Day Tour from Dublin to Belfast a great excursion

Visit Titanic and Belfast from Dublin

http://www.titanicdaytour.comJoin us on this unique day tour from Dublin, let us take you on a fascinating journey through Ireland’s past, explore Belfast’s remarkable industrial heritage, its troubles, and its remarkable rebirth.  We depart Dublin at 0800 am and return to Dublin at 1800 hrs. We have gaurenteed tickets for the World’s largest Titanic Experience, you will also have free time to explore Belfast city. The story starts in the first gallery with 1912 “boomtown Belfast” and takes you in a caged lift to the fourth floor for an atmospheric six-minute cart ride through the shipyards.                  The third gallery is based around a glass apex with a film projection re-creating the completed Titanic on the slipways outside. It launches into dry dock for fit out, with depictions of the first-, second- and third-class cabins in the next gallery.

The cave section is a journey through the bowels of the ship, projected on the walls. Gallery five is based on the ship’s maiden voyage and re-creates life on board. In the next gallery, the walls narrow and the temperature drops as we trace the timeline of the sinking from iceberg collision to final gasp of air on April 15. The British and American inquiries into the disaster follow in the next gallery.

The final two galleries are just as evocative, devoted to the legends of the ship, with touchscreen displays of Titanic folklore and a voyage to the Nova Scotia seabed where the wreck now lies, using film footage of an ocean dive in 1985. An Ocean Exploration Centre, developed with marine biologists, completes a memorable visit.

Visit Belfast’s Peace Wall

titanicdaytour.comOf the city’s 17 walls, West Belfast’s sections are the most visited. Once in the area it’s easy to determine which side of the divide you’re on: red, white and blue kerbstones, Loyalist murals and Union Jacks indicate you’re on the Shankill. If the kerbs are green, white and gold, the flag is Irish and the murals are Republican, you’re on the Falls. You can cross from one side to the other via access roads at Lanark Way and Northumberland Street. The best viewing section is on the Shankill side where visitors are encouraged to add their signatures to those of the Dalai Lama and former US President Clinton. Art panels showing the area’s political and cultural history have now been added to the wall along Cupar Way (off Lanark Way). Look out for the Orange Order, Battle of the Somme and modern-day international conflicts on this colourful stretch – with blank sections still there for those all-important ‘Give Peace A Chance’ daubs.

Shankill Road

http://www.belfastdaytour.comThe Shankill dates back to the Stone Age, making it the oldest settlement in Belfast. Shankill Road was named in 1831 after the Gaelic Sean Cill meaning Old Church. Today it is a bustling street with shops, cafes and the renowned Shankill Leisure Centre. Explore its Peace Walls and Unionist murals resplendent with Union Jacks and tributes to the Royal Family. One mural of note, beside the Rex Bar, depicts Unionist MP Edward Carson leading the signing of the 1912 Ulster Covenant opposing Irish Home Rule.

Falls Road

http://www.titanicdaytour.comBi-lingual street signs and fluttering Irish flags are the first things visitors often notice when they walk along the Falls. Many murals depict scenes from the Irish Famine or the Nationalist side of the modern political conflict. The most photographed of the latter is on the side of the Sinn Fein offices and features IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. The area is becoming known as the Gaeltacht Quarter.

The Presidential Trail

http://www.belfastdaytour.comMost people know of the huge Irish Famine migration of the mid 1800s, but few are aware that the first attempted emigration from Ireland to the ‘New World’ was by Ulster-Scots. From these migrants there came a distinguished Ulster-Scots Presidential Roll of Honour including five consecutive Presidents of Ulster-Scots descent from 1885-1909. In more recent times lineage has been traced linking Nixon, Carter, Bush Snr., Clinton and Bush Jr with our northern shores. On President Clinton’s historic visit to NI in Nov 1995 he declared, “I am proud to be of Ulster-Scots stock; I share these roots with millions and millions of Americans…” Other prominent Americans of Ulster-Scots descent include Alamo legend Davy Crockett, writer Mark Twain, actor James Stewart and spine-chilling poet Edgar Allen Poe. Who would have thought such a tiny corner of Europe would have had such an influential role in the formation and development of the USA? Uncover our American roots and spend time exploring some of the following related attractions.

