We all love a seaside break, sun, sea and sandy picnics. However some larger maritime cities are now developing and expanding their tourism attractions, welcoming visitors to explore their sea going history as well as their recently renovated waterfronts, with bars, restaurants and event spaces. Taking a coach trip from close to home is a great way to easily explore coastal cities in the UK and overseas. Visit welovecoaches.com.
Belfast, situated western end of Belfast Lough and at the mouth of the River Lagan, is very welcoming and interestingly the city has seven quarters, distinct cultural and historic regions. Visit the Titanic Quarter (pictured above), in which Titanic Belfast is situated. This dramatic six-floor building, built in the shape of four ships’ hulls clad in aluminium shards looks, ironically, more like an iceberg, tells the city’s side of the Titanic story from construction, launch and the maiden voyage to the changes made to maritime law after the tragic sinking.
The Cathedral Quarter is worthy of a visit: it buzzes with music bars and restaurants. And the Linen Quarter, once home to Northern Ireland’s linen industry, showcasing fine Victorian redbrick warehouses now offices and coffee shops, with a musical tradition as shown by the Opera House and concert venues. The Queen’s Quarter encompasses the University and more arts venues, as well as the stunning Botanic Gardens.
Belfast’s modern-day history cannot be forgotten. Gable ends of houses with political murals of masked rifleman and memorials to lost commanders make a haunting memory, as does the Peace Wall that divides Shankill Road and the Falls Road.
Outside the city, Royal Hillsborough Castle and Mount Stewart both merit visits too.
Portsmouth is right up there with the best, thanks to its high profile Big Four attractions. Largest in surface area is the Historic Dockyard, home to Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory and to the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s favourite warship.
The tallest visitor attraction is the elegant Spinnaker Tower (pictured left) that towers 170 metres over the Dockyard, harbour and adjacent Gunwharf Quays. Once the site of a 17th century arsenal, Gunwharf is now an open-air outlet shopping mall that includes more than 30 places to eat and drink. And making up the Big Four is the D-Day Story at neighbouring quirky Southsea with its collection of unique artefacts and extraordinary Overlord Embroidery, telling the story of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy in 34 hand-stitched panels with a total length of 83 metres.
Take the Dickens trail which links the author to the city, starting at the Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum. Or try the Millennium Promenade at the seafront. This scenic route joins the Historic Dockyard and Gunwharf Quays with Old Portsmouth and Southsea. You’ll pass various historic fortifications including two Tudor towers and offers great views of Portsmouth’s three offshore forts, as well as passing ferries, Royal Navy vessels, and private craft.
On the banks of the River Tay and home to the Dundee V&A, this is the first UNESCO City of Design and has been chosen as the location for the Eden Project Dundee, re-generating the former gasworks on East Dock Street. The MacManus Art Gallery and Museum explores the impact the city has had worldwide, whilst Verdant Works explains the jute industry which made Dundee so famous and created the long-standing links with India.
RSS Discovery recounts the story of the iconic ship from her beginnings in Dundee, her amazing Antarctic expedition with Captain Scott 1901 to 1904 and her voyages and uses thereafter. It’s a remarkable history of the last traditional wooden three-masted ship to be built in the United Kingdom.
For an up-to-date shopping experience, head for Downtown Dundee, where independent shops offer specialist foods, accessories and clothes. And to enjoy a waterfront dining experience head to City Quay.
Bordering Fife, Angus and Perthshire, Dundee is close to the Scottish countryside for hiking, water sports and nature.
South of Wales’s largest seaside town lies Conwy Castle, a brooding fortress built by Edward I during his conquest of Wales in the 13th century. One of the most majestic medieval castles in Europe, it was originally built as part of a scheme to create the walled town of Conwy. The best way to experience it is to walk its completely restored spiral staircases through the battlements and soak up its history.
In Llandudno’s town centre you’ll find MOSTYN, Wales’s premier contemporary art gallery, which is also a registered charity that works to make art accessible for all. Its six gallery spaces display the best in international contemporary art and vary seasonally, from larger-than-life shows to site-specific exhibits, showcasing local artists and those from around the world.
Author Lewis Caroll had a great fondness for this town and the region in general: you can follow the Alice in Wonderland trail around the town to discover more. And for a little furthering wondering, look out for the Kashmiri goats which are wild on the Great Orme, though they sometimes ‘invade’ the town.
With diamonds, fashion and chocolate amongst its signature products, Antwerp really is a girl’s best friend! But there’s plenty to do in this historic city to suit all tastes, from heritage sites to art treasures, stunning architecture to one of the world’s oldest zoological parks.
Take in the ornate domes and stained glass of the Central Station, before heading to the cobbled square and gabled facades of the Grote Markt with its UNESCO-listed City Hall. Visit the grand home and studio of artist Peter Paul Rubens and the nearby Plantin-Moretus House, home of 16th century printing pioneer Christopher Plantin.
For a taste of the city, try a traditional Carbonnade Flamande, a beef casserole made with Belgian beer, and indulge yourself at one of the many chocolate shops. Then work off the calories with a walk to the old harbour district for local history and panoramic views at the eye-catching MAS tower, the museum of local history.
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Welovecoaches.com is the perfect way to find your local coach company which organises day trips and longer breaks, within the UK and often to Europe too. An easy way to travel, with the coach picking you up near home, maybe with companions too, and any hassle taken care of. Sit back in comfort, let the driver take you to your destination. No parking needed and a much greener option too.