9 of the most beautiful towns you need to visit in Ireland

Ireland – one of the leading tourist attractions of the world is beyond beauty. Everything that this country embraces is beautiful and lively. From the countryside to the town-life, everything about Ireland is worth visiting and knowing.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay.com

Because of such abilities, Ireland has easily been able to rule over the hearts of a number of people around the world. From its rich history and culture to the modern lifestyle – the country is a blend of everything. The big city life of the country is worth all the hype, however the small cities and towns of the country have their own charm.

Below listed are the nine most beautiful towns of Ireland:

  1. Manorhamilton, Leitrim:

This is the town which describes the culture and beauty of Ireland at its beautiful best. This Irish town is quaint and is full of everything that the tourists need. There are beautiful little shops, few small pubs as well as a castle. You can spend a couple of days in this sweet town by interacting with the friendly town and exploring the places in and around it.

  1. Roundstone, Galway:

Your tours of Ireland would be incomplete if you don’t visit this beautiful seaside village which is quintessential and calm. This village is located on to the west coast of Galway within the region of Connemara and this town is everything about some of the most pristine locations that you would ever encounter within the country. There are fine bars and restaurants as well.

  1. Clonakilty, Cork:

Another beautiful town in the country of Ireland is Clonakilty which attracts a number of tourists because of its colorful nature and appearance. This town is located down on to the Southern tip of the country and is one of the most popular towns for the tourists. Recently, this town won the Tidy Towns award and a number of other awards which certainly justify the popularity of this town. This town is a must visit.

  1. Skerries, Dublin:

Another beautiful small town which would serve you a fun-filled time is Skerries. This place is the best location if you are wanting to have a day trip after staying the city of Dublin. There are a number of restaurants and bar and you can easily sit down, relax and grab a drink to enjoy the beauty of the place. Visit this place on a sunny day and you will thank us later.

  1. Ardara, Donegal:

Another beautiful town of Ireland which can take you completely by surprise is Ardara. This place describes the rural beauty of Ireland at its very best and hence serves everything that you wouldn’t otherwise find in any city of Ireland. Situated near a Gaeltacht area, your trip to Ireland must include a visit here.

  1. Lismore, Waterford:

This town is more than picturesque and is definitely worth a trip while you are exploring Ireland during your vacation. You can take part and make the most of a number of activities here such as hiking, fishing and exploring the beautiful old castles. There are cozy hotels where you can stay back to enjoy a number of activities taking place around you.

  1. Doolin, Clare:

If you are planning to visit the beautiful Cliffs of Moher during your trip to Ireland, then a visit to Doolin would serve you the best choice to stop by and relax. This town is situated only 15 minutes away from the cliffs and you can surely stop to relax and chill. There is a famous pub here where you can explore the nightlife of Ireland.

  1. Westport, Mayo:

This place serves as a fairly big town when compared to other small towns and villages of Ireland and it happens to be one of the most beautiful towns of the country. This place embraces a beautiful scenic beauty to look after. If you are into hiking or any other adventure sport, you will love this place as it has got a lot to offer. However, this hike is definitely not for the faint hearted.

  1. Kenmare, Kerry:

This place serves you as the perfect base camp if you are wanting to explore the rest of the country. Kenmare is a gorgeous town which is filled with ample of restaurants and bars to help you with all sorts of recreation. If you happen to stay here during snowfall, call yourself lucky as this place gives a stunning view to your eyes. This town has a lot of things for the tourists and you can take part in a number of activities to have a gala time. Don’t forget to visit the beautiful Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm which happens to be 200-years old.

Visit this amazing small towns and villages of Ireland and bump into the additional beauty of this country.

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6 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Ireland

The Emerald Isle Ireland is an ideal blend of rolling hills, green valleys, medieval castles, and delicious cuisine with its outstanding stew. Cozy Dublin, Cork nightclubs, pubs, Kerry Way, horse riding, outdoor activities and language tours can all be part of your Ireland vacation ideas.

Ireland has been a popular tourist place for years. It is famous for its extended excursions, tasty beer, original nature, and impressive history. As for the beauties of the country, the loneliness of Connemara, wild spaces of County Donegal, cool waters of the Atlantic, and majestic beauty of Glendalough are just a small part of what the country has reserved for its visitors. The fans of the art of all styles and directions will not be disappointed too as Ireland is remarkable for brilliant theatrical performances in Dublin and conceptual rock parties in Limerick.

