The sexiest voices in the world apparently. That was the outcome of recent poll finding the Northern Ireland lilt to be the one we love the best. As if that’s not reason enough to take a short hop across the Irish Sea, Belfast has become one of the UK’s most vibrant and exciting destinations. Explore the small capital’s eclectic neighbourhoods and discover a fascinating underworld of history, art, music and a few surprises in between. With extra time you can always venture further afield with some brilliant options for half and full day excursions.
Belfast hosts a conservative estimate of 2 million annual visitors each year, with many attracted by the multi-award winning Titanic Belfast and the Tourist Board’s huge campaign showcasing the region’s many sites used in the hugely successful series ‘Games of Thrones’. The majority arrive in the summer months and school holidays, so at Low Season Traveller we recommend flipping this and exploring between October and March. Yes, the weather is cooler, but the welcome you’ll receive from the people of Belfast will be just as warm as in the high season. Come prepared for a bit of rain and you’ll see that the city has a wealth of things to discover. The parks are beautiful in the autumn, and there are plenty of pubs with a roaring log fire going on a winter’s day where you may even be mistaken for a local. Now, if only you could perfect that accent…
Start your day with a morning stroll in the beautifully verdant Victoria Park which runs along the Lagan River. There are several trails to follow, many centring round the Lake which is home to swans, waders and herons. Reward yourself with coffee before heading to the RMS Titanic attraction commemorating the fatal ship that began life in Belfast and met its doom in the North Atlantic. Continue for lunch among the tantalising local food stalls of award-winning St George’s Market. Take a tour of Crumlin Road Gaol which once housed notorious prisoners and political activists. Pop into the historic cathedral, consecrated in 1904 and continue for drinks and dinner in cobbled streets of the bustling Cathedral Quarter.
Out & About
Within a mere half hour’s drive there are some stunning, fascinating and historic sites where, in the low season, you’ll avoid the summer crowds. Our recommendations are Hillsborough Castle, actually a Georgian mansion, with gorgeous gardens or Castle Espie Wildfowl Wetland Centre on the shores of Strangford Lough, home to hundreds of native and exotic birds. Autumn is the time when visitors can see the centre’s huge population of Brent Geese migrating. Hilden Brewery is a working brewery with a fabulous restaurant in a beautiful setting. For a really natural experience, head out to the coast and the amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Giant’s Causeway, formed from 40,000 interlocking basalt rocks. Was it really created by local giant Finn McCool? Come and see and decide for yourself.