Harland & Wolff Cranes

http://www.titanicdaytour.comWherever you go in the city there’s no escaping Samson and Goliath, two giant, moveable yellow cranes looming over what was once the world’s biggest shipyard. These engineering heavyweights stand at 96m and 106m high, 140m wide and were built in 1969 and 1974 respectively. Despite the demise of Belfast’s shipbuilding industry, they have been preserved as historic monuments.

Belfast City Hall

Belfast city hallThis imposing Portland stone and copper-domed building was completed in 1906 as a symbol of Belfast’s new city status. Queen Victoria stands at the front, and the grounds are dotted with many more statues and monuments. In 1995 the building provided a dramatic backdrop when President Clinton switched on the city’s Christmas lights. Check out The Bobbin cafe, whose name reflects Belfast’s linen-making past, and No Mean City exhibition. And take a free 45min guided tour for a behind the scenes glimpse at this iconic building. So what are you waiting for this day tour from Dublin to Belfast has limited availability, don’t miss this unique opportunity book your seat now

Belfast Titanic day tour from Dublin review

Firstly this is a day tour from Dublin runs every Tuesday, Thursday, Sat & Sun. We have guaranteed tickets for Titanic Belfast. You will need to book online well in advance. It goes without saying that the outside of the £90 million building is extremely impressive. Constructed to look like the famous ship its 14,000 sq.m and is twice the size of Belfast’s City Hall. The first thing that you notice about the ‘the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience’ from afar are the 3,000 individual silver anodised aluminum panels which make up its external façade and seem to always catch the sunlight, simply stunning. Walking around the Titanic centre you will notice that at least three of its four 90ft ‘hulls’ are in view at all times; this coupled with the  reflective pools of water which surround it give the impression that the building could sail away at any moment.

Belfast day tour from Dublin

Titanic Belfast day tour from Dublin

With such an impressive exterior, the Titanic Belfast really had a lot to live up to with its interior, and it didn’t disappoint. As you enter the building it’s hard to miss the rust effect panels which line the walls, and the compass rose on the floor – giving the modern structure an antique air which is fitting with the theme of the Titanic. The exhibition portion of the building consists of ten galleries: Boomtown Belfast, The Shipyard, The Launch, The Fit-Out, The Maiden Voyage, The Sinking, The Aftermath, Myths & Legends, Exploring the Wreck and the Ocean Exploration Centre – each of which contain a series of interactive exhibitions.
As you enter the exhibition space, you learn a lot of interesting facts about Belfast’s industrial past including the linen and rope works and the production of cigarettes. The center-piece of this section is the interactive map of Belfast which you hover over with your hand to learn more about the individual sections of Belfast’s history. This is great for kids who love to get their hands on anything and for adults who want to learn a bit more about the past of this great city. You also learn how to send a distress telegram and can look at miniature models of areas of the shipyard itself.

You exit this part of the exhibition through the original gates of Harland and Wolff and you enter the drawing rooms and planning offices of the shipyard which have an interactive floor.

Visitors ascend a replica of one of the huge pillars of the Arrol Gantry and then they embark on the Shipyard Ride. You climb aboard a futuristic car and are transported back in time to the Shipyard of the 1900s. The ride uses special effects, animations and full-scale reconstructions to really give you a feel of how the Shipyard would have been at the time of the Titanic’s construction. The sights and sounds really do the trick, there’s also the option of skipping the ride and simple reading the information.

As you exit the Shipyard Ride, visitors are met with a huge window which looks down at the slipways themselves where the Titanic once resided. As you watch a short film of the Titanic being launched the state-of-the-art glass in the windows uses electrodes to switch from the real view to a superimposed image of the Titanic resting on the slipways. This is one of the most impressive parts of the entire building and is really a unique and novel way of recreating 31st May 1911.