Ireland is characterized by its fantastic hospitality of local people. They won’t only help a foreign guest but get ensured that he doesn’t experience any difficulties. The secret of the national character is simple – the Irishman is comfortable when everyone around is happy. Before planning a trip, learn several phrases in Irish to show your respect to the country and people.

If you decide to visit this beautiful place of the globe, you have to be familiar with some Ireland travel tips. Here are the most important tips you should know when visiting this great country.

The climate

The climate is temperate oceanic. The western and northwestern coast is washed by the Gulf Stream, so the climate here is warm and humid. In general, the local weather is unpredictable – as the Irish joke “four seasons in 24 hours”. Rains are not strong, but frequent, the downpour can be replaced by the sun several times a day.

The best time to travel to Ireland is in July and August. A visit to Ireland in June or September also has many advantages – the weather is still (or already) quite warm, all the sights are open to visitors, but there are fewer tourists.

Your umbrella and raincoat are an absolute “must have” there at any season of the year.

Banks and exchange offices

The monetary unit of the country is Euro (EUR). Currency can be exchanged in the exchange offices, hotels and travel agencies, but the best rate is traditionally offered in the banks. Banks work on weekdays from 10:00 to 16:00 (on Thursdays – from 10:00 to 17:00). With international credit cards, you can withdraw money at any time of the day. Credit cards and traveler’s checks of the world’s leading payment systems are widely used.

Educational institutions

Young people visit this country to enroll in an English course to enhance foreign language skills and explore its history, culture, and traditions. Many of them decide to enter higher educational institutions after visiting Ireland.

Many universities outstand at international level, and the country is a popular choice for international students. The variety of higher education institutions in combination with gorgeous cities, wonderful countryside and unique culture makes the isle an attractive academic destination. If you’re one of those choosing to get a degree in Ireland, navigate to this assignment writing service to get help with your college application essay and to find out more about Irish universities.

National cuisine and restaurants

The national cuisine of Ireland is quite simple, but it is also unique. Many local cooks are still frying meat according to the traditions of their ancestors: on an open flame using peat instead of firewood. The main ingredients are lamb, pork, potatoes, and cabbage; the method of preparation is long stewing. Spices are practically not used, except for salt and black pepper. Your Ireland travel guide will show you the route to the best restaurants that serve traditional dishes.

Attractions

A lot of stables and equestrian clubs can be considered a kind of sightseeing in the country. In addition to amateur riding, you can enjoy the spectacle of professional horse racing.

You can walk along the famous walking trail Kerry Way in County Kerry, the Iveragh Peninsula. The route begins in Killarney near the national park with beautiful forests, lakes, and waterfalls. Many tourists are attracted by the famous steep cliffs which are almost two hundred meters high on the Atlantic coast of the country, as well as dull but no less impressive hills – the scene of all local legends.

Castles

Ancient castles are preserved in every county, such as Belle Isle, Bunratty, Blarney, King John’s Castle in Limerick, Doe, Cahir, Ashford and dozens of others, no less remarkable. Many of them have been converted into the first-class hotels.

Dear Dublin,

DUBLIN, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Visiting Ireland was a dream coming true for me. I am not so much into crowded city, but I simply loved the hustling and bustling of Dublin. It’s an up-beat city with lots of energy and attitude. I truly enjoyed the great combination of its laid back charms and busy city life. How is it possible? Come to Dublin and they will show you how they can be both laid back and yet be spontaneous all at the same time. After visiting Dublin, I realized that Irish are the friendliest and jolliest people in Europe. They will just come and start a conversation instantly and will come forward to help you if they see you looking left and right with a map in your hands.

The old city wall of Dublin

Ireland was established or founded in 988 A.D. but got its independency from Great Britain in 1921. Dublin (“Dubh” and “Linn” means The Black Pool in Gaelic), being the capital of Ireland, has many historical buildings and places that played big role in getting their freedom from the English. River Liffey made its way to different parts of the city making it even more beautiful.

Walking around near Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland

TIME OF TRAVELING: We took a train from Belfast to Dublin in the 2nd week of August, 2012. It was a nice 2:30 hours of scenic train ride. We did buy the tickets before hand, but I am sure you can buy them on the stop too but will cost more. We didn’t get much of rain during our stay, may be once or twice a sudden heavy rain for 5 minutes and that’s all. Otherwise, the summer is very pleasant here, may be a bit chilly at night.

