THE TOP HIGHLIGHTS OF MY TRIP TO IRELAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND

Ireland is such an amazing country and the Irish are just some of the friendliest people on Earth. Ireland is a beautiful island that is politically divided into two separate sections. The southern part of the island is the Republic of Ireland (officially also named Ireland). The northern part of the island is part of the United Kingdom and it is called Northern Ireland.  Now I know why the whole island is called the Emerald Isle or the Land of the Green! The stunning scenery left me breathless and I want to share what I think are must see places. This list will include places in Ireland and Northern Ireland. I hope ya’ll enjoy!

wikipedia.org

Political map of Ireland, showing the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland

1) Giant’s Causeway – The scenic view of the Northern Coast is one of the most amazing views you will ever see. The hexagonal rock formations are very unique and you won’t see something like this anywhere else in the world. I loved hiking through the trails and the view of the coast is priceless!

2) Dunluce Castle – The castle is located at the edge of the north Antrim coastline, which gives it a very dramatic feeling and view. This castle has the best view of the northern coast! This has been one of favorite castles that I visited because the view left me speechless. No words can describe how amazing the landscape looked from here.

3) Take a tour of Belfast’s Murals – These murals were painted by Catholics (Nationalist) and Protestants (Unionist). You will learn a lot about the history of Belfast and view the colorful murals of this vibrant city. If you are planning on visiting Belfast take a look at my post of the Top Things to Do in Belfast.

4) Carrickfergus Castle – This castle is located in the town of Carrickfergus. It is a beautiful and well preserved castle. There are cannons from the 17th to the 19th century. I had a great time because there is a lot to explore and the view over the water is stunning.

Ireland

5) High Crosses of Monasterboice –  You will see a cemetery, round tower, churches and high crosses.The monks used these crosses to educate people a long time ago about the gospel of God. This was my first time seeing high crosses and I was amazed at how beautiful they were carved.

6) Holy Cross Abbey – The abbey is charming. The church of the abbey is very lovely because the stained windows are colorful and attractive. It’s worth the trip for the beautiful countryside, the history of the abbey, and the tranquil setting.

7) Cliff of Moher – This place is breathtaking, words cannot describe the beautiful landscape of the cliffs. You cannot miss this place when you travel to Ireland. You can climb to the top of a little tower to get a better view of the cliffs. The day that we went to the Cliffs of Moher it was very windy, misty, and cold so I recommend that you take warm and comfortable clothes.

8) Dublin – I really enjoyed Dublin and I want to go back there soon. This city has a lot to offer and the Irish people are very friendly and sweet. In the two days that we spent there we visited an old prison, walked through the streets while admiring the colorful doors, and I visited Saints Patrick’s Cathedral. We spent a whole night watching river dancing and listening to Irish music at the different pubs of Temple Bar and had some of the best Fish & Chips at Leo Burdock.

Have you been to Ireland or Northern Ireland? If yes, what were some of your favorite places that you visited? If no, what places would you like to visit?

TOP THINGS TO DO IN BELFAST

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Botanic Gardens

I loved exploring the Botanic Gardens because they were very peaceful and beautiful. We walked all throughout the gardens and took lots of pictures.  If you love roses, I recommend that you visit the rose garden. The roses are really big, plump, and they smell lovely.

Murals

It is highly recommended that you take a tour of the Belfast Murals painted by Catholics (Nationalist) and Protestants (Unionist). You will learn a lot about the history of Belfast and view the colorful murals of the vibrant city.

Parliament Buildings, Stormont

Stormont is one of the most fascinating pieces of architecture in Northern Ireland. The architect who designed this amazing building was knighted by none other than King George V. The building is 365 ft wide, which represents one foot for every day of the year. There are six floors and six pillars at the entrance to represent each county in Northern Ireland. Moreover, in Stormont, the highlight of my day was meeting with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. He was very humble and I loved that he took time to meet with us.