The fourth gallery is the fit-out of the ship and features a four minute video projected onto three walls which shows visitors a CGI recreation of the ship as you go on a journey through the engine rooms, dining areas and the famous staircase. You can also see replicas of first, second and third class cabins and examples of the types of carpet and linen used on board.

The fifth gallery introduces visitors to some of the passengers on board and we learn about the types and amounts of supplies brought for the Maiden Voyage as it stopped off at Southhampton, England; Cherbourd, France and Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland before setting sail across the Atlantic.
The sixth gallery confronts the horrors of the Titanic’s final hours and atmospheric sounds and lighting is used to recreate the night of its sinking alongside transcripts of the communications and distress signals on that fateful night. You then descend the stairs to learn about the aftermath and the enquiry which took place and then you use an interactive touch screen display to find out more about the myths and legends associated with the ship.

Just when you think the exhibition is over, you enter through a set of doors and are confronted with a multi-level gallery with seating in the top half. If you sit for a while you can watch high-definition footage of the wreckage with commentary from the divers. This eerie imagery is coupled with water-effect lighting on the walls to give the impression that you’re a part of their journey. Down a flight of stairs is a glass floor with a projection of the wreckage as a whole which is very impressive and below this is the final gallery, the Ocean Exploration Centre in which visitors can access the technologies which modern ships use.

Our passenger feed back has been extremely positive, the building is impressive and a lot of fun. Our passengers have found that the 2 hour visit is ample time to explore this Titanic experience. We depart Dublin at 8am following a comfort stop on route, we will tour the political murals along the Falls and Shankill roads, before our arrival at Titanic Belfast for a timed slot at 1120am. On arrival a crew member will step onto the bus for a short introduction and overview of the facilities in the world’s largest titanic experience. You will then be taken into the building, and fast tracked to the first level. ( no queues) as Day Tours Unplugged have a pre-booked slot. There are audio sets available for our guests with all major languages catered for (small local charge will apply) The feedback from our guests regarding the audio sets has been extremely positive. (make sure you have £££ Sterling £1.50) As the centre can be busy there have been long queues at both coffee shops, and gift shop, dont panic, as we will be heading next into Belfast city where you will have approx. 2 hours free time to explore. If you miss the gift shop at the centre we have been made aware that the tourist office in Belfast city has all of the Titanic souvenirs plus much more. You will be dropped at Belfast city hall and are free to explore the city. Most of our passengers to date have done a wee bit of retail therapy, or just simply grabbed a coffee or a pint. After an enjoyable visit to this vibrant city, its finally time to depart, your tour guide will pick you up at Belfast city hall at 15:30 hrs for our return to Dublin at 18:00 hrs.

What do you need to bring with you on this unique Belfast day tour?                                     A smile, camera, comfortable walking shoes, and please remember you are entering Northern Ireland, you will require £££££ Sterling, our passengers have indicated that it appears none of the shops will accept €€€ Euro (You can always us major credit cards) however there will be fees associated with credit card transactions.

Whats included in your Titanic Belfast day tour from Dublin?                                                   All transfers from Dublin – Belfast plus return (0800 am – 1800 hrs) *Tour of political murals, *Entrance and tour at World’s largest titanic experience (guaranteed fast track ticket) *2 hours visit at Titanic experience *2 hours free time in Belfast city centre *Approved Failte Ireland guide facilities during your Belfast day tour * Air conditioned Mercedes Mini coach

Whats not includes in your ticket? Lunch / refreshments are not included, and must be paid for locally. Audio headsets which are (paid for locally)

So what are you waiting for BOOK YOUR SEATS ONLINE NOW

Titanic Belfast day tours from Dublin News update

Book your seat on a unique day tour to Titanic Belfast from Dublin

Launches 17 April 2012 (only 29 seats) Departs Dublin 07:50 am

Visit the world’s largest Titanic experience in her home port Belfast. Your tour ticket includes guaranteed entrance into the iconic New Titanic centre.

Visitors will learn about the construction of the Titanic and the story of Northern Ireland’s industrial and maritime heritage.