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Blooms Hotel in Temple Bar. This is a 3-stars hotel with free Wi-Fi but the location was AWESOME. This is about a minute walk from the heart of Temple Bar.  We usually explored other parts of the city during day and had our dinners in Temple Bar. This is also within 10 minutes of walk from most of the tourist attractions like Dublin Castle, Dublin City Hall, O’Connell Street, and Trinity College.

A popular Irish pub on the street near Temple Bar where our Hotel Blooms was located

WHAT TO EAT AND BUY IN DUBLIN: “There is more philosophy in a pint of Guinness than in all the books in Trinity College” – Martin Keane, Proprietorship. I found this quote on the tiny envelope where our hotel receptionist put the keys for our room. This tells a lot about what to drink in Ireland, doesn’t it? Other than that, traditional Irish stew is a very famous dish here which is cooked with lots of potatoes and vegetables like carrots. Some places have it with beef, but if you want the old-style stew then lamb is the way to go. Fish items are also very well-known here for those seafood lovers. There are tons of traditional Irish restaurants with live music and performers in Temple Bar. We had one dinner and a traditional Irish breakfast in one morning in O’Shea’s which has good Irish food for good price. For another dinner we tried another restaurant called “Rome to Mexico” where you can get Mexican food as well as Italian food. Some people may be surprised that we actually went for Mexican restaurants in Dublin!!! This is what happens when you are away from Taco Bell for too long!!! The food was the yummiest and the place was right beside the original Temple Bar restaurant (the red building).

My Irish stew in O’Shea’s near Temple Bar

For gifts and souvenirs, Carroll is the biggest store in the city. They are almost everywhere in Temple Bar and O’Connell Street. They have the largest selection of Irish gift items and you can find anything and everything that you are looking for including Irish CDs, t-shirts, mugs, Celtic ornaments and jewelries, Guinness items, and leprechaun. There are some other stores as well selling the same stuff. I bought a sweat-shirt “Temple Bar” written on it; you can only find it in Temple Bar, nowhere else.

The oldest Irish pub from 1198 – Brezen Head Inn

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We got 2 full days in Dublin. We didn’t go out to countryside to see the true beauty of Ireland this time. We were enjoying the city itself so much that we decided not to go to the mountains or the coastal sides. As usual, we hit most of the places by foot. It is a lot of walking but it didn’t feel like so since I was enjoying every bit of the city. Dublin is known for its beautiful and colorful doors…so pay attention when walking around the city or a neighborhood for these doors.

Customs House by River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland

Some of the places that we saw other than the ones I’ve listed are old city wall, Samuel Beckett Bridge on River Liffey which looks like a harp (built in 2009), the grand building of Customs House on the bank of Liffey and very close to Samuel Beckett Bridge (built in 1791), Brezen Head Inn – the oldest Irish pub from 1198, and one of the world’s oldest cast-iron bridges, Ha’Penney Bridge.

An artist and his creative mind near Dublin Spire

1) O’CONNELL STREET & BRIDGE, O’CONNELL MONUMENT, and THE SPIRE: This is the heart of Dublin and THE place to hang out day or night. The long stretch of O’Connell Street is a perfect place to eat, buy souvenirs, do shopping, enjoy River Liffey from O’Connell Bridge (built in 1880), or to just take a stroll. One of the iconic buildings of Dublin, the historical General Post Office, is also located here. You will find some high-end restaurants here as well as good fast foods like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway.

View of River Liffey and the city of Dublin from O’Connell Bridge during sunset

O’Connell Monument, built in 1882, is right near O’Connell Bridge as you are coming from south. And the Spire (built in 2003), one of the tallest sky-touching needles I have ever seen, is on one side of O’Connell Street. The small branches of O’Connell Street are very impressive and charming as well.

The Dublin Spire on O’Connell Street and the building of General Post Office on the left

2) TEMPLE BAR: Nightlife here in Temple Bar is definitely noteworthy. This is where the good stuffs are happening in Dublin. I don’t think this place ever sleeps. It becomes more beautiful and more crowded after evening. Temple Bar consists of few streets and blocks mostly cobbled-streets for pedestrians. You will see colorful flower baskets in front of most of the restaurants and pubs.  This is the best place to hang-out and have a drink or meal. Most of the restaurants here are traditional Irish pubs and usually have live performers, singers, comedians every night, especially in weekends.

