If you missed the intro to this blog series, be sure to check it out here!
Please excuse the hiatus between Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog series. Life has been busy in the best way possible! I got to stand by my best friend’s side as she married the man of her dreams and headed to Utah to explore its national parks immediately after. Although I had the time of my life at the wedding and in Utah, I was left with very little time to write this post. Anyway, I digress.
At last, the third and final leg of our Ireland trip went a little something like this…
We started our day by catching a train from Galway to Belfast. As there isn’t a direct train to and from these locations, we had to stop in Dublin in between. We ended up arriving to Belfast mid-afternoon. This allowed us just enough time to settle into our Airbnb before we headed to the city center for a private tour.
We took the Belfastology Walking Tour with Marti. Although he is a self-admitted quirky guide, his pride for his home city is evident. He is extremely knowledgeable about its history, and he took the time to show us nearly every attraction that the city center has to offer. He did an excellent job of illustrating how the city has progressed from its troubled past − aptly coined “The Troubles” − to a modernized, bustling city. I particularly loved witnessing how the city is slowly but surely covering up its controversial political murals with commissioned street art. After our tour, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back to our Airbnb to rest up for the following day as we knew it would be a long one.
This day is easily one of my favorite parts of our trip. We woke up bright and early for a…wait for it…GAME OF THRONES TOUR! Prior to planning this trip, I had no idea that 80 percent of Game of Thrones episodes are filmed in Northern Ireland. Once my family and I learned this fun fact, going on this tour was a no brainer since we are all huge fans of the show. While there are several tours of this variety, I highly recommend booking with McComb’s Coach Travel. This company transports extras to and from filming locations, so they are extremely familiar with points of interest.
For starters, our guide, Derek, was phenomenal! He was witty, approachable, and incredibly knowledgeable about both the show and the region. I must say, you do not need to be a GOT fan to appreciate this tour. The route traveled − the Causeway Coastal Route along the Antrim Coast − is notorious for being one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. As such, anyone who appreciates natural beauty will love this tour!
Highlights of the tour include the following:
- Cushendun Cave: the cave in which Melisandre gave birth to the shadow assassin
- Carnlough aka Braavosi Canal: where Arya falls into the water during combat
- Giant’s Causeway: not a GOT filming location; however, worth checking out en route as it is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: again, not a GOT filming location, but worth checking out as it is en route and a much-visted destination by tourists
- Larrybane: where Renly swears to Lady Stark that he will avenge Ned’s death, but where he ultimately meets his death at the hands of the shadow assassin
- The Dark Hedges: where Arya makes her escape down The King’s Road
After our tour, we returned to Belfast. On our way back to our Airbnb, we stopped at a nearby bottle shop. My mom and I selected a variety of local cider, and Chris stocked up on local whiskey for both the remainder of the trip and home. Then, we hit up a grocery store to buy ingredients to make a massive salad at our Airbnb. The greens were much needed!
This point in our trip is when the wedding festivities began! To kick off the wedding festivities, my mom and I − along with several other female relatives − attended Siobhan’s hen outing. This is the equivalent of a bachelorette party in the states. The day started with brunch at Bert’s Jazz Bar in the exquisite Merchant Hotel. This was easily one of my favorite meals of the trip. It was here that a learned that there is a huge gin culture in Ireland. Many establishments offer a selection of Irish gin that can be paired with a variety of enhancers and garnishes. Peep the awesome menu here.
After brunch, we did something “naughty,” in the words of one of Siobhan’s adorable bridesmaids. So, we’ll go with the following motto: what happens at the hen outing stays at the hen outing. We ultimately met up with our male family members and pub hopped throughout the city center. As we let the bridesmaids take the lead on this one, I regretfully forget the names of the numerous pubs that we visited.
Later in the evening, we took a taxi to our Airbnb in Crawfordsburn. As Crawfordsburn is a mere 20 to 30 minute drive outside of Belfast, I will include our stay in Crawfordsburn in this post. Further, while I typically don’t feel compelled to share the details of Airbnb rentals, I have to take a second to rave about the charming place that we stayed at in Crawfordsburn. Between our gracious host, the custom furnishings, and the local art, I was smitten. Best of all, it was located on Main Street, only a few doors down from the wedding venue. Feel free to check it out here. When we arrived, I took a hot bath and sipped on some hot tea. It was quite lovely after a fun, but long day!
Alas, the day of Jason and Siobhan’s wedding! It was an all-day extravaganza, beginning at noon and ending around midnight. It was held at The Old Inn, built in 1614 and therefore the oldest operating inn in Northern Ireland. It was beautiful, to say the least. Both Jason and Siobhan looked stunning! It was an absolute blast celebrating their love. I’m so thrilled to have been there.
The last day of our trip started with a family brunch at the inn. It was great to catch up with family even further. Taking advantage of Crawfordburn’s coastal location, we took a walk through Crawfordsburn Country Park, which ultimately lead us to the nearby beach. It was there that we enjoyed some peace and quiet before we headed back to Belfast for the night.
Our last night in Belfast was spent moseying around the city center. We were lucky enough to stumble upon Co Couture, a boutique chocolate shop that produces some of the best small-batch, gourmet chocolate that I’ve ever had. A stop here is a must if you’re in Belfast! Afterward, we ate dinner at The Northern Whig. It is an upscale pub with an wonderful atmosphere. As this establishment has an incredible Irish gin menu, I was sure to enjoy a couple of beverages for our last hurrah. We then headed to bed relatively early as we had a flight to catch the following morning.
Thanks for the craic, Ireland! :)
…Next stop, home sweet home!