The tour is divided into nine sections, starting with 1912 Belfast and moving through the ship’s construction, launch, maiden voyage and sinking. It deals with the popular culture it inspired, and how its remains were located in 1985 by US oceanographer Prof Robert Ballard. Book your seats now


Mystery benefactor returns Titanic letter to Belfast

Titanic letter returns to Belfast

Posted on March 13, 2012

Belfast Titanic Experience visit the world’s largest Titanic Experience, join us on our historic day tour to Belfast from Dublin.

A mystery benefactor has stepped in to ensure a valuable letter written by an officer days before he died on the Titanic will return to his home town. Dr John Simpson penned to his mother onboard the doomed liner would be bought by a private collector when it was put up for auction in New York with a $34,000 reserve price.

But after hearing about a campaign by relatives of the ship’s assistant surgeon to bring the letter back to his native Belfast a mystery donor stepped in and bought it for the city just weeks before the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

According to witnesses who survived the 1912 sinking, 37-year-old Dr Simpson stood with fellow officers on the deck of the stricken vessel as it went down. His great-nephew Dr John Martin said he was happy the letter was coming back to where it belonged. ”I’ve never actually seen the original letter itself as it was last in Belfast in the 1940s before Dr Simpson’s son moved away.

”So for it to be on its way back is just amazing and so appropriate now just ahead of the 100th anniversary of his death. We are so thankful to the benefactor.”

The letter, dated 11 April 1912 and written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic, was brought ashore at Cobh, Co Cork (then called Queenstown) before the ship set sail for the US.

It was dispatched to his mother Elizabeth who was living in Belfast’s Dublin Road. In it, the married father-of-one, who was then based in Liverpool, said he was tired but settling into his cabin well. He had worked on the Titanic’s White Star Line sister ship the Olympic for a year previously and observed to his mother that the accommodation on board his new vessel was larger.

Dr Simpson also complained he had found one of his trunks unlocked and $5 or $6 had been stolen from his pocket book. The surgeon, who treated second and third-class passengers, signed off: “With fondest love, John.”

It is intended that the letter will go on display in Belfast.

Visit Belfast Zoo

History of Belfast Zoo

Old picture of boys feeding an elephant in Belfast Zoo

The story of Belfast Zoo begins with the city’s public transport system.
At the beginning of the 20th century, passengers from Belfast were transported to the villages of Whitewell and Glengormley by horse-drawn trams belonging to the Belfast Street Tramway company and steam tramways from Cave Hill and Whitewell.
In 1911, the tram line was taken over by Belfast Corporation, now Belfast City Council.

Building Belfast Zoo

In 1933, the corporation decided to install a representative zoological collection on the site.
Then, in 1934, 12 acres on either side of the Grand Floral Staircase, a series of steps designed to reach the top of the hillside, were laid out as Bellevue Zoo.
It took 150 men to build the site and the steps can still be seen from Antrim Road today.
The zoo was opened on 28 March 1934 by Sir Crawford McCullough, the then Lord Mayor of Belfast.

The venture was supported by Councillor RJR Harcourt from Belfast Corporation and was partnered by George Chapman, an animal dealer and circus entrepreneur.
It cost £10,000 to build and a total of 284,713 people visited the zoo in its first year.

Impact of World War II

Many of the animals in the zoo’s first collection arrived in Belfast by boat.
Daisy the elephant travelled on the Heysham steamer and, after she was removed from her crate, she was walked by zookeepers from the Belfast docks to Antrim Road, a distance of between five and six miles!

In 1941, the Ministry of Public Security ordered the destruction of 33 animals after north Belfast came under aerial attack during World War II. Animals, including lions, wolves and polar bears, were killed and the collection was not restocked until around 1947.
Several elephants survived the attacks, and one baby elephant was cared for by an elderly lady who lived on the nearby Whitewell Road.

The modern zoo

During the 1950s and 1960s, the zoo went into decline.
By the time the corporation’s parks committee took control of the site in 1962, restoration was badly needed and work began on the new zoo site in 1974.
Since then, the council has continued to support the zoo, donating £1.5 million every year to help run and promote the site.