Temple Bar, the first building in Temple Bar area, on the right and Mexico to Rome, where we ate one night

3) ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH: This is a giant edifice with English style Clock Tower right beside St. Patrick’s Park. The Normans built a church in stone on this site in 1191. This was rebuilt in the early 13th century and is the building we see today. This is a lovely church as well as a great museum for those who loves history. The writer of famous book “Gulliver’s Travel” Jonathan Swift’s grave is located in the south aisle of the nave of the cathedral. He was the Dean of this cathedral from 1713 – 1745 and wrote the book while he was in that position. His pulpit can still be seen although it is no longer used. The cathedral houses some memoirs of Jonathan Swift along with other previous deans. Pay attention to the sparkly and colorful tiled floor as you walk on them.

The colorful tiled floor of St. Patrick Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland

The church is open Mon – Fri: 9 – 5, Sat: 9 – 6. The fee to enter the church is 5:50 euros per adult and family ticket is 15 euros (2 adults + 2 children).

Inside St. Patrick Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland

4) CHRIST’S CHURCH CATHEDRAL: This church was founded in 1030 A.D. making is the oldest building in Dublin.  Christ’s Church Cathedral is very similar to St. Patrick’s Church inside and out. They both have similar English style outer look and very similar colorful floor design and altar. The church has a great collection of cathedral’s history, artifacts from royal gifts and communal ceremonies. Do go downstairs to visit the interesting crypt and treasury where visitors can see old costumes of the church’s members, the oldest foundation of the church from 11th century, old furniture, silverware, and ceremonial artifacts on display. The crypt is not only one of the largest medieval crypts in either Britain or Ireland, but also the oldest structure in Dublin. One interesting display in the crypt is the cat and rat (opposite the gift shop) – the one presumably chasing the other, were trapped in an organ pipe in the 1860s and became mummified. Another FYI, Christ Church Cathedral has a record-breaking 19 bells, the greatest number of bells in the world run full-circle.

Christ Church Cathedral on the right and Dublinia Museum on the left in Dublin, Ireland

Christ’s Church Cathedral is open daily 9:45 – 6 in June – August and 9:45 – 5 in September – December. The crypt and treasury are open until 5. The entrance fee is 6 euros per adult, 2 euros per child, and 14 euros per family with 2 adults and 2 children. You can also get combo ticket for this church and Dublinia Museum for a cheaper price. You can go top of the bell tower for 4 euros extra and it takes about 30 minutes; kids 12 years or under aren’t allowed to go there.

5) DUBLIN CITY HALL: This is another grand building and an outstanding example of Georgian architecture situated right beside Dublin Castle. It was built between 1769 and 1779 by the Guild of Merchants. The building has been used as the city hall since 1852. The exhibition here displays story of Dublin, Ireland from 988 when the Vikings found this city, medieval life of this city, Ireland under British laws, history of their independence, and finally, how it got its modern face. If you are not interested in the history or exhibition, go to the Rotunda on the 2nd level, which is free of charge. This is a big circular hall with spacious dome, supported by 12 columns and beautiful art-works on the wall. There are few statues of the glorious sons of Ireland who played major roles in getting their freedom and to the society.

City Hall is open Mon – Sat: 10 – 5:15 and closed on Sundays and holidays. Exhibition of city hall is 4 euros per adult, 1:50 euros per kid, and 10 euros for family ticket (2 adults and 2 children).

6) DUBLIN CASTLE & SURROUNDING SITES: Unlike most of the castle we’ve seen so far, Dublin Castle is right in the middle of the city and right beside the town hall. The castle was established in 1204 A.D. We walked right in the inner courtyard of the castle which has relatively new buildings on all the sides. The courtyard featured some sand sculptures in the center and we saw an artist working on his project to make a sand-sculpture surrounded by other finished sculptures. We didn’t really go inside the castle, just spent some time walking around outside. There is a small chapel, called the Chapel Royal, near the Record Tower (with 15 ft. thick walls), which functioned as a top security jail for State prisoners in the old days and is the last intact medieval tower of Dublin City. Go around the other side of the castle where you will see few museums, and entrance to Dubh Linn Garden which once was the original site of Dubh-linn harbor (Black Pool in Gaelic) from which the city got its name from. The gardens are designed as a helicopter landing pad, with a pattern of six interlocking brick pathways (inspired by Celtic design) that are distinctive from the air. The Coach House, a mock-Gothic stone façade opposite of the main entrance, was constructed to house the Lord Lieutenant’s own coach and string of horses. Chester Beatty Library, located on one side of this garden, is a world-renowned art museum and library containing a rich and diverse collection of prints, drawings, books, miniature paintings, and decorative arts from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. We didn’t go inside the library, but you can see Egyptian papyrus texts, illuminated copies of the Koran, the Bible, and European medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.

