Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
Ireland is a tourist paradise, not in the sense of sand and sun - though there's more of that than is usually credited - but because of the pace of life and the very many cultural and historical features. Then there's the magic, which should never be overlooked.
Safe and sound
With all of the wonderful places in Ireland, Belfast has often been put on the back burner. Unfortunately, for so many years, Belfast was known more for its hurts than for the grace and beauty that are there. Belfast has all the magic and mystery of the rest of Ireland, and it hasn't been done to death like some of the other popular sites. I mean, once you've kissed the Blarney Stone, you've kissed it; there's no need to have an affair. Yes, there are things to see and do in Belfast, and it's well worth the visit. Besides, they're innocents, really, unsullied by tourists. Won't they be happy to see us! I can just see the all the happy reunions as the visitors find their roots and meet the relations.
Peace looks good in Ireland, as the political situation is pretty much resolved. The canny Celt knows when the jig is up. The bit "T-word" has knocked the winds out of the sails of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and Sinn Fein did an arms dump. Peace broke out. Thanks be to God.
The small area refered to as Northern Ireland is surrounded by blue mountains, windswept moors, ruined castles, beautiful Atlantic seascapes, and forests. Belfast is ringed by high hills, sea lakes and river valleys. A village in the 17th century, now Belfast has a population of nearly half a million, about a third of Northern Ireland's industrious population.
Belfast was the starting point in the industrial revolution in Ulster. With industries like linen, rope-making and shipbuilding this doubled the size of the town every ten years. The world's largest dry dock is here, famous as the Titanic's building site.
Belfast's city center is pedestrianized - as is Dublinís Grafton Street, way to go! - and there beautiful Victorian and Edwardian buildings abound with elaborate sculptures over the doors, carved stone heads of gods and poets, scientists and queens, kings, and creatures of myth.
Where to go in Belfast
The Ulster Museum in the Botanic Gardens houses a collection of Irish and international art, Irish furniture, crystal, and ceramic work. There is a famous collection of gold and silver jewelry recovered by divers in 1968 from the Spanish Armada treasure ship, Girona, wrecked off the Giant's Causeway in 1588.
The Linen Hall Library, located near City Hall, was established in 1788. This is an important Irish collection of over 20,000 volumes with a Robert Burns collection.
The Crown Liquor Saloon is Belfast's most famous pub. Once a railway hotel, the Crown has been restored by the National Trust.
Belfast Zoological Gardens is one of the finest zoos in Europe and is located on the Antrim Road just outside Newtownabbey. It contains local animals as well as exotics. There are many events and changing displays throughout the year.
Cave Hill beyond Belfast Castle affords a fantastic view. MacArtís Fort is a giant rock at the top, and is where the United Irishmen met to plan the rebellion of 1795.
Belfast Port and Harbor - City bus tours pass by the wharf where the Titanic was built. There are occasional tours of the harbor and the historic Harbor Office.
Dixon Park - The City of Belfast International Rose Trials are held in this beautiful park every year in July. At any time in the summer, there are always at least 100,000 blooms to see.
The City Hall, built around 1903, dominates the main shopping area. It is built in the Classical Renaissance style with an Italian marble interior and statue of Queen Victoria at the front.
Queen's University, with its mellow brickwork and Tudor cloister, was built in 1849 by Charles Lanyon who designed more buildings in Belfast than anyone before or since.
The southern part of the city is good for moderately priced restaurants, pubs, accommodations, shopping and theatre.
Belfast has so much to offer that itís impossible to do it justice in one short article. Trip planners like 1 2 Travel can help you prepare to take your time and relax. Itís a great city welcoming to new friends. These are but a few of the sites of Beautiful Belfast. God bless and Bon Voyage!