For more information about the history of the zoo, email
If you would like to receive an information pack about the zoo’s history, email or call 028 9078 2082.

Albert Memorial Clock

things to see BelfastWhile in Belfast on your Titanic Experience day tour from Dublin check out the Albert Memorial Clock situated at Queen’s Square in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This leaning clock tower was completed in 1869 and is one of the best known landmarks of Belfast. In 1865 a competition for the design of a memorial to Queen Victoria’s late Prince Consort, Prince Albert, was won by W. J. Barre, who had earlier designed Belfast’s Ulster Hall. Initially Barre was not awarded his prize and the contract was secretly given to Lanyon, Lynn, and Lanyon, who had come second. Following public outcry the contract was eventually awarded to Barre. The construction cost of £2,500 (2011: £181,000) was raised by public subscription.

Being situated close to the docks, the tower was once infamous for being frequented by prostitutes plying their trade with visiting sailors. However, in recent years regeneration has turned the surrounding Queen’s Square and Custom’s House Square into attractive, modern public spaces with trees, fountains and sculptures.

The sandstone memorial was constructed between 1865 and 1869 by Fitzpatrick Brothers builders and stands 113 feet tall in a mix of French and Italian Gothic styles. The base of the tower features flying buttresses with heraldic lions. A statue of the Prince in the robes of a Knight of the Garter stands on the western side of the tower and was sculpted by SF Lynn. A two tonne bell is housed in the tower and the clock was made by Francis Moore of High Street, Belfast.

As a result of being built on wooden piles on marshy, reclaimed land around the River Farset, the top of the tower leans four feet off the perpendicular. Due to this movement, some ornamental work on the belfry was removed in 1924 along with a stone canopy over the statue of the Prince.

In 1947, the film Odd Man Out was filmed partly in Belfast, with the Albert Clock as a central location, although neither the town nor the clock is explicitly identified.

St George’s Market Belfast established 1604

Belfast city marketsThere has been a Friday market on the St. George’s site since 1604. The present St. George’s Market, built 1890-1896, is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions. As well as being home to some of the finest fresh produce, with customers travelling near and far to sample the delights of Friday and Saturday markets, it has become one of the City’s most popular places to visit. Since its £4.5m refurbishment in 1997, this charming Victorian building offers one of the most vibrant and colourful destinations that Belfast has to offer. St. George’s Market has just been voted one of the top 5 UK markets in 2006 by the National Association of British Market Authorities.

The Friday Variety Market opens at 6.00am until 1.00pm. This is a hugely vibrant retail experience of 248 market stalls selling diverse wares from Atlantic Shark to zips, antiques to fresh fruit. The fish section alone contains 23 fish stalls and holds the reputation for being the leading retail fish market in Ireland. It is this eclectic mix that attracts thousands of people along each week to probably the best market in Northern Ireland. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement as you barter with the friendly local stall holders for a bargain.

The City Food & Garden Market takes place in St George’s every Saturday from 9.00am to 3.00pm. Enjoy the best food tastes and smells brought by local producers, including beef from Armagh, award winning Irish Farmhouse Cheeses, free range eggs from Limavady, venison, pheasant in season and local organic vegetables from Culdrum Farm and Millbrook Farm.

In addition to these local delicacies, there is also a fusion of tempting continental and speciality foods from around the world. Included are such delights as wild boar, cured meats, venison, Spanish tapas, Caribbean foods, Mexican and Slavonic foods, continental coffees and teas, Italian olive oils with traditional French Crepes and extraordinary French pastries to mention just a few. Added to this plethora of tempting foods the Saturday market also encompasses flower stalls ensuring this Saturday market is a kaleidoscope of colour.

St. Georges City Food & Garden Market is more than just a shopping experience. Customers can sample the produce, relax with a coffee and a newspaper against a backdrop of live jazz or flamenco music. This market is a real Saturday treat and a great outing for all the family.

