This spring we had the opportunity to spend two days (not nearly enough time) in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is amazing and you have to visit the coast if you have the chance.
Because we were limited for time, we mainly stayed in Belfast and then traveled the coast on a Game of Thrones tour. Nerdy, I know, but this tour was awesome in that we were able to see a ton of beautiful sites while also learning more about their significance in filming the HBO show.
Where are we?
We flew into Dublin and took the short (roughly an hour and a half) bus ride to Belfast. Northern Ireland was divided from Southern Ireland (now known as the Republic of Ireland) on May 3rd, 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Although the purpose of the act was to create two self-governing bodies in Ireland (while still remaining in the United Kingdom) the War of Independence in 1922 and the Anglo-Irish Treaty resulted in the political division between the North and South. Today, Northern Ireland remains a part of the UK, while Southern Ireland (Irish Free State) is now the sovereign Republic of Ireland and is independent of the United Kingdom.
Belfast (derived from the Irish word Béal Feirsde) is the capital city of Northern Ireland and means “rivermouth of the soundbanks”. Located on the River Lagan, it is also the largest city in Northern Ireland (second largest on the entire island) and played a large role during the industrialization period, mainly producing linens, rope, and ship-building (including the RMS Titanic). During the 1970s, the city suffered some of the worst damages during the civil unrest known as the Troubles, a period of time named for the conflict between the Catholic (“Republican”) and Protestant (“Loyalists”) populations in Ireland. The political violence during this time resulted in bombings and deaths across Belfast.
With essentially a day and a half to see ALLTHETHINGS, we really struggled with how we could most efficiently spend our time experiencing the coast and if possible, see where some of the GOT scenes were filmed.
After deciding that we didn’t want to rent a car for a day to drive on the left side of the road (nope) around cliffs (double nope), we determined that a day trip to the coast would be the best option. We booked with Game of Thrones Tours, which I highly recommend. We paid £50/each for all-day transportation and a tour; it was awesome to be able to just sit back and enjoy Northern Ireland. Even if you haven’t seen the show, I would still consider the tour because the sites were great and the commentary was a lot of fun. While I’ve seen all the episodes and am a fan of the show, I only recently got into the story; unlike Chris who single-handedly won the trivia contest in the van on the way back to Belfast (because of course).
Our tour guide was AMAZING and has been an extra on the show multiple times. When I saw him I said, “Wow he looks like Davos!” only to find out he is also Ser Davos’ stand-in. He was also the extra in the famous “How do you plead…. Peter Baelish” scene from Season 7.
Larrybane Chalk Quarry:
The Dark Hedges:
The Giant’s Causeway:
Ulster Museum, Belfast:
We visited the Game of Thrones Tapestry Exhibit at the Ulster Museum on our last day in Northern Ireland. The museum is amazing and I wish we had more time to view all of the exhibits! The tapestry is really cool to see; it takes up an entire room (80 meters long!) and shows the story from seasons one through seven.
Holohan’s Pantry is absolutely amazing and a must-eat restaurant if you have time in Belfast. They were able to fit us in last minute and I am so glad we were able to have an authentic Irish dinner in the short time we were in Belfast. We both had a version of the boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake. They use local ingredients to develop traditional Irish cuisine. Soooo good.
Maggie May’s is a great place for a genuine breakfast in Belfast. A tiny diner (only accepts cash) with a huge menu, they have options for everyone. One of the best brunches ever.
Northern Ireland is one the most beautiful and interesting places we’ve visited in Europe.
Watching: The Staircase (Netflix)
Reading: The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (Dan Egan)