Happy Sunday, loves!
Today’s post is a little travel diary from last weekend – Matt and I went for a spontaneous weekend away in Belfast, and we absolutely loved the city. Our favourite city break together so far had been Dublin, but we both liked Belfast even more – it’s such a great city and I highly recommend you add it to your travel bucket list.
We flew from Newcastle at 7am on Saturday morning, and flew home at 5pm on Sunday evening – so we didn’t even have 48 hours there. We are already planning to go back as there is so much we didn’t get to do/see!
Once we landed and dropped our bags off at the hotel we went straight out to explore. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side, and after weeks and weeks of warm, dry, sunny days, a month’s worth of rain fell on the Saturday. Great. (Sunday was a washout as well, but it didn’t ruin our trip at all). Our first stop was the Titanic Museum – a must-do if you’re planning a trip to Belfast! We spent about three hours here, and to be honest, we probably could have spent longer. It was very busy as we got there about 10am – there were school trips and coach trips everywhere – but it was so worth it. The museum is focused mainly on the building of the Titanic, as it brought so much work to Belfast. There is a Disney World-esque ride showing different jobs that the ship building entailed, and this was really interesting. Towards the end of the museum, there is an idea of what the inside of the ship looked like, first hand accounts of what was happening as the ship was sinking, and it got very emotional. One thing that really got me (I may have cried…) was the quotes from people on board, and the transcripts of the Captain from the Titanic talking to nearby ships, asking for help. The story is so well-known but seeing this first hand was very upsetting.
Belfast city centre is very big, but everything is within walking distance – we wandered through the streets, popping into shops and looking at the sights (City Hall is beautiful) without the rain really bothering us. It was really cold though – the temperatures at home have been between 20 and 28 degrees, and in Belfast it was 15!! The Victoria Square shopping centre and the streets surrounding it is a really nice area, there was also a lot of shops we don’t have in Newcastle which were fun to look around. I was surprisingly restrained and didn’t actually buy anything whilst shopping except a replacement face powder. Matt is such a jammy bugger – he picked up a coat in Superdry (one he’d tried on/was going to purchase when it was full price) for 70% off!
We grabbed lunch then headed into Robinson’s Pub which was a very old fashioned, beautiful pub near our hotel. I took Matt to Dublin in March for his birthday, and ever since our trip he loves a Guinness – of course he got one! When in Ireland. Tim Horton’s was somewhere I really wanted to go as I’ve been to a few in the US – their donuts are incredible and the one in Belfast certainly didn’t disappoint. Matt got a Maple donut and I got a Boston Creme; Matt doesn’t really like donuts but I’m a little bit obsessed! *I know this post is about Belfast, but the best donuts we’ve ever had were from Off Beat in Dublin – I was gutted to learn there wasn’t a store in Belfast.* We were so tired by this point – the 4.30am wake up call really felt like a 4.30am wake up call, and we may have sneaked back to the hotel for a quick power nap before the night…
Luckily the rain had finally let up after our nap. Once we were ready we headed for dinner, although this was not as straight forward as you may think… Matt booked our reservation and we turned up dot on 7.30pm – only to find out that he actually had booked a different restaurant! Luckily, the waiter was fantastic and managed to squeeze us in – an earlier booking hadn’t showed up – and I’m so thankful we got to eat here. Matt and I found the whole thing hilarious, it’s never happened to us before! We ate at Taylor & Clay, The Bullitt Hotel, and had amazing steaks. The atmosphere in the restaurant was perfect – it was definitely our kind of place. The kitchen was open behind the bar, so you could see the chefs cooking, and the general vibe was just very cosy and welcoming. It was very well priced; we actually found Belfast to be very similar pricing to Newcastle.
We spent a few hours at The Dirty Onion, which is undoubtedly one of the best bars I’ve ever been to. This was recommended to us before the trip and certainly didn’t disappoint – it’s located in the oldest building in Belfast; it’s a fairly small bar with a huge outdoor area. There were heat lamps outside so it wasn’t too cold, and an incredible live singer. The atmosphere was busy and bustling, but it wasn’t crowded – the bar was full of locals so you know it was a good spot! I tried Copeland Rhuberry gin with lemonade; a new favourite. I’ve never seen this brand/flavour before, but I definitely need to get a bottle. We ended the night in Grannie Annie’s – and it was the most quirky, fun little place. The music was amazing, they played so many old school songs, it reminded us of Flares in Newcastle (minus the sticky dance floor and cringey atmosphere we all know and love so much). Matt’s friend – a lovely girl he met on a family holiday around 10 years ago!! – is the manager here, and she was an absolute star. Also, a special thank you to my wonderful boyfriend for piggy-back’ing me through the streets of Belfast because my blisters had blisters. A guy shouted ‘perfect boyfriend’ as Matt was running through the street and I have to agree!!