Sand sculptures in the inner-courtyard of Dublin Castle

The castle is open Mon – Sat: 10 – 4:45, Sun & Holidays: 12 – 4:45. There is no entrance fee but you will need guided tour to go inside the castle that costs 4.50 euros per adult and 2 euros for kids less than 12 years of age.

Dubh-Linn Garden and the Coach House in the back in Dublin, Ireland

7) TRINITY COLLEGE & THE OLD LIBRARY: Trinity College is among one of the prestigious universities of the world and is beautifully situated in the heart of Dublin. It wasn’t that crowded in summer since most of the students were gone for the break. This Library square is very nice and calm where you can see the largest Oregon Maple tree in Europe from 1800’s.

Entering the world-renowned Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland

Most of the visitors come to visit this college mainly to see its Old Library and Book of Kells (about 1 million visitors every year)…the cream of Irish beauty. Trinity College Library Dublin is one of the world’s great research libraries, holding the largest collection of manuscripts and printed books in Ireland. The earliest surviving building, the Old Library, was built between 1712 and 1732. The exhibition area of the Old Library displays Irish medieval gospel manuscripts, principally the gorgeously illustrated and colorful calligraphy of original manuscript of the Book of Kells, the Book of Armagh and the Book of Durrow along with the history of these prints. These books were written in around 800s by Irish monks. The main chamber of the Old Library, the Long Room, is about 65 meters in length and houses around 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. The oldest surviving harp from Ireland, probably dating from the 15th century, is also displayed in the Long Room. As an early emblem of early society, this is the harm which appears on Irish coins. The Long Room also has busts of many famous intellectual people like Newton, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Socrates, and many more. It kinda feels overwhelming being among thousands of old books, and manuscripts.

The magnificent Old Library of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland

We, luckily, found a young guy selling tickets for walking tour in the university (Old Library is self-guided) near the main entrance. The tour costs us 10 euros per adult (kids are free) for 30 minutes which allows you to go to the Old Library as well. This was a good deal not only because the guide is a student of this college who can give you practical insights of this place but also you can use the same ticket to enter the library of Trinity College which is otherwise 9 euros. Be ready to stand on the line for a while to go inside the library. Pictures aren’t allowed in the exhibition area and in the Long Room.

8) AN POST MUSEUM: This is the general post office on O’Connell Street which was captured by Irish rebels on Easter Monday in 1916. This is one of the iconic buildings of Dublin that played a big role on their independence. The museum displays old stamps, videos/information on the early methods of delivering mails and parcels. The main reason we went to this museum was to see what actually happened on that Easter Monday in 1916 and surely, the video in the museum provided us with those great historical moments. An Post Museum is open Mon – Fri: 10 – 5 and Saturday: 10 – 4. The entrance fee is 2 euros per adults and free for the kids.

9) TRIP TO BELFAST: Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is very close to Dublin…only 2 hours and 30 minutes of scenic train ride. The city itself is very beautiful and vibrant. There are few guided tour bus services that you can take to visit the coastal side of the country and go to Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site Giant’s Causeway. Please visit my page on Belfast from the side bar to see all the fun things you can do in Belfast.

Giant’s Causeway – the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland

A weekend in Belfast, Northern Ireland

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND: This is the home of Titanic, where this famous ship was built. This is a city with lots of characters and history. This is relatively an under-discovered place compared to its neighboring big city Dublin. Belfast went thru lots of conflicts and bloodshed in the recent years among the Nationalists and the Loyalists. Whole Northern Ireland is a beautiful country with abundant scenic beauties by the coasts, giant cliffs, cozy small villages, medieval castles, and plenty of jolly Irish people.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

The city is very lively around the town hall and city center. Most of the landmarks are very close by and within walking distance from here, except for Belfast Castle, Titanic Museum, and the historical murals of Nationalists and Loyalists from the “Troubled Years”. All the famous roads, places, or squares that we’ve visited had information boards providing histories and maps on that particular place. Black Taxi tour of the city is very famous here and can be arranged by any hotels.

