Both DH and I were very interested in the history of Belfast, so while many of our fellow cruisers dashed to the Giants Causeway, booked Game of Thrones and Titanic tours, we opted for a private Belfast tour. Having had success through Tours By Locals in the past, I booked through them again. Once confirmed, our guide, Bobby Walsh, answered my questions promptly.
Bobby also dealt with adversity smoothly. He found that he had a flat tire the morning of our tour. So he sent another driver to collect us while he got the tire fixed. We were driven to Bobby’s location and the rest of the tour went off without a hitch.
The tour began with the famous Belfast murals and an exploration of the “Troubles”. Bobby poured out a lot of information that we didn’t know about this period of time. It was a sobering couple of hours that left us wanting to learn more. Currently, there is peace in Northern Ireland, but with a 30 foot wall locked each night to keep the factions from getting stupid with each other, the peace seems tenuous to this outsider. I wish them well!
Once we broke away from the politics (not entirely possible in Belfast, I think!), Bobby took us to a high vantage point, along a formerly restricted road, overlooking the city. Unfortunately, the gloomy morning marred the view. He then drove us to St. George’s Market, which is an enormous enclosed market, selling bits of everything during the weekend. I didn’t find my usual fridge magnet there, but did buy some nice Irish cheese (I am officially cut off from cheese purchases)!
I had mentioned my magnet obsession to Bobby. We started to leave from his parking spot near the market when he suddenly did a u-turn. Back in front of the Hilton he parked, while explaining that he was sure he had seen magnets at the concierge desk…and that they’d be cheaper than anywhere else. Sure enough, the Hilton offered up fridge magnets for £2 or 3 for £5. (They would prove to be the cheapest we would find the entire trip!)
Glancing at the time, Bobby noted that it was 11:45, so he decided our next stop should be the Crown Saloon as it was just opening. It is an exquisite Victorian pub, with ornate decoration and plenty of “snugs” (private booths). He gave us plenty of time to have a pint, and seemed disappointed that we declined (unsure of availability of future toilet stops!).
We then checked out Queen’s University followed by a short drive out of the city to Belfast Castle. We chose not to go inside, instead spending our time wandering the grounds where several cat statues lounged. Finally we would drive past the Titanic Experience (Bobby emphasized that this was not a museum!) and check out the area where Titanic was built.
Really a great tour and a great way to learn a lot about the city and the country of Northern Ireland.