Belfast, Giants Causeway & Mount Stewart
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Lap up the refreshing atmosphere of Ireland on this 5-day short UK break featuring excursions to Giants Causeway, a Belfast city tour and of course, your trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Bushmills Distillery – the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world
Day 1 – Arrive in Belfast & City tour
Make your way to your hotel in Belfast this morning, looking out for the stunning sights of Northern Irelands capital as they come into view. Whether you prefer to make your own way there by car or would like to go by train or private car, our helpful travel desk team would be more than happy to help you organise trains, flights or a private car to suit your arrangements. Our hand-picked hotels are always thoughtfully chosen for their location, amongst luxurious touches, facilities or perhaps a special story behind them. The Europa Hotel is no different: with its central location and list of famous guests over the years.
Later on this morning, we embark on a guided tour of Belfast to learn more about what makes this capital so special and worthy of being voted the best place to visit in 2018. A city once divided, our guide will delve deeper into the history and politics, understanding the different sides and how they live together in the peace process, which make Belfast what it is today.
Iconic sights on the East side include the Cathedral Quarter and the Grade A Listed Parliament Building, with its striking architecture and grand steps. Not forgetting the City Hall, Grand Opera House and CS Lewis Square, where youll spy carefully crafted sculptures of characters fromThe Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.Youll also find lavishly decorated pubs dotted around Belfast, such as the famous Victorian Crown Liquor Saloon, with its ornate tiled frontage, original features dating back to the 1800s and carved mahogany booths.
To begin to understand the citys past in more depth, we also get under the skin of the culture by visiting Catholic populated Falls Road and Protestant dominated Shank Hill Road, which run parallel to one another. Our guide will also share stories from the peace line wall, which was built to keep the Nationalists and Loyalists apart but in turn separated the communities. And of course we will also have a chance to see the famous murals and learn the meanings behind them.
This evening you are free to make reservations to enjoy your first of many dinners in the city. While in Belfast, be sure to sample the incredible locally caught seafood, such as mussels and herring, as well as potato-based dishes, including champ, apple bread and Irish stew
Day 2 – Titanic Experience
After an Irish breakfast, we start the day by heading to the Titanic Experience. Belfast really came into its own in the Industrial Revolution, gaining weather from ship building, lining making and tobacco exports. Today, memories of this affluent time are found in the likes of the iconic Samson and Goliath twin gantry cranes, an imposing sight along the portside. You can see this influence throughout the city hall, banks and other historical buildings, as your mind wander to what life would have looked like some 200 years ago.
With the maritime heritage running through the veins of Belfast, no visit would be complete without a visit to the award winning Titanic Experience. We explore the history and legacy of the Titanic, what it meant to the people of Belfast and the story of those who were on the fateful ship itself. As well as a series of 9 interactive galleries, you can even walk the deck of the last remaining vessel of the White Star line. The afternoon is free to explore so whats it to be? Perhaps head to the Ulster Museum, where exhibits range from the prehistoric to modern masterpieces, wander St. George’s Market for a bargain, head to the Botanic Gardens with its Palm House and the Tropical Ravine, or simply amble along the Lagan river for a spot of people watching.
Day 3 – Giant’s Causeway, Antrim Coast & Bushmills Distillery
This morning, prepare yourself for one of the most famous coastal trips in the world, as we embark on the Antrim coast road. We head out by the side of the Belfast Lough, the key to the prosperous ship building industry, passing though Carrickfergus with its arresting Medieval castle. Varied scenery turns from verdant green farmland, rugged coastlines and curved bays as we follow the coastline north. Be on the look out for the glens of Antrim, of which there are 9 in total, as the scenery changes before your eyes from neat, fertile valleys and charming villages to wildly beautiful, rugged vistas.
Its amazing what we can see today now the A2 road has been established, as the isolated glens would have previously been harder to access. A happy consequence, this helped to preserve the beautiful Gaelic language, as one of the last places in Northern Ireland is spoken. Across the countryside, evidence of tough lives of farmers and rural inhabitants are found in many abandoned cottages seemingly in the middle of nowhere its truly a wonder how people managed to eke out a living on the rugged landscape.
We continue our fascinating Irish voyage through breathtaking Ballycastle, a port and also at the mouth of 2 of the Glens of Antrim. Look out for Rathlin island, Northern Irelands last inhabited island.
The next highlight to come into view is the magical Giants Causeway. As you take in the surrounding area of outstanding national beauty, itll come as no surprise this geographical wonder is acknowledged as a UNESCO heritage site. Its basalt hexagonal columns have spawned many legends, notably Finn McCool, fabled hunter-warrior in Irish mythology. We go on to discover more about this fascinating spot, as we pay a visit the state-of-the-art visitors centre, illuminating the science behind the site as well as the fairytales that have been weaved along the way.
Of course a visit to this part of Ireland wouldnt be complete with a tasting of the famous tipple. We continue onward to Bushmills distillery, one of the oldest licensed distilleries in the world. Founded in 1608, we discover the illustrious craft of making triple distilled whiskey on a guided tour with the chance to try a dram at the end. We then return to Belfast free evening to get to know this wonderful city further.
Day 4 – Mount Stewart
After another breakfast at the hotel, we head south this morning to the shores of delightful Lough Strangford. Wildlife lovers might want to bring their binoculars or favourite camera, as this is truly a haven for wildlife. The largest inlet in the British Isles, there are seventy islands dotted along its many picturesque islets, bays and coves.
The house itself is a real treasure trove of history, and you can get a true sense of the familys place in history as you wander its many handsome rooms. The gardens in fact are arranged in rooms too: from the exquisite Italian garden, The Shamrock, the Sunk garden, the Dodo terrace and the Spanish Garden to name just a few. Youll have plenty of time to lose yourself in this spectacle of fine horticulture before returning to Belfast in the mid afternoon.
Day 5 – Return home