Walking around in Belfast, Northern Ireland

TIME OF TRAVEL: We came to Belfast during the 2nd week of August, 2012. We thought we were going to get some rain during our visit, but luckily, the sun was shining upon us most of the time.

Belfast – home of many interesting murals

OUR HOTEL: Our hotel was Holiday Inn Belfast here. Being so close to Belfast Town Hall (about 10 minutes’ walk), this location was just great for us. The hotel didn’t have free breakfast or Wi-Fi (except for the computer in the lobby) but did have great customer service.

WHAT TO EAT AND BUY IN BELFAST: We ate twice in an Italian restaurant called “Pizza Express” which was very close our hotel. But something Irish that my husband tried on our way to Giant Causeway was Irish stew made with lots of potatoes and some beef looked pretty good.

There are lots and lots of things to buy from Belfast, like Celtic jewelaries, arts and CDs, leprechaun, cool t-shirts, and many more things. Also, since the famous ship Titanic being was built here, you will see lots of items related to Titanic in Belfast. There are couple souvenir stores in the city center near the Town Hall. Try looking for a store called “Carroll’s”, which is the biggest one we saw here. Also if you go to Giant’s Causeway, you will see lots of arts and wall decor on Northern Island, especially on Giants Causeway and many children book on the story of the giants of Ireland and Scotland.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: Here are the things we covered in our 1 ½ days of stay in Belfast. We couldn’t go to Titanic Museum, where the ship was built and Belfast Castle. We did go in front of Victorian architecture Grand Opera House, Presbyterian Assembly Building on Howard Street, and St. George’s Market (one of Belfast’s oldest attractions) but didn’t go inside any of these. All the places that we visited were within walking distance.

A pro-Palestanian poster on Falls Road, home of many Nationalists

1) BELFAST TOWN HALL & DONEGALL SQUARE: This is a fine example of classical Renaissance style architecture. You can take a free guided tour of the town hall from Mon – Sat: 11 – 3. We couldn’t catch it since they don’t have anything on Sundays. But we did go to the courtyard and the main lobby. The lobby looks very beautiful with some stained-glass windows, mosaic floor, and a high dome. There is a very informative exhibition on the 1st floor (for free) which features city’s past and current life style and history of the city.

From the main lobby of Belfast Town Hall

The surroundings of this building are very beautiful too. Front of the town hall is a big grassy space where all the locals hang out and chill. Olympics 2012 was going on when we went to Belfast and they put a huge TV out in front of town hall. It was pretty sight of seeing all the locals so enthusiastic about the Olympics. There are many statues of different types of cows with many arts and colors. I am sure your kids will enjoy posing with those cows, I know mine did.

Belfast Town Hall in Northern Ireland

Donegall Square has to be the heart of the city where all the fun things are happening. This is the street right in front of Town Hall. It’s fun to just stroll here, do shopping, eat, and just enjoy the atmosphere.

2) MALACHY CHURCH: This wasn’t on our to-do list for Belfast. We were walking towards the town hall and this romantic building caught our eyes right away and we had to checkout inside of the church. Construction of this building completed in 1844. This is one of the finest examples of late Georgian-Tudor Revival Churches in Ireland. Exterior looks more like a castle than a church and the interior is something we’ve never seen before. St. Malachy’s Church, regarded as an architectural gem, with detail in textures, subtlety in color and richness of imagery, creates a peaceful sanctuary in the midst of the bustling city. Altar was more than just elegant and the design of the ceiling looks like an upside down wedding cake with many candles. The back wall of the church features 14 stages of Passion of the Christ in rich wood-curved wall hangings with great details.

