On a fine Friday afternoon three of us Hotelsireland ladies departed the office and set off for our weekend up North. We arrived at the Ramada Encore Belfast which is ideally located just off the M2 so there was no getting lost (this time). I was surprised by how nice the rooms were with some nice touches like proper shower gel (does those teeny tiny bottles of hotel shower gel bother anyone else?). Hungry and thirsty, we quickly dropped our bags and made our way to Made in Belfast Restaurant which is located in the city’s Cathedral Quarter, just a 5 minute walk from the hotel. It was just a fluke really that we stumbled across this restaurant online and thought we would try it, and boy were we not disappointed. The eclectic décor is wonderfully mismatched with quirky couches, cushions and some interesting furnishings. We eagerly ordered our food, hoping it would be as wonderful as the décor, and it certainly was. For starters we shared some salt chilli squid; this wasn’t your typical calamari rings but was huge chunks of squid accompanied by some really good salsa with a hint of cardamom, yum! Definitely the best squid I’ve ever had. For seconds we ordered the classic fish and chips and the venison burgers; again these weren’t your ordinary burgers or fish and chips, the fish was perfectly battered and accompanied by the most tasty mushy peas and chips, and the juicy venison burgers were perfectly done and accompanied with a mug (yes a mug) of lovely chips. We washed this down with a very nice bottle of Rioja. Too stuffed we unfortunately couldn’t fit in dessert. This restaurant is an experience not to be missed; now all I am wondering is when will there be a ‘Made in Dublin’. A great meal was followed by some very nice cocktails in the Apartment Bar just a short walk from the Cathedral.
The next morning we had an early start and set on the road for the Giants Causeway. We took the coastal road which takes about 2 hours and a half to the Causeway with some rewarding views en route. We stopped en route in Carnlough town, a lovely seaside town with a picturesque harbour lined with small fishing boats. We continued to Carrick-a-rede to visit the famous rope bridge. A very scenic short walk from the carpark brings you to the bridge. The narrow bridge swings high above the sea and is definitely a bit daunting if you are not a friend of heights! But the views from the bridge are so rewarding.
Afterwards we continued to the Giants Causeway but feeling a bit peckish we decided to stop in Bushmills Inn for something to eat. This extremely cosy hotel has a lovely food menu, and a very cosy bar with open fires. Definitely a good stop to fill yourself up for a walk at the Giants Causeway.We arrived at the Giants Causeway, parked the car and began our walk down to the Causeway, it is a steep hill down but there is a bus service which drops you down if you don’t fancy the walk, at a small fee of £1. Even the walk down to the Causeway is impressive with stunning views of the sea. I have to admit I was quite blown away by the beauty of the Giants Causeway. The formation of the stones is fascinating. There are several walks that you can take such as the 11 mile coastal walk from the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge to the Giants Causeway, but running short on time we settled with the Shepherds Steps that bring you an alternative route back to the carpark. After climbing 162 steep steps you are greeted with an incredible view of the Giants Causeway and the surrounding coast; definitely worth the climb!
We continued on our journey and arrived just over an hour later in Derry City. We checked into the Tower Hotel, and dropped our bags and hungrily went to the nearby City Hotel for dinner. We enjoyed a lovely meal at the City Hotel followed by some craic and live music in Peader O’ Neils pub.The next morning we met our lovely city guide Tony who brought us on a tour of the city walls. Derry is Ireland’s only walled city, and a tour of the walls is a must. The walls tell the tails of Irish history and several sites of interest can be viewed from the walls including murals, cathedrals and churches.
Two museums of interest are the Tower Museum and Museum of Free Derry, unfortunately we didn’t get to visit either as they don’t open on Sundays in April but we will definitely be back! Derry city has been nominated for the European Capital of Culture and we can see why. Derry is a vibrant city with a young population, and is a city where big changes are happening, I would really recommend it, you won’t be disappointed!A great weekend was had in Northern Ireland; I was blown away by the beauty of the landscape, and Northern Ireland offers very good value and some of Ireland’s most spectacular sights.
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