Places to Love: Belfast and Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland

Samantha Brown

I’ve been to Ireland many times, but this is my first time in Belfast, Northern Ireland. And it’s going to be the starting point of an adventure that’s going to take me along the coast of Northern Ireland.

The Black Cab Tour with Billy Scott | Touring Around Belfast,
Black cabs are to Belfast what yellow taxis are to New York City – you can’t imagine one without the other. These retro-looking cabs have been around since the 1970s. For decades they were the main form of transportation for locals, while today, they’ve become one of the best ways to see Belfast and learn more about its history. There are a number of different companies that offer these cab tours. Still, I enjoyed my experience at Touring Around Belfast with local and blue badge-certified guide Billy Scott. With classic Northern Irish humor and a passionate knowledge of his hometown, I learned all about this unique city and even visited a particularly moving landmark that may very well be gone in the next few years!

The Maritime Mile & Titanic Quarter | Titanic Belfast,
One of the best ways to see Belfast is to explore The Maritime Mile, a historic waterfront area that stretches along River Lagan. Be sure to stop at the SoundYard, an all-weather structure on Queen’s Quay designed by Hannah Wilson, Matthew Kernan, and Eunan Deeney. The sound it makes, activated by motion sensors, is inspired by striking metal sounds that would’ve been prevalent in one of the old shipyards. Further down the mile is Titanic Quarter, one of Europe’s largest urban waterfront regeneration projects. Here I met with Maureen McKinney, whose grandfather was one of the many individuals who worked on the RMS Titanic. See how she and the Belfast Titanic Society keep both the ship and all the involved individuals’ memories alive.

Belfast Traditional Music Trail |
When it comes to traditional Irish music, the name simply does not do justice to what you actually hear. The music itself is magical but what makes the experience even more special is that it’s often enjoyed in a pub with drinks and camaraderie all around. One of the best parts is that anyone can join in as long as they know what they’re doing. I had the chance to sit down with Jason O’Rourke, Ciara Taaffe, and Cormac O’Briain at The Second Fiddle to learn more about the traditional Irish music scene and learn what the heck their instruments are!

Glenarm Castle |
What’s a visit to Northern Ireland without visiting at least one castle? In this episode, we visit the thriving Glenarm Castle, which sits along the Antrim Coast and has belonged to the MacDonnell family since 1636. It was built by the first Earl of Antrim, Randal MacDonnell, to be a country house, and it has remained with the family ever since. You really have to wonder what this castle saw in its nearly 400 years and 15 generations of earls! From the stone walls surrounding the grounds to the castle rooms and nearby buildings brimming with history, Glenarm offers many ways for visitors to learn more about castle life.

The Giant’s Causeway | 44 Causeway Rd., Bushmills, County Antrim, BT57, 8SU, UK
No trip to Northern Ireland is complete without stopping to visit its most incredible natural wonder – Giant’s Causeway. This UNESCO World Heritage site consists of interlocking basalt columns that formed 60 million years ago and stretch five miles along the coast. Legend has it that once there was a giant who was challenged to a fight by a Scottish giant. He built a causeway along the North Channel to meet him but ran back when he saw his size and pretended to be a baby. When the Scottish giant crossed the causeway and saw the “baby,” he decided the father must be the biggest giant there ever was to have such a large child! He ran back, tearing up rocks as he went to destroy the path! This means that, yes, normal-sized humans can walk along the basalt columns and imagine what it must’ve been like for a giant to run across them.

Call out Box
Did you know?
In reality, Giant’s Causeway is the result of a volcanic fissure eruption. This is when molten basalt erupts through a linear vent in a volcano instead of just an explosion like we usually imagine. The columns formed as the lava cooled and contracted.