The capital city of Northern Ireland, manufacturer of the Titanic, and birthplace of yours truly. Once the centre of the Troubles, Belfast now enjoys a thriving tourism scene, complete with a Titanic museum and Game of Thrones studio tours. What’s great though is the restaurant and bar scene, which blossomed throughout the 2010s. Restaurants like Ginger and Howard Street offer exquisite food that, while still expensive, will appear modestly priced when compared to restaurants of a similar quality elsewhere in the UK. Likewise, The Crown Bar provides a traditional drinking spot, while the Duke of York will charm you in a warm summer’s evening, with its cobble streets and communal atmosphere.
The capital of the Republic, Dublin is the antithesis to Belfast in size and pricing. Read: much larger and considerably more expensive. What I love about Dublin, however, is the history of the city. Home to famous authors, such as James Joyce, Dublin also houses the Guinness museum. This is a must: entertaining exhibitions and an interactive experience push the museum beyond a simple tourist trap. Additionally, the Dublin gardens make for a lovely walk and break from the city’s urban modernity.
The West Coast
The west coast of Ireland. All of it. No, seriously. If you have access to a car, a road trip along this coast will reward you with glorious, sprawling beaches and uninterrupted scenic views. Personal favourites include Inch and Strandhill, both in County Kerry.
The Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Let’s be honest, you at least knew the first one would be making an appearance on this list. A few miles north east of Bushmills in Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is a sight to behold. A product of volcanic activity, the Causeway is best known for its namesake myth of the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (often anglicised as Finn McCool). With any hope, the Causeway and legend will inspire you to read more about Irish mythology, which is often reduced to leprechauns and banshees in the rest of the world.
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, on the other hand, is much more historical. The bridge connects the mainland to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede. The original bridge was thought to have been built over 350 years ago and, though the new bridge is much less precarious, a trip across does wonders for the imagination and the perils taken by these long-gone workers