Northern Ireland may have a complicated past but has now entered a new era of culture and tourism with an unstoppable music scene, world class exhibitions, some of the best restaurants in the UK and of course the most hospitable people you will ever meet.
I love going back home to Northern Ireland and here are some of my favourite things to do and places to visit.
Belfast’s Cultural Night
Belfast’s Cultural Night is biggest and boldest cultural celebration that happens every September on the third Friday. There is 200+ events, 100+ venues and over 50,000 people in Cathedral Quarter and beyond. The atmosphere in the city is electric and gives the Fringe Festival a run for its money (sorry Edinburgh). It only started a few years ago but each year it gets bigger and better!
St George’s Market & the Cathedral Quarter
St George’s market is held every Saturday accommodating local artisans, designers, butchers, farmers and everything in between. There is also live local music in the centre of the market and is a great place to soak up the atmosphere created by the friendly locals.
The Cathedral Quarter has everything you need for an awesome night out. The Catherdral Quarter is where the famous Snow Patrol used to play when they were waiting for their big break and you can visit the pub where they played their very first gig. Northern Ireland has an incredible music scene , a great place to check out up and coming artists is the Black Box.
Gigs in intimate spaces around the world, Sofar Sounds is a global movement which brings the magic back to live music. It is very difficult to get tickets in big cities like London and Edinburgh but Sofar Sounds only came to Belfast last month so it is still recently fresh and it hasn’t grown in popularity yet so be an ultimate hipster and get in on the act before everyone catches on!
(While we are on a music note - for all music lovers with a hippie soul check out Sunflower Fest , a music festival in the Northern Irish countryside lined with enchanted forests, camps fires, bubble machines and all round good vibes – flowers in hair are essential!)
The Cathedral Quarter is also home to one of two Made in Belfast restaurants. Made in Belfast prioritises high quality, local, ethically sourced produce, rustic food with an warm eclectic atmosphere.
Is one of the wonders of the world and it cannot be missed! You are able to walk around the rocks, hear the old legends of Irish giants, especially the hero himself Finn McCool. There is a new exhibition centre with interactive activities, gift shop and more. But if you’re on a budget, don’t pay the fee of £9. This is not clear for tourists, but to walk on the rocks is completely free and the £9 is for the exhibition and/or if you use the car park but the signs can be misleading.
The Causeway Hotel beside the entrance and has a beautiful relaxed atmosphere with surprisingly reasonable prices despite its location. It has comfortable arm chairs with great views and is the perfect place to go after a massive walk. (And means you can simply use their car park if you are going in for a coffee – just keep your receipt!)
Down the road (about 4 miles) you will find Portrush. It is argued that Portrush has had its day but I still think it has its charm! Lined with fun beach toy shops, fish and chips, ice cream parlours and of course Barry’s, the biggest theme park in Northern Ireland. With free entry, all the fun of the fair and prizes to be won it is worth calling in, even if it is for an hour to play the penny slots!
Bangor, my home town is a large seaside town in County Down on the southern side of Belfast Lough and is a stone’s through away from Belfast city. August is an awesome time to visit Bangor while the Open House Festival is taking place. There is also live music in Ward Park every Sunday afternoon during this time, while you are there you can check out the wild birds that reside in Ward Park!
We have all had that dilemma of how to spend an evening, caravan or bar? Bar or caravan? (wait have we?) Either way, we no longer need to make that decision. Goat’s Toe has a beer garden like you have never seen before – brightly decorated with superheroes, choose from rock star cocktails, sit in a pimped out caravan and enjoy the musical talents of the locals!
The Open Door is a beautiful holiday home to rent in Bangor, owned by my family! If you fancy a visit, get 10% off if you mention LifeWithClarity when you book.
It is a short flight from mainland UK so it is a super easy holiday and with two airports in Belfast you can always find cheap flights. Northern Ireland truly is a wonderful place and I am very lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful country. I hope you get a chance to discover some of its treasures. If you have any questions just let me know.