**In a survey published by The Guardian newspaper’s travel section in January 2010, St. George’s Market came sixth in the UK ‘top ten’.**

Belfasts Black Santa

The “Black Santa” tradition at Belfast Cathedral was started by Dean Sammy Crooks in 1976. Concerned at the emphasis being placed on necessary and costly building programmes at the Cathedral, Dean Crooks decided to stand on Donegal Street in front of the Cathedral and beg for the poor and charitable causes.

With a small barrel in which donations could be placed, and dressed in the familiar black, Anglican clerical cloak, Dean Crooks “sat out” each day of the week before Christmas. Thus began the tradition of Belfast’s Deans sitting out for charities. The local press described Dean Crooks as, Belfast’s Black Santa, and the description struck a lasting chord with the public.

Dean Crooks was succeeded by Dean Jack Shearer who involved members of the Cathedral Chapter in the Sit out. Under his leadership the event continued to develop so that by his last Sit out in 2000, a total of £2.2 million pounds had been raised for charities over the previous 24 years.  Dean Houston McKelvey maintained this tradition throughout his ten years in office and the current Dean, John Mann has continued to do so.

The commencement of the Sit out attracts considerable attention in the local press, radio and television. The leaders of the four main Churches in Ireland, the Lord Mayor of Belfast and many other community leaders call at the Cathedral to greet the Dean…and to contribute!

All the money gathered is donated to local charities with a proportion given to Christian Aid. The range of charities includes medical research; those caring for children, youth and the elderly; the improvement of employment opportunities for young people and a host of small charities which cannot afford paid fund-raisers.

Most of the money donated is given by people who come to the Cathedral during the Sit out. Contributions are made by individuals, families, schools, offices and workplaces.

Some schools send the collection from their Christmas Carol Services or the proceeds of their Christmas Shows. Some school choirs and bands come and perform on the cathedral steps during the Sit out. To the fore amongst the schools are the students of Fleming Fulton School who all cope daily with physical disability. Despite the problems with which they and their families cope with daily, they have an annual ‘Pennies from Heaven’ appeal for the Sit out for which they collect coins in Coke bottles. They have raised thousands of pounds for the Sit out in this way.

Some donors collect in the same way, all the year round, for the Sit out by emptying their pockets and purses each day and placing pennies, tuppences, five and ten pence coins in tins, or jars or bottles which they bring to the Cathedral. Many donors send a cheque by post to the Dean and a high percentage of these “Gift Aid” their donations, enabling them to be enhanced through the income tax being recovered.

Belfast West Belfast and the Murals

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 Belfast West Belfast And The Murals

  • The Mural Symbols Of West Belfast.
  • PROTESTANT MURALS. Blue, White, and Red: The colors of the British flag; often painted on curbs and signposts to demarcate Unionist murals and neighborhoods. The Red Hand: The crest of Ulster Province, the central symbol of the Ulster flag, which includes a red cross on a white background, used by Unionists to emphasize the separation of Ulster from the Republic. Symbolizes the hand of the first Norse King, which he supposedly cut off and threw on a Northern beach to establish his primacy. (The crest also appears on Catholic murals which depict the 4 ancient provinces—evidence of the overlap in heritage.) King Billy/William of Orange: Sometimes depicted on a white horse, crossing the Boyne to defeat the Catholic King James II at the 1690 Battle of the Boyne. Ironically, his campaign was funded by the Pope, who opposed James’ creation of the Church of England. The Orange Order was later founded in his honor. The Apprentice Boys: A group of young men who shut the gates of Derry to keep out the troops of James II, beginning the great siege of 1689. They have become Protestant folk heroes, inspiring a sect of the Orange order in their name. The slogan “No Surrender,” also from the siege, has been appropriated by radical Unionists, most notably Rev. Ian Paisley. Lundy: The Derry leader who advocated surrender during the siege; now a term for anyone who wants to give in to Catholic demands. Scottish Flag: Blue with a white cross; recalls the Scottish-Presbyterian roots of many Protestants whose ancestors were part of the Ulster Plantation (see Cromwell).
  • CATHOLIC MURALS. Orange and Green: Colors of the Irish Republic’s flag; often painted on curbs, mailboxes, and signposts in Republican neighborhoods. The Irish Volunteers: Republican tie to the earlier (nonsectarian) Nationalists. Saoirse: Irish for “Freedom”; the most common term found on murals. Éireann go bráth: (erin-go-BRAH) “Ireland forever”; a popular IRA slogan. Tiocfaidh ár lá: (CHOCK-ee-ar-LA) “Our day will come.” Slan Abhaile: (Slawn ah-WAH-lya) “Safe home”; directed at the primarily Protestant RUC police force. Phoenix: Symbolizes united Ireland rising from the ashes of British persecution. Lug: Celtic god, seen as the protector of the “native Irish” (Catholics). Green Ribbon: IRA symbol for “free our POWs.” Bulldog: Britain. Bowler Hats: A symbol for Orangemen.