St. George’s Market

If you are visiting Belfast you need to go to the St. George’s Market because it is one of the best markets in the UK and Ireland.  When we first arrived at the market, many shops were just opening so we just walked around. We all had a crepe and we got to see how they made it right in front of us. We also bought a cup of tea and it was all very delicious! I saw a lot of pretty and unique jewelry and I even bought some for myself. It was a really awesome experience to go into the market because it was full of culture.

The Titanic Belfast Museum

Did you know that Belfast was the birthplace of the Titanic? The Titanic museum is a very modern and innovative museum and it opened in March, 2012. The museum has hands-on displays, underwater exploration theater and re-created decks/cabins. My favorite part was when we rode a little cart inside the museum that took us around while while showing us how the Titanic was built. Everything inside the museum was very impressive! I also enjoyed seeing the distinctive rooms and the different levels of the Titanic ship. I learned a lot of new facts about the Titanic that I didn’t know before. So, if you are a fan of the Titanic, this is a great museum to explore!

Belfast City Hall

You can take a free tour of Belfast City Hall. The inside of the building has a classical Renaissance design. You will notice that marble is used extensively all throughout the building and there are a lot of beautiful stained glass windows. This is a place you don’t want to miss to take stunning pictures!

Bars

There are two bars that I recommend in Belfast. The first one is The Botanic Inn (also known as the The Bot) because they are the biggest bar in Northern Ireland. Since this bar was very close to where we were staying at, we went there almost every single night and we always had a great time. Plus, the bottles from where they serve your drink are pretty cool!

The second bar that I recommend is Filthy Quarter. This place is really awesome because it has four different bars inside, so if you get bored of one bar all you have to do is walk right across into another new bar. These are the four different bars in the Filthy Quarter:

  • Filthy McNastys
  • The Secret Garden
  • Filthy Chic
  • The Gypsy Lounge

Do you have other recommendations of things to do in Belfast?

EXPLORE TWO SMALL TOWNS IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Downpatrick

Close to Belfast are two different towns, Downpatrick and Newcastle. In Downpatrick, we visited the Down Cathedral and the St. Patrick Centre. The centre has an interactive exhibition where I learned that St. Patrick was a slave. After visiting the centre we went to the Down Cathedral, which stands on Cathedral Hill overlooking the town. It is believed that St. Patrick was buried near the cathedral.

Newcastle

After exploring Downpatrick, we headed out to Newcastle. The town is gorgeous because it is located right next to the sea and at the foot of Slieve Donard. When we first got into town my friends and I bought ice cream! Every ice cream that we tried in every little town in Northern Ireland was always delicious! After buying our ice cream we headed out to the beach. The tide was very low so the sea was pretty far away. We made our way closer to the sea. The sky looked clear and blue when we started to walk. Suddenly, when we were halfway down the beach the sky started to turn gray and it began to pour down. We all ran to get away from the rain but the more we ran the more we got wet. Finally, after a few minutes the sky cleared up again and the sun came up. It was pretty weird to see how fast the weather could change. I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. I still had an amazing time in Newcastle, it was a very pretty town to explore.

Belfast – A City Divided by Peace Walls

The city of Belfast is a beautiful city with many great things to see and explore. The Titanic was built in this amazing city. However, if you ever visit the interface areas of Belfast, you will see that they are divided by peace walls.  Interface areas are areas where segregated Catholics (Nationalist) and Protestants (Unionist) residential areas meet. Peace walls were built to prevent violence between these two communities. We took two different tours that showed us the reality of the conflict that is still going in Northern Ireland. One of the tours was from the perspective of the Nationalist and the other one was of the Unionist.

Graffiti on the peace wall

Graffiti on the peace wall

Houses next to the peace wall

The houses next to the peace walls have metal fencing and barricades to protect them against pipe bombs, bricks or fireworks.

Peace Wall

This picture shows how more high walls and fences have been erected to keep Protestant and Catholic communities apart due to ongoing sectarian tension.

