It’s been a few weeks since we returned home from our mini road trip, but I thought I’d share some of our travels with you.
First up was Belfast. Anyone who knows us knows that we don’t tend to make big plans (as much as I like to be organised, I also know how hard it is to pin a Miller down – and I’m now one of them!) and the only thing that was decided was to go to Ireland before driving to Oxford. Totally on the way.
We left Dundee early on a bright Monday morning to drive three hours across Scotland to Cairnryan on the West coast, where we caught a ferry to Belfast. Three hours and a quick Google search later we discovered that the local Hilton was dog friendly so we booked a room and drove ten minutes to the city centre hotel. Perfect for tourists and dogs-about-town.
Jake was made to feel very welcome by the staff at the Hilton, who told us that a Cockapoo named Tina was also in residence, although we didn’t actually see (or hear) her during our stay. Twenty minutes later the three of us found ourselves at the Titanic museum, which was fascinating even from the outside. (When you go on holiday with your dog, you have to accept that there are some tourist spots that you will only ever experience from the outside). After a shared tuna sandwich and blustery walk home, we gave Jake his dinner before heading out to find something to eat ourselves.
The best way to see any city (apart from an open air tour bus, obvs) is to walk around, almost aimlessly – it’s the best way to come across all things weird and wonderful, like this shepherd and his sheep and the giant mosaic fish!
We walked and before long were standing in awe in front of the very grand and very beautiful City Hall before moving on up the high street (much the same as any other) to find ourselves at the University of Ulster and the Irish Telegraph buildings. As much as it was interesting, food was on our minds and there wasn’t a restaurant in sight. Our quest for nosh continued, and we walked passed St Anne’s cathedral before we eventually stumbling on Cathedral Quarter, a fascinating hub of streets and lanes where the walls are painted colourfully with political, religious and musical images and phrases. Remember to look up as there’s lots to see above eye-level, from clusters of street signs and hanging baskets to profound musings and scripts.
Le Coop is a chicken restaurant and the place was packed, which I think is always a good sign… the inside reflected the area outside with its graffiti artwork and eclectic interiors. The food was delicious – we ate roast chicken with fries and salad, but they serve steaks and burgers too, so if you like scrummy, “comfort” scran you’ll definitely like Le Coop. It’s a pretty cool place without being pretentious. There’s nothing worse than a place (or person) who tries too hard, don’t you think?
On the walk home we overheard Kodaline live from Belfast music festival; the band sounded brilliant and we were sorry we hadn’t arrived earlier to see (or at least eavesdrop) on Biffy Clyro, who had played the day before.
Despite being in Belfast for less than 24 hours, the buildings and rich culture made a big impression on us. It’s a vibrant city with lots to offer, but one thing that struck me about Belfast were the people; they’re all friendly and everyone smiles and says hello. It’s a nice thing, to be in a city (or sadly these days, anywhere) where the people look at and acknowledge each other without worrying that they’ll seem like a weirdo! I don’t know that I would hurry back but I would definitely return at some stage in the future. If you’re going to Ireland or planning a city break close to home, I’d encourage you to visit Belfast. You’ll experience somewhere new with a rich culture, interesting personality and a deep sense of history but, thanks to the people and being just a short flight/ferry ride away, you’ll also feel at home. It’s great for people who aren’t keen on stepping out of their comfort zones but who want to experience new places.
Next stop, Dublin. Ish.
Travel note: Before heading south to Dublin, we took a trip to see the Giant’s Causeway. It’s about an hour’s drive north of Belfast and absolutely worth going. Do it!