West Belfast has historically been at the heart of political tensions in the North. The Catholic area (centered on Falls Road) and the Protestant neighborhood (centered on the Shankill) are separated by the peace line, a grim, gray wall with a number of gates that close at nightfall. Along the wall, abandoned buildings and barricaded homes testify to a tumultuous history and an uneasy future. One bit of the peace line, near Lanark Way, connecting the Falls and Springfield roads, contains peace paintings and signatures—left mostly by tourists—promoting hope for a brighter future. The Falls and Shankill exude both the raw sentiment that drives the Northern Irish conflict and the casual calm with which those closest to the Troubles approach daily life. West Belfast is not a tourist site in the traditional sense, though the walls and houses along the area’s streets display political murals which speak to Belfast’s religious and political divide. These murals are the city’s most striking and popular attraction.

Those traveling to these sectarian neighborhoods often take black taxis, or open top tour buses transporting passengers along their set routes. Some black taxis and black cabs can also be booked for tours of the Falls or Shankill.

New murals in the Falls and Shankill are constantly produced. The Falls. This Catholic and Republican neighborhood is larger than Shankill, following Castle St. west from the city center. As Castle St. continues across A12/Westlink, it becomes Divis Street. A high-rise apartment building marks Divis Tower, an ill-fated housing development built by optimistic social planners in the 1960s. The project soon became an IRA stronghold and saw some of the worst of Belfast’s Troubles in the 1970s. The British Army still occupies the top floors.

Continuing west, Divis St. turns into Falls Road. The Sinn Féin office is easily spotted: one side of it is covered with an enormous portrait of Bobby Sands (see The Troubles) and an advertisement for the Sinn Féin newspaper, An Phoblacht. Continuing down Falls Rd. reveals a number of murals, most of which are on side streets. In the past both the Falls and the Shankill contained many representations of paramilitaries (the IRA in the Falls, UVF and UDA in the Shankill) with armed men in balaclavas; this and commemorative murals were the main subjects in the past, but both communities have focused on historical and cultural representations for the newest murals, even replacing many older works. The newest Falls murals recall the ancient Celtic heritage of myths and legends, and depict The Great Hunger, the phrase Northern Catholics use to refer to the Famine. Earlier militant murals certainly still exist including a few that depict the Republican armed struggle.

Falls Rd. soon splits into Andersonstown Road and Glen Road, one of the few urban areas with a predominately Irish-speaking population. On the left are the Celtic crosses of Milltown Cemetery, the resting place of many fallen Republicans. Inside the entrance, a memorial to Republican casualties is bordered by a low, green fence on the right; the grave of Bobby Sands lies here. Nearby, Bombay Street was the first street to be burned down during the Troubles. Another mile along Andersontown Rd. lies a housing project that was formerly a wealthy Catholic neighborhood—and more murals. The Springfield Rd. Police Service of Northern Ireland station, previously named the RUC station, was the most attacked police station in Ireland and the UK. It was recently demolished, perhaps as a sacrifice to the peace process. Its defenses were formidable, and the Andersonstown Barracks, at the corner of Glen and Andersonstown Rd., are still heavily fortified.

