If you are tired of your busy routine and bored by the bricks of Manchester, you definitely need something greener to refresh yourself in Easter break. Two days! At least two days of your precious life are worth a visit to Northern Ireland if you are on a budget and have a Euro trip or other places in UK to hit on your list.
I can share my experience and I must say that it was truly amazing. Here’s what we planned. We were a group of four friends and decided on a two-day trip. We booked our flights from Manchester Airport to Belfast International Airport from EasyJet with return journey of around £46. The hostel we got was the cheapest available in a 6-bed room for a night at Belfast International Youth Hostel at £10.5 per person. We left the first day open for travelling in the city and for a tour around the nearby areas. That open plan made our trip adventurous. For the second day, we booked a guided tour with Causeway Coast Tours for £17.5 and this was again the cheapest option available from the top list of tours to the North Antrim coast. Remember this price is what you get as a perk of being a student; otherwise it’s normally more for an adult. A trip to Northern Ireland would be incomplete without visiting Giant’s Causeway, the rightly called 8th natural wonder of the world and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This is why booking a tour with a guide was indeed the best thing to do.
So, we arrived at the airport and rented a car at £57 including insurance. I would advise anyone to book a car before coming, as it is possible to find a much cheaper available service. We made our way to Winterfell, filming site for HBO’s all-famous Game of Thrones series. It was about one and a half hour away from Belfast. The car journey was smooth around the lush green farms and small towns and villages. The weather was lovely despite a forecast for rain that made our trip even amazing. The location was splendid and we spent about one and a half hour at Castle Ward and Audley’s Castle. You could do archery if you book it online, but we just enjoyed our walk around the trails and headed back to Belfast to make the most for the rest of the day. The trip to Castle Ward was not quite planned so it cost us more for hiring the car on spot at the airport. But, my friends insisted that we should go to the GOT filming locations. There are other sites as well, but you must add another day in your itinerary to make it possible.
A visit to Belfast would definitely be ruined if you didn’t go to The Titanic Museum. This museum brings back memories of the days when Titanic was the only movie most people talked about, especially the 90’s teens. The museum has details of how the ship building industry was booming back in 1912 when Titanic was built in Belfast. The messages from the captain and the crew, the letters sent to the family by some travellers on board and the details of the sad demise of the largest ship built in that time are all displayed for you. You could end up buying Rose’s famous locket or a captain’s cap for a friend from their luring souvenir shop. But, there’s more to it in the museum and I don’t want to spoil all the fun for you. It’s worth mentioning here that if you go to the museum in the last hour before it closes, the ticket gets reduced price to £7.5, half of what you would pay otherwise.
You could try Irish tea and traditional Fish ‘n’ Chips from The Mayola, not far from the museum under £10. That’s what we did. Since time was running short and there’s a lot in Belfast city for you to see, you need to prioritize and sacrifice if you are there only for a short stay. Belfast Museum is free to enter, and monuments like The Big Fish and Beacon of Hope can be seen by walk or driving through your car. We returned our car at night since we had a busy morning ahead of us.
It was wise to keep the trip under a budget by taking meal for the dinner for the first day from Manchester. I cooked pasta for 4 and packed it in food boxes and saved a few bucks by eating our own food at the hostel. You could try some exotic cuisine or follow my advice if you wish J.
The next day was a fully loaded guided tour from 9 am to 6pm as planned and organized by the booked service. They were kind to pick us from our hostel as we had requested them on phone. The coach driver, our guide for the day, had a great experience of living the Irish way. He knew all the information Google could provide you on Northern Ireland, from the dates to the names of people and places, the reasons for why something was built or happened in history and who or what was involved. He gave away interesting bits that kept us engaged during the coach journey through the green glens and the wonderful valleys. We visited Dunluce Castle, Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, Giant’s Causeway and Rope Bridge.
Dunluce Castle stood amidst the Causeway Coastal Route and offered a historic imagery with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. Bushmills Distillery was a small stop over for the major component of our journey. You could try free samples, see years of beverages stocked in wooden casks and barrels, or have a look around at the small quiet town and its beautiful surroundings.
I would say more on how the wonderful hexagonal rocks of Giant’s Causeway boast a soothing view of the Atlantic, but I might not justify the actual beauty of the place by mere words. The climb up to the cliff affords a splendid view and we spent about 2 hours exploring the wonders of the amazing World Heritage Site. The rocks are constantly being hit by waves and you wait until a giant wave comes your way. The natural symmetry of the rocks, the view it offers and the closeness to nature can be felt all along.
The wobbly Rope Bridge is definitely worth crossing. What’s more challenging for someone like me who is scared of heights than crossing the Rope Bridge to get to a small island that awaits you to have a look around the bird life that resides in the nooks and crevices of the landforms created by waves. The blue of the water, the green of the grass, the light grey of the sky, the black of the weathered and eroded rocks are a sight I would love to spend an entire day if I had to. The peace and calm and the excitement of being in such a place clearly sums up the adventure of your trip. All money spent on the right thing is what you close up with at the end of the day. This is exactly what I felt.
We returned back to Belfast city. Our return flight was just at 8.30 pm and we had enough margin to reach the airport in time.
Now back to Manchester, I think of the wonderful time I had and wish you could enjoy the same or plan even better.