Ceiling of Malachy’s Church that looks like an upside down wedding cake

3) ST. ANNE’S CATHEDRAL or BELFAST CATHEDRAL: This is a stunning cathedral inside and out. The church has the biggest Celtic cross in Northern Ireland which is located on one of the outside walls of the church. The unique stainless steel spire was added in 2006 that can be seen from far distance. It was dedicated to all the fallen of 9/11 terror attack in NYC in the presence of the Bishop of New York. The original organ was built in 1907. The church is decorated with some fascinating stained-glass windows, tablets, plaques, flags, and statues. The place is free to enter to visit every day from 8 am – 4 pm.

The spire and the biggest Celtic cross (on the left) in Northern Ireland of St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast

4) LAGAN LOOKOUT & BIG FISH: This is a nice place to sit-down for a while just to enjoy the river and the city surrounding it. If you are walking straight from Albert Clock towards River Lagan. You can’t miss the sculpture of monster blue fish of Donegall Quay called Big Fish, which is located right beside the Lagan Lookout.

The Big Fish in Lagan Lookout

5) ALBERT MEMORIAL CLOCK: This is next to “the Custom House” by River Lagan and the blue fish sculpture. This 35 meters high tower was constructed mainly of sandstone and was erected in 1865. The Albert Memorial Clock was built as a memorial to Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, who died in 1861. It leans 1.25 meters off vertical, making it Belfast’s very own leaning tower. Another place that may interest to some people is that there is a 300 years old Irish pub called McHughs in between Albert Clock and River Lagan lookout. The bar has been standing there since 17th century and one of Belfast’s most historic pubs.

Albert Memorial Clock

6) BELFAST POLITICAL MURAL TOUR w/BLACK TAXI: This is definitely a must do in Belfast to know better of its past and how the city came to its present atmosphere. Most of these murals are located in the ghettos and were done mainly by the poorer ones. Our first stop was at Lower Shankil among all the residential neighborhoods. “Nothing About Us…Without Us… Is For Us”, this was one of the messages in a mural we saw there. Here all of the murals were done by the Loyalists or Protestants who were loyal to the United Kingdom. These are some of world’s finest house-sized murals that depict stories of the Loyalists, praise their leaders, show their anger and hatred towards the Nationalists. Some of these murals were taken down due to some violent graphics; they simply don’t want their new generations to grow up seeing pictures of men with guns, murderers, and shooters near their houses.

One of the murals in Lower Shankill, the gun man is targeting his gun towards a building where the Catholics/Nationalists used to live in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Then after passing the old Supreme Court and old prison we stopped at the Peace Wall. This was built by the government to separate Nationalist and Loyalist neighborhoods. Peace wall is about one mile long and now more like a message board filled with colorful graffiti. You will see quotes from many well-known people who visited this wall in the past and left their quotes on this wall, like Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, Khalil Gibran etc. It’s a tradition for any visitors to leave their comments and “Peace” messages on this wall to the people of Belfast. You can easily spend a good amount of time walking along this wall and reading wonderful phrases that people left behind from all over the world.

A visitor leaving message on Peace Wall in Belfast

After passing a small memorial, Clonard Martyrs Memorial, dedicated to those who were killed by Loyalists and British Forces during the course of conflict on Bombay Street, we stopped at Falls Road. This is the place where you will see all the murals done by the Nationalists or Catholics depicting their side of the stories. Lots of these graphics show faces of Nationalists who died in hunger-strike in recent years.

A mural on Falls Road, which represents The Nationalist of Belfast, Northern Ireland

We took a Black Taxi tour to go see these famous murals of Belfast. These murals aren’t located all in one place. We kinda got on and off the taxi at several stops to see the murals, Peace wall and the memorial. It took us little more than an hour to go to different neighborhoods and roads to see them. Taxi charged us 30 pounds and our driver was excellent at giving us all the detail history of the past and stories of the current situation.

7) GUIDED TOUR TO GIANTS CAUSEWAY: We took a guided tour bus from Belfast to Giant’s Causeway for a whole day where we visited not only Giant’s Causeway but also some other historical sites and scenic locations of the country. The tour company, Isango, charged 10 pounds per adult and 7:50 pounds for kids 4-14 years of age. If we didn’t take this tour we had no way to visit these magnificent, natural beauties. These are the places we went as a group; we had to pay some additional fees in some of these spots but those were optional if you want to visit some additional places.

a. CARRICK FERGUS CASTLE: This was our first stop in our tour. It is one of the best preserved castles in Northern Island. This medieval castle is situated by the waterfront (Belfast Loch) and was built sometime in the 11th century. We didn’t go inside the castle, just enjoyed the nice surroundings and the harbor for 15 minutes, took some pictures, and then off to the bus again.