Shankill. The Shankill Rd. begins at the Westlink and turns into Woodvale Rd. as it crosses Cambrai St. The Woodvale Rd. intersects the Crumlin Road at the Ardoyne roundabout and can be taken back into the city center. The Shankill Memorial Garden honors 10 people who died in a bomb attack on Fizzel’s Fish Shop in October 1993; the garden is on the Shankill Rd., facing Berlin St. On the Shankill Rd., farther toward the city center, is a mural of James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States (1857-1861), who was a descendant of Ulster Scots (known in the US as the “Scots-Irish”). Other cultural murals depict the 50th Jubilee of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1952 and the death of the Queen Mother in 2002. These are at the beginning of the Shankill near the Rex Bar. Historical murals include a memorial to the UVF who fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 during WWI also near the Rex Bar. In the Shankill Estate, some murals represent Cromwell suppressing the 1741 Rebellion against the Protestant plantation owners. The densely decorated Orange Hall sits on the left at Brookmount St. McClean’s Wallpaper; on the right was where Fizzel’s Fish Shop stood before being demolished. Through the estate, Crumlin Rd. heads back to the city center, passing an army base, the courthouse, and the jail.

Sandy Row And Newtownards Road. This area’s Protestant population is growing steadily, partly due to the redevelopment of the Sandy Row area, and also because many working-class residents are leaving the Shankill. This stretch is a turn off Donegall Rd. at Shaftesbury Sq. An orange arch topped with King William once marked its start. Nearby murals show the Red Hand of Ulster, a bulldog, and William crossing the Boyne. East Belfast is a secure and growing Protestant enclave, but as in other areas use caution when traveling in this area around Marching Season. A number of murals line Newtownards Rd. One mural depicts the economic importance of the shipyard to the city’s industrial history. On the Ballymacart road, which runs parallel to Newtownards Rd., is a mural of local son C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Visiting Belfasts Donegall Square

Donegall Sq. marks the northern boundary of the Golden Mile and the southern end of the pedestrian-only Cornmarket district. City hall, once a favorite target for IRA bombers, dominates Belfast’s old city center.

Why not visit Linen Hall Library or Belfast City Hall, on our Titanic Belfast day tours from Dublin. The most dramatic and impressive piece of architecture in Belfast is also its administrative and geographic center. Towering over the grassy square that serves as the locus of downtown Belfast, its green copper dome (173 ft. high) is visible from nearly any point in the city. Inside, a grand staircase ascends to the second floor, where portraits of the city’s Lord Mayors line the halls, moving down the wall each year as the latest portrait is hung. Stained glass and huge paintings depicting all aspects of Belfast industry highlight the impressive rotunda, while glass and marble shimmer in three elaborate reception rooms. The City Council’s oak-paneled chambers, used only once per month, are deceptively austere, considering the Council’s reputation for rowdy meetings (fists have been known to fly).

Directly in front of the main entrance, an enormous marble Queen Victoria stares down visitors with her trademark formidable grimace, while bronze figures representing Shipbuilding and Spinning kneel at her feet. A more sympathetic figure of womanhood stands on East grounds, commemorating the fate of the Titanic and her passengers. The interior is accessible only by guided tour. (tours M-F 11am, 2, 3pm, Sa 2 and 3pm. Tour times may vary; no tours on Bank and Public Holidays.

Other Sights. One of Belfast’s oldest establishments is the Linen Hall Library with the red hand of Ulster atop its street entrance. The devoted librarians have compiled a famous collection of over a quarter million items documenting the social and political history of Northern Ireland since 1966. (Enter via 52 Fountain St. Free tours available, but call ahead. Open M-F 9:30am-5:30pm, Sa 9:30am-1pm.) Nearby, the Victorian Scottish Provident Institution, built in 1902, displays a facade featuring panels dedicated to the four main professions of Belfast’s industrial history—shipbuilding, ropemaking, spinning, and printing. (Across the street from City Hall, on the corner of Donegall Sq. N. and East Bedford St)