Travels by coach around Belfast and Northern Ireland: Chapter 1

A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet

River Lagan, Belfast The old Irish saying is certainly true when you decide to go on a coach tour of Northern Ireland.  Yes, Northern Ireland where the stigma and fear have kept the tourists away from its shores. Well, the ‘scars’ are still there but are being taken over by the renaissance of the country. Many people avoid Northern Ireland because of the ‘troubles’ over the past 40 years, but time is a great healer and Northern Ireland is on the mend!

This coach tour started with a flight to Belfast – coach/flying – no, this is not leprechaun speak! We flew from Manchester Airport and it only took approximately 45 mins once you are in the air. Contact the coach tourism council and they will help you plan your journey.  It could be a tailor made trip for you and your family, or just for two or a single traveller.  If you want to go on a golfing or fishing trip, and yes there are many golf courses and beautiful lakes to try out in Northern Ireland, then that too can be arranged.  If you don’t like flying then sailing in the large ferry boats is an easy stressfree way to travel, the Stena Line and the Ulsterbus Express will arrange a  boat/coach tour to suit your needs, and Guinness in the bar on the way over will set the scene for your holiday in Northern Ireland.

Belfast City Hall Our coach tour started in Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland which has historically been a centre for the Irish linen industry, tobacco production, rope making and ship building.  It is a city that is ‘powered by history’, from the Dock Side regeneration to the swish bars and restaurants that are now springing up all over the city, to the amazing Titanic Experience. Belfast is vibrant and interesting, and as safe as any major city in Europe.  

We stayed at the Europa Hotel which is very central and is within walking distance to many maor attractions.  It is a large comfortable hotel that has seen through its doors the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Van Morrison and many others, it is a four star hotel and certainly lives up to its ”stars”.  The city is split into four quarters: Gaeltacht, Cathedral, Queens and Titanic.  The Cathedral quarter is within walking distance of the hotel and encompasses the shopping area and the bars and restaurants, you can get walking tours, Red bus tours and taxi tours to all the major attractions around the city.  The Red Bus tour is £10.50 for a concession tour which lasts around 1hour and 30 mins but the hop off arrangement is great for seeing the major attractions.

Titanic Exhibition, Belfast Belfast has something for everyone from the Zoo and the Titanic Experience for all the family, to the sophisicated restaurants and shops for the shopaholics; and for the culture vultures theatres and shows are in abundance. The restaurants can compete with any in Europe; we ate at the James Street Bar and Grill and the food was excellent .The pubs with ‘Irish music’ are around everywhere; across the road from the Europa is the famous Crown pub that is an experience on its own. Just go in for a look or have a drink or meal, it takes you back to the time when pubs had booths to sit in and the stained glass windows are amazing.  But if you fancy a pint and some music then most evenings, the Robinson’s pub is the place to be – next door to the Crown and within wobbling distance from the Europa Hotel. 

The history of Belfast is around every corner, the remnants of the ‘troubles’ are still very obvious in the Gaeltacht Quarter the Falls Road and the Shanklin area of the city. The coaches, taxis and the red bus will take you to this area.  The murals and the street art is still very prominent and the wall to keep the two sides apart and check point charlie is still there for all to see.  Flags fly over areas that depict which group lives in that area: an eerie reminder of the past, but time is a healer.The wonderful Titanic building is doing just that, it is bringing people to visit this amazing city and is unmissable.

Glynis at the Titanic Exhibition in Belfast The Titanic exhibition is located in the heart of Belfast, on the slipways where RMS Titanic was built.  Inside this iconic building, visitors re-live the entire Titanic story from her birth in Belfast to the fateful maiden voyage and her eventual discovery on the seabed.  The cost to visit the Titanic Experience is £10.50 for concessions and worth every penny, there is disabled access and helpful, knowlegable staff.  It can take up to 2 hours to do the experience, but another hour would have been welcome for the cup of tea at the end to digest the enthusiasm at first then the melancholy feeling of knowing the demise of this ill-fated ship.  On a lighter note the Irish say that the ship was made in Ireland but the captain was English – only a joke, but sadly true.

The Parliament Buildings at Stormont, Belfast We then visited Stormont Parliament Building which is set in a public park.  Pedestrians can walk from the main gates to the statue of Carson, along the Prince of Wales Avenue and can also enjoy the glen walk and visit the excellent facilities at the children’s playground.

Visitors to Parliament Building are welcome to view the Great Hall, however guided visits for groups must be sponsored in advance by an Assembly Member.

Glynis Sullivan was a guest of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the Coach Tourism Council whose members include more than 140 UK coach operators, many of whom feature tours to Belfast and Northern Ireland. They can be found at

251 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Glynis Sullivan

Traveller and writer for Silver Travel Advisor

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.