Nationalist Tour

The first tour that we took was on the Nationalist side of the interface area. The tour guide took us to a school where he showed us a wall with different bullet holes that the Unionist had fired. Since there was a church behind the school the Unionist would target the people coming out of church service. It was haunting to see the bullet holes in a school, were young children go to learn. Our tour guide also showed us different murals on the peace walls. On the murals people drew different things like civil rights movements and important leaders that have changed the world. I was surprised to see a mural of Hugo Chavez. I asked the tour guide why there was a mural of Cesar Chavez and he told me that it was because he fought for the civil rights of the native people of Venezuela. Since the Nationalist identify themselves as the native people of Ireland, they can relate to his causes. It was very intriguing to observe the different murals because they are a piece of art.

Unionist Tour

Our second tour started on the Shankill Road, which is a main road that runs through the predominantly Unionist area known as the Shankill. At the beginning of the tour we had to pass through a gate to go to the Unionist side. The guide explained to us that the gate is locked everyday at 7pm and they do not open until 7am in an attempt to avoid trouble between the two communities.

Gate to enter the Unionist interface area

Gates to enter the Unionist interface area

On our tour, the guide stopped by a plate and he explained to us why the plate had been put there. He told us the story of the Shankill Road Bombing, which occurred on October 23, 1993. It is one of the most notorious incidents that happened during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

DSC01076

All down the Shankill Road there were also murals that express different causes and memorials of incidents that happened during the Troubles.

Corrymeela Community and Ballycastle

Corrymeela Community

After we visited Giant’s Causeway we headed to Corrymeela Community, which is a Christian community whose objective is to advocate harmony and peace-building through the healing of religious, social, and political divisions in Northern Ireland.   When we arrived we were greeted by the volunteers of the Corrymeela Community, and all of them were very nice and warming.The site was stunning and what I love most about it was the view. Since Corrymeela is on the top of a hill, it has a magnificent view of the coast. I was able too see Scotland, since it is only 13 miles away! The rooms where we stayed at were pretty neat and modern. After, we had dinner and learned about the rules of the Corrymeela Community. We had a tour of the whole place and right after the tour we had a small talk with Reverend Harold Good, who is known as an internationally renowned peacemaker. He told us a little of his background story and how he was involved in the Peace Process of Northern Ireland. The following morning I went to explore the grounds of Corrymeela on my own. It was wonderful because I had time to reflect and admire the view. I went to sit on the bench by the cross and just savored the view in complete silence. I realized how wonderful this experience was and how lucky I was to be in Northern Ireland at the Corrymeela Community.

Ballycastle

Later on in the day, we walked to Ballycastle, which is a very small town in Northern Ireland. As we walked there we admired the view of the northern coast and the countryside.

Giant’s Causeway

Giant’s Causeway is the result of intense volcanic and geological activity. It provides a glimpse into Earth’s most ancient past, since it is a 60,000 million years old legacy of cooling and shrinking of successive lava flows. The reason why it’s called Giant’s Causeway is because it is believed that the mighty giant, Finn McCool, built it across the North Channel so that he could meet another giant that was challenging him to a fight. Many locals believe that this place has real magic.

I had a lot of fun visiting Giant’s Causeway because it was full of nature and beauty. The view was just one of the most amazing views I had ever seen. The rock formations, which are hexagonal, were very different from any rocks I had seen. I loved climbing the rocks and being so close to the ocean! The weather was perfect because it didn’t rain and we had a beautiful sunny day. We hiked along the cliff-top trail to get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful causeway coast.

Explore Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is located at the edge of the north Antrim coastline, which gives it a very dramatic feeling and view. The entrance fee was 5 Euros. I had a good time going throughout the castle and exploring every corner of it and observing the magnificent view. It felt very magical! It was fascinating to heard from our tour guide that the castle’s kitchen fell off during a banquet one stormy night. I really did not want to leave this magical place. I wish we had more time to explore it because it was such a marvelous place to see and the view was just amazing!