Carrick a Rede rope bridge Steve

Spotlight on Belfast and the Antrim Coast

When I was growing up in England and Spain, Belfast was not a city people traveled to unless they had to. The “Troubles” — with innocent lives lost amid the passionate tensions between the different factions of the Nationalists (Irish and Catholic) and the Loyalists (British and Protestant) — made the Northern Ireland capital a dangerous place to visit.

On my recent visit to Belfast, though, I was happy to see that — although the memories of recent events still are very much alive — the city is doing a fabulous job of “moving on.” And Belfast is booming! New hotels are popping up all over the place to meet a huge increase in demand for travelers. I can see why more and more travelers are flocking there with so much to see and do.

For example, the Docklands area was massively cleaned up and is now the beautiful Titanic Quarter, which has the Titanic Museum as its centerpiece. This museum (right), which in itself is of architectural interest, is located where the famously doomed ship was built, and it displays a wonderful history of its short life.

The Belfast City Hall also is worth a visit. The building is symbolic of the huge wealth the city boasted over a hundred years ago with its linen industry, shipbuilding, rope-making and tobacco. The main lobby is made of intricately carved marble, including some of it from Carrara, Italy. There is a permanent exhibition in the building showcasing some of the city’s famous natives, such as C.S Lewis, John Bell, James Galway, Van Morrison, George Best and Alex “Hurricane” Higgins … to name but a few.

The area around Queens University Belfast is lovely with its architecture, botanical gardens and all the cafés and shops that come with a student area.

In such a recently booming city, it was impactful and moving to visit the area that was at the heart of the “Troubles.” The wall art there not only depicts the local conflict but also struggles around the world. Also, seeing the wall (left) that still separates the Catholic Irish section from the Protestant British section (although the gates now are wide open, of course) serves as a very grim reminder of what walls stand for.

Outside of Belfast, the Antrim Coast boasts one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world. This can be seen in a very easy day trip from the city. The blend of the rugged coastline with the bucolic green fields dotted by white farm houses and grazing sheep is stunning. No wonder writers, poets and musicians are inspired by this landscape.

The most well-known place to visit here is the Giants Causeway (right) with its hexagonal columns jutting out of the strand with the waves crashing on them. The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge just down the road is well worth a visit, too. Even if you are scared of heights, it is well worth taking this bridge to reach the small island it is attached to.

If you are looking to integrate an academic course into a faculty-led program to Belfast, there are plenty of possibilities for history, art, literature, theater, business, food, music, politics and more. Belfast also easily can be combined with Dublin and the rest of the Emerald Isle. Plus, with Scotland just 12 miles away across the sea from Northern Ireland at its closest point, there are several easy ferries that can take your group to Britain.

I was so impressed by Belfast on my recent visit that I can’t wait for you to see what this amazing city and the rest of the Emerald Isle has to offer. Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or give us a call, and we will put together a fabulous travel program for you and your group.


Steve Hart
Hart Travel Partners