On Sunday we had a fairly lazy morning considering we were in the city for less than 48 hours. We surprisingly didn’t have bad heads, and we drank way more than we usually would on a night out at home! It was absolutely pouring down again so we knew our choices of activities was pretty limited. After a quick breakfast, we headed for St George’s Market – an indoor market filled to the brim with Northern Irish heritage. I’d recommend going here even if you’re not hiding from the rain. There was something for everyone in the market; from candles, to paintings, to home-made fudge; you definitely had lots of choices. There was also so much choice of foods from all around the world, but we weren’t hungry enough to get anything. It’s a shame because the Nutella crepes smelt amazing – I’m sure I can get one next time!
We really wanted to visit the Botanical Gardens but there was no way this was possible with the weather, it’s definitely on the list for next time. One thing to note if you are planning a weekend visit, is on Sunday’s a lot of the shops don’t open, or if they do it’s very late – we were passing the Victoria Square shopping centre at around 12pm and it was empty! Northern Ireland are a very religious country and therefore church comes before work on a Sunday. Thank goodness Starbucks was open (I was enjoying that the cold, rainy weather as it was an excuse for a hot chocolate!) I also picked up a Starbucks Belfast mug – I really love buying mugs when we visit places as a little souvenir. Matt has the same addiction but with pint glasses – at this rate we’re going to need at least three cupboards in our house just for mugs/glasses!
It finally stopped raining for a few hours and we visited the Peace Walls which was honestly an indescribable experience. We had already seen images on TV/Instagram etc (my girl, Stacey Dooley, also has filmed a documentary on the DUP in which she visits the Peace Walls – a must-see). Seeing the murals in real life was quite honestly unreal – if you’re not familiar, the walls signify the divide between Catholics and Protestants – and is a very large part of history, and Northern Irish culture. The people living on one side the wall (the Protestant side) consider themselves to be British – the Union Jacks are flying high on most houses, and the murals reflect this feeling. The other side of the wall (the Catholic side) consider themselves Irish – the Irish flags are everywhere you look, and their murals reflect their feelings. Although much of what happened during The Troubles is still very relevant and on people’s’ minds today, there is a general peace between both sides of the wall (hence the name). The murals are very indicative of all the feelings relating to The Troubles, and it was very sombre and surreal to see first hand.
One thing that really shocked Matt and I was the gates along the walls – the walls are around three miles long, and there are several through roads along this stretch. However, all of these through roads/paths have gates in between; and these gates are still locked every single night. Each side of the wall has their own gates, so they each close the gates on either side. As we visited on a Sunday, a day of rest, some of the gates were already locked and we were advised by our taxi driver of where to go if the gates in front of us were locked by the time we were ready to leave. When we visit again we’d really like to do the Black Cab Tour as it is very highly recommended and we’d love to learn more about the walls. Unfortunately we just didn’t have time – we walked along a stretch of the murals instead and took in as much as we could. I think it’s very important to mention we did not feel unsafe or scared at any time being here; it was just a very remarkable place to visit and another one I’d highly recommend.
As we walked back into the centre of town we talked a lot about the Peace Walls. I feel very grateful Matt and I could experience that together. We only had an hour or so left before we had to head to the airport so we went for a drink at The Crown – another opportunity for Matt to enjoy a Guinness! The Crown is the oldest bar in Belfast and it’s a very cool place – all of the seating areas are in enclosed spaces, with little doors to get in/out. We decided before we went back to the hotel we’d go to Boojum – a burrito bar local to Belfast, which I swear are the best burritos we’ve ever had! The vibe in the restaurant is so cool – there are wooden tables/benches and amazing artwork on the walls. We may have snuck for a Boojum burrito the day before too – oops! It was the perfect way to end our time in the city; eating good food together and talking about our trip.
I love nothing more than exploring new places with my boyfriend, and I feel so lucky that we get to do this on a regular basis. We definitely value trips and holidays more than material things, so saving up to be able to do these kind of things is a really high priority for us. Matt is the best travel buddy (and hand-holder on flights – I hate flying!) and I’m so grateful for another lovely weekend away together. I hope you enjoyed this post, and I’d love to record more travel diaries from our future trips if it’s something you’d like to see!
Matthew, thank you for being you, I love you!