A part of the British Isles that we’d neglected to visit up to now, so a free January weekend tempted us to book flights and visit Northern Ireland. We took a 7.00 am flight from Leeds Bradford Airport over to Belfast with Flybe on one of their small Bombardier Dash aircraft and in little more than an hour we were touching down at George Best International Airport.
After a few minutes wait, Bus 600 arrived to take us into the city centre. We bought day tickets so that we could travel on the local buses later in the day. The bus station was about a fifteen minute walk to our hotel, the Jury’s Inn on Great Victoria Street. It was only 10.20 am when we arrived at the front desk, but the helpful receptionist checked us in straightaway, letting us have access to our room.
Nearby we found a cafe serving breakfast so we warmed ourselves up with food and mugs of coffee whilst taking a look at our guidebook and map. We decided that was a good place to begin our sightseeing tour of Belfast would be Donegall Square, home to the impressive Belfast City Hall.
We ventured inside as we had read that it was possible to take guided tours of the building, this turned out to be true, so we booked a free tour for later in the weekend.
On the other side of the square lies the Linen Hall Library which is Northern Ireland’s oldest library, founded 228 years ago. Still operating today as a lending library, it has beautiful oak pannelling, ornate carved wooden book stands and a delightful old reading room. We bought souvenir bookmarks celebrating its 225 year annversary then went in search of a bus to take us out to Stormont.
After locating the correct bus stop, our journey took 30 minutes, the nearest bus stop being on the main road at the entrance to the Stormont estate. The impressive driveway is one mile in length with the parliament building standing proud on a slight incline at the far end. After passing through an airport style security check we were allowed into several of the ground floor rooms for a self guided tour. Near the entrance is a small cafe / gift shop where we enjoyed tea and scones. It started to rain as we left but we continued our walk around the Stormont estate before returning to the main road for our bus back to the city centre.
After relaxing back in our hotel room awhile we were ready for dinner. Our plan for this evening was to eat at the The Crown Liquor Store which is the National Trust’s only public house. Fortunately for us, the pub was located just down the road from our hotel on the same street. Entering the door, it felt like we had gone back in time, the pub has been carefully preserved just as it was in Victorian times. The interior was beautiful with the booth seats having their own opaque glass pannelled doors for privacy. Seats were upholstered in a rich Crimson velour and waitresses wore traditional black and white uniforms with starched white pinafores. The menu featured Victorian classics, so we selected Roast Beef, which was cooked to perfection.
Well, our first day in Belfast has been a success, I wonder what tomorrow will bring?