I was quite excited that travel restrictions were starting to lift after almost 2 years of being kept at home, my mate Jim and I intended to travel to Australia in March and April, but when we looked further into it we discovered that there were still restrictions in place in Singapore and some of the areas we wished to visit, so we decided to hold off until later in the year hoping the restrictions will be lifted. To compensate we thought we would take a short trip to somewhere different but nearby, Northern Ireland came to mind, so after booking everything, off we went.
I was quite pleased to be visiting the area as I was aware that there is an abundance of good quality street art in Ireland, I even found some from our local artists, Smug, RogueOne and Mark Worst, as you can imagine I took loads of photographs during our time there, they can be seen on the following page. Street Art in Northern Ireland
Monday 7th March
Monday morning saw us setting off early for our trip to Cairnryan to catch the 11:00 P&O ferry to Larne. We had an uneventful drive down to the port and arrived in plenty of time before boarding the European Highlander. The crossing went well and for once the Irish Sea was very calm.
Once off the ferry, it was a relatively short journey up to Portrush, we arrived before our check-in time so after parking the car we went for a stroll around town. Our first stop was the Harbour Bar for a Guinness and a chat with a local lad Paul. Leaving the bar looking for a bite to eat, we discovered a nice piece of street art by Dublin based artist Aches of a surfer overlooking the East Strand which is a popular surfing location. A nice nearby restaurant, 55 North was a good place to have a late lunch. On our wander back to the accommodation to check in we came across a mural “Causeway Rebel” dedicated to local boy Andrew Dunbar, a Game of Thrones actor who passed away recently, the mural was painted by Belfast artists KVLR and Sam Barry.
We checked Into our accommodation, The Heart of Portrush Mews, a delightful mews cottage which is fortunately in the centre of town, and after unpacking and exploring the places we went out for a stroll around town stopping off in a nice pub called Kiwis Brew Bar for a few beers, it was a good choice as we were met with loads of friendly people, so much so that we stayed longer than intended. We stopped off for a takeaway Indian meal on the way home, a perfect way to finish off our first day in Northern Ireland Ireland.
Tuesday 8th March
On Tuesday we headed round the corner to catch the 8:00 train to Belfast, the service was very comfortable and speedy and we reached Belfast in good time, on leaving the Lanyon Place station we stopped off for a late breakfast before hitting the city centre where Jim was able to pick up the obligatory Starbucks mugs for Dan. We then used public transport to take us to the Titanic Quarter where we spend a good few hours enjoying the museum and exhibitions, once back in the city centre we did a wee bit of exploring, stopping off for a meal before catching the train home, we decided to stay in on our return, a couple of drinks and some telly before retiring for a well-earned rest.
Wednesday 9th March
We were unlucky in our choice of outing for Wednesday, we had booked a trip to the Giants Causeway and unfortunately, it was pouring down, we had a walking tour and the guide, a young guy called Phill did an excellent job describing the geology and history of the place, and despite the rain, we really enjoyed our visit and found it very informative.
On the way back to Portrush we stopped off to have a look at the ruins of Dunluce Castle, there really wasn’t much to see so we continued along the coast to Portstewart where we had a nice lunch in Morreli’s cafe and a stroll around the town, where we discovered a few good pieces of street art, one of a sea eagle on a large gable was particularly good. We finished off the day by visiting the Portrush Yacht Club for a couple of beers before visiting the Harbour Bar for a meal and a few more beers, we met with Paul again and a load of other nice people and it turned into a bit of a late session.
Thursday 10th March
Thursday morning saw us heading west towards Limavady, we were asked to stop off there by Jim’s in-laws as that is where their family originated from, it was a nice little town but there wasn’t much to hold us there so we headed off to Derry-Londonderry arriving in time for lunch. After lunch we headed down to the Bogside to photograph the murals there, there were quite a few of them, all very political, something I’m not interested in, I was more interested in the quality of the painting, which on the whole was very good. We left for home and after a brief stop in Coleraine to photograph more paintings. Feeling a wee bit tired after our travels we had a quiet(ish) night having a couple of pints in the Quays, a nice gastropub around the corner from the accommodation, to finish off the day.
Friday 11th March.
We caught the 8:00 train to Belfast again today, and after another late breakfast in the Bridge Bar, we set off hunting, this time our target was the street art of the city. A quick visit to the Tourist Information office provided some hints, so off we went walking. Starting off in the Cathedral Quarter we found many good murals and pieces of shutter art in the many entries and closes of the area, of course, we just happened to stop off at The Duke of York, a traditional Belfast bar crammed with original mirrors and memorabilia, boasting cold beer, great Guinness and one of the largest selection of Irish whiskeys in Ireland. The bar is situated in Commercial Court, which has become known as Umbrella Street due to the colourful neon brollies hanging over the street.
Looking for a quick lunch we headed over to St Georges Market and managed to have a look around the various stalls and grab lunch before it closed for the day.
Back in town after lunch, we took more photographs of street art before trying to find somewhere to buy a bottle of Belfast Gin, (we found it quite difficult to find places that sold spirits), eventually, we managed to get our hands on a bottle of Jawbox that met the brief. At the end of a great day in Belfast, we headed back to the train station stopping off at the Crown Liquor Saloon which just happened to be near the station, the Crown, dating back to the 1880s, is a gem of the Victorian era still boasts many of its original features, including gaslighting and many mirrors and stained glass, the pictures below show it almost empty but when we visited at teatime on a Friday night it was packed to the rafters with hardly any room to move, it is certainly an iconic place to visit.
Once back in Portrush we deposited our purchases then returned to Kiwi’s for supper and a beer before retiring for the night, it was a good way to finish off a good day.
Saturday 12th March
As we were required to check out of our accommodation by 10:00, we packed up and loaded up the car. Leaving Portrush behind, and headed along the coast road for a leisurely drive down to Larne. Despite it being closed for the season we stopped off at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge for a look around, it was quite a bit windy making us appreciate why it was closed to the public. We intended to travel down the coast to visit some of the locations used for the filming of Game of Thrones but we came across so many roadworks and diversions that we were taken back inland again towards Ballymena where we stopped off for lunch. We eventually arrived in Larne with plenty of time to kill so we had a wander around town catching some good street art in the process.
The return journey on the ferry was uneventful, we spent it in the cinema watching a movie to pass the time. This was followed by an easy run back home in time for a takeaway meal to finish off the day.
All in all, despite some wet weather we both enjoyed our time in Northern Ireland and reckoned that we would be happy to return some other time.
As I mentioned at the top of the post, I took loads of photographs of street art in the many places we visited, these can be seen on a separate page, which I will add a link to when it is completed.
What we discovered on our return though was a positive Covid test result, meaning that I had time to create this post as I was self-isolating.