Carrick Fergus Castle outside Belfast, Northern Ireland

b. CARRICK-A-REDE & ROPE BRIDGE: Our second stop was at Carrick-A-Rede. The beauty of this place is beyond my expression. Trip to Northern Ireland would not have been full-filled without seeing or experiencing something like this. After our bus dropped us off near the entrance we had about hour and half to walk 1 km along the coast, then after about 160 steps we came to the Rope Bridge. Originally some salmon fishermen built this Rope Bridge about 300 years ago to connect a small island with mainland. On a good day as many as 300 might have been trapped in the nets that were spread out from the tiny island. Balancing their catch on their backs and holding on with one hand the fishermen ventured back and forth over the swaying rope bridge that spanned the deep chasm between the headland and the tiny island. The bridge is about 20 meters and about 30 meters above water. This is a very windy place, thus make it an adventurous journey all over. The view of the cliffs, nearby small islands, and water is incredible from here.

Surrounding views of Carrick-A-Rede while walking towards the Rope Bridge

The admission to cross the rope bridge is 5.09 pounds for adults and 2.63 pounds for kids, and 12.45 pounds for a family (2 adults + 3 children). Here is the time-table for the bridge:

Jan. 1 – Feb. 26: 10:30 – 2:45 daily

Feb. 27 – May 27: 10:00 – 5:15 daily

May 28 – Sept. 2: 10:00 – 6:00 daily

Sept. 3 – Oct. 31: 10:00 – 5:15 daily

Nov. 1 – Dec. 31: 10:30 – 2:45 daily

Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge in Northern Ireland

c. BUSHMILL DISTELLARY: Our third stop for lunch was at this old whiskey company from 1608 A.D. This is Ireland’s oldest working whiskey distillery. You can actually go and watch whiskey making taking place and enjoy a small taster too. After our lunch, saw some people buying Bushmill’s world renowned whiskey. I am not sure if the restaurant is open to everyone or only to the groups of tour buses, but the food was reasonably cheap and very good.

d. DUNLUCE CASTLE: This was our fourth stop before going to Giant’s Causeway. It was only 5-7 minutes away from Giant’s Causeway. We could see the castle only from a distance and got out of the bus for 5 minutes just to take some picture. I am not sure how old this castle is but looked like centuries old building. The castle looked like one of those old brick castles on a giant cliff by the water from Hollywood movies. Although it was only for 5 minutes, I loved that incredible view of the castle, nearby cliffs, and the blue coast…uh, simply breathtaking.

Dunluce Castle of Northern Ireland

e. GIANTS CAUSEWAY: This is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site and only about 90 minutes’ drive from Belfast. This is the coastal site where visitors experience not only the incredible view of the mountains, cliffs, and ocean, but also some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns rising out of the sea. It is a mind-boggling site not to be missed. The visitor center provides you with more information on this spectacular coastal site of Northern Ireland where you can see some interactive videos, read information board, and see the mythical giants walking around (in costumes) ready to take pictures with anyone.

Nature’s miracle – hexagonal shaped stones of Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

There is a popular myth on how the creation of Giant’s Causeway took place. It goes that an Irish giant, Fionn, was always hungry for good fight and wanted to prove his superior strength. So he decided to fight against a rival Scottish giant name Benandonner. To cross the ocean, Fionn built his own pathway (the causeway) of stepping stones (using these hexagonal stones) from Ireland to Scotland. But when he reached to Scotland, he saw just how large Benandonner was. He escaped back to Ireland right when the Scottish giant saw him. Benandonner used the causeway to come to Ireland to come and fight with the Irish giant. Fionn ran back home and asked his wife to help. His wife gave him an idea and he crawled into a crib. When Benandonner came, Fionn’s wife told him not to wake the baby up. Seeing how large Fionn’s baby was in the crib, he was scared and ran back to Scotland, breaking up the causeway to prevent Fionn following him.

Pillars of stones in Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

This story is quiet fascinating, but the science tells us something else. The Giant’s Causeway is the result of intense volcanic and geological activity. The Causeway provides a glimpse into the Earth’s most ancient past. An epic 60 million year-old legacy to the cooling and shrinking of successive lava flows.

Giant’s Causeway – the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland

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