Titanic (‘she was fine when she left here’ locals will undoubtedly tell you of the tragedy) and hosts the UK’s second-biggest arts festival (the Belfast Festival), but if you tire of exploring the city, there are plenty of easy day trips to take. Here are a few ideas.
We all know that Ireland has a long, long history but it’s another thing to actually stand inside a structure that was built in 3200BC and have that history all around you. The Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange is older than the pyramids in Egypt, and older than Stonehenge in England.
Once a famed world ‘trouble-spot’ for the difference of opinion between the Nationalists and the Loyalists, (roughly those who identify as Irish and those who consider themselves British, and roughly dividing respectively as Catholic and Protestant), Belfast and Northern Ireland is now a peaceful and popular place to visit. But Belfast in particular still bears prominent visual reminds of ‘The Troubles’, which really kicked off in 1969.
From sweeping coastal cliffs dotted with medieval castles to Dublin’s lively pubs, the Emerald Isle is teeming with possibilities, and with only one week to spend in Ireland, it’ll be a tough call where to visit first. Thankfully, traveling around the small island is easy and excellent bus, train and road links mean you’ll be able to cram in a surprising number of attractions.
A popular day trip from Cork, Kinsale is one of Ireland’s most picturesque and fashionable seaside resorts, set on the rugged southwest coast. Tucked between hills in the estuary of the River Bandon, the historic port town is also famous as the site of one of Ireland’s most significant battles in 1601, marking the end of the country’s ancient Gaelic aristocracy and putting it firmly on the map for history enthusiasts.
With the USA’s Irish-American population estimated at around six times the current population of Ireland, it’s no surprise that so many of our public figures can trace their routes back to the Emerald Isle. John F Kennedy, Alfred Hitchcock, Neil Armstrong and Walt Disney all boasted Irish blood, and even Barack Obama is partly of Irish ancestry. Whether you’re 2nd generation Irish or have distant Irish blood, you likely felt proud as the vibrant St Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations took place around America in March in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, but March was also Irish-American Heritage month, making it the perfect time for Irish-Americans to get in touch with their Irish roots. The only question is: where do you start?